North East Cambridge Area Action Plan Issues and Options 2019
Representation ID: 33467
Respondent: Environment Agency
Due to climate change, flood risk is a key consideration. A review of the FRA should capture this.
The suitability and feasibility of relocation sites for Milton WRC could be picked up through an update to the Water Cycle Study, not currently addressed, through the AAP in cooperation with the Minerals and Waste Planning Authority and relevant statutory consultees.
Land contamination should also be considered in planning and implementation. It should be included in the Area Action Plan that development proposals will only be permitted where it is demonstrated that the identified contamination is capable of being suitably remediated for the proposed end use.
The Environment Agency welcomes the consultation which re-launches the process we left off in about 2014. We welcome the fact that the AAP is largely starting afresh with issues and options stage.
We also recognise that the context has changed substantially with new planning policy, fresh climate change projections and longer horizons for higher levels of growth in the Non-Statutory Spatial Plan.
As a result we consider that our response to the AAP consultation dated 18 June 2014 is also largely obsolete, and is replaced in full by our advice to this consultation. In summary, our comment s below should be classified as 'comments' (rather than support' or 'object') whilst we await the flood risk evidence base, Water Cycle Study updates and information on how the AAP team plans to working with the County Council and other key partners - see below under joint working.
Evidence Base and Impartiality:
We could not find an up to date Strategic Flood Risk Assessment (SFRA) or Water Cycle Study (WCS), which are essential evidence base for a development plan of this scale and nature. If any are available (a FRA is mentioned in the AAP), please could these be shared asap, including the consultants briefs - we may then need to update our advice.
A SFRA and WCS is needed to identify realistic and challenging issues and options for the AAP. Whilst we can support an issues and options only consultation on the strength of older SFRA and Water Cycle Studies, we advise that options appraisal, selection and policy formulation will need an up to date evidence base to be considered justified. The LLFA may have a view on this. The Cambridgeshire-wide Water Infrastructure Study currently being considered by the constituent LPAs would be a timely and positive tool to progress the AAP with.
Water companies normally play a lead role in evidence preparation as impartial statutory undertakers of water infrastructure. This AAP site is somewhat unusual in that the water company is also the primary landowner/developer promoting reuse of the site with substantial commercial advantage. Anglian Water also states that there is no operational reason to move Milton WRC. OFWAT has some rules around this. As environmental regulator, the Environment Agency has a role to be satisfied that our interaction in this process is managed with propriety, and in recognition that Anglian Water is also the sole provider of the relevant water infrastructure in the area. We would like to discuss and agree our respective ways of working so that we can manage this interaction consistently and maintain the necessary impartiality.
We welcome the consultation on the Issues and Options, and see this as the kick starting of a process of ongoing and meaningful consultation with neighbouring LPAs, the Minerals and Waste LPA, Natural England and the Environment Agency (amongst others) as prescribed bodies in the Localism Act 2011.
The Environment Agency can help to scope and inform the relevant evidence base and plan the overlap with future flood risk management and environment permitting regimes for waste, water quality and water abstraction. We can also help ensure some related consistency with other local plan documents such as the emerging Minerals and Waste Plan.
We are especially mindful of the extent of overlap with the Minerals and Waste Planning Authority who are preparing a Minerals and Waste Local Plan on broadly the same timescales/trajectory. Therefore the scope and importance of joint working to ensure consistency is especially important. There is also scope for important matters to 'fall between the stalls', so we are keen to support the duty to cooperate process to help ensure that both plans are reflective of overlap and sound in evidence and approach. There is of course scope for joint evidence base preparation to make this process efficient and facilitate joined up planning, which we support.
We appreciate that the SA is in interim stage and welcome the consultation.
We welcome the fact that primary sustainability objectives relate to ensuring that the protection of people and wildlife from flooding and pollution is sustained and improved. Climate change is also listed as a long term context to plan for.
We consider this especially important for the context because the sole purpose of the existing site is to protect people and wildlife from flooding and serious health risks from the Cambridge's foul water.
