Greater Cambridge Mayor looks at Garden Village sites to support Greater Cambridge Metro

Camridgeshire Live Note these are sites that could support the Metro, which are different sites than those that could hang off East West Rail. Also very not current in ARC terms – 2019. Three of the site could support a metro service on the alignment of the former Haverhill rail line. Which I omitted from my previous article as I was focussing on the East West Rail linked options.

Potential locations for thousands of new homes which could help fund a Cambridgeshire metro have been revealed.

The mayor and leader of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, Conservative James Palmer, has written a letter in support of one proposal for up to 7,000 new houses on land east of Linton, in South Cambridgeshire.

The site is one of four included on a map, dating from early 2019, that was leaked to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, and which reveals four locations suggested by the combined authority as potential sites for “garden villages” in South Cambridgeshire.

The combined authority said the sites are “still very much early options being considered as part of a much wider piece of work, not solid commitments”.

Mr Palmer said in 2018 and has repeated since that garden villages could be used to help pay for the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro (CAM) while also providing more affordable connected homes.

The idea is to use “land value capture”, where the increase in the value of land once connected to a transport network helps pay the upfront costs of building the network.

‘Mayor concocting this idea behind closed doors’

But no potential locations have been made public until now.

One of the locations from the map is for land east of Linton, which has been put forward for development as part of the ongoing Greater Cambridge local plan process.

The site is owned by Pembroke College and has been put forward for consideration to the Greater Cambridge Planning Service for the development of up to 7,000 homes, as well as other uses including for employment sites, industrial uses and community facilities.

The mayor has written a letter in support of the site being included in the local plan for development, arguing it has “the potential to address elements of regional growth requirements” and could be served by a metro.

A leaked map of potential locations for garden villages created by the Combined Authority
A map of potential locations for garden villages created by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority that was leaked to the Local Democracy Reporting Service

The letter, sent from the mayor’s office in March 2019, says: “The landowner has discussed the proposed development with my office and officers from the combined authority who consider the location has potential to be well served by the proposed Cambridge Area Metro (CAM)”.

A letter from Bidwells included in the local plan submission says the metro and other transport schemes linked to the Greater Cambridge Partnership “could support a new settlement at this location and the new settlement could support the delivery of the infrastructure, which would also support the existing communities nearby and along the route”.

The submission includes a map of the proposed metro network and says the college and the mayor “would be keen to discuss the proposals” with the relevant planning authorities.

In addition to the land east of Linton, the combined authority map of potential sites in South Cambridgeshire includes around 1,000 acres north of the A428 and west of Madingley, another 1,500-acre site around Babraham and around 600 acres on land east of the A11 and south of Great Abington.

It is not yet clear how many suggested new homes are linked to the other sites.

The site was submitted for up to 7,000 homes east of Linton
Site boundary map from Pembroke College’s submission via Bidwells in the call for sites

The Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate for the May elections, and deputy leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, Aidan Van de Weyer, said: “Mayor James Palmer has spent the last three years putting together a plan for half a dozen new settlements across southern Cambridgeshire in order to pay for his wildly expensive metro scheme.

“This is a barmy way of going about things.

“From what we can tell, Palmer has got some options on various pieces of land and wants to design the CAM network around these locations, regardless of the merits of building there”.

He added: “Palmer has spent too long concocting this idea behind closed doors. He now needs to come clean about what deals he has done and what his real plans are for Cambridgeshire.”

Garden villages would be ‘done in the proper way’

Asked if he is supporting the Pembroke College submission for the purposes of providing a development site that could help fund a metro, Mayor Palmer said: “Yes, and any other sites that are deemed suitable”.

He would not say what other sites are being considered, but he said there are “currently less than 10 sites identified across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough”.

He said the map obtained by the Local Democracy Reporting Service shows “potential sites”, and that as the metro develops “other suitable sites may come forward”.

Speaking about garden villages, he said “we expect more sites to come forward for development over the next 50 years, but not all will be developed all at once”.

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