Executive Summary


  1. North East Cambridge provides a major opportunity to deliver sustainable development to help support the continued success of Greater Cambridge in a new and innovative way, particularly reflecting the accessibility of the area by public transport, cycling and walking. The area includes a major brownfield site within the urban area of Cambridge and successful business parks for knowledge-based and other businesses.
  1. The principle of development in this cross-boundary area is now established in the recently adopted Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire Local Plans 2018, but the nature, balance and quantity of development still need to be considered through production of a joint Area Action Plan (AAP). This AAP will be a statutory development plan, with equivalent status to a local plan.
  1. The plan is referred to as the 'Cambridge Northern Fringe Area Action Plan' in the Local Development Scheme. Reflecting the more comprehensive vision being envisaged for the area, and the need to integrate development better with surrounding communities, the Councils consider that the plan should be renamed the 'North East Cambridge Area Action Plan', and we ask for your views on this.

A changing context

  1. In a separate but parallel process to the AAP, a bid to the Government's Housing Investment Fund has been made to support the relocation of the Cambridge Water Recycling Centre, and a decision on funding is expected in early 2019. If successful, the removal of this constraint would provide the catalyst for an ambitious regeneration of the area, and the Issues and Options document is predicated on this being the case. The planning process for the future location of the Water Recycling Centre is outside the scope of this Area Action Plan. The County Council is the Local Planning Authority for waste matters.
  1. New transport evidence identifies significant capacity issues in the road network in the vicinity of Cambridge Northern Fringe East (the area east of Milton Road allocated in the Local Plans). It suggests that a more residential-led development mix for the site which reduces external trips would provide better transport outcomes. Therefore, plans for the area will need to seek to minimise car use to the site, maximise the take-up of non-car modes including walking, cycling, bus and rail use, and promote land uses that encourage trips to be retained on-site where possible.
  1. Cambridge Science Park also has growth plans, and intensification of uses in this area is supported by the South Cambridgeshire Local Plan. The transport evidence shows that there needs to be a comprehensive approach to managing the future development of North East Cambridge, and it is proposed that the AAP now include both areas and be called the North East Cambridge (NEC) AAP. It also supports a new approach in terms of the way people travel to and around the area, which is forward thinking, to ensure best use is made of land in this area having regard to the constraints of the current transport network. The area provides a real opportunity for low carbon living and working.
  1. The NEC area is already recognised as a location that can accommodate change and has capacity to do so. However, such change must be managed in a clear and comprehensive manner. In particular, the successful regeneration of the NEC area is not just about providing for new development and physical growth, it is also about the realisation of the social benefits and improvements to the overall quality of place that new development can deliver. Such quality of place could draw on the principles that underpin successful 'Innovation Districts' around the world and reflect the global nature of businesses that currently occupy this high-tech cluster.
  1. In the current local plans, the Councils have so far placed no reliance on any development in this area in meeting the growth needs of the Greater Cambridge area. Therefore, the Area Action Plan is particularly significant, as it will feed into the wider joint Greater Cambridge Local Plan that the Councils have committed to start work on in 2019.

Issues and Options 2 process

  1. The Issues and Options stage is an early part of plan making, where ideas about the broad land use principles for the future development of the area are tested. It invites the community and stakeholders to share their views to ensure we fully understand and appreciate the characteristics of the area, as well as the significant opportunities it presents.
  1. We first carried out an issues and options consultation for this area in 2014, and we have considered that feedback. Responding to the changing circumstances, we have now drawn up a new vision and objectives for the plan and identified a range of issues and options, the response to which will influence the strategy to be taken forward as the plan is prepared.
  1. To assist respondents, we have included a series of questions covering a range of themes. These are summarised below with examples of some of the questions being asked. However, for a comprehensive understanding please look at the main consultation document and questions.

Area Action Plan Boundary

  1. The Issues and Option 2 document explains that the proposed AAP boundary is to include the Cambridge Northern Fringe East area allocated in the Local Plans and the Cambridge Science Park. This reflects the need for a comprehensive approach to managing transport movements across the area to enable significant further development. We need to make sure the North East Cambridge area works as a whole if we are to achieve our vision. Our preferred approach is therefore that the Cambridge Science Park be included within the AAP boundary, and subsequent chapters of this Issues and Options Report reflect this. The consultation therefore asks whether this is the most appropriate boundary for the AAP and the Councils will make a decision on this following the consultation.


