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South Cambridgeshire villagers shocked by name change

Residents of a South Cambridgeshire village have been horrified to discover its name has been altered without their knowledge after spotting a new place name sign.

Waterbeach, a settlement mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1083, is to go by the new name Waterbeach Village, while a new development of 11,000 homes built on a nearby former barracks site will be called Waterbeach.

The change follows a consultation by developers Urban&Civic and RLW, which are building the new town, but many villagers appear to have been unaware of the decision.

New Waterbeach Village sign as you tunr off from the A10. Picture: Keith Heppell (63242766)
New Waterbeach Village sign as you tunr off from the A10. Picture: Keith Heppell (63242766)

One resident, Jane Williams, told the Cambridge Independent: “We have to accept that the new town is on our doorstep but this is like rubbing salt into the wound. The old name of the village is in the Domesday Book and with the history of the fens it is a deeply felt thing. It is the final insult. I don’t think it is right that the consultation on this was carried out by developers rather than by a democratic process.”

Other residents took to social media on the village’s facebook page to complain of the sign, which has just been erected.

One said: “Anyone else noted the new sign on Denny End Road, we are now Waterbeach Village. They have stolen our name and our train station.”

Meanwhile, others commented: “As far as I remember the discussion was to keep Waterbeach as it was always and Waterbeach New Town for this new creature.”

And one person added: “Noticed it tonight. So much for ‘integrating with the village’.”

However, not everyone disagreed with the move. One resident thought it could help emergency services to distinguish between the ancient village and the new town and another said: “I’m sure as a community we will make it work long term.”

Known throughout the planning process as Waterbeach New Town, the development was formally named Waterbeach after most people opted for it after a 12-week public consultation by Urban&Civic and RLW. The formal adoption of the name took place at a cabinet meeting at South Cambridgeshire District Council in July 2021, after councillors considered a report by the two developers.

The first phase of the consultation found that just over half (53 per cent) of people who responded preferred the name to cover both the new town and existing village. Of those people who preferred one name for both town and village, 76 per cent opted for Waterbeach. Leaflets were dropped at 3,000 houses.

Caroline Foster, senior development manager for Urban&Civic, said at the time: “The name of a place is such a huge part of its culture and identity and we believe this approach captures the sense of connection and difference expressed through the discussion, but most of all celebrates a continuity of those historic farming and military connections.”

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