The University's current proposal to build over the East Paddock, leaving no substantial open space on the 165-acre West Cambridge Site, appears to conflict with their original planning permission, which was granted in 1999 and approved again in updated form in 2004.
It also appears to conflict with several
policies set out by the Cambridge City Council in its Local Plan 2014 submission
to the inspector.
Existing planning permission
The existing 1999 planning permission for the West Cambridge Site master plan, which was approved in updated form in 2004, refers to the East Paddock as one of the positive features of the master plan. On page 47 it states:
'The paddock area at the east side of the plot [the East Paddock] provides a pleasant, green open space and allows longer views across the site'.
On page 37 it states:
'The major area of paddocks to the front of the Veterinary School [the East Paddock] continues to provide an open area as a setting for the buildings'.
By making these statements
the University was using the continued existence of the East Paddock as part of
its argument for obtaining permission for the very substantial developments
contained in the 2004 master plan. To obliterate the East Paddock now would seem
completely contrary to the open space strategy set out, and approved, in the
2004 master plan.
Cambridge City Council Local Plan submitted to inspector
The Cambridge City Council Local Plan 2014 submitted to the inspector contains standards for the provision of Informal Open Space in residential developments. These are that there should be 2.2 hectares of Informal Open Space per 1000 residents. If the West Cambridge Site were a residential development with say 8,000 people (the approximate number likely to be working or living on the West Cambridge Site under the University's current proposals), then the standards would require about 42 acres of Informal Open Space. The four acres which we are seeking to preserve as a park is less than a tenth of this amount - and less than 2.5% of the whole West Cambridge Site.
At a broader level, the Local Plan 2014 submitted to the inspector emphasises at various points the importance of public open space.
Included in the Strategic Objectives is the requirement that all new development in Cambridge will 'promote a safe and healthy environment, minimising the impacts of development and ensuring quality of life and place'.
Other relevant sections include:
'The city will draw inspiration from its historic core, heritage assets and structural green corridors, achieving a sense of place in all its parts, with generous, accessible and biodiverse open spaces and well-designed architecture'. (Section 2.3)
'The challenge therefore for any new development is to ensure th city's character is not adversely affected. This can be achieved with high quality design that maximises opportunities to support the natural environment with new and existing open spaces, among other benefits.' (Section 7.2).
'Proposals should create clearly defined public and private amenity spaces that are designed to be inclusive, usable, safe, and enjoyable'. (Section 7.4).
'Proposals should create and improve public realm, open space and landscaped areas that respond to their context and development as a whole and are designed as an integral part of the scheme'. (Section 7.4).
The University's current proposal to build over the East Paddock, which is the last remaining substantial green space on the whole 165 acre site, would seem to conflict with the policies about open space set out above. By contrast, preserving part of the East Paddock to create a four acre park would seem to be completely in accord with the Local Plan policies set out above.
The case for preserving four acres of the West Cambridge Site as a park is further strengthened by the fact that the University has had since 1999 planning permission for large areas of development on the western part of the site which it has not yet utilised and appears to have no concrete plans to utilise.