“A Separate University Enclave” – Local politician lampoons University development programme

John Fox - News Reporter 7 August 2012

Cambridge City Councillor Lewis Herbert has sparked ‘town vs. gown’ controversy amid fears that Cambridge University’s North West Cambridge development plans for 2012 and onwards will marginalise community residents, creating a “separate university enclave”. “While the university is a benevolent and well-intentioned institution, it’s there for the benefit of the university,” blasted Herbert.

The project is a 20-year University plan to meet its residential and research accommodation needs in North West Cambridge. Herbert’s complaints arrive on the back of calls for amendments to the University’s bid for below-market-rent rates and property ownership restrictions to many of its post-doctoral staff. Some 1,500 properties will be set aside for employees against a tally of nearly 3,000 houses and 2,000 student bedrooms due for imminent construction. University bigwigs want resident staff to pay no more than 30% of their net income on accommodation expenses, in spite of an 8000-strong household waiting list from the non-university demographic.

A further proposed community centre plus open space known as ‘Storey’s Field’ will together fall under joint administration of both Cambridge City Council and Cambridge University if the university’s submitted planning application is given the prospective go-ahead in August 2012.

Having initially been identified in 2003 as a potential site of development within the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Structure Plan for the entire county, Herbert, councillor for Coleridge ward, spurns the development plans as contravening the ideal of university-city symbiosis. “Our concern is about how this scheme is going to integrate with the rest of the city,” he said.

He went on: “The university has ceded some control over the community facility and Storey’s Field but it’s controlling who gets an allotment, and it’s controlling who gets sport pitches.”

Cambridge City Council leader Tim Bick, however, sat squarely upon the proverbial fence: “I think it can offer the best of both of these institutions for all the community.”

Our own Vice Chancellor, Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, quashed Herbert’s incriminations of future tenant leasing: “At North West Cambridge we are determined to create a successful, sustainable, mixed-use community as an extension of the city, with buildings and public space of high quality design.”

John Fox – News Reporter