Capturing Quality in Our Time - Chapter 3

3.0 The Strategic Approach

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Accordia, Cambridge A Strategic Approach to Growing Historic Towns
Peter Studdert, Director of Joint Planning,
Cambridge Growth Areas and Northstowe
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3.1 Many historic towns, like Ludlow, are already exemplars of sustainability, through their richness and walkability, for example. Their history is multi layered (evidence that change is inevitable), they evoke strong emotional responses (it is difficult to get an emotional buzz from new towns) and they often have successful economies and are beacons of prosperity. Historic towns can be very fragile; at the same time they are also adaptable –  two exemplars are:
  1. The conversion of 60 metres–wide Dublin gas holder into multi storied apartment building; completed in 2006–07; the Alliance Building consists of over 200 apartments, which have been built within the frame of the original holder; the work was carried out by developer Liam Carroll to designs of Architects O'Mahony Pike;
  2. After being decommissioned in 1995, Oxford Prison, a Grade I Listed Building, has been developed into a £40 million complex of restaurants, apartments and a hotel.
3.2 A consequence of these factors is that historic towns are desirable places to live and the focus of drivers for growth, embracing wealth creation and demographic changes, that include in–migration, greater longevity and smaller households. We have a responsibility to build houses for the next generation and this means making the unpopular case for growth. Key issues for decision making in historic towns include recognition that they:
  1. provide excellent models for accommodating growth and change;
  2. have strong traditions of civic engagement;
  3. have a duty to accommodate growth because they are able to offer cultural identity and richness to the new communities;
  4. should see growth as an opportunity, not a threat;
  5. identify the special characteristics of the place and embody them in growth strategies; and
  6. will continue to change and change must be positive, not negative.
3.3 The physical response to growth will be shaped by strategic considerations, including:
  1. the structure of the town and how it works;
  2. movement patterns to new communities;
  3. essential and non–essential central activities and the potential to export activity to animate new communities;
  4. townscape character;
  5. landscape form and character and how it is reflected in urban extensions; and
  6. management of the historic core and its carrying capacity, e.g. through pedestrian priority schemes.
These will have different implications for each town, Lincoln being very different from Worcester, for example. They pose challenges and opportunities, for example, matters of scale (which should be expressed honestly) in new retail development and relocation and adaptation of hospitals.
3.4 The Cambridge Sub–region has a comparatively simple spatial structure. The spatial responses to growth pressures have been developed through the East of England Regional Planning Guidance (RPG6) and the Cambridgeshire Structure Plan to include:
  1. redevelopment and densification on urban brownfield sites;
  2. urban extensions, subject to a review of the Green Belt; and
  3. a free–standing new settlement closely linked to services and employment by high quality public transport (HQPT).
3.5 The expansion represents a continuation of the ongoing organic expansion of Cambridge since medieval times. Some important features of the future expansion are:
  1. the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway from Huntingdon to Cambridge, with new park and ride sites and a possible extension to a new Chesterton Railway Station;
  2. the emergence of four peripheral employment centres linked by HQPT and cycle routes;
  3. the main railway station becomes more central to the City and offers new structural opportunities;
  4. the possible introduction of a congestion charging zone; and
  5. green infrastructure with investment in landscape and cycling and walking routes, guided by a Green Infrastructure Strategy.
3.6 The aspirations are wrapped up in the Cambridgeshire Quality Charter for Growth, which is being used to help steer the creation of high quality sustainable communities. It emphasises the importance of community, connectivity, climate and character and can be used for assessing new development.
3.7 Three examples illustrate the approach to growth in Cambridge.
  1. Accordia, Brooklands Avenue:
    1. Stirling Prize winning residential development;
    2. Demonstrates the importance of the combination of a strong local authority (Cambridge City), innovative architects (Feilden Clegg Bradley Architects, Maccreanor Lavington and Alison Brooks Architects) and an enlightened developer (Countryside).
