New development corporation to lead construction of 150,000 new homes in Cambridge
More than 150,000 homes could be built in Cambridge under the direction of a new development corporation, new plans set out by Michael Gove have revealed.
The housing secretary used a wide-ranging speech on planning and housing delivery this morning to announce his intention to create a new body to oversee a massive urban expansion of the city.
"Nowhere is the future being shaped more decisively than in Cambridge," he said, citing its global leadership in life sciences and technology.
"But until now […] its growth has been constrained. Lab space and homes for the scientist, technicians and support staff who power innovation have not been provided in the number, at the scale, or at the pace required."
Gove initially indicated his vision for the town earlier this year when he launched the Cambridge 2040 Delivery Group, chaired by ex-Homes England chief Peter Freeman and backed with £5m, to explore the possibility of a new urban quarter in the city.
The body's work has led the government to believe that more than 150,000 new homes could be delivered around the city, although Gove said he did not want to "constrain the ambition of the development corporation," adding: "For me, more is better."
A "broadly-based board" will be appointed to steer development and Gove promised to arm the corporation with "the full range of powers necessary to marshal this huge project over the next two decades regardless of the shifting sands of Westminster".
He also acknowledged that upfront public investment would be necessary.
While Gove's announcement included bolstered powers for rural authorities to limit development on the green belt, the secretary of state said that Cambridge would be the exception to this new rule.
"Cambridge is a unique and special case and I know that the development corporation, which I do not want to pre-empt, will recognise that the national interest in Cambridge means that a different approach is going to be required," he said.
One of the major obstacles to new development in Cambridge in recent years has been water scarcity, with the Environment Agency objecting to recent schemes brought forward by Barratt on the basis that they were unable to prove sustainable supply of water.
Gove said he would be announcing new steps to manage demand for water in new developments and promised "more about new sources of water supply" in the new year.
Asked whether action on water supply might include support to fast-track the approval and construction of a new reservoir in the fens, Gove said "100%" and referenced the work his junior minister Lee Rowley has been doing on speeding up the planning process for nationally significant infrastructure.
"Cambridge is already water stressed at the moment," he said. "It must grow and must have new water supply, as well as the adjustments on demand that I mentioned earlier."
Gove said his vision for the city would "exemplify what it means to fall back in love with the future," a phrase he used to describe his department's approach to planning policymaking.
He added: "It's going to set the standard for how we protect and preserve what makes a city special and also how we design and equip it for the century ahead."