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Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital plans approved despite Environment Agency’s objection





The new Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital has been given approval, despite an objection from the Environment Agency about its impact on water resources.

The hospital, due to be built on the site of what is currently a car park on Cambridge Biomedical Campus, will bring together clinical and research staff.

An artist's impression of Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital
An artist's impression of Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital

The aim is to create a “world class hospital” where cancer can be detected earlier and more precise treatments developed.

The application was submitted by Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CUH), which runs Addenbrooke’s and the Rosie hospitals.

Carin Charlton, from CUH, told councillors at a joint development control committee meeting on Wednesday (April 17) that the new hospital would help save lives.

She said: “Should the committee approve the Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital we will reach a major milestone in delivering our vision of making a quantum leap in the detection and treatment of cancer.”

The Environment Agency is currently objecting to major new developments in the Cambridge region due to the issue of water scarcity.

A CGI of the atrium of the proposed Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital
A CGI of the atrium of the proposed Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital

It said: “We object to the proposed development on the grounds that it may individually, and/or in combination with other proposed development in Greater Cambridge, increase abstraction and risk deterioration to water bodies in the Greater Cambridge area because of the additional demand for potable water use.”

Ms Charlton said CUH had taken “all reasonable measures to maximise” the water efficiency of the proposed hospital.

She said the trust was also willing to work with a newly-established water scarcity group on what role it can play in addressing the issue.

Planning officers said there would be an increased demand for water created by the hospital of around 20,000 litres per day.

However, they said they believed the trust had “appropriately addressed the issue” and had worked to make sure the hospital’s demand for water was minimised.

Councillors from Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council all voiced support for wanting to see the new cancer hospital built, but some said they were still concerned about the water issue.

How Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital will look. Picture: CUH
How Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital will look. Picture: CUH

Cllr Simon Smith (Lab, Castle) said: “This is a cancer hospital, it is important to the future health of people in this country and globally, but we also need to protect the environment.”

Cllr Smith asked if a condition could be added to any planning approval to confirm collaboration between CUH and the water scarcity group and ensure water usage was monitored.

Cllr Smith said water was also a health issue and told the meeting that his wife had ended up in Addenbrooke’s “seriously ill” after swimming in water where he said sewage had been released.

Cllr Dr Richard Williams (Con, Whittlesford) said the committee had to take the Environment Agency’s objection seriously.

However, he said the hospital would be a “piece of critical infrastructure”, which would benefit people across the Greater Cambridge area.

How Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital will be built on Cambridge Biomedical Campus
How Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital will be built on Cambridge Biomedical Campus

He also highlighted that “significant water savings” had already been achieved by the trust in its plans.

Cllr Katie Porrer (Lib Dem, Market) said: “I am uncomfortable approving anything that damages the water courses, but in my view this is the only thing where the benefits outweigh that.

“An approval here would be based on that weighting, this is something that could have international and Cambridge implications, for me this is not setting a precedent, for me this is a different scale.”

Cllr Dave Baigent (Lab, Romsey) said: “This is an application for a cancer hospital in a world-renowned research area.

“As far as I am concerned the problem of water supply for this cancer hospital is for the people providing the water. This is a problem for the government, not our problem.

Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital treatment room
Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital treatment room

“People will die if we hold up this application, it is as simple as that.”

A majority of members of the committee agreed to add to the conditions to address the concerns about water usage, including requiring for the water usage of the hospital to be monitored.

When a decision on the application was put to a vote the committee, councillors voted unanimously in favour of supporting it.

Work on the new hospital - which received £120m of government funding in October 2020 - is expected to start in November 2025, and it is expected to open in 2029.

Afterwards, CUH welcomed the decision.

In a statement, it said: “Our new specialist cancer research hospital will be the first of its kind for the East of England, and will transform the lives of the millions of people diagnosed with cancer.

A CGI of the research space at the proposed Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital
A CGI of the research space at the proposed Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital

Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital will bring together NHS staff from Addenbrooke’s Hospital and world-leading scientists from the University of Cambridge and its Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre, under one roof. We are breaking down barriers between the laboratory and the clinic, enabling patients to benefit from the latest innovations in cancer science, to detect the disease at a much earlier stage and develop personalised treatments to patients.

“We’re continuing to work closely with our partners and the local planning authority to ensure we balance the needs of a new hospital development, against the wider growth and infrastructure requirements for Cambridge, both of which are important to our staff, patients and the local community.

“It will be a low carbon and electric powered hospital, full of light, with access to outdoor spaces and designed to meet the NHS’s new net-zero carbon building standard.

“We are continuing to make significant progress on our programme. Pre-construction works are set to begin this summer to start preparing the site for full construction works in 2025.”



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