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Public asked for ideas for new Cambridge Great Park

Campaigners who want to see a new Cambridge Great Park for the city to protect green belt land are asking the public to add their own ideas to the proposals.

Led by retired architect Neil Ruffles, the group has already submitted an outline idea to Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council to be considered as part of their next Local Plan.

Now they want to hear from anyone who has a suggestion about how they could link up local green spaces into one huge green space that is open to the public and what they would want to see in the park.

Architect Neil Ruffles with his 'Park Plan'. Picture: Keith Heppell. (32729208)
Architect Neil Ruffles with his 'Park Plan'. Picture: Keith Heppell. (32729208)

Mr Ruffles said: “We view the Cambridge Great Park as the single most important environmental initiative in the history of the city of Cambridge. If we don’t dare to have a vision like this for the future then it won’t happen - we need people to get on board with their ideas now.”

Taking in the Gog Magog hills, the banks of the River Cam and Midsummer Common, the park would encircle the city and it is hoped could be enjoyed by generations to come.

Neil Ruffles, the man behind the idea, first mooted his plan 25 years ago but now hopes to win backing for the park from landowners and wants the public to submit their ideas and backing for the proposals so they can be considered by local councils for long term planning.

He said: “Over the next few months, we might all have a little more time to reflect on the importance of the Cambridge Great Park. During this time many families will be working from home with limited outdoor access, observing social distancing and using the ‘same old routes’ in restrictive spaces.

“We would like to reach out to the citizens of Cambridge and beyond, to ask about their thoughts, hopes and fears, ideas, opportunities and potential of all age groups, including the younger generation as well as the experienced and knowledgeable older generations. Imagine what we could have 100 years from now and work back from there. Think big.”

The latest version of the Cambridge Great Park proposal (33467703)
The latest version of the Cambridge Great Park proposal (33467703)

He suggests people could comment on the importance of the Cambridge Great Park as a “sustainable community resource for the benefit of all”.

He adds any proposals should “protect and respect the need to work closely with the existing land property owners and farmers, by incorporating their agricultural heritage and knowledge to create a better long- term future”.

Comments could focus on how the park would help local history, education, biodiversity, farm experiences, and sustainable techniques for food production, mental health and wellbeing; wetlands, rivers and streams; conservation; ancient monuments and historic features. Also, outward bound activities such as walking, cycling, running, art trails. And carbon free energy production and offsetting, reforestation and protection of hedgerows.

The project is continuing, despite the Covid 19 crisis, thanks to video conferencing. Already the campaigners say they have been in touch with “dozens of interested parties” including local authorities, local members of parliament, Mayor James Palmer, district councillors, local parish councils, professional companies, land agents and owners. They have further online meetings set up for April and May.

The Local Plan looks to incorporate ideas to help improve climate change, biodiversity, green spaces, social inclusion and connectivity, as well as car free access to open spaces, and sustainable agriculture.

Architect Neil Ruffles with his 'Park Plan' ( centre ) with colleagues from left Adam Griffiths and Chris Jones. Picture: Keith Heppell. (32729205)
Architect Neil Ruffles with his 'Park Plan' ( centre ) with colleagues from left Adam Griffiths and Chris Jones. Picture: Keith Heppell. (32729205)

Mr Ruffles said: “At this point in time, and for the foreseeable future, the whole country is in ‘lockdown’ trying to deal with the dreadful Covid19 virus, which is also happening at the same time as other world issues such as climate change, globalisation and sustainability.

“We would be pleased to receive spoken, written or drawn ideas from the citizens of Cambridge, which might include a variety of different issues for example: To improve ‘connectivity’ in and around the park through the use of new and extended access routes for all including those with disabilities of all types.”

He is also keen to create new car free links from the city to the greater park area, as well as from the city to the surrounding villages situated on or near the park boundaries, and from village to village and through the park.

To submit your ideas, email studio@bcr-infinityarchitects.co.uk.

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