Call for consultation on new route for Cambridge and Waterbeach New Town
Not consulting on a newly proposed route near Landbeach for a busway to connect Cambridge and Waterbeach New Town would be “undemocratic”, a meeting has heard.
The Greater Cambridge Partnership proposed the new route in response to a public consultation on four suggested routes for a new £55m busway linking Waterbeach New Town with Cambridge.
Three of the four routes in the consultation would go directly through a small group of historic cottages on the edge of Waterbeach.
A petition launched by the Cambridge Independent was signed by almost 1,700 people in support of the villagers in Waterbeach.
The GCP is now proposing a western and a revised central route option for a dedicated public transport link are taken forward as preferred options for further assessment in the next phase of the project, with all potential corridors that could affect homes or the allotments in Waterbeach no longer being considered.
Presenting the petition Cambridge Independent editor Paul Brackley said: “The Cambridge Independent began the Save Our Waterbeach Homes campaign in response to the community's concern about the impact of the proposed new transport route on villagers.
“We were concerned to hear that some options could result in the demolition of homes.
“We believe that the Greater Cambridge Partnership was established with the aim of improving the lives of residents. Options for this project that relied on demolishing homes - and disrupting a close-knit community - seemed incompatible with this aim. Hence our petition urged the board to drop these options, safeguard the homes and put residents' minds at ease.
“We are grateful for the chance to present this petition. We would like to thank all those who supported our campaign and the GCP board for listening to it.”
The new route proposed after the consultation would bring the busway and active travel route closer to the east of Landbeach.
Results from the consultation were discussed at the GCP joint assembly on Thursday (June 10). They revealed 52 per cent of those who responded supported the idea for a new segregated public transport route while 36 per cent opposed it.
The route that runs west of Landbeach received the highest level of public support in the consultation and also scored highest in the economic assessment, according to the GCP.
It is being recommended along with the newly proposed route to be “taken forward to the next stage of assessment and design an option for further development”.
In a written question submitted to the assembly, Melanie Hale, chair of Landbeach Parish Council, said that as the new proposed route “would have a significant impact on Landbeach residents, heritage and farmland” that it would be “undemocratic” to take a decision on progressing with the proposal without a “proper” consultation.
A decision on whether to progress to the next stage of planning and technical assessment is due from the GCP executive board in July.
Councillor Heather Williams, South Cambridgeshire District Council Conservative group leader, told the meeting she backed the call that it “should not go forward” until another consultation has been completed on the newly proposed route.
The GCP’s transport director, Peter Blake, said it has “followed the prescribed process that we are obliged to follow” for the consultation.
Cllr Williams added, referring to the controversy around the Cambourne to Cambridge GCP busway scheme: “I accept the prescribed standardised consultation but chairman I fear that is where we go wrong time after time. We’re not dealing with procedures in these cases, we're dealing with peoples’ emotions and it’s important we take them with us.
“A small delay now could save a long time in short run, not to mention it would give a very clear signal to those residents that we will listen to them because they don’t have the confidence that we will right now and we have to repair that otherwise it's going to be as toxic as the rest.”
Andy Williams, vice president for Cambridge strategy and operations at AstraZeneca, said: “I think the challenge has not been with the number of consultations, it has been the trust in the consultation process. I’m not convinced doing another consultation now is necessarily the right thing to do, but we need to be thinking about how we build trust with the community.”
Mr Blake said there will be further consultation when the GCP focuses on one option.
The proposed busway and active travel route currently has an estimated construction cost of around £55 million and an expected delivery date of 2027.