A controversial development by the University of Cambridge has been given the green light by Cambridge City Council subject to a Section 106 agreement, despite objections from local residents.

The new “West Cambridge Innovation District” intends to connect researchers with businesses, create thousands of jobs and provide amenities for locals, whilst hoping to improve the region’s post-pandemic recovery, according to the University of Cambridge.

In its construction phases, the development aims to increase its number of employees from 4,000 to 15,000 by 2031, creating jobs at all skill levels. The scheme will also help sustainable travel in the west of the city, improving and investing in cycle and pedestrian links.

The academic and retail spaces in the scheme will help to encourage collaborative working and will support the development of start-ups, with plans for ‘amenity hubs’ which offer flexible space for teaching and study, as well as business meetings and social and networking events. The first of the hubs is set to open later this year and will include a café, restaurant, and retail facilities.

The university also hopes the area will become a ‘testbed’ for developing new approaches to help achieve its goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2048. Pedestrianised plazas, gardens, lakes and ‘urban orchards’ are also planned for the scheme.

The application has not been without controversy, with many local residents standing against the scheme, worried about the scale of the project and the effects on the local area during its construction.

Members of the Clerk Maxwell Residents’ Association said “The buildings will shade the gardens that border Clerk Maxwell Road to an unacceptable extent and, from the upper floors, look directly into the gardens and houses in The Lawns and Perry Court. Privacy issues are not addressed in the documentation and should be seen as conditions to the awarding of planning approval.

We ask that planning permission should only be granted if the applicant agrees to require service vehicles for the eastern side of the West Cambridge site to access buildings in the green, purple and blue zones from JJ Thompson Avenue instead of imposing all the consequences of its growth for traffic congestion, noise and pollution on the residents who live nearby. The applicant makes a virtue of preserving the public realm within the site but clearly has far less interest in the public realm immediately beyond its parameters.”

Professor Andy Neely, pro-vice-chancellor for enterprise and business relations at the University of Cambridge said “The West Cambridge Innovation District will be a vibrant new destination quarter within the city, connecting industry with academic expertise and creating a welcoming, people-focused environment, including leisure facilities, that will be enjoyed by the wider Cambridge community.

The district will have a positive impact on biodiversity and bring a wide range of new jobs at various skill levels, turning Cambridge brilliance into sustained economic growth.

The development of West Cambridge will support the region’s economic recovery post-pandemic and nurture the entrepreneurial strengths of the Cambridge Cluster. Through architecture and landscaping, the restyled campus will foster connectivity and the kind of ‘serendipitous collisions’, or chance meetings, that spark new ideas and change the world.”

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