  1. The following new vision is proposed for the AAP area:

'North East Cambridge – A socially and economically inclusive, thriving, and low-carbon place for innovative living and working; inherently walkable where everything is on your doorstep'

Overarching Objectives

  1. A total of 19 objectives are proposed for the area around three headings:
    • A place with a strong identity that successfully integrates into Cambridge, bringing economic growth and prosperity that is delivered with social justice and equality.
    • A high quality, healthy, biodiverse place which will be a major contributor to achieving zero carbon in Greater Cambridge by 2050.
    • A City Innovation District which will deliver affordable homes, a diverse range of quality jobs and excellent neighbourhood facilities.
  1. The full list of objectives can be sound on page 51 of this document.

Place making

  1. North East Cambridge has the potential to create a new City District that sustains the current Research & Development Businesses that are an essential ingredient in the 'Cambridge Phenomenon'. However, to make best use of the land available and to maximise the possibility of creating a self-supporting new neighbourhood, North East Cambridge needs to provide a mix of uses and at a density that creates the best conditions for this to happen, and that creates an excellent and improved gateway to the City.
  1. A design led approach is needed to maximise the opportunities provided by the area and to successfully integrate it into the surrounding existing residential and business areas to create a cohesive community. 'Placemaking' best defines this approach, with the Area Action Plan forming the first layer in the establishment of an overall framework to guide the successful and high quality redevelopment of the area.
  1. An Indicative Concept Plan is included that begins to indicate the kind of place that could be created with the successful regeneration of the area. The ability to move around easily on foot, by bike or on public transport is central to making the area a well-connected place that reduces the need to travel by car. A high quality green route that supports sustainable transport modes could improve connections from the Cambridge North Station to the Cambridge Science Park, and reduce the barrier that is Milton Road.
  1. The concept of creating a walkable neighbourhood helps guide where new centres of activity should be placed, providing local services and amenities. These centres present opportunities to optimise accessibility in relation to the movement network and to create the kind of vitality and footfall needed to support a range of uses and activities that a self-sustaining new City District needs.
  1. The area is not just about regeneration. The intensification and potential diversification of the range of uses on the Cambridge Science Park could create a genuine opportunity to bring additional businesses to the area and strengthen the Cambridge Phenomenon. Development in areas to the east of Milton Road is proposed to be predominately residential led with land allocated to support business uses including the relocation of existing industrial uses where these are suitable for co-location.
  1. New green infrastructure can capitalise on the network of existing trees and landscape but could also extend this to create an overall framework for improving biodiversity and linkages to the wider countryside. It is proposed that the water management network be embedded into this framework, improving the amenity of the First Drain and adding richness to the landscape. This could include a new green space at a district scale – akin to Parker's Piece - that would enrich the heart of this new place and provide the kind of multifunctional space that is so typical of Cambridge and central to public life.
  1. Questions elsewhere in this chapter ask for views on each of the individual elements shown on the indicative concept plan, including the nature of the mixed uses that should be considered in different parts of the AAP area; how we create a new district for Cambridge with its own identity; and how we create an innovation district that makes best use of the neighbouring Cambridge Regional College.
  1. It also explores the appropriate approach to building heights and skyline in this area. The recent additions of Cambridge North railway station and the Guided Busway create the potential to optimise development in proximity to this infrastructure. There are opportunities for development to be at a scale and height that would usually reflect a city centre location, and this brownfield site on the edge of Cambridge provides opportunities that may not be available in the historic city centre. Clusters of taller buildings around areas of high accessibility including district and local centres and transport interchanges could form part of the design of this new city district, with heights and massing carefully modelled to create varied and well-articulated forms appropriate to their location within the area, including being sensitive to surrounding areas.
  1. As a city edge location, development will also need to maintain and enhance the overall character and qualities of the skyline, including taking account of the prevailing context and more distant views. Appropriate building heights, including the consideration of taller buildings, will be informed by the findings of the further studies that the Councils have commissioned.
  1. At the local level, and intrinsically linked into the placemaking led approach, are decisions around movement and connectivity within the NEC area and linkages to the surrounding area. Views are sought on a range of measures:
    • Improvements which establish new or upgraded walking, cycling and public transport connections between Cambridge North Station, the employment areas, Cambridge Regional College, and the surrounding neighbourhoods.
    • Leisure and active routes for walking, cycling and equestrian that integrate with the wider countryside beyond.
    • Measures to reduce the dominance of Milton Road by creating one or more green bridges over the road, putting it in a cutting to limit its visual impact, or changing the nature of the road itself by prioritising non car modes and rationalising junctions.
    • Regeneration of areas facing Milton Road, to create a high quality frontage with a new urban character.
    • A high quality internal movement network that seamlessly links with existing and proposed external sustainable transport modes, which helps people access and move around the area without relying on cars; significantly reduced car parking provision as part of new development proposals and a reduction or redistribution in the existing number of car parking spaces found in the employment areas across the entire NEC area.
    • A radical rethink of car use patterns to create opportunities to consider creatively how and where private cars should be stored and to help reduce the visual and practical impact of car parking on the area. It is referred to as car storage, as cars would not be needed for day-to-day use. Developments in Freiburg show how using 'car barns' on the periphery of development areas allows streets and spaces to be rebalanced in favour of walking and cycling.


