The future of UK housing: Waterbeach vision revealed
Plans for a new town at Waterbeach, close to Cambridge, have been revealed as developer RLW Estates seeks planning to build 4,500 new homes.
An application has been submitted to South Cambridgeshire District Council to build the new homes.
Waterbeach New Town East is a pioneer – a first for UK housing at this scale. It reimagines residential streets and what they can offer, moving away from prioritising cars in spaces around homes. This vision, masterplanned by LDA Design, draws on the dramatic Fen Edge setting to establish a more sociable, sustainable way of living.
Board Director, Bernie Foulkes, who leads LDA Design’s masterplanning offer, explains the thinking behind this exciting, landscape-led approach:
“Our vision for Waterbeach is to create a place that makes connected living easy. It draws on the open, powerful and compelling landscape and patterns of the Fens to foster a strong sense of community based around a series of small neighbourhood steads. Each stead will compromise up to 400 homes; they will have their own character, landmarks and facilities. They will be fine-grained, nuanced and well-linked, but they will also connect to a bigger landscape and story.
“Life in Waterbeach will be closely tied to nature, with new parks, shared spaces and naturalistic planting. It will be a place to work as well as to live – enterprising, lively and self-sustaining. I don’t think there’s anything like it in the UK that comes close to having such spirit or vision on this scale.”
The car-free residential streets will be refuges with the feel of intimate green linear parks. Within the individual blocks there will be space for communal activity, from children’s play, to eating together, to tending community vegetable plots.
RLW Estates’ Chris Goldsmith sees Waterbeach as having beautiful and diverse new living and working environments. For example, the urban quarter, which is near to the station, will have a good mix of workspace, shops, community hubs and space from day through to evening. He gives his thoughts on the vision:
“Taking its design inspiration from the Fen Edge location, it will be of the highest quality and energy efficiency, providing a mix of affordable homes in a sustainable new community that is well connected via public transport and cycle infrastructure to employment areas in central and north eastern Cambridge.
“Outdoor spaces should be for children to play in, enable active travel and allow nature to flourish. By placing the car at the edge of housing locations we will create the first New Town in the UK that truly puts people first and ensure that their local area is designed for them, not their vehicles.”
LDA Design’s Foulkes explains the spirit behind this endeavour: “The fenlands have long captured the imagination of writers, often as a place mystically caught between land and water, in flux between the forces of reclamation and the sea. But living in the fenlands has also been described as the sensation of emplacement: the rare feeling of being firmly and rightfully placed in the landscape. Like every pioneer, Waterbeach plants a flag in the ground: a flag for community and shared experience. For emplacement.”