Cambridge Growth

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Stephen Platt
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Cambridge is the centre of the greatest concentration of high technology firms in Europe. Economic activity in the area has expanded over the last 50 years and there is intense and increasing pressure for further growth. But prior to the mid-nineties growth was highly constrained by policies dating back to the 1950s.

In 1993, concerned about the constraints on growth in Cambridge, academics at the University Department of Architecture brought together people from local government, planning, development and the business community to discuss the future of the region in a forum called Cambridge Futures.

In 1999 Cambridge Architectural Research was tasked with surveying the reaction of the general public, firstly to a set of seven land use options and, four years later, to a set of transport options.

The three options that the people of Cambridge preferred were: densification, especially along the railway line, selective extension into the green belt in places that were less sensitive, and development of new settlements and existing villages, preferably along good transport links. And that mix of growth, that mix of strategies, is effectively what we have now.

The Cambridge Futures initiative, and the work of CAR in public consultation, was important in providing neutral territory for the local authorities to come together to discuss the challenge of how to grow Cambridge in an environmentally acceptable way. It has had a major impact on development in the Cambridge area. It has also influenced thinking about how to engage stakeholders in planning the future. It overcame local politicians’ perceptions that the public were opposed to growth and demonstrated that it was possible to engage a wide range of stakeholders in thinking strategically about the future.

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