Clearly, displacing that infrastructure poses an enormous potential risk to the sustainability of Cambridge and the River Cam. A redevelopment is a once in a few generations opportunity to sustainably plan the relocation. Given the scale of the risks, all options should be robustly tested with a high degree of certainty before the AAP commits to irreversible directions or decisions. We therefore recommend that suitable weight is afforded to these water, health and climate change objectives, and that the AAP tackles the relocation and related phasing.
SEA: Missing Issue: Relocation options and implications
There is a section aimed at relocating existing industrial uses, but no apparent substantive consideration of the issues, options and impacts of relocating Milton WRC itself. This is most likely to be the biggest direct and indirect water impact of all, and is a highly significant impact in any event, pre-mitigation. Our advice is very clearly that the impact of relocation is potentially highly significant, and that is falls to be appraised as an impact arising from the plan. It also features cumulative effects with other projects, such as Waterbeach New Town. The SEA/SA should address this.
We believe that there is also a duty to cooperate with the minerals and Waste LPA, South Cambridgeshire and environment regulators - ideally in the same forum, and on an ongoing basis. This would help enable sound plans and Sustainability Appraisal, whilst ensuring a realistic delivery process. We look forward to working with your authority to this end.
We advise similarly with the Habitat Regulations Assessment (HRA) which has more detailed assessment to consider habitat and species specific potential impacts arising. There is also strong potential for impacts on the Cam Washes SSSI - again cumulative assessment should be carried out with nearby projects such as the Waterbeach New Town.
4.1 The existing site: constraints and opportunities
Climate change section
The draft AAP is located within Flood Zone 1 but on the edge of Flood Zone 2. The railway line appears to provide a barrier to flood waters entering the development site from the River Cam. However, the First Public Drain runs across the site and enters the River Cam to the east and north of the site. The Sustainability Appraisal has identified that there is some surface water flood risk within the site and states that this risk can be mitigated against through good design and careful master planning. We consider that opportunities should be sought to reduce flood risk both on the site and elsewhere through the use of sustainable drainage systems. The Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) should be consulted at an early stage on the design of any proposed surface water drainage scheme to ensure that such opportunities are incorporated into the design.
We consider that an assessment of the impacts of climate change on flood risk associated with the River Cam should be undertaken to ensure the proposed development will not be at risk of flooding from the River Cam in the future. Please note that the climate change allowances shown in our 'Flood risk assessment: climate change allowances' guidance on the gov.uk website will be updated later in 2019 following the publication of the UKCP18 projections, which have replaced the UKCP09 projections.
As our hydraulic model covering the River Cam does not include appropriate climate change allowances, we would expect detailed modelling of the River Cam to be undertaken as part of any flood risk assessment to assess the impact of climate change on flood risk at the site. The revised climate change allowances will also need to be used to assess the impact of climate change on any proposed surface water drainage scheme.
Chapter 11 focuses on sustainable design in relation to carbon reduction rather than sustainable drainage systems.
The section on 'Site Wide Approaches to Sustainable Design and Construction' makes reference to taking an integrated approach to water management which should give consideration to reducing flood risk. In addition to supporting this approach, we consider that there should be greater emphasis in this section on the importance of taking a site wide approach to integrated water management from the outset, rather than developers retrofitting water as an afterthought.
Context to site groundwater
The majority of the North East Cambridge site (middle and eastern parts) is underlain by superficial deposits comprising of sands and gravels which are designated as a Secondary A aquifer. Secondary aquifers are permeable geological strata capable of supporting water supplies at a local rather than strategic scale, and form an important source of base flow to rivers, wetlands and lakes and private water supplies in rural areas. The Secondary A aquifer is underlain by Gault Clay Formation which is designated as unproductive stratum. A small part of the site (between Cambridge North Station and the River Cam) is underlain by bedrock geology (West Melbury Marly Chalk), designated as a Principal Aquifer which underlies the Secondary A aquifer. Principal aquifers are geological strata that exhibit high permeability and provide a high level of water storage. They support water supply and river base flow on a strategic scale. Based on previous reviews of other planning applications for sites located within the wider North East Cambridge Area, we are aware that groundwater is shallow beneath the site. The area is not located within a groundwater source protection zone. We are aware of one groundwater abstraction, located approximately 1 Km west of the site, used for agricultural purposes. The soils across the area have varying degrees of permeability meaning that they could readily transmit pollutants to groundwater. The River Cam is located approximately 250 metres south east of the site. We consider the current uses of the site, including the presence of Anglian Water's Water Recycling Centre (WRC) currently occupying approximately 40% of the eastern part of the area, Cambridge Science Park, St Johns Innovation Centre and Cambridge Business Park and the site's location and adjacent to railway lines to be potentially contaminative. Furthermore, there is an active landfill site (Milton Landfill Site) located within 100 metres of the northern site boundary.
