It’s been a busy week, culminating in the publication on Friday of three highly significant documents:
- The results of the GCP’s consultation on its Sustainable Travel Zone proposals and the underlying data
- The proposed route for the East West Rail link into Cambridge, confirmed now as approaching through the southern villages
- The government’s package of measures to promote its ‘Life Sciences for Growth’ agenda.
Of these, residents will be most familiar with the potential implications of the first two items; I would very much encourage you to take the time to look at the detail which has been provided, which is what I will be doing this weekend. They are certainly the topics which are likely to generate the most headlines in the next couple of months.
However, although the third item sounds the most abstract, and possibly irrelevant to the daily lives of local people, it would be a mistake to not pay attention to it.
It’s actually the pursuit of this Life Sciences growth agenda which will shape not only all manner of further interventions in our area for years to come, but also very likely our ability to have any meaningful say on them.
If you look at the language in this extract, it’s clear that government is intending to tilt the ‘presumption in favour of development’ still further towards the interests of an already powerful sector, including by using mechanisms which will override any influence our local planning authority has on decisions.
And this extract indicates the scale of the ambition – the ‘Ox-Cam Arc’ resurgent, just without its tainted previous branding:
Thanks to further investigation by the BBC’s Mark Williamson, we can now start to see many related pieces slotting into place. The Ox-Cam Pan-regional Partnership, of which Cambridge City Council and South Cambs DC are both members, has recently appointed a new Managing Director along with consultants “to develop a compelling value proposition for the Oxford to Cambridge region, in a bid to attract greater global investment into the UK”.
These measures have received endorsement from the Oxford-Cambridge Supercluster Board (still with me?), a network of “nine high-profile business clusters” which was “set up by MEPC’s Roz Bird” in 2021. Head over to the MEPC website and if you can endure the predictable buzzword bingo about curating, placemaking and stewardship, you will learn that MEPC are in fact property developers with over £2billion of assets, including business parks in Oxford and Northants. Meanwhile Roz Bird moved on in 2022 to become CEO of Norwich Research Park.
So please explore the STZ consultation feedback, and the EWR routing report, so you’re informed about what’s coming next and can engage in the debate about them. But always bear in mind the bigger picture – because these proposals and the next Local Plan are just the forerunners of even more dramatic accelerating and intensifying change to Cambridge’s scale and character, and all our daily lives.