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Inside Waterbeach's new town: How developers will focus on people instead of cars


By Adrian Curtis


View looking into the station square from the station building at RLW Estates proposed Waterbeach development
View looking into the station square from the station building at RLW Estates proposed Waterbeach development

RLW Estates submits planning application for 4,500 homes at Waterbeach, which will see a first for the UK

A view from one of the droves outside the island superblocks at RLW Estates proposed new Waterbeach development
A view from one of the droves outside the island superblocks at RLW Estates proposed new Waterbeach development

Developers planning to build 4,500 new homes at Waterbeach are determined to focus on the community and not the car.

RLW Estates aims to do this through their ‘Sociable Streets’ concept, the first of its kind for the UK, that will see cycle routes and public transport take precedence over private cars.

The company has submitted an outline planning application to South Cambridgeshire District Council for up to 4,500 homes at Waterbeach New Town East.

The site is located immediately to the north of the existing village of Waterbeach and is allocated for development in the draft South Cambridgeshire Local Plan.

A vision of the new Waterbeach development from RLW Estates
A vision of the new Waterbeach development from RLW Estates

The application covers the land that is east of the former Waterbeach Barracks and west of the Fen Line railway and also includes retail space, two primary schools, a secondary school, a sixth form centre and community facilities. A separate application was submitted in February which proposed relocating the existing station at Waterbeach to the new town.

The planned Greenways cycling link between Waterbeach and Cambridge is aimed at providing the best cycle and public transport links to Cambridge as an alternative to travelling into the city along the A10.

In what will be a first for the UK, Waterbeach New Town East is going to be designed on the basis of Sociable Streets, a concept that will see a move away from prioritising the needs of cars in spaces around people’s homes.

The vision is that streets and spaces will be designed in a variety of ways but that cars will be placed at the edge of communities that contain 160-400 homes.

A view inside one of the superblocks at RLW Estates proposed Waterbeach development
A view inside one of the superblocks at RLW Estates proposed Waterbeach development

The developers say this will allow the space in between homes to become places for activity, play, recreation and nature, ensuring people define what their communities become, not what the car dictates.

Chris Goldsmith, of RLW Estates, said: “Planning for a new town of this scale offers us the opportunity to achieve something truly remarkable, forward-looking and ensures that people are placed first, not the car.

“By placing the car at the edge of housing locations we will create the first new town in the UK that truly puts people first and ensure that their local area is designed for them, not their vehicles.”

The plans showcase the concept of creating ‘Fen Island superblocks’ within the development. Thes would restrict parking to the edge of development areas while still allowing vehicle access for deliveries, emergency, refuse

RLW Estates to put emphasis on people rather than cars in their new plans for Waterbeach
RLW Estates to put emphasis on people rather than cars in their new plans for Waterbeach

collection and limited accessible parking spaces.

The superblocks would be people dominated, rather than vehicle dominated.

RWL Estates says: “The intention is to free up space for communities to take ownership of the spaces around their homes for play, meeting, growing food, relaxing and working. All the superblocks will be linked together but can each have their own identity.”

Outside these superblocks would be ‘droves’. These streets provide more direct walking, cycling and vehicle routes through the new town, making it easy to navigate.

RLW Estates says Waterbeach new town would be focused on a sociable streets concept
RLW Estates says Waterbeach new town would be focused on a sociable streets concept

They will also provide space for generous drainage features and planting reminiscent of the wide long and straight ditches which characterise the Fen Edge area of the site.

Meanwhile the strategy for employment space is to avoid large-scale employment parks, like the nearby Cambridge Research Park, and instead provide “a much finer-grained and flexible mix of employment hubs, workshops, and offices mixed in with housing and other uses, but with particular concentrations in the centres and close to the rail station”.

RLW Estates said residential areas will be planned to enable opportunities for home working and space for start-up businesses.

To the north of the new town, extensive Fenland Parks “will provide equally important cultural, wildlife, water management and heritage functions”.

A view of Fenland Edge, the wildlife area to the north of the proposed Waterbeach New Town by RLW Estates
A view of Fenland Edge, the wildlife area to the north of the proposed Waterbeach New Town by RLW Estates

RLW’s vision for Waterbeach new town has three elements:

:: Helping Cambridge and its sub-region retain its pre-eminence as a work-leading centre for knowledge, learning and research

:: Helping to deliver a well-connected city and sub-region through the provision of new sustainable transport infrastructure in a timely fashion based upon prioritising high quality cycle and rail infrastructure

:: Creating a new community with a clear purpose and identity that instils a sense of belonging and respects the character of the existing village.

Read more

Have your say on Urban & Civic’s revised proposals for new town north of Waterbeach

Heading up the tracks: Plans submitted for Waterbeach station’s move



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