Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Campaign to Protect Rural England

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In July the Government launched the first of three public consultations on the Spatial Framework for the Ox-Cam Arc, which will remain open until 12th October. The government’s official website with three important accompanying documents and a link to the online consultation survey is here.

The Ox-Cam Arc is a Government plan to increase the total number of jobs, houses and people in the five counties of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire by 60-65% by 2050 to help “achieve the area’s full economic potential”.

Ox-cam Arc Districts

The region currently has a population of c. 3.7 m people who will be massively impacted by the proposed 1 million homes to be built, plus associated infrastructure and industry/businesses. There is no doubt at all that all the government is interested in is GROWTH. Not climate change, or the environment, or quality of life. Yet the government documents imply that the Arc can do everything: provide great economic growth AND a wonderful environment AND make everyone healthy and happy.

Decisions on such major developments cannot be made just by government and property developers (many of whom are major donors to government). The voices of the people need to be heard loud and clear, and the government consultation has too many “leading” questions for it to deliver accurate results. That is why the campaigning group Stop the Arc has created an alternative questionnaire to that created by the government for the stage 1 consultation. The survey is quick to complete (about 5 five minutes) so PLEASE take the time to do it, and then to pass on the link to as many people as possible: It is vital to get a real feel for what people think about the Ox-Cam Arc’s growth agenda over the next three decades.


Cambridge based campaigning group "Friends of the Cam" are holding their fifth talk on rivers and watercourses online on Tuesday 12th Oct 2021 at 7pm.

This is following a porevious postponement. Those who have already booked for the talk should have been informed of the changes by Eventbrite, and should not need to re-book.

More details can be found at

Friends of the Cam would welcome additional bookings from others who can now attend the changed date.

Their guest speaker is Professor Steve Ormerod, and his talk is entitled “The state of British rivers: out of sight, out of mind?”

Steve Ormerod is a former Chairman of the invertebrate charity Buglife, and a former Chairman of the RSPB for whom he is currently Vice-president. He is currently Professor of Ecology at Cardiff University, Deputy Chairman of Natural Resources Wales and a member of the UK Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

Drawing on more than 40 years' experience of research into global change effects on freshwater ecosystems, he will consider some of the pressures on rivers - for example from climate change, legacy pollutants and microplastics - and some of the consequences of these pressures for river organisms. His talk will also reveal some of the benefits of actions taken to reduce impacts, for example through regulation or sensitive catchment management.

For more information about Friends of the Cam, see On 21st June this year, they declared the Rights of the River Cam following the Universal Declaration of River Rights:

 Universal Rights of River Cam

Cambridge based campaigning group "Friends of the Cam" are declaring the rights of the River Cam on midsummer evening Monday 21st June at 6pm with a celebration for people of all ages from 4pm to 9pm. The group hopes this will highlight the urgent need to reverse over-abstraction and pollution of the river and the encroachment of massive levels of unsustainable building and infrastructure in our area and across the region.

To join the gathering, meet west of the footbridge on Jesus Green from 4pm for a celebration of the river with a picnic, drawing and painting for children, songs, music, poetry and an art display. There will also be an open mic where people can tell of their connection to the river.

At 6pm there will be a formal declaration of the rights of the river following the Universal Declaration of River Rights (see image) and the practice of indigenous peoples over thousands of years. Messages of support will be read from areas of the world where river rights are already recognised.

 Universal Rights of River Cam


The declaration of river rights will be adapted for the Cam, including:

  • the right to flow and be free from over-abstraction
  • the right to be free from pollution
  • the right to be fed by sustainable aquifers
  • the right to perform essential functions within the ecosystem
  • the right to native biodiversity
  • and the right to restoration.

In declaring the rights of the river participants will become its guardians, recognising that its rights have been breached in the past, and will oppose all new building and development which override the rights of the Cam and its feeder chalk streams.

Music for relaxing and dancing will continue up to around 9pm.

For more information about Friends of the Cam, see


How many individuals comprise 8,500 responses?

The consultation by Greater Cambridge Shared Planning (GCSP) on the new Local Plan was carried out in January and February 2020, and referred to as the "First Conversation".

The website says that it received "over 8,500 comments and responses". Analysis by CPRE shows that GCSP counted each question answered as an individual response - but did not count the number of individual people responding.

And when suggestions for development sites (which are unlikely to be suggested by residents) are removed, the number of questions answered falls to 7,800.

! In the Opus 2 Consult system, the highest number of individuals replying to one of the 50 questions was 66; some questions received fewer than 20 responses from individuals. So, even if all the email responses (1,020) were from individuals, which is not the case, the maximum number of responses received from individuals would be 1,086. Not exactly 8,500!

! A number of responses have been counted twice.

! There are a significant number of responses from commercial interests, sometimes in a corporate name and sometimes in the name of an individual. GCSP stated: “Some respondents on Opus Consult were agents representing multiple clients. In many cases these respondents submitted an identical response multiple times on behalf of different clients. These are considered as separate representations as they were submitted on behalf of separate respondents. For the purposes of plan-making and responding to issues raised in the consultation, it is the content of representations, not the amount of them, that will be evaluated.” So multiple versions of responses will be counted to make up numbers.

