More than 500 new homes set for Soham as government inspector raises concerns about shortfall
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More than 500 homes could be built on the edge of Soham in the next five years to plug a shortfall identified by a government inspector.
The homes were approved in principle by councillors at East Cambridgeshire District Council, at a specially convened full council meeting.
It comes after a government inspector raised concerns, in July, about the council’s ‘five-year housing land supply’ and identified a shortage of 320 homes.
Earlier this year, the government changed the method for councils to allocate land for housing shortfalls in their local plans.
Previously, any shortfall against the housing target could be distributed across the full term of the local plan. Now, however, any shortfall must be provided within five years.
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Soham councillor Colin Fordham said he felt “sorry” for the town but district council officials insisted the homes were already planned for the area but were being brought forward ahead of schedule.
Cllr Fordham said: “My phone has been red hot with people calling me and asking what is going on with all these new homes.
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“I feel so, so sorry for Soham. There is no employment in the town to support 500 houses.”
A revised local plan will be sent out for public consultation, but it will be another two months before it could come into force.
Councillor Tom Hunt said: “We are in a very precarious position because of the inspector’s conclusions, which have harmed our ability as elected representatives to make decisions which we believe to be right. It is of critical importance we support this.”
Councillor Joshua Schumann said: “We are selecting sites for consultation. We are not doing anything to Soham – we still have to get the consent of residents.
“I don’t want the people of Soham to think we would just go ahead and do things to them.”
Concerns were raised by Councillor Lorna Dupre about the town’s infrastructure and whether it could cope with the influx of homes, but council officer Katie Child insisted checks had been carried out with utility providers and schools.
Ms Child said: “There are a number of specific deliverable sites on the edge of the town that could come forward within five years.
“There is sufficient infrastructure capacity to focus all the new allocations on Soham within the five-year period, as confirmed following consultation with infrastructure providers.”