The village of Waterbeach is set to see massive development over the coming years. The closure of the M.O.D. sire in 2013 released a large swathe of land for development, further proposals would see a settlement the size of Gt Yarmouth built in this area. Nobody denies the need for new housing but any development should be in proportion to the local infrastructure and take into account the needs of local populations.
The headline development on the old barracks site sees proposals for 6,500 homes from the developer Urban and Civic along with associated retail and leisure facilities. The Bannold Road area of the village is currently the scene of several developments and the consortium Royal London Waterbeach (RLW) proposes a further 5,000 houses on green field sites.
Speaking to Waterbeach residents there is a striking lack of "nimbyism", most acknowledge the need for new housing, particularly in relation to affordable housing for the next generation and key workers.
It is the secondary developments that create the most concern and the current building on Bannold Road has done little to ease these concerns. Construction traffic frequently blocking all access and destroying existing roads and pavements. The new homes themselves show scan regard for local need with the recent Bovis development going on the market with prices ranging from £350K to almost £700k. The RLW consortium intends to develop greenfield sites adjacent to the old barracks, piggy backing on the Urban and Civic proposals. A plan by RLW to move the railway station has created suspicion, whilst there are valid arguments many suspect the motive behind this lies more in increasing the market value of their development than providing a better service.
The current confusion surrounding the local plan has created a "wild west" environment in the area with speculative developers looking to make quick profits rather than make long term investments in the community. Residents are right to lack confidence in the future of their village. The Conservative controlled South Cambs District Council has a poor record in ensuring that affordable housing quotas are met by developers, failing every year since 2010. In Waterbeach itself the presence of local Tory fingers in development pies has done little to bolster confidence and the LibDems have been unable to defend the local community. Change is needed if we are to build a community that benefits all.