A 280-home development in Sawston has been approved by councillors, despite many of them being unhappy with its design.
A majority of South Cambridgeshire District Council’s planning committee ultimately agreed there was a need for the homes and agreed with the council officer’s recommendation to approve them.
Redrow Homes will build the 280 new homes, including 72 affordable properties, on land south of Babraham Road, along with two children’s play areas and other open space. Money will also be paid towards improvements at the Lyton recreation ground.
At Wednesday’s meeting (April 13), a representative for Redrow Homes said: “The design of this development focuses on delivering a well-connected neighbourhood, which will successfully integrate with the adjacent existing development and with the wider village of Sawston.
“We have carefully considered the Sawston village design guide in drawing up the proposals and the scheme positively responds to the guidance contained within it in all aspects, including building heights, character areas, connectivity, landscaping, and materials.”
The representative said a “significant” amount of open space had been planned and highlighted proposed biodiversity enhancements such as a new orchard and a swift tower.
When challenged on the design, the representative said it was not possible on a development of this size to provide “bespoke” design, but highlighted that changes had been made to meet the village design guide.
Cllr David Bard, representing Sawston Parish Council, told the committee the parish council had withdrawn their original objection after the developers made changes that made the “mediocre development just about acceptable”. He added that the parish council did have some concerns still, including over access.
A number of councillors on the committee were unhappy with the design, but there was disagreement on whether this was enough to refuse the application.
Cllr Deborah Roberts (Ind, Foxton) described the plans as a “disappointment”, criticising the design and amount of open space provided.
She said: “It is a disaster. This design for Sawston is the disaster of the future. It is going to be an appalling quality of life. It’s going to have tinky-tiny gardens that nobody will actually be able to play in, but they won’t have a lovely big open space where the children can go and kick a ball.”
Cllr Heather Williams (Con, The Mordens) said she did not think the quality of design was high enough to meet the district council’s policy requirements.
She said the council should not be “striving for mediocre” and challenged the statement made by the representative of Redrow Homes that more bespoke design was not possible.
Cllr Williams argued that there was not a site constraint stopping this, but that it was the developer’s own internal decision to use “off the shelf” designs.
Other councillors were also unhappy with the design, but did not feel there were sufficient grounds to refuse the plans.
Cllr Brian Milnes (Lib Dem, Sawston) had “reservations” about the design, but recognised that it is “almost impossible” to build an estate with enough different building designs to make it “interesting”.
He also argued that Sawston was in “desperate” need of new housing, adding: “Sawston is effectively a dormitory town for the many science parks around and we need to have people located close to where they work. This will provide that.”
Cllr Milnes was disappointed that the developer had not planned different heating and energy options across the site, such as ground source heat pumps.
Cllr Dr Tumi Hawkins (Lib Dem, Caldecote) said the design was “not great”, but referenced that there had been no objection from the council’s urban design officer.
She said the application was “not ideal”, but it was the “best that can be done at this point in time”.
However, Cllr Hawkins did say she had concerns over the proposals for the bike storage to be included in the garages, questioning whether there would be space for a car and bikes.
When put to a vote, eight committee councillors voted in favour of approval, with two voting against and one abstaining.