Green belt

g3696The Green Belt around Cambridge and nearby villages (Fulbourn, Histon & Impington, Sawston, Comberton) is under threat. Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council have included building on green belt sites in the draft Local Plan.

If the councils’ draft Local Plans go ahead then hundreds of houses will be built in the green belt

Impact

Once some of the greenbelt is gone it is gone forever and it will be easier and easier to build on what remains.

Green belt protects Cambridge and the villages and keeps them distinct places. It prevents urban sprawl, g3696 and helps preserve the unique shape and character of the city. Some of the proposed Green Belt sites are near designated wildlife sites such as Local Nature Reserves, County Wildlife Sites and Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

The current plan is the tip of the iceberg. Developers and landowners are working together on a massive plan to take even more of the green belt for thousands of houses. If the councils get their way, it will be much harder to resist developer’s plans in the future.

Green belt land is being proposed while alternative brownfield sites located outside the Green Belt are not being fully considered.

No transport plan is in place – if the extra housing is built traffic congestion would become even worse, particularly throughout the southern half of the city. This would affect residents and commuters alike.

Public Consultation

Hundreds of residents have opposed the plans in the recent consultations (92% against) but the councils are determined to push on against residents’ wishes.

What Next? The council has opened another period of consultation which ends 5pm 30th September 2013. This is the last chance for them to take the green belt sites out of the plan before it is submitted to the government planning inspector.

The campaign:

We are campaigning to stop the green belt developments by raising awareness of the plans, promoting alternatives and organising events and a petition so that the views of residents are not ignored. Our goal is to persuade the councils to remove development sites within the Green Belt from their Local Plans.

The features that make South Cambridgeshire and the City so special are at risk. Heavier traffic, poor transport, overloaded school and medical facilities and no Green Belt will affect every resident, even in the city centre. But it’s not too late. Join us and put a stop to the destruction of the green belt. Sign the petition. Write to your councillors and MP.

70 comments

  1. Jo

    What about all the people who cannot afford the high cost of houses in and around Cambridge but work full time here and whose families descend from Cambridge? – They deserve somewhere to live in or around the city. I am not a N.I M.B.Y I’m afraid. Therefore I cannot sign this petition.

    • jlasttales

      The Green Belt is only contributing 3% to the number of houses to be built, so keeping the Green Belt green won’t make any difference to the amount of housing available.

    • Richard Bagnall

      When the council stops giving permission for commercial premises, Cambridge housing and infrastructure may stand a chance of catching up. Cambridge should not grow anymore. Other towns are in need of revitalisation whereas Cambridge is becoming a victim of it’s own success. Use existing derelict brownfield sites like Sandy Lane and others.

    • down with landlords

      If they build 10,000 new houses most of them will still be bought by buy to let investors and wont solve the ‘housing crisis’. In Cambridge there are 1,000s of houses owned as rental properties. What is needed is ‘encouragement’ for these people to invest their money elsewhere. It is the massive growth in buy to let which is driving up property prices and squeezing lower income families out of the housing market. These people are then forced to rent paying the BTL mortgages for them. That is wrong. Tax landlords at 95%!

    • myrmecia

      We need far more NIMBYs! – people who will act in protection of their living environment. Become a NIMBY, Jo. It’s not selfish, it’s about protecting the environment – an infinitude of living ecosystems – for future generations of human and non-human species. We have lost 97% of the meadowland that existed in 1945. We NIMBYs would like to preserve that remaining 3% and expand it, so skylarks have a home and we have a rejuvenating environment.

    • V Weston

      in the final analyss if all quality landscapes are all built over there will be no fit environment for people to live in

      • Hipkin

        What makes you think that building homes in large numbers in Cambridge will make them more ‘affordable’ ie cheaper.? The Cambridge housing market is increasingly calibrated with that of London and the easier we make it for commuters to reach London (viz the proposed Science Park station) the more likely the market in new Cambridge homes will be exploited by current London residents anxious to cash in on any house price differences that open up between London and Cambridge. What Cambridge faces is the prospect of a loss of its compact character with no progress toward affordability.

        Cllr John Hipkin

    • Phil

      I sympathise with this comment. But the problem is that it will do little to help local people while there is a free-for-all market which allows large numbers of properties to be snapped up by wealthy individuals, many of whom are foreign, who just want to build up their own property portfolio. Legislation is required to prevent it.

  2. Greenbeltfan

    Re Jo’s comment, should we really be saying that those whose families come from Cambridge should take precedence over others whose do not? Or that Cambridge people have some kind of right over the city? Whilst I’m sure that this isn’t what you intended Jo, it is exactly this kind of protectionist view that fosters dislike or resentment of outsiders, and in the long run far nastier views. Saying ‘keep Cambridge for Cambridge people’ only differs in terms of scale from the horrendous ‘keep England for English people’ views from the rather more objectionable political parties. That’s far more NIMBYish than the views of people who believe that Cambridge has a special character that would be compromised by unrestricted urban sprawl. Almost all of the activists don’t back onto the Green Belt sites, and I’m pretty sure that the vast majority have been Cambridge people for a long time and have children who were born and raised (or are being raised) here. Their attitude is Cambridge is a special place that transcends the needs of one particular generation and should be protected for hundreds of generations instead. We’re all just ephemeral blips in the history of Cambridge, but destroying Green Belt is permanent – once it is gone, it is gone forever. Plus, let’s not forget that one of the special characteristics of Cambridge is the multiculturalism of the place – that it is open to people from everywhere and all are welcomed. If the price to pay for that wonderful melting pot is higher property prices, then I’d rather that than blocking outsider ownership. But don’t me wrong – I do sympathise with those wanting to live in Cambridge to be near family and work. In actual fact, the visionary planners that put in place the Green Belt all those years ago shared the same view too – they wanted to stop future planners from taking the easy option of just looking outwards with unrelenting urban expansion rather than coming up with smarter alternatives. There are people across several existing parts of our city, and in surrounding villages, who are crying out for their local areas to be regenerated, for the Councils to invest in replacing old, ramshackle housing stock with something better to live in, to force those landowners sitting on brownfield or derelict sites to offer them up for redevelopment. But that’s a more complicated and possibly costlier approach for the Council than just trying to bypass the Government protection afforded to Green Belt land. Building on the Green Belt is short-termist, doesn’t solve the problems of regeneration, won’t provide enough affordable housing stock to make a real difference and has a real risk of destroying the character of the city that encourages our children and young people to want to stay here and raise their own families here. We need to think smarter about this problem than just taking a protectionist view, or spoiling the entire city’s ‘back yard’ to the detriment of future generations. That’s why I signed the petition and would encourage you to do so too.

    • Grrr8

      I could be persuaded by “Cambridge is a precious place ….” The argument is rather less convincing when it’s made by those with access to that place who would like others’ access restricted and prevented. I’m glad you think Cambridge should be for everyone, not just those born there. Again, the argument breaks down when “everyone” is restricted to those with the vast amount of money needed to buy or rent their share of the aspic.

      You may have a point on regeneration, brownfield sites etc. That said, I’d rather trust the views of the council planning officers who have decided on the best course of action fully anticipating campaigns such as this one.

