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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 1989 a Report by the Long-Term Planning Committee, reviewing the site strategy, was published (Reporter, 1988-89, p. 791), and has guided site planning to the present day. This was followed in May 1991 by a Report of the Council of the Senate on the development of the West Cambridge area (Reporter, 1990-91, p. 637) covering all the land to the west of Cambridge between Huntingdon Road, Madingley Road, and the M11 motorway. This was approved by the Regent House (Grace 12 of 12 June 1991) and represents the formal University policy for the development of this area. In relation to the development of the land in North West Cambridge, the Report stated as follows:

Sub-area F (see plan attached)

This area is partially developed and used for University activities, including the University Farm; the Master Plan provides for the reorganization, rationalization, and expansion of existing facilities as and when required. The majority of the area consists of open land, and the Master Plan envisages a mix of agricultural and recreational uses for this area, with landscape enhancement measures as appropriate. Provision is made for a possible Collegiate development on that part of the site which was previously identified as suitable for a Regional College. In view of the long-term potential for constructing a north-south link road between Madingley Road and Huntingdon Road, land is reserved for this purpose. An area to the north of Madingley Road, close to the M11 junction and the High Cross Site, has been identified as suitable for a Park and Ride car park; such a development would enable the amount of on-street car-parking by commuters in the West Cambridge area to be significantly reduced, to the general benefit of the environment.

Sub-area G

This area falls within the administrative boundary of South Cambridgeshire District Council and forms part of the University Farm. There are currently no site-specific planning policies or land allocations pertaining to this area, and it is at present used by the University for agricultural purposes. The Master Plan provides only for strategic landscaping in this area.

2. Since the Report was Graced the Cambridge Local Plan has been adopted. As a result the 19 Acre Field and part of Gravel Hill have been removed from the Green Belt; plans are being considered for development of the 19 Acre Field and surrounding area and there will be a further report on this development later in the year.

3. In addition the main West Cambridge Site has been planned, an outline planning application approved, and development has begun. Other areas in West Cambridge have also been developed in the intervening time, namely the Park and Ride site at Madingley Road, expansion of the Astronomy site, and development in the Madingley Rise area for Earth Sciences.

Regional Planning Guidance (RPG)

4. The Regional Planning Guidance for East Anglia is provided by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions. The primary purpose of this guidance is to set the regional framework for development plans in East Anglia in the period to 2016. The Town and Country Planning Acts require strategic planning authorities to have regard to this guidance when formulating strategic policies and proposals for their area. Local plans are also required to conform with structure plans and, where appropriate, this guidance should be taken into account when formulating local plan policies. It is a material consideration which must be taken into account, where relevant, in decisions on planning applications. Its other purpose is to provide the regional context and long-term planning framework for other strategies and programmes, including the Regional Economic Development Strategy for the East of England prepared by the East of England Development Agency. The recent draft RPG was issued for consultation on 27 March 2000.1 It emphasized the importance of the Cambridge sub-region to the area. The sub-region has a buoyant economy based on Cambridge's international reputation as an education centre, the concentration of research activity linked to the University, Addenbrooke's Hospital, a group of independent and company research centres, and the 'Cambridge Phenomenon'.

5. Planning policy in the past has sought to restrain development of Cambridge to protect the historic character of the city centre and to disperse housing and employment development. Research and technology firms have resisted locating far from Cambridge yet housing development close to Cambridge has been constrained. This has led to an overheated local housing market and housing developments in locations further from Cambridge unsupported by local employment, thus increasing the number of people commuting into Cambridge, causing congestion and pollution.

6. The RPG now sets out the need to develop a vision and planning framework for the Cambridge sub-region which will:

7. The draft RPG recommends a sequential strategy for housing and related development in the following decreasing order of preference:

8. The draft RPG also recommends a review of the Cambridge Green Belt to include proposals for changes to the boundaries and to consider how far the Green Belt is fulfilling its purposes. If sites can be released without significant detriment, their suitability for development should be assessed against criteria including proximity to public transport, employment and services, and environment quality.

The North West Cambridge site

9. The land in North West Cambridge, which currently forms part of the University's long-term land bank, falls within the second category of the sequence of development, i.e. on the periphery of Cambridge. The North West Cambridge site is mainly within the Green Belt and will come under consideration as a site for housing and appropriate development. This presents the opportunity for the University to set out the suitability of the site for sustainable development of housing, support facilities, long-term academic expansion, and employment of those in knowledge-based research activities needing to be near University institutions.

10. At present the land is mainly in agricultural use by the University Farm. Part is in academic use by biological sciences Departments and an area is leased to the World Conservation Monitoring Centre.


11. The Council propose that the University responds to the requirements of the RPG by developing an outline medium- to long-term strategy for the North West area of Cambridge for development of University land so as to provide for University housing and future academic needs, support facilities, and University-related knowledge-based research. Such a strategy would provide for high-quality sustainable development phased over fifteen to twenty-five years. Accordingly, the Council also proposed that the Master Plan as it relates to sub-areas F and G be amended to permit development of these sub-areas as described above.

12. The Council recommend:

I. That approval be given to the proposals to develop an outline medium- to long-term strategy for the North West area of Cambridge as described in this Report.

II. That the recommendation of the Report of the Council of the Senate on the development of the West Cambridge area (Reporter, 1990-91, p. 637) be amended to allocate the sub-areas F and G for development to provide for University housing and future academic needs, support facilities, and University-related knowledge-based research.

15 May 2000

ALEC N. BROERS, Vice-Chancellor

1 The draft RPG document is available for inspection at the Estate Management and Building Service, 74 Trumpington Street, or from Local Government and Regional Government Offices (see http://www.go-east.gov.uk/go-eastfra.htm).

West Cambridge - Location of sites F and G

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Cambridge University Reporter, 24 May 2000
Copyright © 2000 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.