Cambridge to reclassify major roads as GCP unveils major expansion of rural cycling/walking routes around the city

In the meantime, Cambridgeshire County Council passes its annual budget, while next door in NW Essex, Uttlesford District Council (incl Saffron Walden) is stripped of its planning powers by the Minister for Housing due to its opposition to Stansted Airport’s proposed expansion.

The Uttlesford District Council announcement seemed to come out of nowhere:

…but as I noted, the case that led to the decision by the Minister for Housing (now Deputy Chief Whip) has everything to do with opposition to the expansion of Stansted Airport – which is now costing the district council a fortune. The result is that major planning applications for what is effectively North West Essex (next to South East Cambridgeshire) will be taken by planning inspectors appointed by ministers until further notice. Uttlesford District Council is presently run by an alliance of local residential groups who vanquished the Conservatives from what is otherwise the safe-as-military-fortresses parliamentary seat of Saffron Walden. There has been a longstanding campaign to oppose a second runway ever since the boom in short-haul flights in the mid-1990s. Fast-forward a generation and now we’re at a stage where fossil-fuelled flights are known to be a major and growing factor in the climate emergency. We need fewer, not more such flights. The next council elections there are not until 2023 – which could also be a general election year.

In the meantime, Cambridgeshire’s Joint Administration passed its first full annual budget.

Recall the polarisation of the county:

Above – one or two ill/absent councillors can make all of the difference.

Speeches of local (to me) interest include:

You can judge the speeches for yourselves.

The councillors also elected a new Chairman of the County Council – Cllr Stephen Ferguson – the Mayor of St Neots.

Council tax rises

Inevitably that’s the big thing that is on people’s minds at this time of year – and with good reason given the cost of living rises. Labour’s former MEP for the East of England, Richard Howitt (Lab – Petersfield took that point head on – in response to a Conservative amendment to freeze council taxes and cut services.

“Our proposal is to raise the average Council Tax by £62 per year. Compare that to gas and electricity bills rising by £693 a year, National Insurance by £226 and every universal credit claim cut by £1,020 per year.

“If any Conservative present was willing to criticise and apologise for the cost of living crisis being inflicted by the Government of their own party, then their criticism of the Council tax would be taken more seriously. Otherwise they ring hollow.”

Cllr Richard Howitt to Cambridgeshire County Council, 08 Feb 2022.

As I have mentioned on numerous occasions, The Commons Select Committee that covers Local Government has stated the current system of funding councils is unsustainable – see here from July 2021. And in response, ministers said they have no plans to overhaul business rates, & furthermore “The government has no plans to replace or fundamentally reform council tax.See recommendation 3 here.

Greater Cambridge Partnership – maps and more maps.

These are from the Greater Cambridge Assembly Papers for 17 Feb 2022. You’ll need to get any public Qs in by 13th Feb.

Above – note the long planned for Cambridge Sports Lake is incorporated, along with the much-needed eastward links out to Bottisham and the Swaffhams, that could do with major improvements.

Above – I remain unconvinced by the Fulbourn-Romsey greenway/cycleway, & note that a proposal for a cycleway along Cherry Hinton Road appears to be missing.

Above – still some question marks over the CSET busway from Addenbrooke’s out to the A11 along the South Eastern Corridor. The MP for South Cambridgeshire has been making some more noise about it in the press of late. Again, my preference is for a Cambourne-Cambridge-Haverhill light rail with a very wide cycleway/footpath next to it.

Road hierarchies in Cambridge

Interesting in principle, but will it work in practice? This is from p53 of the meeting pack here

Above – a detail of South Cambridge – my side of the river.

I remain unconvinced that motorists will see Hills Road as a secondary distributor, or Cherry Hinton Road as an Area Access Street *without* some sort of prioritisation system for public transport and active travellers eg cyclists and scooter riders. Furthermore, synchronised traffic signals are needed to make the eastern ring road (from Addenbrooke’s to Abbey – the red line on the east side) function properly and not lead to traffic jams on Cherry Hinton Road.

