Developer Multiplex has appealed against the refusal of plans for a town north of Cambridge and challenged the government to demonstrate its commitment to raising it game over housing delivery in the M11 growth corridor.=

The East Cambridgeshire council planning committee voted last week to reject an application by Stannifer Multiplex for a 5000-home settlement at Mereham on the A10 between Cambridge and Ely. It included proposals for 45,000 m2 of offices, workshops and shopping.

In the balance: Stannifer Multiplex’s plan for homes has been rejected

In the balance: Stannifer Multiplex’s plan for homes has been rejected

The committee rejected the scheme on the grounds that the location was poorly served by public transport and was not on the list of sites earmarked for strategic housing developments in Cambridgeshire.

A spokesperson for Stannifer Multiplex said: “We are going to pursue an appeal to see if the government is going to walk the walk as well as talk the talk on housing delivery. It’s going to be a fairly major inquiry, the first one that will test that issue.”

He said the homes were needed to meet the housing shortfall highlighted in Cambridgeshire council’s monitoring report. This showed a shortfall of 4400 completions between 1999 and 2003, 35% below the target set for that period in the council’s plan.

An analysis carried out by Stannifer Multiplex’s planning consultant Barton Willmore also said the sites earmarked for development in the Cambridge structure plan would not come forward in time.

In particular it said Gallagher Estates’ 5000-dwelling new town at Northstowe depended on as yet unallocated funding for improvements to the A14 and the guided busway, which were given planning approval before Christmas.

It’s going to be a fairly major inquiry, the first one that will test the issueStannifer Multiplex spokesperson

The analysis said: “The early delivery of housing on the strategic housing sites is unlikely and, given the increasing requirements being set by national and regional planning policy, the shortfall in housing provision will increase. If housing provision is to be increased there is a need to permit developments on new sites.”

Stannifer Multiplex, which has met Henry Cleary, the ODPM growth area director, to discuss its plans, said it was willing to invest £26m in widening the A10 and provide public transport.

Gideon Amos, Town and Country Planning Association director, agreed that Cambridgeshire’s plans did not allow for enough homes. He said: “There is a definite need for new settlements as part of that portfolio, but they need to go through the planning process.”

But John Onslow, deputy chief executive of the Cambridgeshire Horizons delivery agency, rejected Stannifer Multiplex’s claim that the growth plans were undeliverable.

He said: “The strategy can be implemented. We don’t have any concerns about the housing numbers to be delivered, although it is a challenge.”

Stannifer Multiplex’s application will be one of a number to be thrashed out at a public inquiry into spatial strategy next month.