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North West Cambridge Area Action Plan

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View Map Policy NW1: Vision

North West Cambridge will create a new University quarter, which will contribute to meeting the needs of the wider city community, and which will embody best practice in environmental sustainability. Development will be of the highest quality and support the further development of the University, Cambridge and the Sub-Region as a centre of excellence and a world leader within the fields of higher education and research, and will address the University’s long-term development needs to 2021 and beyond. There will be a new local centre which will act as a focus for the development and which will also provide facilities and services for nearby communities. A revised Green Belt and a new landscaped urban edge will preserve the unique character of Cambridge, enhance its setting and maintain the separate identity of Girton village.

2.1 Cambridge University has identified this area, which is in its ownership, as its only option to address its long-term development needs for a number of uses, including housing. The Structure Plan 2003 accepted that the Area Action Plan location should be released from the Green Belt for development following a review of the boundary, and that once released it should be reserved for predominantly University-related uses and only brought forward for development when the University could show a clear need for the land to be developed. The evidence base produced for the examination of the soundness of this Area Action Plan, and specifically the evidence produced by the University, identifies a clear need for the land to be brought forward for development, with a current need for University key worker affordable housing.

2.2 The University’s development needs arise from its requirement to:

To achieve its objectives the University will remain a collegiate organisation, primarily residentially based. To this end it seeks additional student housing to reflect the rising student population and to reduce the proportion of postgraduate students relying on the commercial housing sector. Given the longstanding difficulties in the local housing market the University needs to achieve a fourfold increase in its provision of housing available to staff. This need is to deal with recruitment and retention problems arising from local house prices and rental levels.

2.3 The University’s development needs relate not only to academic buildings. The University’s research activities are increasingly carried out collaboratively with public and charitable sector research institutes, and industry. It needs to be able to provide a range of opportunities for such collaborations from small embedded units within academic departments to sites for major research facilities proximate to related University activities. Above all, the University needs to be able to respond rapidly to opportunities arising from breakthroughs in research, technological advances and new funding sources.

2.4 The University’s stated aspirations during the early stages of the plan making process for development at North West Cambridge for the period up to 2025 include:

  1. Accommodation for 2,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students which might include accommodation at new colleges or extensions to existing ones;
  2. 2,000 to 2,500 dwellings, a "significant proportion” of which should be affordable housing for University staff;
  3. Academic facilities;
  4. Sui-generis research institutes;
  5. Commercial research and development space;
  6. Hotel and conference facilities;
  7. Community facilities such as a primary school and shops;
  8. Public open recreational space; and
  9. Nature conservation areas.

2.5 The Area Action Plan vision will guide the development of the planning policy framework and help create a high quality development that seeks to help meet the aspirations of the University. 

Objectives of the Area Action Plan:

  1. To contribute to meeting the long-term development needs of Cambridge University;
  2. To create a sustainable community;
  3. To make the best use of energy and other natural resources, to be built as an exemplar of sustainable living with low carbon and greenhouse gas emissions and be able to accommodate the impacts of climate change;
  4. To create a satisfactory mix of uses, taking into account:
    1. Identified University development needs
    2. The need for affordable housing for University and College staff;
  5. To secure a wide range of housing types and tenures;
  6. To secure high quality development of both built form and open spaces;
  7. To create a community which respects and links with adjoining communities;
  8. To achieve a modal split of no more than 40% of trips to work by car (excluding car passengers) and to maximise walking, cycling and public transport use;
  9. To maintain the purposes of the Green Belt;
  10. To provide an appropriate landscape setting and high quality edge treatment for Cambridge;
  11. To provide appropriate separation between Cambridge and the village of Girton to maintain village character and identity;
  12. To provide standards for infrastructure provision including renewable energy, open space, car and cycle parking, sewerage and surface water drainage;
  13. To provide an appropriate level of community services and facilities to serve the development satisfactorily;
  14. To determine appropriate phasing of development taking into account that development should only proceed when the University can prove the need for it;
  15. To secure the infrastructure needs of the development, including green infrastructure; and
  16. To protect special geological interest, existing wildlife and wildlife corridors and secure a net increase in biodiversity.

2.6 These objectives relate to the Area Action Plan and Masterplanning and to the preparation and determination of planning applications. They are derived from national and regional planning guidance, the Structure Plan, local circumstances and from the evidence base. 

View Map Policy NW2: Development Principles

  1. North West Cambridge will be planned and developed:
    1. As an attractive and distinctive mixed-use development well integrated with the City and connected to surrounding communities and the countryside;
    2. To a high level of design quality for all parts of the community to create accessible developments and neighbourhoods with their own character and legibility;
    3. As a balanced, viable and socially inclusive community where people can live in a healthy and safe environment;
    4. To a flexible design which will be energy efficient, and built to be an exemplar of sustainable living with low carbon and greenhouse gas emissions and able to accommodate the impacts of climate change;
    5. To avoid the necessity for noise and air quality mitigation measures that would detract from the landscape setting of Cambridge.
  2. Development proposals should, as appropriate to their nature, location, scale and economic viability:
    1. Protect and enhance the geodiversity and biodiversity of the site and incorporate historic landscape and geological features;
    2. Provide a high quality landscape framework for the development and its immediate setting;
    3. Provide safe and convenient access for all to public buildings and spaces, and to public transport, including those with limited mobility or those with other impairment such as of sight or hearing;
    4. Have a design and layout that minimises opportunities for crime;
    5. Provide integrated refuse and recycling facilities and reduce the amount of waste produced, through good design.
  3. Planning permission will not be granted where the proposed development or associated mitigation measures would have an unacceptable adverse impact:
    1. On residential amenity;
    2. On the quality of the urban edge;
    3. On air quality;
    4. On biodiversity, archaeological, historic landscape and geological interests;
    5. On flooding and flood risk;
    6. On quality of ground or surface water;
    7. On local traffic movement;
    8. On adjacent Conservation Areas and Listed Buildings; or
    9. On protected trees and trees of significance.
  4. Planning permission will not be granted where a development would be exposed to levels of noise, vibration, air pollution, lighting and other forms of pollution that are unacceptable in relation to the nature of that development.