      I would not sign this petition and actively discourage others from doing so.

      • Sheila

        Did you ever read The Social Limits to Growth (Fred Hirsch)? It’s the same argument that also applies to many popular tourist destinations such as St Marks Square. Too many people and the amenity, whatever it is, is not just shared out a bit more thinly – sadly it is ruined for everyone.

      • myrmecia

        Why is the default position that brownfield sites should be developed for housing – or whatever? The default position should be that brownfield sites be considered for all possible ways for them to be restored as greenbelt: meadows, hedgerows, woodlands, nature reserves, glades etc.

  3. colin wiles (@colinwiles)

    Every person in this country lives on land that was once open countryside. We desperately need more homes and they need to be in and around Cambridge to prevent excessive commuting. The green belt cannot be set in aspic – it has to be a moving concept, with land replaced at the outer edges as cities grow and develop. Those who live on the edge of Cambridge have absolutely no right to preserve their views across open countryside and to stop others enjoying what they have enjoyed for years past. This petition is a charter put together by NIMBYS and NODAMs (no development after mine) and should be ignored.

    • Martin

      “We desperately need homes”, Colin Wiles? No, we don’t. People who don’t already live here might wish there were more homes to buy locally, but then, I’d quite like to live in Buckingham Palace. Fact is, this city has managed to become an economic and academic success without the despoliation of the surrounding environment and we are being fed a pack of lies by those on the council and elsewhere who constantly tell us that without urban sprawl on a vast scale, we are condemned to decline and poverty. We were told – back in the day – that the M25 would be the cure-all for London’s traffic problems and we know what happened then. Now, we are being told that more homes = cheaper homes. Well – it hasn’t happened so far, has it? The Vie is cheap? Great Kneighton, cheap? Let’s not fall for the same old clap-trap again.

      We are not trying to regenerate a dead-on-its-feet location like Jarrow here – if anything, our local economy should be cooled, not over-stoked to the point of combustion and, in the process, stripped forever of its character and beauty, all to line the pockets of a few rapacious developers. Come on, Councillors – grow a pair.

    • GreenBeltFan

      Colin, you’ve entirely misunderstood the purpose of a Green Belt – not as defined by the campaign but defined in government law. Firstly it’s fundamentally different from Green Field – that’s just arable land that hasn’t been developed. Green Belt is a zone that is protected by central government and vehemently supported by the National Planning Policy Framework. Green Belts are not something that expands with the city – that’s no ‘belt’ of any sort – it’s something fixed, that is specifically designed to prevent the unrestricted urban sprawl that has characterised so many of our cities. You won’t find anyone that disagrees with the view that people on the edge of Cambridge have no right to preserve their views across open countryside – most of the campaigners signed up have no views over countryside at all – they simply believe the there should be limitations on the direct expansion of the city to retain its compactness that the Council itself admits is one of the most important defining characteristics of Cambridge itself. It’s not NIMBYISM – in fact it’s much more about ensuring that it’s Not In My Back Yard, Your Back Yard or Anyone Else’s Back Yard if the Back Yard is Green Belt, but unfortunately NIMBYYBYOAEBYITBYIGB is not so catchy and easily thrown around a perjorative acronym in a Daily Mail fashion. The Council suggested a tactic was to find the Green Belt land that removed from the plan and then use the same criteria, but the campaign isn’t about saying ‘my Green Belt land’s better than your Green Belt land’ – there’s no scale of worthiness for Green Belt in the National Planning Policy Framework. It states that it should ALL be protected against what is essentially lazy planning – grabbing the lowest hanging fruit. The NODAM moniker is also misapplied, because most of the areas under consideration have seen significant levels of approved planning applications for urban infill and backland development, and again, I think you’d find most (if not all) the campaigners would support regeneration of brownfield sites (even if they were right next door), as opposed to relinquishing the Green Belt. You clearly also haven’t looked at the facts of the needs analysis. The 2011 census showed that Cambridge had thousands fewer people than was previously thought, and the needs analysis that the Council conducted is sketchy at best in its forecasts. What’s worse is that the final number of homes that they’ve used is a figure that dates back to 2003, whilst the most recent figures (published in advance of the Plan draft publication but ignored by the Councils shows a number over 1600 less than in the Local Plan, which would mean no Green Belt was needed anyway.

  4. Sandra Manning

    Please add Caldecote Hardwick and Bourn to this list. If South Cambs have thier way and develop Bourn airfield these villages will be swallowed up in the urban sprawl with no defining line between Cambridge and Cambourne. Which is What happened many years ago to Trumpington & Cherry Hinton (look at the new homogenized characterless development at Trumpington you could be in any part of the UK). Its not NIMBYisim I choose to live outside the bustle of the city and want to protect my lifestyle choice.

    • myrmecia

      Sandra – Thank you for taking a stand! We are being steamrollered by the national government who need space to accommodate the country’s growing population. England has the densest population of any European OECD country and – if anyone is – “we’re full!” And please don’t shy away from the prospect of being labeled a NIMBY. You need to stand up for your “back yard” as it is clear that the national government, the county and our Council are not going to.

  5. Sheila

    As some of the comments so far on this site confirm, many people have accepted the idea that the green belt has to be sacrificed because young people cannot currently afford to buy a house in Cambridge. The City Council tell us that the current plan is the least bad option for providing additional housing and there is really no reason to suppose that the planning officers have not done their best to look elsewhere. The fact is though that the huge amount of development that has already happened and has done so much to destroy that character of Cambridge has done nothing to alleviate the situation. One reason for this is that new properties are rarely bought by local people but are snapped up by investors, many of them overseas, who then often leave the properties empty. For example Berkeley Homes’ huge development on Riverside was extensively marketed in Hong Kong. Other properties are being bought by London commuters who see Cambridge as as an attractive alternative to a London suburb. So none of this helps the families of those who ‘work full time here and whose families descend from Cambridge’ and we should resist any encroachment on the Green Belt, the whole purpose of which is to prevent the urban sprawl which is now being proposed.

    That said, Councillor Ward tells us quite clearly (in the Cambridge Evening News) that decisions are made according to planning law; how many people sign a petition is irrelevant. One could add that what the Council thinks is irrelevant to the Government, who are ultimately responsible for this planning law and for deciding how many houses will be built and where. It is the government, not the local councils, that have decided that Cambridge is a cash cow that can be milked in order to rescue the UK economy. Preserving the character of historic cities comes way down their list of priorities – in fact they are probably not too bothered about it at all. So rather than haranguing the local councils, the question might be: how to persuade the government that there are other ways to tackle the country’s economic problems – for example by regenerating a town such as Wisbech, by reopening the railway line to Cambridge so that it becomes commutable. Or even, looking at the bigger picture, by incentivising some of those businesses who want to pile into Cambridge to set up shop in a part of the country where houses are available but there is not enough work.

    I support this petition, particularly on the grounds that building on the Green Belt now would be the thin end of the wedge, but the council’s dilemma does have to be taken account of. If it simply refuses to build the number of houses that the government is demanding, a plan will be imposed by the government inspector that would probably be even less palatable.

