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Cambridge City Council

Reproduced by kind permission of Cambridge City Council



  Page nos.
Summary and Recommendations 4 - 10
1. Introduction and Methodology 12 - 13
2. External Context  15 - 23
2.1 Benefits and Scope of Public Art  
2.2 National and Regional Policies  
2.3 Local Authority Public Art Policies  
2.4 Local Authority Public Art Practice  
2.5 Summary  
3. Public Art in Cambridge 24 - 29
3.1 Historic City Centre  
3.2 Cambridge Communities  
3.3 Innovation and Change  
3.4 Summary  
4. Visual Arts Resources in Cambridge 30 - 38
4.1 Cambridge City Council  
4.2 Other Local Authorities  
4.3 The University  
4.4 Independent Arts Organisations  
4.5 Others  
4.6 Summary and Recommendations 
5.Process 39 - 44
5.1 Best Practice 
5.2 Project Advice and Management  
5.3 Staff Training 
5.4 Design and Conservation Panel  
5.5 Local Arts and Design Organisations  
5.6 Monitoring and Assessment  
5.7 Recommendations  
6.Costs and Funding 45 - 48
6.1 Project Costs 
6.2 Promotion  
6.3 Public Art Initiatives Fund 
6.4 Funding Opportunities 
6.5 Recommendations 
7.Opportunities49 - 53
7.1 Public Sector  
7.2 Private Sector 
7.3 Recommendations 
8.Strategy 54 - 59
8.1 Introduction  
8.2 Public Art and Percent for Art Policies 
8.3 Range of Approaches 
8.4 Context 
8.5 Consultation and Interpretation  
8.6 Marketing and Promotion 
8.7 Access 
8.8 Supplementary Planning Guidance 
8.9 Visual Arts and Design Organisations 
8.10Officer Group for Public Art 
8.11 Recommendations  


Appendix 1. Action Plan

Appendix 2. List of Consultees

Appendix 3. Discussion Group Summaries

Appendix 4. Responses to and Analysis of Questionnaires

Appendix 5. Recommended Supplementary Planning Guidance

Appendix 6. Example of Brief and Contract

Appendix 7. Bibliography

Summary and Recommendations

Introduction and Methodology

In 1992 Cambridge City Council adopted a Percent for Art policy to encourage ??the provision of works of art and crafts as part of development schemes?.  A joint public art policy and strategy was agreed with Cambridgeshire County Council in 2000.

The Public Art Plan was commissioned out of recognition that the Percent for Art policy was not being effectively or consistently implemented and opportunities had been missed. Further, there was no city-wide strategy linking Percent for Art with Cambridge?s outstanding resources for visual arts, architecture and design; and no strategic provision to sustain public awareness, education and dialogue about public art.

The plan proposes a broad definition for public art according to which it can be shown that Cambridge already has many strands of vibrant activity feeding into this area of practice.  The plan sets out to acknowledge these different strands, and proposes a strategy which brings them together and builds on their potential.

Cambridge is at the hub of the country?s fastest growing region and few regional cities can rival the richness of its built environment.  The city is uniquely placed to take a more committed approach to the opportunities for public art and the potential for artists to contribute to its social and economic success.

The Public Art Plan fits within the framework of the Arts Plan for Cambridge.

The plan is based on extensive consultation, conducted locally by means of:

  • Questionnaires
  • Discussion Groups
  • One to one interviews
  • Meeting with Planning Officers
  • Meetings with the Steering Group

Research also examined local authority practice and issues elsewhere in the country.

The work was overseen by a Steering Group comprising Andy Thompson (Environmental Projects Manager, Cambridge City Council), Richard Sockett (Arts Strategy Officer, Cambridge City Council) and Josephine Morrison (Independent Landscape Architect).

External Context

The value of public art is recognised in a wide spectrum of policies for cultural, economic, social and community development in Europe, the USA and elsewhere.

Numerous local authorities in England now include public art and Percent for Art policies in their local plans. Public art projects are recognised as adding value in commercial and business developments; the health service; transport projects; housing schemes; countryside development; and in a multiplicity of public and independent sector schemes and settings.

