Next phase of University extension approved

Tonicha Upham 29 January 2015

The latest phase in the development of a community in north-west Cambridge has been approved.

The £1billion project, which will be the largest single development undertaken by the University of Cambridge in its history, has just received local authority approval to proceed with plans for community facilities.

The North West Cambridge site is already in development, and now has the go-ahead to begin work on a 'social' marketplace, to be named Eddington, which is intended to be a centrepiece for the local community. The marketplace will form a venue for various markets and events, surrounded by shops, social spaces, and affordable housing units for key workers.

The development is based on a 150 hectare site between Huntingdon Road, Madingley Road and the M11 motorway, the stretch of land separating Girton College from Fitzwilliam, Churchill, Murray Edwards, St Edmund's and Lucy Cavendish.

Although proposals have already been approved for other key aspects of the North West Cambridge development, such as additional affordable housing, a supermarket, and a primary school, the approval of this 'social' marketplace has been deemed highly important by those involved in the project. Deputy Project Director for the development, Heather Topel, expresses this in an update on the development's project website, stating: "The market square is a critical ingredient to creating the urban grain for this new district."

The project's completion is planned to take place in a phased manner, with the first phase expected in autumn of this year. Key features of the project include over 3,000 new homes, half of which are to be designated as 'key worker' housing for University employees, postgraduate accommodation, 100,000 square metres of research space and the first school in the UK to be run by a university.

Phase One, which should be completed in its entirety by spring 2017, involves 700 of the planned new homes for University and college workers, and accommodation for 325 postgraduate students. According to an update on the University of Cambridge website, the University has so far awarded £160 million in construction contracts for the development.

It appears that students are largely unaware of this venture. Some expressed their surprise at the news, having heard little or nothing about the North West Cambridge development, despite the fact that the University has been planning this project since 2003.

Undergraduate student Sophie Bell feels that the development is a natural step in the expansion of the University, even if it is at the expense of farmland: "There is only so much expansion which can take place within Cambridge itself, but this needs to be sustainable." The North West Cambridge development's website declares sustainability as one of its aims, and of the 150 hectares to be developed, 50 hectares will be maintained as green space.