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The sun got us off to a good start, beaming down as we jumped on our mini bus and headed north out of Cambridge city centre to our first of three site visits for the day – Eddington. The purpose of our day? To experience different approaches to new housing delivery; making communities; and mixed-use regeneration sites across Northstowe, Alconbury and the aforementioned Eddington.
The three schemes had things in common, they were all on brownfield land; they all required well considered road access as well as sustainable transport through bus routes, cycle ways and footpaths; and they all had a variety of housing delivery including rental and affordable.
Ashley Perry commenced the day leading a tour of Present Made’s site in Eddington, Cambridge – which is vacant awaiting commencement of construction – followed by the completed areas of the University of Cambridge’s North West Cambridge masterplan. This currently includes homes for Cambridge University and College staff, post-graduate accommodation, a primary school, a nursery, a hotel and retail units.
Present Made’s £160m GDV scheme has been designed by award-winning practice Jo Cowen Architects and will form a key part of the 150-hectare masterplan, where the University has recognised the importance of high-quality housing in order to attract and retain talent.
At Eddington, Present Made will develop, own and operate 373 high quality, highly sustainable rental homes, which will include the UK’s first family houses to be designed and built specifically for rent. Construction is due to start on-site later this year, with practical completion expected in 2024.
Sustainable living is at the core of Present Made of Eddington and goes beyond the building of the homes. The community has a ‘people before cars’ masterplan, with expansive green spaces and liveable streets to encourage meaningful moments between residents and health and fitness, while ecology corridors and edible gardens will support the local biodiversity of the area.
A wide range of indoor and outside communal spaces will allow the mental and physical wellbeing of residents to flourish. The on-site amenities will include a communal pavilion, gym, yoga studio, private dining room, bike café, children’s playgrounds, and co-working.
The Present Made team will provide round-the-clock professional on-site management, responsible for all maintenance as well as running a year-long calendar of social and wellbeing activities. These will include zero waste pop-ups, cycling and running clubs, cultural celebrations, live music, art classes, cooking classes, charitable events and talks from inspirational people.
Following Eddington, the ULI Residential Council group was welcomed to Homes England’s office in Northstowe by Des Wain and Dean Harris. The office opened in 2019, designed and built off site using Modern Methods of Construction to help pioneer new techniques in the construction sector. It will be adjacent to a new heritage centre to showcase the historical artefacts found on site and during the construction of the nearby upgraded A14.
Des and Dean talked our group through the background to Homes England’s flagship housing project and the country’s largest new town since Milton Keynes.
Northstowe is a sustainable new development 20 minutes from Cambridge with modern amenities planned in an area rich in local history. The town is set to create 10,000 new homes in total and when complete 25,000 people will live here. Its final phase was given the green light by South Cambridgeshire District Council in March 2022.
Northstowe is built on a site of considerable historic interest which dates back to before the time of the Romans. More recently, as RAF Oakington during the Second World War its airfield was home to Bomber Command’s 7 Squadron. Since acquiring Northstowe, Homes England has invested heavily in the remediation of the land and in the necessary transport infrastructure needed to prepare for development including the guided busway to Cambridge and A14 modifications.
Northstowe is designed with a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle in mind and to encourage active lifestyles, independence and wellbeing as one of ten NHS England ‘Healthy New Towns’. The Guided Busway and adjoining cycleway connect the town to the City of Cambridge and there is a network of safe walking and cycling routes into and around the new town. The town has a Healthy Living and Youth & Play Strategy and will be provided with excellent facilities for people to play, socialise, play sport, keep fit and have fun. Its open spaces and buildings will aim to encourage biodiversity, creating green corridors all around.
The first phase of Northstowe has been developed out by housebuilders and 550 families already live there. Its first primary and secondary schools are already open and will expand as Northstowe grows. Responsible for Masterplanning the subsequent phases, Homes England is preparing to develop out the commercial heart of the town. Its Town Centre Strategy proposes a shift away from a reliance on retail on its high street and instead focuses on the potential of creative industries, leisure, education, high-quality food and small-scale manufacturing. The wider development will support a low carbon lifestyle with buildings that use less energy, fibre optic connectivity and electric vehicle charging points.
Our introduction was followed by a walk round the site. The infrastructure spines are all in place and the first homes delivered by Urban Splash are evident, as are the new schools but the delivery of a vibrant town centre to serve the homes to be built is clearly the next priority as is connecting the existing build projects. The town will not be fully complete until 2040 and we look forward to seeing the new town’s establishment progress and pulled together as a cohesive new place.
The day finished at Alconbury Weald, another new town in Cambridgeshire which, over the next 15 years, will provide more than 6,000 homes, an enterprise campus, a potential new railway station, primary and secondary schools, and community facilities such as sports pitches, civic centres and green open spaces.
Urban&Civic are master developers of this ambitious site, having received planning consent in 2014 for up to 290,000 m² of employment floorspace and up to 5,000 homes, with supporting infrastructure and facilities.
The first phase is well under way with 879 homes set to be delivered by Morris, Hopkins Homes, Redrow, Cala Homes, Civic Living and Crest Nicholson. Many of these homes have already been completed and the first families moved in from 2016 onwards.
The homes are designed in a variety of styles and are pitched at residents with a range of budgets; however all follow a consistent set of design principles set by the master developer which speak to the tone, texture and character of new houses on the site.
Alconbury Weald is in a designated Enterprise Zone and has already delivered commercial and industrial units at the eastern edge of the site which are currently occupied by a games manufacturer, an agriscience company, a flower importer and an insulation manufacturer. Retail units, community facilities and a business incubator are in place along the southeast boulevard, one of the main entrances to the scheme.
Furthermore, Cambridge Council made the decision to move its headquarters to the site in 2018 and following the construction of New Shire Hall, the council’s first committee meeting was held at Alconbury Weald late last year.
We were kindly invited to the site by Rebecca Britton from Urban&Civic and extend our thanks to her for an informative and fascinating tour.