Over 90 people packed into the Community Wing next to the Pathfinder school on 16 May to find out about the latest Northstowe developments and to share their views.
For the first time a significant number of the attendees were residents of Northstowe, underlining how the new town is no longer a plan, but a home to hundreds of people.
Following a packed drop in session including display boards on topics such as the new secondary school, latest housing parcels to go to planning applications and the local play areas the forum proper started with a breath-taking aerial video of the site.
After Jon London, the new Community Development officer introduced himself; it was time for Kirstin Donaldson from South Cambridgeshire District Council to talk through the process of taking a blank field and converting it into a thriving allotments and orchard space. She introduced Emily Haysom, a freelance landscape designer who will be guiding a community engagement project to ensure that this green space is of the most use to the residents of Northstowe.
Dick Longdin from Randal Thorp then spoke about the Local Equipped Areas for Play, and the formal park. A LEAP is an area of open space specifically designated and laid out with features including equipment for children who are beginning to go out and play independently close to where they live.
Dick gave details of how he engaged with the children of Longstanton about the kinds of places they like to play, and the answer received was as expected – they love to play in the wilder places, where fallen trees, ditches and mud allow them to make dens, build and create.
The plans for the LEAPS which Dick shared showed these features in abundance, including landscaped grass mounds, open play areas, fallen trees and even a water play feature with a pump!
Some parents expressed concern over the less traditional aspects of these play areas, such as the lack of a perimeter fence, and the desegregation of different activities such as children's play and dog walking areas, but were happy to hear that one of the five LEAPs will have a more traditional 'play park' feel. Planners took note of the concerns and residents were encouraged to formally respond via the planning process.
Philip Harker from Homes England and John Sisk from Sisk spoke about the stunning design for a new bridge over the southern approach road that will carry Willson's bridleway, at present an unassuming local track but soon to become a more important cycle route.
In response to a question from a local resident, Philip explained that the cost of the cable stayed bridge was surprisingly similar to that of a standard slab design, but would act as a landmark on the approach to Northstowe, as well as being visually very similar to the equestrian bridges crossing the A14, tying the area together with a common architectural vernacular. Concerns about motorcycles using the bridge were heard and noted.
Philip then gave a good summary of the phase 2 enabling works being done, including re-homing wildlife and archaeological exploration that uncovered a major, previously unknown Roman settlement. There will be a chance for the public to visit the dig following the success of a similar event last year.
The presentation on the permanent closure of Airfield Road involved a lively discussion by members of the public. The council promised to look into issues surrounding farm traffic and liaising closer between the Northstowe and A14 roadworks.
The final speaker of the evening was Stratos Constantinou from Gallagher Estates, who gave an update on the Kingfisher Pond. Battling through an unfortunate technical hitch he was able to show that ground water levels in the area have returned to the pre-Northstowe construction range. He confirmed that the levels of water in the Kingfisher Pond have not returned to original levels as run-off is not currently being directed in, something that will happen as part of the western park development. James Stone of South Cambridgeshire District Council confirmed to the Forum that an independent consultant, contracted directly by the council, will be hired to independently verify ground water levels.
The next Northstowe Community Forum will happen at the Community Wing, next to the Pathfinder School, Pathfinder Way, Northstowe, CB24 1AA.
Drop-in from 6pm, Forum from 7pm onwards on 18 July 2018.
Any queries please contact Northstowe.firstname.lastname@example.org or 01954 713070.