Where to build and how much?
Local Plans set out how much growth should be planned for, and where this development should be located. To do this, the Councils must assess a wide range of possible scenarios and understand how sustainable they are across environmental, social and economic factors.
In November 2020 we published the findings of initial expert assessments of a range of broad spatial locations and growth level options. These are interim findings which will be developed further as the Plan is progressed, and a range of other studies are also being developed. No decisions have been made yet about what the eventual strategy will be.
You can read the findings, including the Development Strategy Options Summary Report, in the Document Library.
Some of the initial findings include:
- Under the standard method set by national government, the minimum number of new homes that would need to be built in the area is around 1,900 per year. This is about 180 more homes per year than we currently have in our development pipeline.
- However, taking into account forecasts for jobs growth in the area, there may be a case for planning for between 2,200-3,000 homes per year, to help reduce pressure on house prices and commuting into the area. This would mean finding sites for up to 1,250 extra homes per year.
- Our evidence suggests there could be real challenges in achieving very high levels of house-building due to market forces, but that the minimum level set by the government’s standard method will not support the current forecast growth in jobs in the area, potentially leading to higher house prices and more commuting into the area.
- New and innovative modelling suggests that the carbon emissions associated with each new home in Greater Cambridge would be between 6-13 tonnes of CO2 per year, depending on the type and location of the home. If ambitious zero carbon policies are brought in, this could reduce emissions to around 2-9 tonnes per home.
- If ambitious zero carbon policies are brought in, almost no CO2 would be produced by the building’s energy use itself and less than 1 tonne of CO2 per home would be generated by the carbon needed to build the home in the first place (this is calculated by spreading the upfront carbon emissions of the construction over the anticipated lifespan of the building). The rest of the carbon emissions are created by the travel patterns of the residents, which is why new homes in villages are likely to create over three times as much carbon as new homes in denser urban areas.
- Water supply analysis shows that the minimum required level of growth could be plausibly achieved through adjustments to current water resource management plans, such as greater water efficiency, reducing leakages and shifting to more sustainable water sources. Medium or high growth levels would need new regional scale infrastructure, such as reservoirs and transfer schemes, and this will inform plans currently being developed by the water industry. Under normal means of provision, these will take time to implement, and this could be a ‘deal breaker’ that means high growth levels cannot be achieved within the period of the new Plan.
- From a water management perspective, the best place to build new homes would be in new settlements, or to build large developments on the edge of Cambridge. This is because they can be designed from the outset for efficient and integrated water management, rather than having to ‘bolt on’ to existing infrastructure in the city or existing villages where there may be existing flood risk, wastewater and water quality constraints
- About 19% of Greater Cambridge’s land area is green or blue infrastructure, which means the network of natural and semi-natural spaces, including water bodies. This compares to farmland, which accounts for 74% of the land in Greater Cambridge. This figure has been developed through a very detailed analysis which included asking community representatives to complete surveys about green spaces in their area.
- There are many opportunities to improve and expand the green and blue infrastructure network, but the river corridors in particular would create the most benefits for biodiversity as well as communities.
- Initial viability testing suggests that market-led development in Greater Cambridge should be able to pay for 40% affordable housing as part of the mix in each major development, but there is further work being developed to look at the costs of infrastructure and potential policies such as zero carbon measures.