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Frequently asked questions


What is the Greater Cambridge Local Plan? 

A Local Plan is a legal document that the Councils are required to prepare, which sets out the future land use and planning policies for the area over a set time period. Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council are working together to create a joint Local Plan for the two areas – which we are referring to as Greater Cambridge. This is the first time we will have a joint Plan, and it will ensure that there is a consistent approach to planning and building across both areas over the next 20 years. 


How can communities and individuals get involved? 

We are involving our communities and stakeholders all the way through the Plan development process. We held the First Conversation consultation earlier in 2020 and we will be holding a consultation on the First Proposals in November-December 2021 where we will be inviting everyone to comment on our suggested spatial strategy and sites for development.

We hold regular webinars and involve different stakeholder groups, including parish councils and residents associations, in developing the evidence base for the Plan. If you want to be kept up to date, please  


How does the consultation feedback influence the Plan? 

We consider all the feedback we get through consultation, and assess it carefully alongside other evidence that we are gathering. It helps us understand your priorities for both the big picture strategic questions, and more localised or specific comments, and we make changes to the Plan when these comments raise something that merits a change being made. 

At each consultation stage, we update and republish the Consultation Statement which sets out how feedback received so far has been taken into account. You can find the current Consultation Statement in our document library


What is the Call for Sites? 

A Call for Sites is a way for landowners, developers, individuals and other interested parties to suggest sites for development, and to let us know when they may be available for development. This is a normal part of plan making.  

Government planning guidance advises that, ‘if the process to identify land is to be transparent and identify as many potential opportunities as possible, it is important to issue a call for sites and broad locations for development’.  

We need to ensure that the sites eventually allocated within the Plan are deliverable. This means, among other factors, that the landowner is open to developing it within the required timescales, so a Call for Sites is an important part of finding out what land may be available. 

An initial Call for Sites was held in 2019 and we also held a Call for Sites as part of the First Conversation consultation. We also included a Call for Green Sites, asking for suggestions of land to grow and enhance the green space network. Anyone could submit sites for either development or green space, and none of these suggestions holds any planning status at this stage. 

Over 690 sites were submitted, comprising over 16,500 hectares of land. As would be expected, this adds up to far more land than we will need for development. Sites have been rigorously tested for their suitability, for example looking at flood risk, landscape impact, transport access, and other factors. We also consider their sustainability, and how they fit with the strategic direction of the Plan in terms of minimising carbon emissions and other factors.

In our First Proposals, we suggest that 19 new sites comprising about 610 hectares may be suitable and needed for development over the next 20 years. 

Sites can be submitted to us for consideration now and in the future, but they will be considered as part of the responses to the next consultation. If you wish to submit a new site, please email us to request a Site Proforma. New sites submitted will undergo the same rigorous assessment as all the sites submitted so far, and, if felt suitable for development, will be consulted on at the next consultation stage.


How can I comment on the sites suggested for development? 

We will hold a full public consultation on the First Proposals, including our suggested sites for development, in November to December 2021 once elected members have agreed the proposals that should go forward for consultation.


How do you decide what sites should be built on? 

We assess all the sites for their suitability against a number of criteria. These include technical issues such as flood risk, their location in terms of access to public transport and local services, their landscape impact, and other environmental factors. Most importantly we also assess whether they align with the emerging spatial strategy for the Plan – whether they are in the right place to support the place-making vision for Greater Cambridge.

We have now published our full assessment of the sites submitted to us so far, in our Housing and Employment Land Availability Assessment.


How do you decide what green spaces to protect or enhance? 

Consultants preparing our green spaces evidence have advised us on broad priority areas and specific projects to enhance and expand the network of green spaces within Greater Cambridge, which could inform allocations and infrastructure requirements for the Local Plan. To inform this work they have considered a wide range of evidence, including green space ideas suggested to the Call for Green Space sites from the First Conversation consultation. Some green space projects could be delivered outside of the planning system, most likely by organisations other than the Councils: for example, community groups who may have put forward green space site ideas may well be best placed to turn these ideas into a reality. We are also gathering evidence on current provision and future need for public open space and play space to inform policies in the Plan.  

