Military legacy to lakeside living: Urban&Civic defines next chapter for Waterbeach Barracks


Waterbeach application follows on the heels of the Housing White Paper 

Urban&Civic and the Secretary of State for Defence have submitted plans for the construction of up to 6,500 new homes on 293 hectares (715 acres) of brownfield land at Waterbeach Barracks, to the immediate north of Cambridge and part of the existing settlement of Waterbeach. 

The former airfield and barracks are just three miles from Cambridge’s highly successful Science and Business parks and form part of an emerging northern fringe to Cambridge that will help maintain continued growth in the specialist high tech industries with which the city has come to be associated across the world.

The application comes just two weeks after the Housing White Paper which emphasised the importance of making best use of previously developed land to build houses within existing settlements, and where people most want and need to live.  

Urban&Civic Chief Executive Nigel Hugill said:

“Outside London, Waterbeach is the best brownfield site in the country. Three miles from the Cambridge Science Park with some of the most dynamic employment in the world, Waterbeach can help meet a demonstrable shortage of accessible accommodation in the north of the city, both from an expanding workforce and local residents who have lived here for generations. Courtesy of the Royal Engineers, the barracks and airfield are already marvellously landscaped, with a 23 acre lake and tree lined environment that has been forty years in the making, and is already part of a popular and dynamic village.   

“The Science and Business parks are famous the world over but commuting from the south of Cambridge to these expanding employment hubs is just too tough at peak times. More people are having to live in the same amount of space. We have been working hard and listening hard to help come up with the right plans to allow people to live near to where they work and ensure transport options to get people out of their cars and onto cycles and public transport. That is how modern city regions operate.”

Speaking about the proposals in the context of the Housing White Paper, Hugill commented further:

“Waterbeach precisely represents the cross Government department approach envisaged in the Housing White Paper. To that extent, it can be seen as a bellwether for the more rapid delivery of quality and scale.  Urban&Civic is Master Developer but the site continues to be owned by the MOD, who set us the twin objectives of maximising revenues to the Exchequer and accelerating housing numbers.  

“The process began with the relocation of the Royal Engineers, followed by the Cambridge City Deal and the £1.8 billion A14 improvement programme. The military move released brownfield land that will ‎realise considerable funds to the taxpayer for reinvestment, whilst maintaining momentum that both anticipates and facilitates world beating economic growth. The Government spend on infrastructure‎ is designed to support that growth locally and nationally. Meanwhile, the level of rental demand in the north of Cambridge means that new housing can be delivered much faster than normal.  ‎Waterbeach demonstrates properly joined-up thinking.”

The Outline Planning Application at Waterbeach is for:

  • Up to 6,500 homes, including up to 600 units of residential institution (care home) use
  • Three primary schools – the first of which would be open from day one – incorporating pre-school provision, and a secondary school
  • Extensive community facilities, (up to 9,000 sq m in total) including: multi-purpose community centres, health care, nurseries, library use, places of worship and museum  
  • Sports and fitness centres (up to 7,000 sq m) including gyms and other cultural and recreational uses.
  • Up to 16,500sqm of retail uses in total, with no single outlet will be larger than 4,000sq m.
  • Employment space comprising offices, research and development and light industrial units (up to 15,000 sq m) to support existing local business parks.
  • A lake-side hotel (up to 4,000 sq m)
  • A range of supporting infrastructure improvements and investments in energy centres, waste management facilities, upgrade and services, drainage works and sustainable urban drainage systems.

The application also includes a range of open spaces and other landscaped areas which draw on the extraordinary legacy of the military occupation, including extensive woodland areas; wildlife habitat areas and grassland, including on the former golf course and around the runway area; and the runway itself. A series of parkland spaces will echo the alignment of the main runway, and the existing lake and smaller ponds will be incorporated into new recreation and wildlife areas. 

The plans are respectful of a heritage which pre-dates the military, with extensive landscaping set aside to protect the setting of Denny Abbey, and a commitment to re-establish the historic Causeway link between the Abbey and the village of Waterbeach. Water management will be a strong feature of the development, adopting best practice in sustainable drainage to hold and manage water as an attractive feature of the landscaped areas. 

The development will see two new access points onto the A10, and the application also provides for a new Park and Ride facility. The developers are working with the A10 Transport Corridor Study to ensure the development is rolled-out alongside investment in the road, bus, rail and cycle network – which are all due to be upgraded along this important growth corridor for the County. 

Urban&Civic is committing nearly £15m of investment to early cycle and bus connections and to support improvements to the local rail station, ahead of a significant contribution towards the final Milton Interchange/ A14 / A10 ‎strategic improvements.

Urban&Civic Development Director Tim Leathes added:

“The submission of the outline application for this incredible site is an important step on the journey. Crucially, it allows the MOD and Urban&Civic to play our role alongside local authorities, partners and communities in ensuring that the area North of the City gets the investment, infrastructure and opportunity for‎ the quality sustainable development the area needs.”

The barracks and airfield are part of a strategic site allocated for housing under the Emerging South Cambridgeshire Local Plan, alongside neighbouring land being promoted separately. Urban&Civic is acting on behalf of the Ministry of Defence, who as part of Central Government are committed to maximising public benefit from the disposal of their land.

Additional background information about the development plans are available from Rebecca Britton, on 07739 339 889 or by emailing .