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Campaigners ‘unsurprised’ by court decision over Mill Road bridge in Cambridge - but call for safety work to proceed

Campaign group Mill Road 4 People have said they were “unsurprised” that a High Court claim against Cambridgeshire County Council’s decision to close Mill Road bridge to most private vehicles was not struck out.

The Traffic Regulation Order (TRO), voted for by councillors, would allow only buses, bicycles, taxis, Blue Badge drivers and pedestrians to cross the bridge.

A judge ruled last week (May 7) that Pamela Wesson, chair of Friends of Mill Road Bridge, has grounds to go ahead with her action against the council.

Mill Road bridge GV. Picture: Keith Heppell
Mill Road bridge GV. Picture: Keith Heppell

There is no date set for the next hearing, which will be a statutory review, but it will decide whether the council’s decision to implement a TRO was lawful.

However, Mill Road 4 People, which wants to see the TRO enacted, said that the case was based on “technicalities” and not on whether the bridge should be closed.

A spokesperson for the group said: “Mill Road 4 People is unsurprised at the failure of the county council to have all of the claims against it struck out. It is a fundamental right for citizens to challenge council decisions, and the bar for strike-out is rightly high.

“It should be borne in mind that this case is not about whether or not a modal filter should be installed on Mill Road bridge: that has already been formally agreed by the county council. It is about technicalities related to the implementation.

“Today’s judgment is in no way a decision on the challenges. It merely confirms that there are sufficient grounds for them to go to a full hearing. In the event that any are upheld, we are confident that the council will act to rectify them immediately.

“We are however extremely disappointed at the council’s statement that they will not carry out any work on Mill Road until the case is resolved. The judge made it clear that there is nothing to stop the safety work near Devonshire Road from proceeding. This is an extremely dangerous junction and it is incomprehensible that anyone would object to measures to make it safer. We call on the county council to reverse this decision as a matter of urgency.

“This court action started last October. As yet there is no date for the final hearing. Meanwhile, taxpayers are paying for council lawyers to defend their position, a position based solidly on the democratic will of local people. It is frustrating to say the least to see yet more delays to measures that local people started calling for over 50 years ago.

“The current situation is especially galling in light of the (council) election results, where candidates who support the goals of Mill Road 4 People again won seats with large majorities.

“This legal action can only delay and not prevent a modal filter that local people have demonstrated loudly and clearly that they want. Mill Road is an unclassified road – not even a B road. It is outrageous that it has become a busy through route by default with no agreement from local people. Mill Road is our local high street and should not act as a convenient shortcut for drivers from outlying areas.”

Drivers who are not exempt would face a £70 fine for travelling through the new bus gate, which would be enforced by automatic number plate recognition cameras.

Ms Wesson is to challenge the council in a further hearing on the grounds of a mistake of fact as to an exemption under the Traffic Regulation Order for use of Mill Road by carers of Blue Badge holders; a failure to carry out the council’s public sector equality duty under s149 of the Equality Act 2010; erroneously taking into account the potential to attract funding; and an allegation that the decision to make the Traffic Regulation Order was tainted by “apparent bias or predetermination”.

Ms Wesson previously told the Cambridge Independent: “We want to overturn the TRO because travel constraints such as this Mill Road Bridge bus gate affect thousands of people in the whole county who have no choice but to use vehicles for transport, like me for instance – I have to move furniture from storage to shop, how would I do this on bus or bicycle? Thousands of disabled people depending on carers for travel, hundreds of traders in Cambridge, not just Mill Road.... and pushing traffic onto neighbouring roads defies common sense and prejudices thousands of more people in and out of Cambridge.”

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