Policy H/HD: Housing density

DRAFT version for various committee meetings.

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What will this policy do?

This policy will ensure that land is used effectively when being developed for new housing.

Proposed policy direction

The policy will seek to deliver site specific appropriate net densities across Greater Cambridge, taking advantage of opportunities to deliver higher densities on sites with good accessibility subject to local character considerations.

We propose to apply a design-led approach to determine the optimum development capacity of sites in order to make the best use of land. A design-led approach to optimising site capacity requires consideration of design options to determine the most appropriate form of development that responds to a site’s context and capacity for growth, existing and planned supporting infrastructure, local character, and other local circumstances. We want to encourage higher densities in locations which are, or will be, highly accessible by walking, cycling and public transport.

Why is this policy needed?

National planning policy requires plans to support making efficient use of land. Land is a scare resource and should be used effectively and appropriately whilst being sensitive to local character.  It also highlights that city and town centres and other locations that are well served by public transport provide opportunities for higher densities, promoting sustainable travel modes that limit future car use. A design led approach, supported by site or area specific design codes provides the best opportunity to achieve these goals.

What consultation have we done on this issue?

The First Conversation demonstrated support for the principle of building to higher densities in Cambridge to achieve more sustainable development and meet demand for city living. Some considered that the approach to density should not be overly prescriptive, and should provide flexibility to respond to site opportunities. Others highlighted the importance of considering the importance of landscape and townscape, including the historic environment.

What alternatives did we consider?

1. Not including a density policy - Not considered a reasonable alternative because this would limit the scope to ensure land is used effectively.

2. Applying a blanket density across the whole plan area - Not considered a reasonable alternative as this does not reflect the range of settlements, and their differing characteristics, within Greater Cambridge. Including a higher density requirement for the whole of Greater Cambridge was discounted as this could encourage over-development.

3. Applying different target or guide density levels to different settlement categories in Greater Cambridge – not considered a reasonable alternative as within settlements, accessibility varies depending on location, and local conditions present a range of opportunities and constraints on site capacity. Well-designed places would not be delivered through application of density levels that do not take account of site characteristics.  

Supporting evidence studies and topic papers

  • Greater Cambridge Local Plan: Topic paper 7: Homes
  • National Design Guide and Model Design Code

Existing policies in adopted 2018 Local Plans

South Cambridgeshire Local Plan 2018

  • Policy H/8: Housing Density

Cambridge Local Plan 2018 - None

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