  1. The Ely to Cambridge Transport Study (January 2018) considered the transport needs of the Ely to Cambridge corridor as a whole, including the needs of the major developments on the corridor such as the new town north of Waterbeach and at North East Cambridge. Currently around 76% of work trips to the North East Cambridge area are made by car. This is significantly higher than many other areas in and around Cambridge, such as the Cambridge Biomedical Campus or CB1. The opening of the railway station, public transport, and cycling and walking improvements mean there is a real opportunity to improve this situation.
  1. New infrastructure will be needed to enable people to get to the area by means other than the car. There are a range of transport schemes which have the potential to support development in the NEC area, many of which are being undertaken by other bodies such as Highways England, Greater Cambridge Partnership or the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority. These include the Cambridge North Station opened in 2017, Guided Busway, Milton Road public transport improvements, and improvements in the wider Greater Cambridge public transport network that will provide better connectivity to jobs and homes elsewhere such as the northern public transport orbital. Cycling improvements will also be key and the area will link into existing proposals such as the Chisholm Trail and the cross-city cycling improvements project.
  1. In view of the evidence of existing and future highway constraints, the emphasis is on seeking a very low share of journeys by car to, from and within the area. A trip budget approach is proposed for predicting and monitoring car trips. This essentially identifies the level of car trips that can be accommodated to and from the areas east and west of Milton Road without leading to a severe further impact on the strategic road network. Development is then planned in a way that works within that budget. Enabling development in this area will need large proportion of trips to, from and within the area to be made by walking, cycling and public transport. This will mean an innovative approach to planning to make the best use of the opportunities provided by this highly accessible site. The emphasis also needs to be on designing and planning for a place that makes the best of current technologies and is also future proofed to respond to changing technologies over time and we ask how that can be achieved.


  1. Cambridge firms come in a range of sizes, from start-ups with a few individuals to major firms with hundreds of employees. Many high technology firms carry out research and development (R&D) in office-like buildings. However, there is also demand for specialist laboratory space, alongside office uses. We therefore ask about the types of employment spaces we should be seeking to support in this area.
  1. There are a number of industrial uses currently within the area. These provide an important function for Cambridge, and there is a limited supply of industrial land in the City. However, much of the land in the area is under-utilised in terms of development density. Examples from around the country have shown that there are ways to accommodate some industrial uses within higher density urban environments using innovative solutions. Careful consideration would need to be given to the compatibility with adjoining uses such as residential development. Alternatively, provision could be made to relocate these uses elsewhere, which may be necessary for those uses deemed 'bad neighbours', such as the concrete batching plant.


  1. NEC provides an opportunity to make a significant contribution to addressing the future housing needs of the Greater Cambridge area. Given the number of new homes that could be delivered in the area, it is proposed that the AAP seeks a wide range of housing types, sizes and tenures. This could include a variety of affordable housing tenures, such as social housing for rent and other affordable routes to home ownership, purpose built private rented sector housing (PRS) and open market housing, including custom and self-build. There is also an opportunity to plan and deliver a range of housing products aimed at specific groups, for example essential local workers, as well as housing tethered to employment use within the area.

