Planning & Heritage


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The growth of Cambridge 

We are at a pivotal point in the future development of Cambridge – one of Western Europe’s fastest growing cities. Widely regarded as a key driver for the financial stability of the East of England, Cambridge is also seen as an engine for UK growth and economic recovery. Regularly referred to by Government ministers and located less than an hour from London, Cambridge is a target for inward investment (public and private) and is facing change on an unprecedented scale.

Growth is good and essential to maintain the prosperity of local residents and to feed into the national economy. But it must also be sustainable to ensure that the character, ambience and qualities that make Cambridge so special are protected. We must not strangle the goose that lays the golden eggs.

What we do

Here at Cambridge Past, Present & Future we seek to influence the planning of new developments and the design of new communities in and around Cambridge, so that they are of the highest possible quality in terms of urban planning, architectural and landscape design and community facilities. We want places for people to live and work that maintain and enhance the quality of the city’s historic core and its conservation areas; offer green spaces for people to explore; and respect the compact nature of the city. We believe in high quality design and common sense.

Since 1928 CambridgePPF have worked alongside the planning committees of successive local councils, landowners and developers, discussing future developments and how best to shape them before they get to planning application stage. Over recent years we have engaged with many local residents associations and groups as well as numerous local bodies including the city’s Sustainable City Biodiversity Group; the Green Infrastructure Forum; the Local Strategic Partnership; the Design and Conservation Panel; the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Cambridge Ahead.

Most recently, CambridgePPF have become key stakeholders during the Examination of the Local Plans for both South Cambridgeshire District Council and Cambridge City Council. Submissions and responses to all Matters and sitting as witness during the process is a great example of the status our Planning Committee have gained. In addition, there has been significant involvement with the Greater Cambridge City Deal infrastructure proposals where at least two of the areas of focus are located either on land CambridgePPF own or land we hold under covenants.

In addition, CambridgePPF engage with the local communities and councils on heritage assets, whether formally designated or not. Despite limited resources and reliance on the generous time of our volunteers, CambridgePPF have also been involved in numerous heritage related projects, such as the Landbeach Tithe Barn, Hodson’s Folly and assisting the City Council with their updating of the Building of Local Interest list.

Development Principles

CambridgePPF has prepared a set of 12 Development Principles that provide the strategic and policy framework for determining our approach to the future development of Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire. The purpose of these Principles is to publish a clear statement of the Society’s position in the debate about the future growth of Cambridge. They are also intended to provide a policy-base against which to assess local development plans, and to ensure consistency in the position taken by the charity.

Growth is essential for prosperity and choice: the growth and development of Cambridge and the surrounding area of South Cambridgeshire are essential for the continued success and prosperity of the City, its Universities, businesses, and residents, as well as providing a vital economic driver for the East of England and the whole UK; growth is an essential enabler to the provision of choice for a socially inclusive private and rental house market that addresses both the supply of affordable housing as well as the general problem of the affordability of market housing in the City, villages, and new settlements.

A single integrated plan: the piecemeal approach resulting from the separate plans prepared by the three local authorities (Cambridge City Council, South Cambridgeshire District Council, and Cambridgeshire County Council) should be replaced by a single integrated vision and spatial plan for the whole Greater Cambridge Sub-Region Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire Districts) shared by all three authorities: a coherent joint plan, including transport as well as housing and employment, is essential to ensure that future growth is of a quality, scale, and trajectory that does not jeopardise the character and ambience that makes Cambridge such a special place.

Keeping Cambridge attractive: the attractiveness and high quality of life of the City and the surrounding area of South Cambridgeshire must be maintained if its Universities and businesses are to continue to succeed in a globally competitive market-place.

The Cambridge Green Belt must be protected. Cambridge should remain a compact city with a clearly defined boundary. The Green Belt defines the city’s landscape setting and protects it from urban sprawl at the city fringes. It serves to define the city and contributes directly to its character and to the quality of life of the people who live and work in Cambridge. Whilst not sacrosanct, Green Belt land should not be released for development except in the most exceptional circumstances when alternative sites, including brown-field sites, have either been exhausted or shown to be inappropriate. You can read more about our Green Belt involvement here CambridgePPF Green Belt policy

An environmentally sustainable city: Cambridge should strive to become an environmentally sustainable city, protecting its iconic views and green spaces, and making the best possible use of its energy, waste, and water resources. New developments, including new residential settlements in South Cambridgeshire, must be designed as genuinely sustainable developments and be of a size to ensure a high level of self-sufficiency and with quality transport links to the major employment centres in and around the city.

