Rural planning issues

Addressing climate change is a top priority for residents.

If COP26 has taught us anything, it is that we are running out of time to reverse the damage that is being done to our planet, and that we must all take action, starting now. 

Local plans identify the development needs of the areas we live, work, play and study in, where they should be met, and how they should be met. 

In the current climate emergency, we must also ensure that we balance development with the need to enhance our natural environment, to reduce warming and achieve net zero by 2050.

South Cambridgeshire District Council, together with Cambridge City Council, is in the ‘Regulation 18 first proposals’ stage of creating the emerging Greater Cambridge Local Plan.

Preparing a joint plan has allowed us to consider the strategy choices available, and determine the best strategy for the Cambridge area, rather than being guided by arbitrary lines between city and district. 

This plan is being prepared within a wider regional context, including the Oxford Cambridge Arc, the UK Innovation Corridor (London-Stansted-Cambridge-Peterborough) and the Cambridge-Norwich Tech Corridor. Ongoing consultation ends on 13 December 2021.

In our ‘first conversation’ in 2020, we proposed four big themes – climate change, biodiversity and green spaces, wellbeing and social inclusion, and great places – to influence how homes, jobs and infrastructure are planned. 

The consultation responses showed clearly that addressing climate change was the top priority for our residents. That gave us the confidence to pursue new approaches to reducing carbon emissions and enhancing the environment. 

The groundbreaking carbon-modelling work we commissioned has enabled us to understand which policy interventions would be most effective at minimising our climate impacts, and we shaped our plan through that evidence. 

The spatial strategy we propose prioritises locations with access to high-quality transport and opportunities for cycling and walking, shifting the emphasis away from unsustainable locations in rural villages. 

It has a good balance of locations, with only 4 per cent of the proposed new homes in rural areas, helping to preserve the precious character of our villages that is so important to residents. 

The proposals also set ambitious targets for building standards, including recommendations for low-carbon buildings to help us on our net-zero carbon journey.

Residents also told us we should be doing more to increase biodiversity and tree planting. Following our first ever ‘Call for green sites’, the proposals also include suggested new green spaces and wildlife projects. 

We have included policy proposals that demand higher levels of biodiversity improvement than national standards, and which require the planting of new trees. All of this, we anticipate, will help in achieving our vision for ‘doubling nature’ in South Cambridgeshire. 

Water is a key issue in our region, and evidence shows how critical it is to reduce the amount of water taken from the groundwater aquifer. The local plan proposals make it very clear that water is a real deal-breaker, and that we need action from industry and government to sort this out. 

This is an exceptionally green plan, with the environment and affordability of homes at its very heart. We want South Cambridgeshire, within the context of Greater Cambridge, to be a place where a big decrease in our climate impacts comes with a big increase in the quality of everyday life for all our communities. 

Author

See bit.ly/3qMNmZo for South Cambridgeshire’s Doubling Nature Strategy. For more information about the Greater Cambridge Local Plan, please visit consultations.greatercambridgeplanning.org

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