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Frequently asked questions


What is the Greater Cambridge Local Plan? 

A Local Plan is a legal document that the Councils are required to prepare, which sets out the future land use and planning policies for the area over a set time period. Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council are working together to create a joint Local Plan for the two areas – which we are referring to as Greater Cambridge. This is the first time we will have a joint Plan, and it will ensure that there is a consistent approach to planning and building across both areas over the next 20 years. 


How can communities and individuals get involved? 

We are involving our communities and stakeholders all the way through the Plan development process. We held the First Conversation consultation earlier in 2020 and we will be holding a Preferred Option consultation in summer/autumn 2021 where we will be inviting everyone to comment on our suggested spatial strategy and sites for development.

We are publishing regular updates including initial evidence findings in the period leading up to the next full public consultation. We are also involving different stakeholder groups, including parish councils and residents associations, in developing the evidence base for the Plan and testing initial findings. If you want to be kept up to date, please sign up for updates. 


How does the consultation feedback help shape the Plan? 

We consider all the feedback and assess it carefully alongside other evidence that we are gathering. It helps us understand your priorities for both the big picture strategic questions, and more localised or specific concerns. We will also respond to issues raised at each stage. 


What is the Call for Sites? 

A Call for Sites is a way for landowners, developers, individuals and other interested parties to suggest sites for development, and to let us know when they may be available for development. This is a normal part of plan making, and we have carried out a number of call for sites to inform previous local plans. It does not give any development status to the sites submitted, which will be fully assessed and shortlisted in due course. Read more about the Call for Sites. 


Are the sites you have published going to be in the new Local Plan? 

We have had far more land suggested for development than we can possibly need – enough land for around 220,000 homes. The First Conversation highlighted different approaches to how many homes the new Local Plan should deliver, ranging from 5,000 to 30,000 homes beyond the sites that already have permission or are included in our adopted Plans. None of the sites we have published have yet been selected as our preferred sites, and most of them will not make it into the Plan. 


How can I comment on the sites that have been suggested by landowners? 

We are not taking comments yet, as none of the sites submitted have yet been fully assessed by our team, nor chosen as preferred sites for development. We will welcome your comments at the Preferred Option stage, when we will hold a full public consultation on our recommended spatial strategy and the sites we suggest to go with it. This will happen in summer or autumn 2021. If you want to be kept up to date, please sign up for updates. 


How do you decide what sites should be built on? 

We assess all the sites for their suitability against a number of criteria. These include technical issues such as flood risk, their location in terms of access to public transport and local services, their landscape impact, and other environmental factors. Most importantly we also assess whether they align with the emerging spatial strategy for the Plan – whether they are in the right place to support the place-making vision for Greater Cambridge. We will publish our full assessment of the sites as part of the Preferred Option consultation. 


How do you decide what green spaces to protect or enhance? 

Consultants preparing our green spaces evidence will be advising broad priority areas and specific projects to enhance and expand the network of green spaces within Greater Cambridge, which could inform allocations and infrastructure requirements for the Local Plan. To inform this work they are considering a wide range of evidence, and will assess green space ideas suggested to the Call for Green Space sites from the First Conversation consultation. Some green space projects could be delivered outside of the planning system, most likely by organisations other than the Councils: for example, community groups who may have put forward green space site ideas may well be best placed to turn these ideas into a reality. We are also gathering evidence on current provision and future need for public open space and play space to inform policies in the Plan.  


How can you plan for development when the area is running out of water? 

We know that water is an absolutely critical issue for the Local Plan. We have therefore commissioned independent experts, Stantec, to produce an Integrated Water Management Study which will inform the development of the Plan, and we have also asked a second independent expert, Dr Geoff Parkin, to review the study and its findings. Dr Parkin is a nationally and internationally recognised expert in water resource management, with experience in groundwater modelling and assessment through research, teaching, and working with regulators, water companies, local authorities and local community groups. We will also publish this study as part of future rounds of consultation. 


