A guide to responding to the Local Plan First Proposals, and some personal thoughts on the issues. Written by: Barrie Hunt, Queen Edith’s resident
My separate article on growth assumptions in First Proposals ends by identifying the tensions that arise from living in an area that has a major economic role to play nationally and internationally. It suggested that, if we are to find an acceptable balance we need to identify the impact of growth on our local neighbourhood and on the surrounding environment and to propose ways to “accentuate the positives and eliminate the negatives”.
Section 3.4 of First Proposals outlines the theme of “Great Places” based on their four c’s – community, connectivity, climate and character. A short, 2 min read on this theme can be found here, which then signposts plenty of opportunities to explore their ideas further.
This article identifies the main developments proposed for implementation between now and 2041 with potential to impact on the Queen Edith’s area and suggests key questions for our planning authorities to consider if we are truly to continue living in a “Great Place”. I have attempted to identify areas that you may wish to comment on in your response to the First Proposals.
The Plan identifies several major developments for jobs that could significantly affect Queen Edith’s.
Note: In order to reduce the amount of travel, The Plan encourages the development of mixed sites, which incorporate key worker and affordable housing where appropriate.
Major biomedical developments
The biggest issue for Queen Edith’s is probably the further expansion of the Cambridge Biomedical Campus (CBC). The ecological aspects of this were discussed in the recent Queen Edith’s magazine and a full explanation of the proposals can be found on pp85-90 of The Plan. In brief:
- The Plan will support development on the CBC “to meet local, regional or national healthcare needs or for biomedical and biotechnology research and development activities, related higher education and sui generis medical research institutes, associated support activities to meet the needs of employees and visitors, and residential uses where it would provide affordable and key worker homes for campus employees.”
- An area adjoining Babraham Road has been identified as a potential area for release from the Green Belt specifically to meet the long-term needs of the Campus. This is about one third of the area between Babraham Road and Nine Wells.
- The remaining areas that were under consideration would remain within the Green Belt, included in an Area of Major Change.
- A comprehensive landscaping plan, including the delivery of new publicly accessible green space will need to be delivered, to create a soft green edge of the city.
With the opening of AstraZeneca, the projected Children’s Hospital and Cancer Research Hospital, substantial development has already taken place or been approved for the existing site. However, planning timescales for the Campus and the Local Plan are not synchronised and, whilst CBC Ltd (the body recently created to oversee the Campus) has published its Vision 2050 plan, there is little detail of future projects at this stage.
An encouraging feature following the creation of CBC Ltd is that they are anxious to be good neighbours and have set up a CBC Vision 2050 Local Liaison Group. Thus members from Trumpington, Great Shelford and Queen Edith’s will meet three or four times a year with high level representatives of CBC and who, in a spirit of openness, will have access to CBC Ltd meetings and minutes. I am currently the conduit for Queen Edith’s on the group and will be happy to receive, discuss and where appropriate pass on, comments and questions on CBCs future plans from individuals. Just email me on email@example.com.
- Up to 5,000 key-worker homes have been mentioned for the area released adjoining Babraham Road, though there are no proposals at this stage. These may significantly reduce travel through Queen Edith’s as the Campus continues to expand, but are likely to prove controversial in some quarters.
- Given that life sciences is for the long-term good of mankind, should we put less weight on ecological preservation?
- As CBC continues to expand, citing the merits of creating “clusters” on a single site, one alternative to continued expansion would be to identify other local sites to develop life sciences. To what extent are the advantages of collaboration reduced by having locations in the same area rather than on the same site? And how far is the argument affected by changing work practices?
A further 17.1 hectares has been identified within and alongside the existing Babraham Research Campus (pp 109-10 of the Plan) to provide additional space for its research and development businesses to cluster and grow. This requires the removal of land from the Green Belt for the purposes of research and development only – further details of which are given on page 110. There is a hint in the proposal that an area currently in use for key worker and affordable housing might be renovated or replaced in future years.
The other large biomedical area, Genome Campus (pp 107 of the Plan), requires no further permissions to expand into the Green Belt and the Plan focuses on guidance for future development. It estimates that around 4,300 new jobs will be created by the expansion of the campus. The jobs will be accompanied by up to 1,500 new homes specifically for Campus workers, along with a new school, a nursery and community facilities, and public open spaces and allotments.
Other major employment developments
6.9ha of land adjoining Peterhouse Technology Park in Fulbourn Road East was allocated for employment use in the 2018 South Cambridgeshire Local Plan (p177). The policy, which is proposed to be carried forward, does not specify the type of employment that would be suitable.
The impact of this development is highlighted by the recent, currently unsuccessful, attempt by the giant life sciences property company BioMed Reality to locate to this site. The developers cited the potential for 2,700 jobs and proposed 1,362 parking spaces.
- What would be the impact on traffic into and out of Queen Edith’s Way and Cherry Hinton Road of such a development?
