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Mill Road bridge closure ‘ill thought-out’ says Cambridge MP

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Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner has blasted plans to close Mill Road Bridge to carsas “ill thought-out” and condemned the county council for failing to consult the public beforehand.

The decision that Mill Road bridge in Cambridge will close next week between the Romsey and Petersfield sides to all traffic except bikes and buses was made at a county council committee meeting on Tuesday (June 16).

Mill Road bridge was closed last year for roadworks. Picture: Keith Heppell. (36922907)
Mill Road bridge was closed last year for roadworks. Picture: Keith Heppell. (36922907)

The move is part of a public safety drive, with more than 90 schemes, that will allow pavements to be widened, enabling people to pass each other at a safe distance during the Covid-19 pandemic.

However many residents, traders and people who worship on Mill Road were taken by surprise by the decision as it was not publicised before the meeting.

Labour MP Mr Zeichner said: “Of course we do not want to go back to crippling Cambridge congestion but these plans are ill thought out and the lack of consultation with people who work, live and worship on Mill Road has been astonishing.

“I know that the county council are keen to spend the money they have been given by government but a rush-job is not going to give us the best outcome.

“We need a scheme that works for everyone and which respects the unique character of Mill Road. Mill Road will not be the same if traders are pushed out of the city and we lose independent shops that have been hit with one crisis after another.

“Cyclists, residents, shop owners and those who use the mosques deserve better than this from the out-of-touch Tory county council.”

The work to widen pavements would make the road on the bridge too narrow for vehicles to pass each other safely and so the council is planning to install a bus gate, policed by cameras, which will only allow buses, cycles and pedestrians over the bridge. Work is due to start on Wednesday June 24.

The Labour MP for Cambridge, Daniel Zeichner. Picture - Richard Marsham
The Labour MP for Cambridge, Daniel Zeichner. Picture - Richard Marsham

A spokesperson for Mill Road Traders’ Association, Piero D’Angelico, said: “The traders on Mill Road have been through a lot. The bridge was closed last year because of the railway works, then the gas works, then there was the fire at Gee’s electrical shop and then we had to close down because of Covid 19. We have taken a big financial hit.

“I have been three months without work, I have a family to feed, I can see my bank account going down and down. I have no income whatsoever and I’m supposed to be preparing to open my shop to try and start to earn some money and now this happens on top of everything else meaning people will struggle to travel to my business. Honestly, it is killing me.

“I didn’t know anything about this decision until it was already made and I really think we should have been consulted because it will affect us a lot.”

The scheme, and a host of other measures relating to cycling and pedestrian routes, was passed by a highways committee and campaigners have welcomed the general push to promote cycling.

Many schemes, including the Mill Road plan, will be enforced using an experimental traffic regulation order (ETRO), which will be in place for 18 months, with the first six months deemed a consultation period.

Cllr Ian Bates, Chairman of the Highways and Transport Committee at Cambridgeshire County Council, said: “Receiving this funding to improve cycling and walking transport links is good news for the county. It will allow people to get out and about during the pandemic while enabling them to stay safe and maintain social distancing.

“The Mill Road bridge will remain open to cyclists and buses. The measures we are putting in place allow for more pedestrian space, which is essential to enable people to adhere to social distancing as lockdown is gradually eased and our towns, villages and cities start to open up again.

“The money is part of the government’s ‘emergency active travel fund’, and must be used within eight weeks. As we are in the middle of a pandemic, we are working on these projects quickly and closely with the city and district councils. However, these measures are only temporary and people will have the opportunity to feedback to us. We will listen to all feedback, including that from shop owners, local residents, cyclists and those that worship on Mill Road.”

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