July 7, 2020 Joanne John

Waterbeach Barracks and Airfield; healthy infrastructure for modern living.

Waterbeach Barracks & Airfield, Shortlisted for ‘Planning Permission of the Year’

In August 2014, Urban&Civic Plc were appointed as Development Partner to DIO (Defence Infrastructure Organisation) to redevelop the 290 hectare (716 acre) former airfield and barracks site at Waterbeach in Cambridgeshire.  The site constitutes the western two thirds of a new settlement allocated by South Cambridgeshire District Council through their Local Plan process, which has a capacity for 8,000 to 9,000 homes.

BMD were commissioned by Urban&Civic to provide the full suite of green infrastructure services covering landscape architecture, soil science, ecology and arboriculture and have worked alongside Fletcher Priest Architects, David Lock Associates, Stantec (formerly Peter Brett Associates) and a wide range of other partners since the outset of the project.

The airfield and barracks is an entirely brownfield site located on the northern edge of the historic village of Waterbeach.  Sitting at the meeting point between the Western Claylands and Fenlands landscape character areas, the site is a gateway to the fens with excellent transport connections that is just three miles from the Cambridge Science and Business Parks, home to some of the most dynamic employment generation in the world.

With a man-made lake at its heart and historic links to the Schedule monument of Denny Abbey in the north, the inherited features within the site, such as the extensive areas of existing grassland and woodland plantations, combine to form a rich ecological and heritage mosaic that drove the masterplanning process from the outset.

A critical and ongoing element of the project has been demonstrating how the site will achieve a net gain in biodiversity without relying on any offsite improvements or other offsetting measures.  Central to this is the creation of four Biodiversity Priority Areas that harness the best of the sites existing assets and build on these to create rich and distinctive habitats at a macro scale, which are linked through smaller scale interventions to provide an interconnected mosaic of treatments for wildlife and people.

Combined with the site’s flat topography and adjacency to the city of Cambridge, this extensive green infrastructure framework formed the ideal basis for the creation of an exemplary pedestrian and cycle movement network that has been designed in collaboration with SCDC, Cambridgeshire County Council (CCC) and a range of key stakeholders and cycle advocates.

The fenland setting has also been the inspiration for a sustainable drainage system that operates from the streets to the existing and new lakes, to bring the water story to life and nature to the doorstep.

The outline planning application was submitted jointly by the Secretary of State for Defence and Urban&Civic to South Cambridgeshire District Council (SCDC) in February 2017, who, during a specially constituted Planning Committee on 13th May 2019, resolved to grant permission for 6,500 new homes and associated employment, transport, educational, health and community uses.  Formal planning permission was granted by SCDC on the 27th September 2019, following the completion of the associated Section 106 agreement.

Waterbeach Barracks & Airfield is the culmination of long-term partnerships between the Client, the design team, local authorities and a cast of stakeholders and consultees that will create a unique and exciting place to live and work.

BMD are currently working on the detailed landscape design of Key Phase 1 and construction is due to commence on site later this year, with first occupations anticipated in 2022/23.

For more information about Waterbeach click here.