Submitted by JTP on behalf of Vertex Living, the plans for Howes Green on Huntingdon Road, Cambridge recently secured a resolution to grant planning permission which will see the transformation of the site into a new neighbourhood set within an ecologically rich landscape network.
Located within the emerging context to the north-west of Cambridge City Centre, the site currently houses the former buildings of the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) which occupied the site from the 1920s to early 2020 and has since relocated its headquarters to an innovative new campus on NIAB’s original Old Granary site.
Responding to the current demand for housing within Cambridge, Howes Green provides 291 new build-to-rent homes ranging from studios to two bedroom dwellings, across seven midrise buildings which sensitively address the existing context. The new homes will sit alongside a 202 Apart-Hotel which will meet separate, but related needs for short to medium term visitors in the city.
With the challenges experienced over the Covid-19 pandemic highlighting the importance of communities where residents can live, work and play within a close proximity to their homes, the local amenities provided at Howes Green contribute to supporting the ‘15-minute city’ concept. Over 1250 sqm of mixed uses feature co-working space, a cycle hub, health and fitness suite and a microbrewery with outdoor seating terraces to create a new social heart for residents and the local community. A range of residential amenities are also provided including garden rooms, cafés, landscaped courtyards and rooftop gardens with growing spaces.
JTP’s landscape-led approach embraces the existing green assets to craft a new unique place, with a distinctive character and strong community focus. A network of multifunctional green spaces features two significant public areas: Howes Green, a new public square surrounded by mixed uses, and The Water Meadows, a transitional space centred around a body of water which is overlooked by dwellings.
A central pedestrian route, ‘The Mews’, connects these ‘set pieces’ running as a spine through the centre of the neighbourhood which is interwoven with green and blue threads; a place for both relaxation and play within a landscape of wildflower meadows and trees.
The legacy of the NIAB as one of Britain’s oldest agricultural science research centres has influenced the landscape network with a range of tree typologies defining the character areas and achieving 92% biodiversity net gain. The work of the NIAB is reflected in the landscape with pockets of productive planting to encourage residents and visitors to engage with the landscape, and forage for fruit, vegetables and herbs on the site.
Howes Green supports Cambridge City Council’s aspirations to meet net zero carbon by 2050 promoting active travel, circular economy and climate resilience. The provision of underground parking has allowed for a pedestrian focussed sequence of seamlessly connected public spaces that become part of a wider network for north-west Cambridge.
The form, massing and detail of the existing NIAB building were analysed to establish the architectural language of elements for the new community. The predominant use of brick has been utilised throughout with the housing typologies complemented by metalwork, windows, doors, balconies and roof materials of a similar colour palette.
The team is delighted with this milestone achievement at Howes Green and is very proud to be delivering the first large scale build-to-rent community in Cambridge. The scheme demonstrates a commitment to enhance the former NIAB site and the appealing mix of high-quality new homes, landscaped open space and valuable new amenities will create a truly walkable neighbourhood where residents have access to their daily necessities right on their doorstep.
Emma Armstrong, Associate at JTP