6.4 Shops and local services

Map showing proposed locations and numbers of shopfront units for shops and local services in the Area Action Plan.

Figure 34: Proposed locations and amounts of shopfront units anticipated in North East Cambridge

North East Cambridge will provide a balanced range of shops and services – such as cafés, restaurants, and leisure activities - that meets the daily needs of local residents, employees and visitors while not creating a 'destination' location for people living further afield which would increase car trips into the area. The policy sets out how much retail should be provided, its location and design criteria, to make sure that everyone has easy access by walking and cycling to the shops and services they need.

  • You supported the need to provide a wide range of shops including flexible unit spaces that will attract local business and create an attractive place to live and visit.
  • You commented that the Area Action Plan should consider the long-term needs of retail such as the increase in online use.
  • You commented that development should include markets and small local trading for local businesses and creative industries, to provide for the local community and increase vibrancy.
  • You highlighted the need for the Area Action Plan to provide independent retail units, limiting national chains in order to create a unique local centre.
  • You told us that you supported the opportunity to provide retail within North East Cambridge, however there was concern with respect to how the assumption of low car use will impact the parking need for retail facilities.

How your comments and options have been taken into account

  • The preferred policy encourages retail as part of the land use mix to be provided within North East Cambridge. It directs these to district, local and neighbourhood centre locations that are highly accessible to residents, workers and visitors to the area.
  • The Area Action Plan has considered local needs and demand for retail and reflects the rising use of online retail purchasing.
  • Comments and concerns regarding car parking and servicing are addressed through the other policies of the Area Action Plan.
  • Reflecting your comments, Policy 10b: District Centre states that the district square should provide space for market stalls to trade.

(15)Policy 15: Shops and local services

Hierarchy of centres and retail capacity

The hierarchy of centres in North East Cambridge is set out below along with their indicative identified capacity to support convenience, comparison and other town centre uses.

Type of centre

Designated centres

Retail capacity (net m2) GIA - Convenience

Retail capacity (net m2) GIA - Comparison

Retail capacity (net m2) GIA - Other Town Centre uses

Retail capacity (net m2) GIA - Total

District Centre

North East Cambridge District Centre





Local Centre

Station Approach





Local Centre

Cambridge Science Park





Neighbourhood Centre

Cowley Road





Within the District, Local and Neighbourhood centres as shown on the Area Action Plan Spatial Framework, new A1 uses will be permitted, where:

  • they are in proportion to the scale and function of the centre; and
  • their cumulative floorspace for convenience or comparison uses (including the proposal and all other similar uses in the same centre) do not exceed the floorspace provision (outlined above).

All other proposed uses, listed below within this policy will be permitted provided:

  • they complement the retail function and character as well as maintain or add to the vitality, viability and diversity of the centre;
  • they would not give rise to a detrimental effect, individually or cumulatively, on the character or amenity of the area through smell, litter, noise or car parking; and
  • for any new 'other town centre use' proposals, their cumulative total floorspace (with any existing 'other town centre use' in the same centre) does not exceed the floorspace provision outlined above.

Changes of use from A1 to another town centre uses (as set out in Table 8.1) will be permitted where the development would satisfy the above criteria. Additionally, for A1 convenience use, a minimum of 30% of the centre's total floorspace would remain in A1 convenience food store use.

All flexible, internally configurable units will not exceed a maximum floorspace of 150 m2 net (GIA). The merging of separate flexible, internally configurable units will not be permitted.

No single proposal, regardless of use, will be permitted that is large enough to generate a need for a car park.

Any retail developments proposed outside these centres in North East Cambridge must be subject to a retail impact assessment where the proposed gross floorspace is greater than any retail impact threshold set in the Cambridge Local Plan (2018) or any future equivalent.

