Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council have recently released the results of their second Call for Sites as part of their consultation to inform the Greater Cambridge Local Plan. This Local Plan will help to determine how the Greater Cambridge area will be developed over the next 20 years and is a key part of the planning and decision-making process.
Shaping the Greater Cambridge Local Plan
Katy Klingopulos, a Legal Director in the Commercial Real Estate team at BDB Pitmans, writes:
The Call for Sites was an invitation to landowners, developers and promoters to identify land which could be incorporated into the next local plan; 658 sites were submitted for consideration, representing over 16,000 hectares of land and potentially offering space for up to 200,000 new homes and nearly 6m square metres of employment space.
This is the first time the two councils have worked together on a joint local plan and provides a unique opportunity to shape what the area will look like. Not only does the Local Plan look at how many houses will be built and where they will be built, but also where space will be created for business to grow, how those new houses and businesses will connect to each other, and where they will fit within the existing landscape.
The call for sites
The intention of the Call for Sites was to enable landowners to make the councils aware of land which might be available for development to inform the making of the Local Plan. It forms only part of the larger consultation which has been running alongside this. In addition, the councils also held a Call for Green Sites, to identify land which should be given protection under the new Local Plan.
Not all of this land will be suitable, or required, for development. The councils will consider the land identified as part of the overall consultation, as well as an in-depth review of their suitability and how they fit into the overall strategy. However, it is promising to see significant involvement from local stakeholders to enable them to form part of the decision-making process.
The first conversation
Alongside the Call for Sites, the councils have consulted on their ideas for the new Local Plan, with the results also having been published recently.
Some responses are as expected, for example showing a strong agreement with the question of whether the strategy should require extra climate adaptation and resilience features of new developments. Others are quite interesting. For instance, in response to the question as to how flexible should the councils be to permitted uses in central areas, 83% of website responses replied that councils should be either very or somewhat flexible. This perhaps reflects a change in what is happening to the high street and the need to allow businesses to be more flexible in how they use their space in order to survive.
On the other hand, in response to the question whether the councils should look to plan to build more homes than required by the government, there seems to be more of a polarisation of views, certainly in terms of website responses; 43% of respondents strongly disagreed and 29% of respondents strongly agreed.
Furthermore, when asked whether some land from the green belt should be used for development, if it was established that by using some of this land it would create a more sustainable development by reducing travel time, 43.9% of respondents agreed and 21.1% disagreed.
This demonstrates the challenges facing the councils. Although there is agreement in respect of some basic principles, many of the responses show a lack of agreement between stakeholders as to how and where development should take place.
Bringing it all together
The next step is for the councils to prepare a draft Local Plan which will be published for consultation. In doing so, they have some big questions to answer and major tensions to resolve. Whilst many of the themes – climate change, addressing housing need, improving transport infrastructure – are unlikely to be particularly contentious, how they are addressed will be.
If the Plan is to address both the existing and anticipated housing need for the next 20 years, where will those houses be built? Should more satellite and garden villages be created, or should Cambridge and the surrounding towns and villages be allowed to expand? If new housing is created away from the principal business areas (particularly Cambridge City and the science and business parks), how do we expect people to travel to work? Moreover, how can Cambridge address the dubious title of “most unequal city in the UK” given to it by the Centre for Cities in 2018 to enable everyone to enjoy the benefits of the economic growth and prosperity that the area has seen and will continue to see in the future?
Further details of the process – including the timescale for the next consultation and the option to sign up for updates - can be found at greatercambridgeplanning.org.
Katy Klingopulos is a Legal Director in the Commercial Real Estate team at BDB Pitmans, based in the Cambridge office. E: firstname.lastname@example.org T: 01223 753468
BDB Pitmans was established in 2018 following a merger between legacy firms Bircham Dyson Bell (BDB) and Pitmans Law. The firm brings together over 300 years of legal expertise across four locations – Cambridge, London, Reading and Southampton.