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OPINION: There are places that merit levelling up investment – Cambridge is already on the level

Politicians should not be trying to create a Cambridge cluster

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Dr Alan James, the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough chairman of CPRE (The Campaign to Protect Rural England) was less than impressed by Saturday’s announcement by Rishi Sunak on levelling up funding over the next decade. He explains his reasons and offers a CPRE view of the forthcoming general election.

Just compare the £2m per year each over 10 years to revive 30 impoverished towns announced as Levelling Up by the Prime Minister with:

  • £162m to build Cambridge CSET busway
  • £230m to build Cambridge C2C busway
  • £277m gift to private company to move the Cambridge WWT into the Green Belt
  • £8bn to build East-West Rail extension to Cambridge!

How can this be described as Levelling Up? If I was a resident of one of the towns on the Prime Minister’s list, I would feel my intelligence had been insulted as well as my home town.

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The forthcoming General Election gives local people the chance to call a halt to Government plans to build tens of thousands of new homes in and around Cambridge.

Countryside campaigners say now is the moment to persuade a future government to announce a levelling up agenda which actually delivers on its promises.

The Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023, requires a government minister to “prepare, and lay before each House of Parliament, a statement of levelling-up missions”.

The preceding Levelling Up White Paper clearly stated a core objective is to “boost productivity, pay, jobs, and living standards by growing the private sector, especially in those places where they are lagging.”

This makes nonsense of plans to build up to 150,000 homes in and around Cambridge.

Lagging behind … Cambridge is not! The inference from Government is that Cambridge is the only UK university delivering life sciences.

We have done our research and many university cities across the UK are breaking boundaries in life sciences.

Surely, the Government should be investing in places like Teesside, Tyneside, Sheffield and Leeds, regenerating brownfield sites rather than doubling the size of Cambridge by destroying one of the country’s most important Green Belts with its surrounding areas of prime agricultural land?

CPRE posted this earlier this year with the caption: ‘Planning madness! The government’s ambitions to build 150,000 or more homes in and around Cambridge over the next 20 years is sheer folly. Flood risk, climate change and the need to protect our precious farmland so that we can feed ourselves are just some of our concerns regarding development on this scale in and around the Cambridge area’

CPRE posted this earlier this year with the caption: ‘Planning madness! The government’s ambitions to build 150,000 or more homes in and around Cambridge over the next 20 years is sheer folly. Flood risk, climate change and the need to protect our precious farmland so that we can feed ourselves are just some of our concerns regarding development on this scale in and around the Cambridge area’

CPRE say politicians should not be trying to create a Cambridge cluster. Instead, they should seek to build a UK-wide cluster.

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The biggest life sciences cluster in the United States is North Carolina’s Research Triangle, a region comparable in size to central and northern England. Distance is no longer an issue in research, communication, and collaboration.

Back in the day of Route 101, Silicon Valley, and the Cambridge Phenomenon, we did not even have telephone conferencing – people had to get on planes in order to meet. These days we have something called the Internet.

People in Cambridge can talk to Manchester or Malaysia at the click of a mouse. The new government needs to look at the regions and cities which need growth – and have regeneration space for it.

The Levelling Up Act clearly states its primary objective is to close the disparities in productivity, wages, and employment across all regions and nations of the UK. Cambridge and the areas surrounding it are not struggling.

Recent local elections indicate that people in Cambridge do not want major growth.

Of course, there are many, many people who need homes but the majority of these are in the areas of the country that need regeneration.

In many of those areas there are thousands of empty properties, just in need of refurbishment and modernisation.  It would be quick and have minimum climate impact.

Those are the places that merit levelling up investment – Cambridge is already on the level.

Sources below

 

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/article/2024/may/31/tories-pledge-20m-each-of-levelling-up-funds-to-30-more-towns

https://www.cotonbuswayaction.com/

Major transport project to build new Cambridge busway back on track – Cambridgeshire Live (cambridge-news.co.uk)

 

 

 

 

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