2. Methodology

This Section sets out the methodology used to assess the CNFE AAP Issues and Options. Government guidance and advice from statutory consultees sets out a five stage process (A-E) for undertaking SEA in order to meet the requirements of the SEA Regulations.

Table 2.1: SA key tasks

SA Stage Purpose of the SA Stage

Stage A: Setting the context and objectives, establishing the baseline and deciding on the scope (scoping)

A1: Identifying other relevant policies, plans and programmes and sustainability objectives

To document how the plan is affected by outside factors and suggest ideas for how any constraints can be addressed.

A2: Collecting baseline information

To provide a baseline evidence base of information about the district in order to identify sustainability issues, predict effects and monitor significant effects.

A3: Identifying sustainability issues and problems

To help focus the SA and streamline the subsequent stages, including baseline information analysis, setting of the SA framework, prediction of effects and monitoring.

A4: Developing the SA framework

To provide a framework of objectives and questions by which the sustainability of the plan can be tested.

A5: Producing scoping report and consulting on the scope of the SA

To consult with statutory bodies with social, environmental, or economic responsibilities to ensure the appraisal covers the key sustainability issues.

Stage B: Developing and refining options and assessing effects

B1: Testing the plan objectives against the SA framework

To ensure that the overall objectives of the plan are in accordance with sustainability principles.

B2: Developing the plan options

To assist in the development and refinement of the plan options, by identifying potential sustainability effects of options.

<Current stage of the SA>

B3 and B4: Predicting and evaluating the effects of the plan

To predict the significant effects of the plan and assist in the refinement of the plan.

B5: Considering ways of mitigating adverse effects and maximising beneficial effects

To ensure that all potential mitigation measures and measures for maximising beneficial effects are considered.

B6: Proposing measures to monitor the significant effects of implementing the plan

To detail the means by which the sustainability performance of the plan can be assessed.

Stage C: Preparing the SA Report

C1: Preparing the SA Report

To provide a detailed account of the SA process.

Stage D: Consulting on the draft plan and SA Report

D1: Public participation on the preferred options of the plan and the SA Report

To provide the public and statutory bodies with an early and effective opportunity to express their opinion on the SA Report and to use it as a reference point when commenting on the plan.

2.1 Stage A: Setting the context and objectives, establishing the baseline and deciding on the scope (scoping)

The detailed methodology used for Stage A along with the findings of this stage are set out within the CNFE AAP SA Scoping Report which can be accessed via the Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council websites.

The main output of Stage A was an SA Framework which has drawn on the objectives of other relevant plans, policies and programmes and key sustainability issues identified within the review of baseline data. This framework is presented in Table 2.2.

ENVIRON has used the information gathered during stage A to undertake an evidence-based appraisal of the options. Where data has not been available, this has been identified within Section 2.3.

The SA Framework sets out objectives and decision-aiding questions against which to appraise the CNFE AAP and its alternatives. To maintain consistency with the higher tier Local Plans the SA framework for the SA of the CNFE AAP has been based on the SAs of the South Cambridgeshire Local Plan and the Cambridge Local Plan and has been adapted to reflect the issues faced by the AAP. Table 5.1 of the SA Scoping Report (see link above) sets out the process followed in developing the SA Framework for the CNFE AAP.

The SA Framework also incorporates objectives and decision-aiding questions which reflect the needs of Equalities Impact Assessment (EqIA) and Health Impact Assessment (HIA). Both Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council have prepared separate EqIAs for the Issues and Options consultation document. As a part of the consultation on the Issues and Options document, opinion is being sought on whether HIA will be a requirement of the CNFE AAP.

Table 2.2 SA Framework for the Cambridge Northern Fringe East

SA Objective Proposed Sub-Objective / Decision-aiding questions


1. Minimise the irreversible loss of undeveloped land, protect soils and economic mineral reserves.

Will it use land that has been previously developed?

Will it use land efficiently?

Will it minimise the degradation/loss of soils due to new development?

Will it avoid the sterilisation of economic mineral reserves?

Will it promote resource efficiency and recycling?

Environmental quality and pollution

2. Improve air quality and minimise or mitigate against sources of environmental pollution

Will it maintain and improve air quality around the AAP and along the routes to the City including the A14?

Will it ensure that dust pollution does not affect sensitive receptors?

Will it minimise, and where possible improve on, unacceptable levels of noise pollution, and vibration?

Will it minimise odour impacts?

Will it remediate contaminated land?

3. Protect and where possible enhance the quality of the water environment

Will it ensure that groundwater is protected?

