Councillors have approved 48 new affordable homes in a Cambridgeshire town, saying they can’t pass up on this “golden opportunity” despite it conflicting with their own planning policies. 

Fenland District Council (FDC) planning officers recommended that the application be refused because the land west of 43-69 Wimblington Road in March – where the development will be built – isn’t covered by a broad concept plan.

These plans form templates showing where new planning applications should be approved across Fenland and are backed up by their overarching local plan. 

But such technical concerns pale in comparison with the “desperate” need for affordable housing in March, the council’s planning committee agreed at a meeting this week. 

Cllr Ian Benney (Conservatives, Chatteris South) said that people in need of housing are squatting on others’ floors and living in BnBs, while Cllr Jan French (Conservatives, March South) said that the council is “desperate” for affordable housing and such a “golden opportunity” for an entirely affordable development rarely comes along. 

More than 800 people are on the waiting list for affordable housing in March, developers Abbey Properties Cambridgeshire Limited told councillors, while more than 1,800 are on the waiting list across Fenland.

Applicant Andy Brand also asked them to put the “urgent need” for housing over a “technical conflict” in his plea for planning permission.  

Currently, the plans will see a roughly 70:30 split of houses under shared ownership and houses with affordable rent.

The majority (24) will be three-bed houses, the plans say, while 16 would be two-beds and six four-beds, all over two storeys. There would also be two two-bed bungalows. 

But planning officers warned that granting the application – which councillors did unanimously – could have real world consequences.

The land on which the houses will be built has not been “subject to strategic analysis to identify where there are access points”, Nick Harding, head of planning at FDC, said, meaning that it could unintentionally cut off a key access point to a larger site where more affordable houses could have been built. 

But planning committee chair Cllr David Connor (Conservatives, Doddington and Wimblington) said that a “bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” and agreed with Cllr French that councillors shouldn’t pass up on the “grand opportunity” in front of them. 

Accent Group, the affordable housing provider supporting the application, said that it would like to see work on the scheme begin within six months. 

Councillors have also requested that developers contribute more than £35,000 towards local services including libraries and the NHS