4.1 Designing for the climate emergency

Graphic showing proposed approach to mitigating and adapting to climate change in the Area Action Plan.

Figure 13: Design strategies for climate change adaptation and mitigation in North East Cambridge

This policy sets out the range of measures that should be an integral part of the design of new development proposals, in order to ensure that new development responds to the climate emergency. These measures will ensure that development in North East Cambridge addresses the twin challenges of climate change mitigation and adaptation, in a way that enhances the environmental and social sustainability of the development.

Carbon reduction targets

  • There was clear support for the setting of targets that reflected the climate emergency.
  • Decarbonisation of the grid should be considered, to ensure that the redevelopment of the area is not locked into the use of potentially higher emitting technologies over time.

How your comments and options have been taken into account

  • In light of our legal obligations the North East Cambridge Area Action Plan must place development on a clear pathway towards net zero carbon by 2050, giving consideration to all aspects of net zero carbon over which planning has influence.
  • Further work is being undertaken to identify what future targets would look like, building on carbon footprint and carbon budget work already undertaken for the area and considering the implications of government's Future Homes Standard on the framing of carbon reduction targets.

Wider approaches to climate change and sustainable design and construction

  • You generally supported the approach outlined for setting clear and measurable targets for sustainability, supporting an aspirational approach to sustainability with some calls for flexibility in how these aspirations were applied.
  • There were calls for us to increase the minimum standard for non-residential schemes from BREEAM 'Excellent', which is adopted policy for the rest of Cambridge and already achieved by schemes already under construction at North East Cambridge, to BREEAM 'Outstanding'.
  • Some supported the use of the BREEAM 'Communities' standard, while others felt that further work was needed to see if such a standard would secure effective outcomes for the Area Action Plan area.
  • You asked us to follow guidance from notable charities and NGO's such as the UK Green Building Council, who have developed a Framework for Net Zero in the Built Environment.
  • Many recognised the opportunities that the scale of development at the site presented in terms of energy and water.
  • You asked us to consider the embodied impacts of buildings and infrastructure as well as opportunities for the promotion of circular economy principles, embracing and supporting innovative smart-tech and infra-tech.

How your comments have been taken into account

  • The proposed policy carries forward many of the options previously consulted on, some of which the Councils are required by law to include in their Local Plans, through the Planning Act (2008). Other elements are supported by the National Planning Policy Framework, which, at paragraph 149, places a duty on local planning authorities to adopt "a proactive approach to mitigating and adapting to climate change, taking into account the long-term implications for flood risk, coastal change, water supply, biodiversity and landscapes, and the risk of overheating from rising temperatures".
  • The preferred policy will help to ensure that development at North East Cambridge mitigates its climate impacts in terms of reducing emissions, as well as ensuring that the site is capable of adapting to our future climate.
  • In terms of construction standards for new non-residential development, as per the option outlined in the 2019 Issues and Options consultation, BREEAM 'Excellent' is recommended as the minimum construction rating. BREEAM 'Outstanding' represents innovation, with less than 1% of the UK's new non-domestic floorspace achieving this standard. It is not the Building Research Establishment's (BRE) intent for 'Outstanding' to be applied to all schemes, but to remain an indicator of innovation. BREEAM 'Excellent' represents best practice, being equivalent to the performance of the top 10% of UK new non-domestic floorspace, while a basic rating of BREEAM 'pass' represents standard practice. We therefore consider that BREEAM 'Excellent' should be the baseline standard for North East Cambridge, but that policy should include an ambition for schemes to target BREEAM 'Outstanding', in keeping with the vision of the site being a place for innovative living and working. This would build on the approach being taken on other sites in Cambridge, for example at the University of Cambridge's West Cambridge site.
  • While the focus of policy is on BREEAM certification, the policy is supportive of alternative sustainable construction standards for both non-residential and residential development, for example, the Passivhaus standard.

Policy 2: Designing for the climate emergency

The principles of sustainable design and construction must be clearly integrated into the design of North East Cambridge. All development proposals shall be accompanied by a Sustainability Statement as part of the Design and Access Statement, demonstrating how their proposal meets the following requirements:

  1. Construction standards
  2. All new major non-residential floorspace, including mixed-use buildings, shall achieve BREEAM 'Excellent' as a minimum. Proposals that seek to exceed this minimum requirement, for example through achievement of BREEAM 'Outstanding', will be encouraged and supported.

    Proposals that seek to use the BREEAM Communities standard or other internationally recognised communities' standards, such as the One Planet Living Framework will be supported. Alternative construction methodologies, for example Passivhaus, will be supported subject to early engagement with the Councils to agree the approach.

  3. Adaptation to climate change
  4. Development must be climate-proofed to a range of climate risks, including flood risk (see Policy 4C and Policy 25: Environmental Protection), overheating and water availability. In order to minimise the risk of overheating, all development must apply the cooling hierarchy as follows:

    1. Reducing internal heat generation through energy-efficient design;
    2. Reducing the amount of heat entering a building in summer through measures such as orientation, shading, albedo, fenestration, insulation, green roofs and cool materials. All flat roofs must contain an element of green roof provision;
    3. Managing heat within the building, e.g. through use of thermal mass and consideration of window sizes;
    4. Passive ventilation;
    5. Mechanical ventilation;
    6. Only then considering cooling systems (using low carbon options).