Fulbourn Road West (GB3 and GB4), identified in pp 103-6 of the 2018 Cambridge Local Plan, provides for 4.4ha of land for offices, research and development.
Across Fulbourn Road land from the Ida Darwin site to the Fulbourn Hospital site released by Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Mental Health Foundation Trust was originally earmarked in the 2018 South Cambridgeshire Local Plan (p140) for mixed development, delivering around 250 homes and an unspecified, but apparently quite low, number of jobs.
Cambridge East (pp 77-81 of the Plan) is the name given by the Plan to the current Marshall’s Airport site, which is expected to become available by 2030. The Plan projects 9,000 jobs that could be created on this land. Associated with this would be 7,000 homes, 2,900 of which would be built by 2041. The site would be linked to Marleigh, the housing development North of Newmarket Road. Planning Policy “will be looking to ensure that the site’s manufacturing legacy is not lost”.
This may be the development that ultimately has the greatest impact on Queen Edith’s unless there is realistic consideration of the transport infrastructure between Cambridge East / Marleigh (housing) and the CBC (employment). At present, we are told that delivery requires “Cambridge Eastern Access scheme Phase B” to be in place which will provide high quality public transport connections, with the amount of development that can come forward ahead of the scheme to be determined.
Smaller local sites for employment
The Plan identifies various areas already scheduled for development in the 2018 Local Plan on the eastern side of Cambridge:
- (pp59-60). S/AMC/Policy 21: Station Areas West and Clifton Road and S/AMC/Policy 16: South of Coldham’s Lane remain unchanged from Local Plan 2018. Development is expected to continue at (p 66) Eastern Gate, Mill Road and the Cambridge Railway Station / Hills Road Corridor to the City Centre.
- Two other locations have been identified as New Opportunity Areas (pp 62-5) –Newmarket Road Retail Park and the Beehive Centre. No specific plans are given, but The Plan states that “These do not make very good use of an expansive area of land in the heart of Cambridge. With changes in retailing and the increase in online shopping, these sites have the potential to provide a significant opportunity for reimagining this area close to the heart of Cambridge.” This section also refers to a possible draft plan for the Abbey Stadium. “Cambridge United Football Club is keen to improve its facilities to raise its profile as a commercial sporting enterprise. It could achieve this aim by either staying on site and securing enabling development on site alongside an enhanced stadium facility or by relocating elsewhere and redeveloping the existing site for new homes.
- Finally, there has been some further thinking on the Clifton Road Area where the Planning Department “will need to work with the landowners to gather evidence to have greater certainty that this site will be brought forward for development by 2041”.
Meanwhile, (p72) the following residential allocations are not proposed to be carried forward from the 2018 Plan – there is uncertainty for all of them regarding whether the sites will still come forward for residential uses by 2041:
- R7: The Paddocks, 347 Cherry Hinton Road which is “an active site of mixed commercial uses and in reviewing whether the allocation should be carried forward, it is considered more appropriate to retain the site for the existing uses, rather than it being redeveloped for residential uses.”
- R8: 149 Cherry Hinton Road & Telephone Exchange, Coleridge Road
- R11: Horizon Resource Centre, 285 Coldham’s Lane
- R14: BT Telephone Exchange and Car Park, Long Road
Most housing developments planned for 2020-41 with potential to affect Queen Edith’s have already been identified in the 2018 Local Plan and many have started work or have outline planning permission.
Map of projected housing
- Worts Causeway (GB1/2): 430 homes
- Fulbourn and Ida Darwin Hospitals: 250 – 275 homes
- North of Cherry Hinton: 1,200 homes
- Marleigh: 1,300 homes
- Sawston: 418 homes
- Clay Farm (Great Kneighton) and Trumpington Meadows are virtually complete though around 450 further homes are anticipated for completion before the start of the Plan.
- Cambridge East: 2,850 homes within a mixed-use district from 2030; eventually 7,000 homes and 9,000 jobs
- Great Shelford/Stapleford: 100 homes
The First Proposals also include the suggestion that locating homes close to existing and proposed jobs at the cluster of research parks to the south of Cambridge would help reduce commuting and associated carbon emissions and congestion.
The Plan includes a separate section on Infrastructure, much of which comprises aspirational principles covering a range of topics including:
Sustainable Transport and Connectivity
This is the subject of a separate consultation on “Making Connections”, which ends on 20 December.
Once Marshall’s operations cease, it is proposed to adopt the South Cambridgeshire Policy for aviation which seeks to ensure aviation development does not negatively impact the locality.
Infrastructure and Delivery
There is a clear statement that “We propose to only permit development if there is, or will be, sufficient infrastructure capacity to support and meet all the requirements arising from the new development, at the time when they are needed.” An Infrastructure Delivery Plan is being prepared to accompany the new Local Plan. This will identify the infrastructure that is needed, when it is needed, and how much it costs.
It will be essential to monitor this closely to ensure that it is strictly adhered to.
- Development proposals must provide gigabit capable connections, where available, to each premise.
