5.1 Distinctive design for North East Cambridge


North East Cambridge should build on the legacy of Cambridge's distinctive heritage and characterful new developments which contribute to the unique identity of the city. The design of genuinely mixed-use buildings, streets and open spaces must come together to create a place that is distinctive, and which is enduring, adaptable and functional. This policy sets out the expectations for the design of buildings and spaces in North East Cambridge, and the clear benchmark for quality that is expected.

Distinctive design for North East Cambridge

  • There was overall support for the creation of a higher density, mixed use residential led development to the east side of Milton Road and the benefits of providing homes and employment near each other, supported by good sustainable transport options and well-designed streets and spaces, was highlighted.

Design of mixed use buildings

  • A number of respondents raised the need to ensure that the operational needs of existing businesses are well considered in planning the new district. This will be a crucial consideration and the land use planning should result in a place that limits noise in proposed and existing residential areas whilst successfully accommodating existing businesses, albeit in potentially revised locations and more land efficient forms.

How your comments and options have been taken into account

  • The proposed policy establishes a clear expectation that North East Cambridge will take a placemaking approach to development that will result in a distinctive and high-quality district that feels like Cambridge and is well connected to its hinterland.
  • This policy makes clear the need to avoid mixing 'bad neighbour' uses and to ensure that businesses can function effectively and residents can live without disturbance. Such an ambition addresses concerns about the impact of existing and future businesses on existing and future residents whilst understanding and safeguarding operational needs.
  • The policy secures the need to think about horizontal and vertical mixed-use buildings to create the best use of the land available and to encourage innovation. Externalising active uses as part of this approach will help to ensure active and lively streets that link in with the requirements of Policy 7: Legible streets and spaces and Figure 19 that cover the design and location of key routes and spaces within North East Cambridge.

Policy 6a: Distinctive design for North East Cambridge

Development in North East Cambridge will be expected to provide distinctive, high-quality and contemporary design and architecture that responds to and positively contributes to Cambridge's heritage and townscape qualities. Applications will need to demonstrate how they have had regard to the unique characteristics of Cambridge and Cambridgeshire, and the particular challenges of higher density development, in how they have developed their proposals. Proposals must:

  1. Provide a comprehensive design approach that achieves the successful integration of buildings, the routes and spaces between buildings, topography and landscape;
  2. Create buildings, streets and spaces that will have a positive impact on their setting in terms of location on the site, height, scale and form, materials and detailing, ground floor activity, wider townscape and landscape impacts and available views;
  3. Ensure that buildings are orientated to provide natural surveillance and create active edges onto public space by locating appropriate uses, frequent entrances and windows into habitable rooms at ground floor level, to create activity and visual interest along the street;
  4. Create clearly defined public and private amenity spaces that are designed to be inclusive, usable, safe and enjoyable, and are designed to remove the threat or perceived threat of crime and improve community safety;
  5. Use high quality and well detailed materials for buildings, streets and spaces and other landscaped areas;
  6. Create buildings that will contribute to creating a diverse, fine grain and human scale streetscape, and
  7. Ensure that functional design elements (refuse storage, bicycle parking, etc.) are resolved in well-designed and integrated ways.

All major development proposals are strongly encouraged to formally engage with the Cambridgeshire Quality Panel at the pre-application stage.

Policy 6b: Design of mixed-use buildings

Design of vertically and horizontally mixed-use development proposals must:

  1. Ensure that future adaptation and flexibility is considered in the design and construction of new buildings within the district centre and sub centres;
  2. Avoid mixing incompatible uses that could impact on amenity of residents and occupiers in the same or adjacent blocks;
  3. Ensure that the form, architectural design and layout clearly articulate the intended uses within a development;
  4. Ensure businesses can function effectively and residents can live without disturbance through layout, access, servicing and delivery arrangements; 
  5. Maximise opportunities to create active ground floor uses to diversify and activate streets and spaces.

Relevant objectives: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

North East Cambridge will create a new city district for Cambridge that includes a significant number of new homes with the facilities and other infrastructure needed to support them, alongside intensification of business and industrial uses. A design-led approach to placemaking is needed to maximise the opportunities of the site, and to successfully integrate it into the surrounding existing residential and business areas to create a cohesive community.

Well-planned buildings, streets and spaces are fundamental to the creation of high-quality development at North East Cambridge. Paragraph 124 of the National Planning Policy Framework sets out the Government's policy position on planning expectations with regards good design: 'The creation of high quality buildings and places is fundamental to what the planning and development process should achieve. Good design is a key aspect of sustainable development, creates better places in which to live and work and helps make development acceptable to communities'.

