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Thousands of comments published following Greater Cambridge Local Plan consultation

More than 9,000 comments received as part of last year’s consultation into the First Proposals for the new Greater Cambridge Local Plan have been published.

The Plan being prepared jointly by Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire District Councils, will eventually set out how Greater Cambridge will develop over the next twenty years.

During the First Proposals consultation, the Councils set out an ambitious vision for minimising carbon emissions alongside improving the quality of life for residents across the area, with all new homes to be carbon-neutral. The proposals included 19 new sites for homes and business space, with the majority of extra development proposed for North East Cambridge, Cambridge Airport site and at Cambourne. It set out a range of new policies to meet the environmental challenges facing the area – including tackling carbon emissions and increasing biodiversity.

The First Proposals explicitly said that they are dependent on evidence coming forwards to confirm that there will be adequate water supply to support the delivery of new homes. If the water industry and central government do not act, the number of new homes proposed may need to be delayed or reduced.

Today (Wednesday 15 June 2022) the responses to the First Proposals have been published as part of the process to update Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire District Councillors on the next steps for the Greater Cambridge Local Plan.

During the six-week public consultation which began on 1 November 2021, more than 5,500 answers or comments were made by around 600 people, using the quick questionnaire which was set-up by the Councils to make it as easy and convenient as possible for people to comment. A further 4,100 comments from approximately 625 different people or organisations were captured on the Councils’ more in-depth online consultation system where detailed feedback was secured. There were also some new suggested sites for development put forward for consideration, as well as comments on those put forward previously that had not been included in the First Proposals.

A significant number of comments supported the aims of the plan, particularly for tackling climate change and protecting and enhancing biodiversity and green spaces. There were also some common concerns raised – relating to issues such as water supply and development for new jobs and homes.

Read all of the responses submitted through our Consultation system.

There were 5,665 unique pageviews of the Local Plan webpage on the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning website during the consultation period. This compares to 4,810 unique pageviews during the previous First Conversation consultation which was held in early 2020.

Additionally, there were around 30 online or in-person events held during the consultation period, such as drop-in events at community centres, forums and webinars focusing on key elements of the proposed Local Plan, such as climate change and water usage. In-person events were also held to help reach those groups that don’t traditionally come forward to comment on consultations like this – such as Gypsy and Traveller communities and youth groups.

A variety of other channels were also used to spread the word about the consultation – such as residents’ magazines distributed by the Councils, paid and organic social media, public notices in newspapers, posters distributed to venues such as libraries and handouts at pop-up events. The thousands of comments received during the consultation will now be reviewed in detail by the Councils, and the issues explored as a draft local plan is prepared for consultation.

Cllr Dr. Tumi Hawkins, Lead Cabinet Member for Planning at South Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “We are truly grateful to all those who took time out to give us their views as part of this consultation. Our aim was to continue to increase involvement in the planning process and the number of responses that we have received show that many residents from across Greater Cambridge care deeply about this topic. We know we face some big challenges in future – but there are also tangible opportunities to reduce our carbon emissions and increase the quality of everyday life for our communities. We want new development to provide affordable housing, affordable business space and better community facilities alongside reducing congestion, pollution, and carbon emissions. We now need to review all of this feedback to refine our plans to ensure that we achieve the very best for our residents for decades to come.”

Cllr Katie Thornburrow, Executive Councillor for Planning Policy and Transport, Cambridge City Council, said: “Our First Proposals for the Greater Cambridge Local Plan recognise the urgency of addressing climate change – and the responses to the First Proposals show that local residents share these aspirations. To help achieve this, we propose to place new development in the best locations to enable people to travel by public transport, bike or on foot, without using cars. We’ve also put forward bold proposals for new green spaces, low-carbon design standards and much more. Clearly, water supply remains key, and we have long said that our strategy is dependent on improvements to that supply – such as new reservoirs - being achieved. But these must come forward without environmental harm and in time to support new development. We continue to make our case to Government and the water industry to take decisive action in this area.”

The proposed next steps for the Greater Cambridge Local Plan have also been published in an update to the plan-making timetable, in the Greater Cambridge Local Development Scheme, to be considered by councillors in meetings in June and July. The changes to the plan-making timetable proposed reflect both the opportunities and the complexity of issues being addressed by the plans, and the relationship with work being undertaken by other organisations, including work by the water industry to continue to address the future of the region’s water supply.

An additional stage is proposed to bring a report to councillors in January 2023 to confirm the Preferred Options for the Greater Cambridge Local Plan strategy and sites – this will include consideration of the comments on those issues received to the 2021 First Proposals consultation. The full draft Greater Cambridge Local Plan will then be prepared and is expected to be considered by councillors in summer 2023 and go out to public consultation in Autumn 2023. This is later than initially anticipated reflecting those wider factors.

For the next stage in the process, which would be consultation on the Proposed Submission Local Plan, and also consultation on the Proposed Submission North East Cambridge Area Action Plan agreed by the Councils in January 2022, the plans must wait for the outcome of the separate process for the relocation of the Waste Water Treatment Works, which is being carried out by Anglian Water. This would unlock the area for redevelopment into a low carbon community. Also, the timeline for the national East West Rail project will kept under review. One of the sites in the First Proposals, a broad location at Cambourne, was identified because it could take advantage of a future stop on a new East West Rail route.

The report that outlines the responses received as part of the Greater Cambridge Local Plan First Proposals, and clarifies the updated timeline for the Local Plan, will be discussed at South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Scrutiny and Overview Committee on Thursday 23 June, Cambridge City Council’s Planning and Transport Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday 28 June, and at the District Council’s Cabinet on Monday 11 July.