  6. Michael

    The NIMBY insult is lazy, cynical & functionalist. There are 27 million dwellings in this country, but housing is in a constant & entirely manufactured crisis as a consequence of debt finance racketeering, the buy-to-let/second home scandal, the lies of property developers & the privileging of the South & deliberate running down of the industrial North. But of course, that would be too structurally complex for the likes of some to engage with; it’s far easier to advocate ecological despoilation & the parachuting-in of ludicrously unaffordable & hideous execu-boxes, instead.

  7. Robin Priest

    So what is affordable? Already there are almost as many properties ‘To Let’ as there are ‘For Sale’ on the new monstrosity developments around Trumpingdon. CB1? Student accom and commuter homes for people working in London, so somebody can afford them – outbound commuters and private landlords for a start. Building more of the same on the green belt around Cambridge is not going to make cheap housing available for my children (born here) or your children (grew up here?), or anyone else who wants to live here because they work here. CCC and South Cambs will have you believe that they have secured the best deal they could and saved us from much worse and that the Developers would ultimately be able to run riot if this plan was not settled upon. Why? Because ultimately it is Government policy and the Government can over-rule local planning. Cambridge City and South Cambs each have an MP, one from each party in the Co-elition, no doubt looking for re-election in 2015 – make it an issue for them, get in their faces, make them uncomfortable on an industrial scale starting now. Regenerate and rejuvinate Haverhill, Chatteris, March and Wisbeach, extend the busway and reopen rail-links between Cambridge and these places, improve the bus network from outlying, dying villages etc etc. Cheaper by far, less disruption, a political winner, infrastucture regeneration = value for tax-payers. Incidently, why oh why were many of the new developments modelled on 1960s Moscow designs? Probably to blend in with the Travelodge on Hills Road. Cambridge City planners have a track record or crass decisions, sign this petition and save not just the citizens of Cambridge but enyone else who loves it, from more of the same.
    Robin Priest

  8. colin wiles (@colinwiles)

    Greenbeltfan – I suggest you read government policy on the green belt. It is certainly not set in stone. Local authorities have the power to review green belt designations where local circumstances (i.e growth pressures, housing needs) require it. There is a great deal of misinformation about the green belt being at risk, spread by scaremongering organisations like the CPRE and CPPF, and campaigns like this one. In 1979 the UK had 721,500 hectares of green belt. By 2012 this had grown to 1.7 million hectares in England alone – 13% of our local land area. The CPRE has been shouting that 1,000 hectares of GB is to be built on but this is a tiny, tiny fraction of the 1.7 million hectares of GB in England just as the areas around Cambridge that have been re-designated are a tiny, tiny fraction of the total Cambridge green belt. Back in 1875 Octavia Hill proposed a green belt around London to prevent sprawl. Had she been successful places like Cricklewood and Stratford would now be set in open countryside and London would be a global backwater. To suggest that the green belt should be set in stone for ever and a day is a Luddite denial of progress and history.

  9. GreenBeltFan

    Colin – please go back and read the NPPF. Section 9 ‘Protecting Green Belt Land’, states in paragraph 79 that ‘The fundamental aim of Green Belt policy is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open; the essential characteristics of Green Belts are their openness and their permanence.’ It does not say ‘The fundamental aim of Green Belt policy is to provide a back-up resource for planning departments who commit to delivering against a (rather arbitrarily determined) housing need number [but that's another story] before they’ve worked out whether or not it is feasible with their available resources to do so.’ Paragraph 81 states that ‘Once Green Belts have been defined, local planning authorities should plan positively to enhance the beneficial use of the Green Belt…to retain and enhance landscapes, visual amenity and biodiversity’, not to just build on bits of it as and when it wants to. Still, as the Local Plan suggests, perhaps merely building on bits of it is the Councils’ attempts to see it positively ‘rather than a purely negative planning tool’ (2.53).

    And let’s be clear – in paragraph 83 it also states that ‘once established, Green Belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances’. There are already cases of Inspectors throwing out Council Local Plans with Green Belt release proposed because need does not equate to exceptional circumstances. So the vehicle for change might indeed be the Local Plan, but it’s not enough to just say that the Council believes that there’s a need and therefore it should be allowed to take what it wants. That’s the very essence of why there is protection for the Green Belt – to stop Councils simply grabbing the low-hanging fruit and instead think regeneration or broader geographical strategic planning. Paragraph 83 continues that authorities ‘should consider the Green Belt boundaries having regard to their intended permanence in the long term’. And that’s also why there’s a Duty to Cooperate – not just so that Councils meet up every so often to bemoan the problem of Green Belts, but instead to discuss strategic planning, such as utilising the significant cross-authority investment in new transport corridors such as the Guided Busway. And it shouldn’t always be limited to commuting into Cambridge – if Cambridge is a technology ‘Hub’, then the hub and spoke approach proposed by one consultancy hired (and ignored) by the Council would allow very sustainable live/work environments for the price of a bit of fibre-optic. I don’t think Motorola cared much about whether or not TTPCom was in Cambridge or Melbourn, it was interested in the IP it developed. There is life outside of Cambridge…

    When you say ‘there is a great deal of misinformation about the green belt being at risk, spread by scaremongering organisations’, I think you should include Cambridge City Council in that list. They are suggesting that unless these Green Belt sites are sacrificed, the big bad developers are going to come along and build right across the entire Green Belt and they are magnanimously holding out. Unfortunately, in the absence of a constitution, we have a legal system based on precedent, and the Council’s determination to use a ‘scale of worth’ for the Green Belt (in direct opposition to the NPPF which allocates not gradation of value to the protected Green Belt, only to green field land), it is setting a disastrous precedent that our Green Belt can be mapped against a value scale and is not sacrosanct, an error which will see far more legal challenges to the Green Belt than the redrawing they are proposing.

    What’s clear from this exchange is that you don’t value the Green Belt and I do. But putting aside that argument, it’s also true that the Council needs to follow the principles behind why Green Belts exist – namely to focus on regenerating our housing stock across the city. It’s not enough to just throw a load more houses in Green Belt or green field, it should work on its brownfield sites, and if it genuinely feels that it’s reviewed all those submitted in the call to sites, it should contact every landowner of developable brownfield land and pressure them to release it for redevelopment. And South Cams should too. When confronted at a recent residents meeting a South Cams planning representative confessed that they had not scoured their region for brownfield sites, despite the fact that they should take priority over Green Belt (or even green field) land for development. The councils are not following the correct process, and that in itself is cause for concern, whatever your views on Green Belt.

    But again, I digress. Onto your history lesson. ‘Had she been successful places like Cricklewood and Stratford would now be set in open countryside and London would be a global backwater’. Ah yes, Cricklewood and Stratford, the subsuming of which into the City is surely the reason why London is a globally successful city. Forget the 2000 or so years of being a centre of international trade, the home of the united monarchy for most of that time. No, extending the sprawl to include Cricklewood and Stratford is all that stopped little old London from becoming a backwater. Wow, that was lucky.