  2. Southern Fringe Developments:
    1. Cluster of developments focusing on Trumpington and Addenbrooke's Hospital – 4000 dwellings;
    2. The Trumpington Meadows development includes :–
      1. 1200 dwellings, 40% affordable;
      2. At least 1000 dwellings built to Sustainable Buildings Code Level 4;
      3. 60 ha country park;
      4. New primary school and local facilities;
      5. £28 million contribution to social and physical infrastructure;
      6. Hope to see start by the end of 2009.
    3. Difficulty in completing S106 agreements in the current financial climate.
  3. Cambridge East:
    1. Redevelopment of site occupied by the airport, which will relocate;
    2. Creation of new urban quarter;
    3. Master Plan by LDA – strong emphasis on including water in the scheme.
3.8 Conclusions:
  1. growth pressures present huge challenges, but also great opportunities;
  2. historic towns need to take a strategic view to managing growth and form creative partnerships, e.g. with the HCA, to maximise the benefits; and
  3. the 21st century is but another layer of history – we need to ensure that it adds value and richness and this requires a proactive and positive approach.
Cambridge The Impact of Growth on the City of Cambridge
Simon Payne, Director of Environment and Planning
and John Preston, Historic Environment Manager,
Cambridge City Council
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3.9 The Cambridge urban area is expected to grow by 27,670 dwellings up to 2021. A key issue for Cambridge is: How is growth to be delivered without ending up with a 'two tier' city?  The starting point is a clear vision:
" ... of a compact, dynamic city with a thriving historic core surrounded by attractive and accessible green spaces. It will continue to develop as a centre of excellence and a world leader in the fields of higher education and research and it will foster the dynamism, prosperity and further expansion of the knowledge based economy."
Cambridge Local Plan 2006
3.10 A strong five–part spatial strategy is adopted to deliver this vision.
  1. A thriving and accessible historic core;
  2. The consolidation or development of four peripheral mixed use centers connected to each other and to the city centre by high quality public transport;
  3. The regeneration of the Station Area as a mixed use city district built around an enhanced transport interchange;
  4. Distinctive residential communities which have access to a wide range of local facilities and which provide a high quality living environment;
  5. The enhancement and improvement of Cambridge's landscape structure and the landscape setting of the city edge.
The Cambridgeshire Quality Charter for Growth looks at how to achieve excellence and will complement the Local Development Framework in guiding development.
3.11 The impact on the local community is a major concern for the Council, because quality of life is at the heart of its objectives and it is concerned with real life outcomes.  There is a need to get more buy–in and consider ways of consulting with non–existent new communities. The Council has put a lot of effort into prioritising public participation, for example through:
  1. the Development Control Forum;
  2. the Disability Consultative Panel; and
  3. strong links with residents' associations and key stakeholder groups, e.g. Cambridge Cycling Campaign.
3.12 The Council also believes that quality growth has to go hand in hand with vibrancy and economic success, which can be strengthened by supporting:
  1. the Cambridge Phenomenon, e.g. the Microsoft/Maths Faculty links;
  2. the city centre, e.g. through the Grand Arcade development with a 900 space car park;
  3. local centres, e.g. Mill Road; and
  4. interventions through city centre management and tourism, e.g. the Love Cambridge initiative, with an independent chair, for retail launched this year with a roll out for tourism in 2010.
3.13 It is also vital to get the infrastructure right. Sustainable communities' requirements include:
  1. strong transport links to jobs and services, especially buses (people live no more than 400m from a stop), cycling and walking;
  2. good leisure and recreational facilities;
  3. high quality educational provision;
  4. good local health care; and
  5. a range of other facilities and community provision.
3.14 The City Council has a Planning Obligations Strategy that is designed to deliver benefits on a citywide basis, including:
  1. affordable housing;
  2. transport projects;
  3. recreation and open space;
  4. education;
  5. community development; and
  6. public art.
The estimated cost of infrastructure up to 2021 is almost £4 billion and there is a funding gap of £763 million, see table 3.1. However, another £1.5–2.0 billion is needed to deal with the carbon/climate change agenda.

Required £ million
Funding gap £ million
Community facilities
Open space and recreation
3.15 Steps are being taken to deal with the impact of growth in a number of areas. Two critical ones are transport and conservation.
