8,000 homes plan criticised over ‘hidden green belt destruction’

Cambridge waste water treatment plant relocation proposal

Land north of A14, between Fen Ditton and Horningsea, known as Honey Hill, proposed for the relocated Cambridge waste water treatment plant - Credit: GOOGLE

Campaigners have criticised the green belt’s ‘hidden destruction’ in plans to build more than 8,000 new homes in North East Cambridge.

Earlier this week, Cambridge City Councillors agreed to move forward with its proposed area action plan setting out the main aims for redeveloping the waste water treatment plant in the city.

Put together with South Cambridgeshire District Council, the plan sets out the council’s aims to redevelop the brownfield site to provide 8,350 new homes and 15,000 new jobs.

The development will only be able to come forward if the waste water treatment plant on Cowley Road is approved for relocation.

Anglian Water is proposing to decommission the current site and build a new facility on land to the north of the A14, between Fen Ditton and Horningsea.

It was the impact of this proposed relocation that was criticised at the city council’s Planning and Transport Scrutiny Committee meeting on Tuesday (January 11) when the plans were discussed.

Andrew Martin, representing the Save Honey Hill campaign, argued at the meeting that it was a “disgrace” that green belt land would be destroyed.

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He said: “The very hidden consequence of NECAAP is the destruction of a large area of green belt at Honey Hill.

“It’s a bit ironic really that we are all talking about open spaces, green spaces and all that and yet this development and this potential move of the sewage works to there will result in a million tons of concrete being poured on to this site.

“It is a fantastic area, I use it for walking my dogs, cycling and people ride horses round there, it’s a very tranquil part and it’s only four miles from Cambridge.

“So we’re here talking about green space and open space and here we are doing a great disservice by planning to actually destroy it.

“I think it is an absolute disgrace really.

“NECAAP and the local plan deal with long term vision for Cambridge.

"By not allowing this loss of green belt to be discussed at the same time as evaluating NEECAP, how can you claim to be looking after the future of Cambridge?”

In response, Councillor Katie Thornburrow, the executive councillor for planning policy and transport, highlighted that the waste water treatment plant relocation will be considered in the separate process of a Development Consent Order (DCO).

She said: “The DCO process is an entirely separate statutory planning process from the plan making process which is being undertaken in relation to the Area Action Plan and as such it will be determined under different planning legislation.

“It is therefore not a project or proposals within the scope of the emerging Greater Cambridge Local Plan or this AAP, rather both plans are being prepared on the basis that the waste water treatment plant will be relocated, but this is not an aspect that either plan has any control over.

“As part of the DCO application, the water company will need to respond to the National Planning Policy Framework requirements including as necessary to demonstrate very special circumstances for development within the green belt.”

Councillor Hannah Copley also raised concerns over the demolition of the current site and its relocation, arguing the need to consider the environmental impacts of the relocation alongside the area action plan proposals.

She said: “I don’t think we can look at this proposal by itself without taking into account the sewage works relocation and the amount of concrete that is part of that is part of that plant will be very substantial.

“To simply throw away that embodied carbon when Anglia Water have confirmed that there’s no, they call it operational need to move, what that means is the current plant is good enough.

“I would also like to ask the committee why they would not speak out against this which is absolutely wasteful in the context of a declared climate emergency.”

Cllr Thornburrow, highlighted the fact that the relocation project is part of a separate process. She also explained that as part of the scoping of opinion for the DCO there is specific reference to the demolition and looking at the cumulative impacts.

Cllr Thornburrow added that the area action plan will also require future planning applications to look at the cumulative impact of the carbon life cycle, including the plant demolition.

She said: “There will be no creative carbon accounting and any assessment of the viability of the scheme will be made in an open and transparent way reflecting the commitment expressed in our declaration of a climate emergency.”

Cllr Thornburrow also explained that Anglian Water had stated its proposed new facility will be smaller than the current site, but will be designed to enable it to respond to growth past 2050 without the need to expand further, and would be better at dealing with extreme weather events up to 2080.

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