Right this minute, somewhere in Cambridge, local residents are up in arms, fearful of what happens next and indignant that powerful outsiders care nothing for their peace of mind. Just about every tower crane on the Cambridge horizon is a marker representing neighbourhood dismay.
As the city planning department registers a continual stream of planning applications, many from national companies and construction giants, it is in reality recording a major transformation of the city by external forces, one that to many individuals is disruptive, worrying and deeply unsettling.
What is upsetting about all this is that it is unnecessary and could largely be avoided. After all, new buildings have risen from the ground in Cambridge for generations.
Cambridge Water, The Fitzwilliam Museum and most recently Nuffield Health, have all undertaken major building work here in the last decade, and in each case there was the impact of inconvenience, especially during the construction stages. What there was not, was undue alarm and a feeling of helplessness amongst the local residents.
Take Nuffield Health as an example. Months before the planning application for a new hospital to be built upon Trumpington Road was submitted to the city authorities, every near neighbour to the future construction site was aware of what was in prospect, because Nuffield Health told them. A vigorous dialogue between the incomer and the incumbents was conducted over several months of early-stage planning and at no time was this cut off. That the residents were well-briefed in advance throughout was of equal concern to the Nuffield Health project team as the architects’ design and the choice of bricks.
Residents took a deep breath, acknowledged there would be upheaval at times, then did everything to be tolerant wherever they could. Where an intolerable situation arose, it was dealt with immediately by Nuffield Health and the site project manager.
It can be done. If you know how.