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‘MP’s manufactured outrage on Greater Cambridge Local Plan proposals are worthy of Boris Johnson himself’



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Opinion | Ian Sollom, of the Liberal Democrats in South Cambridgeshire, delivers a riposte to Conservative MP Anthony Browne’s withering verdict of the Local Plan first proposals, which will guide development in Greater Cambridge until 2041.

Ian Sollom, of the Liberal Democrats in South Cambridgeshire, who stood against Anthony Browne at the 2019 General Election. Picture: Chris Sidell
Ian Sollom, of the Liberal Democrats in South Cambridgeshire, who stood against Anthony Browne at the 2019 General Election. Picture: Chris Sidell

It’s been a couple of weeks now since the draft first proposals for the Greater Cambridge Local Plan were published, giving us all a first look at how our area can provide the homes we need over the next 20 years.

And we do need homes: for young people desperate to find their first home; for new families who have outgrown their starter homes; for those who want to downsize to more appropriate housing. Public consultation on the draft will take place later in the year, and I am already reading with interest the feedback from residents, which is thoughtful and well-informed.

It’s an approach South Cambs’ Conservative MP, Anthony Browne, could learn from.

In comments clearly written to fit already tired campaign slogans, he suggests the plans “concrete over South Cambs” and “threaten residents’ way of life”. Such shrill, manufactured outrage - on the day the document was published no less - is political hyperbole worthy of Boris Johnson himself.

The vast majority of homes for South Cambs in the new plan will go onto sites identified in the current local plan - developed, Mr. Browne seems to have forgotten, by his Conservative colleagues on the district council. In suggesting new towns like Cambourne and Northstowe are simply unwelcome masses of concrete over his constituency, Anthony Browne seems to be taking the same approach with residents as Gerald Ratner did with customers.

A map showing the major development sites identified in the first proposals of the new Greater Cambridge Local Plan, which will guide development to 2041. Map: Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service (50726985)
A map showing the major development sites identified in the first proposals of the new Greater Cambridge Local Plan, which will guide development to 2041. Map: Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service (50726985)

More troublingly, last week South Cambs’ MP suggested we shouldn’t even attempt to meet the level of need for homes in our area, because his government doesn’t have a plan to solve the problems associated with the over-abstraction of the chalk aquifer that supplies much of the area with water. Those problems have been with us for as long as this Conservative government, but sadly new water supply infrastructure, a vital component in fixing them, is well over a decade away.

The government could help to accelerate that timeline. But we know that if they don’t, we will have to stop building the homes we need in South Cambs, to minimise the damage to both the aquifer itself, and the precious chalk stream habitats it feeds.

That’s why it’s been written explicitly into the plan proposals!

Mr Browne has suggested this open and honest appraisal of the issues amounts to a form of blackmail. He really needs to spend less time devising specious attacks on the Lib Dems at the District Council and more time lobbying the environment secretary to provide the investment and regulation needed to solve this problem.

Read more

Greater Cambridge Local Plan’s 48,794 new homes explained - including all 19 newly identified sites for development

Interactive map: See the sites where nearly 49,000 new homes are proposed for Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire

Anthony Browne MP condemns 49,000-home Greater Cambridge Local Plan proposals as ‘nightmare’ for South Cambridgeshire

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