Public art generally takes three distinct, complementary and often overlapping approaches:

Collaborations between artists and architects, urban designers and landscape architects and others where the art is integrated into the whole development.

?OLandmark projects ?N sculptural or self-contained works, which have a symbolic or commemorative intent.

Temporary works ?N projects that aim to build innovation, risk and change into the sum total of public art activity and projects with communities.

Government guidance for good design (Planning Policy Guidance 1) is now strongly linked with advocacy for the involvement of artists in building and landscaping schemes.

The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment and the Arts Council of England give support at national level for the integration of public art in development schemes.

East England Arts? policy is to back high profile public art in regeneration projects, which articulate regional identity.  Elsewhere, regional policy addresses public art in the context of urban design.

In practice, many inspiring public art projects can be identified nationally. Yet relatively few local authorities have established effective and sustained mechanisms for implementing their public art policies.

The results of public art policies range widely from high profile regeneration projects to results which are more integrated, diffuse and community focused.

From the examples considered, by far the greatest generator of public art opportunities are local authorities, along with other public sector agencies.

A Percent for Art policy within the local plan should not be seen in isolation.  Other strategies show the need to establish an embedded corporate approach linked to community, economic and environmental policies.

Percent for Art is applied effectively via the planning process by some authorities and a number are now considering Supplementary Planning Guidance for public art.

Percent for Art, by encouraging works closely tied to a specific capital scheme, can be too rigid. Some authorities are seeking to pool or channel developer contributions into ??larger scale coherent public art projects? through ??commuted sums?.

Sustained public art activity results where there is dedicated officer input, whether in arts or planning teams, providing coordination and specialist advice.

Education and interpretation projects linked to public art schemes can be integrated into the development process, from policy setting to the implementation of individual commissions.  There are notable examples of complex and sustained projects, which have arisen from community initiatives.

Public Art in Cambridge

In analysing the character of public art activity in Cambridge, the report identifies three important contexts:

  • Historic centre
  • Cambridge communities
  • Innovation and change

A wide diversity of approaches to public art - integrated and permanent, temporary and experimental - can be found in Cambridge. This range, to an extent reflects the many different communities that make up the city, the special character of the historic core, and the opportunities for research and innovation. 

Consultations for this report sought views on existing public art in Cambridge and future potential. A striking strength of interest was revealed, with a 37% return of questionnaires. There was no opposition in principle to public art.

Major findings of the consultation were:

  • a high level of lack of awareness of what currently exists, and a view that the City?s Percent for Art policy has had very little effect
  • a sense of disappointment at the limited ambition of approaches to public art in Cambridge.
  • ??consideration of context? rated as the most important factor for successful projects
  • provision for public art must go hand in hand with commitment to urban design and a clear design strategy for the City
  • the public art strategy should aim to encourage projects which are of a quality appropriate to Cambridge
  • the strategy should provide for a range of approaches that include temporary and experimental projects
  • public art should be encouraged throughout the city and reflect its character and diverse communities
  • projects of quality should be implemented with confidence, avoiding unduly complex and compromising procedures
  • an audit of existing examples of public art in the City should be undertaken, and this should form the basis of a programme of public information and interpretation
  • priorities for the City Council?s role are seen as taking a lead by demonstrating good practice, a designated officer/specialist advice, and a budget to support the infrastructure for promoting public art

Visual Arts Resources in Cambridge

The range of City Council policies and the Arts Plan together with the wide range of resources and skills offered through locally based visual arts organisations, offers a sound basis for the development of an ambitious programme of public art activity.

Plans for development in the city will continue to create a large number of opportunities for public art and Cambridge should aspire to take a leading, national role in public art development. 

There is a lack of coordination within the City Council and between the Council and the city?s visual arts and design organisations with regard to public art.

It is recommended that:

the City Council takes a strategic lead on public art including a proactive role to coordinate projects, to identify opportunities, and to develop external links.

the expertise of locally based visual arts and design organisations will be a valuable resource in the implementation of the public art strategy.

a forum for networking amongst independent organisations with an interest in public art, including the design community, should be established.


Successful public art schemes examined as part of this research demonstrated the importance of best practice in commissioning.  This section identifies considerations in achieving this.

