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Local Plan reaction: Protect Cambridge’s unique character while meeting housing needs, say city’s Liberal Democrat leader



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Cambridge’s unique character must be preserved while meeting the need for more housing and employment land, the city’s Liberal Democrats have said after the publication of prospective sites put forward by developers.

The party said it expected the majority of new housing for the city to come at Cambridge Airport, where 12,000 homes could be built once Marshall vacates the site by the end of the decade, and North East Cambridge , where 8,000 homes could be once the Anglian Water waste water treatment site is moved.

Cambridge Airport (33136714)
Cambridge Airport (33136714)

Some 656 locations, covering 16,000 hectares, have been listed as potential sites for new housing and employment land by landowners and house-builders as part of the process of developing the next Local Plan for Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire.

This followed a call for site from Labour-run Cambridge City Council and Liberal Democrat-run South Cambridgeshire District Council, which work together as a Greater Cambridge Shared Planning service.

Among the many proposals - which we have summarised separately - are 1,500 homes on agricultural land and south of Fulbourn Road and north of Worts Causeway, 1,500 homes for agricultural land north of Barton Road, 1,250 homes on land south of Addenbrooke's Road and east of the M11 at Trumpington, 1,200 homes on agricultural land east of Gazelle Way and west of Teversham Road, falling within Fulbourn and Teversham and 750 homes at Grange Farm in Newnham.

Cllr Tim Bick, leader of the Liberal Democrats on Cambridge City Council said: “This is at present an unfiltered list of sites promoted by landowners for development. There now needs to be a democratic process between the city and district councils to shape a plan which meets the needs of our area in an acceptable way - and we will be strong participants in that.

Tim Bick, leader of the Liberal Democrats on Cambridge City Council (42290391)
Tim Bick, leader of the Liberal Democrats on Cambridge City Council (42290391)

“We want Cambridge to be both socially inclusive and to remain a successful global centre of excellence and contributor to the national economy, but to preserve its unique underlying character.

“Too many people struggle or are forced out for us to be happy with the status quo. The future Local Plan will need to meet more housing and employment need and we want to see it met with a strong emphasis on sustainability. The measure of ‘need’ has not yet been analysed or agreed.”

In total, the suggestions cover 170,000 to 200,000 homes. The councils stressed that this was many more than will be needed and none of these sites yet has a planning status.

They are, in effect, a wish-list for consideration by the councils, which will consult next year on preferred options.

The sites suggested for development by landowners and developres in Cambridge city as part of the Local Plan process, released in September 2020 (42290756)
The sites suggested for development by landowners and developres in Cambridge city as part of the Local Plan process, released in September 2020 (42290756)

The Greater Cambridge area, which had 121,000 homes in 2017, is expected to need between 40,900 and 66,700 homes by 2040, with plans already in place for 36,400 homes. This means the new Local Plan is expected to find room for somewhere between 5,000 and 30,000 homes.

Although there are are infill proposals - such as 80 homes for Clifton Road Industrial Park in Coleridge, and 15-20 homes for the overspill car park at North Cambridge Academy - many of the city sites can be found on Cambridge’s fringes.

Meanwhile, there are many major proposals for agricultural land in South Cambridgeshire, including the idea of 10,000 homes for agricultural land around Elsworth, Boxworth, Knapwell, 8,000 on land to the west of Scotland Road at Dry Drayton and 5,000-10,000 at Six Mile Bottom.

Cllr Bick added: “For Cambridge and its edges, it is important to make efficient use of the existing built-up area, especially remaining brownfield sites, so long as this isn’t at the expense of vital amenity space. But we expect that the majority of new development will come from the major opportunities at Cambridge Airport and North East Cambridge, which are both highly sustainable sites.

“Though these have been regarded as developable for some years, they weren’t available to be included at the time the current local plan was prepared - but that has now changed.”

“Unsurprisingly developers are now bidding for many other sites which have been evaluated and rejected in previous exercises because they were not consistent with the compact character of the city and what was truly distinct about its historical and landscape setting. We don’t know of any reason why that should change this time.”

The sites suggested for development by landowners and developres in Greater Cambridge as part of the Local Plan process, released in September 2020 (42290752)
The sites suggested for development by landowners and developres in Greater Cambridge as part of the Local Plan process, released in September 2020 (42290752)

The councils also carried out a call for green sites, with suggestions coming forward that would protect up to 28,875 hectares from development.

Visit greatercambridgeplanning.org/localplan for find out more and view an interactive map of all the sites proposed .

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