Silicon Fen tests limits on growth

May 14, 1999

The growth of higher education and high-technology industry around Cambridge could grind to a halt because of a policy clash.

Presenting scenarios for the region's development over the next 50 years, a report out this week warns Cambridge is labouring under two "inconsistent" and "unsustainable" policies - one aimed at containing growth, the other at encouraging expansion of science-based industry. This has resulted in rising house prices, forcing people working in Cambridge to live outside the area's green belt. This causes long-distance commuting, generating congestion and traffic pollution.

The report, by Cambridge Futures, a consortium of local business leaders, politicians and the university, warns that a major rethink of planning and industrial policies is needed if Cambridge is to continue growing and remain home to the "greatest concentration of high technology in Europe". "Social sustainability is under threat as the city and surrounding area become the preserve of the very wealthy or of those protected in social housing."

The study suggests that maintaining growth trends in the area will result in a population increase of 45 per cent in the next 50 years. Between 2001 and 2016, it estimates 42,000 new households and a equivalent number of jobs will be accommodated.

To accommodate the increases, Cambridge Futures suggests several options including encroaching on green-belt land. These could be reinforced with investment in public transport and "virtual highways" that take advantage of advances in IT to allow remote communication.

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