North East Cambridge: how to have your say on the new city district

This is our first in a series of blog posts about the North East Area Action Plan consultation. In this post, we explain how to respond to the consultation. We will soon publish our analysis of the plan and our views on the issues that affect cycling.

A new city district is planned for North East Cambridge and we encourage you to share your views on its Area Action Plan during the consultation period. The plans are being developed by a shared planning team from Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council as the area covered crosses the boundary between the two.

The development area stretches out from Cambridge North station to the A14, encompassing the current site of the Anglian Water treatment works (for which a new location is currently being chosen), the Science and Business Parks and Cambridge Regional College. Most change will occur around the station and waterworks area with the bulk of the site’s 8,000 new homes in this location as well as new business space, shops, services, green spaces and community facilities. Physical connections and social cohesion with existing communities is important and there will be new links to take cyclists and pedestrians across current barriers like the Guided Busway, A14 and the north end of Milton Road.

The district’s vision describes an inclusive and walkable district with principles focusing on aspects including sense of place, health and wellbeing, collaboration, integration with surrounding neighbourhoods and innovative responses to the climate and biodiversity emergencies. The draft plans promise that there will be a comprehensive network of safe and convenient walking and cycling routes, where priority is provided over motor traffic within the area, making it much easier to walk or cycle than to use a car.

 

Finding out more about the draft plans

The Greater Cambridge Shared Planning team have been working hard to make this consultation more inclusive than ever and have learnt lots from the recent consultation on the Local Plan. The Covid-19 pandemic has shifted the focus to online rather than face-to-face events with YouTube videos and Zoom webinars to help answer residents’ questions. There are various ways to engage with the plans online, depending on your level of time and interest. Leaflets are also due to be delivered to residents in surrounding areas and made available in local shops and community centres.

Here are some good places to start finding out more:

 

Introductory video (46 seconds’ viewing)

A short summary with a map to show the area covered and an animated vision of North East Cambridge: ‘a place for all of us’.

 

Introductory pages (up to 5 minutes’ read)

The home pages for the North East Cambridge development on the Greater Cambridge Planning site and on the dedicated consultation website give an overview on the background to the plan and the ways you can comment and find out more. The link to related consultations covers the relocation of the water treatment works (open until 19 August) and the Fen Road railway crossing (options currently under development by Network Rail).

 

Vision page (up to 10 minutes’ read)

The vision summarises the proposals, setting out the key principles which will guide the development. There are short sections, illustrated with diagrams or key facts, on aspects of the plan including new walking and cycling connections, social and cultural hubs, homes and workplaces, open spaces and biodiversity. Each section has a link to more detailed information within the draft plan itself. Within this page are ‘ten big questions’ that the councils would like everyone to answer.

 

Frequently asked questions page (up to 20 minutes’ read/viewing)

The questions on this page, answered in text and video, have been developed around input from local communities to reflect key concerns and help explain the plans in a clear and accessible way. Reading and viewing the answers to these questions is a good way to quickly find out more about the plans and the videos also give an introduction to some of the people (councillors and council officers) who have been working to put them together.

 

Draft Area Action Plan (up to several hours’ read)

At 296 pages, the draft plan itself is a weighty document, but has been well laid-out to make it clear and readable. The pdf document (also available through the post as a printed copy for a fee of £20) duplicates all the content available on the consultation website, but can be an easier way to get a grasp of the big picture or follow up on items of interest after reading the initial vision page. Even more detailed information can be found in the plan’s online document library which includes impact assessments, technical studies and topic papers on aspects such as housing and transport.

 

Ways to submit your comments

North East Cambridge is a large area, bigger than the city centre in size. The homes planned will house a population of around 18,000 people, similar to the current population of Ely. It is expected that 20,000 new jobs will be created and at least three new schools are planned in addition to shops and services such as a library, health centre and arts hub. It will affect everyone who lives nearby and have a huge impact on the whole city. The way it is designed and delivered will determine the way the Greater Cambridge region addresses important issues such as congestion, inequality, biodiversity and climate change. It’s vital that as many people as possible have their say.

 

Commenting online
Registration (2 minutes)

Online comments are encouraged as this means responses can be gathered and analysed more easily. Because of national regulations for plan-making, you will need to register on the planning site with a name, email and postal address. This is a quick process which takes around two minutes (note that a confirmation code will be sent to your email account). Your name will be published alongside your responses but your address, email and phone number, if you provide them, will not be published.

Once you have logged in, you can submit responses on any part of the website which has a blue speech bubble next to it. There are 60 areas to comment on in total: 10 big questions, 30 policies (divided into 44 parts), trajectories, monitoring, appendix, and 3 supporting documents. Each of these has a multiple-choice option (such as ‘Support’ or ‘Oppose’) and space for some comments. Comments are required to back up your answers, but do not have to be long. You will receive an email for each comment you make, confirming what you have written.

 

Submitting comments (from 5 minutes to several hours)

If you only have a short amount of time, we recommend focusing on the 10 big questions (which could be completed in as little as five minutes) or choosing one or two topics of interest and submitting feedback on the big question related to that topic, plus the related policies behind it. The key question related to cycling is Question 2 (Are we creating the right walking and cycling connections to the surrounding areas?) and the related connectivity policies 16-22 which cover aspects including street hierarchy, cycle parking and cargo bike use for last-mile deliveries. Policy 7 (Legible streets and spaces) is also important, as it details how the site’s primary and secondary streets will be laid out to encourage walking and cycling and nurture a vibrant, safe and healthy community.

 

Sending comments by email or post

A downloadable Word form is available for those who prefer not to use the online system. This can be opened and edited in Microsoft Word or other word processing software such as Pages or Open Office, or printed out for handwritten responses. As with the online comments, because of national regulations for plan-making, you will need to include your name and postal address. Once your comments are processed or transcribed, your name will be published alongside your responses. The Word form includes space for answers to the 10 big questions and a page which you can duplicate for each policy or document on which you wish to comment.

 

Further guidance

You can contact the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning team by emailing nec@greatercambridgeplanning.org or calling 01954 713183 if you need help with the online system, would like paper copies of any of the documents or require any of the information in a different language or format. The help page on the website provides further information about commenting online and there is a Zoom guide to help you access the consultation webinars.

Although there won’t be any official face-to-face events as part of this consultation, the project team may be able to attend local community events to talk about the plans, while following current guidance on social distancing. Contact them using the details above.

The Camcycle team will also be working with our volunteers to respond to the draft plans and will publish follow-up blog posts over the next few weeks to help you do the same. Watch this space!