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Agenda and minutes

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No. Item






Declarations of Interest




Pre-Application Briefing by the Developer - Whittle II Laboratory, University Site, West Cambridge

The Proposal and site context


The pre application proposal is for the reconfiguration and extension of the existing Whittle Laboratory.  The proposed new extension will have four levels of accommodation and will provide approximately 3,000 sq m of footprint.  The development is being promoted now because of recently awarded government funding.


The pre application site is situated within the existing Whittle Laboratory on the eastern side of JJ Thomson Avenue.  It falls within the ‘JJ Thomson Avenue Character Area’ within the latest version of the draft Design Guide to accompany the West Cambridge outline application. 


The site is partially visible from Madingley Road, although a substantial tree belt divides the two.  To the east is the University’s Park and Cycle facility and to the south is the University Computer Laboratory.


Planning History and policy context

The proposed Whittle extension is situated within the West Cambridge Site, which is a major new academic development undertaken by the University of Cambridge.  The campus, which is partially built out, currently accommodates academic and some commercial research for physical sciences and technology.  To date, the West Cambridge Site has been partially built out under the framework of the extant masterplan from 1999.  Around 100,000 sq m remains to be constructed under the 1999 outline permission.  Most of the western side of the West Cambridge site is still vacant plots. 

The West Cambridge Site has been slow to develop. Perceptions of the site include concerns over remoteness, isolation, lack of social life, high car dependency and lack of character.  There is a general lack of activity on site and external spaces tend to be car dominated.  The site suffers from a lack of facilities, although the sports centre has helped start to readdress this issue in recent years.  The new shared facilities hub is also currently under construction and will be a step change in facilities for the campus.

The eastern side of the campus has been built out since 2000, with significant buildings including Physics of Medicine and the Broers building.  The Whittle Laboratory itself was extended in 2010 (10/0822/FUL) totalling around 500 sq m.  This was submitted as a full planning application (not reserved matters) because the Whittle Laboratory was not included within the 1999 masterplan.

The West Cambridge Site is a designated area of major change within the Cambridge Local Plan (2018), policy 19.  Policy 19 states that any densification on the site that results in a significant increase, over that already approved, will be supported, provided that a revised masterplan supporting an outline planning application is submitted that takes an integrated and comprehensive approach to the provision and distribution of uses.


An outline planning application (16/1134/OUT) was submitted in June 2016 for a new masterplan for the West Cambridge site.  It seeks permission for up to 383,300m2 of development comprising academic and commercial/research institute floorspace and other ancillary uses.

The outline application remains undetermined because an adequate transport mitigation package has not yet been agreed.  The key issue of contention  ...  view the full agenda text for item 19/6/Plan


Key Points from the Developer Presentation

Future challenges for aerospace – zero carbon emissions by 2050 is the huge challenge which the Whittle Laboratory is being directed to meet.

Decarbonising propulsion – electrification is moving into aviation to meet carbon targets.

Electricity in aviation – 70 companies globally are currently planning first electric flight in the early 2020’s.

New high-speed laboratory – government funding will facilitate a new cutting-edge research space.

Noise emissions – the new building will emit less noise than the existing building.

BREEAM excellent – is being targeted for the building.

East Green Link – importance of the emerging landscape strategy for the masterplan was explained.

Cycle trips – there will be approximately 44 additional trips, the majority of which are likely to be from the east of the site.

North east range – the north side of the building is still in design development stage.


Member questions/comments


The impact of the building on the local area, in the context of its hi-tech commercial use must be carefully considered.  The contribution to the local employment market was queried and its relationship with local quality of life considerations.

Developer comments

The Whittle has traditionally worked with large companies.  As the market changes over time there is likely to be many new entrants.  This is likely to generate new technical jobs through future modelling work.  These new jobs will have a positive impact on the local labour market.

The number of proposed cycle trips was queried in terms of the research underpinning the assumptions and their level of reliability.

Developer comments

The developer team set out that the Transport Assessment will be based on actual evidence of trip numbers from the existing Whittle Laboratory.  The developer team has also examined data from the Chemical Engineering Building, which has a similar occupancy profile.  130 cycle parking spaces will be provided which is based on the amount of staff.  Pooled and cargo cycles will also be provided for secondary trips for employees who do arrive by car.

The level of accessibility to the internal amphitheatre area was queried and whether the building was fully accessible to all.

Developer comments

It is the intention that the building was fully accessible.  The internal design of the amphitheatre will be looked at further in the design development.  The scheme has been presented to Disability Panel and the University’s internal access officer.

Future clarity was sought on the provision for and integration of disabled car parking spaces serving the development.

Developer comments

Provision for blue badge spaces was still under review.  There may be potential to provide two spaces on plot.  In future, technology square will also provide for Blue Badge car parking.

Members questioned the developer team as to whether a stark, contrasting architectural response to the northern range of the building was the best approach in context.

Developer comments

The developer team reflected that the design of the northern range was still evolving and has not reached an end point.  The northern range  ...  view the full minutes text for item 19/6/Plan