Azara Blog: Cambridgeshire Horizons open meeting

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Date published: 2005/06/08

Cambridgeshire Horizons (CH) had their first open meeting tonight. They are responsible for seeing the Cambridgeshire Structure Plan (which specifies what is going to be built, where, and related issues) implemented over the next ten years or so. As you would expect from such a meeting, the people attending were the usual suspects, in particular loads of politicians and people representing special interest groups. And in Cambridge special interest groups always means cyclists (always way over-represented in such events) and railway enthusiasts.

David Trippier (once upon a time a Tory MP) is the chair of CH. He and Stephen Catchpole, the chief executive of CH, gave Powerpoint presentations. The CH strap line appears to be "driving forward sustainable communities" and that immediately tells you the politically correct complexion of what is going on. Having said that, at least Trippier seems to have his head screwed on. And the task at hand is daunting.

The Cambridge region is supposed to have 47500 new homes built between 1999 and 2016. Between 1999 and today around a quarter of that total, 11629, have been built. Well we are over a third along the way between 1999 and 2016, so the current build rate of around 2000 homes per annum needs to be nearly doubled (soon) in order to meet the target.

That depends crucially on getting infrastructure in place, which requires massive funding by central government. Apparently right now the deficit in forseen funding is around 2.2 billion pounds (almost certain to go up), with around half of that down to transport. And Trippier stated that the most crucial bit of development was the upgrading of the A14, with the dualing of the A428 a close second. Wow, what a shock for someone to state that. The usual Cambridge ruling elite seem to think that putting in a few cycle paths and persecuting car drivers will sort Cambridge transport. But Trippier is a relative newcomer to Cambridge, so not yet infected with Cambridge middle class provincialism.

The new build will be split roughly a third for infill and sites less than 100 units (14900 to be exact), a third for sites over 100 units excluding Northstowe and the Cambridge Fringe development (16870 to be exact) and a third for Northstowe and the Cambridge Fringe (15730 to be exact). Northstowe is the proposed new town near Longstanton on and around the disused Oakington airbase (which is allegedly brownbelt, but is mostly green and is indeed more green than most of the surrounding area, which is industrial agriculture). The Cambridge Fringe areas are the proposed new developments at Arbury Camp (next to the A14), the Histon Road - Huntingdon Road fields, the fields near Addenbrooke's, and the university land between Huntingdon Road and Madingley Road, all in the short term, and Cambridge Airport in the longer term (yes, the city is still stupidly asking one of its major employers to get lost).

Apparently as well as the 47500 new homes we are going to get 50000 new jobs. If they say so. Trippier said he didn't want Cambridge to just build houses for London commuters, but certainly a lot of the houses and flats recently built in Cambridge city centre are full of London commuters, and it's hard to see that changing. Trippier wants houses for locals, including the "indigenous" population (such quaint terminology). (And needless to say, not that many people have deep roots in Cambridge, which is about the best thing about the city.)

After the presentations there was a question and answer session, when Trippier and Catchpole were joined by Peter Studdert, Director for Sustainable Communities for CH (dreadful title, so you know you are already in trouble). Most of the questions were asked by politicans and special interest groups. The politicians in particular seemed to be doing nothing but posing, since they already knew the answers to the questions they asked. Issues addressed:

Nobody asked the politically incorrect questions:

The meeting was over in two hours. Not really very consequential.

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