Come and found out what was actually going on at Mill Road Bridge this summer!
Mill Road History Society is delighted that Richard Watson of the Spencer Group is coming to talk to us at the Ross St Community Centre CB1 3UZ on Tuesday 12 November at 7:30pm (doors open 7pm, ends around 9pm)
The long slog began nearly a year ago when many of us received an email on October 27 alerting us to a public meeting to be held only days later on November 1 announcing the Mill Road Bridge closure. Small notices on lamp-posts were the only other warning given. The hosts were Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), Network Rail and its contractors; the venue was the DoubleTree Hilton, on Mill Street by the river.
Besides the shock of the short notice and the seriousness of the subject matter, people commented that the hosts perhaps did not realise that Mill Street was nowhere near Mill Road. The crowd was already riled when it arrived and a rough meeting ensued where the hosts seemed to be surprised by attendee reaction and rather put on the back foot by challenges to decisions and methods.
This set the tone of the following months: “They” announced; “we” (councillors, traders and residents) reacted, resisted, and suggested over many meetings, but compromise was reached as months dragged by.
The bridge had to close, certainly; but it was reduced to seven weeks in July and August and the draconian “even-to-pedestrians” closures were reduced. (I wonder why the solutions couldn’t have been thought of in the first place.)
Mill Road Traders (I’m a member) called an emergency meeting in June which brought in the largest attendance in several years. We were informed that, while reparations for lost business were not to be considered, both sides of the Bridge would receive £15,000 “happy-money” from GTR to soften the effect of the closure. Traders were called on to submit ideas. At the meeting we scratched their heads: what could we do with “happy-money” that would magically improve sales when our customer base couldn’t reach our shops with the usual … ease (already un-easy from tight parking in Petersfield and tougher parking in Romsey)?
An ad campaign in the Cambridge Independent, a reissue of the shop map of Mill Road, and a series of car-boot sales were suggested by traders, approved by GTR and fast-tracked in a few weeks, along with many other initiatives by other residents’ groups on both sides of the Bridge.
But the traders knew that those actions would never make up for lower traffic – and would not help bring people back afterwards, to retrain them to travel down Mill Road again and consider it a main shopping source for Cambridge.
So traders and residents plodded on… and then, the gasworks started in earnest, followed by the huge fire at Gee’s, saddening the Road and blocking traffic further. And then, the gasworks came back! to sections they couldn’t reach before, owing to the fire. Several business and homes were occasionally inaccessible or without gas and even water for days.
The aggro felt unending and would have been far worse without the constant vigilance of local councillors, who worked much harder than most people know. My hat is off to them.
Some amusement was extracted, some experiments with alternative uses of the road; all ages were involved with events from historical to musical; some sense of life was rapidly concocted and consumed by a decent number; “lemons got quick-squashed into lemonade”, if you will.
The day the bridge was re-opened to full vehicle traffic, my shop had its best sales in weeks. The day the diggers ceased and the barriers left felt sparkly and new. We’re back!
– Which is all very nice and optimistic, but there is still underlying damage to our businesses that will take luck and time to heal; it may be too-little-too-late for some.
What can we do to help now? One way is to support the Mill Road Winter Fair more than ever: bring the crowds back and show them our colours and spirit. Volunteer to help on the day – cheerful involvement of locals makes such a good impression on the visitors we need.
Pamela Wesson, proprietor of Mill Road’s Fantasia, purveyor of ‘unusual and unnecessary items’
Well what a summer it was, I have not experienced one like it in the two decades that I have lived on Mill Road. Here is one resident’s view:
Like other residents and most traders, I was irritated by Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) organising a meeting about Mill Road on the other side of town (Mill Lane). It made me doubt their map-reading abilities which led me to question whether their brief was to upgrade facilities in Cambridge, rather than Camberley, Camden or Camberwell.
I was also concerned that traders, many of whom are friends and all of whom feel like neighbours, would have difficulty receiving deliveries. The pharmacy receives new shipments of drugs every day and the idea that traffic could be banned from the road completely would not work well for our community. Naturally this was not what GTR had in mind and a complete ban did not happen.
In fact something else happened. Local authority monitoring shows that traffic volumes on the Petersfield side of the bridge did not decrease. An explanation is the volume of taxi traffic heading to the railway station via the Petersfield section of Mill Road, and Tenison Road.
Throw into the mix of normal traffic levels, the disruption caused by at least half the width of the road being cordoned off for gas works, two-way motor traffic having to squeeze into one narrow lane and heavy plant – diggers, cranes and excavators – taking up road space too; it is likely that some motorists in unfamiliar surroundings were disorientated and uncertain on how they were going to reach their destinations.
