I went back to Planning Committee this week to again argue the case for the provision of a direct walking and cycling access route from the northernmost of the two new housing estates being built on Wort’s Causeway (‘GB1’), through to the existing Queen Edith’s neighbourhood.
If this is not provided, to reach places such as Queen Edith Primary School, Netherhall School or the Queen Edith Medical Practice, residents will have to first head in the opposite direction through their new estate, then along Worts Causeway and up through the tiny Field Way alleyway to reach Almoners Avenue and Beaumont Road. This makes the journey several times longer and less safe than it needs to be, and as a result many will choose to drive, rather than walk or cycle. As I have been saying for years, this link is critical if we are to provide convenient access for the estate’s residents and keep yet more cars off our roads.
At the end of this article you can read the speech I made, or you can watch the video of it, but I’ll attempt to summarise and provide some context here.
The basic problem is that, while it is generally acknowledged that provision of this connection would be a good thing, the precise terms of successive planning decisions have made it very hard to force a reluctant site promoter (CEG) to provide it.
CEG, having secured Outline Approval last year, just want to sell the site on, and get a return on their investment with as little delay as possible. One remaining obstacle to them doing that is the existence of Condition 35 of the Outline Approval:
“Prior to development commencing, details of the work undertaken to seek a link to Almoners’ Avenue or Beaumont Road shall be submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority, in consultation with the Cambridgeshire County Council, to determine the feasibility of implementing such link and improve pedestrian and cyclist connectivity. Reason: To mitigate the impact of the development and in support of the sustainable access to the development, in compliance with policies 80 and 81 of the Cambridge Local Plan (2018)“. (*Policies 80 and 81 relate respectively to ‘Supporting sustainable access to development’ and ‘Mitigating the transport impact of development’)
CEG applied to have this Condition discharged (i.e. written off) by Planning Committee this week, presenting evidence which, in their opinion, demonstrates that they have done everything asked of them by the Condition. In response, the Planning Officer’s report recommended that Committee should indeed accept that evidence and vote to discharge the Condition.
And this is where you realise just how muddled the thinking around this is. Because, as Paragraph 8.4 of the Officer’s report states: “Whilst the Condition requires the applicant to seek the feasibility of pedestrian and cycle link to the north of the site, there is no requirement for the applicant to implement such link should it be considered feasible.”
What was the point?
Let’s unpick that a bit. Firstly, as I laid out in my speech to Committee, I don’t accept that CEG have done everything they could to determine the feasibility of the link, as required by the Condition. But secondly, even if they did do everything that could reasonably be expected in that regard, and even if they did uncover a way in which the link could be achieved, they still don’t have to do anything about it, and the build-out of the site can proceed regardless!
So just what was the point of including Condition 35 in the Outline Approval last year? I can only interpret it as a well-intentioned, last-ditch attempt by councillors to try to rectify the earlier problem caused by the wording in the Local Plan to approve GB1 as a development site, which said: “Pedestrian and cycle access to local centre in Wulfstan Way to be investigated” (p248).
Not ‘created’. Not ‘delivered’. Just ‘investigated’.
This is wording which could offer a whole load of wriggle room to a less-than-scrupulous developer. To anyone actually trying to use policy to get good sustainable development on the ground, it is as much use as chocolate teapot.
For what it’s worth though, my representations to Planning Committee this week did cut through. Members voted against the officer’s recommendation, and deferred the decision, to allow time for CEG to gather and present more evidence.
However, it’s blindingly obvious that it’s in CEG’s interests to compile only evidence which shows that the link isn’t feasible. And even if it is shown to be feasible, who will do anything about it?
It’s also really depressing that CEG can’t see – or don’t believe – that putting the northern link in will add value to the GB1 site, and increase the price which a developer is willing to pay them for it.
It is very easy to talk about ‘sustainable’ development. The battle to see it achieved at GB1 continues.
- Read my presentation to Planning Committee
- Watch my presentation to Planning Committee (video)
- Watch the entire 50-minute discussion including my bit above (video)
I also made these short videos during my election campaign last year, talking about the connectivity problems facing the new estates:
Field WayBowers Croft alleyway (video)
- GB1 development (video)
I add to this blog weekly if there’s something important to report. Get these posts by email by adding your name to the list, using the form on this page.
Thank you for your time and continued efforts on behalf of those that live here now and future residents too.
As the Government is funding Active Travel 2 billion to date nationally, to enable communities to connect easily whether it be families with buggies, people with mobility and disabilities using aids and wheelchairs, walking, jogging and cycling to name a few modes of transport it does seem imperative that a link is found for this development. It may not just be that people take to their cars it may be some here short term do not have cars making every journey more arduous especially if working long and night shifts as many of our friends and neighbours do working at the hospitals on the CBC site.
Brick wall. Head. Developers. Profits.
Keep on doing what you do, even though none of your councillor colleagues appear to care.
Where would a cut through to Beaumont go? Would compulsory purchase of a garden/garage be needed?
Dara – there is already one house missing and a corresponding gap on Beaumont Road, left for the purpose of this sort of connectivity (now mostly full of 60-years growth of trees and shrubbery) here: https://www.openstreetmap.org/?mlat=52.17817&mlon=0.16079#map=18/52.17817/0.16079&layers=C
It now backs onto the school and they have allegedly been unwilling to allow a track at the edge of their land, despite being run by the council. The other obvious location is the dead end on Almoners Avenue, also built for exactly this sort of future expansion. That would need purchase of a short 3m strip of garden. That landowner sold off a big enough chunk of back garden to build two new houses in, but refuses to sell a strip at the front.
Any other connection would require purchase of at least a garage plus garden strip.
Thanks Sam – Best wishes for the hurdles ahead . . .
Well done Sam. Thank goodness we have you. A link would make a massive difference to people who live on the new development and those of us who live nearby.
I use the Field Way alleyway pretty much daily. A cyclist and a pedestrian can hardly pass, let alone two cyclists. And don’t get me started on the dropped kerb!
Thanks for highlighting this Sam, please keep pushing for a decent solution here.
It is so blindingly obvious a facility to provide, those other councillors should visit the sights to see for themselves – or perhaps they have done so?
(One point on location: the footpath we’re concerned with and shown well in your brief video actually connects BOWERS CROFT rather than Field Way with Almoners Avenue. The Field Way footpath passage (between Nos. 18 and 19) connects with Rotherwick Way . . .)
Fully support your efforts in this regard!
Thank you, Sam – your efforts on this are greatly appreciated. It’s obvious that a link would have huge benefits for the residents on the new estates as well as those of us living nearby. I see that there is an unwelcome plan to turn the pavement outside our house in Worts Causeway into a cycle way, removing the grass verge etc just as a sop to travel from the estate as if that would compensate for the lack of the path you’re fighting for!
That’s a fantastic bit of work Sam. You are absolutely right: the GB1 development without an exit to the N or NE would completely contradict efforts to join up our area of the city and would lead to far more car traffic and an island estate. Thank you for your work for the community.
One might imagine that in any other city but Cambridge, Planning Permission would have been refused right from the start if there was to be no pedestrian/cycle short cut to the schools and shops but this is Cambridge, a city which has allowed some of the most soulless concrete block buildings to be erected at nearly every entry to the city. A city which in my opinion has some of the most useless planners in the U.K. City Planners who allowed The Marque and it’s unbelievably facile mural to be constructed. They do not learn from previous mistakes.
Thanks Sam – for all your efforts to make this development work as well as possible for new and existing residents. It’s good to see that you managed to get some people to pay attention to the issue of access routes. And thanks for your crystal clear summaries as always.