Home   News   Article

Subscribe Now

Slicing Cambourne to Cambridge busway through Coton Orchard is ‘environmental tragedy’





Driving the £200million Cambourne to Cambridge busway through Coton Orchard would be an environmental tragedy, according to one of the world’s leading climate change experts.

Professor Sir David King
Professor Sir David King

The Greater Cambridge Partnership’s proposed busway is due to cut through the historic orchard, causing about 500 veteran fruit trees to be felled, despite a “far less destructive alternative” proposed, he said.

However, the GCP says the new busway will provide better public transport links, with up up to eight buses expected to run on the new busway per hour with direct services to the West Cambridge site, the city centre and the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.

They also say they are committed to planting new trees and hedgerows to replace any that are lost – and have committed to a biodiversity net gain minimum of 10 per cent for the overall scheme.

Professor Sir David King, a former chief scientific adviser to the government, said: “The climate crisis requires careful analysis before any investment into future-proofing our country is made.

“Where we need better public transport, care must always be taken that existing facilities are adapted before adding additional infrastructure across green belt land.”

Ancient Bramleys at Coton Orchard
Ancient Bramleys at Coton Orchard

He said in this case there is a “far less destructive alternative”, noting the on-road scheme proposed by Cambridge Past, Present & Future.

“I join those who have stated very clearly that the proposed investment would prove to be a costly environmental tragedy,” he said.

Sir David, the government’s special representative for climate change from 2013-2017 and chair of the Climate Crisis Advisory Group, visited the orchard last week.

Cambridge was named the hottest city in the UK when it recorded a temperature of 38.7 °C in 2019 – and in the past week, the EU’s climate service revealed that global warming has exceeded 1.5C across an entire year.

This first year-long breach does not break that landmark Paris agreement, but it does bring the world closer to doing so in the long-term.

“Whatever operation is conducted is going to destroy the sense that the orchard has now of being an historical place, but also a place where trees are part of the design of the place. And these trees take up carbon dioxide, cause transpiration and produce cooling – they have all sorts of beneficial effects,” said Sir David.

Sir David, a strong proponent of the work of the IPCC, agrees with the need for reliable public transport to encourage people out of cars and to reduce emissions.

However, the proposed plan, he argued, is redundant with “existing highways on either side” of the orchard.

Prof Sir David King at Coton Orchard Pictures: Anna Gazeley
Prof Sir David King at Coton Orchard Pictures: Anna Gazeley

“Let’s move on and invest for the future, a sustainable future that recognises the nature of the challenges we face,” he said.

Jo Baker, GCP project manager, said in response to Sir David’s comments: “The Cambourne to Cambridge busway is all about providing better public transport, walking and cycling links.

“We expect up to eight buses per hour to run on the busway with direct services to the West Cambridge site, the city centre and the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.

“This will give people in growing communities to the west of the city quick, reliable and more sustainable options to travel to work, school or to meet their friends.

“The scheme has been developed over many years following the Department for Transport’s process and has been subject to detailed public consultations, with rigorous assessment of the different route options. Independent audits also ruled the GCP’s process has been robust.

“We are developing mitigation proposals to preserve views, screen infrastructure and limit the impact on the landscape wherever possible.

“We are committed to planting new trees and hedgerows to replace any that are lost as part of our commitment to deliver a minimum 10 per cent biodiversity net gain for the scheme overall, with the ambition of achieving 20 per cent.”

Temperature variation between areas where there are trees and where there are not
Temperature variation between areas where there are trees and where there are not

Earlier this year, the Cambridge Independent revealed that the busway has been delayed because of the Environment Agency’s objections to the 3,000 new homes at Bourn Airfield that the route is due to support.

Cambridgeshire County Council was due to seek permission from the government to start building the £200million busway last year.

But now it is expected that an application will not be made to the Department for Transport until later this year, meaning completion of the busway is scheduled for the end of 2027 – a year later than previously planned.

The Environment Agency has objected to a number of major developments in the region due to concerns over the pressure on the region’s water supplies.

A GCP spokesman confirmed that should circumstances change on these developments then it “would naturally review any impact on our plans”.

The busway aims to “cut congestion and improve air quality” as more homes are built.

To find out more about the Cambourne to Cambridge busway proposals, visit the project page on the GCP’s website at bit.ly/3we9sJ5.



This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More