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  • I am 61
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You may think that Cambridge has very little to worry about.

What’s authentic and what’s acting for the real-life nom of ‘nomadland’?

It is that rarest of things in Britain - a real success. The gown-town has become a boom-town. All this and great architecture too.

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The people of Cambridge are not shy about noting any of this. Some may say they were a bit smug, but perhaps there is reason to be. The university is seen as outstripping Oxford these days. The town has attracted 1, hi-tech firms, with 35, rather good jobs to go with them. The county has been the fastest-growing in England for the last 20 years and is expected to be so for the next Why, even Bill Gates is a tourist when he comes to Cambridge. It is called Silicon Fen, but the locals have a better name for it: the Cambridge Phenomenon. People use this phrase a lot.

They do not bother to explain it because it is assumed that you know. But now there is Trouble in Phenomenon Land. The first hint of this is the fact that people are obsessed with the price of housing. And this is not a middle-class thing. This is a survival thing. A two-bedroom terraced house in the not-so-nice part of town is going for poundsFlats costing poundsor so are talked of in wonderment and horror. Cambridge has brought this on itself. In the Fifties, the architect William Holford had the vision that Cambridge must keep itself special. It must not become humdrum.

That meant no smokestacks, like dirty old Oxford, and no fringe development.

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The town has stayed true to the Holford Plan of Any newcomers who wanted to live in a reasonably priced family home were politely shown the way to a nice semi-detached out in the Fens. But not everyone obliged, and so housing prices kept climbing and the social mix became more extreme. It has been a wonderful life, but will not be so for much longer. The Government has told Greater Cambridge that it needs to build 71, new homes in the next 20 years. This is a lot. Cambridge itself has only 45, now. But everyone agrees that the boom must not turn to bust. The Phenomenon must not fail.

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So where do you put the houses? Cambridge itself is full up. And so the big debate has begun. Last week's public consultation exercise attracted 23 people on the panel alone.

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Everyone agrees on one thing: Cambridge must not become Berkshire. This prospect is viewed with horror.

There is therefore talk of a New Town, or even two. There are always the Fens, of course, but even one more commuter on top of the current 37, is too many. The green belt is truly in danger this time. I drive through this flat, boring, beautiful land on my way in to Cambridge. You can tell where it ends, because the green turns to brown and there are diggers everywhere. Here a science park, there a factory. Every project is flagged up as something like "innovation".

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It feels rather American. But only for an instant. Then I the traffic queue that is crawling towards the town centre. The ro get smaller as the architecture becomes more spectacular. It is claustrophobic.

Cambridge is not a city, it is a social, economic and scientific triumph. a phenomenon. yet because of its success people can't afford to live, work or travel there.

Soon it is like driving inside one of those ship-in-a-bottle things. There is nowhere to go: escape is always just another street away. The next day I take the train there. The station is a good hike from the city centre and I'm told this is because the colleges did not want it any closer.

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When you own most of the land in the city centre - as the colleges do - you can decide such things. The colleges seem to get the blame for much of what is wrong and right with this town, and with good reason. Some, such as Trinity, are not just rich but fabulously so. They have taken the land given to them by one King Henry or another and done extremely well. In a neat trick, the colleges have become mini-development corporations, ancient institutions of learning and hugely influential landowners all at once. All of it? She thinks for a moment. Planning is not a sexy topic ordinarily, but everyone in this town, from the richest venture capitalist to the poorest of men, talk of it with real passion.

Hermann Hauser, the founder of Acorn Computers and the head of the Amadeus Fund, is positively aggressive about it all. I am taken aback by such astronomical figures and say that many people seem impressed enough by Cambridge as it is.

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What about the Cambridge Phenomenon? Mr Hauser says no growth is simply unthinkable.

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Walter Herriot agrees. He is the manager of the Innovation Park, which is a launch-pad for new businesses.

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Mr Herriot says there are 20 millionaires on site as we speak. The ethos feels American in its studied casualness. Mr Herriot is not wearing a suit. He comes out to meet me.

He makes his own coffee. He says they try to be as American as possible. It is a can-do country and Cambridge needs to be more can-do too. Mr Herriot wants another 37, new jobs here. He wants Cambridge to be the knowledge-based centre of Europe in the 21st century. And that means houses, sooner rather than later. The green belt, he says, is a noose. Mr Herriot says that people whinge too much. He comes from Liverpool. Now there is a city that would love to have Cambridge's problems.

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So, at this point, we would have lost two world wars and would probably be a tourist economy having to take our clothes off, paint ourselves blue and run around trying to attract others to see us in our rural idyll. Michael Flood lives in a different Cambridge - a bedsit in the east of the city or, in fact, half a bedsit.

I find him ferreting around in a rubbish bin in a little park just off St John's Street, in the heart of the ancient centre.

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