    Whilst we’re on the subject of London, let’s think about it in more detail. It’s a city that I lived in for many years before I moved to Cambridge, and it’s one I love. But it is a sprawling amorphous mass, one where the urban sprawl swallowed up villages and the character that personalised them was lost forever. It’s a city where residents are now – thanks to major regeneration programmes rather than ongoing sprawl – are slowly beginning to recover some sense of communities right across the city – not just in the wealthier districts, but they are having to do so against a backdrop of the bland homogenisation of unchecked city expansion. The residents are trying to re-engineer a character for each of their districts, something that they can identify with, something to give them a local unity. When villages are lost to urban sprawl the loss of local identity comes with it.

    But London learnt from its history. It realised that having control of the City in the hands of wealthy (although in many cases philanthropic) landowners was not the greatest way to plan the development of the City, and took planning control central through the establishment of the London County Council in 1888. And it realised that Octavia might have been onto something, and – guess what? – it established a Green Belt of its own, despite having also provided over 86,000 new dwellings in the meantime. What? Investing in urban regeneration whilst also supporting Green Belt? Now there’s an idea… Thanks to the LCC and Herbert Morrison’s £2m investment fund, the Green Belt (London and the Home Counties) Act set the stage for a doubling of acreage of parks and open spaces that was inherited from the Metropolitan Board of Works. Sir Patrick, Lord Abercrombie’s plan for post-war Greater London (although never adopted) did serve to strongly endorse the Green Belt, in order to ‘prevent further continuous suburban outward growth’. This has probably saved places like St Albans from being subsumed. In one review of London’s Green Belt I read recently, it notes that ‘it has also preserved more countryside within easy reach of the inner city than is the case with any other great metropolis’. And all without becoming a global backwater. How Luddite and anti-progressive of them, and how stupid of them to have learnt from history.

  10. Sheila

    Good post from GreenBelt Fan.
    Seems as if, at least in theory, the councils are not going to get such an easy ride as they might hope for from the government. The housing minister, Mark Prisk, said recently that ‘this government has explicitly stated that it will maintain green belt protections.’ However he goes on to say: ‘We have increased green belt protections by abolishing every one of the last government’s top-down regional strategies that sought to delete the green belt in 30 areas – local plans are now sovereign.’
    So in other words if Cambridge/South Cams councils choose to go down this route, they have only themselves to blame. Maybe the response should be that they have looked hard, but don’t have room or infrastructure for as many houses as the plan suggests are needed, and that Cambridge people do not wish to destroy their heritage unnecessarily by further developments for the benefit of London commuters and foreign investors.

    • myrmecia

      At the consultation I attended, I was given a different impression by the staff present: that national government had told local government what “needed” to be done in broad terms and it was up to them to deliver. They did not say this directly, of course, but every time I asked a searching “Why?” question, the staff mumblingly passed the buck down to Whitehall.

  11. colin wiles (@colinwiles)

    Green belt fan – whoever you are – The NPPF says many things about protection of green belts, growth, prosperity and sustainable development, but it also says that green belt boundaries should be reviewed when local plans are being re-cast, which is exactly what is happening now. You campaign on the basis that the “green belt” is at risk when the truth is that a tiny fraction of it is being proposed for development. “Save the Cambridge Green Belt” is therefore misleading and disingenuous and shows that you appear to care more about protecting your own property and lifestyle than the objective needs and future of the city. I am certainly a fan of the green belt as a means of preventing sprawl but some of the immediate green belt around Cambridge is low-grade, unaesthetic land that would benefit from sustainable and well-planned development, with new green belt being added at the margins and green tongues with full public access extending into the countryside. The 40,000 commuters who are forced to jump the green belt every day would, I am sure, see building houses on some of this land as a more constructive use than horse-grazing, which has no agricultural or amenity value whatsoever.

    We have a housing crisis and nimbys like you should not be allowed to dictate our housing policies, and if you seriously think that London would now be a better place if a green belt had been imposed in 1875 then you are simply foolish. As for brownfield land, those of us who live close to the centre of town have suffered enough from high density, inappropriate developments and even if every scrap of brownfield was developed for housing it would still not be enough – that applies locally and nationally.
    And don’t get me started on Abercrombie: he was a patrician snob who probably did more damage to London’s soul than Adolf Hitler.

    • jlasttales

      It is incorrect to say that the sites are of low amenity. For instance GB2 has two foot paths on it that connect Cambridge to the surrounding countryside – one to the Beechwoods, the other to Nine Wells. Cambridge has very few footpaths that access the countryside (6 or so for the whole city). Losing one would be a great loss.

  12. Sheila

    ‘nimbys like you should not be allowed to dictate our housing policies …… even if every scrap of brownfield was developed for housing it would still not be enough – that applies locally and nationally’. Here speaks a man who works for a housing association – perhaps therefore with a vested interest ?

    • myrmecia

      There are a lot of vested interests in this issue, and full disclosure should be mandatory for views to be taken seriously. Family links to property that will be sold at a profit, ownership of development companies, builders, earth-moving contractors, garden centres and other businesses that will benefit from the paving over of greenbelt are possibly contributing on this page as ordinary citizens, speaking in the name of “progress” or similar, but they are not disclosing their interests.

  13. colin wiles (@colinwiles)

    Sheila – I don’t work for a housing association, I work as an independent housing consultant. I have a vested interest in wanting to see affordable homes built to house the thousands of people who are unable to live meaningful lives because of this country’s failure to build the number of homes it needs for decades past. I write a regular blog for Inside Housing, the main housing magazine, on these and other issues. My profile is quite open and transparent at the click of a few buttons, unlike most of the people who seem to post here. I also know that other people who have attempted to post on this site have been blocked from having their say.

    • Sheila

      Colin Perhaps it would be better then to campaign for a proportion of the houses that are already planned for development to be truly affordable to professionals such as nurses and care workers. I think many people would support that.
      The developers are not interested in that proposition and would much rather build luxury flats for foreign investors. They argue that there is no profit in affordable houses, and have managed to get the definition of affordable changed so that it means anything but. Building on the Green Belt will not solve that – it will just provide more opportunities for the foreign investors. We should not be destroying the heritage of Cambridge to make development companies and their customers rich.

  14. colin wiles (@colinwiles)

    Do you have evidence that they are leaving properties empty, as some foreign investors have been doing in London? If not, and they are being let, even on short term lettings it means they are providing homes for some one, so these properties are serving a purpose. We have few legal powers to stop property being bought by overseas buyers. I have heard people make the same argument about commuters – i.e. why should we build new homes in Cambridge if they are going to be occupied by commuters? As if commuters were some kind of second class citizen who make no contribution to our local economy and community. This perhaps says more about London’s housing market (also constrained by a tight green belt) than about ours, but once you start deciding who should or should not be allowed to buy property I think it is the start of a slippery slope. Developers are required to provide affordable housing on most new developments – although the definition of what “affordable” means is open to debate.

    • Sheila

      In fact the Head of Planning at the City Council did admit at a recent residents associations (FeCRA) meeting that investors were buying properties and leaving them empty. The point is perhaps not who is allowed to buy houses – of course it would be very difficult to legislate about this – but in which part of the country new houses should be built. Businesses (and thus housing developers) naturally take the easy option and set up their stalls where there is already a good supply of qualified potential employees. Particularly Cambridge, but also much of the South East, is overdeveloped, with success breeding success, while other parts of the country languish. Surely it would be better if the Government provided financial incentives to business (and built the necessary public transport infrastructure) to locate elsewhere and develop new hubs of prosperity. Other areas would surely appreciate the opportunities for regeneration and Cambridge would appreciate not being ruined beyond recognition.