It is recommended that:

  • the Council should promote best practice in public art commissioning and demonstrate this in its own developments.
  • the production of Supplementary Planning Guidance on public art will be an important factor in the promotion of best practice to potential commissioners.
  • in establishing best practice the council should promote early consideration of public art, the briefing of artists, fair and appropriate selection processes, consultation and education, and provision for ongoing care and maintenance.
  • council officers should have a responsibility for providing initial advice on setting project briefs, contracting, selection processes, consultation, and care and maintenance.  This will require an ongoing programme of staff training.
  • the Council should produce a list of specialist organisations and individuals to provide detailed advice and management on public art.
  • visual arts specialists should be appointed to the City Council?s Design and Conservation Panel to advise on overall strategy, major schemes, and the use of commuted sums.

Costs and Funding

This section identifies the costs associated with public art projects and the use of commuted sums to pay for these.  It draws attention to the need for the City Council to provide initial funding to establish the scheme.

It is recommended that:

  • selection, management, and education programme costs are allowable from the Percent for Art allocation.
  • a Public Art Initiatives Fund be established for commuted sums.  This would be used for a programme of commissions not linked to individual developments, for ongoing marketing and promotion, and for care and maintenance.
  • expenditure from the Public Art Initiatives Fund will be agreed by the Design and Conservation Panel following recommendations from the officer group for public art.
  • the Council provides initial funding of ?Åf10,000 for implementation of the strategy including print and website construction, and officer training.
  • should additional external funding be sought, commissioners should consult with specialist arts organisations.

Opportunities and Approaches

This section examines the wide range of opportunities within Cambridge, from small-scale projects to existing opportunities linked to major developments.

It is recommended that:

  • the City Council should take the lead in identifying the public art opportunities that are likely to occur over the next decade.
  • a programme of small projects within the city?s historic core should be considered, and where feasible larger projects funded by the Public Art Initiatives Fund be planned.
  • the City Council should work closely with the University and encourage new public art commissions as part of university developments.
  • partnership projects with other public organisations such, as the County Council should be encouraged.  In particular, highways and street improvement projects.
  • the City Council should where possible, allow for the involvement of artists in all small-scale capital projects for neighbourhood settings.
  • the City Council works closely with the Health Sector on developing a programme of commissions linked to ??new build?.
  • projects led by organisations such as the Junction CDC and the Fitzwilliam Museum should be promoted as examples of good practice.
  • business park developments should be encouraged to take a more adventurous approach, particularly with regard to works integrated into landscape and built elements of the projects.
  • where opportunities already exist, the Council should work closely with developers in taking these forward.


This section proposes an achievable and sustainable public art strategy for Cambridge.

It is recommended that:

  • the Council should set an example of good practice in public art commissioning in its own capital projects.
  • the City actively applies its Percent for Art policy based on the allocation of a minimum of 1% construction costs, as set out in the recommended Supplementary Planning Guidance
  • if it is not feasible to spend this allocation on the development site that a contribution of a minimum of 1% of the construction cost be made to the Public Art Initiatives Fund.
  • the Percent for Art policy is seen as an integral part of the public art strategy for the City, which promotes a range of approaches appropriate to different contexts and communities.
  • the City Council ensures that public art projects go hand-in-hand with a commitment to urban design and that this is applied throughout the City.
  • particular emphasis be placed on developing education and interpretation programmes linked to public art projects, and the City facilitates this through development of a public art website
  • the Council should seek partnership with local visual arts, design and other interested organisations in implementing the strategy
  • where possible developers are encouraged to commission works which are visible and accessible to the general public.
  • a programme of marketing and promotion be developed by the City Council which will raise the profile of public art in the city.
  • the Council adopts the recommended Supplementary Planning Guidance.
  • the Council commits staff time and resources to providing the practical infrastructure necessary to implement the strategy, by establishing an Officer Group for Public Art (drawn from planning and arts officers); and facilitating provisions including research and development of a public art website/on-line forum, and promotional material.

A full copy of the Public Art Plan is available from the Environment and Planning Department, Cambridge City Council, The Guildhall, Cambridge, CB2 3QJ, or by email from [email protected]

A Public Art Plan for Cambridge was written by Commissions East and Jane Heath, Visual Arts Planning and Projects.