5.3 Open spaces for recreation and sport

Figure 19: Open space network to be created by the Area Action Plan

Open space, green infrastructure, sports and recreation areas and facilities are highly valued by local people and play a key role in the landscape setting and local identity of Greater Cambridge. There are fantastic green open spaces adjacent to the Area Action Plan area, as well as important mature landscapes within it, such as within Cambridge Science Park. This policy sets out how we will create a functional and beautiful open space network, including improving existing open spaces and making the most of assets such as the First Public Drain.

  • Previously you referred to the type of green space that should be provided within North East Cambridge. You stated that provision should be made for green spaces at a district scale including a number of walkable and cyclable neighbourhood level parks, which could be delivered early in the development. It was highlighted that this could include large green corridors and commons which would both offer recreational and mental health benefits to the residents and users. You also mentioned that smaller parks are easier to phase and deliver through the lifespan of a development.
  • You stated that the area of land between the railway line and River Cam, commonly known as Chesterton Fen, could be made into a Riverside Country Park and that this could act as a strategic facility.
  • Connectivity was specifically raised with the need to have interconnected green spaces forming an area-wide broad network which is accessible to all residents and workers within the area and wider community.
  • You also placed great importance on the creation of a landscape barrier to screen the A14. The importance of landscaping was also raised in relation to Milton Road and the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway.
  • Connection between both sides of Milton Road via green bridges for pedestrian and cyclists to use was also raised, and that Cowley Road could be opened to provide more green space and leisure facilities. You also felt that more use should be made of the Jane Coston Bridge and the connections to the wider area, including pedestrian and green infrastructure/habitat links to Milton Country Park.
  • Some of you also raised the fact that Milton Country Park is at capacity, but future expansion plans would improve capacity of the country park.
  • You also suggested that the Bramblefields nature reserve should be connected to the Guided Busway via the cycle path and that any connections to Milton Country Park or peripheral green routes around the Area Action Plan need to be equestrian friendly.
  • You placed great emphasis on the need for green and open spaces to be truly multi-functional, supporting a range of functions including landscaping, drainage and flood management, leisure and cultural provision. You stated that they should be available all year round and throughout the day.
  • The actual quantity of open space was mentioned as an important area to address although less commentary was received on this than the quality and multi functionality of open spaces. It was also recognised that some of the open space provision will need to be met off-site and suggestions that the river corridor would be a suitable location for this.
  • Lastly, there was commentary around the requirement to have a maintenance and management plan in place for open and green spaces. As well as this, natural surveillance and replacement/refurbishment of existing local playgrounds/open spaces outside of the Area Action Plan boundary were seen as important considerations.

How your comments and options have been taken into account

  • The policy states the adopted standards that should be applied to open space provision. However, the Area Action Plan prioritises multifunctional and all seasonal publicly accessible open spaces over quantum.
  • The policy specifically does not refer to the use of Chesterton Fen as a riverside country park as this areas falls within a functional flood plain and is also a sensitive for biological reasons. Nevertheless, this area has the potential to be used for informal open space.
  • Although multi functional open spaces are supported in the policy, functional SuDS cannot be considered fully accessible to formal or informal open space. However, they will form a wider green infrastructure network, and will perform a biological function and provide habitat creation, so will be multi-functional from that perspective.
  • The comments around connectivity have been taken into account and the policy requires existing and new open spaces to connect and form a network with the wider area beyond North East Cambridge through the provision of green corridors, as shown on the Spatial Framework.
  • The policy also places an emphasis on securing contributions from developers for the future management and maintenance of open space provision as part of any planning application. The policy also safeguards existing facilities within North East Cambridge to ensure they are not undermined by new development and to support proposals that make them publicly available.

(13) Policy 8: Open spaces for recreation and sport

North East Cambridge open space requirements

All major development proposals will be supported where they make provision for new or enhanced open space and recreation sites/facilities, which meet the health and wellbeing needs of existing and future users of the area. The successful integration of open space into a proposed development must be considered early in the design process.


Regard will need to be had to the Cambridge City local standards of provision of all relevant types of open space (see Cambridge Local Plan 2018, Appendix I or any future replacement) and the Councils' open space and sports strategies, where applicable. Our expectation is that all open space requirements will be met on-site.

For development proposals requiring the provision of strategic open space, this must secure in the first instance the siting and amount of strategic open space shown in Figure 19. This identifies the strategic public open space network which will connect North East Cambridge to the wider area:

  1. Linear Park
  2. Cowley Triangle
  3. Green High Street
  4. Science Park Open Space
  5. Science Park Brook (First Public Drain)
  6. Science Park Place
  7. Station Place

Any underprovision in the total amount of strategic open space required of a development, beyond that provided above, can be met through off-site provision in the following circumstances:

  1. If the proposed development site is of insufficient size to make the appropriate provision (in accordance with Appendix I) feasible within the site; or,
  2. If, taking into account the circumstances of the surrounding area, the open space needs of the proposed development can be met more appropriately by providing either new or enhanced provision off-site, including:
    • Bramblefields Local Nature Reserve (way-finding)
    • Milton Country Park (increasing capacity and way-finding)
    • Chesterton Fen (way-finding and accessibility to River Cam including pedestrian and cycle bridge crossing over railway)

For non-strategic open space requirements, where there are deficiencies in certain types of open space provision in the area surrounding a proposed development, the Councils will seek to prioritise those open spaces deficient in the area.


