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Mill Road Traders in Cambridge: Closing the bridge again ‘will kill our businesses’



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Traders on Mill Road have warned that the mayor’s proposal to close the railway bridge in the middle of the street again will “kill our businesses”.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough mayor Dr Nik Johnson has given his backing to closing Mill Road bridge to traffic again.

In a statement released following a meeting with transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris, the mayor said he supported the “direction of travel around restricting traffic movements”.

Mill Rd Traders Association members against the closure of Mill Rd, from left Shapour Meftah, Piero D'angelico, Pamela Wesson and Abdul Arain. Picture: Keith Heppell. (51652841)
Mill Rd Traders Association members against the closure of Mill Rd, from left Shapour Meftah, Piero D'angelico, Pamela Wesson and Abdul Arain. Picture: Keith Heppell. (51652841)

And he highlighted the Mill Road bridge closure as a project he wanted to revisit.

This comes after transport minister Mr Heaton-Harris told the county last month that money from the Capability Fund to aid cycling and walking improvements was being held back from Cambridgeshire and Peterborough because of “prematurely removed active travel schemes”.

However, businesses reacted with outrage at the news. Mill Road traders’ chairman Shapour Meftah said: “I am very disappointed to hear this news from the mayor. Dr Nik is always talking about his three Cs of community, compassion and co-operation. Well, where is the community in this decision? Is he taking any notice of the community or is he just planning to close the bridge to get hold of more government funding? It feels like Mill Road bridge is being sacrificed to get this money.

Dr Nik Johnson the new Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority seen in Ely where the mayor's office is based. Picture: Keith Heppell. (51652851)
Dr Nik Johnson the new Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority seen in Ely where the mayor's office is based. Picture: Keith Heppell. (51652851)

“If the bridge closes again it will kill our businesses. My business is right next to the bridge. It seems they have to do something drastic to get this money and Mill Road bridge is the casualty. We will have an emergency meeting of the traders to decide what to do next. I'm worried that the consultation will be rushed and that people won’t know it is happening.”

Authorities elsewhere in the country received between £660,000 and £2.88million in the latest round of active travel funding - but minister Mr Heaton-Harris said those that had “removed, or are proposing to remove, cycles schemes installed under the fund” or intending to “water them down” would miss out until there were fresh assurances.

Mayor Dr Johnson said the Department for Transport was keen to see a meaningful commitment from the Combined Authority to implement effective active travel schemes. This could then unlock more funding from the government.

A banner protesting the bridge closure.
A banner protesting the bridge closure.

The bridge was only reopened at the beginning of August following a year long closure to allow for social distancing for pedestrians and for active travel by foot and bicycle.

Campaign group Mill Road for People said it was “delighted to hear that the mayor, Nik Johnson, is supporting the reintroduction of the bus gate on Mill Road bridge, subject to consultation. We believe a bus gate is an essential component of an improved Mill Road and also of a coherent city-wide traffic management plan. In addition, the government has made it crystal clear that the current situation is not consistent with their active travel plans and failure to deliver will result in funding cuts.

“This is a huge victory for local people who want to breathe clean air, for children who want to walk and cycle safely to school, and for anyone who takes the threat of climate change seriously.”

The group added: “A bus gate is not enough. Mill Road for People has a vision for other very significant improvements to make Mill Road accessible and attractive for everyone, and a great place to shop and trade. We want a much improved streetscape, with wider, uncluttered pavements, more trees and more community spaces. We want better measures for ensuring that people with disabilities aren’t disadvantaged, and to help businesses in practical ways.”

The group will also “push for a truly meaningful consultation”, it said in a statement.

Meanwhile, cycling charity Camcycle welcomed the news. Their spokesperson, Roxanne De Beaux, said: "We’ve heard the strong emphasis from the government for quite some time about needing to see commitment from local authorities to implementing active travel schemes. Mill Road is dangerous in its current situation and that’s why Camcycle is so determined to see something done there to make it safe for cycling. But, even more so, we believe that it’s a road that has such potential to be a wonderful place to go and spend time and money. It should feel like a place for the community, not a high traffic environment."

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Mayor pledges support for closing Mill Road Bridge again



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