Residents resist housing estate that like Topsy keeps on growing
- Credit: Kit Malthouse
It was hailed by the then housing minister Kit Malthouse as a “great example of community led development funded by smart land value capture”.
But that was three years ago.
A fourth phase of the community land trust development at Stretham looks more problematic and is coming under increasing scrutiny.
Laragh Homes, land owners Peterhouse College, and the Stretham and Wilburton Community Land Trust came together seven years ago to deliver the first homes.
But some residents now living there feel that not all the early promises are being delivered.
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There has been delays over relocating the GP surgery to the Manor Farm estate.
And concerns have been raised about poorly maintained roads through the estate and the noise and disturbance caused by expanding the number of homes.
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A year after an application was submitted for a further 15 open market homes and six community land trust homes, East Cambridgeshire District Council is yet to decide it.
Kay Walsh is a resident at Manor Farm and believes the Stretham and Wilburton Community Land trust (SWCLT) has been “less than truthful about life on this development”.
She said: “We have several issues with them the most important being that the main road through the development has not been built to an adoptable standard.”
Mrs Walsh says that have contacted the SWCLT chairman, former council leader Charles Roberts, and claims he “tried to dismiss our claims but highways have confirmed the truth”.
She says phase four could finally see the GP centre built together with a new £1.5m village centre but these would require access over an unadopted road through the estate.
“The CLT affordable housing will potentially have to foot the bill for maintenance of a road used by 1000s of visitors to the GP surgery,” she said.
“From Manor Farm's perspective we feel like the SWCLT and planning are not being transparent or taking the road issues into account.
“The new phase also requires the main spine road to cross a public footpath with no plans in place to show how this will be done.
“It feels like a disaster waiting to happen with the path being regularly used by cyclists and dog walkers.”
County highways supports that claim, telling the district council last November that “the layout of the site is not suitable for adoption due to the widths of the internal roads and proposed layout”.
They, too, agree the site to be accessed from Manor Farm development crosses a footpath which has a public right of way. And this requires a resolution.
But that’s not the only complaint.
One resident told the council they moved into their homes at Petersfield in 2017 and for over three years have had “noise and machinery disturbance from building activity and plant machinery movement”.
The resident says machines can start daily at 8am, including Saturdays and occasionally even on Sunday, and “the house often shakes”.
There is anger, too, over unsurfaced roads with raised manholes preventing discharge of rain water.
“It just runs down the street, taking the mud with it: the pathways are incomplete too,” says the resident.
They fear with phase four they could be in for another two years of disturbance and incomplete roadways.
“The fourth phase was not in the planning,” the resident pointed out to planners, inviting them to find an alternative access to any extension of the development.
“I pay my council tax and a large fee to the community land trust for maintenance of an unsightly mess and I am fed up with it,” the resident added.
Another resident told planners; “When we bought our house the plans stated a development of 75 homes in three phases, which is what we now have.
“No mention was made of further houses being added.”
Manor Farm Residents Association says they were told last September that surfacing of Petersfield would be “completed imminently”.
But the association says nothing has happened.
“Many residents have had punctures and tyre damages," says the association.
“Each month we have asked Laragh when the road will be surfaced. Their stock answer is ‘imminently’.
“Dissatisfied with this repetitive answer we contacted highways and discovered that the road will not be adopted as it is not to adoptable standard.”
Laragh Homes says the current development will conclude with 79 houses, 23 of which will affordable homes owned and managed by SWCLT.
The original proposal was for 50 homes, some small commercial units and a GP surgery, amenity space including a new village green and an extension to the existing cemetery to the north of the site.
“The delivery of the GP surgery was reliant on NHS funding secured through a local GP practice,” it says.
“The NHS have requested a larger facility to meet future health needs and this could not be secured within the timeframe of the first two phases.
“The proposed location for these facilities has been relocated to a larger site to the north of Plantation Gate, which now has outline planning permission.
“The planning application for the release of the reserved matters for the GP surgery & commercial units will follow once NHS funding has been secured.”
Laragh says through negotiation with local landowners the CLT was able to secure additional land to the east of Sennitt Way and this became Phase 3 of development, now under construction.
Next will be phase four that will include six affordable rented homes with the 15 market homes funding them.