Time to speak up over local transport plans

Queen Edith’s is spoilt for choice when it comes to people running consultations on things, and so I thought it might be worthwhile capturing a few thoughts about the Cambridge South East transport consultation.

I was going to write about the current outline planning application for ‘Newbury Farm’ on Wort’s Causeway (aka site GB2 in the Local Plan), but local blogger Chris Rand has beaten me to it and covers most of what I would have said here. I have subsequently had a bit more detail through from the developers about the community engagement so far: they reckon that about 130 people came to the events they held at Netherhall in July, and of the 62 written comments at that stage, 53 came from QE postcodes. Given the sensitive site location; the loss of ecologically valuable hedgerows; the concerns about availability of school places; and the traffic implications for the local area, I hope that as many residents as possible take the time to read through the planning documents.

Chris’s article above provides full details of how to comment on the application: note that the closing date for input is 17th October, next Thursday.

But of course Queen Edith’s is spoilt for choice when it comes to people running consultations on things, and so I thought it might be worthwhile capturing a few thoughts about the Cambridge South East transport consultation, running until 4th November. You may remember that this is the Greater Cambridge Partnership project charged with moving people between the ‘Three Campuses’: the Biomedical Campus at Addenbrooke’s; Babraham Research Campus; and Granta Park. The first round of consultation in 2018 indicated that respondents preferred the idea of an off-road busway between the A11 and the Biomedical Campus, rather than various on-road permutations, and now the consultants have worked up the off-road scheme enough to put it back out for comment. I went to the exhibition at Long Road last night (9 October) to get an update.

Impacts on Queen Edith’s

There are several aspects of the proposal which will be controversial – the siting of the Park & Ride (what they call a ‘travel hub’) at the A11 end; the incursion through the Green Belt and impact on views from the Gogs; and the positioning of the stops relative to the population centres of Sawston, Stapleford and Shelford. However, I’m going to restrict my comments here to the aspects that I think will have most impact on Queen Edith’s and its immediate vicinity.

The scale of the infrastructure: over the majority of the route, the busway ‘road’ plus shared use path for pedestrians and cyclists is approximately 15m wide. For comparison, the cycleways plus carriageways over Hills Road bridge total about 14m wide. My major concern is with the shared use path – this currently defined as unsegregated/marked and 3m wide. Again, for purposes of comparison, the Hills Road cycleways are about 2.7m wide but the busway track will be serving cyclists in both directions plus pedestrians. I can’t see how this can possibly be adequate for safe usage by the volume of users one might expect to take advantage of it, although interestingly when I asked the consultants at the event for their estimates of the number of cyclists they expect to use the facility, they couldn’t tell me. However, one thing we can be sure of is that a 3m width won’t make for a relaxing environment for QE residents wanting to get away from the city and into the countryside – I don’t imagine many people are going to feel inspired to take the dog or the children for a walk along it with bikes passing in close proximity.

Approach to and through the Biomedical Campus: the route is supposed to interchange with Cambridge South station before joining the existing busway, so it all gets a bit hazy at this point because we don’t know exactly where Cambridge South station will be or when it will be built. However, the consultants are exploring options for taking the busway along Francis Crick Avenue, which will involve it crossing the roundabout at the junction with Addenbrooke’s Road. What I was told last night is that this will involve the installation of traffic lights on the roundabout to give the buses priority, which could have interesting effects on congestion entering the Campus from Trumpington in the morning and leaving in the evening. I understand very well that this is a sustainable transport project and that private vehicles will come bottom of the travel hierarchy but I am concerned that the result of years of disruption from the construction will simply be more congestion in our local area.

Proximity to Nine Wells Local Nature Reserve: the route proposed runs to the east of the railway line, between the railway and Nine Wells. The consultants confirmed that the gap between the railway and the edge of Nine Wells is just over 80m, so obviously the creation of a 15m busway plus cyclepath will encroach on this beleaguered space. However, there is also the need to ‘four track’ (ie double) the railway line which needs to happen before Cambridge South station can operate. The extra width for this four tracking is not shown on the Cambridge South East route map. The consultants said this was because they didn’t have any firm information to go on, which is true in as much as plans for the extra rail capacity are lagging behind this project but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen! When I pushed the consultants about this, they seemed to indicate a belief that the extra space required to accommodate the four tracking would come from the western (Shelford) side of the tracks and hence not further squeeze Nine Wells but again there was not the level of clarity I would want to see at this stage in the proceedings.

Crossings on Hinton Way and Haverhill Road: the proposed route tracks north of both Shelford and Stapleford villages and thus will require new signalled crossings of Hinton Way and Haverhill Road, next to stops with cycle parking, disabled parking and drop-off areas. I can’t now spot the information on the consultation form but I seem to remember being told that when the service is running at full capacity there will 12 services an hour in each direction, which will mean hold-ups for people traveling between the A1307 and the villages. I guess there will also be more traffic on Hinton Way and Haverhill Way as people drive to the stops – and there seems to be acceptance of the fact that people will drive to these interim stops, as they are only proposing 200 bike parking places across the Shelford, Stapleford and Sawston facilities.

Opportunities for biodiversity net gain: the consultation document states “GCP is committed to ensuring the scheme delivers a minimum of 10% biodiversity net gain with a target of at least 20%” – so for every hectare of land taken for the project, somewhere between 1.1 and 1.2 hectares of new habitat will be created. However, that ratio applies over the whole length of the route and obviously there is less land available for repurposing the closer to the Biomedical Campus you come. There is a suggestion of enriching what’s left of the field between Nine Wells and the railway, and various lines on a map indicating potential for hedges in locations along the route, plus some pockets of woodland in the countryside; but the consultants did refer many times to the cost of the project as a limiting factor. Given that this is a project being developed by a consortium which has quality of life as one of its objectives, and which is run by three councils all of which have declared a climate emergency, I was left feeling distinctly underwhelmed.

I hope that’s given you some food for thought. There is a large amount of documentation in the ‘document library’ here so do take a look and do complete the questionnaire. It’s hard enough getting residents voices heard in the deafening clamour made by those advocating ever more growth – if we don’t take advantage of the opportunities afforded to speak up, rest assured the growth advocates will be taking advantage of us.


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