Cambridgeshire Capacity Study

This article was published in 1998, in Newsletter 17.

Cambridgeshire County Council is consulting the public on the Cambridgeshire Capacity Study, which aims to identify principles for the allocation of new housing in the county until 2016. This may at first glance seem unrelated to cycling, but in fact whatever decision is made has important implications for the nature of travel and transport within the county – which in turn affects cycling.

Central government’s projection of new housing need in Cambridgeshire is 71 000 new dwellings. This figure has been rejected by SCEALA, the association of eastern counties (Cambs, Norfolk & Suffolk), who propose an alternative figure of 45 000. Both figures are over and above the existing commitments for 35 500 dwellings, which means that either way the county is faced with a massive increase in households over the next twenty years – although the population does not increase so much, as existing households divide up for various reasons.

The purpose of the study is to determine how to make the decision about where to locate these households. Chesterton Consultancy has produced a consultation paper on the county’s behalf which identifies six key issues to be taken into account: market demand for housing, the preference for developing on ‘brownfield’ sites, the need to protect the green belt, accessibility of public transport, accessibility to nearby employment, and existing development constraints and opportunities. Whichever of their suggested options is chosen there will be significant implications for cyclists. For example, all of them create a need for increased travelling, and it is thus crucial for cyclists to ask what kinds of travelling are to be facilitated alongside the development of housing.

A conference of mainly planners and local councillors organised by the county to discuss the study proved surprisingly positive in its commitment to sustainability and to non car based transport .Susan Owens of Cambridge University Department of Geography received a very warm reception. She highlighted changing social priorities towards the environment, sustainability and transport. She argued against the old ‘predict and provide’ approach, in favour of some kind of demand management. For example, with changed assumptions about the inclusion of car parking within the space needed for a new house, the number of new dwellings built on a given piece of land might be radically increased.

The consultation continues until 13 April. Whilst it isn’t clear which of these options will produce the most beneficial outcome for cyclists, I feel it is important for cyclists to take part in the consultation and to air cycling concerns well in advance of any decisions being formally taken. Consultation leaflets can be obtained from local authority offices, or on the web (at

Paul Rosen