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North East Cambridge Core Site

19/04/2023 - North East Cambridge Core Site

This report provides an update on progress to date and next steps for the North East Cambridge (NEC) Core Site project, and the Housing Infrastructure Fund programme delivery.


The whole NEC area encompasses around one square kilometre within the City and South Cambridgeshire geographies.


The North East Cambridge (NEC) Core Site, situated south of the A14, west of the science park and north of the Cambridge business park, is one of the last large scale brownfield development regeneration sites suitable for housing development in Cambridge. The location beside the A14, Cambridge North Station, the guided bus way and the Chisholm Trail, make this a highly accessible and sustainable location. The Core Site of around 49ha is owned by Anglian Water Authority and Cambridge City Council and is located within Cambridge City Council’s boundary. It currently houses the Cambridge Waste Water Treatment Plant (CwwTP). The relocation of this plant is key to unlocking the potential both for this site and for the wider area.


There are three key projects associated with the Council and relating to the proposed Core Site development which include:


1. Planning Framework North East Cambridge Area Action plan (NEC AAP or AAP) and the emerging Greater Cambridge Local Plan (GCLP)– led by Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service.

2. Cambridge Waste Water Treatment Plant Relocation - Cambridge Waste Water Treatment Plant Relocation Project (CwwTP) – led by Anglian Water and funded through HIF. Cambridge City Council is the grant recipient from Homes England for the HIF funding. Grant Monitoring meetings occur monthly.

3. NEC Core Site Development – led by Cambridge 4 LLP, a joint venture between Anglian Water and Cambridge City Council (with reserved matters to Cambridge City Council and Anglian Water), with master developers U&I and TOWN. The project board, comprising members from U&I, Anglian Water and the City Council, meets quarterly and reports to the LLP Board. The LLP Board, comprising members from Anglian Water and the City Council, meets quarterly and is administered by Anglian Water. All reserved matters are referred for decision to the Anglian Water Board and to Executive Cllr/scrutiny committee at the Council. Quarterly reports are also submitted to the Executive Members.


It should also be noted that other key landowners are also progressing development proposals and consented plans within the wider NEC area. Whilst the Core site project team are actively engaged with other landowners, this report does not focus on progress other than for the Core Site. The Planning framework and the CwwTP projects are only covered in very high level summary owing to the Core site project’s interdependency with them.


Key progress has been mainly focussed this year on the Development Consent Order application, which is due to be submitted in early 2023. For the Core Site, 2022, like 2021, has been focussed on the widest possible engagement programme, focussed on the vision, values and very early master planning stages. Key elements include:


·       Appointment of new master planners and confirmation of main team

·       Progress towards a final DCO application and Approval of the Draft Regulation 19 North East Cambridge Area Action Plan

·       Review of the Master Development Agreement

·       Engagement programme for the Core Site including launch in February 2022

·       Establishment of the Ideas Exchange

·       Schools Programme with Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination

·       People, City and Planet Festival October 2022

·       Implementation of the Core Site Branding exercise

·       Establishment of the AAP wide draft transport strategy, to be completed in 2023

·       Progress on proposals for Meanwhile site activation and Early phase development, in compliance with current site constraints

·       Planning 2023 refresh of the landowner group with independent chair, and submission of capacity bid to Homes England

The outcome of the engagement programme is being fed back into the workstreams on an ongoing basis. Emerging themes include:


·       General support for the promises and values and for the early engagement

·       Prioritisation of the values based around Openness to all and Living within Environmental means followed by Integration with nature

·       Focus on the practical implications of low or no car use

·       A truly mixed-use urban place

·       A balance of homes and jobs

·       Successful public realm with vibrant animated streets and close amenities

·       A range of new types of homes & ownership models

Key risks for the Core site remain within the planning and transport arenas, with the added risk this year of the inflationary rises, which are currently impacting on both the Relocation project and Core Site development. The longer-term timelines of the project may provide some mitigation on this basis, but reviewing the business cases and working closely with Homes England and DHLUC will be key during 2023.


Decision of the Leader of the Council:


·       Note the progress and next steps reports for the project workstreams.

·       Note the increased risks arising as a result of the inflationary pressures and delegate authority to the Director to work on further risk mitigation to assure the Council that the programme remains on track for delivery.

Reason for the Decision

As set out in the Officer’s report.


Any Alternative Options Considered and Rejected

Not applicable.


Scrutiny Considerations


A Public Speaker made a statement.


The Director of Enterprise and Sustainable Development introduced the report.


The Director of Enterprise and Sustainable Development said the following in response to Members’ questions:


       i.          The Area Action Plan cannot come forward until the final determination of the Development Consent Order (DCO).

      ii.          The DCO would be subject to inspection.

    iii.          The North East Cambridge landowner group were seeking to appoint an independent chair. There were a number of independent task groups. One of those is the general infrastructure. They were re-engaging with utilities, water management, connectivity. They were re-engaging in regard to energy. Early evidence raised some risks in regard to an AAP wide energy provision. They were looking at key sites and neighbourhoods, whichever is more efficient. However this will all be reviewed.

The Committee noted the report.


The Leader of the Council agreed to note the report.


Any Alternative Options Considered and Rejected


Not applicable.