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Pre-Application Briefing by the Developer - Cavendish Laboratory, JJ Thomson Avenue, West Cambridge Site, Cambridge

1.0     Cavendish III Proposal

1.1     The pre application proposal is for the complete relocation of the Cavendish II laboratory from its existing site in the south east corner of the West Cambridge campus. The proposed building will have four levels of accommodation providing 38,600 sq m of footprint.  It is proposed to be formed of two phases.  Phase two will be located in the north east corner of the plot. 

1.2     The proposed application site is situated on the west side of JJ Thomson Avenue and at the junction with Madingley Road, on land currently used as paddocks for the Veterinary School and Merton Hall Farmhouse.  It falls within ‘the Green’ and ‘Central Green Link’ key places within the Design Guide which accompanies the West Cambridge outline application.

1.3     Because of timescales involved with the outline (16/1134/OUT) the proposal will come forward as a separate full planning application. It will be assessed on its own merits, as well as the emerging outline application, parameter plans, Design Guide and other associated strategies.


Shared Facilities Hub and JJ Thomson Gardens


1.4     A proposed shared facilities building will provide catering, library and other supporting amenities to serve the West Cambridge Site. It will be situated to the south of the proposed Cavendish III and will be adjacent to the existing North Residences. The Shared Facilities Hub will be accommodated within a rectangular shaped plot and will have 3-4 levels of accommodation.

1.5     Between the proposed Cavendish III and Shared Facilities Hub is a proposed 2.4 ha area of landscaped public realm.  ‘JJ Thomson Gardens’ will be a predominantly soft landscape and recreational open space which will accommodate an east - west cycle and pedestrian path.  JJ Thomson Gardens will be part of a larger open space (The Green), which will be delivered in three phases progressing east to west, involving the relocation of the Veterinary School.


2.0     Background and Policy Context

2.1     The West Cambridge Site is a major new academic development being undertaken by the University of Cambridge.  Development has begun in accordance with the approved planning permission in 1999. 


2.2     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 over the last 18 months.


2.3     The densification of West Cambridge is acceptable in principle, subject to environmental, amenity and transport assessment as set out within emerging Local Plan Policy 18.  The need for a ‘comprehensive development approach’ has been agreed through the ‘Statement of Common Ground’ to mitigate the uplift in academic and commercial floor space that will be provided.    This will be assessed through the revised masterplan.


3.0     Key Issues

3.1     The key issues are:

-        Compliance with the emerging and yet to be agreed parameter plans and Design Guide for the revised West Cambridge outline permission.

-        Design and appearance of the new buildings in context.

-        Setting of Schlumberger Gould Research Centre.

-        Active frontages and contribution to wider public realm.

-        Sunlight and shadow impacts.

-        Relationship with existing trees.

-        Energy strategy.

-        Landscape strategy.

-        Drainage approach.

-        Utilities requirements and connections to the wider site.

-        Servicing, access and construction management.

-        Cycle parking strategy.

-        Inclusive access.

-        Public Art integration.



Member Briefing - Summary Note

West Cambridge Masterplan Review – 16/1134/OUT

Thursday 6 September 2017

Council Chamber, Guildhall

1.0       Apologies


-      Councillor Peter Sarris declared an interest as an employee of Cambridge University.  Accordingly, he did not attend the briefing.


2.0       Declarations of Interest


-      Councillor Peter Sarris (See above).


3.0       Key Points from Developer Presentation


Cavendish 3 project


-      Scheme development - has taken place over 18 months.

-      Constraints and opportunities – vibration and scientific equipment have informed the design and layout.

-      Deliveries will be located in the North West corner.

-      Vibration sensitivity – has driven the layout of the building.

-      Layout – includes a public wing, 3 courtyards and an internal street.

-      Internal circulation – has been carefully considered to promote interaction.

-      Dramatic double height entrance – will be provided in the public wing, with access to the lecture theatres and circulation space.

-      Timeless Design – calm, grounded architecture characterises the external appearance of the building.  Use of reconstituted stone will help to achieve this.

-      Solar gain – has been carefully considered in the design proposals.

-      Central Green Link – characterised by the distinctive, projecting service wings.

-      North East Corner – will be constructed as part of a phase 2 development.  The interim condition will be carefully designed.

JJ Thomson Gardens

-      Flexible design – is intended to integrate with the future strategy.

-      New east/west cycle route will be provided.

-      Productive garden – is incorporated into the proposals.

-      Vehicle speeds, JJ Thomson Avenue will be reduced through interventions in the street design.

Shared Facilities Hub (SFH)

-      Landmark building – the Shared Facilities Hub will be a landmark building for the campus, key to its social infrastructure.

-      Entrances – respond to the site context and plaza areas.

-      Planting – will be integrated into the atrium spaces of the building.

-      External elevations – will be more ‘playful’ than the proposed Cavendish 3 building and will be as open and permeable as possible.

-      Ground source heat pumps will be shared with the Cavendish 3 project.

4.0    Member questions/comments

          How do these reserved matters applications relate to the undetermined outline application?  How can they be assessed in isolation from the masterplan which is still outstanding? 


4.1    Government funding has been secured for delivery of the new Cavendish Laboratory, which is a scheme of national importance.  As such the proposal will be assessed on its own merits as a separate full planning application.  This is necessary because of the timescales involved with post submission negotiations on the outline planning application (16/1134/OUT).  This approach was adopted for submission of the Civil Engineering Building (16/1811/FUL) which was approved by Committee in March 2017.


