Decisions made by SCDC and developers have left GCP with few options in regard to Waterbeach station move as Elisa Meschini explains in her statement to GCP board.
“As a politician, there is very little that is more deeply frustrating than dealing with legacy issues. You learn very early on the meaning of the concepts of “rock” and “hard place”, and the very special flavour they acquire when you accede newly to administration and you have to deliver schemes that were conceived and set in motion before your time, and you know that you would have done it differently and you wish above all else that you could have. This is very much how I feel today.
In Greater Cambridge, we have a very clear policy requirement under the joint local plan to deliver housing growth, lest it happens to us in an uncontrollable manner, failing to come with the required infrastructure. It is very timely that this week we have learned from the data from the last census that population in Cambridgeshire over the last ten years has grown almost 10% more than the East of England average, when the East of England itself has grown faster than any other part of the UK. We must take control of this growth or it won’t happen sustainably. The signs from the business community and the size of the housing needs register already point to the fact that it’s almost already too late.
Yet so much of what we are about to agree today is deeply unsatisfactory: in no known universe should it be allowable under planning law that the taxpayer is called upon to subsidise the profits of a developer up to a margin of 20%. 20%!!! Also in no known universe should it be allowable, again under planning, that the developer can lay claim to a further £17m of taxpayers’ money in what is essentially an interest free loan.
I could go on. There is almost zero return for this cash we’re advancing today in terms of accountability. As the deliverer of the new rail station, the GCP will be on the hook not just for the project itself, but also for the failures of the developer in engaging meaningfully with the community. I am very well aware that in advancing this project today, I am accepting this very unfair responsibility on behalf of the Board in the name of what I hope will be the greater good.”