Cambridge University Reporter


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

The North West Cambridge Lent Term 2008 Emerging Master Plan is available to download as a PDF:

The COUNCIL begs 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 M11 motorway) is set out in three 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.
(iii) The Third Report of the Council on the development of the University's land in North West Cambridge (Reporter, 2004-05, p. 513) set out the principles and general nature of the emerging spatial options, which were approved by Grace 6 of 29 April 2005 as a basis for further development of a Master Plan and preparation of submissions to the Cambridge Local Plan Public Inquiry.

2. Subsequent developments have been reported to the University in the Council's Annual Report for 2005-06 and the Council's Notice of 7 January 2008 (Reporter, 2007-08, p. 392). In order to take forward the proposals for development at North West Cambridge, progress in two key areas needs to take place during 2008: town and country planning; and the arrangements for delivery of the built development.

3. In relation to town and country planning, the Council noted in its Notice of 7 January 2008 that new arrangements for the planning system had been introduced by the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. These new arrangements make it necessary for the University to promote its proposals for the site by seeking their inclusion in the draft Area Action Plan for North West Cambridge prepared jointly by the City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council. There will be a period of public consultation on the draft as submitted by the local authorities to the Secretary of State (scheduled for June to July 2008) followed by a Public Examination in November to December 2008. In connection with representations by the University, the Council wishes to seek approval of further development proposals for North West Cambridge, including an amended Master Plan, as the basis of the University's evidence to the Public Examination into the draft Area Action Plan.

4. The Council, in its Annual Report for 2005-06 announced that a North West Cambridge Strategy Committee had been set up under the chairmanship of Mr Alexander Johnston, an external member of the University Finance Committee. On the advice of the Strategy Committee and the Finance Committee, the Council has agreed that it is timely to start making arrangements for the delivery of development on the site. Emerging proposals on the procurement and delivery arrangements, and the phasing of development, together with governance arrangements and key principles are set out below.

5. The Second and Third Reports outlined the range of uses to be provided for in the planning of the site. Taking account of the needs which can be identified at the present time and those which can be expected to occur over the next two decades, and an assessment of the financial viability of the schemes, the Council proposes that the Master Plan should be designed to provide for the mix of uses described below.

6. Housing The recruitment and retention problems described in the Second and Third Reports remain acute. A further study has been carried out in 2007 by the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research in the Department of Land Economy, which confirms the continuing serious mismatch between household incomes of University staff and house prices in the Cambridge area. This study supports the earlier proposal that housing should be a major use of the site, with an indicative provision of 2,500 units of accommodation to be developed over the years, the exact number being dependent on the other developments on the land. The Strategy Committee propose that around 50% 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 exact 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 Examination into the North West Cambridge Area Action Plan and specific planning applications. For the key worker housing the Council envisages providing a range of accommodation and tenure types, including letting and sale on a shared ownership basis. The research referred to above indicates that the majority of demand will be for small (one or two bedroom) units rentable for periods of up to three years. Depending on the mix of housing types and the density of development, around 48 ha of land would be required for housing.

7. Collegiate development/student housing The Council's Second and Third Reports described the need to provide housing for up to 2,000 students (undergraduate and postgraduate) by 2025. The Council remains of the view that sufficient land, around 6 ha, should be allocated for such provision. 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 will be possible to provide playing fields. Consultation is under way with the Colleges to verify the quantum and timescale of provision, but the Council anticipates that the delivery of student housing will occur later in the development period.

8. 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 the Second and Third Reports 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. As explained in the Third Report, global corporations are carrying out significantly 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; a number of industrial research laboratories have already been 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.

9. The Third Report referred to plans being developed by the Departments of Earth Sciences and Geography to relocate from the City Centre to the Madingley Rise area of North West Cambridge. These plans are no longer being pursued. However, the opportunities for developing the cluster of environmental science based activities based on the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre in order to provide collaborative opportunities for University activities in conservation biology are being actively developed. The remainder of the space would be reserved for new academic developments over the next few decades which cannot yet be predicted. The Council believes it would be prudent to make provision for a minimum of 100,000 sq.m. of academic and research built space, which, depending on density of development, would require around 15 to 20 ha.

10. Community facilities The Council anticipates that the development will need a range of community and support facilities which might include a primary school, children's nursery, neighbourhood retail, a library, health facilities, opportunities for worship, as well as leisure and recreational facilities. These are now expected to require at least 5 ha. of land and would serve neighbouring residential areas as well as such areas on this site.

