Opposition grows to pay and display car park idea to fund Grantchester Meadows’ upkeep
Residents in Newnham are protesting against a suggestion by South Cambs MP Anthony Browne that a pay and display car park could be built to fund the upkeep of Grantchester Meadows.
Earlier this month, King’s College banned swimming and boating on the River Cam at Grantchester Meadows and called for local councils to help manage public access to the land following littering, antisocial behaviour and erosion of the river bank.
Now South Cambridgeshire MP Anthony Browne has called for an organisation such as Cambridge Past, Present and Future (Cambridge PPF) to run the meadows for the public benefit and partially fund it by charging visitors to park.
And one possible area that could be investigated is the unofficial car park at Skaters’ Meadow, where drivers can currently park for free.
The Tory MP said: “It’s a model of Wandlebury and quite a lot of other parks that you charge parking and that basically pays for maintenance. If they can get it to work that sounds like a good solution.”
He added that the county council was considering installing a bollard at Skaters’ Meadow to prevent anyone parking there but that would “reduce access to the meadows to certain groups of people at certain times such as the elderly or people with small children, although not people who live in Newnham or young people who can walk or cycle there.”
More than 1,200 people have signed a petition to save the parking area, which the county council has recently earmarked for closure stating the site is designated as a footpath. Robert Day, who set up the petition, said: “Access to Granchester Meadows has been paramount for physical and mental health and the current parking is key to this. People often need parking to access the Meadows either for disability, if they live beyond cycling distance or if its winter and need access to a warm car after a cold water swim! There was no consultation period for the removal of amenity.
“Removing the current parking, which has capacity for 30 vehicles and has been in place for decades, will apply excess pressure to the residential parking in Newnham (restrictions apply 11am - 2pm) and make the Meadows inaccessible to some.
“I question the proposed plans of widening the edge of Skaters Meadow, a two hectare grassland, by a few meters and in doing removing parking for 30 vehicles. People’s mental and physical well being need to be considered. I therefore write to block these plans immediately.”
But the Friends of Skaters’ Meadow are opposed to the idea of allowing paid-for parking at the location, to improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians on the footpath, and want all parking their to be stopped by the county council.
Andrew Whitaker, chair of the Friends, said: “How are we going to protect the environment and move to a carbon neutral world if we can’t protect a simple footpath?”
And Jean Glasbury of Newnham Residents’ Association, added: “The footpath itself is a narrow cul de sac, and could only accommodate parking for a handful of cars.
“However, it would be likely to attract more vehicles into the area, though, when they see they can park for free on our streets for most of the day. This access to the meadows is a footpath, and most visitors are walking and cycling – at weekends in very large numbers. Cars driving and parking here make it unpleasant and dangerous for them.”
James Littlewood, CEO of Cambridge PPF, explained that, in any case, fees from a car park would not raise enough money to fund maintenance of a public space. “And so the question is where the money would come from?” he asked.
“In the first instance it's important to find out who owns this piece of land that the footpath crosses and is currently being used as an unofficial car park as at present no one knows.”