Greater Huntingdon…

The population of Cambridgeshire is growing1 and there’s plenty of demand for further growth2, but developing new places for people to live, work and play in Cambridgeshire is tricky. Cambridge itself is surrounded by green belt that few seem willing to sacrifice, despite much of it being described as dull and featureless.3 There’s lots of development around Peterborough, but it cannot be expected to handle all of the population growth. A few new towns are being developed (Cambourne and Northstowe), but these are not well suited to grow beyond a certain size.4

Notably, Cambridgeshire is curious in that it has two small-ish cities but does not yet have any large towns like Wellingborough, Corby and Kettering in neighbouring Northamptonshire. Many of the bigger towns to the east of the county (March, Wisbech and the city of Ely) are surrounded by flat, low-lying land that’s at risk of flooding by both river and, in the longer term, sea. On this basis5, I would suggest that these towns should not be top of the list for future growth. However, the bigger towns in the west of Cambridgeshire are better suited to handling significant growth and providing Cambridgeshire with some large towns: Huntingdon and St Neots.

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  1. There are a variety of good reasons for this, such as great employment opportunities in Cambridge itself and the Metropolitan Green Belt covering much of the land between Cambridgeshire and London. []
  2. The house price to wage ratio in the county is currently the highest in the country. []
  3. I recall reading a news article where a developer used words to this effect several years ago in Cambridge News. Unfortunately their website does not keep articles around for very long (for example, the Cambridge Automated Metro article has disappeared), so I can’t provide a reference. However, it’s not difficult to see their point, even if you disagree with their implication that the green belt should therefore not be kept. []
  4. For example, there are reasons there weren’t towns in those locations in the first place, though that doesn’t mean that further growth is impossible. []
  5. There are other reasons to discount these towns too, such as poor transport links. []