North West Cambridge Development

Monday, March 17th, 2008. 11:40pm

Plans for a proposed development which will comprise 2500 homes, a similar number of student residences as well as University buildings between Huntington Road, opposite Girton College though to Madingley Road, joining up with the observatory site on Madingley rise took a step forward today. A draft Northwest Cambridge Area Action Plan (AAP) draft, and the Council’s responses to comments received so far were taken to a ” North West Fringe Member Reference Group ” a joint meeting with members of Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council.

The AAP states:

” priority must be on the provision of housing for Cambridge University and College key workers. “

The councils’ proposal is that all the affordable housing on the site is to be for “University Key Workers” .

I do not approve of this new term “University Key Worker”, those who work at the University are not police, firemen, NHS staff, teachers or others who generally come under typical definitions of “Key Workers” with respect to housing.

I believe there needs to be proper keyworker and affordable housing provision in all new developments and this should not be monopolised by the University.

How would a policy of homes only being made available to University staff work over time, would they be compelled to sell up if they changed jobs or retired. It appears that it is impossible to keep an occupancy restriction in place beyond 10 years in any case. I would think it reasonable that first refusal on the first sale of certain properties being given to University staff given that the University owns this site but to restrict occupancy beyond that I believe is an undesirable interference with the free market.

I disagree that the policy of University staff only housing meets the Councils’ aims to create mixed, balanced and sustainable communities; this is a divisive policy which will promote segregation of the “town and gown” in Cambridge.

There is no definition of a University Key Worker, without this it is not possible to make a properly informed opinion, the lack of this definition is something I believe needs to be corrected.

I cannot see how this scheme will make it any easier for researchers on short term badly paid contracts to afford to buy a house in Cambridge. Providing housing is a very different problem to making it possible to buy a house, and the latter is a problem which cannot be solved on a micro scale, we need to look at researchers’ pay, stability of employment and house prices. As it is I don’t know if research workers come under the “University Key Worker” definition.

The sensible suggestion from local residents to keep taller development away from the existing housing is rejected by the council, though essentially this decision is deferred to the more detailed “masterplanning” stage.

Reference is made by objectors to the poor quality of recent development allowed in the city: ” ‘Russian type’ tenement blocks (as seen on Cambridge West Site close to the Vet School)”, their concerns are noted, but I am not convinced they have been taken seriously. Compared to new developments elsewhere in the country such as those I have seen on the outskirts of London and in Oxfordshire and Dorset what we are getting in Cambridge appears to be very poor quality, I think Cambridge deserves better.

Despite the fact that large numbers of new student residences are being planned, in some aspects in great detail, students, and students unions do not appear to have contributed to the planning process so far.

Many excellent suggestions are made by the Cambridge Cycling Campaign, supporting routes suitable for cycle commuting though most are dismissed as being inappropriate for the AAP and need to be made later in the planning process. I think the level of detail dealt with at the various stages is unclear and irrational. The design o cycle racks is tightly controlled at this AAP stage, but road design even the principles of the site layout are considered to detailed and left to the masterplanning stage.

A link road from Madingley Road to Huntington Road is remains a possibility with this AAP, but is not stipulated by it, and refers to a proposed road between Huntington Road and Histon Road (Where is that proposed – in detail? the AAP doesn’t say). I would suggest unrestricting the Madingley road M11 junction and improving the Girton interchange getting traffic out of the city entirely are missing elements.

Finally a mention of a possible ice rink has made it into the draft AAP:

North West Cambridge may also provide the opportunity to host a facility which may serve a wider area and the University community as a whole, such as an ice rink.

The Area Action Plan will be submitted to the Secretary of State on 19th May 2008, then a six-week public consultation period will start on 19th May and finish on 1st July 2008.

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8 comments/updates on “North West Cambridge Development

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    The outline planning application for this site, with 5,000 homes proposed, is due for consideration by councillors at a Joint Development Control Committee meeting on the 8th of August 2012.

    As someone who commented on the application I was notified of the meeting and given the opportunity to register to speak at it.

    A search for the application’s reference number C/11/1114/OUT on Cambridge City Council’s planning public access site gives no results. The reference number one needs is 11/1114/OUT.

    A South Cambridgeshire District Council webpage on the development assures readers it will be kept up to date but doesn’t mention the planning meeting.

