The greater Cambridge area has been growing rapidly and this rate of growth is predicted to continue. Change can be both good and bad. Our aim is to influence the type, location and quality of new development so that it is sustainable and does not materially harm the environment, heritage and quality of life. We do not support a dash for growth that will generate long-term harm. 

Cambridge Past, Present & Future has 11 Development Principles that set out our position on the future growth of Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire (greater Cambridge). They also provide a framework we will use to assess and comment on local development plans and planning applications:

1. The Environment and limits to growth:

  • CambridgePPF will not support levels of growth it believes to be excessive and which do not enhance the local environment and quality of life.
  • New development should have the prospect of being zero-carbon. This includes consideration of its location and the amount of carbon-producing travel or infrastructure that it might generate. We support moves to achieve high standards for energy efficiency in both the construction of buildings and their subsequent use. We also support initiatives to provide local/micro energy such as solar or ground-source systems.
  • The availability of water must be a key criterion in any development proposal. The overall level of development in greater Cambridge must be achievable without water shortages caused by over-abstraction from the aquifer impacting rivers, wetlands and other natural habitats. Individual developments must achieve the highest possible water efficiency, including grey water recycling.
  • Cambridge should aspire to 50% journeys to work by walk/cycle (comparable with Copenhagen and parts of Netherlands). Therefore, all new development must be located and designed to encourage and enable walking and cycling.
  • New development must be resilient to the effects of climate change, including being located and designed to cope with high rainfall flood events and droughts.

2. Green infrastructure and nature:

  • We strongly support the beneficial health and other benefits of green and open spaces readily available to the public.
  • A growing population will put further pressure on limited existing green spaces. All developments, especially those for housing, should therefore set out how they will contribute to increasing the quantity and quality of green infrastructure in our area. This must include strategic green infrastructure beyond the development site because Cambridgeshire has a shortage of such space. New green infrastructure provision should be based on green infrastructure priorities, such as those identified in the Cambridgeshire Green Infrastructure Strategy or opportunity mapping. These emphasise the need to create a joined-up network of green infrastructure, in particular expanding and linking existing green spaces.
  • New developments should demonstrate how they will contribute to greater biodiversity (at least 10% net biodiversity gain) and contribute towards Cambridgeshire’s vision to double nature by 2050. Development should follow the ecological mitigation hierarchy and avoid harm to priority habitats and species where it is possible to do so.
  • Large developments should be informed by Natural Cambridgeshire’s Developer’s Toolkit.

3. Landscapes, setting and Green Belt:

  • We believe that maintaining the attractiveness of greater Cambridge is essential for the area’s future prosperity and the quality of life of its residents. Allowing Cambridge to expand into a large urban metropolis will harm both its character and competitiveness. The further development of the city should be predicated on keeping Cambridge as a compact city by protecting and enhancing its green setting and keeping its special charm and character.
  • Development should be informed by local landscape assessments and views. In particular, respecting the setting of the historic city and villages.
  • We argue that the Cambridge Green Belt serves an invaluable purpose in protecting the green and historic setting of Cambridge. It should be retained and only considered for development as an exceptional measure of last resort.
  • Because the Green Belt is so close to the main centre of population it should be managed to provide public access to, and enjoyment of, nature and green spaces.
  • The Green Belt should play a role in mitigating the impacts of climate change and development, for example through tree planting, flood relief and public open space.

Magog Hills Landscape from Air

4. Plan-led development:

  • Development must be led by the Local Plan and also properly planned for, and not be speculative or piecemeal. The Local Plan should enable consideration of the scale of new development, cumulative impacts, the most appropriate locations, provide an opportunity for local communities to influence the development of their areas and enable co-ordination with other plans and initiatives (for example transport plans and the plans of neighbouring areas). Speculative and piecemeal development rarely does.
  • We will seek to influence the planning and development of Greater Cambridge through the local planning process(es).
  • We will not agree with all development proposals included in the Local Plan, but we accept the planning process and will not object “in principle” to proposals that are plan-led.

