North East Cambridge Community Forum - 10 March 2021

Where: Virtual meeting - Zoom 

Attendance: Approximately 120 people 

Note: For those with accessibility needs, please be reminded that YouTube has a "captions" feature that can be enabled when the embedded videos are watched on their platform. 

Questions from the meeting follow after the videos. 

Welcome - Debbie Kaye, Head of Community Services, Cambridge City Council

Stephen Kelly - Joint Director of Planning and Economic Development, Greater Cambridge Shared Planning

 Hana Loftus - Engagement and Communications Lead, Greater Cambridge Shared Planning 

Fiona Bryant - Strategic Director, Cambridge City Council 

 

Karen Barclay - Head of Cambridge Waste Water Treatment Plant Relocation Programme

Sally Roden - Neighbourhood Community Development Manager, Cambridge City Council 

Live Q&A and Close

Summarised questions from the Q&A

Please note - There were over 70 questions posted on the night as well as via email. We have not published each question but looked to group answers into categories where there were duplicates. 

AAP stands for "Area Action Plan" and is a form of planning framework that sets out what can be developed, where it can be developed and how it can be developed in each geographical area. It has equivalent weight to the Local Plan and therefore has a very significant role to play, with all the planning applications that come forward having to demonstrate that they are in conformity with the planning policies in the AAP.

The Local Authority is aware that surveys have been undertaken to look for amphibians and bats, but planning permission was not needed to remove those trees. Any breach of a planning condition for the work undertaken on Network Rail land will be looked in to. We are conscious of the concerns that have been raised and we are looking into that.

The question about whether that is a good use of money is for the government to decide. In terms of the economic regeneration opportunity that it unlocks and the homes and the jobs that the project will bring, especially in a post Covid environment, it is projects such as this that are going to play a really important role, economically, in terms of helping us recover from this pandemic.

The government have given this funding to accelerate homes in an area of high demand and I think if we did consolidate on the site, and that was technically feasible, then obviously the opportunity and the business case for funding just would not add up. Also, from a perspective of feasibility, because there is not an operational need to move, Anglian Water are not funded for from our usual regulatory routes to be able to consolidate on site. Therefore, ultimately, I think the project would fall away in its entirety.

There is an emerging cultural and creative strategy requirement across the area and that sort of, cultural and creative space, on the core site and across the AAP area, will be highlighting the emerging needs via the strategy.  Some of the work, at this stage of the process is to identify what the community infrastructure requirements may well be. This includes the educational requirements and the expectation that the education investment to support the communities, includes those multi community access agreements to make the very best use of the new spaces that are created.  As elements of the plan are refined, such as the housing mix, there will become greater clarity in terms of delivery of some forms of community infrastructure because that process is obviously relatively fluid in some areas including education. We would expect to be able to identify more clearly what the requirements are associated with each phase and each specific project within the area action plan. The objective and ambition is to create a place in which people can enjoy and live vibrant lives and inclusive lives with all the amenities that you expect from living in a city like Cambridge.  It is important to understand what can be delivered on this site what the surrounding community infrastructure and facilities can also provide and how they can link together to the city centre and outwards into the countryside.

The progress on the Milton Rd scheme is something the County Council are keen to drive forward as quickly as possible. From a transport perspective we do recognise that to harness the growth of this area we really need to create a significant behavioural shift which is about connecting the site with attractive public transport links, allowing excellent permutation through the area, crossing of the A10 and walking and cycling connections to the surrounding area.  The evidence-base sets that out that in terms of what would need to be provided and with a view to subsequently delivering that in advance of the development. There is a need to balance the current situation but also anticipate needs well into the future and the aim is to get to net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050 is when the government has committed to achieving net zero. There is also a need to start to look at things such as electric cars and mobility as a service, maybe not owning a car but renting a car when needed using a car club.  The use and charging of electric vehicles is also an important factor for the plans.

Whilst the approach is about reducing the number of car trips in and around the area, it is not about prohibiting the car altogether it is about making the car, perhaps, not the most attractive option for everybody because they will have a much safer and more accessible network of other alternatives.  Blue badge parking would be provided on street so if you have specific needs that is a different matter which would be accommodated, it is just trying to reduce the number of cars that are outside on the street and therefore making active and sustainable travel the easiest and most natural choice.  The aim is also at making life easier, so last mile delivery and hubs where residential deliveries can be collected or delivered to homes by different means which do not involve motorised traffic.