  2. Richard Taylor Article author

    I’ve not previously published my comments, which I submitted in November 2011:

    Sent: 2011/11/04 16:46:55
    Subject: North West Cambridge Development Site Objection

    I am writing to object to the University of Cambridge’s North West
    Cambridge planning application as described at

    1. I think permission for this development ought be made conditional on
    upgrading the A14 and M11 junctions on Madingley and Huntington Roads.
    The Madingley Road / M11 Junction needs to be a full unrestricted

    2. The impact on existing surrounding residential roads needs to be
    considered. Speed limit reductions will be needed on Madingley and
    Huntington Roads as the area becomes more residential. Clear demarkation
    of the entrance to the city for drivers coming in needs to be present to
    prompt speed reduction and alert drivers to the likely presence of

    3. I am concerned at the separation of the university from the rest of
    the city. I suggest efforts need to be made to ensure enclaves are not
    created and that the development does not increase the already existing
    divide. The current proposals do not allay my concerns in this area.

    4. I disagree with the university’s contention that the university
    providing key worker accommodation for their staff is a positive thing.
    I fear this will be bad for staff whose home will then be tied to their
    jobs, reducing their flexibility to move to other work and making it
    harder for them to move into the general housing market in the city if

    5. I am concerned by the proposals for district heating and dedicated
    energy generation. I certainly wouldn’t want to own a house on a
    development when there may be a legally enforced whip-round for funds to
    maintain the private power-station or wind farm associated with it. How
    will the supply and charging the power or heat be regulated? I am very
    concerned about the lack of competition; I wouldn’t want to buy a house
    were I was tied to one energy supplier with a monopoly.

    6. I think the adaptations to Madingley and Huntingdon roads ought be
    carried out in a manner intended to extend their character nearer the
    city out to the new developments.

    7. There should be easy access on bike and on foot to the surrounding
    countryside. As a condition of the planning approval access to the
    surrounding country-side should be improved including additional foot
    and cycle paths, and permitting cycle use on footpaths, and removing
    obstructions such as gates and styles.

    8. The quantity of pedestrian and cycle traffic expected to cross
    Madingley road in peak times ought be considered and I would like to see
    councillors consider if a bridge or subway ought be required.

    9. The City Council, or University ought adopt open space on the
    development. There should not be a “double council tax” in place for
    home owners on the new development having to pay one local maintenance
    charge for their green space on top of council tax.

    10. Roads should be adopted, parking enforcement and street lighting
    ought be functional, before residents move in.

    11. Arrangements ought be made to ensure all residents have a range of
    competitive options for the provision of high quality broadband internet

    12. Routes residents of the new development may take to the city centre
    ought be considered, particularly from a safety point of view,and where
    necessary upgrades required. This might include asking the developer to
    work with the university colleges to open up public access routes. eg.
    between Story’s Way and Huntingdon Road, or through St. John’s college
    and playing fields, to enable residents of the new development to cycle
    into the city avoiding busy roads so far as practical. While distant
    from the development site, the impact on roads and junctions including
    Castle St. Northampton St. and Queens Road ought be reviewed, with a
    view to making safety improvements particularly for cycle traffic.
    Completion of the Coton Footpath to Silver Street cycle way, including a
    crossing to Queens’ Green and a new cycle path across the green ought be
    required as a condition of permission for this development.

    13. The university’s proposed tenancy conditions ought be considered.
    Tennants of the university ought have their rights protected, the
    university should not be allowed to impose terms enabling, for example
    evictions without notice or the eviction of whistleblowers acting in the
    public interest.

    14. Councillors ought make the approval of this application conditional
    on the university getting on with its proposals for a West Cambridge
    sports centre, including an ice rink, martial arts and gym facilities ,
    which ought be made accessible to the public.


    Richard Taylor

    Many of the key issues I raised are in the report, and up for councillors to discuss.

  3. Richard Taylor Article author

    The proposals to require the developers to improve transport infrastructure are in my view poor, and insufficient.

    Rather than properly refurbish the M11 junction, they require monitoring of the existing slip road, and perhaps resurfacing it.

    Just £60,000 is allocated to improving cycling at the Histon Road / Victoria Road / Huntington Road junction. I think this is a tiny sum. (For comparison the public art contribution is £3,450,000).

    The proposal is though to request:

    Public Access to Sports Centre on West Cambridge Site

    from the university. I think this is excellent.

