Tower block heights cut for North East Cambridge plans after consultation
Tower block heights have been reduced and more green space added to plans for a new district in North East Cambridge following a public consultation.
The revisions have been announced by Cambridge City Council And South Cambridgeshire District Council after they received thousands of responses from local residents and businesses.
Previously a residents’ association had compared the proposals for the new city district to Tower Hamlets in London and questioned whether quality of life there would be affected.
Now the new North East Cambridge Area Action Plan, a planning policy document for the area either side of Milton Road, will now be scrutinised by councillors, who will consider whether it can be published for the next and final round of public consultation.
Cllr Katie Thornburrow, Executive Councillor for Planning Policy and Transport, Cambridge City Council, said: “We have listened carefully to the thousands of comments we received in our consultation last year and made real changes as a result. We have kept the ambition for a low-carbon, walkable and lively neighbourhood – which you strongly supported – while lowering the heights of buildings and increasing the amount of open space. We are really grateful to everyone who helped by commenting during the consultation and giving us important insight into what you felt would make North East Cambridge a great place to live. We’ll keep listening to residents on this – such as through our North East Cambridge Community Forum which launched early this year.”
Significant changes to the Area Action Plan have been made following public consultation last year. These include:
- Building heights have been reduced to four to six storeys generally, with a maximum height of ten storeys. This is a reduction from the proposals in the Draft Area Action Plan, which proposed five to eight storeys generally with a maximum of 13 storeys.
- Housing densities have reduced across the Area Action Plan area. The average density across the housing areas of the site is now around 100 dwellings per hectare, similar to other developments like Eddington. The densities range from 70 homes per hectare around the edges of the area up to 300 homes per hectare in the District Centre.
- The amount of commercial (office) floorspace has been reduced by 25% to improve the balance between homes and jobs and to help reduce traffic around the area, whilst the requirement for there to be no overall loss in industrial space remains.
- The amount of open space provision across the Area Action Plan area now meets the Cambridge City Council informal and children’s play standards in full within the area. The amount of new public open space has increased from 10.4 hectares to 27.6 hectares, and all homes will be within a five-minute walk of an open space.
- The requirement to increase biodiversity overall (biodiversity net gain) has now increased from 10% to 20% in line with the emerging Greater Cambridge Local Plan policy proposals. The policy notes that achieving this fully on-site may be challenging due to the higher density nature of the site, so will be considered on a case-by-case basis and at least 10% net gain should be on-site. 20% is double the biodiversity net gain now required under the recently passed Environment Act.
- There will be more shops and community facilities, with an additional local centre to ensure all homes are within a five-minute walk of a Local or District Centre to meet the daily needs of those living and working in the area.
North East Cambridge includes 182 hectares of brownfield land and is a 15-minute cycle ride from Cambridge city centre and has good public transport. Funding from central government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund will be used to relocate the Cambridge Waste Water Treatment Plant to a green field site in Horningsea so that the former sewage works can be built on.
This has proven very unpopular with residents of Horningsea and Fen Ditton who are concerned about the destruction of green field land that is a popular recreation area, as well as odours from the plant and ugly views of sewage digester towers .
The two councils say the relocation of the sewage works “enables a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the area and create a significant new city district for 8,350 new homes and 15,000 additional jobs with supporting facilities and open space”.
Their vision for the district is that it will be “healthy, inclusive, walkable (and) low-carbon”.
The area crosses the boundary between Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire District Councils and the Councils are working closely together to ensure that residents and businesses around the area are informed and involved with how the area develops over the next 20 years.
Cllr Dr Tumi Hawkins, Lead Cabinet member for Planning at South Cambridgeshire District Council, said “North East Cambridge has been identified as a major opportunity for regeneration for many decades, and as a brownfield site with fantastic walking, cycling and public transport links, we want to make sure it delivers on its full potential. We are hugely excited to see this plan come to fruition through the input of residents, businesses and groups around the area. The changes we have made will guide development here to be as green as possible, creating a real neighbourhood where everything you need – shops, community facilities, jobs and open spaces - will be on your doorstep. It will be a fantastic place to live with affordable, beautiful homes, helping meet the housing needs of the next generation.”
More than 4,000 comments were received to the public consultation in 2020, and have been considered alongside further research and studies by the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service which is a partnership between Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire District Councils.
The Area Action Plan has been published in its Proposed Submission form, meaning this version is intended to be submitted to the Secretary of State for examination by the independent Planning Inspectorate. It will now be considered by Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire District councillors through their respective committee processes. Once Councillors have reviewed and commented on the Area Action Plan, they will decide whether to approve it for public consultation ahead of submission to the Secretary of State.
However, the councils are clear that the plan will only be able to progress to public consultation after the separate Development Consent Order process for the relocation of the Cambridge Waste Water Treatment Plant has concluded. This is because the Area Action Plan is being prepared on the basis that the existing Waste Water Treatment Plant will be relocated off-site, which will enable this new district to come forward, and the Development Consent Order is an important part of showing that our plan can be delivered. Anglian Water has previously acknowledged that there is no operational need for the sewage works to be moved and that the basis of the move is so that the North East Area district can be built.
Michael Bond, Liberal Democrat city councillor for neighbouring East Chesterton, said: “This change is very good news. I don’t know what the council was thinking about proposing a plan which was so deficient in open space - even by its own standards. The value of public open space has been underlined so dramatically during the pandemic, for reasons of physical and mental health.
"The city badly needs the North East Cambridge site to be developed, due to the shortage of housing, but in a civilised society the price of this should never be a cramped and claustrophobic new community for people to live in.
"Much of the North East Cambridge site is already penned in by the hard boundaries of the A14, the railway and Milton Road and it desperately needs to bring with it new open space at its heart to allow the community to breathe. The surrounding area of the city, which I now represent as a councillor, has the lowest proportion of open space in the city and to under provide here would compound an already serious absence of open space in existing communities.
“I still have concerns about a potential lack of other forms of open space - for organised sport and allotments - where the situation is still unclear to me. I will be examining this very closely in the upcoming meetings before I am satisfied”