The Councils will require all open spaces to be:

  • High quality
  • Low maintenance
  • Water efficient and climate change resilient
  • Publicly accessible with a multi-use functionality
  • Accessible throughout the year to ensure unrestricted access for new and existing residents and visitors to the area.

These spaces may include innovative forms and layouts allowing for a variety of activities that promote health and well-being (having regard to the South Cambridgeshire 2011 Health Impact Assessment Supplementary Planning Document (as updated)). Proposals will need to demonstrate how existing and new open spaces within North East Cambridge connect to form a coherent and legible network with further connections to open spaces within and beyond the Area Action Plan area.

Protection of existing open space

There will be a presumption against any development proposals that result in the loss of a sport, open space, recreation or play facility except where it can be demonstrated that there is an excess of provision, or where alternative facilities of equal or better quality will be provided as part of the development or provided off-site with enhanced accessibility.

The Councils will only consider the reconfiguration of existing open spaces where the space is re-provided on-site to an equal size, and where this will achieve enhancements to address identified deficiencies in the capacity, quality and accessibility of open space.

For the purpose of environmental amenity and landscaping, the linear planting and open space along North East Cambridge's boundary with the A14 and roadside noise barrier, railway line and Cambridge Guided Busway will be protected from development.

Where appropriate the Councils will enter into a Section 106 agreement with the developer to implement the above, and for the future management and maintenance of the open space provision, before granting planning permission.

Ancillary development on open space

Proposals for ancillary development on open space within North East Cambridge will be supported where:

  1. It is necessary to/or would facilitate the proper functioning of the open space;
  2. Is ancillary to the uses of the open space;
  3. Is appropriate in scale;
  4. It would contribute positively to the use and quality of the open space.

Graphic comparing the size of proposed open spaces within the Area Action Plan, with existing well known open spaces in Greater Cambridge.

Figure 20: Scale comparison of existing open spaces in Cambridge, and the major proposed new open spaces within North East Cambridge

Relevant objectives: 1, 2, 4, 5

An essential part of the character of Cambridge stems from its many green spaces, trees and other landscape features, including the River Cam. These not only play an important role in promoting both active and passive sport and recreational activities but also provide valuable amenity space and support for biodiversity.

Open space, green infrastructure, sports and recreation areas and facilities are highly valued by local people and play a key role in the landscape setting and local identity of Greater Cambridge. They also provide important habitats for wildlife and allow people to have daily encounters with the natural environment. Open spaces not only help support the health, social and cultural well-being of local communities but also help support strategies to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change.

All new development should make provision for new or enhanced open space and recreation sites/facilities on-site. The successful integration of open space into a proposed development should be considered early in the design process as part of a placemaking led approach, including the provision of footpaths, running trails and cycle routes.

Development proposals which are required to contribute towards strategic open space provision must provide this in accordance with Figure 19 to ensure that strategic open space is provided in a coordinated and comprehensive form which forms part of a coherent green network.

Where a development proposal is unable to provide on-site provision in accordance with the adopted standards, new or enhanced provision should then be made off-site at Bramblefields Local Nature Reserve, Milton Country Park and Chesterton Fen.

There is current guidance that assesses sustainable development proposals in the form of the South Cambridgeshire Health Impact Assessment Supplementary Planning Document (2011) (as updated). It is used to demonstrate that principles of sustainable development have been applied and that these have a positive outcome of the health and well-being of people living and working in the area. The provision, amount, accessibility and quality of open space is an important consideration in achieving positive health and well-being outcomes for the wider community.

North East Cambridge straddles two local planning authorities, each with their own open space standards for new residential development. These are based upon each area's general characteristics and needs; standards in South Cambridgeshire reflect its rural nature while those in Cambridge relate to its more urban environment. Due to the high-density nature of development at North East Cambridge, it is considered reasonable that the open space standards detailed in the adopted 2018 Cambridge Local Plan, including their recommended application and deficiency tests outlined in Appendix I (or any future replacement as part of the emerging Greater Cambridge Local Plan), are used as a starting point. Regard should also be had for Cambridge City Council's Open Space and Recreation Strategy along with any other sports related strategies adopted by either Council. These provide guidance about the application of the standards in terms of what is more suitable for different city wards and the implementation of formal sports facilities.

Although the Open Space, Sport and Recreation requirements are broadly based on the Cambridge City Council standards, a step change is required in terms of on-site quantum of open space and how it should be most effectively used.

