Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bower's Blueprint #3 - No to forcing Marshall off the airport

This is the third of a series of posts on Bower's Blueprint for Coleridge - a set of pledges to which I would work if elected as county councillor on 4th June.

No to forcing Marshall Aerospace off the airport
I will resist plans to build high density housing on the site of Cambridge Airport.

Why are we opposed to development on the airport?
Marshall is a key local employer that provides training and opportunity for people in Cambridge; we do not wish to see it go.

We are concerned about the effect on traffic in the East of Cambridge from the development. Although a cynic might suggest the Lib Dems supported the airport for development as it is a long way from their voters in West Cambridge, they claim the proximity to the centre of Cambridge would make it ideal for a car-free development, as everyone can walk, cycle or use public transport. They would wish this fantasy to be enforced by providing no new major roads, limited car parking on the development and a congestion charge in Cambridge.

This is the same type of fanciful thinking that assumes nobody living in any new development will want to own a car if you don’t provide adequate parking. However the consultant's report looking at the transport effects concluded that even if a congestion charge was introduced (which we are of course completely opposed to), the effect on East Cambridge roads would be horrific, with the dualling of Perne Road, and even more chaos on Newmarket Road. In short, a terrible deal for existing Coleridge residents.

How did the idea come about?
The proposed development on Marshall’s Airport is a direct result of the Labour Government's top-down housing targets which mandate how many homes must be built in our area. Although local authorities were involved in deciding where housing should be built, coming up with the structure plan in 2001, which became the Regional Spacial Strategy for the East of England, it was clear from the sheer numbers the Government required that many unsuitable sites would be chosen.

Conservatives were the first to warn in 1998 that Labour's targets for increased housing (in the South, while bulldozing the North) would lead to the threat of Cambridge Airport being chosen for development. These warnings were dismissed by Labour initially as scaremongering but David Howarth's Lib Dems in Cambridge soon requested that the airport be used for 12,000 homes!

How likely is it to happen?
Marshall has tried to find a site to which to relocate its business, but has so far failed to do so. This is a major barrier as to date management have indicated they would like to keep the aerospace business close enough to Cambridge for most staff to transfer to the new site.

'Cambridge East' is the last of the fringe areas intended to be developed and with other fringe sites around Cambridge stalled due to the spectacular collective misjudgement about the housing market it seems unlikely that it will be built any time soon.

Who is driving it now?
Cambridge Horizons, which is a 'partnership' quango, has been bullying Marshall to hurry up plans to find a new site for its business with the threat that the land would be put back in the greenbelt and therefore not available for Marshall to develop itself at some point if it should want to. There seems to be a last ditch effort going on to force through the development.

What can Conservatives do?
The Conservative Party has pledged to scrap Regional Spatial Strategies and allow councils to rewrite their Structure Plans so that developments can reflect local needs and priorities. When Coleridge Conservatives discovered this policy we were ecstatic, as this really would save Cambridge!

This is only one part of radical plans by David Cameron to redistribute power from the centre back to local areas. It will help to end the culture in elected local government representatives of blaming other levels of government for all their woes instead of taking responsibility.

While we wait for what I hope will turn out to be a Conservative government I pledge to resist the existing plans for Cambridge East.

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