The Assembly were asked to approve a change in the definition of an exception site in order to manipulate the delivery of the promised 1000 affordable homes. Read below a letter from Lib Dem Bridget Smith to fellow council colleagues.
This is the e mail I sent out to Heidi Allen MP and members of South Cambs District Council and the GC City Deal Board after this week's Assembly meeting. Also, below that, the press release I sent out .
My worst fears were confirmed yesterday when the GC City Deal Assembly was asked to redefine the definition of an exception site for the purposes of delivering the 1000 extra houses in the City Deal.
If I may just remind you of what the agreement was:
The City Deal included the delivery of 1000 EXTRA houses to be delivered exclusively on Rural Exception Sites in South Cambs.
As you know a Rural Exception Site is a formal term and refers to a site, usually on a village boundary or close to, which would not get planning permission in any other way.
It is sold by an altruistic land owner at very much below normal market value (about £8k per plot) and is for 100% affordable housing restricted for local people. These sites require parish council support.
Recently the eligible housing mix on these sites has changed slightly so that an element of market housing is now permitted where viability would be an issue.
At the time of signing I did question how they would find enough sites for 1000 houses by 2031 but Caroline Hunt told us that they had a very good track record of bringing forward such sites and it would not be a problem - even though it amounts to almost 10 houses in every single one of the 105 villages.
Obviously the suspension of the local plan has changed things and so the supply of exception sites has dried up as every land owner hopes to sell for market value.
However, we have until 2031 to build these houses so I would have hoped that a local plan would have been in place long before that and that we would again see a supply of TRUE exception sites.
The proposal yesterday was to redefine what we mean by an exception site to include ALL sites not in the Local Plan.
So this means that ALL the market AND affordable houses on ALL the non Local Plan sites (those speculative sites which we did not plan for, did not want and tried to reject but which the planning inspector approved) will be counted towards the 1000 houses.
4 Waterbeach sites and Barrington were named.
So they will NOT be all affordable houses and they will NOT be on planned sites and they will NOT be for local people.
I was not alone in objecting (very strongly indeed) to this. Roger Hickford voiced reservations and Tim Bick was adamant that this was NOT what was agreed when the plan was signed.
Roger has suggested a compromise that only the affordable housing on these non Local Plan sites is counted towards the 1000 but I still do not think that is acceptable.
The issue is how one views the 1000 houses: Is it a target to be filled or is it an opportunity/ promise to build an EXTRA 1000 affordable homes for local People?
I firmly believe it is the latter but I think others are viewing it as a target to be met by whatever means we can.
The City Deal PROMISED 1000 EXTRA affordable homes in South Cambs and this is what we PROMISED our residents when we signed up to it.
This is a disgraceful and underhand attempt to deprive our residents of housing which we had committed to providing.
Leader South Cambs Lib Dem Group