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Axis wins appeal to build retirement care village on Stapleford greenbelt – Parish Council response

At the very end of 2021, developer Axis won outline planning consent on appeal to develop a retirement care village on greenbelt land between Haverhill Road and Hinton Way. The Class C2 development will comprise housing with care, communal health, wellbeing and leisure facilities, public open space, landscaping, car parking, access and associated development, and a public access countryside park.

Whilst the Planning Inspector acknowledged that the proposal clearly does not meet the criteria for removal from greenbelt, he nevertheless determined that the benefits of the scheme outweigh the cost. Significant weight appears to have been placed on the offer of a country park, which was calculated to increase biodiversity by 234% and open the greenbelt to public access for social use.

He also identified an under-provision in the current Local Plan for retirement housing, given the potential contribution to the supply of housing stock with the theoretical release of larger houses as older people relocate and downsize. He noted that developers struggle to acquire C2 sites on the grounds of cost. Disappointing, then, that he was not aware of the provision being set out in the draft new Local Plan.

The Inspector satisfied himself on landscape impact. He noted that the Cambridge Inner Green Belt Study of 2015 delineated the boundary between our village scene and the surrounding countryside at the 20m contour, rising to the 30m contour on the east side of the village, whereas the 2021 Greater Cambridge Landscape Assessment placed the boundary higher up and further out. The Inspector was therefore content that the proposed development will sit within the 25m contour and not impinge on the landscape. Rather unhelpfully, he refers to an ‘island of land’ stretching towards Hinton Way and annexed by the retirement village, which could potentially also be developed.

He dismissed the argument that the site for a retirement village is poorly located because it is too far from local services by identifying facilities such as St. Andrew’s Church and the Granary as also being on the ‘edge’ of the village. Some parishioners might feel otherwise.

Interestingly, the Inspector rejected the GCP’s objections regarding the impact of the retirement village on its proposed busway. He thought the busway route could be realigned further to the east of the village, although we note that this could potentially impact the country park. He overruled the GCP’s demand for an S106 contribution from Axis to help pay for the busway.

Before the conclusion of the Inquiry, a signed s106 agreement with Magog Trust was submitted. This makes provision for the transfer of the country park element of the proposal to a body charged with its maintenance, together with a sum of £349,950 (index-linked) to be used for its creation, management and maintenance.

There is no right to appeal the Inspector’s decision: it can only be challenged in the High Court on a point of law. Whether the fact that several significant objectors were not given prior notice of the appeal is not something that we are qualified to comment on.

The focus should now perhaps shift to the ‘reserved matters’ in the application; those aspects of a proposed development which an applicant can choose not to submit details of with an outline planning application (i.e. access, appearance, landscaping, layout and scale). In this instance, the reserved matters are significant and will be influenced not only by our District Councillors at South Cambs., but also by policies to be developed in the emerging Great Shelford and Stapleford Neighbourhood Plan.

Further information can be found by searching under Appeal Ref: APP/W0530/W/21/3280395 on https://acp.planninginspectorate.gov.uk.