The following uses are suitable at ground floor level in the identified centres:

  • Shops (A1 Use Class)
  • Financial and professional services (A2 Use Class)
  • Cafés and restaurants (A3 Use Class)
  • Drinking establishments (A4 Use Class)
  • Takeaways (A5 Use Class)
  • Private social and healthcare related facilities that cannot be provided in multi-functional community or social facilities premises
  • Small-scale Assembly and leisure (D2 Use Class)
  • Small-scale 'sui generis' uses typically found in local/district centres, including launderettes, beauty parlours and small collection points (or lockers)

Across all centres, the use of Article 4 Directions will be used to control A2, B1 and D2 uses, in their first instance and change of use to those uses. Other sui generis uses may also be considered as part of an Article 4 Direction.

In the district centre, no more than 200 m2 net should be in either A5 take-away use or sui generis betting shop use. Only one of either of these uses will be permitted in a local centre and none in a neighbourhood centre. No A5 take-away use should be located within 400 metres, in a straight line of any school premises.

Sports and leisure uses will also need to comply with Policy 14: Social, community and cultural Infrastructure, where applicable.

All uses (except for A1 convenience or comparison shopping) will be categorised as 'other centre uses' for the purpose of determining if proposals exceed their capacity threshold.

Relevant objectives: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Cambridge City Centre is the regional centre for the area, providing the majority of floorspace for both retail and commercial leisure activities in the city. However, a key aspect of sustainable communities is easy access to shops and other local services such as cafés and restaurants which help meet the day-to-day needs of the local communities. It is therefore important that both new and existing communities have easy access to these types of facilities, including during the construction phase, to reduce the need for residents to travel and, maintain vibrant and viable district, local and neighbourhood centres.

Currently, there are three centres on the northern fringe of Cambridge adjoining the North East Cambridge area. The centres include: a local centre at Orchard Park with two budget hotels nearby; a district centre at Arbury Court; and two neighbourhood centres, one on Campkin Road and the other on the corner of Milton Road and King Hedges Road. North of the A14 there is a rural centre at Histon & Impington and Milton village centre where the closest, large supermarket is located adjacent to Junction 33 of the A14. It is important that any new proposed centres at North East Cambridge are sustainable, but do not undermine the viability of these retail centres. Any retail proposal in the North East Cambridge area which is outside a designated or planned centre, as defined on the Area Action Plan Spatial Framework and Land Use Plan, will need to ensure it will not have an adverse impact on either the proposed or existing centres, including those in neighbouring centres. Any such proposal will therefore need to comply with any requirement for a retail impact assessment that is in excess of the current retail impact threshold in the Cambridge Local Plan (2018) and any successor documents.

Quantity of town centre uses required to meet local needs

It is the intention of the area to provide a balanced range of shops and services that meet the needs of local residents, employees and visitors to the area. The Retail and Leisure Study sets out the retail needs specific to North East Cambridge. The resulting North East Cambridge Retail Statement outlines how the vision for North East Cambridge's approach to creating vibrant and highly sustainable local centres can best be achieved. It proposes approximately 7,300m2 of floorspace comprising 2,475m2 for comparison goods (higher value, less frequently bought items), 2,650m2 of convenience goods (low value, frequently bought items) and 2,175m2 of other centre uses. These figures are based upon a lower population threshold, due to the level of uncertainty around the shopping behaviour of those studying and working in North East Cambridge as well as the shopping choices of neighbouring centres.

Scale and type of proposed town centre uses

It is important that North East Cambridge meets local needs but is not a 'destination' location for people living further afield who may travel to the area by car, in order not to exceed the agreed 'trip budget' for Milton Road. It is therefore necessary to resist any proposal that will create a need for specific car parking provision. This should be achievable within the District Centre by having at least two different food stores that vary in size from between 400m2 and 800m2 along with other smaller scale, independent shops.

In the two local centres and neighbourhood centre, at least one convenience store should be provided per centre. The local centres will each provide approximately 200m2 net floorspace, for each store. The neighbourhood centre will provide approximately 150m2 of net floorspace. The proposed amount of convenience floorspace (outlined above) indicates enough capacity, in all the centres, to provide for these convenience food stores.