How are plans for new public transport influencing the Plan? 

The Local Plan will need to consider how new development contributes to towards decreasing car use and increased use of walking, cycling and public transport. 

We consider the opportunities provided by existing or planned public transport improvements when determining where future development should take place. We will consider how schemes like the Combined Authority's Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro (CAM), and East West Rail are progressing as the plan is developed. The likelihood of these being delivered during the period covered by the Local Plan will affect how they should be taken into account. 


What is the role of elected councillors in developing and approving the Plan? 

As this Local Plan is joint Plan on behalf of Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council (SCDC), we have a Joint Local Plan Advisory Group (JLPAG), made up of elected councillors from both Councils, who are involved in the development of the Plan throughout the process. Papers for JLPAG are published online. At the key stages of plan-making, the Plan documents also pass through each Council’s individual formal decision making processeswhich at earlier stages in the process are Cabinet (SCDC) and Planning and Transport Scrutiny Committee (Cambridge City Council), in accordance with each Council’s governance process. 


How do you develop the evidence base and what experts do you involve? 

We commission a range of experts to gather and analyse evidence on different subjects, such as economic growth, biodiversity or climate change, and make recommendations or draw conclusions that will help us to develop a sustainable plan for development. We procure these studies through an open tender process in accordance with the Councils’ procurement policies and methods, to ensure we obtain the best advice we can. We also develop Topic Papers which set out the key issues on thematic areas and these are written by planning officers for consideration by our elected members. 

We publish all the evidence base studies and present them to elected councillors to help inform their decisions on the plan. The strategy that emerges is thoroughly tested through their democratic scrutiny as well as through full public consultation. 


How will COVID-19 affect the shape of the Plan? 

It is too early to know yet what the eventual impact of COVID-19 will be on the needs of our communities in the period up to 2040, which is the period we are planning for. We are keeping a close eye on evidence that emerges and will be reviewing all our assumptions as more data becomes available. 


How long will it take before the Plan is adopted? 

Plan-making does take a long time, because we need to do it rigorously, with a full understanding of the evidence, and in dialogue with our communities. We aim to consult on a Preferred Option in summer or autumn 2021, and a Draft Plan in summer 2022. This would be followed by a consultation on the Plan we propose to submit for examination by an independent inspector. Read more about the Plan timetable in our Local Development Scheme. 


How is this affected by the proposed reforms to the planning system? 

The Planning White Paper is a discussion document published for consultation by government. There is currently no firm timescale for it to be developed into legislation, and when it does, there may be interim measures for Councils like ours which are already in the middle of preparing their Local Plans. At this point we are advised to continue with preparing our Plan, and we will review how we ensure we meet any new regulations as the government’s planning reforms are firmed up in due course. 


Where can I find responses to questions there was not time to answer in the First Conversation consultation and Call for Sites data release Q&A webinars (September 2020)?

Please find the Greater Cambridge Local Plan 'First Conversation' consultation and Call for Sites Q&A1 and Q&A2 webinar responses to questions.


What was the split between respondents to the First Conversation consultation, between Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire?

As part of our evaluation of the First Conversation, we asked respondents to complete a survey to help us assess how well we did in reaching a diverse range of respondents. This survey was optional and anonymous to protect privacy. From this survey, we mapped the postcodes submitted which shows that 51% were City postcodes and 44% were SCDC postcodes, with the remaining being outside both areas.  


Where can I find the interim evidence base documents published in autumn 2020 that will help to shape the Greater Cambridge Local Plan?

The 17 interim evidence base documents and the summary report published in autumn 2020 can be found in our Document Library.


Where can I find the PowerPoint slides shown during the autumn 2020 public webinar and stakeholder engagement workshops, following the release of the interim evidence base documents?

Please click on the link to the Greater Cambridge Local Plan autumn 2020 slideshow.


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