How can we plan for a zero-carbon future? How can the growth of greater Cambridge help to double the amount of species rich habitats for nature? And how can we provide the different types of housing needed, such as more affordable housing and accommodation for older people and key workers?

These were some of the questions that were discussed and debated on Saturday 28 September as over 100 people attended a Keeping Cambridge Special workshop organised by local charity, Cambridge Past, Present & Future and the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service.

Held at the Centre for Mathematical Sciences in Cambridge, the workshop invited local people to join the discussions and give their views on how these issues might be addressed through a new Local Plan for the area.

Speakers at the event included Cllr Lewis Herbert (Cambridge City Council), Cllr Pippa Heylings (South Cambridgeshire District Council), Dame Fiona Reynolds (Master at Emmanuel College), Stephen Hills (Operations Director Cambridge Housing Society) and Dr Elisabete Silva (University of Cambridge).

Cllr Herbert and Cllr Heylings highlighted that Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire District councils were aligned in trying to address the issues of climate change and biodiversity loss through a new Local Plan and they welcomed ideas on how this could be achieved. One idea put forward was to re-use the heat from giant data servers to provide heating for homes or business.

The need for more greenspace was highlighted by speakers and participants, as this would benefit people’s health and well-being as well as providing habitat for nature and helping to reduce carbon and reduce the effects of climate change such as floods and drought. One of the main concerns raised by participants was the lack of water in our area and the damaging impact that further growth could have on rivers and wetlands, particularly the River Cam which is at the heart of Greater Cambridge.

The event was part of a series held by the Greater Cambridgeshire Shared Planning Service to begin to gather some views and let people know about the start of the conversation to develop the first joint Local plan for the area. A report is being discussed by Councillors over the next few weeks with a consultation due to begin on 25 November.

Stephen Kelly, Director of Planning and Economy for the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service, spoke at the event. He said: “It has been excellent to get views to help us pull together a document that will really kick start the debate on how we develop the area up until 2040 and beyond. This event and all the other ones we held have all been helpful and we have listened to the views and issues groups have told us about. I would strongly urge people to get involved when we begin to consult from the end of November. We will be trying to do more than ever before to reach groups who are less likely to make their views known so we can get a good picture from more people in the area.”

Keeping Cambridge Special is an initiative started by members of Cambridge Past Present & Future. It aims to get representatives from all sectors of the community together to discuss some of the major challenges facing the greater Cambridge area.

With speakers and participants from all walks of life, the format is designed to engage people, discuss topics, explore new ideas, influence and give people a chance to be heard. The first event was held in October 2016 and the most recent in September 2019. For more details of the recent event, including notes and video, click here.