Cambridge has a housing crisis in terms of both the high cost of housing in the city and the lack of affordable housing for those on lower incomes. It is unacceptable that even middle income people are forced to live at a distance from Cambridge where prices are lower and to then spend hours in traffic congestion trying to commute into work. This is a very real threat to Cambridge’s future prosperity. More low cost housing must be built with high quality public transport links to the main employment centres. The 40% target for affordable housing must be enforced with exceptions granted only in the most exceptional circumstances.

Priority for employment in City: with development land so limited and the high demand from businesses to be located within the City, wherever possible priority should be given in the City to allocation for employment use with most of the residential provision located in South Cambridgeshire; this would necessitate the pooling by the two Councils of their housing and employment targets and forward trajectories. New employment, especially in the high-tech sector, should wherever possible be sited in employment clusters so as to encourage the close linking and sharing between similar businesses, employment targets and forward trajectories, and the provision of high quality public transport linking residential with employment areas.

Re-think transport planning: the chronic transport and traffic problems be addressed through a fundamental re-assessment of the current approach to transport planning so as to bring demand and capacity into balance, including a review of fiscal demand management options as a means of subsidising improved public transport, cycle, and pedestrian access. Priority must be given to linking the new settlements in South Cambridgeshire with the employment centres in and around the city. In addition the air pollution problem in Cambridge, which regularly breeches UK and EU legal limits, must be tackled as a chronic public health issue through some form of Emission Zone, possibly as part of an option for fiscal demand management.

Cambridge can be seen as two halves of one whole: the mediaeval historic city centre over 800 years old and the surrounding villages, some of which include buildings many hundreds of years old. As a result, the focus should be to enhance and protect the built heritage. New development in the City centre should seek to sit comfortably in context with the historic core and protect the unique qualities and character of Cambridge. Within the villages and  the River Cam Corridor, it is vital that growth and change are managed. A comprehensive strategy must be prepared by the City Council showing how the city’s heritage is to be protected from the cumulative effects of the city’s continued growth.

Highest quality design and innovation: all new developments should reflect the international reputation of Cambridge in terms of their quality, innovation, and design, creating new communities that provide attractive places in which people want to live and work, including high quality green spaces.

Brownfield first: the re-development of brownfield sites both in the City and South Cambridgeshire should be given priority in the development sequence; a comprehensive review should be undertaken to identify sites where land is under-used or inefficiently used that could be regenerated as an alternative to the further erosion of the Green Belt.

Learning from experience: all new residential developments, once occupied, should continue to be monitored to assess their success or shortcomings in creating vibrant communities that are attractive places to live so that a body of cumulative knowledge can be built up from experience to inform future developments: the annual monitoring programmes of the Councils should be expanded to include such community assessments so that a body of knowledge and understanding can accumulate that can inform our planning for the future.

The Cambridgeshire Combined Authority Devolution Deal

The Chancellor announced in his Spring 2016 Budget a proposal for regional devolution. This included a new East Anglia Combined Authority led by an elected Mayor covering the 23 Local Authorities of Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.  This ‘Eastern Powerhouse’ would have control over planning, housing, transport, skills training, and elements of social care.  This proposal was rejected by Cambridgeshire on the grounds that the geography was too big, there was insufficient affordable housing, and inadequate business incentives. The Government has subsequently proposed a more focused Combined Authority for Cambridgeshire & Peterborough.  This would appear to answer many of the original objections but doubts still remain about the role and function of the elected Mayor. A public consultation is to be held in July and August. Click here for more information. 

Transport and the Greater Cambridge City Deal

Read and follow the latest news and responses to the City Deal and Transport matters at our page on Transport and the City Deal

Examination of Local Plans

Read and follow the latest news and responses to the Examination of the Local Plans at our page on CambridgePPF EIP

Responses to Planning Applications

Read our responses to planning applications at our page on CambridgePPF submissions

CambridgePPF Projects & Campaigns

See what projects and campaigns the charity is currently working on as well as previously at our page on Projects and Campaigns

CambridgePPF Planning & Heritage Achievements

Historically, CambridgePPF has a proud record of delivering planning successes, as shown on the list below. Our more recent focus has been to influence the major development schemes in and around Cambridge so as to mitigate some of the worst extremes of the developers whilst promoting the best. Through meetings with developers and planners early in the process, we strive to inject a more human element into large-scale residential schemes in the form of green open spaces, children play areas, local shops, public art, and all the other little things that make a community. Rather than sterile housing estates, we encourage the creation of attractive environments in which people really enjoy living.

