There are many challenges to realising the vision, strategic objectives and spatial framework for North East Cambridge, from managing existing noise, air quality and highway capacity constraints to overcoming social and physical barriers. Significant structural changes are required to the layout of existing land uses, with a number of large-scale operations needing to be relocated, reconfigured, or bridged over or under. It will also require early delivery of infrastructure to unlock the development potential of the area and to begin the transition to a high quality new mixed-use district.
With multiple landowners, development will be phased on different sites concurrently across North East Cambridge over the next 20 years. There are clear benefits of joint working and cross stakeholder engagement that ensure key planning issues are considered and, where possible, resolved jointly by all relevant parties prior to the submission of planning applications, including the timing of required strategic infrastructure.
At the same time, it is important that existing businesses can continue to successfully operate, the establishment of new communities is supported and managed, the benefits of the development for the surrounding communities are realised, and economic cycles, changes in technology and climate change are planned for in a positive way.
A comprehensive and coordinated approach to the development of land and the delivery of area-wide interventions, infrastructure provision, and management regimes between sites and over the area as whole, is the only means by which to enable new development to come forward and to optimise the development opportunity of North East Cambridge, in terms of densities, delivery rates, levels of affordable housing, social change, and better place-making.
- There was broad support to require the masterplanning of sites within the Area Action Plan. Several respondents commented how this would facilitate the consideration of more innovative solutions for delivering local decentralised energy generation and supply, achieving low carbon development, and providing integrated water management. It was also considered that this approach would assist in implementing smart-tech and managing area-wide issues such as the requirement for high-volume cycle storage and the setting of design standards.
- Some of the landowners raised potential difficulties with providing decentralised energy in practice, highlighting both technical and feasibility reasons. They requested that any such policy requirement be flexibly applied.
- We had also asked whether the Area Action Plan should prioritise land that could feasibly be developed early and whether there were any risks associated with this approach. Responses were mixed. Some suggested early delivery was critical to providing confidence in the deliverability of the Area Action Plan and supporting the early delivery of infrastructure. Others felt this could result in isolated developments within inadequate amenities across the area to serve the occupants. One respondent suggested that no sites should be prioritised until such time as the Waste Water Treatment Plant had been relocated.
How your comments and options have been taken into account
- The preferred policy sets out a comprehensive and coordinated approach to the development of land at North East Cambridge that enables the consideration of more innovative approaches to the management of energy and water needs at a district wide and site masterplan level. Equally, the policy allows for the feasibility and viability assessment of implementing alternative options or management regimes, overcoming the concerns of some landowners.
- This option is also preferable to the reasonable alternative – enable development plots to come forward without the benefit of a site-wide masterplan. Whilst incremental schemes might be more easily delivered, the constraints posed by site boundaries, neighbouring development or uses, and strategic infrastructure all have potentially limiting consequences for scale, layout and viability. Across North East Cambridge as a whole, such consequences could depress the efficient use of land, the proper planning of development (in terms of layout, design, use, etc.) and the ability of development to support the creation of coherent neighbourhoods and the provision of social and physical infrastructure.
- With respect to prioritising land for early delivery, it is important to have regard to the purpose of the Area Action Plan, which is to ensure that the scale of change planned for North East Cambridge is guided by policies that meet the aspirations that the local community, landowners and the Councils have for the area as a whole, as well as the places within it. The Area Action Plan is therefore not just about providing for new development and physical growth, but also the regeneration and realisation of the social benefits and improvements that new development can help deliver to the overall quality of place. The Councils preferred option is not to prioritise land for early delivery but rather to prioritise the delivery of key developments within the Plan's timeframe that are critical to the success of delivering the vision for North East Cambridge.
Policy 23: Comprehensive and Coordinated Development
Planning applications for major development within the North East Cambridge Area Action Plan area will be supported where:
- The proposal demonstrates the development will make an appropriate and proportionate contribution to site wide infrastructure, such as road and rail crossings, and open space provision, to be secured through the use of planning contributions in accordance with Policy 27;
The proposal is supported by a comprehensive masterplan - accompanied as necessary by parameter plans in relation to layout, scale, appearance, access and landscaping - that accords with the overarching Area Action Plan Spatial Framework and other Area Action Plan policies, including, where appropriate:
- The ability to connect and contribute to Area Action Plan-wide utilities and communications grids; and
- The setting aside of land for strategic and site-specific infrastructure provision;
Through the masterplan, applications should demonstrate how the proposal:
- Contributes proportionally to the achievement of the vision and strategic objectives for North East Cambridge and the creation of place;
- Integrates, connects and complements successfully with the existing and proposed surrounding context, including areas beyond the boundary of North East Cambridge, and supporting the timely delivery and optimised approach to the phasing of development across North East Cambridge;
- Is landscape-led with respect to layout and access and design-led with respect to capacity, scale and form;
- Will achieve and secure the required modal shift in accordance with the North East Cambridge Transport Study and Policy 22: Managing motorised vehicles, including the management of vehicle numbers, movements, servicing and parking, including throughout the construction phase of delivering the masterplan;
- Responds to the impacts of climate change;
- Contributes to biodiversity net gain;
- Successfully mitigates environmental constraints; and
- Where relevant, has regard to the existing site circumstances, including the existing character, neighbouring uses and constraints; implementing the Agent of Change principle to ensure the ongoing functioning and amenity of existing uses is not materially affected.
- The proposal accords with the relevant policies contained in this Area Action Plan or the adopted Local Plan(s);
- In instances where the infrastructure provision is to be phased, either strategic or site-specific, an approved phasing strategy is in place; and
- The application is supported by a Statement of Community Involvement detailing the engagement with the Councils, surrounding landowners, occupiers and the local community on both the masterplan, phasing strategy, and development proposal.
Relevant objectives: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
The above policy recognises that land within North East Cambridge is in various ownerships and use and that, while redevelopment of strategic sites is likely to come forward on a plot-by-plot basis, a site wide approach is required to provide an integrated, well laid out, comprehensive development whilst enabling, without constraint or prejudice, each parcel to be developed separately over time.
The uses to be included within a proposed development, and their arrangement and design within the site, need to be the subject of a comprehensive masterplan exercise, that has engaged neighbouring occupiers and other potentially impacted parties, to ensure the mix of uses proposed would be compatible with each other and those on adjoining sites, and that together they deliver on the strategic objectives for the North East Cambridge Area Action Plan.
A comprehensive masterplan approach to sites also provides a mechanism for effective early stakeholder and local community engagement, aiding in gaining community ownership of proposals and, crucially, ensuring phased delivery of development and infrastructure is properly coordinated, distributed and timed across individual parcels.
- North East Cambridge Landscape Character & Visual Impact Appraisal (2020)
- North East Cambridge Transport Assessment (2019)
- Cultural Placemaking Strategy (2020)
- Innovation District Paper (2020)
- Typologies and Development Capacity Assessment (2020)
- North East Cambridge Stakeholder Design Workshops 1-6 – event records (2019-2020)
- National Planning Policy Framework (2019)
- MHCLG (2019) National Design Guide, Planning practice guidance for beautiful, enduring and successful places
- All strategic development sites within the Area Action Plan have approved masterplans
- Policy 14: Areas of Major Change and Opportunity Areas – general principles
- Policy 15: Cambridge Northern Fringe East and new railway Station Area of Major Change
- Policy SS/4: Cambridge Northern Fringe East and Cambridge North railway station