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North East Cambridge Area Action Plan Issues and Options 2019

Representation ID: 33591

Received: 25/03/2019

Respondent: Cambridge Past, Present & Future

Representation Summary:

CambridgePPF agree that a strategy would enable a more logical and controlled approach. It would be prudent to try and include this within the work being done on the new joint local plan. It would also facilitate a more joined up approach since the site straddles the boundary between the City and District Councils.

Full text:

Q2: We note the justification in section 3.6, however, CambridgePPF believe that extending the boundary of the site east of the railway would offer greater potential for wildlife and ecological enhancement. However, we appreciate the constraints that Network Rail may place on its inclusion. We would also be interested to see how better access to the river can be achieved from within the site.

Q7: CambridgePPF agree the development should be mixed commercial, housing and retail with recreational opportunities. However, do not want to see sections of the site turn into a ghost-town in the evening when the office commuters go home. The site should provide a balanced approach that enables the business and residential use to support the retail and recreational offerings, and housing that supports office and other key staff, plus provides sufficient truly affordable homes. This site could be used solely for affordable to prevent
its location being taken over by commuters wanting to live close to the train station.

At this stage, it is still unclear how the site is to be developed. We understand the relocation of the water treatment plant will enable its area to be redevelopment (based on how much space is required for a pumping station and other equipment onsite). But the area within the Science Park, St John's Innovation Centre, the Cambridge North station development, etc. are already built out (or in the process of being).

Therefore, how and where are the additional new homes and jobs going to be located?
For example, there are opportunities in the Science Park for increased densification by replacing the wide expanses of surface car-parking with a multi-storey carpark to release land for further development. A even more optimum solution would be to locate the parking underground and improve the aesthetic of the site as a whole.

The existing open amenity spaces (natural environment, green and amenity spaces) should be retained and enhanced as much as possible.

Q8: CambridgePPF believe that before deciding what should go where within the AAP site, a study of the site as a whole from within and without the site is vital to assess the impact of higher density in particular locations. This should include understanding what exists, what percentage is commerial/industrial, business, etc. to then indicate what the remaining space would be best used for. The mix and balance of business versus residential is vital for a successful community and at the moment, the majority of the site is business. But that does not automatically mean that the remaining space available should be residential.

For example, the Science Park already has multi-storey buildings and has the capacity to cope with higher density. Typically, along rail lines developers prefer a variation of heights that work as sound barriers to the site. But every site is different. In addition, the location of taller buildings/more density will impact upon its adjacent neighbours- which could result in a reduction in amenity space and natural light, or visual harm from overbearing buildings that are not contextual to the site and surroundings.
Without further information it is difficult to determine which parts of the site could accommodate higher density/taller buildings and which areas will it have the least impact. Considerations should include views from within and without the site, the views from the A14, impact to the ecology, etc.

We also believe that careful consideration should be given to what is located adjacent to the Cambridge North station. It is an ideal location for residential and commercial for quick access to other cities. However, we would want some assurance that the ownership would prioritise locals first.

Q9: Refer to question 8

CambridgePPF believes that whilst relocating the existing businesses in this area might be advantageous in order to redevelop the brownfield land, these businesses would need to find a new location to relocate to.

Would they be given assistance to do this? It is not feasible at this stage to assume that they will either want to move or be able to move.

This became a significant issue during the last local plan call for sites because the Council wished certain sites would become available, but the existing businesses could not find new premises and therefore could not move. Without assurances, this can be a gamble.

However, there is definitely an opportunity to improve and enhance the visual appearance of this part of the site, make it more user friendly to access, rationalise the open spaces, etc.

Q11: CambridgePPF support the inclusion of a variety of community use facilities, to be explored, such as nursery, GP surgery, community hall space, cafes, etc. to ensure that the new town creates a sense of place and provides facilities that the new residential and commercial units would benefit from. Their inclusion within the site also reduces the reliance on cars, which is necessary.

Whilst we note that many of these uses are already provided for within the Science Park, having to cross Milton Road to access them could prove a challenge. It is likely then that some facilities and uses may have to be duplicated.

Q12: CambridgePPF highly recommend that several of the recent developments around the city- both residential and commercial- be assessed and reviewed to create a 'lessons learned' document. This should highlight what has been successful, what has not, are there particular locations that work better for certain functions, what enables better community spirit, what creates better open space, which facilities should be included, the best environment to live and/or work in? Which site has created the best quality of life? Examples from other cities may also be useful. This will enable the Council to learn from the work of others without having to 'reinvent the wheel'.

One of the biggest challenges with the AAP site is the distinct division created by Milton Road- which bisects the two halves of the site. The railway line is another firm boundary that is immovable. These constraints could hamper the sense of inclusion and community- unless you plan your community using these distinct sections. However, the risk is that you then create two communities and double the provision.

Q15: CambridgePPF refers to question 8 in response to this question

Q17: CambridgePPF is supportive of creating a connection between the neighbourhoods via a bridge of some kind over the railway. It would enable better connectivity and hopefully create a sense of inclusivity.

