1.1 Sustaining Greater Cambridge's success and growth comes with the significant challenge of identifying further suitable locations for sustainable development. North East Cambridge contains one of the last remaining substantial brownfield sites within the City. The area presents a genuine opportunity to create a sustainable new City District, to make a significant contribution to Greater Cambridge's future growth needs.
Figure 1.1 Location of North East Cambridge
Why prepare an Area Action Plan?
1.2 Over the past decade, there has been much discussion about the future of North East Cambridge, the poor environmental quality of parts of the area, and proposals for and around the new railway station, as well as the incremental intensification of development on the Cambridge Science Park. Various studies have been commissioned, and infrastructure projects undertaken, to respond to particular issues or concerns; but to date no clear comprehensive and deliverable overall plan has emerged or been prepared for the area or its constituent parts. As a result, developments and investment in infrastructure have taken place on an ad-hoc basis in the absence of an understanding of how these schemes might contribute to the delivery of a shared vision for how the area, and the places within it, could look and feel in the future.
1.3 While the Local Plans allocate the Cambridge Northern Fringe East (the area east of Milton Road including the Water Recycling Centre, former park and ride and former railway sidings amongst other uses) for regeneration, and the Cambridge Science Park for employment intensification, they do not set out any details about the amount of development to be provided, its distribution, phasing, resultant form and function, or how wider community and sustainability outcomes will be co-ordinated and their delivery secured.
1.4 The preparation of an Area Action Plan (AAP) is intended to provide a detailed and pro-active planning policy framework to guide development, regeneration and investment decisions across the area over the next ten years and beyond.
1.5 The successful regeneration of this area is not just about providing for new development and physical growth, it is also about the realisation of the social and economic benefits and improvements to the overall quality of place that new development can deliver. Such 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.
1.6 An AAP will provide the opportunity to engage the community and stakeholders in the consideration of such matters in a formal and structured process. It is expected that, through consultation on issues and options and then a draft AAP, the final AAP will establish a more definitive shared vision and objectives for the area as a whole as well as its constituent parts, and will set out the policies, proposals and site allocations required to ensure growth and development is promoted, coordinated and managed to deliver that vision and the social, environmental and economic outcomes sought.
Previous Issues & Options Consultation in December 2014
1.7 Work on preparing a joint AAP initially commenced in early 2014, with an Issues & Options report on Cambridge Northern Fringe East published in December 2014 for consultation. Recognising the challenges involved in relocating the Water Recycling Centre, this set out four potential options for the future development potential of the area. The first three options focused on development opportunities that could coexist with the Water Recycling Centre remaining on site as it is currently or in a consolidated form. Due to adverse odour constraint issues associated with the facility, these options significantly constrain the potential development in the vicinity to primarily employment uses. The fourth option proposed relocation of the Water Recycling Centre, enabling a greater mix of development.
What you told us previously
We asked for your views on four different levels of development.
You told us:
- Option 1 Lower Level of Redevelopment (Water Recycling Centre remains on site) - Limits development potential released by infrastructure, but it was deliverable. However, inconsistent with vision and development objectives.
- Option 2 Medium Level of Redevelopment (Water Recycling Centre remains on site) - Offered a better balance between delivery and ambition but leaves significant area of under-used land.
- Option 3 Medium Level of Redevelopment (reconfiguration of the Water Recycling Centre onto a smaller site) - Benefits from reduction of Water Recycling Centre but concerns over deliverability. Support for a mixed use approach, but imbalance between residential and employment.
- Option 4 Maximum Level of Redevelopment (Water Recycling Centre relocated off site) – A more comprehensive approach. Concerns about viability and deliverability. Imbalance between homes and jobs provision.
1.8 While the results from the consultation indicated a strong preference for variations of Options 2 and 4, Cambridge City Council members considered the cost and challenge of relocating the Water Recycling Centre under Option 4 was unfeasible. Work on preparing the AAP was paused at this point to consider the way forward, and whilst the Councils Local Plans were being progressed.
What has happened since?
1.9 Since consultation closed on the Issues and Options document, there have been a number of significant developments that both affect and inform the preparation of the AAP. These are:
Opening of the new North Cambridge Station and extension of the Guided Busway
1.10 These were still proposals or under development when the last Issues & Options consultation was undertaken. Now operational, and with increasing patronage, there is a need to maximise the investment in these new public transport facilities and ensure they become part of the sustainable transport network for the city.
The Ely to Cambridge Transport Study (ECTS)
1.11 The ECTS was commissioned by the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) to consider the transport needs of the Ely to Cambridge corridor as a whole, in addition to the specific needs of the major developments included in the local plans for the new town north of Waterbeach and at Cambridge Northern Fringe. Published in January 2018, the work produced a Preliminary Strategic Outline Business Case for the corridor as a whole, as well as separate transport studies for the two main constituent parts of the Cambridge Northern Fringe area (i.e. east and west of Milton Road) as well as for the new town north of Waterbeach.