Retail, Leisure and Community Services and Facilities

  1. New development and growth will drive a need for new local retail services but will also require investment in community and physical infrastructure to meet needs. This will include services such as education, healthcare, recreation and open space. During the next stage of the AAP's preparation, once the type and quantum of the development planned is better known, the size and number of each type of infrastructure required can be determined and the sites suitable to host these services and facilities identified.

Climate Change and Sustainability

  1. The Councils' plans need to respond to the challenge of mitigating and adapting to our changing climate. NEC should be an exemplar in sustainable living, supporting the transition to a zero carbon society in the face of a changing climate. Cambridge City Council has set an aspiration in its Climate Change Strategy[1] for Cambridge to achieve zero carbon status by 2050. South Cambridgeshire District Council has also resolved[2] to support the transition to "Zero Carbon by 2050" in the next Local Plan. There are options around the approach to the standards the Councils could require in the AAP, to use one or other Local Plan's approach, combine the two, or include a new higher standard and develop further evidence alongside the new joint Local Plan. It is also important to ensure appropriate sustainable drainage systems and networks are incorporated. A key principle will be to achieve net gains in biodiversity, notwithstanding the higher density approach proposed for this area.

Implementation and Delivery

  1. The success of the AAP will be measured based on the delivery of development outcomes within the Plan's timeframe. The Councils are therefore proposing to prioritise land within the AAP that can feasibly be developed early, whilst being conscious of not preventing other development sites from coming forward if market conditions allow for this. The report asks whether a relocation strategy should be prepared in preference to leaving this to the market to resolve.
  1. The intention through the AAP is to put in place a planning obligations (Section 106) regime, specific to the NEC area, to ensure all proposed developments across the area contribute equitably to the provision and/or funding of all appropriate infrastructure requirements. Once the mix and quantity of land use has been established, the mechanism for ensuring an appropriate apportionment of costs of supporting infrastructure to the land use types and by development distribution and phasing will need to be established. Views are sought on this approach, and what is the most appropriate basis to apportion the cost of infrastructure between different land uses to ensure an equitable outcome.
  1. As we draft the plan the Councils will also need to test the viability of the policy requirements, including the provision of the range of infrastructure needed, ensuring these do not inhibit development coming forward. Flexibility will need to be included to account for changes affecting viability over the build out of the NEC area, but it is equally important that this does not compromise the certainty the AAP is intended to provide. The report asks how this should be approached.
  1. Land assembly (bringing smaller individual plots together to form development sites) may be needed to achieve the comprehensive regeneration of NEC. Views are sought on how this should be done, including whether the Councils should use their Compulsory Purchase powers.
  1. While the Councils welcome the significant developer interest being shown in the regeneration of NEC, the Councils consider that the future development context of NEC should be plan-led and not determined through planning applications for individual sites ahead of the AAP. Applications for development ahead of the adoption of the AAP will therefore be determined in accordance with the extant policies of the relevant local plan(s). It will also be necessary to demonstrate that the proposed development would not prejudice development within the NEC area or the achievement of the comprehensive vision for the area as a whole as set out in the Local Plans.
  1. Recognising the lengthy building period for development in NEC, the Councils are proposing to support and encourage temporary uses, known as 'meanwhile use'. Views are thought on how this should be done.

Next steps

  1. A six-week consultation on Issues and Options 2 will take place between 11 February to 25 March 2019. Following the consultation, the representations received will be considered and will help inform the preparation of a draft AAP, with a view to undertaking a further public consultation in Spring 2020 before moving to the formal stages of Proposed Submission plan and examination.

[1] Zero Carbon Cambridge https://www.cambridge.gov.uk/climate-change Cambridge City Council Climate Change Strategy 2016-21 https://www.cambridge.gov.uk/media/3230/climate_change_strategy_2016-21.pdf

[2] South Cambridgeshire District Council: Full Council Meeting 29 November 2018 http://scambs.moderngov.co.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=410&MId=7252

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