Rod Liddle

Insipid little townships

Insipid little townships
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Just returned from Cambourne, in Cambridgeshire – a town you may have heard of on account of its extraordinary (if you believe the press) birthrate, which is 100 times the national average, or something. It’s a new town, part of the government’s strategy to pave over all of western Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and those remaining bits of Essex which aren’t paved over already. There is the air of David Lynch about Cambourne, or even John Wyndham; pristine, desolate and soulless. Almost no local shops, just a giant Morrisons and a petrol station, one or two blank-faced pubs. Almost everybody in it is roughly the same age and enjoys roughly the same income level (which explains the birthrate); there is a stillness and vapidity about the place.

Many more Cambournes are planned – quite a few of them near, er, Cambourne; low to medium cost boltholes a handy commute from a nearby city (in this case, of course, Cambridge). But, the houses aside, devoid of all the stuff we associate with the term “home”. A place of transience in which people breathe, breed and move on – not actively unpleasant, just not actively anything. I suppose this is the price we pay for over-population, a string of silent dormitories each with its own supermarket. Do people enjoy living in these places?