Policy J/NE: New employment and development proposals

DRAFT version for various committee meetings.

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What will this policy do?

This policy will set out the criteria that will determine whether proposals for employment development in urban areas, villages, and the countryside are acceptable.

Proposed policy direction

Employment development (classes E(g), B2 and B8) will be supported:

  • In Cambridge at sites set out in the Strategy section of this consultation, and within appropriate mixed use areas of major change and opportunity areas. Other employment proposals to be considered on their merits where they are of an appropriate scale, character and accessible location.
  • Within towns and villages, where it is of an appropriate scale and character to the location and scale of settlement. The policy would cover both new premises and the expansion of existing premises.
  • Close to but outside settlement boundaries of villages subject to a number of criteria (described below).
  • In defined ‘established employment areas in the countryside’ (listed below).
  • In the countryside only where the expansion of existing businesses fulfils a number of criteria (described below).

Large scale national and regional warehousing and distribution centres will not be supported in Greater Cambridge.

Why is this policy needed?

National planning policy requires plans to help create the conditions in which businesses can invest, expand and adapt.

As set out in the Strategy section of this consultation, a range of key employment locations have been identified to support the Cambridge economy. However, there is a range of small employment sites scattered all over the City.  Proposals for new employment development will be considered on their merits using the range of other policies that will be included in the plan.

Sensitive small-scale employment development can help sustain rural economies, and provide a wider range of employment opportunities for local residents. Providing jobs near to residents to reduce the need to travel was a key issue that was raised during the First Conversation consultation and supports a number of the Plan’s other Themes including climate change and social inclusion.

For developments within town and village settlement boundaries, scale and character are key to ensuring that the overall character of the settlement is maintained. For example, it would be expected that larger proposals are more likely to be considered favourably in towns and Rural Centres.

To support local employment opportunities the Local Plan can provide a degree of flexibility of the edges of villages. Development in these locations would be permitted (outside the Green Belt) subject to a number of criteria that include: evidence of the lack of availability of alternative sites and premises; previous development on the site (or evidence that there are no alternative suitably developed sites); there is a business case for a viable development; a named first occupant can be cited; the scale and character of the development are in keeping with the category and scale of the village and accessibility by cycle and foot.

The proposed approach to settlement boundaries (policy SS/SB) generally restricts uses in the countryside to those specifically that need to be there in order to restrict unsustainable forms of development.  However, there is also a desire to support the rural economy and local job opportunities. There are many firms working in the rural areas of South Cambridgeshire away from settlements, and we want to continue to support them. Whilst in general new development in the countryside is restricted, there are circumstances (outside the Green Belt) where the expansion of these firms would be acceptable. The policy would define these circumstances through a series of criteria that include: evidence of the viability of the existing business and jobs growth; appropriateness of scale, location and appearance and evidence that these do not negatively impact on the countryside; the reuse of existing buildings where possible, a named first occupier and no significant adverse traffic impact.

Recognising that a number of business parks are located in the rural areas of South Cambridgeshire these key employment sites outside the green belt were identified in the Local Plan 2018 as ‘Established Employment Areas in the Countryside’. It is proposed to continue this designation for the sites previously identified to support their continued evolution:

  • Cambourne Business Park, Cambourne;
  • Brookfields Business Estate / Park, Twentypence Road, Cottenham;
  • Land at Hinxton Road, South of Duxford;
  • Granta Park, Great Abington;
  • Cambridge Research Park, Landbeach;
  • Site to North of Cambridge Research Park, Landbeach;
  • Daleshead Foods Ltd, Cambridge Road, Linton;
  • Eternit site, Meldreth;
  • Norman Way Industrial Estate, Over;
  • Former Spicers site, Sawston;
  • Buckingway Business Park, Swavesey;
  • Convent Drive / Pembroke Avenue site, Waterbeach.

National Planning policy requires local planning authorities to plan positively for the location, promotion and expansion of clusters or networks of knowledge driven, creative or high technology industries. The Greater Cambridge Employment Land and Economic Development Evidence Study (November 2020) explores the presence of clusters in the area, including their needs and opportunities, involving consultation with key stakeholders. In particular, the study highlights the presence of Life Sciences, ICT, Professional Services and Advanced Manufacturing.

The Strategy theme of this consultation proposes a range of sites and policies which are particularly suited to supporting the needs of clusters. These include significant opportunities at:

  • North East Cambridge
  • West Cambridge
  • North West Cambridge
  • Cambridge Biomedical Campus
  • Welcome Trust Genome Campus
  • Granta Park
  • Babraham Research Campus
  • New Towns at Northstowe and Waterbeach.

Cluster related employment is not restricted to these areas, and there are smaller concentrations, and individual firms both in Cambridge and the rural areas of South Cambridgeshire. Developments proposed to support clusters which meet the proposed policy requirements in J/NE would be supported, particularly where they include provision of a range of suitable units, including for start-ups, SMEs, and incubator units.

A need for additional space for warehousing and distribution (Use Class B8) was identified in the Greater Cambridge Employment Land and Economic Development Evidence Study (November 2020) and potential sites are proposed to be allocated (see the Strategy section of this consultation). However, whilst we need to meet the needs for local distribution, as a central location the area may be desirable to national distributors. Given the very high land take of this type of use, the local pressures on land supply for a range of uses, and the greenbelt location, it is proposed that the plan continues to not support large scale regional and national distribution proposals.

What consultation have we done on this issue?

As part of our First Conversation consultation we asked you about particular employment locations we should be focusing on, and were there specific locations important for different types of business or industry. 

Sustainability was a key issue in many of the responses with requests that employment space be located be close to where people live in order to reduce the need to travel and in locations with good public transport access and active travel opportunities. Specific examples included locating high densities uses such as larger office premises close to rail stations and supporting development close to new infrastructure such as new East West Rail stations.

There was support for dispersing employment across Greater Cambridge including in new communities, existing (and new) clusters and employment sites, neighbourhood and village locations and on the edge of Cambridge. Where references were made to specific villages, they tended to be those with larger populations. There was preference for development on brownfield rather than greenfield land.

There were a range of specific proposals seeking for the plan to support high technology and life sciences sectors, in many cases by providing large scale new allocations, particularly focused on expanding existing locations.

For light industrial, industrial and warehousing and distribution uses close proximity to major road networks at the edge of villages or in close proximity to services and existing employment uses was suggested.

The general provision of a range of size of sites was recommended and there were specific suggestions for neighbourhood and village locations to include smaller flexible and co-working spaces as well as space on industrial estates and business parks. Within new or the expansion of existing communities, start-up and incubator space was suggested as well as a requirement that all new developments have some flexible employment space. There was also caution that business locations should not adversely impact residential areas in relation to visual and traffic impacts. 

A range of alternative sites and locations were suggested and many of these were submitted in the call for sites. There were also objections to providing more employment space Greater Cambridge, and that further development should not be supported.

What alternatives did we consider?

No policy – Not considered a reasonable alternative as this would not provide adequate policy guidance, would fail to support the economy, including the rural economy.

Supporting evidence studies and topic papers

  • Greater Cambridge Local Plan: Topic paper 6: Jobs

Existing policies in adopted 2018 Local Plans

South Cambridgeshire Local Plan 2018:

  • Policy E/9: Promotion of Clusters
  • Policy E/11: Large Scale Warehousing and Distribution Centres
  • Policy E/12: New Employment Development in Villages
  • Policy E/13: New Employment Development on the Edges of Villages
  • Policy E/16: Expansion of Existing Business in the Countryside
  • Policy E/15: Established Employment Areas

Cambridge Local Plan 2018

  • Policy 40: Development and expansion of business space

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