Join our campaign to save Waterbeach village homes from demolition
The Cambridge Independent has launched a petition to save villagers’ houses from demolition after it became clear several proposed routes for a new segregated busway could plough through their homes.
The Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) has issued a consultation about four suggested routes for a new busway linking Waterbeach New Town with Cambridge.
But a map in council meeting background papers shows three out of the four routes going directly through a small group of historic cottages on the edge of Waterbeach village.
This week residents whose houses could be knocked down to make way for the busway said they were not reassured after meeting with planners on Monday (November 2).
Liz Barton, a vet who lives in one of the cottages, said: “It’s great that the Cambridge Independent is setting up this petition as that would be a fantastic way to reach people. I just want to say to people please don't let them demolish our homes and I hope people will support us."
The GCP held a hastily arranged Zoom meeting on Monday with residents whose homes may be affected.
But speaking after the meeting, Liz said: “I felt incredibly frustrated and very let down by their responses and their inability to answer basic questions and their refusal to give us any assurance whatsoever about our homes. Once again they are saying their starting point is they don't demolish houses. Well then, why is their starting point proposing three routes that require that? These are empty words and I don't feel reassured at all.”
The GCP has sent out a brochure to inform residents or the four routes under consideration, but it does not mention that homes may need to be demolished, and it was not delivered to the affected cottages.
Liz added: “I asked them twice in the meeting why they omitted the possibility of homes being demolished in the brochure and they literally said nothing, not a thing.”
Meanwhile Gareth Wright, whose home also lies under three of the proposed routes, added: “Everyone who would be impacted in terms of their house possibly being demolished still hasn't received a consultation brochure. It may be an oversight or an accident in the delivery service but it seems an almighty coincidence to me.
“And not putting the possible need for house demolition in the brochure seems to be using selective facts. They have left out some of the less palatable facts from the information brochure.”
At the meeting residents pointed out that if a completely new A10 dual carriageway is built between Ely and Cambridge, which has been proposed and is under consideration, it would make sense to put any segregated busway along the old A10 road rather than plough through houses in Waterbeach.
Gareth said; “It appeared at the meeting that they seemed to have no cohesive integrated transport policy, which was quite astonishing. The fact they are planning major work on the A10 and are not tying a project like this to it seems extraordinary.
“Considering they have spent a lot of money on this they didn't seem to know an awful lot about what they are doing.
“Plus the idea that this busway is supposed to serve the village is complete hogwash. The route is actually a mile from the other side of the village. We live on the edge of the village so if it followed one of the three routes that come through our house the busway would actually skirt around the village. Them saying it's a benefit for the village is not true - it’s just detrimental to the people who live here with no real benefit in terms of public transport. The A10 is 100 yards down the road - it makes sense to use that instead.”
Meanwhile novelist Penny Hancock, who was also at the meeting, told the Cambridge Independent, said she and her husband Andrew Taylor were considering getting their home listed by Historic England to prevent it being destroyed.
She said; “One of the worst things is the uncertainty. Our kids have left home and we were possibly thinking of downsizing and putting this house on the market but with this hanging over us we don't know if we could sell it. We are just stuck.
“We need some kind of guarantee that they are not going to demolish houses. I don't think they know the value of these houses, they probably think they are two bedroom tiny cottages because they look small from the outside but we have four bedrooms, a big kitchen and three reception rooms. So they are much bigger than they look on the outside and we couldn't get the equivalent anywhere in Cambridge. We have all extended over the years so the houses are quite big and very quirky.
"I am seeking advice now on whether we can get the houses listed by Historic England because you can’t replace history. You can build a new house but you can't replace the historical value of these houses.”
The final decision about where the routes will go will be down the the GCP board after the public consultation has finished.
Lewis Herbert, who is a member of the GCP, told the Cambridge Independent: “As a member of the Greater Cambridge Partnership since before 2015, I’m glad that so far we have avoided any compulsory purchase of properties.
“That’s not to say it's always avoidable but that will be the choice of last resort.
“What rightly concerns people is that a couple of the indicative routes do go over into the zone of their homes but at this stage, there is no planned route. It’s a consultation.
“I appreciate the concerns that people have quite rightly got, because that is their home and we would be happy to have a discussion with people in Waterbeach over the next month or two. It would be good to be clearer what stage we’re at.
“I’m sure the members of the Greater Cambridge Partnership board would be happy to listen.
“We are sorry the timing coincides with another cause of great concern for people.”
And he added that he believed a decision to make the A10 into a dual carriageway could not be replied upon. He explained: “If that happens, that’s all well and good. But the Combined Authority is championing about 10 different major transport schemes and we’re yet to hear whether the A10 will be dualled. What was shown in the study was that the public transport into Waterbeach and linked to the station as well as the existing village and new development scored way higher on transport grounds.Dualling was significantly weaker as a business case.
“This route really is a game-changer in terms of travelling into the city because the A14/A10 junction is a total nightmare. I would fear that even if you spent tens of millions on a new junction it would quickly get as overloaded as it is now.
“We will be taking the needs of the people in Waterbeach really seriously. It is an indicative and members of the GCP board will, as we have to date, seek to minimise the impact on people’s property.”
Following the meeting, the GCP was asked if they could rule out demolishing homes to make way for the segregated busway. Their spokesperson replied: “This meeting was the first of several opportunities that people will have to let us know their view on the Waterbeach to Cambridge scheme as part of the consultation we are running until the 14 December. The feedback we received from the meeting was helpful and we would encourage people to get in touch and respond to this consultation to make sure their views are heard.
“As was set out at the meeting, we are not considering detailed route proposals at this early stage of the project, but we are assessing the broad picture of where a route should begin and end, and what it should serve. The search area that passes through Waterbeach village is indicative and highlights an area to consider if it is determined that a segregated route should serve the village. Initial work demonstrates the proposals could be delivered without demolishing homes and the GCP’s starting point for all projects is that we do not carry out compulsory purchases of local residential homes and gardens.”
To sign the petition to save the residents’ homes, visit http://chng.it/DRp2xQ6yZ9