Smarter Cambridge Transport

Sustainable growth or just promises?

The next Local Plan, which will cover development in the ‘Greater Cambridge’ area until 2040, is now being created. As part of this, 18 supporting documents have just been released to help determine the location of future housing and employment sites.

There’s a huge amount of detail in them, but let’s just look at the document covering projected carbon emissions. It finds that transport carbon is the biggest component for every proposed spatial strategy and shows more than a 300% variation between the lowest and the highest.

Unsurprisingly, the best performing options with respect to transport are densification of housing within the existing city, or development primarily along public transport corridors. The worst emissions would come from a spatial strategy that locates development in dispersed villages. What is surprising though is the lack of progress which the report projects will have been made in making existing villages less car-dependent by 2030. By this point, the authors say, cars will still be “the only realistic mode for most trips by most village dwellers”. This is despite the fact that by 2030:

  • The Greater Cambridge Partnership should have spent £500million over 15 years supporting ‘sustainable’ growth, primarily through infrastructure delivery;
  • Cambridge South station and East-West Rail should be built and operating; and
  • (According to Mayor Palmer) we will even have elements of the CAM ‘Metro’ in place.

The existing Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire Local Plans, which cover the period to 2031, both claim they will deliver new homes and jobs in a ‘sustainable’ way. We’re seeing these new homes and jobs, but the findings of this report suggest that promises of achieving them sustainably were overstated.

Public mistrust of the development sector is at an all-time high. Accusations are being levelled at councils of complicity in ‘greenwashing’ growth. National government is piling on the pressure for a million homes in the so-called ‘OxCam Arc’. The biggest question for the new Local Plan is how we can avoid making the same mistakes as last time.

If you have an appetite for learning more after reading this, here’s the Development Strategy Options summary report.

This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 2 December 2020.

Sam Davies

Sam Davies is chair of the Queen Edith's Community Forum and a contributor to the Smarter Cambridge Transport conversation.

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