Open space is one of the key things brought up during the consultation. The adopted Cambridge City Local Plan standard is 2.2 hectares per thousand people but that is just for informal open space. There's also children's play provision and allotments and food growing areas as well.  Work is underway to maximise the potential to provide this within buildings and blocks as well, so residents’ courtyards and rooftop gardens will be a consideration. The aim is for real quality, multi-functional, spaces that can be used throughout the year for a range of activities, or different sports, and spaces that are multi-generational.   The spaces should not just be for those who are fit and healthy but can cater for a full range of ability and ages. There are a range of open spaces existing within the AAP area that ought to be taken into consideration and enhanced.

This, and the other growth community forums, are intended not to duplicate or cut across existing democratic processes e.g., Area Committees, Parish Council meetings and Council Committee meetings.  Instead, they aim to engender a wider and less formal interaction and when held in community settings, have included a period before the presentations whereby all attending can mingle and ask questions of representatives (developers, Councillors, Council officers etc) in front of displays and maps.

The Planning Authority and developers are working really closely with the housing teams for Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire Councils, so that we understand the need as it exists at this moment in time but also the projected need for future years.  There are a range of views about whether there is a continued housing need for the area post Covid.  In those areas and those sectors where we know that Cambridge has been really successful, we're also looking at trying to understand what the need is in those sectors so that if the area continues to grow we can identify and provide the right housing solution for those people so that they don't add to the pressure on existing homes and housing supply for local people.  It is also imperative that we don't end up with a mismatch of the wrong types of homes that either remain empty or get disposed of for buy-to-let which don't contribute positively to the place and the communities which lead to patterns of commuting that adds to the carbon footprint and leads to the erosion of our objectives around net zero carbon.

In the site that we have chosen, it is quite favourable from the gravity perspective and in reality would require less pumping, but obviously the network in the catchment that we serve at the moment has varying degrees of where gravity helps us or not.  The original site that was chosen, for the existing site now, means that the additional run-off flows coming gravity fed and one of the advantages of the site that we have selected is that gravity will be a friend in that. Of course, it is a large catchment area that the existing site in the new facility would serve and there is a degree of pumping that's required to make sure that the flow reached the plant efficiently and also so that they move through the system and through the catchment in a really effective way, because the slower the sewage in the pipes obviously issues around septicity and everything can be created.  It is something that we are looking at as well as part of the relocation and its network and how the flows come in.  It is imperative that when the flows arrive at the new facility they arrived there as swiftly as possible without any septic issues.

 

Unanswered questions 

Environment

The draft Area Action Plan does not rely on Milton Country Park and does include increasing access to Chesterton Fen and other improvements there. You can read more about the proposals that were in the consultation draft of the AAP on the Biodiversity policy page.

The WtW relocation is subject to a separate process. The AAP will not consider the impacts of the relocation of the WtW as part of the AAP process – but assumes that the relocation to another site will take place. The existing local plan does not assume that any of Greater Cambridge’s future housing need is met from this site. As the Councils consider the spatial options available to meet the housing and employment needs identified for the next Local Plan, the role of this site and its relative benefits compared with any other option will be considered through the Local Plan process. That process includes Strategic Environmental Assessment which will look at the cumulative effects of any proposed policy choice for meeting that need and will consider how it compares, for example, with the development of other options that might deliver the same outcomes for homes, jobs etc. 

Anglian Water’s site selection process carefully considered SSSI sites and applied buffers to ensure there are no impacts.  Stow-cum-Quy-Fen SSSI is approximately 1.2km from the boundary of the site area. Anglian Water are working with Natural England in relation to ensuring there are no impacts and are also in dialogue with National Trust to develop opportunities for enhancement within the Wicken Fen Vision area.

Strategic Environmental Assessment is an integral part of the local Plan process. The Process for examining the WtW relocation will also include consideration of the case for development in the green belt. An Environmental Impact Assessment will also form part of the WtW application.

