Local Plan consultations
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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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.