This is something the authorities concerned should be inviting children and students to work on as part of their school projects – not least to help reduce the number of online surveys seen on residential online boards asking the same questions every year. Which routes make the most sense to become cycle routes? Which ones are the safest? Which are the ones you already use that could become safer? And where?

The GCP should be working with local teaching alliances and professional groups to commission and produce the teaching and studying materials for the children and students. Far better for the professionals to collect robust data sets that the students can interrogate. And mass-print the large maps for the children to mark and colour in so as to reduce the costs to schools for the materials. Some of the consultations carried out (as we saw from the were hardly worth bothering with. Far better to spend the money on teaching materials for children and young people who are more likely to have to live with the consequences, than a London-based consultancy.

Milton Road – it’s complex. But it’s important.

So complex that it freezes my screen. So be warned. It’s p70 that matters from my perspective. See the not clear at all screengrab.

It’s the lower half I’m interested in – number 383 Milton Road which the North East Cambridge Area Action Plan has identified as being part of the big redevelopment. To which I’ve said “Cool, can we have a large swimming pool on it to serve King’s Hedges as well as the new development?”

“What are their risks, and how are they managing them?”

If you are on a scrutiny committee of any sort, then asking difficult Qs on risk-management is one of your key functions.

Above – why for example is the programme finance section showing a red risk? This is not necessarily a catastrophic thing, even though it implies the risk is both highly likely *and* will have a major impact. With some projects there are some risks that you assume are more than likely to occur – such as a major and sustained protest against your project.

Let’s look at transport delivery for specific projects.

Above – for both Eastern Access and the City Access, I’d be asking why those risks have not been raised given the scrapping of the CAM Metro and the ongoing failure to address the issues raised in the independent audit last year of the City Access Project in particular related to the Cambourne/Cambridge corridor.

And finally…the Chisholm Trail.

Now that Phase 1 is open, the GCP should be teaming up with Cambridge United FC and also CambridgePPF who run the Leper Chapel – one of Cambridge’s oldest buildings, to advertise that the cycle route to north Cambridge is now open, avoiding the motor traffic. They may need some extra cycle racks though. Alternatively, Cambridge Past, Present & Future could set up a secure cycle monitoring scheme on the other side of the hedge to deter thieves and encourage cycling fans to donate for the upkeep of the chapel.

Above – Phase 1 of the Chisholm Trail now open, linking all of the villages along the cyclepath next to the busway from St Ives to Cambridge Regional College to the Abbey Stadium.

If anyone wants to nominate Jim Chisholm for a state honour for getting this work done, the forms are here. You can use said forms to nominate anyone. That’s what a group of people in South Cambridgeshire did for Cllr Sam Davies MBE for her leadership and organisation in response to the Covid outbreak in 2020.

Phase 2 – can we have some footbridges please?

It looks a little more complicated here, but essentially I think there’s room for

Something like the Sakurabashi Bridge below to link the Beehive Centre & the Ironworks development in Petersfield with the Timberworks (old Ridgeons site) development and the Romsey end of Mill Road.

Above – could an X-shaped bridge work between the road bridges of Mill Road and Coldham’s Lane? (Thus making community facilities accessible to more people, and thus more financially sustainable?)

I’ve further asked on various occasions for a footbridge from The Junction Arts Centre in Cambridge to the railway station, along with the long-called-for eastern entrance to the Cambridge Railway Station. Holford and Wright recommended it in 1950, but unfortunately the GCP transport officers confirmed that none of them had read that report….

Above – proposals for Cambridge Railway Station from 1950

…even though we made it easy for them by digitising all of the maps…

And just for those of you who live on the edges of Cambridge…

You have more forums – these ones hosted by South Cambridgeshire District Council but cover the boundaries.

People in East Cambridge? Cherry Hinton, Abbey, Fen Ditton, and Fulbourn? This means you.

Wed 23 Feb 2022. On Zoom

North East Cambridge continues apace – their next meeting is…in less than 24 hours. Details are here.

In the meantime, an early shout for meeting the Governors of Cambs & P’boro CCG – responsible for primary healthcare in the county. It’s on the 1st March 2022.

If you are interested in the longer term future of Cambridge, and on what happens at the local democracy meetings where decisions are made, feel free to:

%d bloggers like this: