History of the Examination of Local Plans
Cambridge City Council (City) and South Cambridgeshire District Council (SCDC) have prepared draft Local Plans for the planning and development of the Greater Cambridge area over the next two decades 2014-31. The plans went through more two years of drafting and public consultation in which CambridgePPF played a leading role, before being submitted to the Department for Communities & Local Government. The final versions of both Plans are now being Examined In Public by a Planning Inspector appointed by the Department of Communities & Local government to determine whether the plans are ‘sound’ or whether further work is needed. This is a long and contentious business with those interested in seeing an accelerated scale and rate of development challenging the already expansionist proposals from the two Councils. It is unlikely that a decision will be made by the Planning Inspector on the soundness of the Plans much before the middle of 2018.
The Examination of the plans opened in November 2014. In the first six rounds of hearings, the Inspector heard evidence on the proposed spatial planning for the area, the project increase in employment, the proposed provision of housing, the transport proposals to support this growth, and the possible release of land from the Green Belt. Because of the concerted challenge mounted by the developers, particularly the adequacy of the housing projections presented by the Councils, the Inspector suspended the hearings in May 2015 and instructed the Councils to come forward with a strengthened evidence-base to support its assessment of the housing needs, the sustainability of its proposals for new settlements outside the Green Belt, and its review of the importance of the Green Belt for Cambridge. Modified plans, including new work to meet the Inspector’s instructions, were then re-submitted in March 2016. These modified plans are now being examined.
These Local Plans will provide the framework for the future development of the area. They are therefore of fundamental significance for our continued social and economic prosperity and for the quality of life for all residents. For this reason, CambridgePPF has invested a major effort engaging with the Councils and arguing our case in front of the Inspector at virtually every session of the hearings against the challenge from the developers. Before the hearings began, we agreed a Statement of Common Ground with both Councils to show solidarity in resisting the pressures of the developers for much higher growth targets. Indeed, in the hearings, ours has typically been the only voice arguing on behalf of local residents for a more sustainable level of growth.
The key elements of the combined Local Plans include:
- The provision of 33,500 new homes and 44,100 new jobs
- Keeping Cambridge as a compact city with minimal further release of more land from the Green Belt around the city fringe once the areas released in the 2006 plans have been completed
- Employment to be based primarily around the existing clusters in centres like NW/West Cambridge, the Addenbrooke’s Biomedical Campus, and Northern Cambridge around the new Science Park railway station, as well as the main life-sciences parks in South Cambs
- Once the sites around the city fringe that have already been approved have been completed, additional housing to be located primarily in new settlements beyond the Green Belt in South Cambs – Cambourne, Northstowe, Waterbeach Barracks, and Bourn Airfield
- High quality public transport links between the new residential settlements and the main employment centres to be funded through the City Deal
- Measures to reduce the environmental impact and to move towards a low carbon economy
- Protection of the heritage assets, especially the historic core, Conservation Areas, and the River Cam Corridor