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Cambridge City Council

Emerging Local Plan and concerns about water

20 July 2022

In response to an enquiry from the media we issued the following response on the planning for development through the emerging Greater Cambridge Local Plan and the Plan's dependence on water supply.

Cllr Katie Thornburrow, Executive Councillor for Planning and Infrastructure, said: “Protecting our precious water supplies is of course a key concern for the Council. The emerging Greater Cambridge Local Plan – which is being prepared jointly by Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council – will set out how Greater Cambridge will develop over the next 20 years, creating strong policies to address climate change and secure biodiversity improvement. The evidence clearly shows that the strength of the Greater Cambridge economy means we will need more homes in the decades ahead, and we cannot ignore that evidence. However, the First Proposals for the emerging Greater Cambridge Local Plan explicitly set out that the plans are entirely dependent on water supply being available without unacceptable environmental harm.

“We have long said that our strategy is dependent on improvements to that supply – such as new reservoirs – being achieved, and in time to support new development. We continue to make our case to Government and the water industry to take decisive action in this area. In fact, we have recently adjusted our plan-making timetable so that we can fully understand the outcome of the Water Resources East Regional Plan, and Cambridge Water’s and Anglian Water’s Water Resources Management Plans, which are expected later this year.

“Subject to that evidence becoming available, if we planned for fewer homes, when the number of jobs locally is expected to continue increasing, it would lead to more long-distance commuting and the associated increases in carbon emissions at a time when we must all be doing everything possible to reduce them. Housing would simply become even more costly. There would also be the risk that the Planning Inspector would reject the Local Plan if it was deemed not to be based on anticipated need, and if the Plan was rejected we would be in a situation where development could go ahead that doesn’t meet the environmental and living standards set out in the emerging Greater Cambridge Local Plan.”


37,200 homes are already planned for Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire between now and 2041. This is through existing Local Plans for Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council, which were adopted back in 2018, existing planning permissions and ‘windfall’ sites expected to come forward. Proposals for the emerging Plan suggest the additional future housing needs of the area through to 2041 could be delivered through the following sites:

  • 3,900 new homes as part of a low-carbon development, with shops, community facilities, jobs and open spaces on the doorstep at North East Cambridge, on and near the site of the current waste water treatment plant
  • 2,950 new homes at Cambridge East (the airport site);
  • An additional 1,950 new homes at Cambourne, though without specific land identified at this stage;
  • Bringing forward development at Waterbeach new town and Northstowe at a faster rate, so these become thriving communities more quickly;
  • An additional 1,000 new homes at Eddington, on the land already allocated for development;
  • Six additional village sites, totalling 384 homes;
  • One additional site in central Cambridge, for 20 homes.

North East Cambridge, Cambridge East and potentially Cambourne are new long-term proposals which would see continuing development after 2041, in order to realise their full potential.

Further information on water

Councils respond to Water Resources East’s new plan for water management over 50 years - Cambridge City Council

Greater Cambridge Local Plan water briefing (November 2020)

The executive councillor leading on this matter at Cambridge City Council is Cllr Katie Thornburrow (Labour), Executive Councillor for Planning and Infrastructure. Spokespersons from the other political groups on this issue are Cllr Tim Bick (Liberal Democrat) and Cllr Sam Davies (Green/Independent Group).

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