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Growth of Godmanchester

Max Cashback

Comments on development and future implications for the Town

Much has been debated, printed and commented upon regarding the growth of Godmanchester and the future pressures for development here, amongst the overall pressing needs of the Cambridge sub-region.

  • So what is the reality of changes here in the past, and, what can we suggest
    for the future?
  • If we stagnate where will our young people live and without them, will the
    town slowly lose diversity and prosperity?

A few personal thoughts of Stuart Bond, follow.

Now, with an emotive opening paragraph like that, I hope it will encourage some of you to read on and maybe to consider how we can maintain the sense of community, you might even to write an article or two in future for the web site and magazine, reflecting on your own experiences here and elsewhere and the lessons learnt which we may try to apply in Godmanchester? Whatever your views on my comments below, I hope this can be a catalyst to spark debate.

You can obtain data on the population statistics and many other data sets from the Government's National Statistics web site www.statistics.gov.uk which includes information on national, regional and local level data and predictions used for planning our future needs. Click on “Neighbourhood” at the top of the page and simply enter the postcode of interest.

Looking back at census data for Godmanchester shows that in 1801 the population was 1573 which reached a peak of 2438 in 1861, a growth of 55% in just 60 years. No doubt such a dramatic growth was very real to the families here at the time. This was followed by a slow decline to a total population of 2017 in 1901. The following table and chart allow us to consider the changes over time and one should note it has not been one of continuous growth. Indeed, it is interesting to observe that had the trend of the early C19th continued we would now have had a population of over
4500 simply based on a crude extrapolation.

Change (%)

Obviously in the last century, the housing developments of the 1980s led to a step change in population, but the growth subsequently has been in line with the trend over the preceding 200 years. So, the growth has not been as large as other parts of the country and Godmanchester retains a small town / village atmosphere. However, consider other rural communities which have not had any growth and that this has resulted in a stagnation of the village and frequently resulted in no affordable and suitable properties for young people, closure of doctors surgeries, shops, post offices and village pubs. So a controlled growth would appear beneficial.

The Future - can we develop Godmanchester and still retain the qualities we all enjoy?
We all accept that we need to make provisions for our young people to live with some security of tenure in their own space. I find it shocking that in the past decade we have moved from a situation where it was rare indeed for someone to still live in the parental home once they were 25, to a situation now where the average first time buyer is over 30 years old. Unlike our neighbours in mainland Europe, we do not have a history or infrastructure that allows people to rent for tens of years in a secure position.

In the UK the private rental stock has until recently tended to result in periods of tenancy little more than two or three years at the most before needing to move. Hardly conducive to bringing up a family requiring education. In addition, our household sizes are changing. There is a trend to more people living alone but without housing stock that is suitable, they remain in larger properties.

So, we do need to develop more housing in the region and with it the necessary infrastructure for transport, amenities and sufficient job / career opportunities locally. Managed correctly, using best environmental practice such as low light pollution, consideration of safe pedestrian and cycle access, transport and infrastructure requirements etc should enable quality development to meet these needs.

Note however that there are no plans for massive housing development of Godmanchester within the Local Development Guidance (previously Local Structure Plan) from Huntingdonshire District Council, although developers can make applications outside of these guidelines if they wish and it is then necessary for you to make your views heard on whether you believe such changes are desirable and beneficial to the entire community.

So even without significant expansion, Godmanchester has coped favourably with growth of around 10% per decade over the past 200 years. If future growth is managed well, then the town should continue to prosper and provide opportunities to those who wish to live here. This will require your involvement, if you care of course.

Any comments? E-mail and I'll open a discussion topic in the forums.

Stuart Bond

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