Site ID: 1355

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Site Assessment Pro Formas

Representation ID: 6063

Received: 09/09/2021

Respondent: Ms Sharman, Mrs Banks, Huntingdon Freemen’s Charity, Mr Russell and the Rowanmoor Trustees Limited

Agent: Bidwells

Representation Summary:

The site was put forward for consideration through the Call for Sites process in 2020 (Site ID Reference: 1355).
Land at Roxton
1.5 This site is considered to have significant potential for commercial development and is available for development within the plan period.
1.6 It is located in a strategically important position, to the south-west of the Black Cat Roundabout between Bedford Road and the Great North Road (A1). Access to the site would be provided via two access points from Bedford Road. An additional emergency access point could be provided should it be determined to be required.
1.7 The site benefits from exceptional access to the existing and proposed road network including the A421 which heads west towards Milton Keynes and the M1. The Black Cat Roundabout leads onto the A1 and the soon to be upgraded A428 which will improve connections between Oxford and Cambridge. In addition, improvements are proposed for the new Oxford to Cambridge railway line (the East-West Rail (EWR)) which will have stations at St Neots / Sandy and Wixams, both of which will be accessible from this site. The site is therefore considered to be well located to the Arc growth corridor and would enable much needed commercial space in the heart of this growth area.
1.8 This submission covers circa 22.26 hectares of land. In terms of the indicative quantum of development, this site is considered suitable for approximately 74,000m² of commercial space and additional supporting infrastructure, possibly including the relocated services to the north-east of the Black Cat, which will be displaced following the Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet road improvement scheme. The amount of commercial space is based on the assumption that approximately 40% of the site will be occupied by built form with the remaining area for landscaping, service roads, loading bays and car parks etc.
1.9 Our clients are keen to promote the land and there has been significant developer interest. A collaboration agreement has been agreed with the landowners and this has been separately submitted to the Council. It demonstrates that all landowners are committed to promoting this land for development.
4.1 The approach taken by the Council when making general conclusions and assessing the suitability of sites for development as part of the Site Assessment process has been unsatisfactory to date.
4.2 The site assessment forms have not been underpinned by a detailed review of the evidence available to the Council. There is a housing scheme directly to the south of the site (LPA Ref. 21/00014/MAO) for 50 dwellings that assess the local area, and the knowledge obtained through this application should be transferred to this site. This application drew the following primary conclusions:
● In terms of heritage it was agreed that the site did not make a contribution to the significance of any listed building other than the Church.
● Ecologically, the site was considered to be of a low habitat value, although mitigation is proposed to protect protected species in construction.
4.3 The site assessment forms also fail to provide any detailed assessments or conclusions on key topics. For example, when looking at the site assessment form:
● At 4a, the form states that ‘the proposal has the potential to cause harm to heritage assets…’ and then goes on to speculate that this harm could be of any form of significance and that mitigation may or may not be required. It is apparent from the information presented that very little consideration has been given to the heritage impact that developing the site would have and as a result, the Council could misrepresent a site that is acceptable from a heritage perspective or suitable mitigation could be implemented.
● At 5a, it is outlined that “Nothing chosen” in relation to whether the development would be likely to increase future economic and employment opportunities. As this site is endorsed as an employment site it is noted that these opportunities would occur.
● At 9a, it is stated that the “site is not previously developed land as defined in the NPPF”. It is noted that the part of the site is a garden centre, thus meaning it should be acknowledged that a part of the site is previously developed.
● 15f and the highways comments together note that there may be potential capacity problems that require mitigation and then go on to suggest a potential means of mitigation. However, there is no real professional assessment as to the likelihood that this mitigation can be successfully achieved, and this, therefore, leaves a question mark in relation to the site deliverability.
4.4 Before any site selection process is undertaken, each site should be properly assessed and a firm conclusion reached on whether key areas such as highways, heritage, noise, etc. are an insurmountable issue or not.
4.5 The site assessment form does not allow for a consideration of the potential benefits that sites may offer, including the proposed use of the site for employment with the potential relocation of the service station also part of the offering. No real consideration of this is given in the site assessment section of the forms.
4.6 The assessment process for sites should be thorough and draw information from an existing evidence base held by the Council. There should be a greater degree of transparency in the site assessment and selection process, and it is noted that plans in other local authorities have been brought down in recent years for failure to do this on the basis that it undermined the conclusions made.