    • jlasttales

      Readers should be aware that Mr Wiles is an advocate for the housing industry. He has consulted for Cambridge City Council and East Cambs District Council on housing matters. He writes for a trade magazine for the housing industry which advertises on its website house builders and other companies involved in housing development.

  15. John Ritchie

    New houses are desperately needed in Cambridge and many other areas of the country. Brown field sites, renovations and conversions do not provide enough space to fill the gap between supply and the number of households. Therefore some building on the countryside is needed.

    What your campaign says is ‘I don’t wan you to have what I have, because I don’t want to look at it’. It is the height of selfishness. Think back to what multiple of your earnings your first property cost you. That number is a dream for people in their 20s and 30s. They are PRICED OUT.

    This country has ample countryside for farming, nature and leisure (14% is urban land including housing). We only need give up a small proportion to solve this huge social injustice. STCG should think beyond their narrow self interest.

    • jlasttales

      Our focus is not on suppressing house building, but preserving the Green Belt and the compact and unique quality of Cambridge and its surrounding villages. Currently the local plan calls for 14,000 houses of which only 430 ( 3%) are scheduled to be built on Green Belt. Protecting the Green Belt will make no effective reduction to the housing supply in Cambridge.

      House prices are unaffordable because of the boom in mortgage lending in the early 2000s which pushed up the price for everyone. Look at the situation in the USA, where they can build vastly more houses and yet house prices still shot up there.

    • myrmecia

      John Ritchie – If we import about half our foodstuff, how can you expect us to take seriously your claim that “This country has ample countryside for farming” – let alone “nature and leisure”? As to nature, look at the number of species recently entering the endangered list in the report issued just a few weeks ago:
      http://www.rspb.org.uk/ourwork/science/stateofnature/index.aspx
      I cannot prove that we don’t have “ample space for leisure” but the pictures last month of the crowds on Mt Snowden point clearly in that direction:
      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/wales/10266590/Rush-hour-at-Mount-Snowdon-hundreds-of-climbers-queue-to-reach-peak.html

  16. colin wiles (@colinwiles)

    jlastales – if you take the trouble to read my comment above you will see that I am quite open about who I am, unlike you and others on here. I do not speak for the “housing industry”, if you read my blogs you will see that I am critical of the housebuilding industry and their inability to build the number of homes we need. I am a consultant in the affordable housing sector and I have worked for local authorities and housing associations so am fully aware of the level of housing need in this country.

    Perhaps you and others here could be equally open – for example, why not tell us how old you are, whether you own your own home, how much it cost you and when you bought it, where it is is located (Worts Causeway perhaps?), whether you have children who would like to buy their own home and whether you think they will be able to buy unaided by you or other relatives. My experience is that most nimbys are elderly home owners who are relatively well off and who do not have much regard for those who aspire to buy their own homes. Is that you? If not, what is driving your concern about these tiny pieces of the green belt that are up for review?

    • jlasttales

      I’m an ordinary Cambridge resident, not elderly and don’t live near Worts Causeway. Not that it is relevant. My concerns are to preserve the unique character of Cambridge and prevent over-development destroying what makes it a special place to live. That does not preclude responsible and reasoned development – but not on the Green Belt. Given, as you say, the Green Belt pieces proposed are tiny why are they included in the Councils’ plan? Preserving them will make no practical difference to the overall housing numbers (they contribute 3% or so). Why build on them at all? It seems to be destruction merely for the sake of it.

  17. Clive Porter

    Clive Porter
    Thank God there is at last some support out there to give the City Council a bloodied nose. They have got away with a rein of arrogance and pomposity for far too long. They certainly don’t work for the local electorate.
    Although I don’t actually live in Cambridge itself ( I did reside in Chesterton a few years ago) I am only 8 miles
    away, and I have great affection for the City. I operate campaigns all over the area, and have assisted the Mill Road Group on several occasions. I was also instrumental in helping to save The Portland Arms, amongst
    other projects around the City. On all occasions I have witnessed how uncaring and ruthless the Officers
    are. I was told by one of the senior officials that they are under great pressure. As far as I am concerned
    the only pressure that they should be under is from the public that they are supposed to represent.
    The Green Belt is most important to Cambridge, and jointly, your Council and South Cambs are making a mockery of this. This is one of the few protections that Cambridge has against urban sprawl and the loss of
    individuality. To coin a well worn phrase, once its gone its gone. I am prepared to assist in helping to retain
    this precious inheritance which must be preserved for future generations. I am prepared to attend meetings
    and to make an address to the floor if you think this can help. This is a Council that, it appears, never defends
    the area it is meant to govern, and caves into Central Government, and developers. The Station development
    springs to mind.

    • myrmecia

      Good on you, Clive. It is refreshing to read from someone who sees the issues clearly and is prepared to state his opinion clearly. There is a ‘divide and rule’ policy being pushed out from Whitehall so that we all argue against each other, leaving the Councils to come in with a “compromise” solution, which is almost exactly what they would have imposed without “consultation”. “Yes Minister” has come to Cambridgeshire.

  18. David

    Houses and their perceived ‘value’ have been used for the past few decades to create the facade of a wealthy , growing and healthy economy. Indeed the government are now so desperate to prop up this stack of cards they are willing to use taxpayers money to keep it going until the election – socialism for the rich. If one works back from this premise all the other issues become apparent, including this greenbelt debate. As Colin correctly points out every house was originally built on ‘greenfield’ land, so to oppose with such fervour is plainly hypocritical. Underpinning this ‘fervour’ is a fear of house price deflation; in sharp focus when so many have bought into the ‘house prices only ever go up’ mantra. I wonder how many who signed this petition rent their house? My guess would be very few to none. I understand the need to make better use of brownfield and unused commercial premises for housing. The recent changes to planning use for these are welcome.

    In summary I urge those in this debate to dig a little deeper and focus on the fundamental reasons why we have a housing problem – indeed how the UK has pretended the only way we can be ‘prosperous’ is to sell each other bricks and mortar.

  19. Ron Huntsman

    August 29th 2013 – 13.55pm
    Ron Huntsman
    As a resident of Wort’s Causeway I wish to put forward my point of view concerning the above proposed development.
    This particular area is one of outstanding beauty and much work has been done by the local Council to develop pathways to the Beech woods and Wandlebury areas and is the site of the original Roman Road. This attracts enormous numbers of walkers from miles around. It is also an area of GREEN BELT land and this development would totally destroy it.

    A further objection I wish to put forward, is the effect it will have on the Babraham Road Park and Ride scheme. It works well at peak morning rush hour time, because the buses can bypass the traffic jam on Babraham Road by going down Wort’s Causeway. We understand that they have the ability of changing the traffic lights to green as they approach, so they are not delayed. This bypass route is also used by ten other services, ( a list is attached) and continues until almost 9-00am. This priority ensures that the park and ride and other services function effectively at rush hour, first thing in the morning.

