Cambridge University needs 3,000 more staff, 5,000 more students and three new colleges to maintain its world-class position, according to a 25-year expansion plan revealed this week.
Plans to develop a 120-hectare swath of green belt land, which would take Cambridge city as far northwest as the M11, were issued this week as the first move in a potentially epic planning battle.
In anticipation of local protest, the university is promising to develop housing, shops, park-and-ride schemes, nature conservation areas and recreational space and even to build a primary school. It is trying to ease the pressures of traffic jams and spiralling house prices created by the university's presence at the heart of Silicon Fen. Cambridge could build thousands of the 22,000 new homes planned for the region on land it already owns.
The university already has a government commitment, published in the recent Regional Planning Guidance for East Anglia, to help nurture Cambridge as a world leader in higher education, research and knowledge-based industries. In stating its plans now, the university can get its intentions before the county council as it reviews the Cambridgeshire Structure plan, which involved a government-ordered review of the green belt.
In acknowledgement of the controversy over allegations of improper intervention by the prime minister into planning decisions for Oxford University's Said Business School, Cambridge vice-chancellor Alec Broers told staff that he would not seek ministerial support to gain consent for the plans.
Cambridge is staking its future on the proposals. It expects to expand student numbers to 21,000 over the next 25 years, while staff numbers will rise to 9,300. Its plans for housing, it said, would provide more affordable and accessible accommodation for staff, many of whom commute by car.
Future business opportunities created by the clustering of high-tech companies in the region could be jeopardised without more expansion, it said.
The plans will take years to come to fruition. Recent expansion on the West Cambridge site will be adequate to cover immediate needs. "We are looking to consult on our ideas with the councils, residents, businesses, members of the university and other interested parties," said the university.
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