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Cambridge City Council

Statement on growth of Cambridge in response to national media coverage

9 July 2023

Statement published on 9 July

We issued the following statement on 9 July further to a report in the Sunday Times about government intentions for housing growth:

A spokesperson for Cambridge City Council said: "We note the speculation in the Sunday Times that suggests ministers are considering significant increases in housing in and around Cambridge.

"The city council has not been consulted on these ideas, which we note are described as being at the ‘concept’ stage.

"As the planning authority, the council would expect to be fully engaged in any proposals and the decision-making regarding the future of our city."

Additional context on planning for development in Greater Cambridge published on 10 July

Councils plan ahead through the Local Plan process in order to meet the anticipated housing need related to the predicted growth in jobs in the area. The emerging Greater Cambridge Local Plan proposals to 2041 have an emphasis on sustainable development, climate change, environment and wellbeing, and creating great places to live. The government requires councils to plan ahead in this way to better ensure that new homes, services and infrastructure are delivered by partners in the right way and in the right timeframe.

Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council’s existing Local Plans provide for around 37,200 new homes to be built in Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire between 2020 and 2041. The councils are now working on a new joint Local Plan for Greater Cambridge (covering development in Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire). In the new Local Plan, forecasts suggest an increase of around 66,600 jobs across Greater Cambridge by 2041 (8,200 more than previously anticipated), meaning that an additional 14,500 homes would need to be planned for Greater Cambridge on top of the existing local plan sites – a significantly lower number of homes than the figure published in The Times this weekend. Greater Cambridge currently has approximately 125,000 homes, so an extra 250,000 would triple the number of homes in our area.

The councils warned in January 2023 that plans for the additional homes would only be acceptable if there was greater certainty about the future of water supplies in the area, and could only go ahead if there was evidence that the scale of development would not cause unacceptable environmental damage. Additionally, during the 2021 First Proposals consultation at the start of the Local Plan process, the councils set out an ambitious vision for minimising carbon emissions alongside improving the quality of life for residents.

At present, plans for water supply, including potential new reservoirs, are being developed, but it is unclear whether this infrastructure will be ready to supply these new homes already identified in the emerging Local Plan. Without speeding up that process, and additional interim action, the councils warned that development levels may have to be capped to avoid unacceptable harm to the environment, including the region’s important chalk streams. With colleagues from South Cambridgeshire District Council, and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, Cambridge City Council has written to the Secretary of State asking for assistance in resolving issues related to water supply and the emerging Local Plan and has not yet received a response.