Early plans for a reservoir in the Fens to water Cambridge & South Cambs

The *earliest* it can open is 2035. Which means a five year gap between the start of the 2030 local planning period and when the first new homes in that period can be occupied

Read Anglian Water’s document here.

You can see the concept below.

Above – p8 – projected area where a reservoir could be built

For those of you unfamiliar with that part of the world, it’s mainly agricultural and wetland with few buildings. Much of it is below sea level, hence not the best place to build much – not least due to rising damp issues. When I worked on housing policy in the civil service, professionals in the industry told me it was the Netherlands who were the pioneers in this field (flood prevention, drainage, and preventing rising damp) – for obvious reasons.

Above – From G-maps centring on in the Welney Wetland Centre which many children in Cambridge will have visited on school trips. I was one of them back in 1989/1990. The proposed area they are looking at is within the triangle of Downham Market in the north, Ely in the south, and Chatteris in the south-west.

Several of us debated the merits or otherwise of the proposals online. The above point from Mr Lindley seems to make the most sense given some of the flooding issues that the River Great Ouse has, and how a reservoir might help alleviate some of the flooding risks downstream.

There is a further opportunity to build out the Cambridge Sport Lake Proposals by Waterbeach as a further flood protection scheme for Ely and the villages on the lower course of the River Cam. At the same time it takes some of the rowing activities off the River Cam which is already over capacity as far as damage to flora and fauna is concerned.

Costs and timeframes

Early indications predict £1.5billion – which means you can expect that to double – even accounting for optimism bias.


Expect the rest of the decade at least to be taken up by planning and consultation, as well as raising the huge finances. At the same time, the scheme will not be short of lenders given the expectations around Cambridge’s housing and economic growth. Too many people and firms have a vested interest in seeing construction in both housing and industry take off that they simply will not let the lack of water infrastructure be a barrier to this.

And for the construction itself…

The earliest opening date is 2035, but more realistically they think it will be closer to 2040. So what plans do the water companies have to get consumption down if the rate of housing is to continue?

Too many houses?

That’s what the MP for South Cambs complained about in the Cambridge Independent. The problem with this line if you are a Conservative is that your ministers above you are fully behind the proposals for the Ox Cam Arc – that ambition paper from 2019 launched under Theresa May’s Government.

It’s all very well saying “Ah – but Boris is in charge now!”

The problem is that the present consultation refers the public to the joint declaration with the 1million homes target – the last of the 3 related content links. And going by said MP’s voting record in the Commons, he’s an ultra-loyalist so it’s hard to see him voting against the Government’s proposals where it counts – the opposite of what his predecessor Heidi Allen did before leaving the party altogether. Ms Allen now chairs the longstanding Cambridge Housing Society Group, following on from high profile local political figures from a previous generation including Dr Alex Wood, Mrs Dorothy Stevenson & Cllr Clara Rackham.

How times change.

If you are interested in the longer term future of Cambridge, and on what happens at the local democracy meetings where decisions are made, feel free to:

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