2.7 There are a number of overarching development principles that will guide the development of North West Cambridge to ensure that it is a sustainable and vibrant new community that takes account of its context. These principles are consistent with the policy context for North West Cambridge provided by the Cambridge Local Plan, the South Cambridgeshire Core Strategy DPD, the Structure Plan and national planning policy. The principles primarily relate to protecting and enhancing amenity and health, to ensuring a sustainable development and to preventing unacceptable adverse impacts on matters of acknowledged importance.

2.8 This policy provides headline guidance for developers to help ensure that these principles are properly considered and addressed. All new development will have an impact on its surroundings and be affected by them. The aim must be that the development of this major urban extension to Cambridge responds to its surroundings, including existing buildings, open spaces and existing urban and village edges, to ensure an integrated scheme that does not harm local amenity and, wherever possible, brings benefits to the area. The development principles set out in Policy NW2 complement the individual subject based policies of the Plan and should be read alongside them. 

2.9 A number of Studies and Strategies need to be in place before planning permission can be granted, to ensure that the policy requirements of the Plan are met and a high quality, sustainable development is achieved. The purpose of these is addressed in the relevant topic chapters. In addition, a Biodiversity Strategy will address the protection and enhancement of biodiversity interests on the site, and a Landscape Strategy will address the landscape treatment within and on the edge of the development, including its immediate setting. A Lighting Strategy will also be required to consider the effects on residential and wider amenity and will address lighting of key buildings, routes across the strategic gap and the lighting treatment of the urban edge. The Lighting Strategy should also consider the impact of outdoor lighting from the development on the operation of the Institute of Astronomy Observatory at Madingley Road, with a view to minimising any negative impacts. 

2.10 Consideration will need to be given as to how to protect the special geological importance of the Traveller’s Rest Pit SSSI which provides a unique exposure of fossiliferous cold stage gravels, sands and silts of a high-level terrace (Observatory Gravels) of the River Cam. Recent studies confirm that the special geological interest is located on the southern part of the existing SSSI and on land to its south and west, while the northern part of the existing SSSI no longer has any special geological importance. Natural England has carried out a review of the scientific information from surveys by Boreham (2008a, b & c) and Green (2008). In the light of this it appears that additional land is eligible for notification. The Local Team therefore intends to develop a case for reviewing the SSSI boundary (including additional land to the south and west and removing land to the north), although no definite timescale for this has been agreed at present. Development proposals will need to take into account advice from Natural England that a 10m buffer around the SSSI will be required during the masterplanning and planning applications stages to ensure that the scientific value of the site is not compromised by the development of North West Cambridge.

2.11 It is important that the design of the development fully takes into account the impact of noise and air pollution arising from the M11 and A14, in relation to the amenity and health of residents, workers and school children, the amenity and use of open spaces and impact upon the setting of Cambridge. Specific studies should be undertaken to address these concerns. Masterplanning and the detailed planning application process will need to determine the appropriate disposition of uses, location and design of buildings, and mitigation measures. The use of certain types of physical acoustic barrier such as a fence alongside the M11 is unlikely to be acceptable in this sensitive location. 

2.12 All planning applications for major development are required to submit a Sustainability Appraisal and a Health Impact Statement to demonstrate that they have addressed sustainability issues, including impact on health, in their development proposals. Major development is defined as:

  1. Residential development: the erection of 10 or more dwellings, or, if this is not known, where the site area is 0.5 hectares or more; or
  2. Other development: where the floor area to be created is 1,000 m2 or more, or the site area is 1 hectare or more.

2.13 For all development, an urban design-led approach will ensure that every proposal, whatever its scale, responds positively to the particular characteristics of a site and its surroundings and reinforces local distinctiveness.

Policy NW3: Implementing the Area Action Plan

  1. A Masterplan is required to achieve the key development principles for North West Cambridge and must be submitted as part of an outline planning application;
  2. The outline planning application will include parameter plans along with a design and access statement in support of the application;
  3. Design Codes must be prepared for approval by the local planning authorities to support the delivery of all phases of development and will be approved in advance of any reserved matters application;
  4. Any reserved matters application will include a design statement to demonstrate compliance with previously approved parameter plans and design codes.

2.14 Before any planning permission for North West Cambridge can be granted it will be necessary to ensure that the development will be delivered in accordance with the principles set out in the Area Action Plan.  A Masterplan for the whole site will be prepared as part of the supporting information to the application for the grant of planning permission to ensure this is the case and to create the framework within which a high quality accessible development can be achieved.  The Masterplan should be submitted with the outline planning application for the first phase of development.  This would provide certainty that the development of later stages is compatible with that of earlier stages. Design codes, and possibly other types of design guidance, will help deliver the Masterplan.

Figure 2.1: Concept Diagram

Figure 2.1

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