Our response to the Greater Cambridge Local Plan proposals
14 December 2021
The consultation on the 'first proposals' for the Greater Cambridge Local Plan has now closed. The local Green Parties submitted a detailed response which you can read here.
Our key points
The Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Authority sets out their vision for the Local Plan as follows: “We want Greater Cambridge to be a place where a big decrease in our climate impacts comes with a big increase in the quality of everyday life for all our communities.” We fully support this aim, but do not think the proposed policies will achieve it. Despite many laudable commitments to restoring biodiversity, addressing inequality and tackling the climate emergency, the central theme of the First Proposals is economic growth. We propose a different approach:
- Press ‘pause’ on plans for further growth. Greater Cambridge is already committed to thousands of new jobs and houses in the adopted 2018 Local Plans – more than enough to meet demand according to latest projections, and certainly enough to seriously worsen environmental impacts. Factor in the uncertainties introduced by Covid and Brexit, the fact that we have yet to see firm plans from the water companies on how they are going to continue to meet demand, and the shifting policy priorities of central Government, and it is clear that plans for accelerated growth are premature at best.
- Start from what we have. We cannot build our way out of the challenges faced by Greater Cambridge. Any strategy for our area must include plans for the built environment we have already – retrofitting energy and water-inefficient buildings, safeguarding and improving our remaining green spaces, expanding active transport infrastructure, revitalising high streets and protecting Cambridge’s unique historic environment to name but a few.
- Learn from the past. Greater Cambridge is a fantastic place but also has many problems. Rapid economic growth has left many people behind. Past house building has failed to address the affordability crisis and in many cases has not produced ‘great places’, but soulless estates which lack community facilities and add to Cambridge’s traffic burden. We have been chipping away for years at our remaining biodiversity and green spaces. We need to assess what went wrong (and right) with existing and historical policies to inform our future direction.
- Have clear and ambitious objectives for the future. In our detailed response, we propose a number of “Green Lines”: standards against which future development will be judged. Any new settlements must be more than ‘low carbon’; they must be net reducers of regional carbon emissions through facilitating emission reduction in neighbouring areas, by providing local services and low-carbon transport options. ‘Net zero’ buildings must mean more than minimising day-to-day emissions: the carbon costs of construction, the embodied carbon in building materials, and the loss of carbon stocks from destroying soils, vegetation or existing structures, must be taken into account. Measuring development in terms of GDP growth is outdated thinking: Greater Cambridge can only ‘thrive’ when everyone living here has a chance to thrive. ‘Biodiversity Net Gain’ must not be an accounting trick where nature’s devastation is weighed against promised improvements elsewhere: we must protect what we have, massively expand land set aside for nature, connect up our habitats and safeguard them in perpetuity.
Greater Cambridge’s current trajectory is one of accelerating environmental destruction and collapsing social cohesion. It is not too late to rethink.