Bourn Airfield in Cambridgeshire may become a construction site for thousands of new homes. An English airfield that played its role in the Second World War is now facing tensions of a different sort… namely, local planning issues!
Late last month a proposal to build 3,500 houses at the location received initial approval from South Cambridgeshire District Council.
Spearheaded by Countryside Properties and the Taylor Family, the application was granted outline planning permission. With the first hurdles cleared, this village style development is officially taking shape.
Bourn Airfield started life as RAF Bourn. The land was acquired in 1940, according to the Forces War Records website.
Its main use was for heavy bombers. “A total of 135 Bomber Command aircraft were lost in operations flown from Bourn; 19 Wellingtons, 32 Stirlings, 60 Lancasters and 24 Mosquitos” writes Forces War Records.
As the 1940s drew to a close so did the airfield, at least for the RAF. It became agricultural land in the early 1960s. In 2012 the Rural Flying Corps were making use of the runway. Bourn Market was also found on the site.
As well as the homes, the project will provide “community facilities including a new secondary school, two primary schools, community centres and playing fields.”
The “Bourn Airfield” website mentions that the village is designed to cover 262 acres. It writes that 40% of the properties built are designated “affordable housing”. Green spaces are apparently a key part of the scheme, with “carefully designed woodland and fields to promote biodiversity”.
Full permission is expected to be given in due course, though the likelihood of this isn’t welcomed by all. Bourn Parish Council and its chairman Des O’Brien have expressed concern over the nature of the project, opposing the application.
Objections to features like a centrally-located six-storey building were voiced by Councillor Richard Williams, as reported by the BBC. Critics believe the development is not in keeping with the area’s character. The density of the build has also been questioned.
O’Brien is surprised at what he sees as a lack of guaranteed transport links to accommodate the forthcoming village.
A busway between the village of Cambourne and Cambridge is apparently in the offing, though nothing concrete has emerged to date, so to speak. The travel corridor should help take the pressure off existing roads, but things haven’t materialized yet.
This is because the proposed links – courtesy of the Greater Cambridge Partnership – are reportedly embroiled in their own arguments. Cambridgeshire Live writes that Mayor James Palmer of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority doesn’t want the idea to go ahead.
Progress won’t be made on transport till the Summer, where an independent review and decision making on a route combine to create a potential double headache.
Via BBC News, a condition of the preliminary approval is that “no more than 500 of the homes can be occupied before the Cambourne-to-Cambridge busway or an equivalent public transport link is in place.”
Support for the village comes from the Council’s Deputy Leader Adrian van de Weyer. The BBC writes that he is encouraged by how countryside has been incorporated into the plans. He also highlights the urgent need for housing in the area.
It’s reported the first homes should be completed on site by 2023. Will the various concerns be addressed by then?
Either way, the development brings a new lease of life to an important part of Bourn’s history. The website Aviation Trails took a trip to the airfield in 2015, mentioning its involvement in Black Thursday.
What was Black Thursday? In December 1943, an attack on Berlin resulted in serious complications for air crew. The presence of fog over Cambridgeshire made landing back at home too difficult. Some planes ran out of fuel and crashed. There were numerous fatalities.
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Hearing such details puts the arguments over a housing development into perspective. Whether it goes up or not, it’s truly the end of an era…