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

12. The masterplanning consultant team of EDAW (planning and urban design consultants), Peter Brett Associates (transport and infrastructure), and Cresswell Associates (ecology) has been augmented by the appointment of GVA Grimley as development consultants and interim project managers. The Finance Committee have approved the appointment of a Project Director to take overall responsibility for delivery of the project against the strategic and financial objectives set by the University. The Project Director will report to the Registrary through the Director of the Estate Management and Building Service. In addition the governance structure will be supplemented by an executive group chaired by the Registrary, reporting to the Strategy Committee and through it to the Finance Committee and Council. The group will have the authority to consider and take decisions within the overall strategic and financial framework set by the Committee and the University. Its membership is the Registrary (Chair), the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Planning and Resources), Mr Alexander Johnston (Chair of the North West Cambridge Strategy Committee), the Director of Finance, and the Project Director.

13. Master Plan parameters A number of key Master Plan parameters were identified in the Council's Third Report to inform the development of a Master Plan:

14. The Council's Third Report described the process by which initial Master Plan options were developed in January 2005 through collaborative design workshops (with key stakeholders) and exhibitions (for general public consultation), and outlined the process by which the options would be refined into more detailed proposals as part of the University's submission to the Cambridge Local Plan Public Inquiry. This process resulted in the production of an 'emerging Master Plan' dated September 2005 which was included in the University's evidence to the Public Inquiry in autumn 2005 and published on the University's website (

15. In their 'Issues and Options' consultations for the draft Area Action Plan for North West Cambridge, the local authorities included an option (referred to as Option 10.1) based on the University's 'emerging Master Plan'. However the option selected as their preferred option (known as Option E) differs from the 'emerging Master Plan' allocating significantly less land for built development. In response to the analysis presented in the Issues and Options Consultation, and taking account of further analysis of the University's needs and the financial analysis of the project, the 'emerging Master Plan' has been developed further (referred to now as the Lent 2008 emerging Master Plan). This is illustrated on pp. 610-11, and is recommended by the Council, on the advice of the Strategy Committee and Finance Committee, as the basis of the University's evidence to the Public Examination into the North West Cambridge Area Action Plan. The recommended plan remains consistent with the parameters set out in the Third Report, but includes the following amendments:

16. In the Third Report it was noted that a preliminary overview of the financial implications of developing the site had indicated that, based on a conservative assessment of infrastructure costs and planning obligations and with the achievement of a sufficient proportion of market housing, it would be possible to fund the development without the need for investment from other University sources. The guiding principle was stated to be to plan a development which is broadly neutral in not requiring funding from other University sources but, given the town and country planning and other conditions which will have to be met, it was not expected that the overall development would release capital for other purposes. In the light of the scrutiny at the Cambridge Local Plan Public Inquiry of a more detailed financial appraisal carried out in 2005, and of further work carried out for the Strategy Committee by GVA Grimley, the Council now proposes laying down new guiding principles as follows:

(a) the balance of risk, reward, and control embodied in the procurement arrangements should be approved by the Council on the advice of the Strategy Committee and the Finance Committee;
(b) development should not proceed unless the projected net present value for the project is positive and of a size commensurate with the University's expenditure and exposure to risk, and gives a sufficient margin to allow for variations in future development costs and capital receipts;
(c) negative cash flow in the early years of the development would be acceptable;
(d) the University should not seek to retain the freehold of land used for market housing and would not necessarily seek to do the same for collegiate developments.

17. The timescale for the Area Action Plan currently envisages adoption of the Area Action Plan in the second half of 2009. This would suggest the first housing completions in 2012, allowing for a pre-development period for planning, contracting, and site opening up. Given the urgent need to provide key worker housing for University and College staff, the Strategy Committee have been giving consideration to proposals to accelerate development of the land at the eastern end of the site which is in the City Council administrative area and which has been allocated for development in the Cambridge Local Plan. Recent discussions with both the City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council have indicated that they are willing to work proactively with the University in developing proposals for the eastern end of the site during the remainder of 2008. It should be possible to bring these proposals forward without undermining the University's primary town planning objective of securing the policy status of the Master Plan for the whole site in the Area Action Plan. The Council has therefore agreed that the officers and consultants should develop proposals for an early Phase 1 development.

18. The finalization by the University of a Master Plan developed from the Lent 2008 emerging Master Plan will need to be an iterative process by way of continuing engagement with stakeholders, and responding to the outcome of the North West Cambridge Area Action Plan. At this stage the Council invites the Regent House's approval of the provisional mix of uses to be provided at North West Cambridge, and of the Lent 2008 emerging Master Plan as the basis of evidence to the North West Cambridge Area Action Plan public examination later in 2008. Further Graces will be submitted to approve the final Master Plan, and for the construction of specific buildings and sale of plots of land.


19. The Council recommends that approval be given to:
(i) the provisional mix of uses to be provided at North West Cambridge as set out above;
(ii) the Lent 2008 emerging Master Plan as the basis of evidence to the North West Cambridge Area Action Plan public examination.


17 March 2008 ALISON RICHARD, Vice-Chancellor M. CLARK D. W. B. MACDONALD