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East Cambridgeshire planners ‘heavy-handed and combative’ over 115 homes plan

Nearly 4 years ago plans were lodged for 115 homes at Camp’s Field, south of Stretham Road, Wilburton

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Planners at East Cambridgeshire District Council were accused of a “a heavy-handed and combative approach” by imposing a timetable to remove a four-year-old application for 115 homes from its files.

The jointly promoted plans by Laragh Homes and the Stretham & Wilburton Community Land trust at Camp’s Field, Wilburton, appeared to have missed a 14-day deadline imposed by East Cambridgeshire District Council to resolve outstanding issues.

But the ultimatum shocked Carter Jonas, the company acting on behalf of the applicants, and partner Justin Bainton, reacted angrily.

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In a letter to Gavin Taylor, the East Cambs planning contractor who issued the ‘put up or shut up’ ultimatum, he wrote: “Dear Gavin Thank you for your email and the notice provided that East Cambs that you are minded to dispose of the application with no prior discussion.

“I have since shared the letter with the applicant and spoken with Laragh Homes.

“The CLT were shocked and disappointed by this action, as we all want to get the additional work done and feels like a heavy-handed approach and combative approach to what is ultimately a scheme to provide housing for the local community.

“It is fair to say this has left us perplexed.”

Mr Bainton continued: “Putting this to one side, I would readily acknowledge that the underlying questions being asked about progress are reasonable and I can update you as follows.

“Laragh Homes and the CLT are in the process of entering into a commercial arrangement with a larger local developer to help fund the final stages of the planning work associated with the scheme and ensure the development can be delivered.

“As you know there has been a good deal of economic turbulence over the last 12 months, which has caused significant difficulties.

“To this end we are in the process of appointing of PR/communications consultant to undertake this important piece of work.

“We are also in process of seeking further advice on education contribution to ensure this can be positively addressed and finally re-appoint TPA to conclude the highway matters.

More than 5 years ago, Charles Roberts showed me around Stretham and Wilburton to expound on his plans for CLTs. Above a visit to Camp’s Field, Wilburton. PHOTO: John Elworthy

More than 5 years ago, Charles Roberts showed me around Stretham and Wilburton to expound on his plans for CLTs. Above a visit to Camp’s Field, Wilburton. PHOTO: John Elworthy

“You will hopefully appreciate that there is a significant cost to completing the necessary steps, which requires a budget which the CLT cannot accommodate.”

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He added: “There has been a lot of work being undertaken to help move the application forward over the last 6 months.

“The CLT remain fully committed to getting the application to a position whereby it can be considered at planning committee, and would like to agree a suitable timetable with East Cambs.

“I would be grateful if you can come back to me with your thoughts, but we would welcome a positive dialogue in this regard.

“Obviously the decision to issue this letter was made by someone at East Cambs and it would also be useful to understand who we should be speaking to.”

https://www.strethamwilburtonclt.co.uk/

Mr Taylor’s response, also published on the East Cambs council planning portal, says: “Dear Justin Further to our recent correspondence, I write to advise that I have discussed your request with Simon Ellis who as set out the following position.

“Whilst based on your previous response to the Article 40 notice the LPA (local planning authority) is not convinced that there has been or will be sufficient progress to warrant extending the application period further, we are willing to allow a further 14 days to provide a comprehensive and robust plan to set out how you intend to progress the application, based on attempting to address the shortcomings set out in the correspondence to you on 11th September last year.

“If we are provided with convincing and clear evidence that sufficient, positive progress will be achievable and within a reasonable timeframe, we may decide to extend the target date for the application.

“This option will still be at the discretion of the LPA.

“I trust this is of assistance and would be happy to discuss further if you require clarification on any of the above.”

Nearly four years ago plans were lodged for the 115 homes – to include 35 Community Land Trust properties and five self-build – at Camp’s Field, south of Stretham Road, Wilburton.

Recently Gavin Taylor, East Cambridgeshire Council planning contractor, advised the developers of a 14-day deadline or risk the application being removed.

The developers promised the overall scheme would also include commercial unit or a creche/day nursery or possibly even a multi-functional community building.

But four years of wrangling, and a spirited campaign by Facebook Save Wilburton from Over Development who highlighted massive flaws, not least the claims of community support, the application is yet to be ready for determination.

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