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

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

1. 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 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, approved proposals to develop an outline medium- to long-term strategy for the North West area of Cambridge, and amended an earlier Report (Reporter, 1990-91, p. 637) 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.
(ii) The Second Report of the Council, approved by Grace 3 of 4 February 2004, on the development of the University's land in North West Cambridge (Reporter, 2003-04, p. 149) authorized the preparation of a Master Plan for North West Cambridge in conjunction with the local planning authorities and involving consultation internally, and with interest groups and the general public.

2. The Second Report described the town and country planning policy background and set out the growth predictions underpinning the need to obtain the release of the site from the Green Belt and its allocation for University-related development. It also outlined the range of uses to be provided for in the masterplanning.

3. Taking account of the needs which can be identified at the present time and those which can be anticipated to occur over the next two decades, the Council confirm that the Master Plan should be designed to provide for the mix of uses described below.

4. Housing. The recruitment and retention problems described in the Second Report and the Council's Notice of 10 March 2003 (Reporter, 2002-03, p. 695) remain acute. A study has been carried out by the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research in the Department of Land Economy, which confirms the serious mismatch between household incomes of University staff and house prices in the Cambridge area. The study estimates that nearly three-quarters of the forecast growth in University staff numbers would require some form of affordable housing if they are to live within an acceptable and sustainable distance of their work in the University. This study confirms the earlier proposal that housing should be a major use of the site, with an indicative requirement of 2,000 units of accommodation to be developed over the years. The majority of this housing would be 'key worker housing' for University and College staff; with the remainder for sale on the open market to fund infrastructure on this site and the key worker housing. The proportions of key worker and market housing will be determined in the light of further economic analysis and the requirements of the local planning authorities, through the Public Inquiries into the Cambridge Local Plan and South Cambridgeshire Local Development Framework. For the key worker housing the Council envisage providing a range of types of accommodation and of tenures, including letting and sale on a shared equity basis. Depending on the mix of housing types and the density of development, around 40 hectares of land would be required for housing.

5. Collegiate development/student housing. The Council's Second Report described the need to provide housing for up to 2,000 students by 2025. The Council remain of the view that sufficient land should be allocated for provision of that scale, of around 11 hectares. The Master Plan should allow flexibility in the provision of collegiate development, whether it be by the foundation of one or more new Colleges, the expansion of existing Colleges, or shared facilities operated by existing Colleges or external providers. Provision would be made for conventional and/or innovative ways of creating collegiate communities, for example through the co-location of student and staff housing. Within the open space on the site it would be possible to provide playing fields.

6. Academic and other research space. Apart from the West Cambridge site, which is allocated for developments in the physical sciences and technology, the North West Cambridge site represents the only substantial area currently in the University's ownership for future academic developments in the long term. In their Second Report the Council proposed 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. Global corporations are carrying out more and more of their basic research externally; many of these corporations were originally based on a particular technology but now find their business dependent on a changing mix of technologies, not all of which lie within their core competences. A broadly based University such as Cambridge is an attractive partner for their external research; we have already seen a number of industrial research laboratories being set up in Cambridge. These are organizationally independent of the University and provide opportunities for interaction, not just in terms of research funding into the University and paths for exporting knowledge from the University, but more generally in engaging in continuous dialogue. Innovation is a key to future economic development. It is enhanced by the interaction of parties with disparate interests. The availability of space sufficient to allow a mixture of academic and industrial research in separate accommodation, affords the University and region an extremely valuable opportunity to protect and enhance the region's knowledge based economy in the long term.

In the shorter term 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. The remainder of the academic space would be reserved for new academic developments over the next few decades which cannot yet be predicted. The Council also see opportunities on the site for developing the cluster of environmental science based activities based on the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre. This would provide collaborative opportunities for University activities in conservation biology.

The Council have identified an indicative requirement for a minimum of 100,000 sq.m. of academic and research built space, which, depending on density of development, would require around 40 to 50 hectares.

7. Community facilities. The Council anticipate that the development will need a range of community and support facilities which might include a primary school, nursery, neighbourhood retail facilities, a library, health facilities, opportunities for worship, as well as leisure and recreational facilities. These would require at least 1 hectare of land and would serve neighbouring residential areas as well as these on this site.

8. Open areas. Substantial open areas for landscape, ecological, and recreational purposes (formal and informal) would be provided.

