How it could be achieved
Housing development in Great Wilbraham is not included in the District Council’s Local Plan. Major housing projects cannot happen here. This does not eliminate all new housing within the village because infill sites are, of course, still allowable, but they are very unlikely to be financially viable for so called, affordable, or subsidised housing whether they be for purchase or rent. There is, however, one other possible way of providing affordable homes. It is sometimes possible to build them on outlying agricultural land, or green belt, if it has been designated a ‘Rural Exception Site.’ This can only happen if there is a proven need to help people with family connections to stay in the village.
Why Great Wilbraham, and what role does the land agent Bidwells play?
The two maps shown here indicate the land and estate managed by the agents Bidwells. In 2014, acting on behalf of the land owners, they approached the Parish Council with a map of five plots outside the village envelope that could possibly be offered to the village as rural exception sites for affordable housing.
What role does the Parish Council have in this?
The Parish Council is the voice of the village and no decision can be made without the views of all residents being taken into consideration. Therefore, Bidwells were invited to address a well-publicised Annual Parish Meeting in 2014 to discuss their proposals. The meeting attracted over 100 people, compared with the handful of residents who normally attend such meetings, and generated considerable discussion. As a result, the Parish Council decided that the views of all residents should be sought – hence the commissioning of the charity, Cambridgeshire ACRE (Action for Communities in Rural England), to survey opinion independently.
Who paid for the survey?
The CHS Group housing society paid for the Cambridgeshire Acre survey. They have evolved from the former Cambridge Housing Society that built the village’s Squire’s Field development. The results of the survey indicated a substantial majority in favour of limited affordable housing in the village and were published in the 2014 winter edition of The Warbler.
Public concern about development v the need for low cost housing
Despite the long recognised need for a small number of affordable homes for people with a demonstrable link to Great Wilbraham, and the results of the ACRE survey, there seems to be an anti-Bidwells view developing, and several letters have been received by the Parish Council from individuals who are very concerned about possible construction on the proposed Rural Exception Sites as shown on the maps.
Possible misconceptions the Parish Council would like to clarify
It is the Parish Council’s understanding that there is a demonstrable need for a small number, possibly as many as 10, affordable homes. It cannot be overstated that although the size of some of the possible sites as shown on the map are quite large, they do not reflect the number of houses that are proposed. We know that Bidwells will also be looking at the possibility of including some ordinary, market-priced housing to support the low cost homes on offer, and there is an understandable fear of excessive development in a rural setting. This cannot happen now, or in the foreseeable future, as the village is not in the District Council’s Local Plan for housing development. Nothing, other than the type of very small projects that the Parish Council is reviewing could happen. Indeed, by showing a responsible attitude to housing difficulties, and a willingness to consult with residents, the Parish Council’s views can only gain in credibility with the District Council.
The next step
The Parish Council met Cambridgeshire ACRE and Bidwells to discuss the viability of the suggested sites. ACRE, CHS and Bidwells are now in discussion with the planners at SCDC to assess the viability of each site, particularly with regard to access. When these parties have established a clearer understanding of the selected site, there will be a further discussion with the Parish Council, but the final decision will only be taken after more consultation with the whole village. We hope this helps explain the current position. Please come and join us at the Annual Parish Meeting, which will be attended by ACRE and Bidwells, and which is scheduled for 23rd April 2015, at the Wilbrahams’ Memorial Hall.
- Background to Affordable Housing
- Housing Needs Survey from Great Wilbraham
- GreatWilbraham – Housing Needs Survey Results Report, July 2014
- Publication by ACRE concerning the most frequently asked questions about Affordable Housing
- Information on the criteria required to claim a local connection to the village
Housing questionnaire and supporting document
This is a standard questionnaire developed in partnership with our Local Authority and Housing Association partners. The questionnaire clearly states that it is asking about housing need (and potential development) in Great Wilbraham.
Maps of Great Wilbraham and the Great Wilbraham Estate provided by Bidwells