 

100% sustainability is difficult to define and therefore to guarantee. The draft Area Action Plan for North East Cambridge aims for ambitious carbon reduction, water reduction and biodiversity measures – and when adopted the AAP will become the planning framework of policies against which new developments coming forward will be assessed. You can read more about the proposed policies in the Climate Change section of the draft AAP.

The City Council/Anglian Water site is only one site within the new city district. At this stage for the Core site it would not be possible to make guarantees, as there are a wide number of factors that go into any development which may impact on sustainability including site constraints, orientation, AAP master-plan and policy requirements, funding etc. However, the Core site landowners have ambitious aspirations for the site in this regard, which will continue to be developed.

Housing

The Council is confident that homes can be started prior to the WtW relocation. Homes can start to be constructed prior to full vacation of the site, but they may not be able to be occupied prior to the site being vacated. Additionally, as part of the planning process, any proposals for new homes within the AAP area will be considered by the council’s environmental health teams to ensure that existing site constraints, such as odour, noise, and other environmental issues, can be fully mitigated to ensure there is no adverse impact on those living in new homes within North East Cambridge.

The councils are considering a wide range of homes, jobs, services and facilities across the North East Cambridge AAP area which will serve both the new and existing communities. As part of the AAP, the councils are also looking to see how development can help existing neighbouring communities in terms of skills, jobs and training [PDF]. A number of the developers involved in the AAP area are also experienced in community led housing schemes such as Marmalade Lane in Cambridge.

We know from the evidence base being developed for the Greater Cambridge Local Plan that between 2020-2041 we may need to provide between 4,000 and 26,000 additional homes in Greater Cambridge. This considers forecasts of household growth and economic growth in our area. We know that there is a shortage of affordable housing in Greater Cambridge which leads to many people having to live further away from where they work, which increases our carbon emissions from commuting – so building more homes, and more affordable homes, close to where jobs are located is essential to creating a more sustainable future for the area.

At the moment, the Right to Buy programme means that we cannot guarantee that Council homes won’t be sold, but we still own over 7,000 homes and are developing more.

We heard a lot about the balance of jobs and homes as part of the Area Action Plan consultation. The vision for North East Cambridge is that it should be a mixed community where jobs and homes are located together, to create a vibrant place to live and work, but we are looking at this balance and doing further work in response to comments received.

Planning

We already have existing policies in place and the Planning Service will be working hard to ensure that developments that are proposed before the AAP is adopted do align with the wider vision for the area. However we do not anticipate that a lot of development is going to come forward earlier than the relocation of the Waste Water Treatment Plant – you can read more about how we anticipate phasing to work on the Trajectories section of the draft AAP.

Until the adoption of the Area Action Plan, development proposals in this area will be considered against the existing Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire Local Plan policies. One of the policy requirements in both plans is to ensure that development that comes forward prior to the adoption of the AAP addresses pedestrian and cycling access and linkages, provides appropriate ecological mitigation, compensation and enhancement measures and ensures that development will not compromise opportunities for the redevelopment of the wider area.

The councils are engaging with the GCP as part of this project and seeking to align planned walking and cycling improvements with the AAP Spatial Framework. This includes not only the Milton Road project but also the Chisholm Trail, Waterbeach Greenway and on-going work around the Waterbeach to Cambridge Public Transport Corridor.

The expectation is that the aspirations for the Core site development will mean that the overarching development costs will utilise a large proportion of land receipts, over and above that retained to meet landowner regulatory requirements. Reasonable landowner development return will be recycled by the Council into its services to residents, and Anglian Water to improvements and investment in assets for its customers. Much of the surplus over this, if there is any, up to the maximum HIF grant level, will be recycled to the Combined Authority for reinvestment in further housing.

The funds need to be used by the end of March 2028. The proposed relocation will be funded by the Government’s initiative to help deliver housing in areas of high demand - the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF).  The Housing Infrastructure Fund is a government capital grant programme of up to £5.5 billion. Nearly £4 billion has been allocated which will help to unlock up to 320,000 new homes.  Funding is awarded to local authorities on a highly competitive basis, providing grant funding for new infrastructure that will unlock new homes in the areas of greatest housing demand.  In March 2019, up to £227 million of funding was allocated to Anglian Water and Cambridge City Council from HIF for the relocation to support sustainable economic and housing growth in Cambridge.

