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What happens if we don’t build more homes in South Cambridgeshire and Cambridge?

Opinion | Cllr Bridget Smith, Liberal Democrat leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, writes about the Local Plan process and explores the latest Census data.

Cllr Bridget Smith, leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, Cambourne. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cllr Bridget Smith, leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, Cambourne. Picture: Keith Heppell

Last month, we published the many responses we received as part of our consultation on our ‘First Proposals’ for the new Greater Cambridge Local Plan, which will determine how South Cambs and Cambridge city develop up until 2041. Unsurprisingly, further suggestions for possible new locations for homes and jobs have been put forward for us to consider. This is a normal part of the process.

I would like to reassure residents and communities that none of these suggested new sites has any planning status and it is too early to say whether any of them should be included in the plan. You may recall that we originally saw around 650 possible sites put forward by landowners, developers, individuals and of those only 19 have been included in this second stage.

You may also recall that 37,198 homes were already planned for Cambridge city and South Cambridgeshire between 2020 and 2041 under the existing adopted Local Plans of 2018.

We then identified the need for around 11,600 further homes to meet the increasing need for homes.The bulk of these will be at North East Cambridge, Cambridge Airport, Cambourne and Eddington – and includes bringing forwards new homes at Waterbeach new town and Northstowe faster. We have suggested just six additional small village sites in South Cambridgeshire, totalling 384 homes.

So why do we need more homes in our area and what happens if we don’t build them? The answer to the second part of this question is that we drive up house prices even further and people have no choice but to live in cheaper areas and have the additional cost and stress of driving long distances in to work.

This is a huge problem now that we have a cost of living crisis and escalating fuel costs. We already know that it is becoming increasingly difficult for younger people to afford a home here and this has many knock on effects including on businesses needing to recruit staff, on schools needing to maintain their role numbers and on communities wanting to remain diverse, inclusive and self sufficient

Last week’s Census showed that Cambridgeshire is already seeing really high growth. The 9.2 per cent rise is higher than the East of England average, which in itself is growing faster than the rest of the country.

In the last decade the county’s population grew by 57,000 and this includes an 26 per cent increase in people over the age of 65 against a national average rise of 18.6 per cent.

It is the rural areas that are seeing the greatest increase in the percentage of older people. All of these people, young and old deserve a decent, affordable home close to where they work or learn or receive their support.

We can only achieve that by meeting the housing need in our area and by ensuring that those homes are well connected, environmentally sustainable and as cheap to run as possible.

We want South Cambs to be greener and fairer for everyone.

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