We have now received a delayed response from East West Railway Company (EWR) to a Freedom of Information request; this is provided in three documents. The request was for “copies of any correspondence between EWR Co and Thakeham and/or any advisors, consultants or similar working on Thakeham's behalf for 2020, 2019 and 2018.”
In summary, the response indicates that Will Gallagher, Strategy Director at EWR, had at least two meetings with Thakeham over a six-month period in 2019, though we have been provided no information about the content of those meetings. The initial email of introduction from Thakeham to EWR includes an assertion about their relationship with Homes England. Homes England is a government agency tasked with accelerating housing delivery, and sits within the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. It is led by Robert Jenrick MP.
On 8 February 2019, Thakeham wrote the following to EWR: “I write as we are assembling a sizeable potential development on the Oxford/Cambridge Arc. We are moving through legals with land that can yield 10,000-15,000 properties currently and negotiating on further land attached that could see us at 25,000-30,000 units in total. We are in advanced discussions with Homes England to join us as our promotion and delivery partner.” The last sentence is somewhat at odds with what Thakeham indicated to us on 4 January 2021, when they confined their comments relating to Homes England to simply, "Homes England know of the scheme’s existence". We have written to both Thakeham and Homes England to ask for clarifications and will report any responses.
Freedom of Information Response: Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government
Ministry refuses to release information on new town proposal:
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has been denied, on the basis that information revealed would be a ‘distraction’ and that ‘it is not in the public interest to disclose this information at this time.'
The request was for information relating to a Cambridge ‘Development Corporation’ – a central government vehicle for creating new towns that bypasses normal planning processes. SWCAG is seeking to confirm whether or not the Development Corporation is tied to the proposal by Thakeham developers.
Notes: In last year’s budget, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the setting up of a Cambridge Development Corporation, but did not reveal any details, including where exactly the new town would be situated. There has been no engagement, nor any timeline published. The FOI response has been shared with Anthony Browne MP and is published here for public information. The decision will be appealed.