Michael Gove latest housing plans for South Cambridgeshire

24 Jul 2023
Pippa Heylings beside a road on one of the new housing developments in South Cambs

Here is my press statement on Michael Gove's speech on housing plans for Cambridge.

Michael Gove risks killing the golden goose in Cambridgeshire

In Greater Cambridge, we already have some of the most ambitious housebuilding plans in the country to meet the needs of local families and also of the world-class and fast-growing life sciences and tech sectors. There has been huge work undertaken to ensure these homes, offices and lab spaces are of high standard, environmentally sustainable and protect the character of the city and the villages in South Cambs. There are indeed big infrastructure issues to resolve and we have been asking government for investment to help resolve them. However, these latest top-down imposed plans from Michael Gove and local Conservative MPs risk riding roughshod over local community voices, over the new Local Plan and over local environmental concerns. They are taking local people for granted once again. They are taking away local democratic accountability and replacing it with decrees from on high in Whitehall. They can’t be trusted with the future of our area.

Michael Gove and local Conservative MPs risk killing the goose that lays the golden eggs by racing in and overheating what is already one of the fastest growing areas in the country.  What we do need is world-class water infrastructure and funding for public transport to be delivered urgently in order to make what is already planned possible. We need investment to clean up our rivers and chalk streams. It is good to hear some mention of possible investment for water and transport and we await the details. 

There is a housing crisis and we do need to build housing that is genuinely affordable, particularly social housing for rent. But the government’s new policies do not help build the homes that people need. In fact, changes to the Section 106 developer contribution obligations in the new Levelling Up Bill could mean a drastic reduction in the number of affordable homes built.

What is of huge concern – beyond all the rhetoric of this announcement – is that the Conservative’s Levelling Up Bill will also make it difficult for an area like ours to deliver our sustainable vision. I recently wrote to Michael Gove about this when we first heard about the 250,00 houses. In the new Bill, they propose to ditch the requirement on developers to stump up the money early on to ensure that vital infrastructure such as GP surgeries, public transport, water and sewage and schools will be in place as new developments are built out.

Michael Gove said nothing in his speech about these changes in the Levelling Up Bill. Behind the bluster, the reality is sobering. This is a developer’s charter dressed up in a desparate attempt to overcome Conservative failures to provide young people and businesses with the homes they dream of and need.