FeCRA – Cambridge Local Plan Big Debate 18th Feb 2020
Here is a short version of the presentation from speaker notes:
The voice of residents – town and gown
Today, almost 100 resident associations and community groups are part of the FeCRA network. That is a powerful grassroots civic voice, dedicated to maintaining and enhancing Cambridge as a wonderful city in which to live, work, study and relax.
Cambridge is unique!
We asked our members to tell us what they value about Cambridge. It is not just the architecture. People care strongly that this is a city of neighbourhoods, human in scale, with unique medieval open spaces and a river at its heart.
Cambridge’s informal green spaces with ducks, swans and cows are admired all over the world. And, it is this informal, semi-rural style that residents tell us they like and enjoy. In Cambridge, almost uniquely the urban and rural mix and abut, and it is this combination that gives our city much of its special character.
City of neighbourhoods
Cambridge’s is a compact city, home to many strong, diverse communities. The universities, colleges, Arbury Christmas lights, Cambridge Market, Mill Road Winter Fair. Informal football. Human in scale, Cambridge is small enough for people to belong and make a difference.
Quality of life is Cambridge’s secret
Quality of life is Cambridge’s secret. The city’s historic open spaces and its river engender a feeling of shared enjoyment and ownership. This vibe is reflected in town and gown life.
Quality of life has attracted talent
Cambridge’s unique environment has nurtured innovation and talent, supporting world-leading thinkers and new companies. It’s not just about the science – Cambridge’s success is built on its local businesses, communities and universities.
Cambridge doesn’t scale
The very qualities of life and environment that have made Cambridge unique don’t scale. That same human scale that makes Cambridge a success is vulnerable. Ever increasing growth makes the city a victim of its own success. The benefits seem questionable, the costs are obvious.
And that costs…
Schemes proposed as a solution to transport problems cut bus journey times by minutes, yet involve the loss of trees, hedgerows, and green space. This ignores what makes Cambridge special, and the council’s commitments to tackling the biodiversity crisis. Impaired quality of life threatens the most vulnerable.
Residents are asking: “Why is there no assessment of impacts and issues arising from current and already approved growth at this stage? Why is there no engagement with strategic environmental capacity issues as a vital part of the evidence base for the new Plan?”
Our river is dying
Our river is dying. Despite heavy rain it is the only river in the country that is not back to normal flows, yet exponential growth fuels huge pressure upon our natural water supplies. Concerns about the impact of over-abstraction on the River Cam have been expressed but large development keeps getting approved.
Gridlock at every level
There is gridlock at every level. Yet the current work on evidence for the Local Plan considers only housing growth! Why? What about environmental capacity, the impact of transport proposals, current growth ambitions, the need to address climate change, and Cambridge’s historic environment, before credible issues and options can be identified.
A city mutilated
The shortcomings of Cambridge’s expansion so far have been highlighted nationally. Inequality has not been addressed and new housing developments and design do not meet high standards. People have lost confidence in the planning process.
We have tried
Resident groups all over the city have recognised that Cambridge’s success factors are uniquely difficult to scale up. Hundreds of people have attended meetings and marches, pointing out that the cumulative impact of current growth ambitions must be evidence assessed before credible decisions can be made.
There is no option in this plan to limit growth. Why not? Where is the evidence that this is necessary? Why are our civic leaders failing to question this, or represent the views of their constituents?
What do we need?
What is the recipe to ensure Cambridge continues to have the right ingredients for success?
We want Cambridge to be a sustainable, green city, which is inclusive for all. Only in this way, can we continue to support innovation, science and education, and be a leading hub for ideas.
This is a very engaged city
People care, and want to be involved. Many good ideas have been put forward which are based on grassroots community participation. Will they be included in this plan? Genuine consultation has the best outcomes.
Share the prosperity
Attractive market towns on train lines near Cambridge could be attractive centres for knowledge workers and tech businesses. They have identities, a sense of place and character, and could benefit from investment.
Build on our connectivity
Where is the evidence that tech firms would leave if they cannot be crowded into the city of Cambridge? Tech businesses are now spread throughout the region, from Ely to Royston, Newmarket to St Ives. How can they best be supported?
By building on our shared connectivity, whilst maintaining our ingredients of success.
A sense of place
A sense of place and community is vital. New housing developments need to meet high standards be inclusive, and recognise new ways to live that are environmentally sustainable. We have good examples in Norwich, where a council house scheme has just won the Sterling prize for architecture, and also in Cambridge with Marmalade Lane. These are places where people want to live.
‘When plans are sprung fully formed on a community, it destroys the sense of belonging and being part of a continuing evolution of place’.
On behalf of the FeCRA Committee I would like to thank all our members who have given us their ideas and the team who have helped put this presentation together.