4.2    The outline planning application was submitted in June 2016 and officers are concluding a series of post submission negotiations relating to building heights, transport, green infrastructure, quality of place and other site wide strategies.  A comprehensive resubmission is expected mid-September.  Full consultation will follow this submission, including a Member briefing.


The approach to transport is very concerning.  Cavendish 3 is a new building of significant scale which could be occupied in addition to the existing Cavendish 2 buildings.  This will have a significant transport impact.


4.3    The proposal will be accompanied by a Transport Assessment which assumes the worst case scenario, i.e. that the proposed Cavendish 3 building is new floor space.  The existing Cavendish 2 building will remain in D1 use, although there is no fixed strategy to date on its interim use. 


4.4    The Transport Assessment will assess the impact of new trips over and above the current situation and will include a mitigation strategy.  This stage of the process is still ongoing.  Mitigation will need to be considered in the context of the extant 1999 West Cambridge Masterplan.


Cycling to and from the City is very difficult because of the quality of Garret Hostel Lane cycle route.  This proposal will place further pressure on this key route.

4.5    Capacity issues with Garret Hostel Lane are recognised.  The Cavendish 3 application will be required to mitigate its impact identified within the Transport Assessment.  The Transport Assessment for the outline will set out the wider strategy for mitigation which includes cycle improvements into the City.  The County Council is currently in negotiations with the developer team on contributions to City Deal, which will deliver strategic cycling improvements.

          The transport impact will be managed by delivery of a future multi storey car park.  This approach is not necessarily agreed and is not actually proposed within the Cavendish 3 application.

4.6    The Transport Assessment for the proposed Cavendish 3 building will set out the mitigation required for private vehicles.  Additional vehicles are likely to be accommodated by the existing car parking spaces available across the West Cambridge site.  If any new car parks need to be delivered then this would need to be provided at the same time in the S106.

What is the increase in staff numbers resulting from the new Cavendish 3 building?


4.7    There will be approximately a 20% increase in staff and student numbers provided within the new building.  The floor space of the new Cavendish is similar to the existing Cavendish 2 complex.


The North West Cambridge Development will result in thousands of new residents living in close proximity to West Cambridge.  The provision for cycle and pedestrian crossing of this road is completely inadequate.  Linking these two sites will be essential for the wider outline application.


4.8    The amended Transport Assessment for the outline application will propose mitigation for offsite strategic cycle links.  There are currently proposals for different options to improve connections to the North West Cambridge Development for the later 2031 phase.  A Member update on the transport issues relating to the outline application will take place in the coming months, before the outline application is presented to Committee.


What is the wider strategy for the central green as part of the outline planning application?


4.9    JJ Thomson Gardens will be the first phase of a new primary open space for the West Cambridge Site, known as ‘The Green’.  The design of JJ Thomson Gardens is proposed to be a standalone space, but is also integrated into a wider framework.   Details of the wider strategy will be included in the applications for both the outline and JJ Thomson Gardens.


To what extent have building heights been agreed as part of the outline application?


4.10  Building heights have been subject to detailed assessment by officers through post submission workshops.  This has resulted in removal of the previously proposed 10 areas of additional height.  Height has also been moderated at key edges of the development, including to the east near to Clerk Maxwell Road.


4.11  This work has also involved detailed assessment of existing trees on the site which has resulted in the developer team providing an Arboricultural Impact Assessment and Woodland Management Strategy.  Through this work buffer zones have been agreed in relation to the development parcels and site edges.


4.12  An update on the outline application will be given to Members before the application is presented to Planning Committee.


Does the height of the Cavendish 3 building set a precedent for height across the central part of the campus and Madingley Road.  A continuation of the proposed height to the west across the Vet school is concerning.


4.13  The application for Cavendish 3 should be assessed on its own merits.  It will be accompanied by its own Environmental Statement and Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment.  Height across the campus will be assessed through the outline planning application.


Will the West Cambridge Site be an inviting community or a University enclave?


4.14  A key objective of the new masterplan for West Cambridge is to create and sustain a high quality place by transforming the physical and social environment.  This will benefit both the working population at West Cambridge and the wider community.  This will be achieved through a more walkable, pedestrian orientated public realm, improvements to the social environment of the campus and enhanced cycle links to and through the site. 


4.15  The Shared Facilities Hub will be a publically accessible building which is reflected in its open and permeable detailed design.  The new Cavendish Laboratory will be a step change for the campus.  It includes a public wing and responds positively to its immediate setting, a shortcoming of other large institutional buildings which have been constructed on the site.


4.16  Officers are seeking the next phase of the University sports centre (swimming pool) to be included in the S106.  (The University are unable to commit to the providing the swimming pool at this stage).


How much residual development capacity is allowable under the extant 1999 masterplan?  The proposed development should be considered in that context.


4.17  The extant 1999 masterplan has capacity for approximately 80,000 sq m of floor space (around 50,000 sq m commercial research and 27,000 sq m academic).


The design approach of the proposed Cavendish 3 and SFH with regard to active frontages in their immediate setting was broadly supported.


4.18 Noted.




4.19  Member questions and discussion mainly focussed on the outstanding outline application 16/1134/OUT.  The discussion covered procedural matters, concerns regarding the transport strategy approach and the implications for the priority projects which are coming forward.  The discussion also covered building heights, green space and wider public benefits.


4.20  A package of amendments for the outline application will be provided for full re-consultation mid-September. 


4.21  Officers advised that a further member briefing on the outline application (16/1134/OUT), particularly focusing on transport matters, will be provided before the outline is brought before Committee.