“Greater Cambridge looks forward to multiple long and bitter disputes with communities”

Pick up a copy of this week’s Cambridge Independent (23 June 2021) – it’s all in there. The next big decision is on 01 July at the Greater Cambridge Partnership Boardyou can read the 678 pages of meeting papers here.

Above – Chris Rand, Editor of the Queen Edith’s Newsletter (posting in a personal capacity) takes Cllr Lewis Herbert, Leader of Cambridge City Council to task over the latter’s article in this week’s Cambridge Independent.

Campaigners may have to bring back former MP Heidi Allen given her promise back in 2017.

[Alternatively, if they want to throw their current incumbent MP in front of some heavy machinery…no, let’s not go there!]

Here’s Ms Allen in her own words back in 2016. It feels like we’ve progressed no further since then. It remains to be seen what her successor, and the new Mayor for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough make of the suggestion by Cllr Herbert to carry on as normal.

“…until the GCP listen they can “look forward to multiple long and bitter disputes with communities”.”

Campaigners unconvinced by Cambourne to Cambridge busway findings” – Cambridge Independent – 09 June 2021

Above – campaigners quoted in the Cambridge Independent earlier this month. Which sounds like the same as the past five years on that project.

I’m not going to go into the detail – the article makes clear what issues the campaigners have. In the meantime over 1,000 people have signed the Smarter Cambridge Transport petition calling for a rethink and an overhaul to the entire GCP program of works. In the meantime, I think I’ve lost the will to live with this scheme. Not least because no one looked at the history of previous schemes.

Above – Gtr Cambridge City Deal – Cambourne busway history Q from A Carpen. 22 Sept 2016

Above – Gordon Logie’s proposed cycling network for Cambridge from 1966, which should have been completed just under decade ago.

As Cambridge City Council’s Architect, Gordon Logie ended up overseeing too many major projects and ended up delivering very little of the very grandiose plans that he came up with. (I’ve summarised some of his schemes in Lost Cambridge here). His main legacy is an unlikely one in my view: It is the pedestrianisation of Cambridge’s town centre around Market Square and Lion Yard. Before then, you could park your car in the market place and drive straight through town from Parker’s Piece at one end, through to Magdalene Bridge at the other, down Bridge Street & St Andrew’s Street.

Have the officers and councillors learnt the lessons from the history of their predecessors – arguably charged with trying to deliver solutions to the same problem: road traffic congestion in Cambridge?

Do they know what the history is? Well, Cllr Herbert does, but I’m not sure the officers do. And my criticism remains that the GCP had very weak political leadership – in particular from the Conservative councillors until former councillor Francis Burkitt stepped up. His loss when he stood down from local government in 2018 was keenly felt.

It’s worth noting that Mr Burkitt represented one of the affected wards in South Cambridgeshire. Cllr Herbert, in what will be his final GCP meeting before stepping back after nearly seven years, doesn’t have nearly as much electoral exposure, representing a central Cambridge ward (Coleridge – where I live) that is hardly affected by the proposed transport schemes. Traffic jams on Perne Road, Cherry Hinton Road, and motorists driving motor vehicles/bikes with unlawfully/illegally modified engines are our biggest transport issues. Unless the buses aren’t working. Cllr Dr Dave Baigent, (Labour – Romsey) the Chair of the Planning & Transport Scrutiny Committee takes over as the city council’s representative after July 2021.

A very tough set of decisions for the Liberal Democrats – now massively exposed electorally

As I said in my response to Mr Rand:

Cllr Neil Gough is the Liberal Democrats’ representative for South Cambridgeshire, while the county council representative will be Labour’s Cllr Elisa Meschini, (Labour – King’s Hedges) the Deputy Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council. With only nine Labour councillors in the Joint Administration to the 20 for the Liberal Democrats, there would be an almighty row if Cllr Meschini voted the proposals through without the explicit agreement of the Liberal Democrat councillors – or at least the vast majority of.

Above – As Mr Rand writes, the Liberal Democrats risk paying a very heavy price electorally in South Cambridgeshire – at a time when they are within striking distance of unseating the incumbent Tory MP in what historically is a safe as military fortresses seat for the Conservatives. And when it comes to letting down voters, the party is still paying an incredibly heavy price at the ballot box nationally by an electorate that still has not forgiven Nick Clegg and friends for the tuition fees u-turn. While the most recent by-election delivered the former Tory seat of Chesham and Amersham to the Liberal Democrats, bringing them to 12 MPs in the Commons, it’s worth recalling that in the 2005 general election, Charles Kennedy’s Liberal Democrats received 62 seats – including that of Cambridge.

“Is the electorate more likely to accept a climbdown by the GCP than if it ploughs ahead regardless?”

That’s ultimately their call. My assessment is that the recent electoral results – a political earthquake in the county, has given the GCP Board Members the political cover they need to make that climbdown. This is on top of the widely-acknowledged change in the public’s mood and disposition towards not only public transport, but to walking & cycling as well.

At the same time, I find it hard to comprehend that Cllr Herbert would have gone ahead and written his opinion piece for the Cambridge Independent without informing his Liberal Democrat colleagues involved in the GCP. Furthermore, the leader of Cambridge’s Liberal Democrats, Cllr Tim Bick, is the Chair of the GCP Assembly. If the Liberal Democrats wanted to prepare the ground for a climbdown, that was the time to have done it. Despite a few of their councillors raising serious concerns, it felt like business as usual. And in the meantime another problem is brewing in South East Cambridge heading out towards Haverhill – as Cllr Sam Davies (Ind – Queen Edith’s) writes here. I am still of the view that the proposals from Cambridge Connect Light Rail offers the best long term solution going forward, and that it’s essential that the GCP and the Combined Authority take a much closer look – and commission the essential technical studies to see if the Isaac Newton Line offers better value for money (as well as removing the objections from most of the opponents of the busways) with the proposed pair of underground tunnels under the city.

You can follow Cambridge Connect on Facebook here.

In the meantime, anyone living in or around Cambridge can contact any of their local councillors with their concerns https://www.writetothem.com/

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