Trawling Through Every Call for Site is not a Local Plan Methodology – The Greater Cambridge Example

Call for sites exercises have their strengths and demerits. On one hand it shows potential delivery by landowners. On the other they expose many areas where there are scattered land ownerships and cases where land owners have not got their act together – individually or collectively. My observation is that it really only works for ‘old money’ great estates who have land of large enough size, deep enough pockets and an attitide of slow long term capital growth that is needed.

One thing you definitely don’t need to do is trawl through every site and assess them in detail. That is a spectacular waste of scarce planning effort. Rather as PAS recommends start with the largest and best sites and keep going till you have hit your target. The rest can be ignored. The largest sites can then be bundled into ‘reasonable alternatives’ and tested, for example on their zero carbon potential.

Take for example Greater Cambridge. It map shows, outside edge of city sensitive Green Belt Sites, there are only four or so real clusters which are capable of forming a large enough development of the scale (50,000 plus units) Homes england favours for the ARC, developments of a scale that some form of zero carbon development with its own infrastructure might be feasible.

First West of Cambridge. I will go to my grave thinking the wrong route was chosen for East-West Rail. However now a preferred route broadly by the A428 has been chosen it is imperative to investigate the potential around it. You will see there is potential for a significant amount of growth in the Papworth Everard and Cambourne area, which could potentially be linked by bus based transit such as the bus based transit trying desperately to pretend it isn’t bus based the Cambridge Autonomous Metro. Of course the business case for CAM depends on land value capture. Of course as soon as development proposals become public the Combined Authority Mayor James Palmer will become the main opponent of them – true to form.

The second area is South of Cambridge.

The argument in the recent Greater Cambridge Consultation is that this area has good access to the biomedical employment node. The eastern parts though would require extension of the busway towards Haverhill on the old rail route. Around Duxford I fear growth would be too rail based.

The next area is east of Cambridge, which only really makes sense at scale if Cambridge Airport were to move. If it didn’t development would need to be more selective and focused, such as around Fulford Railway station.

The final area is to the South West of Cambridge.

This would have made most sense if the southern route for East West Rail had been chosen and if RAF Basingbourne were closing. None the less there is still potential for rail based growth east of Fosse Way.

Rather than ploughing through each site Greater Cambridge should commission masterplan led cluster studies for each cluster. The potential and infrastructure should drive growth rather than being artificially capped by a housing number, as this is a growth area facilitating growth of the Cambridge TTWA which has excessive car based in commuting.