Road rage and impatience were manifest and cars were seen mounting pavements recklessly without due care and attention to pedestrians. There were high levels of dust all day and night which caused me to lose my voice and feel breathless.
As if this wasn’t enough disruption, residents and fellow traders were devastated by the fire at Gee’s and worried that it might be connected to the gasworks. We were left without hot water for 48 hours and then there was vandalism in the cemetery followed by the break-ins on the road.
It was miserable but it is not a fair test of how a reduction in motor traffic (which did not happen in the Petersfield stretch) might affect traders’ turnover. Other factors were at work. We all need to disentangle this. Nobody wants a traffic-free Mill Road but we all want a safe pedestrian environment which is, after all, good for trade.
Linda Jones, Cambridgeshire County Councillor for Petersfield, on behalf of the Petersfield Summer Organising Group, writes:
So many people helped to make our Mill Road Summer events go with a swing. In spite of the bridge closure, continued heavy traffic, Cadent Gas disruption and the awful fire at Philip Gee’s we managed to put on nearly 20 events with a focus on art, dance, singing, folk music, poetry and writing –plus the wonderful History Happening day and the friendly Car Boot Sales.
If you organised, helped with or got involved in an event in Petersfield we want to hear your views and ideas.
What went well?
What could have gone better?
What lessons have we learned?
How do we manage community assets?
Is there a future for a summer festival?
Notice was short and some groups that wanted to be involved couldn’t be. We’d like to hear from you too – please come along and make your voice heard.
From 9th September 2019, the junction of Queen Edith’s Way and Fendon Road will be closed so that work can be carried out on behalf of Cambridgeshire County Council on the layout of the roundabout. Disruption is expected to last 29 weeks (so until the end of March 2020). Stagecoach’s citi2 will not serve Addenbrooke’s Hospital during this time.
The citi2 service is a vital link to Addenbrooke’s Hospital for residents in and around Mill Road.
Passengers have already suffered Stagecoach’s cut in frequency from a 10-minute to a 20-minute service to Addenbrooke’s. Additionally, Mill Road area residents have had a total rupture to through services, over the summer, as a consequence of Govia Thameslink Railway’s work on Mill Road bridge and the Cadent/Triio gas-main works.
It would appear that Stagecoach’s management were not properly consulted by Cambridgeshire County Council and given inadequate time to find the ‘least worst’ solution the otherwise disruption in the construction phase of this scheme.
We have turned off comments, here. The Cambridge Area Bus Users blogpost is open for comments. We encourage all Mill Road-ers to contribute their comments there, to follow the Cambridge Area Bus Users website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter if you have accounts.
We are indebted to Petersfield Cambridgeshire County Councillor, Linda Jones, for the following information, copied here with minor additions. Also for the traffic regulation order tweeted by Romsey Cambridge City Councillor, Dave Baigent.
Dear Residents and Traders,
Cadent/Triio is putting an extra team in place next week to ensure the completion of all their works on Mill Road by 3rd September. This is later than originally planned. Traffic Regulation Order notices will be put up across the affected areas tomorrow.
Cambridgeshire County Council [the highway authority] is allowing the contractors this extra time partly because of the fire at Gee’s electrical store. Also, excavation is revealing that the digitalised gas records and plans are inaccurate. This means that digging out, replacing and connecting pipework is taking more time than expected.
There will be works at two points:
1) Perowne Street to Covent Garden
Teams will be working between 9.30am and 4.00pm only and will work on one junction at a time to ensure as little disruption as possible. Plates will be used to cover excavations and enable traffic to flow outside these hours. There will be diversion signage and temporary lights to manage traffic. Traffic management staff will be on site every day to assist residents needing to move their cars and traders needing deliveries. Please ask them for help. The sequence is planned as follows:
Monday 19th August Dig Perowne Street junction, fix pipe, backfill and then plate. Move to Emery St junction, dig, fix pipe, backfill and plate.
Tuesday 20th August Dig at Covent Garden junction, fix pipe, backfill and plate.
Wednesday 21st August Full reinstatement of Perowne Street junction. Emery Street and Covent Garden junctions remain plated.
Thursday 22nd August Full reinstatement of Emery Street junction. Covent Garden junction remains plated.
Friday 23rd August Full reinstatement of Covent Garden junction.
2) Devonshire Road to railway bridge
A final 60m section of pipework is needed between Devonshire Road and the Mill Road Depot entrance. This could not be done earlier because of access issues [owing to the fire at Philip Gee’s premised]. This work will now start on 27th August. It will require temporary lights and restrictions at Devonshire Road.
