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Anglian Water reveals its proposed site for new waste water treatment plant serving Cambridge region



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Anglian Water has announced the proposed site for its new waste water treatment plant serving the Cambridge area.

It has selected the area north of the A14 between Fen Ditton and Horningsea from three options.

Anglian Water’s existing treatment works off Cowley Road in north Cambridge
Anglian Water’s existing treatment works off Cowley Road in north Cambridge

If the proposal proceeds, it will enable the closure of the existing treatment plant off Cowley Road on the edge of the city, which will pave the way for the development of the new North East Cambridge district.

This is due to be home to about 8,000 new homes and 20,000 jobs over the next 20 years.

Anglian Water’s decision, which will be subject to further consultation and a development consent order, will come as a major blow to campaigners who fought to prevent the site - known locally as Honey Hill - from becoming what they dubbed ‘Poo Corner’.

But there will be some relief for villagers closest to the two other sites shortlisted, which are both located north of the A14 and west of the A10, between Milton, Impington and Landbeach.

The three sites that were shortlisted for the Cambridge Waste Water Treatment Plant (CWWTP). Picture: Anglian Water
The three sites that were shortlisted for the Cambridge Waste Water Treatment Plant (CWWTP). Picture: Anglian Water

The water company said its decision followed “extensive public consultation and a series of rigorous environmental, community, planning, operational, and economic assessments” by a team of experts.

Campaigners will point to the fact that more than half of respondents to the consultation said they were either “strongly opposed” or opposed” to the relocation.

Anglian Water pledged to create a state-of-the-art, carbon neutral facility powered by its own green energy, which would recycle water and nutrients, returning clean water to the River Cam and creating biofertiliser for farms.

The new plant is not an operational necessity for the water company, but is required to enable the development of North East Cambridge, which represents prime residential and commercial space.

More than 5,600 homes and a million square feet of commercial space can be built on the site currently occupied by the Anglian Water plant alone, with more in the surrounding land owned by the city council.

The government has allocated £227million from its housing infrastructure funding (HIF) to Anglian Water and Cambridge City Council to fund the relocation.

Anglian Water’s existing treatment works off Cowley Road in north Cambridge
Anglian Water’s existing treatment works off Cowley Road in north Cambridge

South Cambridgeshire District Council will also be involved as the land straddles the two authorities’ areas and they work together on planning.

Karen Barclay, head of the Cambridge relocation consultation for Anglian Water, said: “Achieving the councils’ vision for the area action plan relies on the relocation of the waste water treatment plant, and we are working in partnership with them to unlock the development potential of the area, which has great walking, cycling and public transport links, including the new Cambridge North station, making it a highly sustainable location for new homes.

“Anglian Water’s ambition for this considerable engineering endeavour goes far beyond building a new plant. It is vital we explain this isn’t simply moving an old facility to a new location. This is the creation of an entirely new, modern facility that will be surrounded by carefully created habitat for wildlife, along with opportunities to connect and improve access to the countryside.

Anglian Water has selected Site 3, between Fen Ditton and Horningsea, as the proposed site for its new waste water treatment plant
Anglian Water has selected Site 3, between Fen Ditton and Horningsea, as the proposed site for its new waste water treatment plant

“The function of the treatment facility is to turn waste water from Cambridge and surrounding areas into a valuable resource, recycling it and returning cleaned water to the River Cam, whilst harnessing green energy to power the plant itself and creating a biofertiliser product which provides essential soil nutrients for farming.

“The construction of a new waste water treatment plant provides an excellent opportunity to design a facility to keep pace with the growth across Greater Cambridge – a city that is at the cutting edge of innovation, contributes to tackling the climate emergency, and provides green space for its local communities to enjoy.

“Each of the three shortlisted sites identified as potential locations during the initial consultation process presented their own unique opportunities and constraints. The specific challenges of each site, along with the opportunities each site presented to increase biodiversity and enhance the environment, were considered thoroughly. An expert team has applied a very rigorous site selection process, as well as taking on board all consultation feedback from community members, local businesses and stakeholders before making a final decision.”