Will it enhance surface water features including the quality of water entering the First Public Drain and the River Cam?

Biodiversity, flora and fauna

4. Avoid adverse effects on designated sites and protected species

Will it conserve protected species (including Jersey Cudweed) and protect sites designated for nature conservation interest (including Local Nature Reserves and Wildlife Sites), and geodiversity?

5. Maintain and enhance the range and viability of characteristic habitats and species and improve opportunities for people to access and appreciate wildlife and green spaces

Will it deliver net gains in biodiversity?

Will it reduce habitat fragmentation, maintain and enhance connectivity between existing green and blue infrastructure and enhance key native habitats?

Will it help deliver habitat restoration ((helping to achieve Biodiversity Action Plan Targets)?

Will it improve access to wildlife and green spaces, through delivery of and access to green infrastructure?

Landscape, townscape and cultural heritage

6. Maintain and enhance the diversity and local distinctiveness of landscape and townscape character

Will in maintain and enhance the distinctiveness of landscape character, and the character of the Cambridge Green Belt?

Will it maintain and enhance the diversity and distinctiveness of townscape character?

Will it ensure the scale of development is sensitive to the existing key landmark buildings and low lying topography of the City?

Will it protect the historic environment through appropriate design and scale of development?

Will it lead to developments built to a high standard of design and good place making that reflects local character?

Climate change

7. Minimise impacts on climate change (including greenhouse gas emissions)

Will it ensure deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies?

Will it minimise contributions to climate change through sustainable construction practices?

8. Reduce vulnerability to future climate change effects.

Will it protect and enhance existing natural flood risk management infrastructure?

Will it ensure that suitable sustainable drainage measures are incorporated into developments in order to manage surface water runoff?

Will it provide green and blue infrastructure which will help reduce climate change impacts locally?

Does it include measures to adapt to climate change in ways that do not increase greenhouse gas emissions including giving consideration to the layout and massing of new developments?

Human health and well being

9. Maintain and enhance human health and wellbeing, and reduce inequalities

Will it promote good health and encourage healthy lifestyles?

Will it help address levels of deprivation in north and east Cambridge?

Will it reduce inequalities in health in the north and east of Cambridge?

10. Improve the quantity and quality of publically accessible open space.

Will it increase the quantity and quality of publically accessible open space?

Will it protect and enhance community, leisure and open space provision, particularly in East Chesterton ward?

Will it maintain and enhance open spaces and green space within the urban area and the Green Belt setting?

11. Ensure everyone has access to decent, appropriate and affordable housing

Will it support the provision of a range of housing types to meet identified needs?

Economy and infrastructure

12. Redress inequalities related to age, disability, gender, race, faith, location and income

Will it improve relations between people from different backgrounds or social groups and contribute to community diversity?

Will it ensure equal access for all?

13. Improve the quality, range and accessibility of services and facilities (e.g. health, transport, education, training, leisure opportunities)

Will it provide accessibility to and improve quality of key local services and facilities, including health, education and leisure (shops, post offices, pubs etc?)

Will it improve access to jobs and training for all?

Will it encourage and enable engagement in community activities?

14. Improve the efficiency, competitiveness, vitality and adaptability of the local economy

Will it maintain and enhance competitiveness, and capitalise on Cambridge’s position as one of the UK’s most competitive cities?

Will it provide high-quality employment land in appropriate, accessible locations to meet the needs of businesses, and the workforce?

Will it protect the shopping hierarchy, supporting the vitality and viability of Cambridge, district and local centres?

Will it provide appropriate office space?

Will it minimise the loss of industrial floor space?

15. Support appropriate investment in people, places, communications and other infrastructure

Will it improve the level of investment in key community services and infrastructure, including communications infrastructure and broadband?

Will it improve access to education and training for all, and support provision of skilled employees to the economy?

16. Reduce the need to travel and promote more sustainable transport choices.

Will it enable shorter journeys, improve modal choice and integration of transport modes to encourage or facilitate the use of modes such as walking, cycling and public transport?

Will it encourage cycling for journeys over one mile?

Will it discourage and reduce the use of the private car and ensure greater access to frequent public transport?

Will it support movement of freight by means other than road?

Will it promote infrastructure for zero emissions vehicles?

Will it make the transport network safer for all users, both motorised and non-motorised?

2.2 Stage B: Assessing the elements of the plan

The AAP spatial redevelopment options and proposed policy approaches (which include options) have been subject to appraisal with reference to the SA Framework. The assessment is presented in Section 4 and is supported by assessment tables for the spatial redevelopment options in Annex B.

