Policy GP/PP: People and place responsive design

DRAFT version for various committee meetings.

We are currently testing our new digital plan platform - please provide us your feedback

What will this policy do?

This policy will set a strategic vision for achieving high quality design in Greater Cambridge for both urban and rural areas. This provides a clarity of expectation around understanding the context of development proposals – both in terms of impact on the place around them and the needs of users.

Proposed policy direction

The policy will require all applicants to demonstrate how their proposals sustain and enhance the unique qualities of the Greater Cambridge area and the subtleties in the different landscape and settlement forms. Greater Cambridge is a place of varied and subtle character, from the historic core of the City of Cambridge to emerging business clusters, the biodiverse fen landscapes to the north and rolling countryside to the south, the historic villages and new towns.  The policy will require all planning applications to include a comprehensive design and access statement that address this context.  Development proposals will be supported that:


Respond to Greater Cambridge’s communities by:

  • Identifying and responding positively to their context, including existing physical features and characteristics of natural, historic, social or local importance.
  • Ensuring that proposals meet the principles of inclusive and healthy design, and in particular meet the needs of disabled people, the elderly and those with young children.
  • Be designed to remove the threat or perceived threat of crime and improve community safety, especially those with protected characteristics under the Equality Act.
  • Using community engagement to inform design decisions.


Improve Greater Cambridge’s connectivity by:

  • Being well connected to, and integrated with, the immediate locality and wider area including existing or planned social, environmental, and transport infrastructure.


Support the climate emergency response by:

  • Being designed to be long lasting and low impact in delivery and maintenance.


Enhance the character of Greater Cambridge by:

  • Have a positive impact on their setting in terms of location on the site, height and skyline, scale and form, townscape and landscape impacts and available views, to create a legacy of beautiful buildings and spaces in Greater Cambridge
  • Use appropriate local characteristics to inform the siting, massing, scale, form, materials and landscape design of new development.
  • Tall building proposals must be of exceptional quality and ensure that the character or appearance of Cambridge, as a city of spires and towers emerging above the established tree line, is maintained.

Why is this policy needed?

The National Planning Policy Framework, was recently updated to emphasise the importance of good design, and states that, ‘The creation of high quality, beautiful and sustainable buildings and places is fundamental to what the planning and development process should achieve.’  Greater Cambridge has a strong track record of delivering well designed places with many award-winning schemes in Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire.  Since 2008, the core themes covering Community, Connectivity, Climate and Character set out in the Cambridgeshire Quality Charter for Growth, have been used to clearly identify the expected quality of new developments.

Aiming for design excellence is crucial for all types of development, whether building or open space, regardless of tenure, use or ownership. Innovative, high quality design must be realised to ensure new development that respects and integrates existing character, assets and settings, while also constituting high quality architecture. This is a key factor for successful placemaking as well as a key challenge.

Changes to the national planning policy have recently introduced a National Design Guide and National Model Design Code. Local planning authorities should prepare area-based character assessments, local design guides or codes, consistent with these and tailored to the circumstances of the local area following community involvement to reflect local character and design preferences. The Councils have a range of design guidance already in place, ranging from guidance on tall buildings and skyline included in the Cambridge Local Plan, the South Cambridgeshire District Design guide, to individual village designs guides. We will be considering how we update our guidance to reflect the new approaches introduced nationally.

To help meet this challenge, Greater Cambridge is establishing a Place and Design Quality Panel, formed from reviewing existing Design Review services at both Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Councils, to support its aspirations to raise design quality across the Local Plan area, and has conducted a site typologies study to understand, protect, utilise and enhance the valued characteristics of different areas in the plan. These should ensure that the key aspects and qualities of the built form and varying contexts across the Greater Cambridge.

What consultation have we done on this issue?

Some of the key feedback received during the First Conversation consultation included: 

  • that design is an important theme of the local plan 

  • ensuring that development is place specific and climate development. 

  • policies should allow imaginative and contemporary design 

  • recognising that the historic environment forms part of Great Places. 

  • consider issues like accessibility and connectivity 

  • apply the principles set out in the Cambridgeshire Quality Charter 

  • that we should not grant planning permission for poorly designed development. 

What alternatives did we consider?

No policy – Not considered a reasonable alternative due to requirement for plans to set out a clear design vision and provide clarity about design expectations.

Supporting evidence studies and topic papers

  • Greater Cambridge Local Plan: Topic paper 5: Great Places  

Existing policies in adopted 2018 Local Plans

South Cambridgeshire Local Plan 2018: 

  • Policy HQ/1: Design Principles  

Cambridge Local Plan 2018 

  • Policy 55: Responding to context 

  • Policy 56: Creating successful places 

Tell us what you think

Tell us what you think about this policy, by clicking on the comment point (purple speech bubble) to open the comment box and leave your feedback.