Challenging environmentally damaging activities and policies by promoting sustainable alternatives






So, another Local Plan and another 'consultation' on the same.
Given the limited, slanted, nature and format of the online Local Plan response forms, Cambridge Friends of the Earth refuses to respond using this option. We feel that doing so would, potentially, provide credibility to what are clearly central government, developer and landowner influenced plans, ably assisted by their elected enablers on bodies such as the Greater Cambridge Partnership, to extract the maximum amount of tax revenue and profit from an already overheated (in every sense of the word) region of the country, at the expense of both the region itself and other, less well off, regions of the country in dire need of inward investment.
Over the years Cambridge Friends of the Earth has completed what seem like endless similar consultations. Not one of these has, judging from the destruction wrought to Cambridge's built and natural environments over the years, materialy improved the lives of the region's residents or its environment. Instead, we've experienced the same profit driven development, the same craven response to this from the local councils in the face of pressure from central government, the same mute acceptance of destruction and damge to the natural environment and an endless, inevitable, rise in house prices and overall cost of living in a region that seems determined to exclude all but the most wealthy.
Are those of us who take the time to fill out these 'consultations' merely useful idiots, greasing the wheels of unfettered greed and graft?
As usual in such exercises, 'development' of the City and region seem to be taken as a given with precious little consideration given to its environmental or social sustainability with a gerrymandered 'consultation'to add spurious democratic credibility to decisions effectively already made.
Which residents decided that thousands of new houses for sale are needed or wanted in the region? How many of these will be available for genuine social rent? We notice that the number of houses planned in and around the City far exceeds the size of the City Council's Social housing waiting list; how likely is the proposed development bonanza likely to reduce this list to zero? We strongly question the blythe overall assumption that 'growth' is inevitably a good thing for the region and question who benenfits from this? A rising tide may well lift all boats, but that assumes everyone can afford a boat.
On a practical level, there is no mention in the Local Plan of realistic ways to provide the nececessary water for the planned quantities of new housing and other development. On the 1st July 2021, DEFRA announced that chalk streams would be given enhanced environmental protection, and published the Environment Agency document titled “Water stressed areas – final classification 2021” which included, page 6, the fact that the supply areas of Cambridge Water and Anglian Water are areas of serious water stress.
Additionally, according to Appendix 3 of this report, Cambridge Water needs to reduce abstraction by 22 megalitres per day from levels current at 1st July 2021 and Anglian Water needs to reduce abstraction by 189 megalitres per day from levels current at 1st July 2021.
Surely, given these facts, water stress/shortage in itself should halt any further development and yet we see that, whilst the public consultation for the Draft Local Plan is taking place now, the consultation for the Regional Water Plan is not due until summer 2022.... Perhaps the Councils in the Greater Cambridge region are hoping no one notices this 'small' detail (or the sound of cans being kicked down the road), which has the potential to slow down the development juggernaut and annoy their 'business partners' and central government masters? Apparently so, given the ridiculous or maybe desperate, nature of the proposed 'solutions' to this issue. Anglian Water is proposing to pump water from North Lincolnshire,which is also classified by the Environment Agency in the above report as a water stressed area and, in another flight of almost Speilbergian fantasy, Water Resources East and Anglian Water are proposing to build two reservoirs in the Fens, one in South Lincolnshire, the other in Cambridgeshire near the River Great Ouse. Quite how they propose to prevent these reservoirs being flooded by saline water in a matter of decades, ably assisted by climate change and associated sea level rise has yet to be revealed.
This is fantasy greenwash of the highest order and yet, the 'plans' are big enough and bold enough to distract the decision maker from having to address the fundamentally negative issues surrounding the Growth Agenda for further months and perhaps years.
Approaching this issue literally from other end, there appears to be precious mention of how the resulting sewage will be dealt with. Decades of underinvestment in water treatment infrastructure by privitised utilities have left a system unable to cope with current levels of sewage, leading to far too frequent discharges of unteated sewage into the River Cam and yet further pressure is to be put on this greed holed system by ever increasing demand from further development.
To add further insult to injury, we can scarcely comprehend the hypocracy of the involved councils who on the one hand spout bland platitudes about cutting carbon dioxide emmisons and on the other countenance futher pouring of concrete, buidling of roads for ever increasing traffic levels and continual gnawing away at the Greenbelt in a Local Plan that has anything but good wishes towards anything local.
As an aside, but emblematic of the real drivers behind this plan, are its hand wringing over the need for more and more affordable public transport. These protestations would surely have more credibility if the Council's weren't still paying tribute to the cold, dead, profiteering hands of the likes of Stagecoach to simply maintain the fracturered status quo of our not-fit-for purpose public transport service.
We condemn any suggestion of the terms 'Doubling Nature', Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) and Natural Capital Accounting (NCA), or the underlying thinking they suggest, in the Local Plan. These concepts move protecting the natural environment from the realm of no-strings funding into the reach of developers who can then tie funding for environmental protection to planning approval.
We take particular issue with the term 'doubling nature' as this ill-defined term is essentially meaningless at best and could, at worst, be used to cover up any amount of environmental damage. Does replacing a single felled 300 year old mature oak with two leylandii saplings count as doubling nature?
As if the above wasn't enough, the issue of sea level rise remains unddressed by the Local Plan, a major omission in such a low lying region in the age of climate change.
Large areas of Cambridgeshire, including parts of the City of Cambridge, are subject to continuously increasing flood risk. Indeed, not only is sea level rising, the rate of sea level rise is increasing rapidly. For many years, in fact since measurement began, sea level in the Wash was rising at a rate of 3mm per year. In 2019 it was measured by the Environment Agency in the Wash, and confirmed by IPCC figures globally, that the annual rate was now 3.3mm per year. In 2014, the IPCC report estimated a sea level rise of 1 metre by 2100.
In 2019, the IPCC increased this estimate to 1.1 metres by 2100. In 2021, the IPCC has increased its estimate again, to a terrifying 2.4 metres by 2100. Meanwhile, the meteorological partnership Climate Central estimates a 4.7 metre sea level rise by 2100 if global temperatures rise by 2°C. Both the IPCC 2021 and the COP26 leadership have confirmed that the world is currently on track for a 2.4°C global temperature rise.
Do the descendents of King Canute own large areas of land in the region or are we supposed to hope that the 'Market' will sweep all before it, including exceptional/new normal high tides? In summary, Cambridge Friends of the Earth considers the proposed Local Plan to be based entirely on the requirements of central government to generate tax revenue and the needs of developers and landowners to turn a profit. We are outraged that the needs and concerns of local residents have been ignored yet again and that the environment is taken as either a hindrance to be negotiated away in the pursuit of the bottom line or a source of placatory phrases and effectively meanlingless greenwash. In this respect, the current Local Plan is no different from the myriad other 'plans' and associated 'consultations' we have filled out over the years and we wonder when we will ever get elected representatives with the collective strength of will to stand up to the forces which continue to irretreivably change our local environment for the worse.