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Second Report of the Council on the development of the University's land in North West Cambridge

The Council beg leave to report to the University as follows:

1. In their Notice dated 10 March 2003 the Council responded to remarks made at a Discussion on 14 January 2003 on the progress of plans for the development of North West Cambridge (Reporter, 2002-03, p. 695). The Council's Notice included an account of the strategic town and country planning context and of representations made in connection with the emerging Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Structure Plan. The Structure Plan is a statutory document required of Local Authorities (under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 as amended by the Planning and Compensation Act 1991) to establish the broad requirements for homes, industry, shops and supporting services, and infrastructure. The Notice anticipated that the publication of the report of the Panel appointed by the Secretary of State to conduct an Examination in Public (EiP) into the Deposit Draft Structure Plan would presage the detailed masterplanning of the North West Cambridge site later in 2003. This masterplanning would be undertaken in conjunction with the local planning authorities and would involve consultation with the general public. The Council undertook that before engaging in that process they would publish a Report for discussion in the usual way, before a recommendation to proceed is put to the Regent House by Grace.

2. The proposal is of importance for the future development of the University, as the masterplanning will inform decisions by the local planning authorities on the future Green Belt boundaries in the area. Green Belt reviews are very infrequent and the University must therefore seek to ensure that sufficient land is allocated now to provide for the level of expansion which might occur over the next thirty years. There are no immediate plans for development at North West Cambridge, and all proposals for specific developments will be put to the Regent House by publication of a Report in the usual way. However, the Council believe that, as was done in the assembly of the West Cambridge site over 50 years ago, action should be taken now to provide future generations with the ability to meet the needs of their time.

3. The EiP Panel Report was published in February 2003. The Structure Plan Authorities (Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council) responded to the Panel's recommendations by proposing 130 modifications to the policies in the Deposit Draft Structure Plan; these were placed on deposit for public consultation in May/June 2003. The Structure Plan Authorities have decided that none of the objections received warrant substantial or material changes to the Plan, but have made a number of minor drafting changes. The Structure Plan Authorities have published a Notice of their intention to adopt the revised Structure Plan after 21 October 2003. The full text of the Structure Plan is available on the Cambridgeshire County Council's website at www.camcnty.gov.uk/sub/eandt/planning/strplan01.htm.

4. The Structure Plan's vision for the Cambridge Sub-Region is that it will continue to develop as a centre of excellence and world leader in the fields of higher education and research and it will foster dynamism, prosperity and further expansion of the knowledge-based economy spreading outwards from Cambridge, whilst protecting and enhancing the historic character and the setting of Cambridge as a compact city, the character and setting of the Market Towns and other settlements in the Sub-Region, and the important environmental qualities of the surrounding area. Sustainable and spatially concentrated patterns of high quality, socially inclusive development will be focussed on Cambridge, in the form of new communities on the edge of the city and in one or more new settlements, and in the Market Towns, to provide a more sustainable balance between jobs and homes, whilst meeting the needs of the Sub-Region, rather than pressures generated elsewhere. Integrated transport systems related closely to the development patterns in the Sub-Region, including high quality public transport networks, will deliver more sustainable travel patterns. An attractive, ecologically rich and accessible countryside will be facilitated. Development will be delivered by means of a co-ordinated approach which maximises and integrates the different sources of investment.

5. In the context of this vision the Structure Plan identifies the North West Cambridge site as a strategic employment location allocated for mixed-use development including the expansion of education and research facilities. The key points in relation to North West Cambridge are:

(i) The land between Madingley Road and Huntingdon Road is identified as a location for predominantly University development on land to be released from the Green Belt.
(ii) The land should be reserved for University-related development and only brought forward (for development) when the University can show a clear need for the land to be released.
(iii) The form and phasing of development on land released from the Green Belt will be determined through reviews of the Cambridge Local Plan and South Cambridgeshire District Plan.
(iv) A master plan or design framework should be in place before land is released for development.
(v) Any land not required for development before 2016 will be designated as safeguarded land to meet longer-term development needs.
(vi) Transport assessments for development in North West Cambridge will need to take into account the likely impact of A14 widening, the new settlement proposals, and development of the Cambridge Northern Fringe.
(vii) The Master Plan for the University's land should address the relationship between the different uses within the overall site and with other existing and proposed developments in the wider locality, such as NIAB (National Institute of Agricultural Botany) land between Huntingdon Road and Histon Road.
(viii) In order to avoid delays in bringing land forward for development to meet the Plan's strategy it is expected that the masterplanning process will proceed in parallel with the preparation of the City and South Cambridgeshire Local Plans.

