Fix Campus problems before any expansion

I had the letter below published in today’s Cambridge Independent newspaper. Here it is for those who don’t get the paper.

Your excellent interview (“A vision to grow and transform Cambridge Biomedical Campus“) was very welcome, as is the news that the campus is finally attempting to “speak as one voice”, perhaps 20 years too late.

However, the article clearly suggests that developments to make the site a more welcoming place, both for staff and the local community, will be dependent on further expansion being granted. This should be as unacceptable to the occupants of the site and their staff as it will be to the local community.

It’s not just missing amenities. Another problem which needs to be addressed is the dreadful permeability of the site and the inadequate provision for sustainable transport.

I would urge everyone to watch the video where Councillor Sam Davies tries to walk from the Hills Road roundabout to the site of the proposed railway station.

We do not want to hear excuses about current deficiencies being a historic failing which it’s too late to fix. Sorting out existing problems must come before any further expansion is allowed. Otherwise, all that will happen is that making the site a more welcoming place will be shunted a further 30 years down the road, only to find that the ideas won’t be deliverable because all the space has been taken up.

Chris Rand
Cambridge

2 Replies to “Fix Campus problems before any expansion”

  1. One item in the 2020 CBC Vision document was a promise to open up a through-route on the site for cycling and walking. They have built all the stuff planning in that document, including two massive car parks, but they’ve not done that, so they have not even met their own existing ‘vision’ in their own terms.

    At a recent meeting on their new vision document with various local people and groups, they got a loud and consistent message from everyone one involved, that they needed to fix the transport and public realm disaster they have created over the last 20+ years on the existing site _before_ trying to build a load more, as well as working out how their proposed expansion was going to _reduce_ emissions and water usage overall. The site is a miserable concrete jungle, impermenable to people on foot or cycling, with very poor signage, and in need of not hundreds, but thousands more bike-parking spaces, and dramatically better approaches for active travel.

    The criticism from the Friends of the Cam representative was particularly trenchant, pointing out (rightly) that they can’t build _anything_ without working out where the water is coming from, because the aquifer is already badly over-abstracted so any new development either needs a new source of water or a convincing way of reducing water usage _more_ than the proposals add. “There is no point talking about new tree-planting if they are simply going to die in a few years time”.

    The others were smarter Cambridge Transport, Camcycle, CPPF, Residents Associations and locals. The message from all those groups was remarkably consistent: Your proposed vision of another 20 years of expansion is not compatible with our climate and water constraints. It’s completely backwards and should be looking at how they propose to _reduce_ emissions by around 10%/yr for 20 years, and get to a _smaller_ water footprint, and stop being frankly quite bad neighbours to the people of Queen Ediths.

    I have no idea if any of this will actually sink in. The site is important as a world-class interdisciplinary research medical centre, but it cannot ignore the fundamental constraints of the environment we all live in, nor its history of failure on transport and public realm. I really hope someone at the top is listening when everyone tells them the same things, and comes up with a vision that will actually make things better overall.

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