Question 2: Is the proposed boundary the most appropriate one for the AAP?
The site boundary obviously only covers the re-development itself, but currently makes no provision for the relocation of the Milton WwTW. This means that the issues, options, impacts, merits, mitigation and phasing for the plan cannot be assessed or planned. It also means that the scope for a successful duty to cooperate with the Minerals and Waste LPA is prohibited to such an extent that the AAP could be considered unsound. This is particularly significant in the context of an absence of any Milton relocation provision or overlap with the emerging consultation draft Minerals and Waste Local Plan, which shares a similar timetable, but runs ahead.
The Environment Agency finds it unorthodox that both plans (The Northern Fringe AAP and Minerals and Waste Local Plan) are progressing without having had conversations with statutory consultees or apparent evidence base around the Duty to Cooperate, when these plans have enormous potential to overlap and impact locally. We would welcome a rapid commencement of such discussions and ongoing cooperation. A resolution of this point would help partners to agree and justify what the scope and boundary of the respective plans should be.
Paragraph 3.6 states the reasons why the area of land to the east of the rail line is not included within the AAP area. Although we support the exclusion of this area from the developable area of the site, due to the flood risk posed by the River Cam, there may be benefits in including this area of land within the AAP boundary.
This area contains some existing 'highly vulnerable' development (i.e. caravans intended for permanent residential use) within flood risk areas. The AAP could therefore be a mechanism to provide wider community flood risk benefits though the provision of mitigation measures that reduce the flood risk to existing developments and make them more resilient to the future impacts of climate change (e.g. though the provision of floodplain storage areas on the edge of the existing floodplain).
The consultation document frequently uses riverside examples to illustrate the AAP's vision or the options presented. This indicates that the water environment is a key consideration and we therefore consider that the river corridor should be included within the AAP area.
On the basis of the above comments, we strongly recommend that the addition of this area of land within the AAP boundary is considered. Even though it will not add any additional developable area, it will allow for a strategic framework to be put in place for the management of flood risks impacts on the local community and the transport infrastructure.
Question 4: Have we identified all relevant constraints present on, or affecting, the North East Cambridge area?
Climate change allowances have changed (worsened) significantly since the 2014 flood risk assessment. This means that with increased rainfall intensity, the land-take of surface water flooding reduction measures will increase. A review of the FRA should capture this.
Affecting the site is the suitability and feasibility of relocation sites for Milton WRC as could be picked up through an update to the Water Cycle Study (WCS). This is not currently addressed, and can be done so through the broadening of the scope of the AAP and accompanying SEA, HRA and WCS evidence base in cooperation with the Minerals and Waste Planning Authority and relevant statutory consultees.
We look forward to working with the City and District Council on this.
The section on flooding has identified all the relevant flood risk constraints at the development site. The requirement for development to mitigate flood risk through carefully designed sustainable drainage systems and other design measures has been highlighted. We consider that this section should also refer to the need to seek opportunities to reduce flood risk overall through the use of such measures.
As a significant proportion of the site has previously been developed, we support the approach outlined in paragraph 4.2 (Contamination) of the Issues and Options 2019 Consultation. Potential contamination should be given due consideration together with any impacts of the development on groundwater and surface water quality it may have during construction and operation. We would recommend that Milton Landfill is included as an additional potentially contaminative off-site land use.
It should be included in the Area Action Plan that development proposals will only be permitted where it is demonstrated that the identified contamination is capable of being suitably remediated for the proposed end use.
Question 5: Do you agree with the proposed Vision for the future of the North East Cambridge area? If not, what might you change?
We welcome the vision for the site to include green infrastructure and blue infrastructure generally, and to plan for climate change.
