The university views the greenbelt as a 'nuisance', says CPRE chairJackyR / Wikimedia Commons

University growth plans, which include increases to student and staff accommodation, have drawn criticism from environmental charities and local government, who fear the plans could contribute to the destruction of Cambridge’s Green Belt.

A report published last month by the Cambridge and Peterborough branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) warns that the Cambridge Green Belt is “under attack as never before.”

CPRE named the University and its colleges as the reason for much of this encroachment on rural space. In particular, CPRE drew attention to Queens’ College’s proposal to expand its student accommodation capacity, as well as a consortium of colleges’ proposals to build thousands more homes for students and staff.

There is also concern about the expansion of a science park, proposed by Trinity College, and development on the University’s Biomedical Campus.

The chairman of CPRE Cambridge and Peterborough, Alan James, said: “Historically the University is the reason for Cambridge, it’s the reason for the foundation of Cambridge and heaven help us it looks as if it’s going to be responsible also for potentially the destruction of Cambridge.”

The CPRE has accused the colleges of simply being “letting agencies”, and James believes that the University views the city’s Green Belt as a “nuisance” and that “the University and the colleges are interested in money. That is their driver. It’s not education, it’s money. And the more money they can make, the better.”

There are also worries that development in the Green Belt could damage the character of Cambridge as a city and allow urban sprawl.

This report comes after the University was accused of wanting to “industrialise” the countryside earlier in the year, over plans to build a solar farm on Green Belt land in an attempt to achieve its goal to be net zero by 2038.


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The plans were approved despite Cambridge City Council stating that the proposed solar farm would “result in harm to the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside”.

There is also great concern about development in Cambridge’s Green Belt after Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove, announced plans for 250,000 new homes, a major new quarter and “supercharging” Cambridge as a science capital.

Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire, Anthony Browne, shared the charity’s sentiments stating the plans were “nonsense”. Cambridge City Council Leader, Mike Davey, also labelled the plans “absurd”.

The University told The Times: “The University of Cambridge takes a long-term perspective to managing and developing places where people and communities can thrive. All development plans are delivered responsibly and achieve high levels of sustainability”.