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New Cambridge Discovery Campus life science site to be created from ‘post apocalyptic’ former sewage works at Hauxton

An abandoned sewage works in Hauxton - described as like a “post apocalyptic” wasteland - will be transformed into a new life science campus that will be home to about 1,000 new jobs.

Outline planning permission was granted for the 343,000 sq ft Cambridge Discovery Campus, comprising six new office and laboratory buildings, on the former waste water treatment facility off Cambridge Road after councillors heard that the developers will clean up the highly contaminated land and even create a 30-acre country park around the north and west of the site.

A CGI of how the Cambridge Discovery Campus in Hauxton could look. Image: Bridgemere Land
A CGI of how the Cambridge Discovery Campus in Hauxton could look. Image: Bridgemere Land

The sewage works closed in 2005 but some of the structures, including silos and tanks were left behind and have deteriorated.

Bridgemere Land applied to South Cambridgeshire District Council to demolish them and redevelop the site, which will also become home to an amenity building including a cafe, gym and changing facilities, which will be open to the public.

Some 330 car parking spaces and 306 cycle parking spaces will be provided and the developer has pledged to contribute funding towards a cycleway through the site.

Previous outline plans to build 32 homes on the site were approved by the district council back in 2016 and a more detailed application for that alternative development has also been submitted to the authority.

A CGI of how the Cambridge Discovery Campus in Hauxton could look. Image: Bridgemere Land
A CGI of how the Cambridge Discovery Campus in Hauxton could look. Image: Bridgemere Land

Rob Sadler, from Foundation Capital Ventures, a commercial partner of the developer, told the planning committee on April 10 that the life science and innovation campus for small and medium-sized enterprises offered a “greater package of public benefits”, including 1,000 jobs of all levels.

Mr Sadler said they were committed to providing training options for people interested in working in the life science industry.

The amenity buildings, he promised, would be built early on and access to the adjacent sports fields would be maintained throughout the development.

Hauxton Parish Council supported the development and said the developer had worked closely with the village when preparing the plans.

Cllr Pondori Kurade, from the parish council, said the amenity building would “add a lot of value to the local community”.

The former sewage works in Hauxton that will be turned into Cambridge Discovery Campus. Image: Google
The former sewage works in Hauxton that will be turned into Cambridge Discovery Campus. Image: Google

But the Environment Agency continued its string of objections to major developments in the region on the basis that it would contribute to increased water abstraction and risked the further deterioration to water bodies in the Greater Cambridge area.

Mr Sadler said the development team had “really worked hard” to reduce the amount of water that would be used by the campus - pointing out it would be 22 per cent less than the alternative proposal of 32 homes, to which the Environment Agency had not objected.

Cllr Dr Lisa Redrup (Lib Dem, Harston and Comberton) said the water situation was “not ideal”, but accepted the science park would use less water than the homes.

But Cllr Heather Williams (Con, The Mordens) said: “Had there not already been permission given, I think the Environment Agency response would be incredibly strong.

“Being practical, we do have a water issue. It is something that concerns a lot of us, but the reality is there is still that fallback position.

A CGI of how the Cambridge Discovery Campus in Hauxton could look. Image: Bridgemere Land
A CGI of how the Cambridge Discovery Campus in Hauxton could look. Image: Bridgemere Land

“Being pragmatic I do not think it is wrong to accept there is a water problem and to follow officers’ recommendation [to approve the plans].”

Cllr Dr Tumi Hawkins (Lib Dem, Caldecote) said the Environment Agency had been “inconsistent”, while Cllr Bill Hadley (Lib Dem, Over and Willingham) said “any development is going to be an improvement” from the existing contaminated site.

Cllr Peter Sandford (Lib Dem, Caxton and Papworth) said when the committee had visited the former sewage works he thought it looked like a “post-apocalyptic wasteland”.

But Cllr Dr Richard Williams wanted “much more reassurance” and information to show the contaminated land would be properly treated.

Eight councillors voted in favour, with one against and one abstaining. More detailed plans must be submitted before work can start.

Demolition and remediation work to start soon

After the meeting, Bridgemere said contractors have already been appointed and will be on site soon to start demolition and remediation works, writes Paul Brackley.

In the first phase of development, the first of the six laboratory enabled buildings will be created alongside the bespoke amenity facilities.

The developer, working with Foundation Capital Ventures (FCV), aims to achieve BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ rating for sustainability and said Cambridge Discovery Campus will be one of the first fossil fuel free campus’ in the Cambridge region.

Cambridge Discovery Campus layout plan. Image: Bridgemere Land
Cambridge Discovery Campus layout plan. Image: Bridgemere Land

Will Heath, CEO of Bridgemere, said: “The importance of Cambridge as a leading life science location both nationally and internationally cannot be underestimated. Confidence in the sector and Cambridge’s ability to become a life sciences superpower was further enhanced recently with the announcement that £200million is to be invested in the expansion of AstraZeneca’s facility at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus - within Europe’s largest life science cluster - which will house approximately 1,000 employees.

“We are delighted to be able to make our own contribution to the future success of the life sciences sector in Cambridge via the provision of much needed, state-of-the-art R&D buildings within a campus that not only supports the health innovations of tomorrow, but which also contributes positively to the local community and surrounding area with additional amenity and green space for everyone to enjoy.”

Rob Sadler, of Foundation Capital Ventures, added: “The accessibility of Cambridge Discovery Campus to other notable life science R&D locations - the closest being Cambridge Biomedical Campus accessible in minutes by road - makes it perhaps the most strategically important new campus in the cluster. In addition to its superb geographical position, the campus itself will offer occupiers an exceptional ‘whole campus’ environment, marrying flexible, high-quality lab and write up facilities with thoughtfully considered amenity within a stunning parkland setting.”

Property consultancy Bidwells worked to achieve planning consent for Bridgemere and Foundation Capital Ventures.

Guy Kaddish, planning partner at Bidwells, said: “We are immensely proud to have played a pivotal role in winning consent for a scheme that will reinforce Cambridge’s standing as a world-leading science and innovation ecosystem.

“The Cambridge Discovery Park will deliver world-class lab space that is conceptualised to harness the development of small to medium-sized enterprises working within some of Britain’s most exciting, high potential industries and all set in a generous parkland. A key part for why the scheme is to be so successful are the tangible local benefits to the community, including a new pavilion and country park.”

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