Tory MP Anthony Browne believes Michael Gove forgot one essential ingredient in his bid to double the size of Cambridge – and that is water.
Mr Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, announced today the government will bring in a ‘super squad’ of planners to Cambridge to speed up housing.
It would be part of his ambitious proposals to deliver 300,000 new homes across the country by the mid-2020s.
But Mr Browne, MP for South Cambridgeshire who has been selected to contest the General Election in the new seat of St Neots and mid Cambridgeshire, is unimpressed.
“Cambridge already has about the highest housebuilding in the country, and under the local plans that is set to double with 50,000 new homes by 2050, effectively doubling the size of Cambridge,” he tweeted.
“But there is one major problem: we have run out of water.
“Our rivers, streams and ponds are already running dry. The wetland reserve at Fowlmere where I grew up now only has water in summer because the Environment Agency pumps it there.”
He added: “There is not enough water for existing housing; there is not enough for the major expansion of housing already planned; and there is not enough for any government plans for a new quarter.
“As I say, unless the Government can say where the water will come from, it’s plans are dead on arrival.”
Cllr Lucy Nethsingha, the leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, tweeted that she was feeling “deeply angry and frustrated this morning listening to news across the networks on Gove’s proposals for a ‘super-squad’ of government planners being sent to Cambridge.
“Local leaders have still been told nothing. The lack of respect for local people is breathtaking.”
Cambridge property lawyers BDB Pitmans are not too impressed either by the ambitions outlined by Mr Gove.
Simon Burson, partner, and head of the Cambridge office, BDB Pitmans, said: “Michael Gove is looking to turn Cambridge into the UK’s answer to Silicon Valley.
I am pleased that the Government have committed to working with local leaders and communities in Cambridge to unlock the city’s full potential – real compassion for all and respectful cooperation is vital as this moves forward. I will be issuing a full statement later today.
— Mayor Dr Nik Johnson (@NikJohnsonCA) July 24, 2023
“At the heart of those plans is a ‘planning hit squad’ and a ‘rewrite of environmental regulations’ that will see the creation of what he has called a ‘new urban quarter’ of up to 250,000 new homes built by 2040
“Cambridge 2040 is the latest in a long line of ambitious announcements to build a rival to California’s Silicon Valley. They often do little more than gather headlines and dust.”
Mr Burson said: “New and affordable housing is undoubtedly needed, but 250,000 new homes are unlikely to be welcomed locally.
“The proposed rewrite will need to overcome long term issues affecting housing in the region, not just the planning conditions but also the lack of infrastructure and water in the driest part of the Country. Space in the city and its surrounding areas is already tight and housing alone will not create a rival to Silicon Valley.
“Investment in lab and commercial space will too be needed and Michael Gove’s plan is alarmingly light on detail. Who will fund this and where will it go?
So "no-one is doing mass housebuilding in Cambridge" (Sunak). But it's a "major new urban quarter for the city" (Gove). And achieved "in dialogue with local communities", except they haven't spoken to local govt organisations and are creating a separate delivery body #ArseElbow pic.twitter.com/QZvEuYhKzp
— Cllr Sam Davies (@Sam_in_Cam) July 24, 2023
“It should of course be remembered that a tax and commercial environment that encourages businesses to relocate, grow and stay in the City is needed. It is a complex picture and one that is not only built on real estate.”
He added: “That said, other cities across the UK, notably Oxford, will be watching and reading the Government’s proposals closely to ensure they are not disadvantaged by these plans.
“Cambridge continues to grow and thrive thanks more to the talent and ambition of the businesses and people that choose to live and work in the City rather than government proposals.”
MP Anthony Browne’s promise to do everything he can to stop the Government’s “nonsense” plans to impose mass housebuilding in Cambridge has been strongly supported by countryside campaigners.
“Michael Gove’s plans to relax planning rules to create more homes in the heart of our cities – Cambridge being target No 1 – are nothing short of madness” said the chairman of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CPRE, Dr Alan James.
We welcome @michaelgove's and @luhc's proposals to turn #Cambridge into Britain’s Silicon Valley, with as many as 250,000 new homes to be built, and the prospect of billions of investment. This is the scale of ambition which we have been calling for.https://t.co/iVuETQvlVn
— Eastern Powerhouse (@Eastern_PH) July 10, 2023
“I agree with Anthony Browne. All major developments in and around Cambridge are currently blocked by the Environment Agency because we have quite literally run out of water.
“Cambridge is on the edge of the Fens and very low-lying. Climate change means the rate of annual sea level rise has now increased from 3mm a year to 3.57mm.
“That, coupled with the predicted effects of melting glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica, up to 12 feet globally, means Cambridge is a very silly place to build indeed.
“What happened to the Levelling Up Agenda and Mission 2 of the White Paper?
“Life sciences now work together globally using something called the internet.
“It would appear Mr Gove is back in the 20th century when clustering came about to reduce air travel and improve communications. Now, the original clusters in the USA are gradually dispersing.”
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