Frequently asked questions
- How can communities and individuals get involved?
- How does the consultation feedback influence the Plan?
- What is the role of elected councillors in developing and approving the Plan?
- How do you develop the evidence base and what experts do you involve?
- What makes a sound Local Plan?
- How will COVID-19 affect the shape of the Plan?
- How long will it take before the Plan is adopted?
- How is this affected by the proposed reforms to the planning system?
About the Plan strategy
- Why aren’t you planning for the government’s minimum housing need figure?
- How did you identify the number of homes you are planning for?
- How do you decide what sites should be built on?
- How do you decide what green spaces to protect or enhance?
- How can you plan for development when the area is running out of water?
- How are plans for new public transport influencing the Plan?
- Why have you proposed sites for this plan which were not included in previous plans?
- How has the amount of development on proposed site allocations been decided?
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 held a public consultation on the First Proposals in November-December 2021.
As well as the full public consultations, 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 sign up for updates.
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.
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.
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.
At end of the plan making process, Local Plans are examined by an independent inspector, to assess whether they have been prepared in accordance with legal and procedural requirements and whether they are sound. The National Planning Policy Framework states:
“Plans are ‘sound’ if they are:
“a) Positively prepared – providing a strategy which, as a minimum, seeks to meet the area’s objectively assessed needs; and is informed by agreements with other authorities, so that unmet need from neighbouring areas is accommodated where it is practical to do so and is consistent with achieving sustainable development;
“b) Justified – an appropriate strategy, taking into account the reasonable alternatives, and based on proportionate evidence;
“c) Effective – deliverable over the plan period, and based on effective joint working on cross-boundary strategic matters that have been dealt with rather than deferred, as evidenced by the Statement of Common Ground; and
“d) Consistent with national policy – enabling the delivery of sustainable development in accordance with the policies in this Framework and other statements of national planning policy, where relevant.
You can read more in the Plan-making section of the National Planning Policy Framework.
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 2041, which is the period we are planning for. The data we used to inform our economic forecasting is all pre-COVID-19 because we do not yet have comprehensive economic data regarding the impacts, and many of the impacts are still unfolding. Ahead of the Draft Plan publication we will revisit our employment and housing evidence to reconfirm our needs for jobs and homes, drawing on the latest available information.
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-December 2021, and a Draft Plan in 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.
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.
About the Plan strategy
Government planning policy sets out a Standard Method for identifying the minimum number of homes to be provided for, a formula which is applied across the country. Planning Guidance also sets out that there will be circumstances where it is appropriate to consider whether actual housing need is higher than the standard method indicates.
National planning policy says that significant weight should be placed on the need to support economic growth, meeting anticipated employment needs and addressing the requirements of specific sectors.
Government’s Standard Method for calculating minimum housing need takes no account of expected future jobs growth. For Greater Cambridge, which continues to see fast jobs growth as identified in the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Independent Economic Review (CPIER), it is important that we take account of forecast jobs growth in identifying the need for new homes. For this reason we explored future jobs in depth (in our Employment Land and Economic Evidence Base, November 2020), identifying the jobs supported by the government’s minimum housing need figure, but also identifying the homes needed to support the jobs likely to arise above that minimum housing need (in the Housing and Employment Relationships Report, November 2020).
The Employment Land and Economic Evidence Base explores recent and longer term historic employment trends. This is particularly complex in this area, as the key knowledge intensive sectors do not perform in the same way as jobs in the wider region, and are not well represented by standard employment sector classifications used in economic modelling.
The evidence then carefully considers the likely future performance of Greater Cambridge’s unique employment sectors. The Employment Land and Economic Evidence Base’s forecast for future employment uses a standard regional economic forecast as a baseline, but draws on a wider range of evidence sources to identify sectors that have grown strongly in the past, and which are considered to have potential to grow into the future, above that baseline forecast.
The conclusions to this evidence are that the most likely future jobs scenario at 2041 is around 11,000 jobs higher than the number that would be supported by the number of homes required by the standard method minimum. As such, planning for the Standard Method homes would be likely to contribute to worsening housing affordability and increased long distance in-commuting, and potentially drawing workers away from jobs in the surrounding area. We therefore consider that our objectively assessed need for jobs and homes are those associated with the most likely future jobs scenario. This assumes that all the additional homes generated by forecast jobs above those supported by the Standard Method will be provided in full within Greater Cambridge.
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 Economic Land Availability Assessment (HELAA), which you can read in our document library. You can read more about how the preferred sites were identified, and why the Councils feel they represent the best choice of sites to meet our housing need, in the Strategy topic paper.
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.
We know that water is an absolutely critical issue for the Local Plan. We commissioned independent experts, Stantec, to produce an Integrated Water Management Study which to inform the development of the Plan and we 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 outline water cycle study and you can read it 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.
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, and this has been a key influence on the First Proposals. 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.
We need to explore development needs and opportunities afresh for each plan review, and consider what is the appropriate development strategy and the most appropriate sites to deliver that strategy.
All potential sites were tested through the Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (HELAA), exploring their issues and opportunities and whether they were available, suitable and achievable. This included assessing a large number of sites that have been considered during preparation of previous local plans. Each site is considered on its merits at the time of preparing a new local plan.
We considered a range of spatial strategy choices regarding where new development could be focused before determining the preferred strategy. Sites which had potential to contribute to the preferred strategy were then compared in the Sustainability Appraisal. Reasons for selecting and rejecting individual sites have been identified. We consider the sites proposed offer the best selection of sites consistent with the preferred strategy and to respond to the needs and issues identified.
You can find out more information on this process in the Strategy Topic Paper (in particular in Appendix 2C), located in the document library.
The consultation provides the opportunity to comment on the proposals, and we will review all comments carefully before we reach the draft Local Plan stage.
The amount of development that is appropriate on each site has been estimated at this stage and will be subject to further work. We are taking a design-led approach, and at this stage the density of development on each site has been informed by a range of factors including:
- the capacity information provided by the site promoter
- a typology approach developed to support the Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (HELAA), August 2021 (p24) which set a range of densities for different development forms and settlement types
- consideration of site-specific constraints, including drawing on urban design expertise in specific instances.