Effective delivery of strategic sites: South Cambridgeshire

The site is now a strategic allocation made in the adopted South Cambridge local plan in September 2018 (Policy SS/6) for Waterbeach New Town, for approximately 8,000 to 9,000 new homes.

Fact file

Type – new town, (including the former RAF Waterbeach and Royal Engineers barracks) north of Cambridge. 

Local Planning Authority (LPA) – South Cambs District Council (SCDC) 

Landowner: The Ministry of Defence (Defence Infrastructure Organisation) (Waterbeach Barracks) and various landowners (Waterbeach New Town East) 

Promoter / Developer - Urban&Civic; (Development Manager, Waterbeach Barracks).  RLW Estates (Waterbeach New Town East). 

Scale – up to 11,000 homes in total (two applications), plus up to 39,800 sq.m of employment floor space.  

Strategic infrastructure requirements – highway improvements, off-site strategic cycle provision, up five primary schools, two secondary schools and one site for a school for children with special educational needs, sixth form centre, relocated railway station, park and ride provision and segregated public transport connectivity to Cambridge.    

Other key uses – principal centre, heath facilities, community buildings and a hub library, sports and leisure centre, sports pavilions and facilities, space for Waterbeach Military Heritage Museum. 

Status – two outline planning applications – Waterbeach Barracks approved in September 2019 and Waterbeach New Town East subject to resolution for planning permission subject to agreement of planning obligations (considered at Committee in January 2021). Strategic infrastructure at Waterbeach commenced in March 2021.   

Key Application References:  S/0559/17/OL (U&C); S2075/18/OL (RLW) 

Allocation and policy  

The site is now a strategic allocation made in the adopted South Cambridge local plan in September 2018 (Policy SS/6) for Waterbeach New Town, for approximately 8,000 to 9,000 new homes.   

At the time of the submission of the Waterbeach Barracks outline planning application, the proposed site was not allocated for development within the adopted LDF and was a departure from the plan. However, the site was included in the South Cambs Local Plan Submission Version and the application was submitted in anticipation of its adoption in dialogue with the local authority. 

In recognition of the dual land ownership position, SCDC produced the Waterbeach New Town SPD to guide comprehensive development of the whole new town allocation.   

Outline Planning Applications 

As part of the consented application for Waterbeach Barracks, a tiered ‘key phase’ approach to delivery was agreed in advance. This meant that the approved scheme at outline stage was set out in a single high level parameter plan with very few items ‘fixed spatially’. The parameter plan defines the extent of the developable area, the extent of strategic open space, the spatial extent of a buffer to heritage assets, the boundary of woodland blocks, key biodiversity links, the location of specific formal open space uses, educational uses, centres, principal points of access, principal connections to Waterbeach New Town East, and other main access principles including the broad location of primary streets. A separate inset plan sets out the approved building height parameters.   

Other key social infrastructure required is not specifically identified on the parameter plan. Instead, a Development Specification was formally approved, setting out 26 spatial principles to establish wider requirements for the development to supplement the parameters established through the parameter plan, whilst also retaining an element of flexibility for delivery.     

Detailed consents  

The principle of the tiered ‘key phase’ approach includes an additional ‘tier’ of consent between the outline application and reserved matters, in which: 

  • A key phase relates to a specific part of the site and is first defined on a plan and agreed with the planning authority (with a mechanism the process to define key phases established through conditions attached to the outline). Accordingly, there is no agreed phasing plan for the development (either through the outline planning consent or post consent) allowing substantial flexibility for the developer to respond to various delivery pressures and, subject to the agreement of the LPA, allows the potential to bring forward multiple concurrent phases across the site. 

  • For each key phase, a greater level of design guidance, delivery plans and technical information is provided as a key phase framework prior to reserve matters submissions. 

  • Each reserved matters application within a key phase must comply with the key phase consented material.  

This tier allows reserved matters applications for individual parcels or infrastructure within the key phase to be considered and determined against the design specification for that key phase.  

The consent provides the necessary flexibility for the developer to bring forward reserved matters outside of a key phase where it is demonstrated that it is necessary and beneficial for example to provide for the early delivery of strategic infrastructure.   

A more traditional multiple parameter plan approach has been applied to the Waterbeach New Town East site.  Accordingly outline planning consent is not likely to adopt the same ‘key phase’ ‘tiered’ approach to delivery.   

S106, futureproofing and adaptation  

The Waterbeach Barracks S106 agreement builds in several review mechanisms to facilitate flexibility over the lifetime of the delivery of the project. This includes the adoption of a ‘monitor and manage’ approach to the delivery of strategic transport infrastructure and mitigation, with a package of ‘early transport measures and contributions’ in the S106 agreement alongside a Strategic Transport Contribution and a Transport Enhancement Fund. These funds will be drawn down to support the delivery of the new community as required, with oversight from a Transport Strategy Review Group.   

Ensuring infrastructure delivery  

Recognising the need to secure a comprehensive development and to coordinate the delivery of infrastructure across the two sites, the Waterbeach Barracks Section 106 agreement includes a ‘links protocol’ which establishes the legal mechanisms for coordinated delivery of common social infrastructure and the necessary access to Waterbeach New Town East.      

Funding for the appointment of a Community Development Worker for a period of 10 years is secured in the Waterbeach Barracks S106, together with a Community Fund of £1.8 million toward interventions to safeguard and enhance the wellbeing of vulnerable residents.   

Skills and resources 

A collaborative approach to the master planning and detailed design of the Waterbeach Barracks development has been promoted and facilitated. Through a Planning Performance Agreement, SCDC’s planning, urban design and technical officers are engaged in coordinated pre-application discussions alongside officers representing other stakeholders notably Cambridgeshire County Council highways officers. Relevant statutory agencies are also proactively engaged, the developer maintains dialogue through consistent briefings and by engaging officers in multidisciplinary meetings alongside its consultants.  

Governance and ownership of place  

Prior to the submission of the Barracks application, as part of a strategy to open the site and to engage with the existing Waterbeach village community, the following early planning consents were secured and delivered:  

  • the change of use of a range of existing facilities on site so that these could be made available for use by local groups and organisations  

  • the existing control tower was converted to the developer’s on-site offices to establish an early on-site presence and enable meetings to be hosted with local stakeholders 

  • the expansion of the existing Waterbeach cemetery onto part of the Barracks site, securing much-needed new burial space to serve the village and the site in the future  

  • the refurbishment and reuse of former barracks blocks at the site, now in use by the Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust to provide accommodation for its staff, facilitating the relocation of the Royal Papworth Hospital to the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.