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Michael Gove’s plans to dramatically broaden Cambridge by 2040 with 150,000 new houses are “nonsensical” due to town’s lack of water infrastructure, the leaders of three Cambridgeshire councils have warned.
The secretary for housing and levelling up introduced plans to develop a brand new science quarter in Cambridge final December through a brand new, top-down growth company armed with the “proper management and . . . powers” to quickly broaden town.
Mike Davey, Labour chief of Cambridge Metropolis Council, mentioned Gove’s imaginative and prescient ignored the truth that Cambridge was already struggling to ship present plans for 50,000 homes by 2040 due to a persistent lack of water provide.
“The 150,000 houses would seem to only be nonsensical, if I’m trustworthy, as a result of the infrastructure simply isn’t there,” Davey advised the Monetary Occasions.
The mix of water shortage and the rising battle between Cambridge’s native leaders and central authorities highlights the challenges the UK’s faces in delivering massive constructing initiatives after many years of under-investment.
The Atmosphere Company, the general public physique that polices water conservation, has put 9,000 homes and a few 300,000 sq metres of analysis house within the Cambridge area on maintain as a result of planners have been unable to show there have been sustainable water provides.
That is the third in a sequence of articles on the infrastructure challenges going through the UK
Half one: Increase Birmingham
Half two: Funds blowouts and delay
Half three: Cambridge plan in danger from lack of water provide
Half 4: Can the UK afford its infrastructure invoice?
Bridget Smith, Liberal Democrat chief of the South Cambridgeshire district council the place the brand new growth is anticipated to be centered, accused Gove of failing to interact significantly with native leaders.
“We’re a pro-growth council, however we’ve run out of water. In order that leaves us with loads of questions on how this may be delivered. Gove has to unravel the water drawback and the power drawback or it could actually’t be completed,” she mentioned.
Lucy Nethsingha, Liberal Democrat chief of Cambridgeshire county council, added that Gove’s top-down intervention risked making growth slower, not sooner.
“They’re revisiting work that has already been completed; revising but once more transport schemes which have been authorized to permit the present stage of constructing,” she mentioned. “The dimensions at which we maintain reinventing issues and failing to ship is alarming.”
The Nationwide Infrastructure Fee, a authorities advisory board, final October warned in its five-yearly evaluation of UK infrastructure that “vital deficiencies” have been holding the nation again. These included the failure to construct a single giant water reservoir in England prior to now 30 years.
Davey mentioned the federal government had offered £9mn to fund a Water Shortage Group to assist retrofit houses to scale back water consumption to be able to liberate provide for future developments.
“That can assist, and it’ll imply we will retrofit present housing inventory, however we want swifter motion on potential reservoirs,” he added.
Gove unveiled his plans in a speech final July, when he promised to ship “a significant new quarter for town” with “stunning built-in neighbourhoods” whereas “supercharging innovation and defending inexperienced areas”. His division initially deliberate for as much as 250,000 new houses, in accordance with reviews on the time.
He appointed Peter Freeman, chair of Houses England, the federal government physique that funds reasonably priced housing within the UK, to run a Cambridge Supply Group to start scoping the work, backed by £5mn.
Gove lowered the deliberate variety of houses to 150,000 in subsequent feedback final December to The Occasions, which described a map exhibiting plans for developments on the wall of his workplace.
Smith mentioned council leaders have been nonetheless ready to be advised who was on the supply group, or whether or not they would have a seat on the desk, greater than six months after it was first introduced.
She added that they had not even been in a position to see Gove’s map of the plans. “These plans are usually not being shared with us. We ask to see [the map] on a regular basis. The dearth of transparency is actually extraordinary.”
The Division for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities acknowledged that Cambridge confronted water shortage points and had established the event company to enhance supply of the plan.
“From the start we’ve been open concerning the challenges Cambridge faces, which is why we created a supply group to work with native individuals and councils on our imaginative and prescient for town,” a spokesperson added.