6. Against the above background, the Council propose that the University should now engage in a process of masterplanning the North West Cambridge site, in conjunction with the local planning authorities and other relevant organizations. The purpose will be to establish a framework, within which future University and related developments can be brought forward over future decades. The Master Plan would define the new Green Belt boundary, set out the broad mix and disposition of land uses within the site, define how traffic would be handled, and set out standards for design, sustainability, and other environmental aspects. The intention would be for the Master Plan to be incorporated into the revised Local Plans for Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire as an Action Area Plan.

7. The University's formal policy for the development of its land holdings in North West Cambridge (the area between Madingley Road, Huntingdon Road, and the M11 motorway) is set out in two Reports:

(i) the Report of the Council of the Senate (Reporter, 1990-91, p. 637), which was approved by Grace 12 of 12 June 1991; and
(ii) the First Report of the Council on the development of the University's land in North West Cambridge (Reporter, 1999-2000, p. 724) which was approved by Grace 10 of 26 July 2000.

8. The latter Report set out proposals to develop an outline medium- to long-term strategy for the North West area of Cambridge, and amended the earlier Report in order to allocate the North West Cambridge area for development to provide for University housing and future academic needs, support facilities, and University-related knowledge-based research. The Council do not propose significant change to the approved policy. They propose that the Master Plan should provide for a mix of uses as described in paragraphs 10 to 14 below, within a design philosophy which requires high quality design in a sustainable development which respects and enhances the local environment.

9. An assessment has been made of what planning provision should be made for future development of the University. The Council recognize that the University operates in an environment where changing external circumstances (e.g. Government and Funding Council policies) add uncertainty to any long-term projections. The Council have been advised by the Planning and Resources Committee, which has examined historical and recent trends and current circumstances, and has taken the view that it would be unwise either to assume that the rate of growth seen in recent years will continue, or to assume that growth will not occur in future. The Council have approved planning provision for long-term purposes, based on the following annual growth figures, which they believe to be conservative and prudent:

Undergraduate students 0.5%
Postgraduate students 2%
Unestablished staff 5%

Established staff In proportion to total student load.

The undergraduate projections are consistent with little or no expansion of the main intake of undergraduates, but allows a small number of initiatives (for example further slight increases in the number of students taking four-year courses). The postgraduate student projections are conservative in comparison with growth in recent years. The largest growth at present is in the number of unestablished staff, at around 10% a year in recent years. It would be unwise to expect such growth to continue indefinitely and a more conservative rate of 5% has been taken for planning purposes. It is therefore necessary to have the capability to cater for up to 5,000 additional students and 5,500 staff by 2025.

10. Housing. In their Notice of 10 March 2003, the Council referred to the problems of recruitment and retention caused by the lack of affordable housing for staff in Cambridge. This problem remains acute, and can be expected to worsen over the coming years. The Council propose that a major use of the site should be for housing, with an indicative requirement for up to 2,000 units of accommodation over future decades. A significant proportion will be affordable housing for University staff, which in planning terms is categorized as 'key worker housing'. A proportion of housing for sale on the open market will be necessary to fund site infrastructure and the key worker housing.

11. Collegiate provision. Having regard to the projected growth in student numbers, the capacity and aspirations of the existing Colleges, and the constraints on the development of existing College sites it is estimated that additional land needs to be provided for housing for up to 2,000 students by 2025. This equates numerically to one new undergraduate College and two new postgraduate Colleges. The Council propose that land be allocated at North West Cambridge for provision on that scale. This land could be developed by a number of routes: the expansion of existing Colleges; shared facilities operated by Colleges or in some aspects by external operators; or the foundation of new Colleges. There is interest from some existing Colleges in consolidating their student accommodation, so as to release houses currently used by students for sale as family homes. The Council are mindful that the foundation of one (or more) new Colleges would require substantial resources both for land and buildings and to provide a sufficient endowment. The projected growth in student numbers, together with the desire to increase the proportion of staff involved in collegiate life, does point to the need for new foundations, if the character of the present Colleges is to be maintained. Locations at North West Cambridge would also provide a better geographical match between the locations of some University Departments and Colleges.

