What is Cambridge for?

Government is apparently thinking about encouraging innovation in Cambridge, again.

All innovation in Cambridge stems from a choice 800 years ago, that the University remains very proud of, when a bunch of people left Oxford and chose to be in Cambridge instead. Their successors still want to be here.

What is Cambridge for, beyond a legacy of a small bunch of refugees from Oxford? 

Because Cambridge is Cambridge, a new batch of optimism shows up each year, and some will be educated into innovators who wish to stay, as they always have, if they can stay as they always have until now.

The best way to support future innovators is to look after the place that looks after them. 

For readers with children, when you’re picking them up from school today (or think about when you did pick them up from primary school), there’s the row of pegs with children’s names on them. Which of those kids will be able to live here, in a decade or two? Which of those kids will be unable to do any of the things that Cambridge says it can do for people?

Because when people are earning above average salaries and still can’t afford to live here, that’s a problem for the staff who are necessary for that primary school to open tomorrow.

All innovation in Cambridge is entirely dependent upon the ecosystem around Cambridge.

posted: 09 Jul 2023

More planning conditions

About half of projects that come back for discharge of planning conditions do it only once. 

The 98 different reference numbers linked to “7/0620/“ suggest a different and particular approach to planning approvals for Clay Farm in Trumpington – it’s big, but that’s double the next count, which is the biomedical campus site with 41 linked applications, being chased by the 37 applications for refurbishing Clare (18/0125/) and 33 for Homerton (13/1250/). The 40 applications for “Murdoch House’ is ridiculous (15/1759/). 

Clay Farm has  686 documents across its 98 different reviews, take out the cover sheet for the request itself, that’s around 588 attachments across those 98 reviews, which suggests one approach to the process. It’s equally hard to believe that the 593 documents for this one application for a planning condition discharge is the best way of doing things, especially when only 209 documents were provided for the original application, or the 193 documents for these 15 conditions (127 in the original outline, plus so many interlayered applications I’m not going to deal with the hierarchy).

Some of the 238 documents in one discharge application for the Mill Road Depot site couldn’t have been done prior to first approvals, but surely some of them could.

It also shows who hides complexity in the conditions – a planning application with 209 documents originally and 593 in a condition made some choices which are different to an application which had a ratio the other way round. 

We can see how long it takes to discharge planning conditions, but documents can also evidence which applicants are the least prepared. Working out which applications are complex and which are slow, and who tries to evade obligations (and gets their applications to discharge planning conditions rejected as a result), is something that’s possible

Barriers to accessing this information

The codes above can be put in the search box at the bottom of this linked page. The (idox) planning site is optimised to be hostile to transparency and access, so you have to cut and paste the reference codes to get search results. Commercial providers are incentivised to offer a variety of complex and ingenious barriers between people looking for documents, and the publicly available documents themselves. 

It’s as if idox watched the opening of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and considered it user research.  

posted: 01 Apr 2023