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North East Cambridge will ‘look like Tower Hamlets’



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The new North East Cambridge district will resemble an inner city estate in London and be so densely populated that it will affect future residents’ quality of life, campaigners have warned.

They also predict proposals to create thousands of new jobs on the site will lead to gridlock around the city.

The North East Cambridge Area Action Plan has laid out a vision that will enable people to live “low-carbon lifestyles”. The new city quarter will feature 8,000 homes and over the next 20 years is expected to provide space for 20,000 jobs. Consultation on the plans closes on Monday, October 5.

Graphics from the consultation on the North East Cambridge development - the library
Graphics from the consultation on the North East Cambridge development - the library

The local authorities working on North East Cambridge say they want a “lively mix of homes, workplaces, services and social spaces” with a 10-hectare “network of new green spaces” linking Milton Country Park to Chesterton Fen, and down to Nuffield Road.

The site lies between the A14, the guided busway and Cambridge North station on land that will be available once Anglian Water’s waste water treatment plant is relocated into the surrounding countryside, in one of three locations.

But Andrew Milbourn, chair of Hurst Park Estate Residents’ Association, has sounded alarm bells about the quality of the plans and the impact they could have on new residents’ lives if not changed.

North East Cambridge skyline depicted by Hurst Park Estate Residents’ Association
North East Cambridge skyline depicted by Hurst Park Estate Residents’ Association

He said: “You have a development the size of Ely with 18,000 people beamed down into this very dense place. It looks like there are plans for blocks of flats 13 storeys high.

“The planners are comparing them with the height of spires in Cambridge or the University Library tower. In reality, most of the city centre is just five or six storeys high, yet we are going to have our own La Defense or Canary Wharf being plonked on the end of the city.

“The original rationale, which seems to have got lost, is that Cambridge needs decent accommodation for people who work in the city’s high-tech businesses in the Science Park, so the Cambridge tech revolution is not hindered by lack of accommodation.

“But people aren’t going to choose to come here and work in something that is like Tower Hamlets. No one is going to come to live somewhere fairly dreadful, rather than move to Barcelona or Frankfurt, particularly someone in a tech job who will work for home a fair amount of time. There has been a massive sea change at work. Why would you want to live next to your office when you only go there once or twice a week?”

Graphics from the consultation on the North East Cambridge development
Graphics from the consultation on the North East Cambridge development

Calculations suggest North East Cambridge will have a greater housing density than inner London or Paris. And Mr Bourne is alarmed by the lack of greenery.

Describing a “city of two tales”, the residents’ association Trumpington has 3,500 homes has 90 hectares of designated public green space, thanks to Trumpington Meadows and Hobson’s Park. By contrast, North East Cambridge will have 8,000 homes with just 10 hectares of green space.

He said: “The amount of green space in the development doesn’t even match the requirements of the city’s Local Plan and they are assuming they can use Milton Country Park, when the people who run it have said they are at capacity. They said that at the consultation meeting and they seem to have been fairly well ignored.

North East Cambridge skyline depicted by Hurst Park Estate Residents’ Association
North East Cambridge skyline depicted by Hurst Park Estate Residents’ Association

“When people live in blocks of flats – like the ones planned for this development – they really need green space, and the people who are most unhappy during lockdown were the people who had been stuck in flats

“It’s a basic concern about high-density living and quality of life. We are not against the idea of development and we thought a lot of the original ideas that were being diluted were a lot better than what is actually happening.

“People come up with ideas such as a green bridge across Milton Road so that the Science Park, which is mainly offices, was not separated from the rest of it. But that seems to have gone by the wayside. So we get this massive development and, bit by bit, the ideas that make it bearable evaporate and you end up with a something like CB1 on steroids.”

Edward Leigh, of Smarter Cambridge Transport, has also voiced his concerns.

Smarter Cambridge Transport’s Edward Leigh. Picture: Keith Heppell
Smarter Cambridge Transport’s Edward Leigh. Picture: Keith Heppell

He said: “My concern was about the density of the housing and trying to fit 8,000 homes and space for 20,000 new jobs on the site seem likely to lead to an environment that does not create a good quality if life.

“You have to maintain a ratio of jobs to houses in order to ensure the people working in new jobs are able to live locally. What we are facing increasingly is new jobs being created that are requiring people to commute in because they can’t afford to live anywhere closer.

“I have calculated space for 69,000 new jobs is already in the planning pipeline in the Greater Cambridge area. The local plan has a forecast of 44,100 new jobs up to 2031 and we are already on track to produce 69,000 new jobs – it is not sustainable.

“The risk is all of these roads will see much worse congestion than before. Quite often traffic models say people will experience hour-long or two hour-long delays. But the reality is people won’t tolerate that. What in fact will happen is we will reach a level of congestion that people find so intolerable it becomes very difficult to fill jobs in the city because people can’t get to them. And we could easily end up with roads being gridlocked.”

Green spaces planned for North East Cambridge
Green spaces planned for North East Cambridge

A Cambridge City Council spokesperson said feedback on the plans was welcomed.

“This is a good location for development, because of its excellent railway, cycle and bus links along with its proximity to major employers. We want to make sure that any future community here makes the very best use of land so that the development is as carbon efficient as possible,” said the spokesperson.

“The proposed height of buildings in North East Cambridge will vary – around the edge of the area they will be four to five storeys, more centrally six to eight storeys and in the very centre, one or two buildings could be up to 13 storeys high, which is slightly taller than Parkside fire station and smaller than King’s College Chapel.

“High-quality green spaces are an important part of our proposals – there will be series of interlinking open spaces that will be publicly accessible, including a new linear park, which is around one kilometre in length connecting with other local green spaces. Alongside these will be several pocket parks and formal playgrounds in the area, near new homes.

New centres planned for North East Cambridge
New centres planned for North East Cambridge

“We will do everything we can to ensure that no additional traffic is diverted to Milton Road. This will be enabled through the provision of substantially improved connections, through walking and cycling routes, and high-quality public transport links.

“With regards to secondary school provision, at the moment, projections for population in North Cambridge don’t suggest that a new secondary school will be needed, but we are clearly setting aside space for one in the plan, in case the education authority decides this should change in the future.

“After the consultation has closed on October 5, we’ll be carefully going through all the responses and reporting back on what local people have said, before setting out what happens next.”

Have your say at greatercambridgeplanning.org/nec.

Read more

Opinion: 8,000 homes at North East Cambridge will make it double the density of inner London

New North East Cambridge district of 8,000 homes to offer ‘low carbon lifestyles’

Three potential locations for Cambridge’s waste water treatment plant revealed

Tens of thousands of homes proposed by developers for Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire



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