1.12 The existing (baseline) transport situation across the Cambridge Northern Fringe area was explored in this work, and was informed by modelling undertaken using the Cambridge Sub Regional Model (CSRM2), which considered the previous employment led options from the Issues and Options in 2014. This suggested that a more residential-led development mix for the site, which reduces external trips, and would provide better transport outcomes. Therefore, plans for the area would 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. This suggests it will be important to review the policies in the Local Plans which seek employment led development with supporting uses including residential and consider whether a more balanced approach is now appropriate, and if so what the balance should be.
1.13 The Transport Study identified significant transport constraints to the realisation of further growth across the Cambridge Northern Fringe area. In accordance with the findings of the ECTS, it recommends the application of a 'highway trip budget' approach. This essentially identifies the level of vehicular 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, rather than allowing car trips to grow proportionately. As the Milton Road area is already congested at peak times, enabling further 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 highway trip budget, alongside further mitigation through innovative transport policy measures and other transport infrastructure improvements, will inform the different types and amount of development that could be considered through the AAP.
1.14 Cambridge Science Park also has growth plans, and intensification of uses in this area is supported by the South Cambridgeshire Local Plan. The ECTS also showed that there needs to be a comprehensive approach to managing the future development of the area, and that it needs 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 Government's Housing Infrastructure Fund
1.15 In July 2017, the government announced a new funding initiative – the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) – which funds the unlocking of challenging sites for the delivery a significant quantity of housing. In September 2017, with the endorsement of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, Cambridge City Council and Anglian Water submitted a bid to cover the cost of relocating the Water Recycling Centre. This separate but parallel process if successful could release the site for comprehensive regeneration.
1.16 The Government announced in March 2018 that Cambridge's HIF bid had been shortlisted and was advancing to the detailed business case stage. Securing the HIF will provide certainty that the Water Recycling Centre can be relocated off the current site. This is the context within which the AAP is being progressed, and the basis on which this Issues and Options consultation has been prepared. It also prompts the need to revisit the development potential of area, and in particular, the balance of the land use mix to be delivered from that previously proposed under the 2014 Issue & Options consultation. It is therefore necessary to assess a new set of development options for the future of the area through the AAP. A formal announcement on the HIF is due in early 2019, with the decision informing future stages in the preparation of the AAP.
1.17 The planning process for the future location of the Water Recycling Centre is outside the scope of this AAP. The County Council is the Local Planning Authority for waste matters. There will be a separate process put in place that will allow interested parties to engage in the Water Recycling Centre's relocation.
The area covered by the Area Action Plan, and its Name
1.18 Responding to the evidence, the Councils' Local Development Scheme proposes that the AAP now include both the area identified in the Local Plans as Cambridge Northern Fringe East and the Cambridge Science Park. This change of area would be subject to consultation, and this is covered in chapter 2 of this document. The
1.19 The plan is currently referred to as the Cambridge Northern Fringe Area Action Plan in the Councils' 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.
1.20 From this point in this document onwards we refer to the Area Action Plan as the North East Cambridge Area Action Plan, and the area being considered as North East Cambridge (NEC).
Issue: Naming the Plan
Question 1: Do you agree with changing the name of the plan to the 'North East Cambridge Area Action Plan'?
Purpose of the Area Action Plan
1.21 The removal of the constraint of the Water Recycling Centre would provide the catalyst required to realise a more ambitious regeneration of the NEC area. It also necessitates a revisiting of the emerging policy framework being progressed for the area through the joint AAP. It also enables a reconsideration of the development potential and role of NEC in addressing Greater Cambridge's future growth needs.
1.22 The existing local plans placed no reliance on the development in this area in accommodating the current growth needs of Greater Cambridge. Subsequently, the strategic development planned for through the NEC AAP will feed into the wider joint Greater Cambridge Local Plan that the Councils have committed to start work on in 2019.
1.23 Overall, the aim of preparing the AAP is to provide clarity, guidance and certainty to landowners, developers, service providers and the community about how places and sites within the NEC area will develop, and against which investment decisions can be made and development proposals can be assessed.
