Plans for new 44,000 jobs and 33,500 homes backed by Government inspectors
PUBLISHED: 16:11 03 September 2018 | UPDATED: 14:38 05 September 2018
Major plans for the growth of Cambridge and surrounding areas have been given the green light by government inspectors who have approved a push for 44,000 new jobs and 33,500 new homes by 2031.
Today (Monday, September 3) it was announced that the new local plan for Cambridge, as well as the new local plan for South Cambridgeshire, have been given the thumbs up by government inspectors.
The plans, which include ambitious new districts for the city, as well as major new towns, and the extension of the Cambridge biomedical campus, were given approval by independently appointed Government planning inspectors.
Both Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council submitted their local plans to the inspectors in March 2014.
The plans are not adopted by the councils until they are debated and confirmed at respective full council meetings being held at the end of September and mid-October. But the fact that they have now received the government inspectors’ reports means the councils can give the local plans weight when they make decisions.
What does it mean for Cambridge?
A lot of the local plan schemes which have been approved by the inspectors would directly impact on Cambridge and how it will look in the future.
Whole new city districts for the city
The plans advocate continuing to build homes in existing growth sites on the edge of Cambridge like the southern fringe, Darwin Green and Eddington. There is also a commitment to building on land near the “CB4” development near Cambridge north railway station, which is currently occupied by Anglian Water’s water treatment works.
As well as this, there is approval for plans for more homes on the fringes of the city, including 430 homes in Worts Causeway, and 1,200 homes on land north of Cherry Hinton and west of Teversham.
Extension to Cambridge Biomedical Campus
The new local plan gives up more greenbelt land for an extension to the biomedical campus, which is currently home to Addenbrooke’s hospital, with pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca and heart and lung specialists Papworth hospital set to move there soon. The extension would be within south Cambridgeshire’s administrative area, not far from the “Ninewells” parkland area.
Cllr Kevin Blencowe, Cambridge City Council’s executive member for planning policy and transport, said: “It is quite a small extension. It will give extra floor space to the campus. It is a sensitive area, which is why this is a small site.”
Stephen Kelly, joint director of planning and economic development at South Cambridgeshire District Council, said the commitment to new housing and space for business in Cambridge would send a signal to the rest of the world which would reassure businesses the city was a dependable and stable place to invest in. He said this would be particularly valuable in a post-Brexit context.
What about traffic?
With the extra jobs, houses, and businesses anticipated to be coming to the area, Cllr Aidan Van de Weyer, deputy leader and lead cabinet member for strategic planning and transport at South Cambridgeshire District Council, said more needed to be done to accelerate transport schemes to keep up with the demand of new builds.
He said there is an “urgent” need to bring forward new transport infrastructure, particularly around the expanding biomedical campus.
“We need to work closely with employers in the new biomed campus,” said Cllr Van de Weyer. “It is a very large problem we are facing.
“The problem is getting bad anyway. It is really urgent.”
More protection for city pubs
The new local plan also gives more statutory protection for local pubs, recognising their importance for the local community and making sure they are kept for residents to use and enjoy.
Cllr Blencowe said: “There was a spell a few years ago where we had quite a few pubs closing and quite a few demolitions and it didn’t seem right or proper to see a community asset levelled.”
What does it mean for south Cambridgeshire?
But the plans don’t stop at the city’s border. South Cambridgeshire’s local plan, while separate, was submitted jointly with the city plan. Many projects, like the expansion of the biomedical campus, are important considerations for both authorities, but what else is planned outside the city boundaries?
Major new towns
It looks like a big part of addressing the housing crisis in the area will be with major new settlements in south Cambridgeshire.
The local plan details a new town north of Waterbeach of approximately 8,000-9,000 homes. A supplementary planning document for the town is due to be voted on by South Cambridgeshire District Council soon, and the plans have now gained the approval of government inspectors.
As well as this, the local plan makes provision for a new village at Bourn Airfield of approximately 3,500 homes.
More than 33,000 comments were received on the local plan. Mr Kelly said the majority of these were from residents offering their opinions on new towns.
Cllr Van de Weyer said: “There were strong campaigns opposing Bourn Airfield and Waterbeach and inspectors looked at the views and concerns being put forward.”
Cllr Van de Weyer said many locals were concerned about worsening congestion, and feared local communities would not be able to cope with the additional strain of thousands of new homes.
“One of the major issues is sustainability at Bourn airfield,” Cllr Van de Weyer continued. “We need to make sure the transport infrastructure is in place. We need to get that right before anything else happens.
“One of the other concerns is how the new developments relate to what is already there. We need to keep communities and also allow new communities to have their own identities.”
Caroline Hunt, planning policy manager at South Cambridgeshire District Council said the new local plan used all the “last good brownfield sites in the area.” She said this meant a lot of “big obvious” sites that could be re-used for housing in the area had been identified. She said this meant the plan had (apart from a few minor exceptions) largely avoided having to take large chunks of greenbelt land to build on.
Cambourne will get even bigger
Cambourne, currently home to about 8,000 people, is set to get even bigger. An expansion to Cambourne to the west is included in the local plan.
Other towns and villages will be expanded too, with around 900 homes planned for the “better served” South Cambridgeshire villages. As well as this, the plan commits to continuing to develop the new town at Northstowe.
An end to speculative developments?
Now that a definite framework has been given the nod from government, it is hoped there will be an end to “speculative applications” being submitted for developments in the area.
“We are not going to be fighting off speculative planning applications, and officers can get on with their jobs rather than dealing with applications that don’t meet the criteria,” said Cllr Van de Weyer.
The South Cambridgeshire Local Plan will be presented to a cabinet meeting in late September before a final decision on adoption is made at a council meeting on September 27.
The Cambridge Local Plan will be discussed at a policy and transport scrutiny committee meeting on October 2 before a final decision on adoption is made at a council meeting on October 18.