    If the GB1 and GB2 developments went ahead, this would severely effect the park and ride scheme and other services to the extent that they would not be able to operate at peak traffic times as the residents would cue down Wort’s Causeway to the traffic lights and block the road.
    As an attempt to overcome the Park and Ride problem, it has been suggested that the GB1 and GB2 residents would be prevented by the bollards from using Wort’s Causeway to go towards town and would either have to turn left towards Lime Kiln Hill or have to rely on the GB2 exit into Babraham Road. Both these roads are severely congested and almost at a standstill at that time of the morning. These two sites would add several hundreds of cars to the severe traffic problem that already exists and will be exacerbated by the hundreds of cars from the Bell development flowing into Babraham road. You have to wonder how emergency services would cope. I wouldn’t want to live on a development where I could find myself locked in at crucial times of the day.
    Any development that would add more traffic to this particular area would be a total disaster. With so many other obvious objections to this development, you have to ask yourself, why it was ever considered in the first place.

    A recent survey taken over two mornings of the Park and Ride and other Services that come down Wort’s Causeway to bypass the congestion on Babraham Road
    TIME SERVICE
    07-40 Park and Ride
    07-47 13A Haverhill
    07-50 Park and Ride
    07-58 X13 Haverhill
    07-59 Park and ride
    08-03 Mini Bus for Disabled
    08-04 L38 Cambridge
    08-10 Ambulance
    08-12 Park and Ride
    08-14 Granta Park Cambridge
    08-20 Park and Ride
    08-22 Cambridge 13
    08-25 X13 Haverhill
    08-26 X13 Haverhill
    08-33 114 City Centre
    08-35 School Service
    08-36 Go Whippet
    08-41 13A Cambridge
    08-50 Park and Ride

  20. Cllr George Owers

    The problem is that this campaign is based upon some pretty dubious statements. For example, the ‘Save the Greenbelt Campaign’ claims that the council hasn’t properly examined all potential brownfield and infill sites that could be used to fulfill our objectively assessed housing need. That is simply a lie. The Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment went over, with a fine toothcomb, every inch of brownfield (and every other type of) land in the city and assessed its likely development potential. Every possible infill and brownfield site has been included in the plan – in fact, if anything, the assessment is optimistic. In addition, the ‘Save the Greenbelt’ tag is ridiculously hyperbolic. The proposals in the local plan amount to less than 2% of the Greenbelt. Acres and acres of fields that no-one ever visits will remain empty.

    In reality, in the past, every site on which there is currently housing was once open fields, and was once doubtlessly opposed by their contemporary generation’s nimbies, including the current houses on Wort’s Causeway. If they hadn’t been built, where would the current generation of comfortable, middle class families be living? If every generation had the same nimby attitude – i.e., all development is bad once I have somewhere to live – then most of us would be living in holes in the ground. It’s a bit difficult to swallow for someone of my generation. I am 24, and I have lived in shared houses for several years. Statistically, I am unlikely to be able to own, or even rent, a decent family home much before I am 40. It is galling being lectured by a lot of well-off, comfortable, middle-age/older people who are of the generation who spent my inheritance, got incredibly good job security, wages and pensions, about how terrible it is to build homes, expand housing supply, and maybe, just maybe, allow me to have a home and a future before I become a pensioner.

    Anyway, it’s in the draft local plan now. I hope your submissions to the public enquiry and consultation responses fail miserably.

    • jlasttales

      Everyone will have a better understanding of why Cambridge has such problems after reading this from one of our own councillors.

      Why are councillors fighting so hard for something that will only benefit a few wealthly land owners and large house building companies?

      The Save The Green Belt Campaign is not against development. Just against development in the Green Belt. In the current plan the amount of housing in the Green Belt won’t make any practical change to housing conditions (or prices) in Cambridge.

      To address each of the points:

      True, the city council has created a Strategic Housing Assessment. But it is not for the council or councillors to “mark their own work” and decide if it is of adequate quality. Nor are councillors elected to call anyone who critcises them liars. The Save The Green Belt Campaign believes the assessment has not adequately explored changing land use on commercial sites where the land owner does not want to sell. Additionally, the South Cambs District council assessment could have done more to explore brownfield sites.

      There is no objective measure for forecasting housing need. There may be a methodology, but it is ultimately a guess. In the case of Cambridge, estimates have run from 12,000 to 19,000 houses. The most recent forecasts from the organisations that provided information to the council have been revised down in the light of latest census and economic data.

      The fraction of housing the Green Belt will deliver is miniscule (430 homes in 14,000) Why damage the Green Belt for such a small gain? Particularly when the housing need target is subject to such a large degree of error.

      The purpose of the Green Belt is to prevent endless urban sprawl, not provide entertainment. Many of the sites, in particular GB1 and GB2 do have amenity – they have footpaths into the countryside that will be lost if development takes place.

      The argument that every house was once a green field is a housing industry sound-bite. If we take it seriously then no one could argue against building housing anywhere. The logical end of such thinking is no planning system at all.

      Not everyone can live in Cambridge even if they want to. At some point this hard, practical, reality has to be faced. Exactly how large does Cambridge need to become? The size of Peterborough? The size of Sheffield? The size of Birmingham? It is clearly impossible. Arguments from the house building lobby and Cllr Owers raise false expectations.

    • Clive Porter

      This is a despicable, outrageous tirade from someone who should know better. It is blatantly obvious that this gentleman has no respect for the electorate, and therefore should not be in office. To dub everyone who voices concern about the quality of life that they choose to live in, a nimby speaks volumes about the individual
      emitting this type of garbage. Cllr. Owers harps back on times when there was much more space around the City. Times have changed dramatically since I remember Cambridge as a wonderful, quality township with
      a cattle market, and plenty of open space. Now we need sensible, pin sharp decisions, before every small space is covered in concrete. But perhaps the City Council is not bothered with trivialities such as this.
      Clive Porter

    • Sheila

      A few more houses on the green belt are unfortunately not going to make more than a 0.00x % difference to the price Mr Owers will have to pay to buy a house in Cambridge. However much one may sympathise with his predicament, which I sincerely do, the fact is that many new houses are being snapped up by outsiders, including foreign investors, who are richer than he is. This keeps prices high and contributes to the further expansion of Cambridge, necessitating even more development. The consequence is that what is still, just, a beautiful city will gradually be destroyed until no one can enjoy it any more. Perhaps Mr Owers should read Fred Hirsch’s The Social Limits to Growth, a book written long before he was born, but which nevertheless contains observations which are relevant today.

      And perhaps Mr Owers should also refrain from his rather rude observations about the electorate and their apparently disagreeable habit of ‘lecturing’ him. If he doesn’t like hearing from people who have a different point of view, he really should not be a councillor at all. I am a floating voter, and sometimes feel inclined to vote Labour next time round. But when I read George Owers’s comments, I remember why it is better not to do so. He will be responsible for his own election campaign when the time comes, but his intemperate comments may backfire on other Labour councillors in the city.

