Lessons from Cambourne

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Stephen Platt
tel: 01223 460475

Cambourne is a new settlement ten miles west of Cambridge. Its current projected size is 4,200 homes and at the time of the CAR study for InspireEast in May 2007 just over half had been built. The total area of the site is 417 hectares (1,030 acres) only 131 hectares of which are for housing.

The brief for this study was to assess whether and how the objectives outlined in Terry Farrell’s Master Plan for Cambourne were being met and to document practical lessons to be drawn for the development of future new settlements.

The vision of the master planners harks back to the Garden City movement where families could get the best of both worlds – a place in the country with urban amenities. In Cambourne, the consensus is that much of this vision has been achieved. Cambourne is successful and popular.

The master planners imagined that the traditional character of an English village would give the settlement its image and identity and sustainability was the big idea that would provide a sense of purpose. However, neither in terms of size nor character, is Cambourne a village as was originally conceived. Nor is it a small town. It is in fact a new hybrid – an ‘exurb’. Nor have the key objectives of self-sufficiency, high performance environmental design and the use of renewables been met. Cambourne is not self-contained in terms of jobs, secondary schools or services. Consequently car use and car ownership is high.

The full report has chapters on: size, density and location; built form and green space; environmental design and sustainability; people and community; social mix and social housing; schools and services; transport; and the planning and development process.

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