As part of the emerging Local Plan review for Greater Cambridge, the Open Space and Recreation Strategy will be updated and cover the whole of Greater Cambridge along with other sports strategies in partnership with Sport England.

All on-site communal open spaces will need to be high quality, inclusive, low maintenance, climate change resilient and multi-functional to maximise their utility value, as well as both availability and functionality throughout the year. In Winter, these areas will need to be usable spaces e.g. should not be subject to surface water flooding due to prolonged bouts of rain. In Spring, they should encourage people to spend time outdoors. In Summer, they should provide sufficient shade during the warmer months. They should contain such facilities and equipment as appropriate to the functions and purposes of the open space being provided. Spaces should also allow for a range of 'occasional' events that will help support community activities and sporting events as well as make a positive contribution towards other Council strategies including the Cambridgeshire Green Infrastructure Strategy, to allow play and minimise localised solar heating, e.g. should allow some respite from excessive heating during long hot summer days. In Autumn, they should be sufficiently sheltered to allow their continued use.

As the Area Action Plan will take a number of years to fully build out open space, sport and recreation provision within Greater Cambridge will change over this time and therefore demand will also be impacted. A periodic review of open space, sport and recreational facilities will be undertaken through the Councils updated open space and sport related strategies to ensure the supply of facilities meets ongoing demand.

It is also essential that any existing open space deficiencies in neighbouring residential areas (as set out in part in the Cambridge's Outdoor Play Investment Strategy), such as equipped children play spaces are identified. These could provide opportunities for new off-site provision in order to meet the need of both new and existing communities. These spaces will allow new provision during the construction phase to meet the needs of early new residents. Specific off-site contributions will be sought towards informal open space deficiencies including Milton Country Park, Chesterton Fen and accessibility to the River Cam including, pedestrian/cycle bridge crossing over the railway. Formal sports provision should be met on-site in the first instance if possible. Where it can not be met in full, off-site provision will be sought within the local area. North of North East Cambridge, Milton Country Park and Milton Village have several existing sport and leisure facilities. Whilst access to these facilities will be improved through a new underpass under the A14, these are not considered sufficiently accessible for children to access from North East Cambridge. However, several of these spaces offer formal sports provision in the form of cricket, tennis and football facilities. The River Cam will also be made more accessible through new pedestrian and cycling routes and this will provide access to further informal recreation space and serve wider needs. Due to the potential for flooding, the Chesterton Fen area will not be considered as part of any calculation for formal recreational or sports provision.

The requirements for the different types of open space should be applied in a cumulative way. However, the Council may seek variations in the composition of the open space in order to secure the best outcome for the development and the surrounding area, in particular on smaller, more constrained sites where it is not physically possible to deliver several different types of open spaces on-site.

For major developments which include residential accommodation, the S106 agreement should ensure the delivery of on and off-site provision is linked and effectively phased to the delivery of new homes.

Existing facilities within North East Cambridge and the wider local area, including Cambridge Science Park and in North East Cambridge and nearby at North Cambridge Academy, play a large role in providing open space, sport and recreation provision for existing residents, employees and Cambridge Regional College. These are an important element to the overall sport and recreation mix in North East Cambridge and opportunities to extend or make these existing facilities publicly available at certain times of the day and week will add capacity to sports provision within the area and negate, at least in part, the need to make similar services available elsewhere.

The value attributed to local open space by communities is often associated with the availability of facilities that enhance their use and user experience. The provision of small scale ancillary facilities that are appropriate to, and support, the functions, uses and enjoyment of the open space are supported. Where the open space accommodates a number of user groups, the provision of shared facilities can overcome the need for several smaller buildings, thereby making more efficient use of both land and buildings. The siting of ancillary facilities needs to be carefully planned to ensure they do not detract from the character of the space, are detrimental to its functions, or give rise to any conflicts with other uses of the open space or surrounding uses.

  • Monitor the amount and type of new and retained open space within North East Cambridge
  • Update to the Councils' Open Space and Recreation Strategy
  • Additional specific strategies for different types of open spaces may also be commissioned on a four to five year basis
  • Open space delivered in relation to spatial framework
  • Open space usage with survey

Cambridge Local Plan 2018

  • Policy 15 - Cambridge Northern Fringe East and new railway Station Area of Major Change
  • Policy 59 - Designing landscape and the public realm
  • Policy 67 - Protection of open space
  • Policy 68 - Open space and recreation provision through new development
  • Policy 73 - Community, sports and leisure facilities

South Cambridgeshire Local Plan 2018

  • Policy SS/4 - Cambridge Northern Fringe East and Cambridge North railway
  • Station
  • Policy NH/6 - Green Infrastructure
  • Policy SC/2 - Health Impact Assessment
  • Policy SC/8 - Protection of Existing Recreation Areas, Allotments and Community Orchards
  • 2011 Health Impact Assessment Supplementary Planning Document
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