Monitoring our success in delivering such lofty ambitions is difficult as so much of our input is qualitative. We can however point to cases where, largely as a result of our influence, vital community elements have been built into schemes that would be bleaker without our involvement. Some developers are more willing to engage with us than others, but little by little we are building our influence by demonstrating that we are a realistic and pragmatic, but still very determined, organisation to work with.


  • Protecting Grantchester Meadows from development through the purchase in the 1930s of restrictive covenants so that the much loved Meadows can be enjoyed by the public for ever
  • Saving the Gog Magog Hills from the threat of housing development in the 1950s and creating Cambridge’s first Country Park at Wandlebury
  • Instigating the creation of the Cambridge Green Belt in the 1970s which still protects the setting of the historic city
  • Being appointed guardian of the Leper Chapel by Cambridge University
  • Saving Hinxton Mill from demolition and restoring it to its former glory
  • Purchasing Bourn Mill with a cash gift awarded to the charity
  • Creating Coton Countryside Reserve – demonstrating that Green Belt land can be managed with imagination to balance agriculture, wildlife conservation and public access
  • Contributing to the 2006 Green Infrastructure Strategy to encourage the creation of additional green open spaces across Cambridgeshire
  • Influencing the strategic planning of Cambridge as a compact, dynamic city with its historic centre protected by its Green Belt as manifest in the 2014 Local Plans
  • The only voice at the Examination In Public of the 2014 Local Plans speaking on behalf of the citizens of Cambridge with no commercial conflict of interest.

Support our work

There are lots of ways you can support our planning work.

Volunteer: If you have a planning background and are passionate about the future of Cambridge, why not join one of our volunteer committees. Our planning work is divided between two groups:

  • Our core planning committee is staffed by volunteers with professional experience of town planning, policy making and architecture. The committee meets every two months to discuss national planning policy; Cambridge specific issues; and individual planning applications.
  • Our Heritage Working Group is a sub-group of our Planning Committee which has responsibility for determining the society’s position on planning policies and proposals that affect the city’s conservation areas, listed buildings and green spaces.

Become a member: With more members we can amplify our voice on local planning matters .and galvanise our work so we can keep pace with the pace of development in Cambridge, which is set to accelerate over the years ahead.

Chris Blencowe

Chris is an Emeritus Fellow of Pembroke College. Prior to coming to Cambridge in 2005, he spent a full career in the Royal Air Force. He was the Bursar of Pembroke College until his retirement in 2013. During this time he gained a strong interest in Cambridge Planning issues and chaired the Cambridge Colleges Environment and Planning Committee.

Terry Gilbert

Terry Gilbert has had a distinguished career in local government at chief officer level with several Metropolitan Councils. He has extensive experience in economic development and urban regeneration and has provided advice on development and town planning in the East of England.

Dr Robin Pellew OBE

Robin established the World Conservation Monitoring Centre in Cambridge in 1987, one of only two United Nations agencies in the UK. He is the ex-CEO of the National Trust for Scotland (2001-06); Animal Health Trust, Newmarket (1998-2001); and World Wildlife Fund-UK (1993-98). Currently he is a non-executive Director of the National Forest Company and serving Chair of its committees for Conservation; Access & Recreation and Land Acquisition. He is also an independent consultant in the conservation, heritage and visitor attraction sector.

Stacey Weiser

Head of Planning & Conservation

Stacey has over twenty years’ experience in Interior Architecture and Design, Local Authority Conservation, Design and Planning and work with a national charity managing a grant project. Her role includes planning and heritage input, providing professional advice and support to the charity’s Planning Committee and Heritage Working Group, coordinating city-wide partnership projects of importance to the Charity, including our properties.

Cambridge Past, Present & Future are pleased to be working with Cambridge web designers ibe, who kindly donated the design of this site.

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