The appraisal has identified potential environmental, economic and social effects of the redevelopment options (Chapter 7 of the CNFE Issues and Options consultation document), including a ‘committed development only’ option and the policy options (Chapter 8 of the CNFE Issues and Options consultation document). The appraisal of the options has used an evidence-based approach to compare the options and record how the options contribute to achieving the SA Objectives within the SA Framework.

The proposed policy approaches within Chapter 8 of the CNFE Issues and Options consultation document cover a range of issues and the proposed policy approaches differ depending on each issue. For example, some policy options have several alternatives and some do not have any reasonable alternatives due to the nature of the issue e.g. key transport and movement principles. Each policy option has been appraised against the SA Framework, but because the policy options are so variable and some deal with only one specific issue, such as tall buildings and building heights, the appraisal is presented as a commentary in Section 4.

2.2.1 Defining what is a significant effect

The SEA Regulations specify the criteria that should be taken into account when determining likely significant effects. These criteria, which principally relate to the nature of the effects arising from the plan/plan option and the value and vulnerability of the receptors, are as follows:

  • How valuable and vulnerable is the receptor that is being impacted?

  • How probable, frequent, long lasting and reversible are the effects?

  • What is the magnitude and spatial scale of the effect?

  • Are the effects beneficial or adverse?

The assessment of significance should involve, where possible, the assessor considering the above criteria for each potential effect along with a consideration of how the plan will help to achieve (or not) the SA objectives. Table 2.3 sets out the key to the scoring system used within the appraisal presented in this Interim SA Report.

Table 2.3 Key to the appraisal scoring

Symbol Likely impact against the SA Objective

+ +

Potentially significant beneficial impact, option supports the objective


Option supports this objective although it may have only a minor beneficial impact


Option has no impact or effect and is neutral insofar as the benefits and drawbacks appear equal and neither is considered significant


Uncertain or insufficient information is available on which to determine the appraisal at this stage


Option appears to conflict with the objective and may result in adverse impacts

- -

Potentially significant adverse impact, conflict with this objective

The term ‘neutral effect’ means there is no discernible beneficial or adverse effect. In some cases the policies are also not directly relevant to the SA objectives and these have been recorded as neutral. The SA has focused on identifying and recording significant impacts.

2.3 Difficulties encountered during the assessment

This SA has been undertaken at a strategic level and as such, detailed data concerning a number of issues is not yet available:

  • Preparation and appraisal of the development options has highlighted the need for further assessment of the townscape, landscape and visual impact and related building height issues;

  • Transport modelling is to be undertaken for the specific redevelopment options and therefore the appraisals have not been able to be completed with regards to potential effects of traffic e.g. on air quality and noise and impacts on the local transport network;

  • There is uncertainty over the type and location of contamination across the AAP area. Further investigation is required. Cambridge City Council is undertaking borehole surveys of ground contamination in order to provide additional information to feed into the development of the draft AAP. Further investigation will also be required through the planning application process to determine appropriate mitigation; and

  • Policy approaches and options have been assessed at this stage rather than draft policies which would be clearer with regards to intent and therefore potential impacts might be easier to predict. The findings of the SA, along with consultation responses on the Issues and Option document, will be used to develop policies at the Draft Plan stage.

2.4 Habitats Regulations Assessment

Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) is required under the EU Habitats Regulations (92/43/EEC) and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 and is an assessment of the potential effects of a proposed plan in combination with other plans and projects on one or more European sites and Ramsar Sites. The Habitats Directive promotes a hierarchy of avoidance, mitigation and compensatory measures.

The first stage of HRA is screening which identifies the likely impacts upon a European sites and Ramsar sites, either alone or in combination with other projects or plans and considers whether these impacts are likely to be significant. If the screening stage concludes that there are likely to be no significant impacts on European sites then there is no need to progress to the next stage of Appropriate Assessment (AA).

A separate HRA is being undertaken for the CNFE AAP and this process has commenced. The methodology to be used for the HRA has been agreed with Natural England. An initial screening exercise is being undertaken of the Issues and Options consultation document in order to identify, at this early stage, the likelihood of the CNFE resulting in Likely Significant Effects (LSEs) on European sites and whether any of the options being considered present greater risks of LSEs occurring compared with the others. Formal HRA screening will be undertaken at the draft plan stage and it is at this stage that the HRA will reach a conclusion regarding which AA is required.

SA should report on potential effects on European sites and therefore the findings of the HRA will be fed into the SA.

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