Q18: CambridgePPF supports the principles proposed in question 18, however, raises concerns about the potential overlap or conflict with the other projects being proposed for this area. These include the GCP Milton Road improvements, the GCP Greenways project, the Combined Authority Metro proposals, the East- West Rail proposals, etc.

This section of Milton Road from the A14 to Kings Hedges/Green End Road is visually unattractive and difficult to navigate. Trying to cross Milton Road from east to west is problematic due to the number of lanes and levels of congestion. The introduction of formal pedestrian/cycle crossings could exacerbate this congestion. Studies should be done to determine what options there are and what the best way to achieve this is. The introduction of a bridge over Milton Road would create yet another physical structure in an already visually crowded and confusing corridor. Milton Road is one of the main arties into the city centre. It may be possible to go underground with a well designed and creative subway that links both sides of the road. This may be more costly, but visually and aesthetically it could be a preferred option.

Any opportunity to rationalise this stretch of the road should be sought, including improvement the landscape and environment alongside. There could be an opportunity to rework the existing pedestrian subway at the Guided Bus intersection as well. This should include street clutter, signage, etc. to improve the area. However, more information is required.

Q24: CambridgePPF support the proposals for green spaces throughout the site. These should include different uses and users from being able to kick a football, to having a picnic, to play areas for different age groups, to areas to address SUDS requirements, ponds or lakes, etc. for both residents and business occupants.

Again, looking at other large scale developments around the city to assess successful projects would be useful before trying to create something from scratch.

The Science Park hosts a variety of events within their site, including local businesses food trucks during the
week.

However, any new green spaces should facilitate cross corridors for wildlife and ecology to thrive. Through views should also be considered.

Q32: CambridgePPF supports the 'future proof' approach, however, would not wish to limit it to only technology based ideas. We recommend that spaces (both residential and commercial) are designed to be as flexible as possible. This could include the ability to easily convert two units into one and vice versa. This would enable the units to accommodate a variety of users as trends and needs change.

For example, the current housing needs that the local plan is based upon will change within the next 5 to 10 years. Therefore, if the Councils only allow one-bed properties to be built and the need for family houses surges, there is very little ability to address that need without substantial cost and disruption. This is true of garden and amenity space. Many large gardens are being developed for additional houses.

Whatever technologies there are to provide the flexibility to adjust to market trends (including variable sized commercial units) should be explored.

Q38: See answer to 32.

Q39: CambridgePPF believes that new developments should be required to ensure a percentage of residential units be made available to keyworkers. These include primary (office staff) and ancillary (cleaners, etc.) staff from adjacent business uses to be provided due to affordability issues. This also prevents long commutes for these workers from outside the city.

A successful new community is made up of a variety or users and needs. This includes typology as well.

Q40: CambridgePPF would like to see an increase from 40% to 50% of affordable units, including a wider mix of tenancy options and sizes of units. Included in this question is the caveat, 'subject to viability' which we consider to be a red herring and something that the NPPF and Central Government have been trying to address.

The construction of this development is quite a few years off and there is no way to know what the needs will be for the site, despite trying to establish guidelines now. In addition, it is very possible that the site will be built by numerous different developers and constractors, again creating some uncertainty of budgets and costings. The argument over what is viable is complex and based on many factors, including how much the land cost. Therefore, it would be all too easy for a developer to eventually say that they are unable to provide a higher level of affordable units because it is no longer viable and does not stack up. To ensure this does not happen, we challenge the Council to provide assurances over this issue.

We would want to see more certainty given to this vital issue and if the new town is to be exemplary, we recommend requiring 50% affordable be provided. The need for affordable units is only likely to increase over the next few decades- not decrease. Regardless of the price paid for the land or the numbers stacking up, this should be embeded in the development brief.

Q41: Refer to question 40

Q42: CambridgePPF supports the opportunity for people to develop and build their own homes. This could provide an exciting dynamic within a new community.

Q51: CambridgePPF has seen a worrying trend over recent years of developers trying to shoehorn as many units as possible within a site to maximise profit. The result of this is the units barely meet the minimum standards for residential space requirements. The approval of proposals like these does nothing for creating a high standard for quality of life if the size of the unit is barely above minimum.

Minimum does not mean optimum. Standards are a starting place, not the only place.

If this development wishes to be exemplar, then it should apply a higher level of standards. This not only goes for internal space requirements, but for external amenity space as well as accessibility standards.

Q53: Refer to question 51.

Q54: Refer to question 51.

Q62: CambridgePPF prefer option D.

Q67: CambridgePPF welcome the opportunity to ensure this new development results in a net gain for biodiversity and ecology. If it is not possible to do so within the development site framework, then alternative sites adjacent could be considered, especially for any mitigation.

Natural Cambridgeshire Local Nature Partnership has created a toolkit to assist developers in achieving a net gain in biodiversity and we recommend it be reviewed and considered for use in this new development as well as others: https://naturalcambridgeshire.org.uk/projects/developing-with-nature-toolkit/

Q69: CambridgePPF believes that prior to committing to any particular system, an assessment of the existing facilities used at Eddington- which includes the underground waste system- should take place. This should provide sufficient information to understand the benefits of the system, if any. It is impossible to answer this question without further information.

