Interesting article in the Cambridge Evening News today summarising what lies ahead for the city over the coming years. Bear in mind, this is a city with a population of around 120,000, consisting of around 50,000 homes.
• Cambridge East — the Marshall’s airport site — is expected to become the location for 10,000 new homes. The downside is that a major local employer (Marshalls) is going to have to be relocated 20 or 30 miles away, which will involve hundreds of thousands of extra journeys every year.
• Southern Fringe — 3,000 homes to be built near the hospital.
• North West Fringe — 1,800 homes next to the A14, plus more student accommodation.
• Central Cambridge — the station site is due to be re-resubmitted to the planners shortly. Not sure how many homes, but it’s basically hundreds, if not thousands, of flats.
• Northstowe — a new town of 9,500 homes, six miles north of the centre of Cambridge, located on the guided bus route. It is going through public consultation at the moment.
Correct me if I am wrong, but that’s around 25,000 new homes in the pipeline. When that’s all done and dusted, Cambridge will be 50% bigger than it is already. And it’s already squashed and overcrowded.
And what are they doing in terms of infrastructure to support all these new citizens? The railways are already running at full capacity. There’s not an awful lot they can do about this. There are no plans to upgrade the M11 to London. The A14, which is already dangerous, is being upgraded from four lanes to six, but it’s going to take about five years of roadworks to do it and, even then, it will only be the correct size for what we have now, not what we’ll have by the time all these new homes are finished.
Not forgetting the £100million guided bus route which will connect Northstowe with the city and the hospital, but which is actually a complete punt in the dark: no one has ever built one in Britain before and we have no idea whether it will work as planned. Even if it does work well, it’s only going to take a small part of the additional transport load.
On the demand reduction side, we have a proposal for a congestion charge that will operate around the city for two hours every weekday morning. Hmm.
Personally, I don’t get it. I know Cambridge is regarded as a successful town, and a good place to live, but how can increasing its size like this be regarded as sustainable? The expansion is being partly sold to us as a way to provide affordable housing, but if Milton Keynes is anything to go by, the new building programme won’t make any difference to house prices at all, because people are prepared to travel from near and far to live near Cambridge. They will.
By 2020, Cambridge will be a lot bigger, far busier, and no cheaper to live in than it would have been had we left it alone. In what way is this an improvement?