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230-home development for Newbury Farm on edge of Cambridge approved

Preliminary permission has been granted for a 230-home development on the south east edge of Cambridge with fossil fuel-free heating and plans for a new local “local centre” for Queen Edith’s.

Cambridge City Council’s planning committee granted outline planning permission for the development at Newbury Farm at its meeting on Wednesday (September 2).

Newbury Farm, an artist's impression from above. Image: This Land Limited / BPTW (41850577)
Newbury Farm, an artist's impression from above. Image: This Land Limited / BPTW (41850577)

The applicant is This Land Limited, a company wholly owned by Cambridgeshire County Council.

Outline planning permission grants approval for the general principle of the development, but a reserved matters planning application containing more specific design details will be required before construction can start.

The site sits between Worts’ Causeway and Babraham Road, just to the west of the Babraham Road Park & Ride.

There is currently an outline planning application for 200 new homes from a different developer on an adjacent site over the road to the north.

Both sites were released from the green belt in the local plan to contribute a combined 430 homes to meet the area’s housing needs up to 2031.

Rob Hasselder, development director at This Land, told the committee the revenue created by the Newbury Farm development would go towards paying for county council services, such as education and social care.

“We are not your typical or average developer,” he said.

He said the scheme puts “people at the heart of the design” and puts emphasis on sustainability and providing a “new local centre for Queen Edith’s”.

He said currently the site is “an intensively-farmed monoculture with the regular use of pesticides and herbicides, which by their definition reduce the ecological biodiversity on the site.

“Our proposal will change that by creating numerous new habitats to let wildlife flourish.”

He said the development would include new hedgerows, grassland and 150 trees.

Newbury Farm - the master plan with easement zone. Image: This Land Limited / BPTW (41850581)
Newbury Farm - the master plan with easement zone. Image: This Land Limited / BPTW (41850581)

“Our proposal matches Cambridge’s ambition in responding to the climate emergency, I am proud that we are years ahead of the government’s initiative to ban the installation of gas boilers, and that all of our developments will use fossil fuel-free forms of heating such as heat pumps and solar installations,” he said.

As per the city council’s policy of requiring 40 per cent affordable housing on developments of this size, 92 of the homes on site will be designated affordable.

Cllr Colin McGerty, the Liberal Democrat city councillor for Queen Edith’s, was not able to attend the virtual meeting but his words were read out in a statement.

He objected to the application on the basis that the “majority” of the open space planned for the development will be in the “easement zone” around an underground gas main pipe, which he said would limit the space’s use for the public.

A high-pressure gas pipeline that runs diagonally in the south-eastern portion of the site is classed as a “major accident hazard high pressure pipeline”.

The council’s planning report says an easement zone around the area of around 30 metres may limit how that space can be used.

Neither the operator of the pipeline, Cadent Gas, nor the Health & Safety Executive has objected to the planning application at its current stage, but the committee heard their responses were based on the limited detail currently available, and they will need to be consulted again should a reserved matters application with more design proposals come forward.

Cllr Jennifer Page-Croft said the gas pipe was her “biggest concern”.

“How hazardous is it? It could be a drawing place for teenagers, who don’t have a lot of brains when they are teenagers” she said.

Newbury Farm - the easement zone around the gas main. Image: This Land Limited / BPTW (41850579)
Newbury Farm - the easement zone around the gas main. Image: This Land Limited / BPTW (41850579)

“And this is the sort of thing that they might dig to to try and find out just how much it would take to make it go bang. We really need to know about the security around that gas pipe and whether people can actually let their children go on there.”

A number of councillors said the development should have allocated open space on site.

Cllr Katie Porrer said she found it “really hard” to vote in favour when no calculation of open space had been made excluding the pipeline’s exclusion zone, in case it is not available for use.

Councillors were told the issues around on-site outdoor space could be decided in the reserved matters application, as further design details for the site will be better known at that stage.

A condition will now be added that the design will need to prioritise open space on the site.

Should the development go ahead without enough open and recreational space on the site it will trigger a clause for financial contributions for off-site provision, such as at Nightingale Recreation Ground and the Holbrook Road play area.

Greater Shelford Parish Council, Camcycle and conservation group Cambridge Past, Present and Future all objected to the application.

Councillors approved the outline planning application unanimously.

According to information obtained via Freedom of Information laws, the county council sold land it owned off Worts’ Causeway to This Land Limited for £14.7million in 2018.

The virtual meeting was adjourned following technical problems, and other items on the agenda will now be decided on September 10.

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