You can read our evidence about green spaces in our document library.


How can you plan for development when the area is running out of water? 

We know that water is an absolutely critical issue for the Local Plan. We have commissioned independent experts, Stantec, to produce an Integrated Water Management Study which to inform the development of the Plan, and we have also asked a second independent expert, Dr Geoff Parkin, to review the study and its findings. Dr Parkin is a nationally and internationally recognised expert in water resource management, with experience in groundwater modelling and assessment through research, teaching, and working with regulators, water companies, local authorities and local community groups.

We have now published the water cycle studies and you can read them in our document library. We have been very clear in our First Proposals that at present, plans for new sources of water supply, including potential new reservoirs, are being developed but won’t be built quickly enough to supply housing when it is needed. Without speeding up that process and additional interim action, development levels may have to be capped to avoid unacceptable harm to the environment, including the region’s important chalk streams.  This may lead to housing in the area becoming even more unaffordable so that those who work in Greater Cambridge may have to commute from further afield, increasing carbon emissions and congestion. We are hoping for quick and decisive action on this from central government and the water industry.



How are plans for new public transport influencing the Plan? 

The Local Plan will need to consider how new development contributes to towards decreasing car use and increased use of walking, cycling and public transport. 

We consider the opportunities provided by existing or planned public transport improvements when determining where future development should take place. We will consider how schemes like East West Rail are progressing as the plan is developed. The likelihood of these being delivered during the period covered by the Local Plan will affect how they should be taken into account. 


What is the role of elected councillors in developing and approving the Plan? 

As this Local Plan is a joint Plan on behalf of Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council (SCDC), we have a Joint Local Plan Advisory Group (JLPAG), made up of elected councillors from both Councils, who are involved in the development of the Plan throughout the process. Papers for JLPAG are published online. At the key stages of plan-making, the Plan documents also pass through each Council’s individual formal decision making processes, which at earlier stages in the process are Cabinet (SCDC) and Planning and Transport Scrutiny Committee (Cambridge City Council), in accordance with each Council’s governance process. 


How do you develop the evidence base and what experts do you involve? 

We commission a range of experts to gather and analyse evidence on different subjects, such as economic growth, biodiversity or climate change, and make recommendations or draw conclusions that will help us to develop a sustainable plan for development. We procure these studies through an open tender process in accordance with the Councils’ procurement policies and methods, to ensure we obtain the best advice we can. We also develop Topic Papers which set out the key issues on thematic areas and these are written by planning officers for consideration by our elected members. 

We publish all the evidence base studies and present them to elected councillors to help inform their decisions on the plan. The strategy that emerges is thoroughly tested through their democratic scrutiny as well as through full public consultation. 

You can read all the evidence base studies and topic papers in our document library.


How will COVID-19 affect the shape of the Plan? 

It is too early to know yet what the eventual impact of COVID-19 will be on the needs of our communities in the period up to 2040, which is the period we are planning for. We are keeping a close eye on evidence that emerges and will be reviewing all our assumptions as more data becomes available. 


How long will it take before the Plan is adopted? 

Plan-making does take a long time because we need to do it rigorously with a full understanding of the evidence and in dialogue with our communities. We are consulting on our First Proposals in November to December 2021, and a Draft Plan in autumn 2022. This would be followed by a consultation on the Plan we propose to submit for examination by an independent inspector. Read more about the Plan timetable in our Local Development Scheme


How is this affected by the proposed reforms to the planning system? 

The Planning White Paper is a discussion document published for consultation by government. There is currently no firm timescale for it to be developed into legislation, and when it does, there may be interim measures for Councils like ours which are already in the middle of preparing their Local Plans. At this point we are advised to continue with preparing our Plan, and we will review how we ensure we meet any new regulations as the government’s planning reforms are firmed up in due course.  


What was the split between respondents to the First Conversation consultation, between Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire?

As part of our evaluation of the First Conversation, we asked respondents to complete a survey to help us assess how well we did in reaching a diverse range of respondents. This survey was optional and anonymous to protect privacy. From this survey, we mapped the postcodes submitted which shows that 51% were City postcodes and 44% were SCDC postcodes, with the remaining being outside both areas.

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