Cambridge has a strong track record of delivering design excellence, with numerous award-winning developments including Accordia, Great Kneighton and Eddington built as part of its growth agenda in recent years, as well as individual buildings and smaller developments such as the Central Cambridge Mosque. Given the projected build-out time at North East Cambridge, it is important that a clear set of design policies is put in place to ensure that the new district adds to the positive qualities associated with Cambridge as a city, and develops a coherent sense of identity with shared design values embedded in every phase.

This requires a holistic approach taken to the design of buildings, streets and landscape to ensure that these elements integrate well with each other to create a place that is distinctive, and which is enduring, adaptable and functional. The Council will lead on the production of a site wide design code for the North East Cambridge area that will require input from the various landowners and their design teams. The Design Code will be adopted as a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD). It is intended to encourage design innovation whilst ensuring that together all future developments across North East Cambridge contribute to a coherent sense of place, rich and subtle in variation.

Understanding that development needs to be at a human scale is important in defining the kind of place North East Cambridge should be. Well-articulated roof forms and fine grain plot-based architecture will be needed to provide flexibility of forms, accommodate a variety of uses and users and create a visually rich and welcoming place.

Creating high quality places with well-designed buildings, streets and spaces will encourage more cohesive communities that reduce crime and the fear of crime along with antisocial behaviour. Public and private spaces should be clearly defined in terms of ownership, have good natural surveillance and be well managed. Such an approach will have a positive impact on the perceived safety and well-being of those working, living and visiting North East Cambridge. The creation of gated developments that limit social cohesion and integration will not be supported. Other aspects such as the appropriateness of materials and finishes and ongoing maintenance will determine how attractive, well-used and successful places will be in the future.

Mixed use development

Mixed use development will strengthen the character of North East Cambridge and help make most efficient use of the land available, while supporting a varied range of businesses. They require creative approaches to the design, delivery, construction and future management of a variety of uses within the new city district.

Embedding mixed use approaches within individual buildings, ensuring that they incorporate flexibility and consider future reuse and adaptation, along with diversifying blocks, will help to create a place that can change over time and which promotes activity beyond the traditional 9 to 5. It also means that more intensive use can be made of some facilities with 'extend use' models employed to allow community use. The mixing of uses can happen both horizontally (floor by floor) and vertically (adjacent buildings) as well as utilising flexible forms to allow change of activities throughout the day.

Higher density development creates challenges in how different uses can operate in close proximity to each other within buildings, adjacent plots or blocks. Innovative forms of building will be needed to make the best use of the land available and development proposals will need to demonstrate that the future amenity of residents, occupiers and other sensitive uses or spaces can be safeguarded (see Policy 25: Environmental Protection).

  • Number of awards (shortlisted, finalist, winner) received
  • Positive recommendations made to Planning Committee
  • Floorspace approved

Cambridge Local Plan 2018

  • Policy 15: Cambridge Northern Fringe East and new railway Station Area of major Change
  • Policy 34: Light pollution control
  • Policy 35: Protection of human health and quality of life from noise and vibration
  • Policy 37: Cambridge Airport Public Safety Zone and Air Safeguarding Zones
  • Policy 40: Development and expansion of business space
  • Policy 50: Residential space standards
  • Policy 51: Accessible homes
  • Policy 55: Responding to context
  • Policy 56: Creating successful places
  • Policy 57: Designing new buildings
  • Policy 59: Designing landscape and the public realm
  • Policy 60: Tall buildings and the skyline of Cambridge
  • Policy 65: Visual pollution
  • Policy 67: Protection of open space
  • Policy 68: Open space and recreation provision through new development
  • Policy 69: Protection of sites of biodiversity and geodiversity importance
  • Policy 70: Protection of priority species and habitats
  • Policy 71: Trees
  • Policy 80: Supporting sustainable access to development
  • Appendix F: Tall Buildings and the Skyline
  • Appendix I: Open Spaces and Recreation Standards

South Cambridgeshire Local Plan 2018

  • SS/4: Cambridge Northern Fringe East and Cambridge North railway station
  • HQ/1: Design Principles
  • NH/2: Protecting and Enhancing Landscape Character
  • NH/4: Biodiversity
  • NH/5: Sites of Biodiversity or Geological Importance
  • NH/6: Green Infrastructure
  • NH/8: Mitigating the Impact of Development in and adjoining the Green Belt
  • NH/14: Heritage Assets
  • H/8: Housing Density
  • H/12: Residential Space Standards
  • H/18: Working at Home
  • SC/1: Allocation for Open Space
  • TI/1: Chesterton Rail Station and Interchange
  • TI/4: Rail Freight and Interchanges
  • TI/6: Cambridge Airport Public Safety Zone
  • TI/8: Infrastructure and New Developments
  • TI/9: Education facilities

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