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MP’s ‘Dear Lee’ letter in desperate bid to reverse Government approval for Cambridgeshire retirement village

MP Lucy Frazer seems unaware there are only days left to challenge planning decision

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MP Lucy Frazer has sent an SOS to housing minister Lee Rowley pleading for his help in trying to reverse a Planning Inspectorate decision to allow a massive ‘retirement village’ to be built in her SE Cambridgeshire constituency. Ironically the Planning Inspectorate decided the issue after Tory controlled East Cambridgeshire District Council failed to determine the application in the required timeframe.

Coincidentally Mr Rowley is the housing minister Ms Frazer replaced when Liz Truss became Prime Minister, but he was reinstated later by Rishi Sunak.

Ms Frazer, however, appears to lack knowledge of the job she briefly held from October 22, 2022, to February 7, 2023.

Officially the only recourse is a judicial review but a statutory window of six weeks from the date of the decision to notify the Planning Inspectorate has only days to run.

Years of negotiation and community explanations have gone into demonstrating the need for a retirement ‘village within a village’ at Bottisham that will provide for up to 170 units and up to 51 affordable homes.

Years of negotiation and community explanations have gone into demonstrating the need for a retirement ‘village within a village’ at Bottisham that will provide for up to 170 units and up to 51 affordable homes. Artist’s impression

Bottisham Meadows Retirement Village will provide for up to 170 units and up to 51 affordable homes.

Developers won their appeal after East Cambridgeshire District Council failed to determine their application on time. It left them able to appeal directly to the Planning Inspectorate for a decision.

The retirement village will be built to the rear of 163 to 187 High Street and east of Rowan Close, Bottisham. It will comprise housing with care, communal health, wellbeing and leisure facilities and some affordable housing.

There will be a café/bar, wellness centre, gym, library, salon, and therapy/treatment rooms.

The proposal could generate 70 full time equivalent jobs.

But this week the SE Cambs MP revealed that she wants Mr Rowley to advise what recourse might be open to the council and her constituents “so that they can challenge the planning inspector’s decision”.

“I know that many of my constituents are concerned about these plans, so I am keen to support them as much as I can,” she says, despite the developers approval after the district council failed to determine the application within the specified time.

Ms Frazer is hopeful Mr Rowley can help.

Years of negotiation and community explanations have gone into demonstrating the need for a retirement ‘village within a village’ at Bottisham that will provide for up to 170 units and up to 51 affordable homes.

Years of negotiation and community explanations have gone into demonstrating the need for a retirement ‘village within a village’ at Bottisham that will provide for up to 170 units and up to 51 affordable homes.

“Following my meeting with Bottisham Parish Council about the proposed Bottisham Retirement Village, which was recently approved by the National Planning Inspectorate, I have written to the planning minister, Lee Rowley MP, to explore residents’ options for recourse,” says Ms Frazer.

As residents of Wisbech know only too well, in their fight to stop a mega incinerator being built in the town, a judicial review is a challenging option.

But any decision has to be logged by the High Court within 6 weeks and even then it is on the basis the Planning Inspectorate has erred in law.  For example, if there was a mistake in legal procedures or some vital information was ignored.

The Planning Inspectorate issued their verdict on February 13, which means there is less than a week left to mount a challenge.

Ms Frazer wrote to Mr Rowley (to give him his full title Minister for Housing, Planning and Building Safety at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities), on March 11.

Her letter says: “By way of background, I understand that a very similar planning application from the same developer was rejected by East Cambridgeshire Council in 2021. This decision was upheld on appeal in January 2023.

“The following month the developer submitted another application, which I understand was substantively similar to the previous (rejected application).

“It appears that the local planning authority (East Cambridgeshire District Council) did not make a decision this new application within the required timeframe.

Years of negotiation and community explanations have gone into demonstrating the need for a retirement ‘village within a village’ at Bottisham that will provide for up to 170 units and up to 51 affordable homes.

Years of negotiation and community explanations have gone into demonstrating the need for a retirement ‘village within a village’ at Bottisham that will provide for up to 170 units and up to 51 affordable homes.

“As such, the developer submitted an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate due to the non-determination.”

Ms Frazer told Mr Rowley: “It is worth highlighting that the application was approved even though it received 92 objections and the Planning Inspectorate ignore the harm the development would cause.

“Given the circumstances outlined above, I would be grateful if you could advise what recourse might be open to East Cambridgeshire District Council and local people so that they can challenge the planning inspector’s decision.”

MP Lucy Frazer posted a photo of her meeting Bottisham Parish Council about the proposed Bottisham Retirement Village, which was approved by the Planning Inspectorate

MP Lucy Frazer posted a photo of her meeting Bottisham Parish Council about the proposed Bottisham Retirement Village, which was approved by the Planning Inspectorate

The MP added: “I look forward to receiving a reply that I can share with my constituents.”

East Cambridgeshire Council presented the application to its planning committee last September; they concluded that, had they been able to determine it, they would have refused it.

However, by then an appeal was already into the Government Planning Inspectorate who later agreed the retirement village can be built.

Joint developers are Axis Land Partnerships Limited (“Axis”), part of the Sir Robert McAlpine Group of Companies, and Bottisham Farming Ltd, owned by David Rayner.

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