    • myrmecia

      Councillor Owers, if you cannot afford to buy a home now the problem is not because Cambridge has not yet sacrificed 1 or 2 percent of its greenbelt. If you are truly disappointed by the fact that you are not, at the age of 24, on the way to home ownership, you might look at other reasons. There are houses in the north of England you may be able to afford, for example. There are changes you could be campaigning for in the tax system. You might push for Councils to be allowed to set rates solely on the value of land, not on its improved value. Paving over the greenbelt may be easy pickings, but it’s not necessarily the wisest, most sustainable, most prudent or the solution most likely to delight the generations of Cantabrigians yet to come.

  21. Brenda Bishop

    Those that deny that building on the Green Belt (GB) is not the thin edge of the wedge have not reviewed the history of past development. First development was put into the necklace villages with the promise that improved infrastructure would provide easy access into Cambridge. The village development happened but the improved infrastructure did not. The resulting commuter congestion is all too obvious.The next idea was that developing Cambourne with improvements on the A428 would solve the housing need. Then came Northstowe and so on and so on. The developers have no thought that there has to be a limit. Each development seems only to fuel the demand for more. If you want to destroy the whole reason that Cambridge is desirable, and therefore prosperous, for both householders and business more GB development is going the right way about it. Councillors are elected to represent their constituents. If they agree all this development in the GB they obviously have complete contempt for those that elected them. There are still plenty of brownfield and greenfield sites which are not in the GB. Use them. After which accept that there must be a limit to growth in and around Cambridge.

  22. Tim Cribb

    I read the plan online when the Council published it and noted that it included proposals to release some Green Belt land for housing. At first, I thought that must be a bad idea, but on further study of the plan the sites seem thoughtfully chosen so that erosion of the Green Belt is kept to a minimum — indeed, depending on the quality of the houses the quality of the environment might even be enhanced. Houses have to be built. Cambridge is no longer a small market town with a domestically scaled university; it is an expanding city with two universities, and they gear the town into a global electronic and information economy (of which Pye was a precursor). Hence the immunity we enjoy from the current recession. The Council should be congratulated on planning to accommodate the expansion with a sensitivity that was not so evident in the preceding plan, which gave us the ghastly Cambridge Leisure Centre.

    • myrmecia

      Tim Cribb, I think most of us agree with you that “Houses have to be built”. What we objectors are saying is “not over the green belt”.

  23. Castle independent

    Scale is a feature of character. Many of us who have lived in Cambridge for several years would like it to continue being a small city. We simply like it that way. Those who argue that it should be allowed to grow (logically to the point where affordable homes are built for everybody who would like to live here) must accept that the city would rapidly become as large as Birmingham. I don’t want to live in a city that is growing towards the size of Birmingham. What we have here are different visions of the future of the city. A possible compromise might be found in allowing Cambridge to remain a relatively small city with most of its workforce living in new or regenerated communities within a few miles of the city. Excellent transport links would enable employees to live in relatively cheap homes, earn good salaries in the city and and at the same time preserve its compact character. There is some evidence that such a view is gaining wider and wider acceptance.

  24. will

    It would be easier to sign the petition if you told us which bit of the green belt was going to be used to build “hundreds of houses” and if “Green belt land is being proposed while alternative brownfield sites located outside the Green Belt are not being fully considered.” is true, could you give us some examples? and, if possible, tell us why the council rejected them?

    • jlasttales

      Thank you for your comments. The Council’s draft local plans show the location of the proposed site – see the Links section of this site which can direct you to them. We will be putting forward more information on the Brownfield issue shortly.

  25. Catherine

    i agree that we shouldn’t be building on green belt land. There are other options – building on brownfield sites and smarter housing design with smaller footprints. There are several sites very close to the centre that have been developed recently but the two most recent completions have been a travelodge and student accommodation. We urgently need to think about how our cities develop before they become one vast urban sprawl which ends up not cutting commuting at all. As a country we could also be looking at setting up shared office space near people’s homes where desk space can be rented. Communications are sufficient now that many people don’t have to be physically in a company’s headquarters every day but they may not like the isolation of homeworking. This could be a compromise between those options.

  26. colin wiles (@colinwiles)

    I attended a meeting of residents in Cromwell Road last night – they are opposing plans to build on the Ridgeons’ site at 75 dwellings per hectare. They want the site to be developed for housing – most people locally want new homes, especially family homes – but they want the site to be less crammed and to have some open space. It was revealed that the density on this site has been more or less doubled because the Council is short of its housing target and does not want to take too much green belt land, perhaps because of vocal, selfish and noisy campaigns like yours. If you know Romsey Town you will know that it has suffered from inappropriate and high density developments in recent years that have crammed too many homes onto small sites without proper regard to infrastructure. I don’t wish to set one residents’ group up against another but the difference between the two is that people in Romsey want homes on their patch but you want none at all, so people here have to suffer in order that you can continue to live your comfortable lives with a view. George Owers is absolutely right. You should be thoroughly ashamed of yourselves. Your objections are nothing to do with housing supply or housing needs, they are a classic example of the well off protecting their patch at the expense of others.

    • myrmecia

      Colin Wiles says: “the Council is short of its housing target”

      Whose target is this? What’s its rationale? Was the setting of the target open to public consultation? Were the ways this target might be met laid down after agreement following public consultation? Just referring to a “target” as it it’s a given is an imperious way of deflecting attention from a negotiable assumption.

      Colin also writes: “I don’t wish to set one residents’ group up against another but …” None of us want to do this, but the imposition of the plan to destroy part of Cambridgeshire’s greenbelt was bound to lead to the formation of residents’ groups, interest groups and the incitement of individuals to stand up for their own concerns. Confrontation is baked into the cake, and all we can do is put our respective sides clearly and civilly. My concern is that the confrontation is what the Council wants, because then it can, at date they have set for the end of the process, to wrap it all up with something like: “The Council has held wide-ranging and extended consultations across all the Council’s area. A diverse range of views has been expressed both for and against the plan, but no consensus has emerged. Given the time limits, the Council has, after due consideration of all submissions, decided to implement a modified version of the original plan which, in its opinion, best meets the views of all parties.”

      Every day I cycle past boarded up houses, pubs and petrol stations and I have to ask why the Council has decided to preserve these eyesores in preference to preserving the greenbelt.

    • jlasttales

      Firstly, we fully support people in Romsey Town trying to preserve the environment and character of the City.

      The council is already planning to build 14,000 more homes in Cambridge – an increase of 29%. How much more do we need? What end is in sight? Mr Wiles comment shows another problem: the plan is not complete or coordinated. We will end up with a town packed to the brim with people but with no room for the extra shops, jobs, school places, hospital beds, sports facilities, water or transport that they will need. In fact there will be fewer of the amenities we need (as the departure of Ridgeons shows) and more people competing for what remains.

      The answer to the problem is obvious – reduce the target number of houses for Cambridge as a whole. Some facts: In the decade from 2001 -2011 the number of residents increased by 11%. But the net number of jobs in the city increased by 2%. Where did the extra 9% find their employment? Obviously outside of Cambridge.

