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‘Fighting fund’ to pay for Cambourne to Cambridge busway legal battle

A ‘fighting fund’ to pay for independent experts and legal representation to fight a public inquiry over the off-road Cambourne to Cambridge busway has been launched.

Cambridgeshire County Council, which is run by a rainbow coalition of Labour, the Liberal Democrats and independent councillors, agreed on Tuesday (March 21) to seek a Transport and Works Act Order from the Department for Transport for the construction of the busway.

James Littlewood - Chief Executive Cambridge Past, Present & Future. (61610422)
James Littlewood - Chief Executive Cambridge Past, Present & Future. (61610422)

Deputy council leader Cllr Elisa Meschini (Lab, King’s Hedges), who is chair for the GCP executive board, told the meeting: “Failure to progress this scheme would jeopardise future Gateway Reviews of the City Deal, potentially failing to unlock further government investment into Greater Cambridge.

“But this isn’t the reason why we should proceed today. I don’t want anybody to come away thinking that we’re sitting here in an ivory tower ticking boxes on a spreadsheet.

“Our job as representatives of our residents is to make decisions that allow our residents to thrive where they live.

“If we don’t deliver this programme we put homes, jobs and the wider economic success at risk, along with the educational attainment of the next generation, trapped far away from the opportunities they deserve to take advantage of.”

An alliance of organisations has been campaigning for an alternative on-road scheme which would “improve public transport and cycling but avoid unnecessary destruction to an important green corridor and historic orchard”.

The fighting fund is being promoted by local charity Cambridge Past, Present & Future along with Coton Parish Council, Coton Busway Action Group, Coton Orchard, Coton Loves Pollinators and Save the West Fields.

James Littlewood, chief executive for Cambridge Past, Present and Future, which is collecting the funds, is delighted with the response so far and “over £50,000 has already been pledged towards our initial target of raising £60,000 by May. Nearly 8,000 people have already signed a petition against the proposed route of the busway”.

Mr Littlewood presented a petition – signed by 2,300 people calling for the on-road solution – to Tuesday’s meeting.

He said: “We are very disappointed that local politicians are seeking permission to cut down trees, destroy Cambridgeshire’s largest remaining traditional orchard and cause irrecoverable harm to ecology and landscape. There is a better way, and we need to make that case at the inquiry.”

The C2C proposal follows a seven-year consultation process to put forward a route for the 13.6km busway.

It will link Cambourne and Cambridge via the new Bourn Airfield development, a new travel hub at Scotland Farm, Hardwick, and the University of Cambridge’s West Cambridge campus.

The scheme has been subject to three public consultations and an independent audit of the proposed off-road public transport route.

The GCP has made a commitment to deliver a minimum of 10 per cent biodiversity net gain for the scheme, with the objective of achieving 20 per cent gain. It argues there is not room for the busway to travel down Madingley Road, where there are sensitive sites, such as the American Cemetery and Madingley Wood.

Coton Orchard (62978754)
Coton Orchard (62978754)

Cllr Neil Shailer (Lab, Romsey) said on Tuesday: “The GCP has done years of work to find the best route.

“I have seen the data, the justification. As we go back and forth arguing one scheme and back to the last one again, the growth in population as required by the government continues, as does the growth in numbers of cars and will continue even if we use the money to build decent, green infrastructure. We will then be trapped in transport chaos and one step closer to a burning planet.”

Mark Abbott, chair of Coton Parish Council, added after the meeting: “The Coton community has been united in belief that the bus services needed for the communities of Cambourne and Bourn can be delivered without destroying the natural heritage of Madingley Hill and the Coton Orchard. We are disappointed with the council’s decision today. But as a community we will continue this fight through the inquiry later this year. As the parish council we are humbled and grateful for how much the local community is giving, both in money and time, to stop this senseless destruction.”

Marilyn Treacy, coordinator of the Coton Busway Action Group, said: “Residents will be incredibly disappointed with the results of today’s vote but not altogether surprised. We are however in this for the long haul. The community will continue to fundraise so that we can get the best possible advice to stop this ecologically destructive scheme at the public inquiry.”

Sharon Cairns, from community group Coton Loves Pollinators, said: “This decision is deeply frustrating, disappointing and a retrograde step. Natural England is currently considering that traditional orchards should be considered as ‘irreplaceable habitat’. We will continue to fight to give nature a voice. There are some refuges so important, some corners of Cambridgeshire so unique that they must be spared from destruction by a concrete busway. Coton Orchard is one of those places.”

Donations to the fund can be made at cambridgeppf.org/appeal/save-the-coton-green-corridor or by contacting Cambridge Past, Present & Future on 01223 243830.

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