Theme 8) Green Cambridge

Green Cambridge

  • Are you worried about how we will cope with climate change?
  • Are you part of a residents association or activist group that feels powerless against the corporate billions?
  • Do you find the rise of bland identikit blocks in and around Cambridge is utterly depressing?
  • Have you seen some inspiring designs and ideas on green buildings and sustainable transport and wondered why we cannot have that in Cambridge?
  • Worried about traffic fumes and the risks of smog?
  • Wondering how Cambridge can untap the academic expertise we host, in a manner that will benefit the city?
Puffles at a Cambridge City Council recycling stall at a community event recently
Puffles at a Cambridge City Council recycling stall at a community event recently

Developers’ billions

I remember delivering a presentation in the mid 2000s to interested parties for Cambridgeshire County Council when I was a policy adviser on climate change in the Department for Communities and Local Government. My remit was to outline and take questions on the then Government’s policy on sustainable new homes, knowing that developers would be incredibly hostile about the costs. It came as a bit of a shock to some of them when they found out the areas scoped for development were on the edge of my childhood neighbourhood. The previous evening, I had gotten hold of the then Secretary of State at an event in the department, and asked her for a quotation or two for the presentation – knowing I’d be pressed on the costs of climate change adaptation to businesses. She said the Prime Minister had told her that he considered tackling climate change was one of the Government’s top three priorities – and that she agreed.

While Cambridge City Council has done reasonably well on environmental sustainability, it’s such a shame that too many developers put quick gains before meeting the long term needs of the city. They still are. For example, instead of a vibrant, green stable community around Cambridge railway station, we have gated communities and identikit rabbit hutch flats in a part of the country that has low crime rates. Cambridge can do so much better.


My proposals

  • Annual local “Green community summits” that bring together residents, students, academics, council officers and politicians – as well as developers, builders, estate agents and other property professionals. These summits will flesh out the problems and come up with solutions to give us genuinely inspiring (and affordable) homes, as well as open, accessible and safe public spaces
  • Getting local firms to pilot some ‘community-led designing sessions so that communities can be involved at early design stage
  • Annual ‘Green skills festivals’ as piloted by the partnership between Anglia Students Union, the Cambridge Hub and Transition Cambridge in March 2014 (See here).
  • Raising emissions standards on vehicles that want to enter Cambridge – such as a low emissions zone. Also having people and systems in place to enforce it.
  • Supporting neighbourhood forums in making them more diverse, energised and active online – especially through access to training and through links to schools.
  • Support for councillors to tap into the talent in the city when planning applications are submitted – especially outline planning permissions that have caused the most problems later on down the line.

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