5. Building density, building heights, efficient use of land and regeneration:

  • We believe that priority should be given to development which maximises the use of sites that have already been built upon. For example, Cambridge has significant areas of car parking which could be better utilised (eg retail parks near Newmarket Road and on the Science Parks). The City’s airport and current water treatment works offer substantial long-term potential capacity for such development. However, we acknowledge that some “brownfield” sites can have excellent biodiversity (often better than surrounding farmland) and in such cases re-development may not be appropriate unless it can be achieved without loss of biodiversity.
  • New developments should be of high density in order to reduce the amount of land taken for development and to create communities which are walkable/cyclable and which can sustain local facilities and services – but they must also be appropriate to their context.
  • High density development may mean taller and larger buildings but these should be appropriate to their context and must take into account the historic setting of Cambridge, its villages and views. We do not support high rise building close to the city’s historic core nor emergent high-rise buildings scattered across the city.
  • The redevelopment of suburban properties and gardens in order to achieve higher density should not result in “over-development” or damage the character of local neighbourhoods, including their green infrastructure. It should also respect neighbouring properties.

6. New settlements and garden villages:

  • We believe new settlements must be of a large enough size to promote sufficient education, employment, retail, and leisure opportunities so as to reduce travel and dependence on Cambridge. We do not support the development of isolated suburbs in the countryside.
  • Any new settlements must be located where they can be sustainably linked to other main centres of employment and leisure. Ideally such links already exist, for example railways or the guided busway.
  • The wider implications of new settlements should be fully considered, understood, explained and agreed in advance as part of the planning process, for example any requirements for transport or services infrastructure.

7. Employment:

  • Some employment (and related housing) growth should be encouraged to disperse from greater Cambridge in order to reduce pressure on the over-heated local economy. Until pressures are relieved, we believe such growth would best be located in towns and cities that have good public transport connections to main centres (London, Cambridge) such as Ely, Peterborough, St Neots, Huntingdon, Bedford, Milton Keynes, etc.
  • New employment development should be located where it can be sustainably accessed by employees or where sustainable access can realistically be provided (ie good public transport, cycle and walking access, etc).
  • With development pressure so high in and around Cambridge, priority should be given to knowledge-based industries or those that require access to existing expertise or industry clusters.
  • Master Plans, Area Action Plans or SPDs should be produced to manage the cumulative impacts of clusters of employment or new business parks. Piecemeal development will not be supported.

8. Affordability of housing: 

  • We believe sufficient provision for housing should be available for all sections of society.
  • Cambridge has one of the worst ratios of average house price to average income in the UK. This is leading to increasing social inequality, changes in the social make-up of communities and increasing commuting. In turn this creates demand for new transport infrastructure and is becoming a major impediment to recruitment and to the continued prosperity of greater Cambridge. Therefore, all new residential schemes must include at least 40% affordable housing.
  • We believe the current planning and development system cannot deliver sufficient affordable housing for our region and, where we are able, we will lobby for planning reforms that can better deliver this.
  • Large developments should include housing provision for key workers. As well as those people who work within the public sector in roles that are vital to the infrastructure of the community, such as teachers, police officers, armed forces personnel and National Health Service, we believe that key workers for Cambridge should also include care workers, low paid public service workers and low paid support workers (cleaners, porters, etc).
  • Large developments should provide a variety of housing options for different markets in order to achieve faster rates of completion. For example, inclusion of private rented, social rented, retirement, self-build, etc.

9. Quality of place and social cohesion:

  • New development must be designed to the highest standards to produce vibrant communities where people want to live, including the provision of adequate, well landscaped and accessible open space.
  • New developments should achieve the standards set out in the Cambridgeshire Quality Growth Charter, including those for social cohesion. This includes ensuring that community facilities and services are provided in the development from day one.
  • Significant new developments should be informed by the feedback from recent developments and relevant quality panels, such as the Cambridge Design & Conservation Panel or the Cambridgeshire Quality Panel.
  • Quality issues should not be relegated to Reserved Matters in planning applications.

10. Historic environment:

  • The cumulative impacts caused by rapid population and tourism growth in greater Cambridge is placing ever greater pressures on the historic core of Cambridge. We, therefore, believe that the risks to the historic environment and associated mitigation measures must be identified through a Cambridge Historic Environment Strategy.
  • New development should be sensitive to historic buildings and features, especially in and adjacent to Conservation Areas. Historic features should be retained and enhanced wherever possible.

11. Community influence:                                                                        

  • We believe local communities must have influence in shaping developments in their area. Developments should adhere to Neighbourhood Plans and other local placemaking initiatives such as Village Design Guides.
  • Developers should engage as early as possible with the local community and work with them to help shape their development. We will look favourably on those developments that have the support of their local community.
  • As a civic society we encourage local groups to engage in the planning system and ensure that their views are heard. CambridgePPF is keen to hear the views of local groups on developments proposed for their area in order to help us better understand local issues.