Q70: CambridgePPF understands that phasing and occupancy are complicated and have a significant impact on the success of new developments. There can be significant conflict between what development to provide first- housing, facilities, etc.

In order to meet targets, bringing forward available land for development would make sense. However, this should be caveated on the following: location available for staging, equipment, materials, issues raised from noise, dust, vehicle movements, etc.

The risks could include impact to adjacent properties, the location that comes available first may not be a strategic site, etc. A organised and scheduled approach for the site should be outlined as best as possible to ensure that it follows a logical end, minimising damage, disruption, etc. to all adjacent. This is especially true since the site will involve numerous different developers, architects and agents, at different times all who will have their own construction crews, etc.

This has the potential to become chaos without the Council, or someone, project managing the entire site.

Q71: CambridgePPF agree that a strategy would enable a more logical and controlled approach. It would be prudent to try and include this within the work being done on the new joint local plan. It would also facilitate a more joined up approach since the site straddles the boundary between the City and District Councils.


Q72: CambridgePPF believes that there is a lot of competition for Section 106 funds. But requiring it to be focused solely within the site is misguided. We believe that a broader approach to reviewing Section 106 funds should be taken for all new developments since the impact from new developments is becoming wider.

Once the required facilities are agreed and supported through Section 106 funds (such as schools, GP surgeries, nurserys, etc) then any remaining funds should be reviewed against this criteria.

For example, residents in new housing developments in and around Cambridge have fewer places go to on the weekends. It may be convenient to stay within the development and use their green spaces, but many seek to get out. Our sites- Wandlebury Country Park and Coton Countryside Reserve absorb many of these people and the impact from the additional numbers is evident. However, we do not benefit from any Section 106 funds.

We recommend Councils support local amenity sites in the context of spreading the funds more widely.

Q77: CambridgePPF acknowledge that this site has the potential to have dozens of owners and developers all trying to work at different stages. Refer to question 70.

As a result, it is highly recommended that all of the owners, tenants, etc. are brought together at an early stage and a working group created.

We have seen challenges with Waterbeach New Town and they have only two owners. But the potential for duplication of provisions, confusion over access through the site, and the ability to provide a single cohesive development is threatened if a joint working relationship is not created. A memorandum of understanding could be employed as a way of addressing this.

Q79: CambridgePPF supports the principle of 'meanwhile use' for sections of the site as appropriate. These could include pocket parks, viewing areas to watch construction as it progresses, staging areas for materials/concrete/etc. It should be a balanced mix of public benefit use and customer buy in against the requirements of a construction site.

Q84: CambridgePPF feels like there is an insufficient amount of information provided at this time to properly assess the benefit, impact, risk, etc. of the new development. We have the following concerns that do not appear to be addressed within the consultation information:

1. Whilst the Council has been given the funds to relocate the water treatment plant, there is still the question of where it would be relocated to. Due to the inherent constraints, we presume it is not capable of being relocated too far away due to the existing plant, pipes, etc. This is a vital piece of the puzzle and without this information you are unable to fully develop the site and create the new town being sought.

2. In addition, what is involved in relocating it and what works will have to be done to the existing site to make it reusable?

3. Even if the treatment centre is relocated, an amount of plant will still have to remain to access the existing equipment, for example a pumping station will be required, etc. This needs to be factored into the AAP process to ensure spatial requirements are met and any repercussions are understood upfront.

4. There is also the issue of noise/smell with the aggregates/bitumen workings on the railway sidings, bulldozer/lorry movements etc, smell of the bitumen. What are the provisions for this?

5. As a result of all of the above, less land may be available then assumed for development. This should be understood at this early stage.

6. The document focuses on those who live and work in the site, but what about those who come into the site just to access the rail station or hotel? How will they access and interact with the site?

7. There is very little in the document about transport issues, other than making the site less reliant on cars, promoting more cycle and rail use. This is very worrying as Milton Road is already heavily congested and the proposal would intensify this. We recommend that a clear vision on transport matters, including access, needs to be carefully studied and assessed to ensure the site delivers a sustainable development. This should include the current proposals from the GCP and Mayor on various provisions.

8. Constraints were mentioned in the consultation document, but any assessment of impact to the sites were not included. That is a critical omission, especially at this early stage. For example, the Bramblefields LNR is adjacent to the site and this proposal could result in harm to it. There are other designations which require further investigation.

Further response received via email: The NE Fringe sits adjacent to the river Cam valley and Fen Ditton. The rural setting of this area, with the countryside coming into the City is of great importance in planning terms, particularly with regard to the Cambridge Green Belt. Whilst the NE Fringe would not impact this directly, there is a danger that it may do so indirectly, by impacting the views (eg from Ditton Meadows). Therefore, building height and the location of any tall buildings would need to be considered very carefully in relation to the views and setting of the historic city.