Policy BG/GI: Green infrastructure

DRAFT version for various committee meetings.

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Figure 54: Map of proposed strategic green infrastructure initiatives
Figure 54: Map of proposed strategic green infrastructure initiatives

What will this policy do?

This policy identifies the existing green infrastructure network and the strategic initiatives intended to enhance it and addresses how development proposals should relate to green infrastructure. Green infrastructure is the network of green spaces and routes, landscapes, biodiversity, water bodies and heritage, which provide a range of benefits for people, wildlife and the planet.

Proposed policy direction

The policy will require all development proposals – appropriate to its type, scale and location - to include green infrastructure, providing the following varied benefits for people, wildlife and planet:  

  • Reinforcing and enhancing landscape and townscape, ensuring that proposed green infrastructure is appropriate to its local context 

  • Supporting delivery of biodiversity net gain, including by providing links between habitats within and beyond the site boundary, and connecting where appropriate to the wider ecological network (see below), whilst carefully balancing the needs of wildlife and people 

  • Promoting healthy living for all members of the community by providing spaces designed to be physically accessible and socially inclusive. 

  • Protecting and enhancing the water environment 

  • Enhancing access and connectivity 

  • Providing environmental enhancement 

  • Supporting climate mitigation and adaptation 

To support successful delivery of green infrastructure, the policy will require proposals to demonstrate that green infrastructure has been planned: 

  • As an integral part of the development, so that it informs the overall development design, and so that natural features are retained in situ  

  • Across all phases of development 

  • To be successful for the lifetime of the development, including providing plans for management, maintenance and funding. 

Beyond setting out green infrastructure design principles as above, we are exploring whether this policy should require development to meet a green infrastructure standard such as Building with Nature. We would welcome your views on this topic, and will confirm the preferred approach at draft plan stage. 

The policy will also require development proposals to protect and enhance the wider green infrastructure network as follows: 

  • Require all new development to protect the existing green infrastructure assets, which will be identified on the policies map which will accompany the local plan 

  • Our Green Infrastructure Opportunity Mapping has identified a number of strategic green infrastructure initiatives which have the potential to enhance the existing network. This policy will require all new development to help deliver or contribute to support delivery of the green infrastructure strategic initiative objectives. Contributions will include the establishment, enhancement and the on-going management costs. 

The list of strategic green infrastructure initiatives includes the following: 

  • 1: Revitalising the chalk stream network 

  • 2: Cam Valley Corridor 

  • 2A: River Cam Corridor (North East Cambridge to Waterbeach) 

  • 2B: River Cam Corridor (through Cambridge City) 

  • 2C: River Cam Corridor (south of Cambridge City) 

  • 3: Gog Magog Hills and chalkland fringe 

  • 4: Enhancement of the eastern fens 

  • 5: The Great Ouse fenland arc 

  • 6: A 'Green Lung' for North Cambridge  

  • 7: West Cambridge GI buffer - Coton Corridor 

  • 8: Western gateway multifunctional GI corridor 

  • Dispersed initiatives:  

  • 9: Woodland expansion and resilience 

  • 10: Expanding Greater Cambridge's 'urban forest' 

  • 11: Pollinator corridors 

  • 12: Urban greening and 'de-paving' 

  • 13: Allotments and community gardening 

  • 14: Environmentally friendly farming 

You can find further information on the purpose and objectives of each of these schemes in the Greater Cambridge Green Infrastructure Opportunity Mapping Final Report (2021). 

Why is this policy needed?

National planning policy sets out that Local Plans should take a strategic approach to maintaining and enhancing networks of habitats - for wildlife - and green infrastructure – for people, recognising the wide range of benefits that such green spaces can provide.

This policy will require all development proposals to include green infrastructure to provide a range of benefits appropriate to its type, scale and location. Additional green infrastructure design principles are included in other policies in this Plan. Further to green infrastructure design principles, the policy identifies a number of principles relating to the planning process to ensure the successful delivery of green infrastructure.