All development within the AAP area will take new and developing future working practices into account, but it is far too early to tell what the longer-term trends will be post-Covid. As with the Greater Cambridge Local Plan, as evidence and data become available, we will be analysing it fully to understand how our plans may need to adapt as a result. Current evidence shows that, even in lockdown, there is a large proportion of the economy that continues to require employees to travel to work and we need to be careful not to assume a major reduction in employment space requirements, particularly given Greater Cambridge’s strengths in the life sciences and other sectors that cannot work from home.

 

The draft Area Action Plan included a proposal for a new ‘local centre’ on the edge of the Science Park which would include local shops and services. There were some comments about the exact location and facilities here which the Planning Service are considering. The Science Park also makes an important contribution of open space and the proposals in the draft AAP will increase public access and use of this, which we feel is very positive.

 

The future of the Fen Road level crossing is a matter for Network Rail and not something that the draft Area Action Plan can define. However, we may be able to look at asking Network Rail to attend a future Forum meeting to discuss this.

Planners cannot, of course, dictate who does or does not buy a car, but planning policy can help to shape and nudge people towards more sustainable transport choices. For example, homes can be sold or rented as ‘car free’ which means that the residents know up-front that their home does not come with a parking space and that they would not be entitled to a residents parking permit for any communal parking. For more information, please have a look at the Managing motorised vehicles policy in the draft AAP, and the supporting Transport Evidence Base [PDF].

We note all comments raised but we encourage you to comment at each of the formal consultation stages of both the emerging Plans – this is the most effective way to ensure that your comments are fully considered by the team, and for you to understand how the team have taken comments into account.

This, and the other growth community forums, are intended not to duplicate or cut across existing democratic processes e.g., Area Committees, Parish Council meetings and Council Committee meetings.  Instead, they aim to engender a wider and less formal interaction and when held in community settings, have included a period before the presentations whereby all attending can mingle and ask questions of representatives (developers, Councillors, Council officers etc) in front of displays and maps.

Transport

Please have a look at the Connectivity section of the draft Area Action Plan.

In order to create a walkable, cyclable and sustainable neighbourhood which does not increase pressure on the road network around the area, the overall number of vehicle movements in North East Cambridge will have to be carefully managed and significantly reduced from current levels. Highway capacity improvements will be relatively minor; there is little capacity to make improvements at the access to Cambridge Science Park or the junction with King's Hedges Road/Green End Road.

Please have a look at the Transport Evidence Base [PDF] which gives a detailed assessment of anticipated travel movements.

Greater Cambridge is currently a net importer of labour. There is significant housing demand in Greater Cambridge due to a range of factors including affordability issues, population growth and the area's strong local economy and its sub-regional significance. Whilst NEC will provide housing to help address these issues, it alone will not redress the overall balance between jobs and housing; this will be addressed in the Greater Cambridge Local Plan. 

Mobility options are changing and we do still expect the private car to have an important role to play as the transition takes place.

Government recently (15 March 2021) published a national bus strategy aimed at delivering better bus services for passengers, through ambitious and far-reaching reform of how services are planned and delivered. The Combined Authority, as transport authority, are considering how to reform local services. For people needing to access the station by taxi or car it will remain accessible from Milton Road.

Anglian Water 

Anglian Water plans to transform Greater Cambridge’s wastewater into a resource, recycling it through the new facility, harnessing it to create renewable energy, recovering nutrients and returning higher quality cleaned water to the River Cam.  Aligned with our net zero carbon goals, renewable energy will be generated to power the plant.  We will also produce biomethane to inject into and help decarbonise the gas network.  Design proposals, including those relating to renewable energy, will be shared during the next phase of consultation in the Summer. 

 

Minimal space will be retained on the existing site.  We will retain an area needed to intercept the current flows and divert them through a new gravity tunnel to the new facility. None of the current above the ground assets will be retained. There will be a future and limited area needed for access to our below the ground infrastructure assets such as pipes and tunnels.

Anglian Water is the sewerage provider for Cambridge but the statutory water undertaker is Cambridge Water. Anglian Water is however working closely with Cambridge Water in relation to their Water Resources Management Plan and is the founding member of Water Resources East, an independent organisation which looks at water resource management planning. 

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