Policy BG/RC: River corridors

DRAFT version for various committee meetings.

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What will this policy do?

This policy will control development that has an impact on river corridors of the River Cam and its tributaries in Greater Cambridge.

Proposed policy direction

The policy will require development located along the River Cam and its tributaries to: 

  • Protect, enhance and restore natural features, including: 

  • Support the renaturalisation of the rivers themselves – supporting the aims of the Cambridge Chalk Streams project 

  • Restore natural floodplains and integration of green infrastructure to protect communities at risk of flooding 

  • Establish riparian habitats where appropriate 

  • Protect and enhance the existing landscape of river corridors, referring to the Greater Cambridge Landscape Character Assessment for guidance. 

  • Ensure that the location, scale and design of development, protects and enhances the character, visual amenity and historic significance of river corridors and connected locations, including in particular considering views to and from rivers. 

  • Support enhanced access to, from and along river corridors for walking and cycling, whilst balancing this with the need to protect and enhance habitats for biodiversity, including: 

  • For the river Cam, supporting the delivery of a continuous Cam Valley Trail

  • Enhancing connections between the rivers and other green spaces

  • Providing improved wayfinding and interpretation resources 

  • Support tourism and recreation associated with river corridors, in appropriate locations, whilst ensuring that this does not impact negatively on our rivers’ other roles. 

Why is this policy needed?

Our rivers, and in particular the River Cam and its tributaries, provide a variety of critical roles in Greater Cambridge. The Greater Cambridge Green Infrastructure Opportunity Mapping Final Report and Greater Cambridge Landscape Character Assessment identify key features to protect and opportunities for enhancement of river corridors. The policy will seek to address the following key roles, challenges and opportunities for our river corridors: 

  • Supporting habitats: The River Cam is designated as a county wildlife site in recognition of the river’s importance in linking semi-natural habitats, including ecologically-designated sites such as Stourbridge Common Local Nature Reserve and Sheep's Green and Coe Fen Local Nature Reserve, with the wider countryside of South Cambridgeshire. The Integrated Water Management Study notes the critical impact of water abstraction on the health of the chalk streams. The Greater Cambridge Green Infrastructure Opportunity Mapping Final Report identifies revitalising the chalk streams network as a priority strategic green infrastructure initiative, with a focus on restoring the chalk streams’ natural natural shape, form and flow, alongside the critical need to reduce the impact of our water abstraction on the chalk streams (see CC/WE). 

  • Water storage: Our rivers are a source of flood risk. Restoration of natural flood plains where practicable and provision of green infrastructure can help reduce flood risk along the rivers itself and beyond. Wet woodland will self set and grow where conditions are right and management allows. Providing the right conditions for trees to grow in appropriate locations in river corridors can support flood risk mitigation and biodiversity. 

  • A defining role in our landscape, heritage and townscape: The Greater Cambridge Landscape Character Assessment identifies the key landscape features of the Cam and other river corridors in Greater Cambridge, and sets out guidance for integrating development into the landscape. Development proposals should consider this guidance to inform its response to this policy. 

  • Supporting leisure and recreation: the river Cam in particular provides leisure access for walking and cycling. The Green Infrastructure Opportunity Mapping Final Report identifies an opportunity to enhance this role to create a continuous Cam Valley Trail, and also to enhance connections between the river and other green spaces in and around Cambridge. 

  • Supporting tourism: The River Cam is an international tourist attraction, drawing many visitors each year, including for punting and travelling further afield by boat. We want to continue to support this role, but this needs to ensure that it does not harm the other roles noted above. 

Recognising the varied role that the River Cam corridor plays, the Greater Cambridge Green Infrastructure Opportunity Mapping Final Report identifies the Cam Valley (split into three parts including north of the city, within the city, and south of the city) as a strategic opportunity for enhancement of Greater Cambridge’s green infrastructure network.  

What consultation have we done on this issue?

There was no specific question in the First Conversation relating to rivers and river corridors. However, a number of responses to the consultation highlighted the importance of protecting and enhance rivers and streams from damaging activity, and in particular protecting the River Cam tributaries from over abstraction and enable them to adapt to climate change. A few comments suggested that we should apply the doubling nature aim to water, rivers and associated biodiversity.

What alternatives did we consider?

Not to have a specific river corridors policy, relying instead on overarching green infrastructure and landscape polices - This alternative is not the preferred approach because of the need to ensure that the important cross-cutting role that our river corridors play in relation to biodiversity, landscape, heritage, recreation and tourism is protected and enhanced.

Supporting evidence studies and topic papers

  • Greater Cambridge Green Infrastructure Opportunity Mapping Final Report (2021) 

Existing policies in adopted 2018 Local Plans

South Cambridgeshire Local Plan 2018 

  • N/A 

Cambridge Local Plan 2018 

  • Policy 7: The River Cam 

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