! The area has a population of about 280,000. 66 people represent 0.0235 per cent, or 1 in 4,200 people. 1086 people would only represent 0.388 per cent of the population. Can that be a sound basis for long-term policy making?




In January and February 2020 Greater Cambridge Shared Planning, (GCSP), held the “First Conversation” styled as being “about what the new Local Plan should contain”.

Subsequently, the GCSP have claimed on their website to have received “..over 8,500 comments and responses to the consultation questions from a huge range of people, over 650 suggested sites for development and 21 sites for green spaces.”

At first glance this appeared to be an exceptionally high level of response from the citizens of Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire (current population c.280,000) for this type of consultation.

So, following conversations with local representatives, CPRE agreed to examine the claimed numbers in more detail. The steps taken and the outcome is as follows below.

Steps Taken

The following records published via the GCSP web site were read and examined.

First conversation results

Spreadsheet titled - gclp-first-conversation-website-comments-2020-09-15 Comments received via the GCSPS website

Spreadsheet titled - gclp-first-conversation-opus-2-consult-and-email-responses-2020-09-15 Comments received via the Opus 2 consult system and through email

Detailed review of comments registered and published on GCSPS web site Comments received via the Opus 2 consult system and through email

Results and Comments

1. The claim made on the web site of over 8,500 comments and responses appears to be misleading. Firstly, it does not make clear that this was not the number of individuals or organisations who made responses but the number of questions answered on a 50-item questionnaire plus some other responses.

2. This is further clarified in paragraph 6.1 of the Report dated 16 October 2020 which states:

“We received responses and comments to the consultation through a number of channels:


Means of responding  Number of responses 
Responses using the Local Plan website comment forms  1020 
Responses using the Opus 2 Consult system or submitted via email (excluding Call for Sites and Call for Green Sites  6588 
Call for Sites (including late site submissions up to 16 October 2020)  675 
Call for Green Sites  21 
Feedback postcards from events  226 

We also received general notes and feedback from the meetings held during the consultation period, which are not counted as responses in the table above.

The total number of responses (each response being an answer to a single question, multiple answers may have been submitted by the same respondent to different questions), was 7,874, excluding Call for Sites and Call for Green Sites submissions.”

In other words, the total number of responses was 8,530 including Site and Green Site submissions. Therefore, the wording of the web site, “We received over 8,500 comments and responses to the consultation questions from a huge range of people, over 650 suggested sites for development and 21 sites for green spaces.” effectively double-counts the sites for development and the sites for green spaces because it appears additive.

3. CPRE next examined the 7,874 individual responses made using the two spreadsheets and the Opus 2 application on the website with the objective of determining how many individuals actually responded to the consultation.

4. In the spreadsheet titled “gclp-first-conversation-website-comments-2020-09-15.xlsx” it was found that the majority of the responses listed do not provide any information about whose comments and views are being expressed. Furthermore the number of lines of response on each sheet is not an indicator because some sheets include multiple choice questions, in others individuals have stated that they have answered more than once and throughout the number of responses to each question is very variable. Thus it is not possible to identify the number of individuals included in this group. However, it is clear from the wording and content of the responses that many are from individuals.

5. Using the spreadsheet titled “gclp-first-conversation-opus-2-consult-and-email-responses-2020-09-15” and the detailed review of comments registered and published on GCSPS web site, it was possible to draw some clear conclusions as follows:

  • The highest number of individuals to respond to any of the questions posed was 66,
  • A number of the questions received less than 20 responses from individuals,
  • In the spreadsheet responses from both individuals and groups have been counted twice. This occurs on the majority of the questions posed. For example:
    • In question 26, the response from Endurance Estates was cited twice,
    • In question 31, comments from Lolworth Development Ltd were cited twice when two individuals from the company responded both via the agent, Bidwells,
    • In question 31 the respondent James Manning, ID 49100, submitted comments with no agent cited, then a further response, ID number 49294, was submitted via his agent Carter Jonas.
    • In question 33, comments have been received from or on behalf of Endurance Estates five times, once submitted by a Miss Claire Shannon.
    • Comments have also been accepted from Miss Claire Shannon who appears as an individual, see Q1 ID52356. However, exactly the same comments to the same questions have also been received from the agents Cheffins ID 45502, 45419, 44998, 44940, Maarnford-Butler family ID 44597 and Mr Ben Pridgeon ID 44554.

There are numerous examples like this where agents have given the same answer several times on behalf of different clients and where individuals acting as agents have then answered the same question as an individual. Some have made clear how or why they have answered more than once, others have not.

To its credit, Greater Cambridge Shared Planning states in its document Greater Cambridge Local Plan First Conversation, Call for Sites and Call for Green Sites Data -Report updated 16 October 2020 on page 8 “Some respondents on Opus Consult were agents representing multiple clients. In many cases these respondents submitted an identical response multiple times on behalf of different clients. These are considered as separate representations as they were submitted on behalf of separate respondents. For the purposes of plan-making and responding to issues raised in the consultation, it is the content of representations, not the amount of them, that will be evaluated.”