Drawing on extensive engagement with partners and local groups, our Green infrastructure Opportunity Mapping Baseline Report identified the existing Greater Cambridge green infrastructure network – including nature conservation sites, and also other green spaces such as green spaces designated for heritage, Public Rights of Way and water spaces - and the opportunities and challenges the network faces.

Drawing together these opportunities, challenges, and existing and proposed projects in the area, including responses to the Call for Green Space sites, the Greater Cambridge Green Infrastructure Opportunity Mapping Final Report (2021) identifies fourteen area-specific and dispersed long term priority enhancements to this network – described as strategic initiatives - helping to provide the wide-ranging benefits that green infrastructure brings as noted above. Examples of initiatives supporting the Councils’ doubling nature ambitions include the enhancement of the Fens to the east of Cambridge and additional woodland planting in the Western Gateway close to Cambourne, while other initiatives are focused on providing green space for people to enjoy thereby relieving pressure on our nature sites, such as the proposed ‘Green Lung’ for North Cambridge, located between Northstowe, Waterbeach and the edge of Cambridge.

In developing these ideas we’ve talked with partners including Natural Cambridgeshire, the Wildlife Trust and Natural England, to ensure our initiatives complement and support existing projects such as Natural Cambridgeshire’s landscape scale green infrastructure areas, and the Cambridge Nature Network Priority Areas. The emerging Environment Bill requires the identification of Nature Recovery Networks at a regional level – an aim reflected in our OxCam Arc Environmental Principles - our nature-focused green infrastructure initiatives inform our view of our priority local ecological network as local components of this wider Network.

As our green infrastructure evidence sets out, delivering these initiatives will take time. There may be a range of projects that will help deliver each initiative, with different projects potentially being led by different organisations. Significant partnership working will be required to achieve each initiative; they will also require funding from a range of sources. Explicitly identifying these initiatives and their objectives in the Local Plan will not restrict development in the broad areas they cover. Instead, it will enable us to ensure that the design of development within these priority initiative areas contributes to delivering the initiatives’ long-term priorities.

Contributions secured for off-site net gain will allow us to invest in these projects. Open space contributions where space is not delivered on site could also be used.  As set out in BG/EO we are still developing these standards, and they will be consulted on at the draft plan stage.

What consultation have we done on this issue?

Feedback to the First Conversation consultation relevant to green infrastructure included stating that the Plan should protect existing green spaces and ensure that green space is provided on site. A number of responses stated that we should plan strategically for a green space network, connecting existing green spaces including opportunities crossing the boundary of Greater Cambridge. Comments highlighted that the Plan should help improve access to green space, including by providing significant new green spaces close to where people live, but also noted the importance of balancing public access with the need for undisturbed natural habitats.

What alternatives did we consider?

1. No Policy – Not considered a reasonable alternative as national planning policy requires plans to address Green Infrastructure.

2. Identify the green infrastructure strategic initiatives in a supplementary planning document rather than in the plan itself - This alternative is not the preferred approach, as it would not provide such strong support for the initiatives.

3. Restrict development within respective green infrastructure strategic initiative areas - Not considered a reasonable alternative as the strategic initiatives include very broad areas within which it would not be appropriate to restrict development.

4. Include an urban greening factor in the policy - This alternative is not the preferred approach, as we think that measurement of Biodiversity Net Gain and Urban Greening via a metric-based assessment systems would be likely to overlap, making it overly complex to run two of these concurrently. The Plan does though require urban greening measures (see BG/TC, CC/DC and CC/FM).

Supporting evidence studies and topic papers

  • Greater Cambridge Green Infrastructure Opportunity Mapping Final Report (2021) 

Existing policies in adopted 2018 Local Plans

South Cambridgeshire Local Plan 2018 

  • Policy NH/6: Green Infrastructure 

Cambridge Local Plan 2018 

  • Policy 8: Setting of the city 

  • Policy 19: West Cambridge Area of Major Change 

  • Policy 67: Protection of open space 

  • Policy 85: Infrastructure delivery, planning obligations and the Community Infrastructure Levy 

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