9. In their Notice of 2 February 2004 (Reporter, 2003-04, p. 427) the Council stated their commitment to ensuring that high environmental standards are achieved in the development of the site. An environmental consultant, Professor Max Wade of RPS plc, has been appointed to carry out a strategic level environmental assessment and guide of the work of the masterplanning team. This work is being overseen by the University's Committee for Environmental Management.

10. The masterplanning is project managed by the Estate Management and Building Service working with the consultants EDAW (planning and urban design consultants), Peter Brett Associates (transport and infrastructure), and Cresswell Associates (ecology). The approach has been to prepare a Master Plan through an extensive and collaborative consultation process involving a wide range of stakeholders including representatives of the local planning authorities, national and regional bodies, transport providers, local environmental groups, and residents associations. The process has involved a series of workshops and public exhibitions. Details are on the University website, allowing the stakeholders to obtain an understanding of the requirements and issues, and to influence the Master Plan development at http://www-building.arct.cam.ac.uk/northwestc/masterplanning.html.

11. Site assets, development constraints, and opportunities. A number of technical studies and site appraisals have been undertaken to identify the site's assets, development constraints, and opportunities.

12. A site ecological appraisal was undertaken by Cresswell Associates, in May-August 2004. The majority of the site comprises large areas of habitat of limited intrinsic nature conservation value. Those areas of the site with greater ecological value are broadly located along the Washpit Brook and in the southern part of the site. The main finds comprise great crested newts (a European Protected Species) present in ponds adjacent to the site and suspected to be present on other ponds in the site; three badger setts; water voles in Washpit Brook; bats foraging across the site and possible roosts in trees; farmland birds of conservation concern including skylark, yellow wagtail, reed bunting, yellow hammer, and linnet; and important hedgerows. Further field surveys will be undertaken during Spring and Summer 2005.

13. Landscape Character and Visual Assessment studies have been undertaken. The site defines the setting of Cambridge in this area, which comprises the urban-rural interface at the City's edge. There are no views across the site to the historic skyline of Cambridge. Zones of visual influence have been identified for land within which there is a view of the proposed development site; this zone is relatively small, due to a combination of topography, built development, and vegetation. To its north, east, and south the site is largely screened from public viewpoints. To its north and west, major road corridors and vegetation largely screen the site from the surrounding landscape. The M11 motorway provides a continuous viewing corridor and the site is occasionally visible from more distant viewpoints on elevated land around Madingley. The definition of a new urban edge and setting to Cambridge is a fundamental landscape character issue to be addressed in the site Master Plan. The site contains a geological Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which must be protected. Trees along the track from Huntingdon Road to Gravel Hill Farm are protected by a Tree Preservation Order. There are no City Wildlife Sites within the site although two are located nearby at the Ascension Burial Ground and at Conduit Head Road. A public footpath runs across the northern part of the site. The site is mostly designated as Green Belt; part of this function is to prevent coalescence between Girton and Cambridge.

14. A site-wide archaeological desk top study was undertaken in 2001 by the Cambridge Archaeological Unit, which revealed a potential for archaeology of several periods, notably Roman, with known archaeology, specifically a Roman road running from the east along the northern edge of the area, although the exact location is uncertain. An archaeological excavation of the 19-Acre Field and the adjacent field was undertaken in 2002. The vast majority of the area had been subjected to post-Medieval gravel and coprolite quarrying, with only small areas of undisturbed ground remaining. Within the latter was a ditch producing Iron Age and Roman pottery. A possible Roman stone sarcophagus was also recorded in the garden of an adjacent dwelling.

15. A site traffic noise assessment was undertaken by the English Cogger Partnership in 2001. This showed that the north-eastern part of the site is suitable for housing without any particular noise control measures being incorporated in the design. Some degree of noise control will be needed in the design for the remainder of the site if residential accommodation or other noise sensitive uses are planned. This mitigation may take the form of screening the site or building design measures. For those parts of the site where noise levels currently exceed 55 dB LAeq it would not be possible to rely on openable windows for the ventilation of buildings, but natural ventilation may still be used if desired. For buildings close to the M11 it would be necessary also to provide acoustic glazing specifically designed to achieve the desired internal noise environment.

