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Anglian Water submits plans for new Honey Hill sewage plant near Cambridge

Anglian Water has submitted a Development Consent Order to the Planning Inspectorate this week to ask for permission to move the sewage works from Milton to a Green Belt site at Honey Hill in Horningsea.

This follows a public consultation which started in 2020 after funding was allocated to Anglian Water and Cambridge City Council by the Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) to relocate the existing Cambridge waste water treatment facility.

CGI of Anglian Water proposed water treaatment plant . Picture: Keith Heppell. (62195813)
CGI of Anglian Water proposed water treaatment plant . Picture: Keith Heppell. (62195813)

The relocation will is set to provide a brownfield site where the city council wants to develop a new district, known as North East Cambridge. The city council has proposed this will be a low-carbon city district providing 8,350 homes and 15,000 new jobs.

However, Anglian Water has admitted there is no operational need to move the sewage works at Milton, which were recently updated. The project has been met with outrage from residents of Horningsea and Fen Ditton because of its impact their villages and the fact it will be built on a local beauty spot, Honey Hill.

A spokesperson for the Save Honey Hill campaign group said: “We have been preparing for this moment for the last three years and if this application is accepted by the Planning Inspector, we will be ready. Our commitment to fight this project and protect the precious, vulnerable countryside around Cambridge, its ‘green lung’, has not waned. The proposed site at Honey Hill is valuable agricultural land which currently makes a contribution to our country’s food security.”

“The virulent expansion of Cambridge is seemingly going unchecked with little consideration given to the huge carbon cost of moving a major part of infrastructure such a short distance and with no operational gain. We believe this project flies in the face of national planning policy and is a gross misuse of public money at a time of great economical fragility for our country.”

“Of course our villages don’t want this building project to go ahead with the associated impact on our communities of four years worth of construction traffic and other associated side effects. But we could accept it a whole lot better if we were getting something that was an improvement on what Cambridge already has. The site at Honey Hill is such a sensitive one in terms of setting and proximity to conservation areas and sites of significance, both scientific and historical. It will be there for all to see from all directions and yet the design of the plant is underwhelming to say the least. If this move really is as necessary as we are led to believe then why isn’t Cambridge being given cutting edge, state of the art and something to be proud of?”

Campaigners are raising finds to challenge Anglian Water’s application and for this it will need legal advice in its preparation and legal representation for when the Planning Inspectorate holds a hearing. A target of £50,000 has been set to cover the cost of the required legal expertise. Their fundraising has included the launch of a single recorded by villagers called "It's cr*p"

The Save Honey Hill Choir singing their comedy song "It's Crap" to highlight their campaign against a sewage works being moved to Green Belt land on their doorstep. (62195618)
The Save Honey Hill Choir singing their comedy song "It's Crap" to highlight their campaign against a sewage works being moved to Green Belt land on their doorstep. (62195618)

Karen Barclay, head of major infrastructure planning for Anglian Water, said: “We are incredibly grateful for all the feedback we received during the three phases of consultation and the ongoing engagement we have had with the community and wider stakeholders. We have carefully considered all responses which have helped to shape the final designs included in our development consent application.

“Our final landscape led designs reflect the great level of feedback we have received and seeks to minimise impacts on neighbouring communities. The design reduces visual impacts by sculpting an earth bank with natural planting to screen to facility from all directions. The new landscape will improve the connectivity to the surrounding landscape and public rights of way and deliver a significant biodiversity net gain: a minimum of 20 per cent by providing new habitat areas and hedgerows.

“The new facility will become Anglian Water’s flagship waste water treatment plant, marking a significant step forward in process efficiency and environmental performance. It will enable Anglian Water to continue to provide vital waste water services to customers across Cambridge and Greater Cambridge in a new, carbon-efficient facility, that will be resilient and adaptable for the future growth of the City and surrounding areas.”

Honey Hill. Pic: Peter Halford. (62195634)
Honey Hill. Pic: Peter Halford. (62195634)

Anglian Water says its new sewage works, to be located between Horningsea and Fen Ditton, will be "modern, operationally net zero and energy neutral and designed to protect against climate change, improve storm resilience and the quality of treated water returned to the River Cam".

And it is intended to take the extra waste created by Waterbeach new town.

Anglian Water completed its consultation last year and has taken advice from the Design Council and the local Cambridgeshire Quality Panel, an independent panel of built and natural environment experts.

Following the final phase of consultation, the summary report published today, explains all feedback received from the local community and other stakeholders and describes how this has fed into the final design that will be submitted as part of the application for Development Consent to the Planning Inspectorate.

Anglian Water has held a series of meetings with representatives of the community and wider stakeholders to share the feedback from the final phase of consultation and the final designs for the new facility.

Save Honey Hill at Fen Ditton, Charles Jones with Jessamy Beeson-Jones at the window (62195615)
Save Honey Hill at Fen Ditton, Charles Jones with Jessamy Beeson-Jones at the window (62195615)

Key updates to the final design included in the DCO application include:

Setting the Gateway Building and Discovery Centre further into the earth bank structure, surrounded by more defined planting in order to further reduce visual impact.

An enhanced balance between visual impact, landscape and heritage by reducing the size and massing of many of the tallest structures and ensuring lighting at the facility does not impact on the community and landscape.

Providing more space for people and wildlife, making sure footpaths do not prohibit access to the surrounding open space and using hedgerow fencing and signage to protect ecologically sensitive areas.

Committing to a low carbon future by reaching net zero carbon operational emissions by 2030, significantly reducing emissions compared to the existing Cambridge Waste Water Treatment Plant.

Refined proposals to address traffic concerns with extensive mitigation measures which will ensure traffic will only travel directly to or from the site using the new four-way signalised access from junction 34 of the A14 and prohibiting construction and operational tanker vehicle travel through Horningsea and Fen Ditton villages. The final design also confirms improvements to the pedestrian and cycleway routes along Horningsea Road.

The Planning Inspectorate now has 28 days to determine if the DCO application will be accepted for examination. Should the application be accepted for examination, anyone interested in the project can then register as an interested party. Information on how to register as an interested party will be publicised across the community at that time. Interested parties will be kept informed of the examination process and invited to participate and have their say. A final decision whether to grant Development Consent Order will not take place until mid-2024 and will be made by the Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

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