Cambridgeshire County Council require that all this work is completed and Mill Road is fully open and cleared by 3rd September, before the school term begins. [Cambridgeshire County Council schools’ Autumn Term starts on Wednesday 4th September.]
Thank you for your patience.
Linda Jones County Councillor, Petersfield division
The County of Cambridgeshire
Road Traffic Regulations Act 1984 – Section 14(2) as amended by the Road Traffic (Temporary Restrictions) Act 1991
(Temporary Prohibition of Through Traffic)
The County of Cambridgeshire hereby gives notice that from 09:30hrs on 19 August 2019 no vehicle shall proceed along Mill Road, Cambridge as lies between Covent Garden and Tenison Road.
Access will be maintained to properties affected by this Notice.
The alternative route for vehicles is via A603 – A1307 – Station Road – Tenison Road – Devonshire Road and vice versa.
This Notice is made in the interest of essential gas service replacement works and will remain effective for no more than 5 days.
The Notice shall not apply to any persons lawfully engaged in connection with any works for which it is made, any member of the Police Force, Fire and Rescue Service, Ambulance Service, a vehicle being used by Special Forces during the execution of their duties or to any person acting with the permission or upon the direction of a Police Officer in uniform.
Steven Cox, Executive Director, Place and Economy, Shire Hall, Castle Hill, Cambridge CB3 OAP
THE COMMON SEAL of CAMBRIDGESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL was hereunto affixed this 16 August 2019
Footnote: Have you wondered how the holes are excavated without huge piles of spoil nearby? The answer is this ginormous vacuum-cleaner. (Henry, eat your heart out!)
For many years local residents have complained about cars, taxis, vans and lorries driving onto Mill Road’s pavements, creating a hazard for all pedestrians, but especially for wheelchair-users, people with vision disabilities and for parents with young children. Even when no vehicle is on the the pavement, paving-slabs had been compressed and cracked by irresponsible drivers, crating trip hazards.
Cambridgeshire County Council could deal with the problem, but have done nothing.
Cambridgeshire County Council – as highway authority – has powers to issue a traffic regulation order (TRO) to prohibit parking on Mill Road’s pavements, enforced by their civil parking enforcement officers (CEOs, aka ‘Traffic Wardens’) who could issue an immediate Penalty Charge Notice (PCN, ‘Parking Ticket’). The revenue from PCNs would pay for the cost of enforcement, so no increase in council tax would be needed.
Cambridgeshire County Council, along with all English Traffic Authorities with ‘civil parking enforcement powers’ were granted powers in February 2011 to prohibit, by means of a TRO, parking on footways and verges, wherever they consider it necessary.
Sadly, we have seen no action by Cambridgeshire County Council to tackle this menace.
To view the original letter from the then Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Norman Baker, click the links below:
The Transport Committee criticised the Department for Transport for failing to take action on pavement parking, which MPs have been told has a detrimental effect on people’s lives and can lead to social isolation.
In 2015 the Government promised to look into the issue of pavement parking in England. Consultations, roundtable events and internal reviews failed to lead to any actions to improve the public’s experience of pavement parking.
In the Report, Pavement parking, (09 September 2019) the Committee calls for an outright ban on pavement parking across England in the long-term.
Parking on pavements creates real problems. For those with visual difficulties, who use mobility aids, or need to navigate footpaths with children, unpredictable hazards such as cars represent a potential danger.
‘Pavement parking’ is when one or more wheels of a vehicle are on the footpath. As well as creating obstacles for people wanting to use footpaths, Councils face additional costs to repair damage to surfaces which are not designed to take the weight of motor vehicles.
A mix of criminal and civil sanctions are available to police and local councils to enforce restrictions on pavement parking on private or commercial drivers. Parking on footways or pavements was banned in London in 1974*, and it’s prohibited for large goods vehicles across England.
* The ban applies to all footways and verges, except where there are permitted parking bays laid out (as in some Romsey side-streets). [Our note]
Lack of progress in tackling pavement parking has led many groups to campaign on the issue and although it is regularly raised with MPs by their constituents, the Government has not taken any action on this issue in recent years.
This is an area where some people’s actions cause real difficulties for others. Parking on pavements risks the safety of all groups of people from the littlest to the oldest, with differing needs. While we’re also inquiring into Active Travel – how we get more people to get into walking and cycling – we need to make sure it’s safe to take to the streets. We want to hear from the public about the difficulties this presents and the solutions on offer.