Warning that important greenways linking villages to Cambridge could get cut as inflation erodes budget
Inflation is eroding the budget for the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s 12 greenways routes, a councillor has warned.
It means “important greenways” could be at risk unless they are prioritised, a meeting heard.
The GCP is working on the 150km network of sustainable travel corridors that are intended to make active travel, such as cycling and walking, safer and easier.
Once completed, the greenways will connect Cambridge city centre with surrounding South Cambridgeshire villages, helping people to choose more active ways to travel rather than by car.
At a meeting of the GCP’s joint assembly last Thursday (February 16), South Cambridgeshire district councillor Paul Bearpark (Lib Dem, Milton and Waterbeach) noted that the projects were not “lightweight programmes”, but by enabling a “modal shift from cars to bikes” would be an “extremely good way of reducing carbon emissions”.
He pointed out the council, along with Cambridgeshire County Council and Cambridge City Council, had declared a climate emergency.
But he warned: “Obviously this programme is under some pressure, in terms of what it is trying to do, and in terms of the budget – inflation is eroding the budget available.
“I think we need to be very clear about what the priority is here in terms of the development of these schemes. These schemes need to be about maximising mode shift.”
City councillor Simon Smith (Lab, Castle) said the GCP needed to consider changing how it was prioritising delivery of the routes, so that “important greenways” were not cut out.
He said: “It is a really important programme. I agree this is a significant contribution towards modal shift reduction of carbon emissions.
“It is also a significant contribution to better health and wellbeing, and anybody who has used these cycleways will know how enjoyable it is to go out into the countryside, there is recreation as well as commuting and going into college.
“My issue is that currently we have got prioritisation by timetable. There is a £76million allocation, very high rates of inflation, which will no doubt endure for a number of years, and we are already 20 per cent over-programmed.
“I think before we go much further with this programme we need to consider prioritisation and if necessary rephrase the timetables of these schemes.
“Otherwise we may end up with important greenways, from the point of view of modal shift and increased usage, being cut out because they are at the wrong end of the timetable.”
Business representative Claire Ruskin argued the GCP needs to “brutally focus” on “delivering good rather than aiming for perfection”.
She said: “We have got to aim for the main branches and trunks of this tree rather than every twiglet - modal shift, the daily commute, particularly school journeys. It is really important to get people in the good habits we know they should be on.
“I would do the development in an agile project style, which is to get these main things started, finished and delivered in a usable way, and then add the twiglets the bits of perfection that we can, that will make a real difference.”
Peter Blake, the director of transport at the GCP, said there was a prioritisation discussion scheduled to take place in the autumn.
He said he agreed that delivery and “getting on with it” builds confidence and is cheaper, but said the authority needed to “get the balance right” in terms of making sure the “right thing” was created.
Mr Blake said: “We are trying to do an awful lot really quite quickly. I know it does not feel quick, I know it is taking longer than you want, but other networks like this - and there are not many - have been built over 10, 20, 30 years and we are trying to do it all at a similar point in time.”
He added there would be some “compromises” the GCP members would have to make decisions on, but said when the network was open and being used it would be a “phenomenal asset” and said the members needed to “keep hold of that”.