  4. Richard Taylor Article author

    I observed a few hours of the planning meeting at which outline permission for the development was reportedly approved.

    The most interesting thing was a presentation during the public speaking section from a Pro Vice Chancellor from the University of Cambridge. He explained how the University sees the development, and painted a picture more of a University enclave than I expected. He said the University would rent out the houses only to University staff. He said the new development was a move away from the closed, walled, colleges of the past to a new more open format.

    I felt the university were holding something back though, and not making clear if a new college is what they are proposing, albeit a new model of a college in an open format. Council officers stated it wasn’t yet known if some, or all, of the new accommodation would be a new college, or if it would be owned and run by existing colleges, or run centrally by the University.

    Public speakers, as public speakers tend to do, made some rather imaginative (some might say outlandish) suggestions, including setting an initial five year minimum tenancy length to boost community creation. Another suggested the university should give land to enable a dual carriage way down the backs.

    Notably Cllr Brooks-Gordon decided not to join the committee deliberations, whereas her fellow ward councillor who was also not on the committee, Cllr Hipkin (and others) did. Cllr Brooks-Gordon made a single short comment saying something about pollution levels and complaining the proposed supermarket had too much storeroom space, saying this wasn’t needed due to the fraction of food delivered fresh daily. I thought this was odd.

    Councillors commended proposed cycle infrastructure on the site; though Cllr Reid expressed concern about shared use cycle and pedestrian footways, saying “purposeful” cyclists ought be separated from pedestrians.

    Cllr Reid also commented on 20 mph, saying she hoped it was not merely an aspiration. The response she got was that the roads are “designed to 20 mph”. This was explained as being narrow tree lined roads (with the narrow width expected to slow traffic) with cyclists on the other side of the trees.

    There was little discussion of cycle improvements (or lack of them) off the site. A Cambridge orbital cycleway was mentioned, from the West Cambridge site to the Science Park. Cllr Tucker asked, but didn’t get decent answers to, questions about how this copes with crossing main roads.

    Cllr Reid called for orbital public transport, but not car traffic.

    Cllr Hipkin asked if someone using the site to reach Madingly Road Park and Ride from Huntingdon Road would be considered a responsible motorist. He was told modellers thought few people would try that, and the route would be designed to be indirect to discourage such traffic.

    Cllr Reid used my words, calling open space maintenance charges a second council tax, and requested they be avoided.

    Councillors wondered how much traffic calming they would get on a main road for £10K (this was one item in the proposed development tax agreement).

    Cllr De Lacy asked for traffic lights to respond instantly to pedestrians and cyclists. He was told a “scoot and move” programming system allowed such programs, and also allowed things like cycle phases to be included, however County Council officers rejected the idea of using the functionality citing safety hazards if traffic built up on M11 or A14 slip roads as a result.

    Council officers defended the design of the NIAB junction, saying it was wide to allow a slip road for those properties with exits onto the junction. They also said it would work better when it was full of traffic after the completion of the NIAB site.

    The meeting was told the University will be keeping control of some roads in its new enclave, and building them with materials the County Council would not be prepared to “adopt” and take on and maintain as part of the highway.

    Overall councillors whistled through the agenda. I don’t think scrutiny of this major expansion of the city was really seriously carried out; major items such as junctions, cycling, open space maintenance etc. were passed over in minutes.

    I got the impression councillors were not seeking to seriously achieve anything other than make their pet points so that when things go wrong in the future they can claim to have raised matters at this stage – however seriously raising matters and trying to persuade fellow councillors there is a problem is a million miles away from just raising a matter.

    Cllr Caroline Shepherd made a rare appearance in public in Cambridge. She lobbied the chairman in secret via a note, as this was passed just before the break for lunch I guess she was keen to tuck into her taxpayer funded meal.

    Many of the details will return to the committee in the future. One of the problems is there’s often a lack of clarity as to when certain things are agreed. Often it appears to me councillors are told it’s too early to discuss something at one meeting only to be told at the next it’s too late. The only thing it was suggested councillors were having the final say on at this meeting was the junction design; however I fully expect if they raise concerns about in the future they’ll be told what’s proposed is in line with the outline plan they approved so they can’t reject things.

  5. Richard Taylor Article author

    An opportunity has been missed to seek a cycle route through Murray Edwards College and St Edmunds Colleges providing a traffic free route into/towards the city centre, or otherwise seeking significant improvements to the cycle link between the development and the city centre.

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