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

2 February 2004

1. The Council have considered the remarks made at the Discussion on 18 November 2003 (Reporter, p. 250) of their Second Report on the development of the University's land in North West Cambridge (Reporter, p. 149).

2. In relation to the questions about the proposed process and timetable the Council confirm that the Regent House are being asked to approve only the preparation of a Master Plan. Subject to approval of the Second Report's recommendation, masterplanning will start in Lent Term 2004. As was the case with the preparation of the Master Plan for the West Cambridge Site in 1996-97 there will be a further Report to inform the Regent House of the outcome and seek approval of the Master Plan. The masterplanning will be project managed by the Estate Management and Building Service, working with the consultants EDAW (planning and urban design consultants) and Peter Brett Associates (transport and infrastructure). In addition an environmental consultant will be appointed. The Council remain committed to ensuring that high environmental standards are achieved in the development of the site. Environmental issues will continue to be given prominence throughout the masterplanning process, and a strategic level environmental assessment will be carried out as part of that process. If the Master Plan is approved, further Reports to the Regent House will be necessary for specific developments. No development of the site will start before the Regent House has given such approval and before the new Green Belt boundaries are set through the adoption of the new Local Plans for Cambridge and South Cambridge, currently scheduled for late 2005. The sum of £600,000 has been allocated to cover all of the consultancy and legal costs over a three-year period in connection with the reviews of the Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire Local Plans. The masterplanning of North West Cambridge will be a major part of this work, but the funding will also cover appearances at Public Local Inquiries into both local plans and studies of issues affecting University sites throughout Cambridge (including Addenbrooke's) and in Girton, Madingley, and Whittlesford.

3. The plans for the 19 Acre Field and surrounding area referred to in the Council's First Report of May 2000 were for a mixed use scheme to provide housing for University staff and to redevelop the research building at 181A Huntingdon Road. They were put in abeyance once it became clear that regional planning policy was leading to a review of the Green Belt which would require comprehensive planning of the whole North West Cambridge site. Dr N. J. Holmes is correct in stating that the 19 Acre Field and Gravel Hill are part of the North West Cambridge site.

4. Dr Holmes has questioned the proposals to fund the site infrastructure and key worker housing by selling land within the site. It has long been University policy not only to make provision for the future by land acquisition, but also to dispose of land that is surplus to requirements. Land at Milton Road, for example, has been sold freehold for housing development in phases since the 1980s, and various former houses in the city centre are currently on the market freehold (Brookside) and for sale on long leases for commercial purposes (Trumpington Street and Bene't Place). The scale of the North West Cambridge site and the expected infrastructure costs are such that disposal of part of the site may be needed to fund site development. The Council believe that the sale of part of the site (either freehold or on long leases) will be necessary to raise the capital funding needed for site infrastructure (drainage, roads, utilities, landscaping) and to meet planning obligations. At this stage the Council cannot estimate how much of the site might be sold, but the large majority of the site will be retained. The masterplanning work will include financial studies to allow an assessment to be made. It remains the Council's policy to retain ownership of freeholds wherever possible, and to minimize freehold sales. At North West Cambridge the commercial and R & D sites will be disposed of on a leasehold basis. However, as it is no longer possible to retain the freehold of residential properties sold on long leases, some land will need to be sold freehold. Proceeds of the sale of land and buildings are 'ringfenced' by law1 and can only be used for capital purposes.

5. There are a range of mechanisms for providing affordable housing, some of which would require capital investment by the University, for example construction of housing to let or for sale on a shared equity basis. Other mechanisms would not, such as disposing of land to a Registered Social Landlord which would construct the housing and let it to people nominated by the University. The choice of method(s) will be subject to a financial appraisal.

6. The Council have noted Dr Holmes's suggestion that part of the New Museums Site be sold. That idea will be explored when the future development of the central sites is planned.

7. The Council do not accept Dr D. R. de Lacey's criticism of the Sidgwick Avenue Master Plan. The original Master Plan, as with any other Master Plan, was intended to set the guidelines and did not provide a detailed design. The detail of the development at Sidgwick Avenue has evolved through discussions with various bodies including Schools, Departments, site users, and the local planning authority. Whilst some building forms may have changed to a small extent as a result, the concept behind the Master Plan has not, nor has its relations to Casson's original intentions. Initial work has been completed with alterations to services and other infrastructure as well as creation of a new cycle route through the site. Further areas of the Master Plan's infrastructure proposals will also be completed with the new buildings for English and Criminology and will include improvements to safety, lighting, disabled access, and planting. Further phases are dependent upon the availability of funding. All developments of the Master Plan have been regularly presented at advertised open meetings held on the Sidgwick Site to ensure that the early consultation processes are continued throughout the development period. Also up-to-date information about the Master Plan is available on the Sidgwick Site Master Plan website (http://www-building.arct.cam.ac.uk/sidgwick/index.html) where responses and comments are also made.

8. Professor G. R. Evans is incorrect in her statement about great crested newts on the West Cambridge Site. On the advice of English Nature the University commissioned a search for great crested newts on the Site in December 1999. None were found and on-going regular searches across the Site have not found any since.

9. The Council agree with Dr Holmes's suggestion that details of all future development plans be added to the material on buildings now on the University website, as well as being displayed at the Old Schools.

10. The Council have agreed to submit a Grace (Grace 3, p. 435) to the Regent House for the approval of the recommendation in this Report.

1 Universities and College Estates Act 1925.


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Cambridge University Reporter 4 February 2004
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