    Overheating analysis must be undertaken using the latest CIBSE overheating standards (CIBSE TM52 and TM59 or successor documents) and include consideration of future climate scenarios using 2050 Prometheus weather data. Consideration shall be given to external environmental constraints, such as noise and local air quality, which will influence the design of certain approaches, for example natural ventilation. The interdependence of provisions for acoustics / noise, indoor air quality (ventilation) and controlling overheating is an important consideration when designing a building to provide suitable indoor environmental quality (IEQ).

  5. Carbon reduction
  6. Development at North East Cambridge must support the transition to a net zero carbon society.

    Development must minimise carbon emissions associated with operational energy and construction, including materials, as well as wider emissions, for example those associated with transport. Development must be supported by decentralised renewable and low carbon energy combined with smart approaches to energy infrastructure including energy storage (see Policy 3: Energy and associated infrastructure).

    The Councils will require an Assured Performance Certification in order to address the performance gap between 'as designed' performance and 'as built' performance.

  7. Water management
  8. Refer to Policy 4a: Water efficiency, Policy 4b: Water quality and ensuring supply, and Policy 4c: Flood Risk and Sustainable Drainage.

  9. Site waste management
  10. Development must be designed to reduce construction waste, integrate the principles of Design for Deconstruction, and address the requirements of the RECAP Waste Management Design Guide.

  11. Use of materials
  12. All major new development must take into consideration the embodied carbon associated with materials using the RICS Whole Life Carbon approach or successor documents. Development must be designed to maximise resource efficiency and identify, source and use environmentally and socially responsible materials, giving consideration to circular economy principles and design for deconstruction.

  13. Futureproofing
  14. Proposals must be futureproofed to enable future occupiers to easily retrofit or upgrade buildings and/or infrastructure in the future to enable achievement of net zero carbon development.

Relevant objectives: 1

Development at North East Cambridge will take place over 25 years and, as such, will take place alongside the UK's transition to a net zero carbon society by 2050, in line with the requirements of the Climate Change Act 2008. For this to be achieved, a holistic approach to sustainable development and reducing the environmental impact of development must be embedded within all development proposals from the outset. This almost always leads to a better design and lower lifetime costs, as options are greater at an early stage and there is more scope to identify options that achieve multiple aims. The proposed policy builds upon the requirements set out in the adopted 2018 Local Plans, and further guidance on implementation is contained within the Greater Cambridge Sustainable Design and Construction Supplementary Planning Document.

Carbon reduction targets

With regards to standards for carbon reduction, footnote 48 of the National Planning Policy Framework requires planning policies to be in line with the objectives and provisions of the Climate Change Act 2008. While it is noted that national planning policy currently seeks to restrict carbon reduction standards to a 19% improvement on current 2013 Building Regulations, this is not in line with the objectives and provisions of the Climate Change Act, which require net zero carbon by 2050. For us to achieve this legally binding target, urgent action is needed to address the carbon emissions associated with new development, and the planning system has a clear role to play in this, in line with the requirements of Section 182 of the Planning Act (2008).

Local Plans are required by planning and environmental legislation to contribute proactively to meeting national and international climate commitments, notably section 19(1A) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (PCPA). It is only by setting local carbon reduction targets by reference to wider national and international targets – and demonstrating proposed policies' consistency with local targets – that it is possible to establish and track an area's contribution to the mitigation of climate change (and for policies to be "designed to secure" that local land use and development mitigates climate change). In this sense, section 19(1A) makes emissions reduction a central, organising principle of plan-making. Further work to inform the development of a carbon reduction target for Greater Cambridge is currently being undertaken, and this will inform the preparation of specific targets.

Standards for sustainable design and construction

Sustainable design and construction is concerned with the implementation of sustainable development in individual sites and buildings. It takes account of the resources used in construction, and of the environmental, social and economic impacts of the construction process and how buildings are designed and used. While the choice of sustainability measures and how they are implemented may vary substantially between developments, the general principles of sustainable design and construction should be applied to all scales of development.

Nationally described sustainable construction standards have been developed for new non-residential and mixed-use development, utilising the BREEAM methodology. While this requirement does not apply to minor development, such developments should still demonstrate how the principles of sustainable design and construction have been integrated into their design through the submission of a Sustainability Statement. The Councils will be supportive of innovative approaches to meeting and exceeding the standards set out in policy and are supportive of alternative approaches to the BREEAM methodology, subject to early discussion as part of the pre-application process. Standards such as Passivhaus, the WELL Standard, the One Planet Living Framework and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) could be utilised. The Councils would also be supportive of the construction standards for residential development at the site, for example the Home Quality Mark or Passivhaus. There is an aspiration in policy to see buildings on the North East Cambridge site delivered to the BREEAM 'Outstanding' standard.

The above requirements will be viability tested to inform the next version of the Area Action Plan.

  • An increase in the number of non-residential completions delivered at BREEAM 'Excellent'/'Outstanding' with maximum credits for water consumption.

Cambridge Local Plan 2018

  • Policy 28: Carbon reduction, community energy networks, sustainable design and construction and water use

South Cambridgeshire Local Plan 2018

  • Policy CC/1: Mitigation and adaptation to climate change
  • Policy CC/3: Renewable and low carbon energy generation in new developments
  • Policy CC/4: Water efficiency
  • Policy CC/6: Construction methods


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