How much more development can Cambridge absorb? Is it full? If so, where should new housing be built?

Cambridge City Council and South Cambs District Council are preparing a Greater Cambridge Local Plan that will provide the blueprint for development for the next 20 years. At the heart of this plan will be a vision for what sort of city we want in future. Do we want to keep Cambridge as a dynamic compact city, with a historic core and wrapped closely in countryside? Or are there other models of development? The Councils are asking us to say which of these models we might prefer.

Should we encourage higher building density within the existing urban area and re-use land that has already been developed? What about building on the edge of Cambridge in the Green Belt?  Or do we need more “new towns”, such as those taking shape at Cambourne and Northstowe? How about spreading the development amongst our many villages? Or should new development be based around public transport, in places where there are railways or busways, such as the new town already being planned for Waterbeach?

There are pros and cons to all of these models but Cambridge Past, Present & Future believes the starting point should be to look at re-using land within the city. The City’s airport and current water treatment works offer substantial long-term potential capacity for such development, as does making much better use of large car parks. At a time when efforts are being made to reduce car use and improve air quality, surely some of this land could be re-used for much needed affordable housing? The Cambridge Retail Park on Newmarket Road has over 25 acres of surface parking – if a multi-storey car park was built on a small portion of this land, some 20 acres could be released for development, or alternatively new housing could be provided above a basement car park.

In relation to new settlements outside the city, if they are needed, then we feel that these should be large enough to sustain education, employment, retail and leisure so as to reduce travel and dependence on Cambridge. They should also be located where there is already good public transport infrastructure. We don’t think the development of isolated suburbs in the countryside is a good idea. Spreading housing across villages might seem a fair way of sharing out development but the cumulative impacts of this would be hard to manage and result in significant traffic congestion and pressure on services.

These are our views, based on our 11 Development Principles, but the Councils also want to hear yours. If you want to help shape the future of our area then I would encourage you to tell them at