3.16 Traffic has been a problem since the 1950s. Major capacity challenges are posed by Cambridge's medieval street pattern, especially for large numbers of buses, which are projected to increase by 117%. Accidents across the City are an issue. The Long Term Transport Strategy from the County Council proposes a range of measures in Cambridge, including:
  1. smarter choices, e.g. work place travel plans;
  2. walking and cycling, e.g. area wide integrated safety schemes;
  3. public transport, e.g. enhanced interchanges;
  4. physical demand management, e.g. road space controls;
  5. fiscal demand management, e.g. investigation into the introduction of congestion charging is ongoing – a £4 charge within the charging zone – linked to £500 million from the Transport Innovation Fund for improvements to cycling, walking and public transport; and
  6. highway improvements, e.g. Addenbrooke's Access Road.
The central and inner areas of Cambridge are the subject of an air quality management area, which can give additional control over traffic. A methodology is needed to assess the character of streets in relation to transport impacts, especially that from buses.
3.17 As a city Cambridge is both historic and dynamic and shows a complex blend of evolution and dramatic change. It is strongly characterised by buildings in a landscape setting with green open space running right through the City from Stourbridge Common to Grantchester. The designated historic environment includes:
  1. 778 listed buildings, 61 Grade 1, 50 Grade II*, 667 Grade II;
  2. 11 Conservation Areas covering over 700 ha;
  3. 5 Scheduled Ancient Monuments; and
  4. 11 designated Historic Parks and Gardens, 3 Grade 11* and 8 Grade II.
3.18 The central Conservation Area is a huge and complex area and the Council seeks to manage the historic environment through a Conservation Plan approach that takes into account significance, vulnerability, capacity for change and management policies. It embraces land use as well as townscape. This work is dependent on a Historic Core Appraisal, which assesses:
  1. landscape structure;
  2. historical analysis;
  3. 'Cambridge dynamics';
  4. land uses;
  5. building types and character;
  6. streets and spaces;
  7. a street by street (76 streets) analysis showing four levels of significance;
  8. key management issues; and
  9. implementation policies cross referenced to the Local Plan.
3.19 The implementation of the appraisal and follow through in policies is structured around:
  1. planned developments and redevelopment opportunities;
  2. streetscape enhancements, e.g. lighting strategy, sector signage, streetscape manual;
  3. access and traffic management, e.g. cars, delivery vehicles, preventing vehicle damage;
  4. built environment conservation, e.g. building design, tall buildings, plot widths, extensions, rooftop plant, designing out crime, archaeology and alterations and changes of use;
  5. natural environment conservation, e.g. management policies and conservation plans; and
  6. good practice and management.
3.20 There are three particular challenges related to growth impacts.
  1. The Changing Skyline:
    1. The bulk of new buildings;
    2. The intrusion of rooftop plant;
    3. The importance of mature trees.
  2. Undesignated cultural landscapes:
    1. Grantchester Meadows;
    2. Byron's Pool;
    3. Stourbridge Common:
      1. Site of a medieval fair;
      2. The model for Vanity Fair;
      3. Street names survive, e.g. Mercer's Row;
      4. The historic Leper Chapel;
      5. The Lents and Mays rowing bumps course.
  3. The Station Area – The CB1 Development:
    1. Dramatic change to achieve transport improvements;
    2. Not preservation, but questionable demonstrable enhancement to the Conservation Area;
    3. Scale and height impacts;
    4. Concerns expressed by the Design and Conservation Panel.
  4. Linkages:
    1. Linkages from growth areas to the centre;
    2. Historic environment impact of strategic proposals;
    3. Cambridge East transport proposals, e.g. impact on Coldham's Common, Leper Chapel and Stourbridge Common.
3.21 A multi–disciplinary approach is being taken to dealing with the pressures of growth, e.g. the Cambridge Architectural Association organised a charrette to look at the links between the growth areas and the centre and the opportunities for making good past mistakes. The credit crunch has reduced the development control workload for the Historic Environment Team giving it a chance to improve the evidence base, develop strategies and catch up on the policy backlog. There is a proactive three–year programme to review the suburbs and key approaches to the City and review Conservation Area appraisals. An important part of current work is preparation of a Historic Environment Supplementary Planning Document, effectively a strategic conservation plan. Work on issues and options will consider growth, climate change impacts and mitigation, access/equalities and managing change. Climate change is the big issue and impacts, mitigation and adaptation must be considered and a balance struck with the conservation of the historic environment – a debate on the historic environment and climate change is being organised as part of the Cambridge Environment Festival.
