That was the question that we were all asked 18 months ago as part of a consultation by the councils of Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire. We were being asked our views to help inform the decisions they are making about future growth and development in our area.

The councils have now published their “preferred options” and they are giving us 6 weeks to tell them what we think.

The councils think that our area should grow rapidly and that we should plan for 58,000 new jobs and 44,400 new homes. The current housing stock is around 119,000 and their plan will increase this by 37%.  The projected change in population is an additional 73,900 people, which is an increase of around 25% and is equivalent in size to a town roughly the size of Stevenage. This is controversial for several reasons.

Firstly, across the country there is always a row about the amount of new development included in a Local Plan. Developers argue for a high level and residents and environmental groups argue for a low level and the council tries to strike a balance. The government wanted to put an end to these interminable debates and so has created a formula which can be used. The formula is set at a high level to achieve the government target of building 300,000 houses a year in England. In the case of our area, the formula says that we should plan for 36,000 houses. However our councils are proposing a rate of development that is 23% higher. They say that instead of their plan being led by the need for housing it should be led by jobs growth, and they predict that jobs will increase rapidly, creating a need for more houses than the government formula. So we have not avoided the interminable debate.

Secondly, there is not enough water supply for the level of growth that the councils are proposing, without causing significant environmental damage to our rivers and wetlands. This is doubly controversial as the councils have said from the outset that their plan will benefit the environment. More water can be provided from a new reservoir in the long-term or piped in from other reservoirs such as Grafham in the short-term but that requires new infrastructure, which costs money and takes time and is not within the control of the councils to deliver. The councils themselves are clear that without firm commitments to new water supply infrastructure the level of growth they prefer would not be environmentally sustainable.

Thirdly, many of the challenges facing our area have been exacerbated by rapid growth over the past 20 years or more: traffic congestion, affordable housing crisis, biodiversity loss, over abstraction of water, pollution of rivers, increased greenhouse gases, etc. The councils claim that their plan for more rapid growth can address these challenges but, based on track record, the evidence for that claim is not wholly convincing. There is clearly a risk that further rapid growth continues to exacerbate current problems.

Now is your chance to say what you would like to happen. It is really important that individual residents, community groups, parish councils and anyone who cares about the future of our area puts forward their views to the councils. The public consultation runs from 1 November to 13 December, information can be found at