What Would a True Green Project Look Like?
There is an absolutely huge amount of building going on right now in Abbey and wider Cambridge – from the Marleigh development north of Marshall’s, to Trumpington, to huge plans for 8,000 homes on the current sewage works in Chesterton – barely 250 acres (=32 households / acre) – putting it at nearly double the most dense London boroughs. Tower Hamlets is, for example, on average 20 households / acre.
With the prospect of the Marshall’s airport move now all but confirmed, developers are eagerly waiting to squeeze another 12,000 homes onto this ’newly available’ land over the next decade. As featured in previous green view newsletters all this expansion is and will put even higher strain on the already depleted natural environment. For example, the National Environment Agency data released in September showed that the River Cam has only “poor to moderate” environmental status, a shocking fact for this iconic river.
Although developers sing praises that many of these projects are on ‘pre-used’ land – in the case of e.g. the sewage works, previous users are often just displaced onto Green Belt.
In the latest consultation the council claimed “responding to the climate emergency runs through every aspect of our plans” – a blatant attempt to pull the wool over our eyes! Excerpts of my response: “any new plan in Cambridge should increase and not decrease the accessible proportion [of green space] to existing residents in the locality… this must include a plan to re-wild at least as much land as being built on again… to truly improve the green credentials of the local economy, rather than pretending building projects are green on their own”
Fundamentally, responding to the climate and ecological emergency has to include a major shift to a new way of living. Many people have watched the latest Attenborough documentary “Extinction – the facts” (BBC) and it comes highly recommended! I found myself deeply moved by the sense that environmental destruction is ‘no one’s fault in particular’ – but happens of collective blindness. Yet, we can have political will against narrow, developer profit: we can start creating those changes on a local level here and now.
What then, would a “True Green” project look like? Is there such a thing?
I think so – and it involves – primarily re-wilding large swathes of cleared land (not token areas) with new woodlands to absorb carbon, increase biodiversity, and set up communities to reconnect to that land. It’s easy to lose sight of really how much land we live off in a large City. My imaginations of what Greens would do with all that Marshall’s land, which may soon be repurposed after it stops being an airport, are show in the image below. With a vision like this, I aspire to moderate our current council’s ambition to ‘build build build’!