Things are happening…

Wednesday, January 25, 2017 - 09:00

A lively and information packed evening last week at the Community Forum and Drop-in. Local residents gathered in the community wing at The Pathfinder School to hear latest progress updates from Gallagher Estates and the HCA. With applications from the Phase 1 housebuilders coming in thick and fast and momentum building, Planning Officers from the District Council were on hand to answer questions along with Bovis Homes and Taylor Wimpey who shared plans for their housing schemes. Highways England were there too to give an update now work on the A14 has started.

Here’s a quick round up of the evening for those who missed it.

Phase 1 – As 2016 saw bulk earthworks and road infrastructure substantially completed, 2017 will see work begin on the Western Park and landscaping of other green areas including the local centre square, greenways and waterpark. Vegetation is being cleared along the route of the temporary diverted footpath. Plans are to seek approval for this to become permanent. The Hatton’s Rd Ponds will start to be hydronically controlled over the next few months and several measures are being taken to help attract wildlife to the area. Designers and landscapers are being commissioned for the five play areas located in Phase 1. Input from local young people and the wider community will be sought on the play strategy later in the year.

Questions had been raised by the community regarding a drop in water levels noted in the local area. In response, the extensive measures taken to monitor and investigate groundwater changes were presented by Gallagher’s hydrology expert Stratos Constantinou. According to Environment Agency records, October 2016 was the driest in 60 years which may have contributed to the recent change in water levels. Dewatering of the site was completed in November. Water levels are now recharging slowly. The recharge rate will be dependent on rainfall levels but Gallagher are confident this will return to normal as experienced with previous dewatering measures. No evidence to the contrary has been noted on site but they will continue to monitor the situation closely and have agreed to liaise with residents to investigate further the concerns raised.

Planning - James Stone, Principal Planning Officer from South Cambridgeshire District Council outlined the state of play on planning for the 13 land parcels on Phase 1. So far, approval has been granted for three parcels: H1 (Bloor - 92 homes); H3 (Taylor Wimpey – 40 homes) and H4 (Bovis – 84 homes). Permission was imminent on the largest Phase 1 parcel for 271 homes being developed by Linden Homes (now granted). With approval of the first Barratt Homes parcels (135 homes) expected by the end of the month, all five housebuilders will now be present on site during 2017. Permissions should be granted gradually through the course of the year as pre-application talks continue with Taylor Wimpey, Bovis and Barratt Homes on their remaining schemes. A distinct sense of character is emerging across the development being influenced by Dutch and Fen edge building styles.

Bovis Homes gave the Forum audience a snapshot of the design and layout for their first parcel (To view detailed plans, search ref: S/3174/16* using the planning portal   ). Construction is planned to start in March with first occupations happening by the end of the year. In total, they will be constructing 324 homes, of which 81 affordable, across three parcels towards the northern part of Phase 1. Bovis has had a strong presence across Cambridgeshire for many years and continue to see this as a key growth area. They are looking to support the local economy where possible through the use of local trades and are liaising with Cambridge Regional College to establish an apprenticeship programme for the duration of their time at Northstowe.

Taylor Wimpey also shared proposed plans for their second parcel H11 located just east of the primary school. You can take a closer look at some of the design features being considered below. Submission is expected in March after which the plans will be open for comment on the portal.

Phase 2 - the new year started with planning permission being granted, now the £73 million Section 106 contribution has been agreed. Phil Harker from the HCA outlined how activity will be stepping up over the year. Ground investigation contractors are on site and ecological mitigation work is progressing. The final draft of the Design Code is nearing completion along with the Town Centre Strategy. Public consultations will take place later in the year. The contract for the main road infrastructure and earthworks have gone out to tender with a view to construction commencing in the autumn. Already some interesting finds indicating signs of a former roman settlement close to what will be the new town centre have been made by Cambridge Archaeological Unit (CAU) who will be working on site through to 2018. Events with local schools and the wider community are planned to give everyone a chance to get a closer look of the history being uncovered.

A14 - Many will have seen the preparatory works popping up over the last few months at various sites. Mike Evans and Bob Pettipher explained how work has been progressing with setting up compounds, ecological mitigation, site clearance and archaeology ahead of the main construction works starting in March. Be warned CCTV and speed cameras are being installed now along four sections of the A14 so if you are not careful, you can accumulate 12 points and a disqualification all in one journey! Highways England is committed to keeping the public well informed throughout the works ongoing until early 2020. 2845 people attended a series of 11 public information events held last autumn and a mobile visitor centre will be doing the rounds from spring onwards. Email or call the contact centre 0300 123500 for any queries.

Healthy New Town (HNT) – as one of 10 national pilot sites chosen to promote healthy and active lifestyles in new communities, Northstowe will be looking at innovative ways to encourage improved health and well-being for all ages through both the built environment and the delivery of community initiatives and health services. Clare Gibbons has been appointed the Healthy New Town Project Lead and has been busy working with partners including Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group, Cambridge University Hospitals, Cambridge Institute of Public Health, both Councils and the HCA putting together the HNT program.

Welcoming New Residents – Our first residents are arriving at the end of March. By the end of 2018 we could have nearly 400 new households. Preparations are underway to help the community grow and thrive. Research and previous experience has shown that new communities need a helping hand. The importance of this community development and active placemaking in the early years is reflected in the funding set aside in both S106 agreements (Phase 1 £300k, Phase 2 £1m). As project officer, I will be looking to residents for ideas for events and activities to enhance and build community spirit at Northstowe. The resident-led Community Working Group is already busy preparing a Welcome pack and the Public Services Group are looking at getting initial services in place at the Community wing in the school for new residents by early summer. If you would like to get involved, contact me at . A busy evening you’ll agree. The next Forum & Drop-in is on 26 April. Hope to see you there.

Nutan Project Officer South Cambridgeshire District Council

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