Residents of a Cambridgeshire village have slammed plans for a new retirement complex of up to 200 homes on green belt land in Comberton, Cambridgeshire. The development will contain homes, a clubhouse, a swimming pool and hairdressers built on land at Branch Road in the north of the village if plans are approved.
However, the development has already garnered a total of 55 comments, and objections, on the Greater Cambridge planning portal. Concerns have been raised about the strain the complex could have on the local GP surgery, road infrastructure and the impact it could have on rare bats and birds.
The homes have been marketed for older people aged 65 and over, with developers saying the complex will provide “a range of accommodation types” including communal gardens, and leisure facilities, including a pool, gym, fitness studio and treatment rooms, and an area with a café, restaurant, bar, hairdressers, meeting rooms and activity spa.
Read more: New development with 200 homes, swimming pool and hairdressers could be built on Cambridgeshire village’s green belt
Concerns about excess patients at ‘strained’ GP surgery
Dozens of comments on the planning highlighted concerns about the pressure this could have on the already “strained” GP surgery. One objector said: “The existing community will be impacted by the village age demographic.
“Our surgery is already operating at maximum capacity and my understanding is that the surgery team are concerned about the impact upon the surgery. They also have no scope for expansion of premises or parking on their existing site.
“At the town hall meeting, they also made us aware that the proposed medical rooms on the new site are not of a CQC standard that would allow local GP or nursing staff to use. This would result in those residents requiring attendance at the existing surgery.”
Another said: “My main concern with this application relates to the impact such a large development will have on the existing health service provision. It is generally accepted that GPs across the country are under immense strain coping with existing workloads, in a climate where recruiting additional staff is difficult and the constraints of surgery buildings do not always allow for service expansion.
“Comberton surgery in particular has already taken on an influx of new patients from the residential development opposite the College, and the population figures taken from the 2021 census and quoted in the Health Impact Statement will not reflect this. Residents of the proposed Retirement Community will be older people who are likely to have significant health and care needs, and as it cannot be assumed that they will be existing Comberton residents.”
Rare birds and bats could be impacted
Concerns were also raised about building on the green belt with the developer arguing the build to be justified as there is an “exceptional” need for the homes: “The land concerned in this development is in the Green Belt. It is not designated for development in the county structure plan.
“The Retirement Village does not qualify as an exception to the presumption against development in the Green Belt. Development of this site is in direct conflict with National Green Belt Policies: National Planning Policy Framework: ‘to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment.”
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A resident on Merton Street, Comberton, said: “No life in such a huge concentration of ‘Old Folks’ Homes’, in silent cul-de-sacs, with dodgy water cycle, scant medical provision and even sparser busses to Addenbrookes, let alone Cambridge by night. Land should not be given up for such a wrong-headed project with pure profit it’s prime consideration.”
Another considered the local wildlife: “The area is hunted regularly by mobile predators tawny owl, Barn owl, buzzard, red kite, kestrel and sparrow hawk.
“In addition, there are many bat sightings in the village and definitive records (as recently as August 2022) of the rare barbastelle bats which have their maternity roost in the SSSI-protected site at Wimpole and Eversden Woods.
“Comberton is well within the barbastelle bats range for foraging flights from this roosting site and both the proposed buildings and associated lighting will destroy this area for use by these species.”
Others slammed the “massive” 20per cent increase in the size of the village (currently about 2,400 inhabitants).
One resident said: “The development does not meet recognized local housing needs in the village (e.g. affordable houses for young families), but is designed to attract new people into the area (the developers’ website makes clear that they are marketing nationally and internationally).”
‘Build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything’
A resident from Barron’s Way was concerned that residents would always pick fault with developments whether they were beneficial or not: “I have just read a “Say no!” sign by the duck pond in the village centre. It is very professionally designed. I realised that I’d recently seen quite a few similar signs opposing all manner of “developments” from executive housing to railways, to busways to retirement homes.
“These often have the support of our MP Anthony Browne. I am not commenting on the right or wrong of any of these proposals. Some of the objections seem reasonable. A few seem to be borderline frivolous. (bio-diversity, really?)
“Is there a secret cabal somewhere called perhaps “The Bananas” (build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything) that steps in immediately if anything is proposed?
“Edmund Burke, a conservative, wrote years ago that the social contract involves the dead, the living and those to come. It appears that today self-interest is the only contract.
“Everyone I speak to agrees that we need more affordable homes for young people to buy and better transport links, and more retirement homes to free up family houses but, in my humble opinion, a bunch of bananas organises very quickly to try to stop anything happening anywhere.”
To view the planning application for yourself, and provide tour views you can do so here.