Cambridge Northern Fringe-East: Area Action Plan

This article was published in 2014, in Newsletter 117.

This huge area between Milton Road and the railway is a major brownfield site with a potential for substantial re- development. Just announced is a consultation on an Area Action Plan (AAP) as input to the Local Plans for both the city and South Cambridgeshire councils.

A significant amount of land between the railway and Milton Rd north of the proposed station is up for redevelopment.
Image as described adjacent

Why is this important for cycling and why should you respond?

It is important because this is an area dominated by car use and relatively inaccessible by bike. Getting far better access by bike would help to create modal shift and reduce the impact on the transport network, whilst enabling denser development. We will only achieve such permeability and ‘Space for Cycling’ standards, if sufficient people demand such facilities in this consultation.

You can of course read all the 92+ pages yourself. The draft was available at: http://democracy.cambridge.gov.uk/documents/s26772/CNFE%20AAP%20-%20JSTSPG%20report%2028%20October.pdf. But by the time this is in print a final version should be on the city council consultations web pages. See: https://www.cambridge.gov.uk/current-consultations.

Outside this plan is the Chisholm Trail Bridge over the river linking to Abbey ward and the new railway station, as well as the relocation of the aggregates depot and concrete plant, for which a planning application has already been submitted. See: http://planning.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/swift/apas/run/WPHAPPDETAIL.DisplayUrl?theApnID=S/0467/13/CM

These should already be fact before any other major changes occur under the AAP.

What is happening, and what can we expect to happen?

Just to make you sit up, it is worth shouting that the most radical of the four options would create nearly 30,000 new jobs in the area! The least ambitious option would at least improve permeability through the Cambridge Business Park from Nuffield Road to Cowley Road.

The elephant in the room is the land just to the other side of the railway line. This enclave of South Cambridgeshire, with only an exit via the Fen Road level crossing and Cambridge City, would seem an obvious parcel of land to include in the AAP. Apparently this is difficult because, unlike the brownfield land to the west of the railway, this is Green Belt and any attempt to include it would be likely to find everything metaphorically bogged down. (It is part of the flood plain too.)

Can I condense the four options into a few words without omitting vital facts?

{You’ll need to read all 94 pages of the AAP to find out}

All these options show cycling and walking routes running from Nuffield Road through Cambridge Business Park, across Cowley Road and as far as the redevelopment boundary, with each creating a higher level and greater area of redevelopment.

Option One: The golf driving range goes, and there is a shuffling of existing uses to create new areas for office/R&D, together with ‘improvement’ of Cowley Road. It is envisaged that even that could create the space for up to 12,000 jobs.

Option Two: Removes warehousing from Nuffield Rd, replacing it with housing, and creates new housing near to the new station with a multi-storey station car park, and a local centre with shops at the existing end of Cowley Road. It also has a new road parallel to Cowley Road so as to provide a route for heavy traffic, serving industrial areas, leaving the existing road for light traffic. That gives 440 dwellings and 15,000 jobs.

Option Three: This is the option that involves compaction of the Sewage Works to an indoor facility with no smell. All the documentation refers to Water Treatment Works and Odours. This, together with the replacement of all commercial development in Nuffield Road with housing, gives 660 dwellings, as well as space for 25,000 jobs.

Option Four: Involves finding a new location for the sewage works, giving space for nearly 28,000 jobs!

So what do I think?

Is the balance between jobs and dwellings correct? If more housing were provided would it just get bought by London commuters?

Option four is, I think, unachievable. Years were spent trying to find an alternative site for the sewage works and no acceptable site was found. Trying to achieve this again could just stall much-needed redevelopment.

Option three is achievable. Changes here have stalled in the past because land values were rising, and Anglia Water would have probably lost out financially if it sold 75% of the site and had to build a modern compacted ‘smell-free’ works on the remaining land. With the new railway station in operation, and a good action plan for the rest of the site, such changes in land values should tempt Anglia Water to co-operate.

Options three and four both propose moving the industrial sites off Nuffield Road to the north of the area, thereby releasing that land for housing. That must be good as it will remove much heavy traffic not only from Nuffield Road, but also parts of Green End and Milton Roads.

Option two may be the only option if changes to the sewage works cannot be achieved. Perhaps ‘three’ could be adopted with ‘two’ as fall-back if a deal collapses?

Option one leaves much of the potential untouched but could be delivered early. That could be good if it is thought that options three or four are over-development, but that might change within a generation and then we could have further development that lacked integration with the rest of the site. Is it a bit like shuffling deck-chairs on the Titanic?

What of that elephant in the room?

This enclave of South Cambridgeshire with only an exit via Chesterton has long been an issue, and increasing numbers of trains over the level crossing make incidents and congestion here likely. It is also because of this level crossing that a direct exit from the proposed cycle/foot bridge over the Cam onto Fen Road would be vetoed by Network Rail. Even if this land is not in the AAP a bridge for motor vehicles is needed.

Higher levels of development on the Northern Fringe should produce sufficient opportunity for a road bridge from Fen Road linking to north of the aggregates site. I don’t see why, given that Network Rail is apparently funding the proposed new bridge on the A10 at Foxton, and that they have a deep pocket of funds from DfT to eliminate level crossings seen as high- risk, Network Rail should not contribute to the cost?

An eastern entrance to the new railway station, together with an ungated foot and cycle bridge over the railway, would greatly improve the permeability of the whole area for sustainable modes.

And finally: The Campaign must produce a good response to the consultation, but it needs members to do their part. Decisions will not, hopefully, be made by weighing letters for the relevant options, but reasoned input from members, whatever their views, will help in the democratic process.

A common response to items in the press about the Transport Strategy of Cambridge and South Cambridge, was ‘Who was consulted? I wasn’t’. Although a leaflet (chucked in the bin) will not go to every house, these documents are not in a locked room in the basement of the Guildhall. Don’t trust my words, look at the online documentation and respond.

Jim Chisholm