Gove’s bid to construct extra homes in Cambridge
As one in all Cambridge’s 150,000 residents, I used to be shocked to study through a Whitehall information leak of Michael Gove’s blueprint to show our famously historic city into the brand new city megalopolis.
The Housing Secretary is seemingly not content material with the already controversial (and upwardly revised) housebuilding ambitions detailed within the Cambridge native plan for targets of fifty,000-plus new houses by 2040.
Nor with the truth that new house growth in Better Cambridge at present outpaces virtually every other space within the UK and outperforms the nationwide common by thrice.
Mr Gove and his Whitehall officers have decided that Cambridge’s future is to turn out to be, in accordance with one supply, “the Silicon Valley of Europe” – to which finish they suggest hijacking the native plan and, in accordance with the identical supply, “placing it on steroids”.
That supply is just not exaggerating: Gove’s expansionist imaginative and prescient would see the inhabitants dimension of our college city improve five-fold from its present 150,000 to 750,000, skyrocketing it to the UK’s third largest metropolis.
Molly and new houses already beneath approach
That’s behind solely London and Birmingham in inhabitants phrases and dwarfing Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester, amongst others.
The place we stay and the group that surrounds us can in so some ways decide the standard, even the period, of our lives. It follows that nowhere ought to self-determination, in respect of coverage selections impacting us, be stronger than selections which immediately have an effect on our native communities.
Gove and PM Rishi Sunak eulogise a few Haussmann-designed city quarter. However progress on this scale is just not a lot an city quarter as an asphalt conurbation bolted onto a inhabitants a fifth of its dimension and growth manifestly on a transformative scale for the character, heritage and panorama of Cambridge and its surrounding areas.
Hole phrases about “rising stunning built-in neighbourhoods” depart one in little doubt Gove can not have seen for himself the myriad Legoland-style estates bobbing up on the outskirts of city.
Reassurances that the purpose is enabling “brownfield growth somewhat than inexperienced belt erosion” evaporate on first contact with actuality…as one environmental group factors out: “Cambridge is just not significantly nicely endowed with brownfield websites.”
Rishi Sunak with Michael Gove
Leaving apart the query of how proposals to show an already comparatively rich metropolis right into a cash-cow for housing builders might be stated to satisfy a “levelling-up” agenda, the proposals reveal a shocking, maybe wilful, ignorance of the environmental constraints and infrastructure deficits of the realm.
As any native would have instructed Gove, crippling congestion chokes every main artery into the city most days.
Rush-hour journeys of no quite a lot of miles right into a metropolis centre devoid of standard and dependable public transport choices ought to take quarter-hour, however routinely take over an hour.
Cambridge’s heralding as a bikeable metropolis par excellence is baffling to these of us who truly cycle right here. Slender, potholed bike lanes render a lot of the routes into the town centre hazardous to cyclists, particularly these of us with younger youngsters. Faculties, bursting on the seams, routinely have lengthy ready lists. Once we first moved right here 4 years in the past, we have been confronted with a two-plus yr look forward to the native main.
Six years after the primary residents moved into the Cambridge new city of Northstowe, it nonetheless doesn’t have a single store, cafe or GP surgical procedure.
New houses already beneath approach
Even when central authorities mandarins handle to muster up the aptitude to trend a shining citadel boasting thrice as many houses, colleges, transport hyperlinks and facilities than have been constructed within the two millennia because the Romans first arrived in South Cambs in 70 AD, there’s the small matter of the water provide.
Such are the issues about water shortage, the Surroundings Company is, for the primary time in its historical past, objecting to all main planning purposes in Better Cambridge.
To get off the bottom, even in Westminster’s rose-tinted bubble, the proposals have needed to overtly enable for a watering down (pun supposed) of present environmental and air pollution protections – a transfer the Division for Surroundings Meals and Rural Affairs is fiercely towards.
It’s a driving roughshod over the native atmosphere that’s symbolic of a extra generalised lack of regard and engagement with the group.
In a letter to Gove final week, South Cambridgeshire MP Anthony Browne stated if Gove’s division had spoken to native representatives “they’d have been instructed categorically that growth on this scale is totally and completely unattainable to ship for a lot of causes, not least as a result of we merely don’t have sufficient water.”
Such full lack of session with both Browne or native authorities could be astonishing have been it not for the truth that Westminster makes no try to cover its unprecedented land-grab.
“So this Authorities will now begin to write the subsequent, expansive, chapter in Cambridge’s story of scientific endeavour ”, gushes Gove.
And that is exactly the purpose. Gove, one in all 4 ministers chargeable for key pandemic selections, ought, greater than most, to grasp selections made behind closed doorways, with out the enter of these most affected, with out session of these most versed and vested within the consequence, usually tend to be flawed.
Judging by the near-universal fury from all sides of the group final week, there’s scant probability proposals which sign a transformative and everlasting scarring of primarily a whole county would cross any native decision-making take a look at.
MP Browne rightly chastised: “It’s…very obscure how the Division for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, understanding all this, can suppose that drastically growing housebuilding in our space is the least bit a sensible, credible or possible plan.”
It’s a disgrace these in Westminster didn’t trouble to ask him.