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Sewage Works Stays Put

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The bad news today for Milton, the village where I live, is that the Cambridge sewage works, which is located just upwind of us, is no longer going to be moved downwind.

This decision smells. And not of sewage either.

The background is that there has for a very long time now been a plan to move the works to another site. I first remember going to a meeting where it was discussed before I was chairman of Milton Parish Council, so that makes it 2001 or earlier. The reason for moving it was that as part of the great rush to find places to put more houses the land which the sewage works is on had been included in an area rather prosaically called Cambridge Northern Fringe (East) (or CNF(E)). The "(East)" tag was to distinguish it from Cambridge Northern Fringe (West), which is now being developed as Arbury Park.

CNF(E) consisted of three large bits of brownfield land: the sewage works, Cowley Road Park and Ride site, and the largely redundant Chesterton sidings. The proposal was to create a new community there with houses, offices, a new railway station (probably called Cambridge Parkway) and a primary school. Milton Parish Council was involved because the siding lie within the civil parish.

CNF(E) moved rather slower than CNF(W) - the owners of the sewage works, Anglian Water, needed to research where they could move it to and at what cost, and there were other issues like what to do about the P&R site. The latter problem has been solved and the County is in the process of creating a new P&R site off Butt Lane in Milton to replace it.

The "fun" began when Anglian Water came up with their new site for the sewage works at Honey Hill. This puts the works downwind of Milton but upwind of Stow-cum-Quy and, possibly, Horningsea. There were howls of protest from residents there.

And this is where I start to smell a rat. It's election time and I'm sure it will be a hot issue out there. Both the county council and district council are Tory run so it's their problem. It's also solid Tory country out there and the district councillor is up for re-election this time. Suddenly a press release appeared which seems to be claiming CNF(E) was all the city council's idea and that perhaps it's not such a good idea after all. You'll not be surprised to hear that the city council is Lib Dem run so they're ideal people to blame for this but I've got a long memory: I've had briefings from district council officers supporting it and the county put out a consultation paper with this as its preferred option. So there was clearly some furious backpedalling going on.

And now we hear that they've completed their U turn. The works will not be moved. How convenient. What a lucky coincidence that this happened now, less than a month before the elections.

But the decision means that CNF(E) is now no longer viable for housing - what land remains is right next to a sewage works after all and it's too small to make a sustainable community. Instead they're now talking about re-zoning it for offices.

Where this leaves the wider problem of finding yet more housing for the Cambridge sub-region I've no idea. It also leaves me wondering how the county council can now justify removing land from the Green Belt for yet another car park when the land it frees up is no longer to be used for housing ...

As for Milton, which is left downwind of the old works, not a nice modern works as was proposed for Honey Hill, well Cllr Matt Bradney, Lead Member for Planning and Regional Matters, is quoted in the latest press release as saying:

We listened very closely to the concerns of the communities who did not want to see this facility moved. Councils are often criticised for not listening and I hope this shows that we do take the community's views on board.

... just not our community it seems.

Tags: local politics, Milton Written 16/04/08

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