Cambridge University is planning a major expansion into the city's Green Belt with a development which will almost certainly lead to a full-scale public inquiry.
The 120ha scheme will include two entirely new colleges. It will even overshadow the university's current development - MacCormac Jamieson Prichard's massive £500 million science and technology park in the west of the city. A masterplanner is yet to be appointed for the site - the university has a policy of competitive interviews for its major architectural schemes.
However, Cambridge City Council planners have warned that the scheme is unlikely to win approval in its entirety, and that even a scaleddown version will be greeted with wide-scale public protest and calls for a public inquiry.
The project, yet to be costed, is planned for an area to the north-west of the city between Huntingdon Road and Madingley Road. As well as the two colleges, it will also include new undergraduate and postgraduate accommodation, and both social and private housing.
The vice-chancellor's office said it is expecting a massive surge in demand for housing and homes over the next 25 years, and is determined there should be a provision for both academics and students. Cambridge University's head of estates David Adamson said there are 'big plans' for the site that will be taken to public consultation in the autumn.
But Cambridge City Council's head of planning policy David Roberts warned the council was unlikely to approve all the development planned for the Green Belt site. And he said there was bound to be further objections from local residents and neighbouring Girton village to the entire scheme.
'There is the extremely important matter of maintaining a gap between the city and the satellite towns and there is also a question of aesthetics.
Does the city want to be surrounded by more housing developments?' Roberts asked.
The city council is in the process of developing its new local structure plan, and a draft should be available for consultation in May. The plan will need to be in place before the university's proposals can even be considered.
However, Adamson said he was surprised the council was so reticent, claiming to have the support of the Council for the Protection of Rural England for the land to be removed from the Green Belt. 'We will be urging during the public consultation that it should all get the go-ahead, ' he said.