Urban & Civic and the UK Secretary of State for Defence have submitted plans for a masterplan, designed by Fletcher Priest Architects, for the construction of up to 6,500 new homes on 293 hectares (715 acres) of brownfield land at Waterbeach Barracks, to the immediate north of Cambridge and part of the existing village of Waterbeach.
The former airfield and barracks are just three miles from Cambridge’s highly successful Science and Business parks and forms part of an emerging northern fringe to Cambridge that will help maintain continued growth in the specialist high tech industries with which the city has come to be associated across the world.
The application comes shortly after the Housing White Paper which emphasised the importance of making best use of previously developed land to build houses within existing settlements, and where people most want and need to live.
Fletcher Priest is perhaps best known for its masterplanning work at Stratford City - which transformed a formerly inaccessible and polluted area of brownfield land in East London into the Athletes Village for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the most successful in history, and plans to reconfigure the city of Riga, in Latvia. For the latter, four years of work with the city administration saw Fletcher Priest’s masterplan, on the edge of the UNESCO World Heritage Site boundary, adopted as part of the city’s planning law, and the first phases of development, containing university research buildings, have recently completed. In both cases, the key has been to establish proposals that are robust enough to establish a long-term vision while allowing for implementation and adaptability within a changing economic and social context.
Jonathan Kendall, who leads the practice’s urban design and masterplanning team, says:
“Our design grew out of thorough research into the existing site and its broader context, with all of the astonishing potential that that yielded – from converting the runway into a linear parkland to preserving and enhancing local natural habitats and re-establishing a medieval causeway that links to a nearby Benedictine abbey. As with all our masterplanning work, our design will become even more rich and particular to its context with time, during and beyond the first phases of development.”
Fundamental elements of Fletcher Priest’s Waterbeach masterplan include decisions about scale, density and typology drawing on extensive studies into the characteristics of urban development in the region. This includes both contemporary design-led development within the city of Cambridge and the constellation of long-established Fen-edge settlements across the county. The objective has been to help grow a sustainable community with a rich mixture of activities rather than a disconnected dormitory settlement.
Urban & Civic Chief Executive Nigel Hugill said: “Outside London, Waterbeach is the best brownfield site in the country. Three miles from the Cambridge Science Park with some of the most dynamic employment in the world, Waterbeach can help meet a demonstrable shortage of accessible accommodation in the north of the city, both from an expanding workforce and local residents who have lived here for generations. Courtesy of the Royal Engineers, the barracks and airfield are already marvellously landscaped, with a 23 acre lake and tree lined environment that has been forty years in the making, and is already part of a popular and dynamic village.”
Speaking about the proposals in the context of the Housing White Paper, Hugill commented further: "Waterbeach precisely represents the cross Government department approach envisaged in the Housing White Paper. To that extent, it can be seen as a bellwether for the more rapid delivery of quality and scale. Urban & Civic is Master Developer but the site continues to be owned by the MOD, who set us the twin objectives of maximising revenues to the Exchequer and accelerating housing numbers.”
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