Cambourne New Town Development

Our work for the Cambourne development is cited in Planning for Biodiversity and Geological Conservation: A Good Practice Guide, which accompanies PPS9, as an example of good practice where biodiversity forms an important element of how development is planned and executed.

The Challenge

To demonstrate that a major development can integrate wildlife and people, to produce a significant biodiversity gain.

Cambourne is a new small market town 8 miles west of Cambridge, planned as three villages, each with its own identity and centred around its own village green, with a neighbouring business park and a settlement centre including shops, offices, a health centre, library, schools, and other community facilities. All of these are linked by semi-natural pedestrian pathways - Greenways - which preserve the original hedgerow network.

The Starting Point

Back in 1994, the four square kilometres of arable prairie destined to become Cambourne was a bleak landscape with a few ditches, scrappy hedges, isolated houses and gardens and scattered small plantation woodlands. Intensive surveys throughout 1995-96 identified an active badger population, a small newt population and considerable invertebrate interest in one of the woodlands but otherwise biodiversity was minimal; grassland was confined to garden lawns, and the only waterbodies were garden ponds.

However, from its inception Cambourne has had the benefit of developers, planners and a consultant team committed to creating a very special place to live and work, and ESL has worked closely with the landscape designers and other members of this team to ensure that what there was of existing habitats and species has been preserved and a huge amount of new habitat has been created.

The Concept

Following careful study of the local vernacular - including natural habitats - by the team, the villages were modelled on the best and most typical in South Cambridgeshire. Two ‘valleys’ separating the villages were deepened (using subsoil from road and building foundations, none of which left the site) and designed as Country Park areas with hedged fields, streams, lakes, grassland and trees. The whole site was to be ringed by new woodland, all with a linking network of footpaths, bridle ways and cycle paths.  Ornamental planting was ‘allowed’ within the built-up areas, but beyond them all planting is confined to native species found in Cambridgeshire.

Habitat Achievements to Date

Species Achievements to Date

Have We Answered the Challenge?


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