However, no such clarification is highlighted on its website.


Given that the population of Greater Cambridge (2020) is c. 280,000 it is questionable how well the First Conversation Consultation does reflect the views of residents.

The majority of responses originate from organisations and/or their agents.

There are occurrences where responses could be construed as misrepresenting the nature of their origin and there are certainly many duplications (and more) of responses.

Is a maximum of 66 individuals responding to a question really representative of the views of local residents in a population of 280,000?

CPRE fully understands how difficult it is to conduct consultations, especially when the subjects are very complex. However, this Local Plan is likely to have a long-lasting and highly significant influence on the future character and setting of Cambridge and its surroundings. It is therefore imperative that local residents are properly and fully engaged in the decision-making process and not the victims of some overarching plan for ‘growth’ dreamt up by Whitehall.

We urgently need your help to secure a Deposit Return Scheme…

Sound familiar? Two years ago, you supported our calls for a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) with the potential to cut all forms of drinks container litter.

Yet, despite this resulting in the then environment secretary committing to bringing in a DRS, that message seems to have been forgotten.

The government has released another consultation delaying everything until the end of 2024 at the earliest, and suggesting a half-hearted design that would set the system up to fail.

We’re fed up. So we’re sending a message in a bottle, signed by thousands of us, directly to the Prime Minister.

We’re telling him to get a move on - will you add your name now?

Sign the message in a bottle

Our countryside is littered with discarded, single-use drinks bottles and cans. They harm wildlife, pollute our waterways and spoil the beauty of nature.

And it’s completely unnecessary.

We’ve already won this argument. Even big drinks producers like Coca-Cola agree that an all-in DRS is the answer to our litter problem.

But a handful of trade bodies are trying to confuse and distract the government on this. Together we can drown out their empty claims with a message straight to our decision-makers: don’t dilute or delay deposit return.

Will you join us for one last push?

Add my name

At the end of May, we’ll be taking our message in a bottle directly to the Prime Minister.

With enough of us taking part, we can finally put the wheels in motion for the solution we need to our litter crisis.

Thank you for your ongoing support,
Maddy, Sam, Pat and Mark
CPRE the countryside charity

Read our response to the government's delay

Friends of the River Cam invite you to hear Paul Powlesland, a barrister who campaigns for the legal recognition of the rights of nature. His online talk is entitled “Recognising Nature Rights” and will be held on Tuesday 18th May from 7 - 8.30 p.m.

Obtain your free tickets from

About Lawyers for Nature and Paul Powlesland

Paul founded Lawyers for Nature under the banner: ‘representing the natural world and all who are seeking to defend it’. Lawyers for Nature gives legal advice, proposes legislation, and provides free legal representation for environmental activists. He managed to stop the illegal arrests of activists in Sheffield standing under trees to protect them and those previously arrested received compensation. He has a particular love for rivers. He set up friends of the River Roding in Barking to revive a stretch of the river- bank and restore access for the local community. He has stated the need for urgent action to defend the natural world: ‘We stand at the most crucial juncture in the history of humanity. It’s a really weird time since we are at the “make-or-break” of our civilisation... No part of our civilisation will remain untouched if it collapses; not even our legal system and yet everyone is blithely carrying on as if this issue is not real.’


The controversial Oxford-Cambridge Expressway was cancelled in March but the Government still aims to increase economic output of the Oxford-Cambridge region with one million jobs and one million houses, with Cambridgeshire’s share (271,000) increasing the entire housing stock of the county by 2050 by more than 80%.

Plans for mitigation imagine “doubling nature” in places by 2050, but this will only come at the cost of losing other areas to development, and as Dieter Helm, Chair of Defra Natural Capital Committee, admits ‘Net environmental gain has never been achieved at scale’.

The River Cam and its tributaries are in their death throes, sucked dry by water companies and polluted by sewage. How can pumping the rivers full of even more sewage be part of ‘doubling nature’ or ensuring a ‘lasting green legacy’? Following the recent Panorama programme on river degradation, a petition was launched on the Government Petitions website, asking the Government to ‘Ban Water Companies discharging raw sewage into water courses’ Local Plans and Local Transport Strategies take the Ox-Cam Arc ambitions for granted, about which the general public has been neither informed nor consulted.

At a recent Westminster Forum Paul Leinster, a former CEO of the Environment Agency and lead member on Natural Capital for the OxCam Arc, the incoming chair of Water Resources East, the brainchild of Anglian Water, admitted that what to do with the wastewater is one of the biggest issues for the OxCam Arc.

As the Guardian and others have highlighted, Anglian Water, the developer partner of Cambridge City Council, is a serial offender. Feargal Sharkey, the leading campaigner on rivers, who spoke at an earlier event hosted by Friends of the River Cam said in his evidence to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee: “Water companies have paid out over £60bn in dividends to shareholders while filling our rivers with sewage.” Watch at

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