Sam Davies

Engaging with the Biomedical Campus

For those of you who weren’t able to attend the Queen Edith’s Community Forum’s meeting on Thursday evening, I thought it would be useful to flag up both the video of Dr Andy Williams presenting on behalf of Cambridge Biomedical Campus Ltd, and also a blog post written by Antony Carpen, summarising his thoughts on the evening.

For at least the last decade, it has bemused me that this massive site, which has such a significant impact on the whole of the south of the city, is (and is allowed to get away with being) so detached from the residential areas around it. Various organisations on the Campus have recently sought to address this through the creation of CBC Ltd which, as Andy describes in the video, at least provides for a single point of contact. This prompts two thoughts.

What is the council doing?

If, as Andy describes, CBC Ltd has an appetite for more meaningful community engagement, how on earth is that going to be achieved? Kristin-Anne Rutter, also of CBC Ltd, spoke at South Area Committee last September and invited the twelve councillors present (Trumpington, Queen Edith’s and Cherry Hinton wards) to come to talk to the Campus about its plans for the future. Depressingly, Andy confirmed on Thursday that only one of the twelve – me – had taken them up on the offer.

The planning service don’t seem to feel they have a part to play in this either. Back in 2020, officers attended the Community Forum’s AGM and heard about the Place Standard survey which the Forum had run, to understand local residents’ sense of place and priorities. But there has never been any attempt to follow up on this work or help construct a vision for the neighbourhood to sit alongside the Campus’s plans.

So if neither councillors nor planning officers are going to take the lead on this, which individuals and organisations can? The Community Forum has great reach into the community and has been convening public meetings on local development since 2016 but doesn’t take a campaigning stance on issues. Meanwhile, Trumpington Residents Association does campaign, vigorously and effectively, but recently put out a direct call for more volunteers who can pick this activity up as existing committee members look to take a step back. Voluntary organisations across the city are struggling with a lack of volunteer capacity, even as the demands on them grow every more intense.

Are the political parties the problem?

Secondly, one might almost see the recognition of the need to create CBC Ltd, albeit late in the day, as an analogy for the wider rationalisation of local government bodies which I and many others believe is necessary if Cambridge is ever going to have the necessary powers to govern itself effectively. To quote Antony (above), Cambridge is currently “a small city, with a global brand, governed like a market town”. Yet I can’t see any discussion of the possibility of exploring such a rationalisation in the election literature now dropping through our doors.

Is that because the political parties can’t see that it’s a problem? Or because they are determined to hang on to the status quo, regardless of how badly it serves the rest of us, because they see everything through a framing of what works to their advantage, based on their own internal structures?

I wonder.


Free Campus walk on Tuesday

If you are interested in the development of CBC and its relationship with the communities around it, Dr David Skinner, a sociologist at Anglia Ruskin University, has begun a research project called A Sense of Place to explore these issues. As part of the project development, David is running a walk around the Campus on Tuesday (4 April) starting at 2pm at Addenbrooke’s bus station, so residents can see the scale of the expansion and understand more about what’s happening and why. There’s no need to register, just show up – the walk will last a maximum of 90 minutes. If you’d like to join the project email list and/or have a say in the design of future walks, email David at senseofplace@aru.ac.uk

Sam Davies

3 comments

  • Sam – I know it is a completely different subject but please humour me for a while as, perhaps, a little comparison with the democratic system in operation in Paris deserves some consideration. Parisians I believe were never asked if they wanted electric scooters in their City so they simply arrived one day. They have JUST been asked if they want to keep them, (in reality “do you want electric scooters in your City”) and the residents have voted no! So they will be removed this summer – simple democracy in action. I don’t rember having been asked if I wanted to see electric scooters in Cambridge but I would vote to have the removed

    [Not sure what the planning system is like in Paris although from a personal perspective it shoud have prevented the Pompidou Centre]

    That a large proportion of City folk will not engage in the issues that have a major impact on the City and its environs is hardly surprising. Demonstrably, with so many fingers in the decision making pie (City, South Cambs, County and now the GCP), how can we ordinary folk on the Clapham omnibus hope to have any input / say-so / effect on “local” issues? It is simply too difficult

    PS – keep up the good work (and thank you for doing so)

  • I am sorry that I was unable to attend that Campus meeting at 2pm today 4th April. As I walk around with a rollator, I would probably have been too slow.
    I am very depressed at Council and GCP decisions and have the feeling that there is nothing that I can do about these decisions other than withdraw and forget about them. I am surprised at how little relevant is said in the election pamphlets about things that concern me. Congestion charge, shutting Mill Road, blocking Nightingale Avenue. Density of housing with no regard to enough facilities. Not enough social housing (really affordable – a word that has come to mean less expensive but not actually affordable). The growth of the Campus is yet another project where I know that my voice will have no relevance.
    I hope that you will be able to carry on your good work. Our only hope!