1.24 The aims for the AAP are therefore:
- To contribute to meeting the future strategic development and land use needs of Greater Cambridge for employment, housing and infrastructure;
- To agree a shared, ambitious and innovative vision and strategic objectives for the regeneration of the NEC area;
- To provide clarity and increased certainty through the AAP about how NEC, and the strategic sites within it, are to develop, including the scale, form and distribution of new development and land use expected across the NEC area;
- To test various development scenarios through plan making, informed by evidence and consultation, to arrive at the optimum development potential of the area and sites within it, with respect to the mix and scale of uses, with environmental impacts minimised, mitigated or, where appropriate, enhanced;
- To identify and secure the coordinated delivery of the necessary social and physical infrastructure and service improvements required to support the new development;
- To determine the appropriate phasing of development, taking into account the need to ensure regeneration occurs in a coordinated manner across the whole NEC area, including on sites with greater constraints than others; and
- To provide a sound basis upon which to assess and direct decisions on planning applications.
The purpose and scope of the Issues and Options Consultation document
1.25 The Issues & Options stage represents an early stage in the AAP's production. It identifies the key issues, challenges and opportunities facing the NEC area and sets out the different ways (options) we can respond. It invites public and stakeholder views and comments on these but also offers the opportunity for people to suggest alternatives or provide further information of relevance to the development of the Plan.
1.26 The publication of this document is also accompanied by a Sustainability Appraisal, published in a separate document, which forms part of the evidence base and will help inform the preparation of the strategic development options through identifying potential positive and negative social, economic and environmental impacts. Comments on the Sustainability Appraisal are also invited. This and other supporting documents are made available for inspection at the same locations as the AAP. All consultees are recommended to read these alongside the Issues & Options document to ensure you have all the information necessary to make informed comments.
What has happened to the responses to the 2014 consultation?
1.27 The Councils have prepared a summary of the comments received and our response to these. This is available to view in the Statement of Consultation that accompanies this report. Previous representations are also available to view in full on the Councils' websites. While the HIF significantly changes the future potential development opportunities and options for the area, the vast majority of comments received remain valid and have been taken into account in preparing this Issues & Options document.
1.28 When drafting the next iteration of the AAP, the Councils will take into account all comments received to both Issues & Options consultations.
Status of this document and its relationship to other Local Plan documents
1.29 The final adopted AAP will be a development plan document that will form part of the statutory development plan for both Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire. It will include a schedule setting out which policies in district wide Local Plans are superseded by policies within the AAP for areas within the AAP, and which policies within the AAP are strategic (for the purposes of neighbourhood planning).
1.30 However, at this early and informal stage of the AAP's preparation, the Issues & Options document cannot carry any commitment or weight in the determination of planning applications.
Have Your Say
1.31 We are interested to hear your views on the NEC area. What do you like and dislike about the area? What needs to change or should be retained or improved? Are there any issues or challenges you think we have overlooked? What would you like to see provided through redevelopment of the area? What wouldn't you like to see provided? Are there lessons, both good and bad, we can learn from other recent developments in and around Greater Cambridge? Or from further afield?
1.32 To help with responding to the consultation, we have proposed a number of questions that we would like your views on. You may comment on one, some, or all the questions, as well as offering up other comments and ideas you want us to consider.
1.33 This document and all supporting documentation can be found on the Councils' websites. Hard copies of the Issues & Options Consultation document are available for inspection at the Councils' offices and at selected public libraries. A response form containing all the questions posed can also be obtained at the above locations and can be downloaded from the Councils' websites.
1.34 During the six-week consultation period, a series of exhibition events are planned. The times and locations of the drop in events are set out in the public notice and on the council websites. These events will be informal and offer the opportunity for the public to come in and discuss the issues and options outlined, and any other matters you consider of relevance to the AAP, with officers.
1.35 For more information, including the accompanying documents, go to the Councils' websites:
How you can make your comments
1.36 Comments on the document can be made in the following ways:
- Electronically by filling in the response form online on Councils' websites or through the Councils' consultation portal at https://cambridge.jdi-consult.net/localplan/
- By filling in the response form and sending it back to us either by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
- or to either:
Cambridge City Council:
Planning Policy Team
Cambridge City Council
PO Box 700
Tel: 01223 457384
South Cambridgeshire District Council:
Planning Policy Team
South Cambridgeshire Hall
Cambourne Business Park
Tel: 01954 713183
1.37 The closing date for receipt of comments is Monday 25 March 2019 at 5pm. All duly made comments received during the consultation period will be taken into account in deciding the way forward for the NEC area.
What happens next?
1.38 The next stage of the AAP's preparation will be to consider the responses received to consultation, alongside the emerging evidence base, in order to inform an appropriate development strategy to be progressed in a draft of the Plan. This will involve the consideration of spatial development options, including proposals for identified development sites, urban design guidance, and infrastructure and public realm proposals that will help deliver the vision for the area.
1.39 The draft Plan will also be published for further public consultation, programmed for Spring 2020. The plan-making stages following this are set out in Figure 1.2 along with an indicative timetable.
Figure 1.2 Stages of preparation of the
North East Cambridge AAP