  27. duncanstott

    I live in Oxford, in so many ways a similar city to Cambridge, a small city with a world-class University, a tightly drawn green belt and incredibly expensive housing. I struggle to afford the rent in Oxford and house-share with two other young professionals. I’ll soon be in my 30′s and really thought I’d have moved on from renting with others by this stage in my life, but rents and house prices are so astronomical that I’m nowhere near able to get a flat of my own. I work as an electronic engineer, a sector where there are job opportunities in Cambridge, and I could imagine myself moving there one day. But while house prices are so expensive in your city I see little point in moving, and I’ll bet I’m far from alone. Wherever I can find work in my area of expertise, house prices are crazy. It’s totally demoralising.
    High house prices aren’t all down to housing shortages, I realise that. It’s partly down to far too much mortgage lending during the boom and the record low interest rates avoiding an even bigger bust. But that doesn’t explain why Oxford and Cambridge are so much more expensive than other places. Just take a look at the asking price of a one-bed flat in your city and ask yourself how high your income needs to be to afford it as a first-time buyer. How do people on lower incomes cope? Cities need lower income jobs to function – how are they surviving? It is surely a massive drain on the economy and on society.
    The only reason Cambridge has house prices that are way above average is because of a chronic housing shortage. A major housebuilding programme is needed so that future generations in Cambridge. The idea that this can happen without touching a speck of green belt is clearly fanciful. If anything I think the local councils have not been bold enough and could have found far more dull bits of ordinary farmland that would be far better used as housing, but looking at the fuss that a mere 430 houses can cause you can see why they didn’t.
    One final worry I have – I don’t want to live in a society where each generation fails to think about those that follow. We all need to find a way to rub along together and we all need somewhere to live and we all need successful to cities that can create jobs for future generations.
    Please don’t oppose these homes.

  28. jlasttales

    Duncan, I have sympathy for the situation you are in. I remember being in that situation myself several years ago, and the frustration at living in shared accommodation. But like many people, I made the choice to stay in Cambridge because I liked it and accepted the price of not living in the accommodation I might have wished for.

    There are three aspects to the housing crisis: excessively high house prices (in part driven by the credit boom), housing availability, and housing distribution. Your post highlights the problem that employers want to be in Cambridge and Oxford where housing is limited and living costs are high. Instead of trying to meet the insatiable demand for extra housing we need to focus on incentives to move businesses where there is more housing today. For instance, in Loughborough housing costs less than two thirds of what it does here. Redistribution of business makes more sense than destroying what makes Cambridge a wonderful place to live by over-development.

    At some point the system has to reach equilibrium. There has to come a point when the city stops growing. That can happen as part of a controlled process, where development is limited by decision. Or it can happen as an uncontrolled process over the long term, with episodes of continuing development every decade. Eventually the city will become so crowded, expensive and unpleasant to live in that people won’t want to come here and businesses and people will look to move elsewhere.

    The council is already planning to expand the size of Cambridge by 30%. That surely is enough without having to build more on the Green Belt as well.

    • Sheila

      Hear hear. The nub of the problem is the need to persuade businesses to relocate to areas with spare capacity (i.e. areas with people who are unemployed and houses that can’t be sold because nobody wants to move there because there are not enough jobs). Neither those in the north nor those in the south benefit from this drift of jobs towards the south – the only beneficiaries are the developers and their associated hangers-on. But unless the issue is tackled, you could cover the entire Cambridge green belt in concrete and still not achieve house prices that are affordable to people on average incomes.

      ‘Persuading ‘businesses to relocate would need to include financial incentives, at least to early adopters, but these are unlikely to be forthcoming; it is much easier/cheaper for government to declare that houses should be built ‘where they are needed’. Indeed rather than even trying to redistribute employment more fairly from south to north, there are loud hurrahs when, for example, Astra Zeneca announces it is moving its HQ from Cheshire to Cambridge.

      Are any of the political parties prepared to take on the redistribution challenge?

  29. jlasttales

    News: Griff Rhys Jones supports the Save The Green Belt Campaign:

    Griff Rhys Jones, President of Civic Voice – and an active campaigner on civic and planning matters – has signed the Save the Cambridge Green Belt petition and sent a letter of support to the campaign group as a direct result of liaison with local charity Cambridge Past, Present & Future.

    In 2012 Griff Rhys Jones visited Cambridge to speak at an event hosted by CambridgePPF about the built environment and its impact on quality of life. At the event he spoke about the changes in national planning policy; the green belt; his work for Civic Voice; and how civic societies can encourage people to engage with their local community.

    In his letter to the Save The Green Belt Campaign, Griff said:

    To the Cambridge Green Belt Campaign
    I am today signing your petition and thereby lending my support your campaign.

    For a historic city like Cambridge, the Green Belt plays a vital role in the city’s future in protecting its green setting through preventing urban sprawl. A balance needs to be struck between growth that is essential to maintain Cambridge’s success and protecting the character of the city that makes it so special.

    As there are viable alternatives for development, both brownfield sites in the urban area and outside the Green Belt in South Cambridgeshire, these should be developed first. The Green Belt should not be seen as a soft option but should be the option of last resort.

    Yours sincerely
    Griff Rhys Jones

  30. jlasttales

    News: south Cambridge traffic predicted to increase by 15%.
    A recent independent transport assessment has included that the traffic on Babraham road will increase by 15% if development on GB1/2 is allowed to continue. Whatever the City Councillors true motivation for wanting to build on the Green Belt, the impact on the people who live and work in Cambridge will be immense. Why are they doing it?

    The traffic assessment also shows that GB1/GB2 are more than 800m from any local amenities. To do anything will involve getting in a car. No two minute walk to get a paper or pint of milk. Instead of promoting sustainable transport, the council is doing exactly the opposite by creating an isolated ghetto.

  31. Is not important life time tenant

    Please build more…It is nonsense that people live in and around Cambridge and commute to London… How about the pollution they create. Build sustainable communities where people work and live. I can not even dream in this country to have a house one day.And also how much of the green belt areas are accessible (walking? no paths available to walk or ride a bike on those areas. Big farm corporations own the land..or posh colleges. I feel like living in or around Cambridge is a squash and squeze.

    • jlasttales

      Interesting point. Most people would agree that Cambridge is a squash and a squeeze. But the answer is not to increase housing stock by 30% -that will make Cambridge feel even more crowded.

      Access to the Green Belt is an important issue. There are few footpaths from Cambridge into the surrounding countryside. Disappointingly, the Green Belt sites proposed in the plan (GB1/2) are across two footpaths into the countryside. The current plan will damage the access to the countryside rather than improving it.

  32. adam

    You old NIMBYs are choking your own young, and whether you understand it or not you are evil. You want us to pay your pensions, your NHS bills, you do not want to contribute to the cost of your old age care when you go into homes, but at the same time you want us to live in your shoddy BTL empires subsidizing your borrowed saga cruise lifestyle.

    • jlasttales

      The mistake here is to characterise everyone who is interested in protecting the Green Belt as a NIMBY or old. Proponents of the ‘build everywhere brigade’ always frame the argument in other terms – about age, selfishness, self interest, and now it seems pensions. Maintaining the Green Belt is about preserving the quality of life for everyone who lives in the city and the villages.

      The divide is not about building or not building, but about management and long term sustainability.

      Fast forward to fifty years time. How will we avoid Cambridgeshire becoming an endless urban sprawl like Birmingham? What quality of life will people have to look forward when every green space has been filled in?

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