Tuesday, 27 September 2016

All shapes and sizes

When is a corridor not a corridor?  When it’s an arc. What’s the difference between a cluster and a hub? Nothing material.

The terminology used to characterise what’s going on in any one area of our eastern region serves only as useful shorthand. What matters is what is actually going on inside this corridor, arc or even valley. And the past summer has seen some action in this regard.

The London-Stansted-Cambridge Consortium has been focusing on how the devolution of powers could contribute to pumping-up and serving the growth potential of this corridor to and from London in the coming 20 years.

The London School of Economics (LSE), in suggesting a serious review of the Green Belt around London, referenced the London-Stansted-Cambridge corridor as a pilot for the LSE’s idea of complementing growth corridors with green ‘wedges’ as part of a new view of the Metropolitan Green Belt.

Meanwhile the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) – which was launched last November – sees a corridor of growth between Cambridge, Milton Keynes and ‘the Other Place’: Oxford.  With a focus on the disjointed road and rail connections between these three key locations, the NIC is charged with recommending improvements and solutions that will assist in supercharging transport links to reconcile the two old and the one new city.

Taking Cambridge alone, the ‘growth but where?’ debate has continued over the summer – and will doubtless do so well in to the coming if, somewhat stalled, autumn season.  The City Deal has been considering how best we can transport the current and future population of Cambridge through and around its historical, geographic boundaries.

All these august bodies are taking a strategic view for future growth. Meanwhile, over the summer, growth is actually going on with new development either rising up out of the ground or taking firmer shape through the planning process.

A round-up of summer site action reveals housing as key to unlocking support for developments on a number of projects.

Jesus College’s proposal for a new business park ‘Cambridge South’, on the city’s southern fringe by the M11 motorway, includes a significant housing element.

A new sporting village in Trumpington – promoted and proposed by Grosvenor Estates - includes plans for 520 new homes, of which over half could be built in the coming five years.

Plans for the re-purposing of Waterbeach barracks as the basis for a new settlement - on the same lines as Northstowe - have moved a step forward over the summer.  Homes for occupation as early as 2019 are being mooted by the promoting developer, Urban & Civic. 

Meanwhile over at master developer Gallagher Estates’s Northstowe, housebuilder Bloor is on schedule for completions on the first phase of brand new homes in early spring 2017.   The school building at Northstowe has had life breathed in to it this autumn term by primary school pupils from nearby Longstanton whose own school is being extended and renovated to cope with a growing roll-call in the catchment area.

And, as schools returned, Brookgate revealed its plans for homes as part of a mixed use’CB4’ development to complement the new railway station at Cambridge North.

Perhaps the biggest of all the summer developments front – although without a residential housing element - was the granting of outline planning consent of the second phase of 23 acres at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.

Call it a cluster a hub, an arc or a corridor, this summer has seen the next chapter in the history of this ancient city and its sphere of influence take shape.

Will Mooney MRICS

Commercial, Cambridge

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