12. Academic and research space. The North West Cambridge site provides the only significant area currently in the University's ownership for future academic developments in the medium- to long-term. The Council propose that the third major use of the site should be for University academic activities and for public/charitable sector or industrial research institutions where there is a strong academic association with cognate University activities. For the present purposes it is premature to identify the academic activities which might be developed at North West Cambridge, given the long timescale (over 25 years) over which such development will take place. The Council envisage that there will be some relocation of academic activity from the central sites (for example the Old Press and New Museums Sites) as rationalization and reconfiguration takes place following the planned relocations to West Cambridge. It is also necessary to reserve space for new academic development over the longer term which cannot yet be predicted. In the shorter term, however, the Departments of Earth Sciences and Geography are developing plans through the capital projects process for relocating from the city centre to the Madingley Rise area of North West Cambridge, where part of the site is already outside the Green Belt, and there are opportunities for developing the cluster of environmental science activities based on the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre on Huntingdon Road.

13. Support and community facilities. The Council anticipate that the development will need a range of community and support facilities including a primary school, a nursery, neighbourhood retail, a library, and health facilities, as well as leisure and recreational facilities.

14. Open areas. To achieve high standards of sustainability and environmental quality the Master Plan will need to provide substantial open areas for landscape, ecological and recreational purposes, and to provide cycle and footpaths within the site and linking it to the open country beyond the M11 motorway. The site is at present mainly cultivated farmland. There is a geological site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) at the Travellers Rest Pit, and some limited areas of ecological interest (e.g. a population of water voles in the Washpit Brook which flows through the site). At present there is no formal public access apart from one public footpath at the northern boundary. It is proposed that the development would include a landscape framework designed to protect the SSSI, to extend and enhance the ecological value of the site, and to open up access on foot and by cycle within the site and beyond, as well as to provide 'Green' areas, corridors, and edges. The site is well located to contribute to the planned network of cycleways radiating from Cambridge, and there are opportunities to provide extended circular walking routes to the University's Madingley estate and beyond. The Council's intention is to provide a high quality environment which will enhance the attractiveness of Cambridge.

15. Funding of £600,000 has been allocated from the Land Fund for professional consultancy and legal fees in support of the University's representations on the reviews of the Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire Local Plans over the next two years. Of this total, up to £300,000 will be required for preliminary technical work on North West Cambridge (sustainability audit, transport studies, utilities and engineering investigations, landscape and ecological appraisals) and the preparation of the Master Plan. The masterplanning exercise will include an initial assessment of the costs of implementation. These will be substantial, covering infrastructure, landscaping, planning obligations for transport improvements, etc., and subsidy for the key worker housing. The Master Plan will need to make provision for sufficient income-producing elements (for example housing for sale on the open market, sites for research establishments, and leisure facilities) to cover these costs. All specific proposals for development on the site will be put to the Regent House by publication of a Report for discussion in the usual way, before a recommendation to proceed is put to the Regent House by Grace. The Reports will include information on the capital and recurrent financial implications of each proposal.


16. The Council propose that the University responds to its own need to keep open long-term planning options, and to the requirements of the emerging Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Structure Plan, by preparing a Master Plan for the North West Cambridge area which will provide a structured framework within which future long-term expansion of the University (or in some cases relocation of Departments), as and when approved, can be accommodated. They propose that the Master Plan should provide for a mixed-use development including: more affordable housing for University staff and for sale on the open market; collegiate provision; academic space for the University and associated research institutions; support and community facilities; and open areas. The Master Plan will have a design philosophy to provide a sustainable development with high environmental standards and high quality design. No capital development would take place without specific Regent House approval.


17. The Council recommend that approval be given for the preparation of a Master Plan for North West Cambridge as described in this Report in conjunction with the local planning authorities and involving consultation internally and with interest groups and the general public.

3 November 2003ALISON F. RICHARD, Vice-ChancellorB. J. BRINDEDD. LOWTHER

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Cambridge University Reporter, 5 November 2003
Copyright © 2011 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.