Anglian Water’s existing treatment works off Cowley Road in north Cambridge
Anglian Water’s existing treatment works off Cowley Road in north Cambridge

Anglian Water gave seven primary reasons why site 3, between Fen Ditton and Horningsea, was chosen:

  • Environmental protection and enhancement – it has the greatest opportunities to enhance the surrounding environment, deliver improved habitats for wildlife, and presents the lowest risk of impact on the underlying groundwater sources;
  • Enhancing the Cambridge countryside – it has the opportunity to increase and improve access and connectivity providing additional green space for recreation;
  • Odour prevention – the site offers the lowest overall potential for odour impact for local communities, including accounting for prevailing wind direction.
  • Carbon – Site 3 has the lowest overall lifetime carbon emissions.
  • Land use – There are currently no competing plans or proposals for development of the site area.
  • Future urban growth - best long-term option, providing a sustainable location away from the city edge and areas of future development.
  • Value for money – the lowest anticipated delivery costs with the highest potential for realising environmental and social benefits results in best value for public funding.

Of those who expressed a preferred site in the public consultation - to which 5,000 people responded and 3,000 comments were submitted - 52 per cent favoured this site over the other two, with land to the north west of Milton backed by 8 per cent and 11 per cent preferring the area to the south east of Impington.

Twenty nine per cent found none of the sites suitable.

However, only 27 per cent of respondents said they supported or strongly supported relocation.

Honey Hill is part of the green lung of Cambridge

Writing to the Cambridge Independent, Laurie Woolfenden, of the Save Honey Hill Campaign, argued the majority view should be heard.

“A new, modern sewage plant could be built on the existing site, alongside the existing plant, which could easily continue functioning until the new plant is completed,” Laurie said.

“Honey Hill is part of the green lung of Cambridge, it is a cyclists’, horse riders’ and ramblers’ route to Wicken Fen, itself a new member of the European Rewilding Network and a world heritage site. It has the greatest diversity of wildlife, with over 9,000 species, found anywhere in England.

“Honey Hill is part of the Wicken Fen Vision for the future. A sewage treatment works here would desecrate the environmental setting and its amenity value. This is not joined-up thinking.”

Residents of Fen Ditton and Horningsea protesting about the plans. Picture: Richard Marsham
Residents of Fen Ditton and Horningsea protesting about the plans. Picture: Richard Marsham

During the consultation period last summer, resident Margaret Starkie said: “It is a local recreation area because it has lots of paths. People go there not only from Fen Ditton and Horningsea but from north-east Cambridge. It’s a green lung for the city. It is also good farming land that shouldn’t be wasted like this.”

And she warned: “The odour and the height of the towers – which could be 26 metres tall – will affect Fen Ditton, Teversham and Quy as well as the new Marleigh urban village on the Marshall site.”

Anglian Water said consultation responses were factored into its decision.

Karen said: “The extensive feedback we received through the initial consultation was hugely important to our site selection process. It will also feed into the early design phase for the new site. We considered this feedback alongside information from environmental, community, planning, programme, operational, and economic assessments.

“Site 3 was found, on balance, to perform best against these key assessment areas.

The water company said it intended to develop the design and additional features of the site “in partnership with the local community and environmental groups”.

Anglian Water has selected Site 3, between Fen Ditton and Horningsea, as the proposed site for its new waste water treatment plant
Anglian Water has selected Site 3, between Fen Ditton and Horningsea, as the proposed site for its new waste water treatment plant

What happens now?

Anglian Water will hold a community webinar from 7-8pm on Thursday February 4 to discuss the site selection decision. You can register interest by emailing info@cwwtpr.com

or calling 0808 196 1661.

A series of technical and community working groups will begin to explore ideas for the site, with local residents asked for their input “to shape and develop the vision for how the plant will be designed, to help meet the needs and aspirations of the local community”.

The water company said these plans will be put forward for further feedback, with the next stage of formal consultation expected in the summer.

Ecological surveys and ground investigation activities will begin, meanwhile, in the spring.

An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the relocation project will be carried out and the initial EIA scoping report will go to the Planning Inspectorate later this year.

A third round of consultation is expected in 2022, with a development consent order sought in 2022-3.

Anglian Water’s dedicated website for the relocation can be found at www.cwwtpr.com.

More reaction to follow.

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