- Major development proposals of 250 homes must carry out an assessment of whether the current mobile coverage and capacity is suitable for the proposed new development.
- Development proposals of 30 homes or 1,000m2 employment space must include suitable infrastructure that would support any future rollout of the latest small cell mobile communications technology.
- Premises and spaces where there are significant levels of use by members of the public will be encouraged to provide publicly accessible Wi-Fi.
The quantity and type of car parking provided at a development will be informed by the mix of land uses, location and accessibility of the development by walking, cycling and public transport, to ensure an appropriate level to accommodate local needs (including the need for disabled people parking) whilst avoiding a proliferation of car parking in locations with good accessibility.
The policy will require parking to be accommodated within the public realm to improve the quality of place, will encourage innovative and flexible solutions to reduce car parking in appropriate locations, such as through smart parking and the provision of car clubs and shared parking, including car barns on the edge of accessible larger developments, whilst avoiding displacement parking.
What methods are available to Planning Officers to avoid displacement parking?
“The Greater Cambridge Partnership are also preparing an Integrated Parking Strategy looking at the management of on- and off-street car parking as part of wider ambitions for achieving modal shift away from the private car. As part of place-making we need to make places where people want to move around by walking and cycling, so they are not car dominated, and where people access their destinations by public transport.”
Issue: Consideration of the needs of the clinically vulnerable appears to be limited in most discussions regarding public transport. For many with respiratory and compromised immune systems, public transport is not advisable.
Where car parking is provided, it is proposed that electric car charging points (minimum of 7kW) should be included at all developments at the following levels:
- Dwellings with private parking: 1 charge point per dwelling (100% active)
- Communal parking areas: 1 charge per parking space (50% active, 50% passive – i.e. activated when demand rises)
- Employment: 30% with active charge points, and 30% with passive.
- Retail: 20% of bays with active charge points, and 20% with passive.
There is no mention of supply of charging points for existing residents, particularly those whose homes have no parking space. This appears to be a serious omission.
Energy Infrastructure Master Planning
Work carried out to assess electricity grid capacity for Greater Cambridge has highlighted the need to triple capacity to support the development already planned in the area and electrification of transport.
This is welcome but would appear to be a significant underestimate of the needs. My own, informal, calculations suggest that Greater Cambridge will need to multiply capacity by ten over the period of the Plan.
- Based on data from WhatCar and taking the Hyundai Kona Electric 39kWh as “typical” with a range of 158 miles, gives a typical annual use of 2,500kWh. With an average of 1.2 cars per household, this rises to 3,000kWh.
- This will effectively double electricity consumption for the average household.
- Now allow for domestic gas conversion to electricity. The calculations are complex, but have thepotential to result in a 250% increase of electricity use.
- Cambridge is projected to grow by almost 50% over the time of the plan.
- This compound growth results in a factor of ten – and ignores the industrial and commercial use of energy and future growth beyond 2041…
There are further aspects that relate to the stability of supply (everyone will re-charge overnight) and the capacity delivered to individual homes (a 60amp supply delivers 14.4kW so a 7kW charger, a 3kW oven, 2.2 kW dishwasher and 2.5 kW kettle would blow a fuse!)
It is acknowledged that water supply is a major issue for the Plan.
“Many stakeholders raised concern that the maximum growth levels forecast could be undeliverable due to the issues with water supply across Greater Cambridge. It was acknowledged that delivery of the water infrastructure required to prevent further deterioration of local chalk aquifers was potentially a ‘deal-breaker’ within the timescales of the Local Plan.”
“If it is concluded that it is not possible to demonstrate an adequate supply of water without unacceptable environmental harm to support development ahead of strategic water infrastructure being in place, there may be a need for the plan to include policies to phase delivery of development. A ‘stepped’ housing requirement may need to be explored that would see development limited to levels that can be supported by a sustainable water supply until such time as the new strategic infrastructure is in place. Given the need to rely only on reasonable rates of delivery of homes and jobs, this could mean that it is not possible to demonstrate delivery of the full objectively assessed needs within the plan period.”
The wording of the second paragraph suggests that planners may attempt to fudge permissions and side with the developer. We need to keep a careful watch on this.
What to do
To let the planners have your thoughts on growth, here’s what you need to do:
- Go to the proposal’s ‘Greater Cambridge in 2041’ page here.
- Scroll down the page to near the bottom, until you get to the ‘tell us what you think’ section. Ignore the + button on its right, but click on the blue speech bubble on the left.
- Log in, or create an account and then log in.
- Then you can add your comments and/or upload a separately-written document.
Additionally, I recommend completing the Local Plan’s online questionnaire, where you can make similar points to those you’ve made above, but also comment briefly on many others.
These guides to commenting on the Local Plan First Proposals are provided by the individual authors. The Queen Edith’s Community Forum does not take any political stance on local issues. We welcome other guides on the same lines, written by local residents. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to write one.