Upton Sustainable Mixed Use vs the Housebuilders' Model
James Hulme, Director of Public Affairs,
The Prince's Foundation
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3.22 When it comes to smarter growth we should not just be doing what the developers tell us. There is not just one model to use, although there is a common thread: sustainable mixed use that does not divide uses into separate pods. It is important to learn from the past and build resilience and risk reduction into developments. We also need to be planning for higher densities.
3.23 Some principles of sustainable growth include:
  1. walkable neighbourhoods are the core of the sustainable city – daily needs should be met within a five minute walk;
  2. a legible network of connected streets that accommodates vehicles and pedestrians;
  3. neighbourhoods are both mixed use and mixed income; and
  4. urban places are framed by architecture that celebrates local history, climate, ecology, and building tradition and materials.
Tools that have been used, and developed with English Partnerships, to help to take this forward include Enquiry by Design and design codes and pattern books.
3.24 The development at Upton is a 1,000 home mixed use extension to Northampton, incorporating sustainability, mixed income housing and commercial uses.  The original master plan was developed through an Enquiry by Design and shows the evolution from a pod based to a grid layout. Design coding included stipulating setbacks, street widths and heights to give an overall 'feel' to the development.  Delivery is by English Partnerships and such development takes time – say up to 20 years.
3.25 A current scheme in which the Foundation is involved is the Sherford Park Urban Extension. This is a 5,000 home mixed use extension to Plymouth developed by Red Tree LLP as promoter/investor. It incorporates mixed use centres, a high street, guided bus link, three schools, mixed income housing and commercial uses. Higher density has helped to release open space.   The scheme concept was developed through an Enquiry by Design and delivered through land assembly and pooling and successive phasing within design codes, coordinated by Red Tree.
3.26 The Foundation has also commissioned a value study. The market value of sustainable urbanism in three locations was tested against the standard developer product in the local area. Exemplars were: Poundbury, Dorchester; Fairford Leys, Buckinghamshire and Crown Street, Glasgow. All displayed a market premium when their current value was analysed by Savills Residential Research. This shows the benefit of a forward thinking developer and not taking a short term view. The results do, however, raise serious questions:
  1. To whom does value accrue and when?
  2. Can value be captured by the conventional developer/ house builder?
  3. Is a new land assembly model required?
  4. What is the rate of return?
  5. What are the equity implications?  For example, those who stay longest gain most, which benefits early residents.
  6. Who leads?
  7. Are there other fiscal or legal implications, e.g. Capital Gains Tax, Leasehold Enfranchisement?
3.27 In detailing an alternative business model for sustainable urbanism a checklist of questions may be posed.
  1. How should land be procured and assessed?
  2. What timeframe would be required?
  3. What decisions need to be made?
  4. What guarantees and agreements are required (with public and/or private sectors)?
  5. How should contractors and other experts be procured?
  6. How would land be optioned/sold and under what covenants?
  7. How might land to equity swaps be encouraged?
  8. What valuation method should be applied?
  9. How will the community infrastructure element be funded? How will this affect CIL arrangements?
  10. How will homes actually be built and sold?
  11. Would the emergence of a substantial 'built to let' sector help raise absorption rates (as well as assisting tenure diversity)?
  12. What are the arrangements for long–term management?
  13. How will profit be realised and when?
3.28 All current development exemplars posit a different delivery model. However, it can be argued that a new delivery model would have number of common features, including:
    costs frontloaded, but not necessarily making the development more expensive;
    residual calculated by Savills in VSU is considerable and should cover extra costs as required;
    a single or conjoined promoter/developer function;
    planning certainty as well as enhanced values are part of the attraction of the sustainable model;
    a contractor role for existing house builders through tendered lots;
    incremental phasing of discrete, bespoke 60–80 units lots controls quality where supported by design codes or other mechanisms; and
    retained ownership of retail/commercial components.
A review of current delivery practice by mixed use developers offering a business model for sustainable urbanism is currently being completed by the Prince's Foundation and Knight Frank for publication in September 2009.