MP Steve Barclay and developer engage in war of words over proposed Showfields development
PUBLISHED: 16:08 10 March 2015 | UPDATED: 16:13 10 March 2015
An MP and a developer are at loggerheads over plans to build homes on the Showfields site in Whittlesey.
Steve Barclay, MP for North East Cambs, supported opposition to previous proposals to build 249 homes on the site - an application which was rejected on appeal.
Corby-based developer Showfields Ltd has now applied to build 220 homes on the site, 29 less than the failed application. They also want to convert two adjoining fields into a 23-acre Community Nature Park.
Representatives of Showfields Ltd, their planning consultancy firm and a political lobbyist met Mr Barclay in the House of Commons last Tuesday to discuss the latest proposed development of the site.
Showfields Ltd are threatening to turn an area of open space in Whittlesey into arable farm land, which residents would not be able to assess, if plans for 220 homes are refused, Mr Barclay says.
He said: “It is disappointing that so soon after the planning inspector reached her decision against the developer, we find the same developer with another very similar scheme for largely the same land.
“The developer suggested that in removing 29 homes from the land with highest flooding risk, they had addressed the prime concern of the planning inspector.
“They also said that they planned to allocate a small amount of land for community use, including to develop biodiversity.
“Not surprisingly, this is the land that they could not build on due to the high flooding risk – a flooding risk previously dismissed by the developer.
“The developer has appointed political lobbyists to assist with their communications, and told me that a leaflet setting out the benefits of the new scheme will be circulated shortly to residents.
“The developer appeared to dismiss other local concerns raised at the planning inspector’s hearing, such as the pressure on local highways or the increased risk of flooding to existing homes nearby, on the grounds that these were not in his view the principal objection of the planning inspector.
“I made clear to the developers, I continue to have concerns regarding their proposals. I did not find the points raised at the meeting by the developer or his lobbyist persuasive.”
But Mr Barclay’s version of events is described as having “fundamental errors” by Showfields Ltd.
A spokesman for Showfields Ltd said: “We recently met Mr Barclay as the first step in this process. Regrettably, despite our best endeavours, Mr Barclay has made some fundamental errors in the version of the meeting he has chosen to publish.
“The company does not feel that Mr Barclay’s account is balanced or accurate, so we want to set the record straight in the interests of an informed public debate on our plans.
“The implication of Mr Barclay’s statement is that the Nature Park would be sited on land freed up by the reduction in the number of homes from 249 to 220 and that the land allocated to community use is ‘small’. This is frankly untrue.
“The Nature Park is proposed for a separate site, something perfectly evident in the fact that separate planning applications have been submitted.
“We intend to gift this land to the community and provide financial assistance to turn it into a Nature Park with new points of access, more wildlife habitats and greater biodiversity.
“The total land proposed for public open space in both applications is equivalent to 22 football pitches.”
The spokesman continued: “Mr Barclay references an ‘increased risk of flooding to existing homes nearby’.
“The planning inspector, the Environment Agency, the Drainage Board and Fenland District Council have all confirmed that there is no such risk in relation to the land now proposed for development.
“Indeed, Environment Agency research makes it clear that, even in a very extreme flood event, the proposed housing would remain dry.
“The question has been raised about our intentions in the event that planning permission is not forthcoming.
“We cannot afford to leave our land fallow indefinitely and would have to consider putting it to active agricultural use.
“But our clear preference is to provide quality homes, including affordable homes, and a new Nature Park to deliver a fantastic gateway into the town along the B1040.”