PLANNING experts were out in force in the second week of the Mereham new town battle determined to prove the 5,000 home project was flawed. They argued against the location of the new town, questioned its claims to provide affordable housing and the need
PLANNING experts were out in force in the second week of the Mereham new town battle determined to prove the 5,000 home project was flawed.
They argued against the location of the new town, questioned its claims to provide affordable housing and the need for key worker homes in the area.
Giles Hughes, East Cambridgeshire District Council's head of planning told the Haddenham inquiry: "The Mereham development is not required for the district to meet its housing targets.
"It would have significant adverse impacts on the neighbouring settlements and on the surrounding area."
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He added that the region's structure plan sets a target of at least 40 per cent affordable housing and Mereham would only deliver 30 per cent.
"Although the proposed wetland area will lead to important ecological benefits these benefits do not outweigh the serious harm that would be caused by the proposals," he said.
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Richard Wilkinson, Cambridgeshire County Council's development strategy manager, told the inquiry that Mereham, planned for land between Wilburton and Stretham, is in a "poor strategic location".
He claimed there were preferred locations within the region that would allow a closer link between homes and jobs.
"Mereham enjoys little or no support from key stakeholders or local communities," he said. "It is my firm opinion that Mereham is strategically located in the wrong place."
Lin Cousins, a member of the Royal Town Planning Institute, addressed the inquiry on the need for affordable housing and its provision within the Mereham plan.
She said the need for housing for key workers was focused in and around Cambridge and would expect Mereham to make only a limited and very local contribution.
"I recognise that any affordable housing delivered at Mereham would make some sort of contribution to meeting the sub region's need for affordable housing but I consider that the Mereham scheme falls far short of what would be expected of a 'new community' and is an opportunity lost," she said.
The inquiry, expected to last six weeks, will hear concerns from villagers, parish council representatives and other organisations next week.
There will then be a week's break before Mereham developer Multiplex puts its case over the final two weeks.
The inquiry is open to the public, who are invited to stay for all or part of each day's hearing at Haddenham's Arkenstall Centre.