16. Transport. A Preliminary Access and Phasing Strategy for the site was prepared by Peter Brett Associates in 2003. This identified four proposed vehicular access points: adjacent to the Travellers Rest Public House and Howes Farm (both on Huntingdon Road), adjacent to Madingley Rise, and adjacent to the Madingley Road Park and Ride site. All four locations are within the University's ownership. The same locations provide opportunities for segregated walking and cycling access, and other opportunities to create walking and cycling-only access points have been identified at Storeys Way, the Gravel Hill Farm track, and at Bunkers Hill. Public transport penetration through the site will need to be created and there is support in the planning and transport authorities for the provision of an orbital public transport route across the site, which could perhaps link West and North West Cambridge, Northern Cambridge, and further.

17. Master Plan parameters. A number of key Master Plan parameters have been identified to inform the development of a Master Plan:

18. Development of Initial Master Plan Options has been pursued through collaborative design workshops (with key stakeholders) and exhibitions (for general public consultation) (January 2005). These discussions led to the preparation of three emerging possible spatial options for the development of the site. Each of the three options begins to explore how development would meet the University's requirements in the context of the key parameters identified above in forms that relate sensitively to adjoining settlements and communities, by treating development as an extension to those settlements and not as a separate and inward looking University campus. Each option identifies a new neighbourhood centre that would form a focal point for new development and the wider area. The three options and background material on the design workshops and exhibitions can be seen at http://www-building.arct.cam.ac.uk/northwestc/masterplanning.html. The options establish the first spatial expressions of emerging Master Plan proposals for the land. They offer a sound basis, built on genuine participative processes with local authorities and local communities, for the further development of the Master Plan. The work has to go through an iterative process of testing and refinement over the coming months. Although the University leads its preparation, any final Master Plan must be approved by the local councils, as local planning and highway authorities, for the plan to form an agreed basis for the subsequent submission of planning applications. South Cambridgeshire District Council will not start its development plan proposals for land at North West Cambridge within its administrative area until 2006. It is therefore neither possible nor appropriate to have a final Master Plan approved in 2005. It is necessary however to do further work to refine the emerging options into more detailed proposals, possibly in the form of two options and certainly in a form that gives future flexibility, for the Cambridge Local Plan Inquiry that starts on 5 July 2005. The Inquiry is not the place to press the detailed merits of a proposed development scheme for the site and it is not therefore necessary to have a Master Plan with a level of detail equivalent to that for the West Cambridge Site in place. The Local Plan draft has much that the Council believe is in the best interests of the University, but the Inspector will examine the University's remaining objections to draft Local Plan policy, and will require Master Plan option(s) demonstrating how the University's defined development needs could be achieved successfully in spatial terms.

19. A preliminary overview of the financial implications of developing the site in accordance with the Master Plan has been carried out. This indicates that based on a conservative assessment of infrastructure costs and planning obligations and with the achievement of a sufficient proportion of market housing it will be possible to fund the development without the need for investment from other University sources. The guiding principle will be to plan a development which is broadly neutral in terms of not requiring funding from other University sources but, given the conditions which will have to be met, it is unrealistic to expect the overall development to release capital for other purposes.

20. The further development of a Master Plan by the University will need to be an iterative process with continuing engagement with stakeholders, and responding to the outcomes of the Cambridge Local Plan Planning Inquiry and the preparation of South Cambridgeshire's Local Development Framework. At this stage the Council invite the Regent House's approval of the principles and the general nature of the emerging spatial options described in this Report as a basis for (i) further development of a Master Plan and (ii) preparation of submissions to the Cambridge Local Plan Public Inquiry in Summer 2005.

Recommendation

21. The Council recommend that approval be given to the principles and the general nature of the emerging spatial options described in this Report as a basis for:

(i)further development of a Master Plan; and
(ii)preparation of submissions to the Cambridge Local Plan Public Inquiry.

28 February 2005ALISON RICHARD, Vice-ChancellorGEMMA DONALDSONMARTIN REES
 R. J. ANDERSONBOB DOWLINGG. A. REID
 A. J. BADGERDAVID S. INGRAMDAVID SIMON
 Z. BARANSKIRUTH KEELINGWES STREETING
 RICHARD BARNESD. LOWTHERLIBA TAUB
 NIGEL BROWND. W. B. MACDONALDJOAN M. WHITEHEAD
 WILLIAM BROWNJAMES MATHESONRICHARD WILSON
 MIKE CLARK 

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Cambridge University Reporter 02 March 2005
Copyright © 2005 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.