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Water supply highlighted as key to major development in Local Plan consultation

Thousands of comments made about the emerging Greater Cambridge Local Plan have been published – and they show public concerns about how water supplies, health and transport services will cope with major development in the area.

The sites proposed for development in the first proposals for the Local Plan Map: Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service
The sites proposed for development in the first proposals for the Local Plan Map: Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service

The councils involved have themselves warned that the number of new homes proposed may need to be delayed or reduced if the water industry and central government do not act to ensure an adequate supply.

More than 9,000 comments from hundreds of individuals and groups were received as part of last year’s first proposals consultation.

Meanwhile, more than 40 new sites to be considered for development have been put forward by landowners, agents and developers. These will now be assessed, but do not have any planning status currently.

The Local Plan blueprint, being prepared jointly by Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire District Council, will eventually set out how Greater Cambridge will develop over the next 20 years.

It features the suggested locations where 48,794 homes will be built by 2041, some 37,198 of which are already in the pipeline at sites including Northstowe, Waterbeach and Eddington, while 19 fresh sites for development are also featured.

The proposals also set out a range of new policies to meet the environmental challenges facing the area – including tackling carbon emissions and increasing biodiversity.

During the six-week consultation which began on November 1 last year, more than 5,500 answers or comments were made by 598 people, using the quick questionnaire. The results show 312 respondents strongly disagreed or disagreed with the plan for an extra 550 homes per year to keep up with the increase in jobs in the area.

This compares with 178 of respondents who strongly agreed or agreed with the proposals. Of those remaining 90 said they were neutral and 18 did not respond to the question.

A further 4,100 comments from approximately 625 different people or organisations were captured on the councils’ more in-depth online consultation system where detailed feedback was secured.

The councils said a significant number of comments supported the aims of the plan, particularly for tackling climate change and protecting and enhancing biodiversity and green spaces.

There were around 30 online or in-person events held, such as drop-ins at community centres, forums and webinars focusing on key elements of the proposed Local Plan. In-person events were also held to help reach those groups that don’t traditionally come forward to comment on consultations like this – such as Gypsy and Traveller communities and youth groups.

Cllr Dr Tumi Hawkins, lead cabinet member for planning at South Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “We are truly grateful to all those who took time out to give us their views as part of this consultation. Our aim was to continue to increase involvement in the planning process and the number of responses that we have received show that many residents from across Greater Cambridge care deeply about this topic.

“We know we face some big challenges in the future – but there are also tangible opportunities to reduce our carbon emissions and increase the quality of everyday life for our communities. We want new development to provide affordable housing, affordable business space and better community facilities alongside reducing congestion, pollution, and carbon emissions.

“We now need to review all of this feedback to refine our plans to ensure that we achieve the very best for our residents for decades to come.”

Cllr Katie Thornburrow, executive councillor for planning and infrastructure at Cambridge City Council, added: “Our First Proposals for the Greater Cambridge Local Plan recognise the urgency of addressing climate change – and the responses to the First Proposals show that local residents share these aspirations. To help achieve this, we propose to place new development in the best locations to enable people to travel by public transport, bike or on foot, without using cars.

“We’ve also put forward bold proposals for new green spaces, low-carbon design standards and much more. Clearly, water supply remains key, and we have long said that our strategy is dependent on improvements to that supply – such as new reservoirs – being achieved. But these must come forward without environmental harm and in time to support new development. We continue to make our case to the government and the water industry to take decisive action in this area.”

The full draft Greater Cambridge Local Plan will be prepared following a report to councillors in January next year to confirm the Preferred Options for the Greater Cambridge Local Plan strategy and sites, and is expected to be considered by councillors in summer 2023 and go out to public consultation in autumn 2023.

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