There is a reference to HIF funding and this this would remove the constraint of the WRC occupying the site. Whilst HIF approval is of course helpful, it is the planning system planning for a new facility that also has a significant and rather less certain role to play. We suggest adding this for completeness and to manage expectations. Effective liaison between LPAs and Waste Planning Authorities with Statutory consultees should mitigate the uncertainty we raise, so we suggest adding some wording committing to partnership working.
Question 6: Do you agree with the overarching Objectives? If not, what might you change?
We would add: NEC will enable the relocation of a nationally significant advancement in water recycling that is both resilient to long term climate change and serves the city whilst mitigating the causes and impacts of climate change.
Question 7: Do you support the overall approach shown in the indicative concept plan? Do you have any comments or suggestions to make?
We support the overall approach shown in the indicative concept plan, in particular the use of green infrastructure and a water management network that improves the First Drain. One of the aims of the green infrastructure and water management network should be to reduce flood risk within the site and elsewhere.
Question 24: Within the North East Cambridge area green space can be provided in a number of forms including the following options. Which of the following would you support?
The LLFA will comment on this and the relationship between SUDS.
We would support options A, B and C as these would all provide opportunities for sustainable drainage to be incorporated into the green spaces.
There is the opportunity to improve habitats and ecology within the area through associated improvements to land around the First Public Drain. This will also afford the potential to contribute to wider objectives of water quality improvement in line with the principles of the EU Water Framework Directive.
This will be both in terms of the water quality within the drain (and further downstream within the catchment of the River Cam) and also through habitat creation associated with the vicinity of the drain. This could incorporate any adjoining SuDS which could form strategic green infrastructure within the site offering multi-functional, amenity, rights of way / access and integral Green Infrastructure links.
Question 65: Do you support the plan requiring delivery of site wide approaches to issues such as energy and water?
There is enormous scope for exemplar standards of water use and re-use along with SUDS with Anglian Water being landowners (or through CPO where the Councils bringing land forward), because the necessary implementation, management and aftercare can be written into land transactions. This could provide national excellence in rainwater and grey water harvesting. NB this is not normally achievable due to the complexity of regulation and reluctance/inexperience of landowners to take some ownership. This site provides a unique opportunity to go further than the NW Cambridge site where the Universities' ambition as landowner achieved some acclaimed results.
We should add a caution about SuDs and land contamination: From paragraph 11.13 we understand that SuDS are proposed for surface water management across the site. The Environment Agency supports the use of SuDS where they do not present a risk to controlled waters. The impact of potentially contaminated surface water drainage on the quality of controlled waters across the site should be considered - e.g. Infiltration SuDS in contaminated ground could promote the mobilisation of contaminants and give rise to contamination of groundwater or surface waters. A high level of remediation (and relevant controls) may be required to achieve this. The AAP should make it clear that planning applications (including outline) will need to carry our full investigations prior to planning permission being granted, to verify the locations and characteristics of SuDS. The AAP should be clear that this cannot be left to planning conditions if site layout is to be fixed.
It should also be noted that SuDS may not be applicable in areas where the groundwater level is close to the ground surface. The groundwater level should be assessed in determining the most suitable surface water drainage system for each development.
Deep infiltration SuDS are generally not acceptable in areas where groundwater constitutes a significant resource. The maximum acceptable depth for infiltration SuDS is 2.0 m below ground level, with a minimum of 1.2 m clearance between the base of infiltration SuDS and peak seasonal groundwater levels.
The Environment Agency supports the use of SuDS where they do not present a risk to controlled waters. Infiltration SuDS need to meet the criteria in Groundwater Protection Position Statements G1 and G9 to G13.
Question 66: Are there additional issues we should consider in developing the approach to deliver an exemplar development?
Yes - Integrated Water Management (see imminent CIRIA Guide to Integrated Water Management) to tie together SUDS, GI and water use/re-use in an integrated way on site with innovative management techniques that break the usual barriers to these happening on the ground.
Information about groundwater resources should be included in the Area Action Plan.
We have no further comments at this stage with the information currently available.
Please contact me if you have any clarification or discussion needs arising, and to further the various joint-working with related plans and relocation issues when more is known. We look forward to recommencing the ongoing process of working with your team and relevant partners.