The North East Cambridge Retail Statement indicates that other commercial retail units located within local or district centres would require smaller format units of between 55-110 m2 net floorspace. Some flexibility to allow for different floorspaces is supported as it will help retailers to adapt to fluctuating demand and changing consumer trends.

The district and two local centres would require a range of 'other' town centre uses in addition to comparison and convenience goods floorspace to complement the function of the centre. It is intended that these should add to the centre's vitality and vibrancy by strengthening the centre's distinctiveness and ensure its long-term success.

Local appropriately scaled commercial leisure uses such as pubs and restaurants will be an acceptable use in the North East Cambridge's centres. However, given the need to ensure North East Cambridge remains a sustainable destination but not a destination location, which attracts high volumes of car based travel from beyond the local area, it is not intended for North East Cambridge to accommodate any large-scale cultural, entertainment or leisure facilities such as a cinema complex or a ten-pin bowling facility. These would most likely not be able to be delivered within the North East Cambridge Area Action Plan 'trip-budget' and have the potential to undermine other established centres already providing similar uses. As such, leisure uses involving entertainment and culture will need to comply with Policy 14: Social, community and cultural Infrastructure, where applicable.

Uses typically associated with anti-social behaviour should not be allowed where they will have a detrimental effect, individually or cumulatively, on the character or amenity of the area through smell, litter, noise or car parking. For this reason, space for take-aways and betting shops will be limited in the district and local centres with no permissible use in the neighbourhood centre. Following concerns raised by Public Health England, no A5 take-away use should be located within 400 metres, in a straight line of any school premises. This will discourage children from following unhealthy lifestyles by frequenting these types of food providers during their school routine.

It is recognised that there may be a need for some private social and healthcare facilities such as dentists in the centres, and it is essential that enough provision is retained for meeting the day-to-day needs for local people. As a minimum, a third of the floorspace available in the centres should be retained for A1 convenience food shopping. In effect these uses will act as an 'anchor' store for other centre uses. Proposals that lead to the loss of this minimum 30% threshold should be resisted to avoid undermining the centre's main purpose of meeting the everyday needs of local residents and employees. The types of permitted ground floor uses should be commensurate in scale and function of the centre, to meet local need.

Design and flexibility of units

The higher density nature of North East Cambridge means that there should be sufficient demand to support a range of shops, cafés, pubs and restaurants. However it is recognised that, with the ever-changing nature of consumer retail trends and entertainment preferences, it is important that these units are genuinely flexible in both size and format to encourage an appealing range of different retail and leisure activities including independent retailers which create a vibrant and authentic high street environment.

It is therefore proposed to allow different floorspace configurations to allow greater flexibility for shops and other local services to set-up, operate and allow for some expansion as business needs change over time. However, in order to avoid the creation of large units that would be out of character with the intended approach of attracting small, independent retailers, a limit to the size of these flexible units up to 150 m2 net (GIA) will be permitted. Similarly, the merging of separate flexible, internally configurable units will not be permitted. This approach should also allow for centres to adapt to changes in consumer trends and habits in a sustainable manner that supports the strategic objectives for North East Cambridge.

The use of Article 4 Directions or equivalent will need to reflect the Permitted Development regime in operation. Their use is intended to ensure all North East Cambridge centres remain vibrant and attractive for local people and cater to their day-to-day needs. Widespread conversion of units to non-food retail use will have a significant adverse effect on their ability to fulfil their primary function. Controls may therefore be necessary to ensure the character and function of each centre is properly protected through the planning process.

  • Monitor the balance of floorspace, both committed and completed for the three categories: Convenience, Comparison, and Other Town Centre uses, in each centre.

Cambridge Local Plan 2018

  • Policy 2: Spatial strategy for the location of employment development
  • Policy 15: Cambridge Northern Fringe East and new railway Station Area of Major Change
  • Policy 56: Creating successful places
  • Policy 59: Designing landscape and the public realm
  • Policy 72: Development and change of use in district, local and neighbourhood centres
  • 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 HQ/1: Design Principles
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