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



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By Edward Leigh | Smarter Cambridge Transport

The draft North East Cambridge Area Action Plan sets out our planners’ vision for how land around Cowley Road, including the water treatment plant , will be redeveloped.

Graphics from the consultation on the North East Cambridge development - 1.7_FAW_72_DPI - green spaces. (39339383)
Graphics from the consultation on the North East Cambridge development - 1.7_FAW_72_DPI - green spaces. (39339383)

They want the site to accommodate over 8,000 homes, and commercial and industrial space to support 20,000 new jobs.

The implied density, of around 225 people per hectare, is higher than the densest city in the developed world, Paris, and more than double the density of inner London.

Contrary to the sales pitch, it will still not solve Cambridge’s acute housing shortage. In fact, it will make it worse: 8,000 homes will accommodate around 18,500 people, of whom about 10,500 will be in employment. Yet the intention is to provide 20,000 new jobs: where will the other 9,500 workers live?

Graphics from the consultation on the North East Cambridge development - 1.3andFig24_FAW_REV1_72_DPI - new centres. (39339382)
Graphics from the consultation on the North East Cambridge development - 1.3andFig24_FAW_REV1_72_DPI - new centres. (39339382)

The high density comes at the expense of open space. The Local Plan requires about 42 hectares, yet the proposal provides less than a quarter of this, mostly as a linear park which will offer limited recreational possibilities.

The rest will be ‘outsourced’ to other areas, such as Milton Country Park, even though that is already well-used. Sporting facilities will also be outsourced, including a new swimming pool in a location yet to be found.

Graphics from the consultation on the North East Cambridge development - Fig3_FAW_72_DPI - cycle times. (39339401)
Graphics from the consultation on the North East Cambridge development - Fig3_FAW_72_DPI - cycle times. (39339401)

The mooted wetland nature reserve in Chesterton Fen is essential. The proposed access, via a new cycle/footbridge over the railway, should be a road bridge. That would replace the problematic Fen Road level crossing, which can then be converted to a cycle/footway underpass.

The provision of one parking space per two dwellings may be low by current standards, but assumes half the households will still own 4,000 cars between them.

That is not compatible with a net-zero carbon future. Car clubs and pools allow more efficient use of far fewer vehicles. That’s what we must design for.

Graphics from the consultation on the North East Cambridge development - Fig4_FAW_72_DPI - walking times. (39339403)
Graphics from the consultation on the North East Cambridge development - Fig4_FAW_72_DPI - walking times. (39339403)

However this site is redeveloped, it must be a positive contribution to the city in terms of environmental and ecological impact, the amenities it provides, and the quality of life it sustains.

Be sure to take a look at the plans and add your comments via the consultation (until October 5).

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