More thoughts on Mill Road’s future

The Greater Cambridge Partnership is consulting on the potential future of Mill Road, and wants to hear from residents, people who visit, work on, or use Mill Road, and people who own businesses on and near the road, as well as people who travel through the area.

This post explores a number of related issues.

Image of cover of booklet mentioned in caption
Click on the image to visit the consultation page.
Click here to view/download the Mill Road Spring 2022 booklet (PDF)

For fuller details on this consultation, public meetings, in-person drop-ins and a Sunday (on-line) workshop, see our earlier blogpost – Mill Road Consultations (again).


What are the related issues?

Wasn’t this issue settled in the summer of 2021?

The earlier Experimental Traffic Regulation Order was brought in by Cambridgeshire County Council, at the behest of central government, with a degree of urgency, in response to health needs at that time. There was a consultation, during the experiment, whose outcome was unclear, owing to some people submitting multiple responses to the survey.

At the time a Cambridgeshire County Council spokesperson said: “…an open survey format was used. Unfortunately, this meant that the system was open to mischief-making – but duplicate entries and patterns can be spotted, as they were in this case.” New controversy over data on Mill Road bridge consultation in Cambridge By Gemma Gardner, Cambridge Independent, 27 October 2021.

At this point Cambridgeshire County Councillors on the Highways and Transport Committee voted to allow the road to reopen to general traffic, with the plan to ask for public views on the future of the road. In November 2021, the Highways and Transport Committee voted to ask the Greater Cambridge Partnership to carry out a further consultation on behalf of Cambridgeshire County Council.

Back to related issues index.


Will this consultation be an improvement?

The latest consultation, which closes at midday on Monday 21st March 2022, is an initial stage to assess views on the future of Mill Road.

The Mill Road Spring 2022 consultation uses the expertise of Bang the Table’s EngagementHQ Platform.

When and if the Greater Cambridge Partnership, in collaboration with Cambridgeshire County Council’s Highways and Transport Committee have firm proposals they are obliged to undertake a full (statutory) consultation, ahead of implementation of any permanent Traffic Regulation Order(s).

There are also related on-line ‘workshops’, run by Involve, UK’s leading public participation charity.

But you can’t please everyone…

An article – Mill Road traffic survey slammed by irate locals for being ‘too restrictive’ By Fareid Atta, Cambridge News, 25 February 2022 – highlights a number of arguments found on social media.

I feel [the survey] has been constructed to lead to an outcome they desire, and forcing you to vote for the status quo.

The questionnaire does not allow people to really affect the result by offering the “required” “yes”, “no” questions.

Two comments cited in the Cambridge News article linked above.

The Greater Cambridge Partnership’s explanatory booklet (PDF) outlines measures that could be put in place on Mill Road.
One of the survey questions asks:

How far are you supportive or unsupportive of the following three options for Mill Road? Please refer to pages 6-8 of the brochure.
Theme 1: Do nothing
Theme 2: Improve the quality of place
Theme 3: Changes to traffic and access in the medium and longer term

Mill Road 2022 consultation

Each ‘theme’ is outlined in full, and each can be answered on a scale of ‘Strongly support’ , through ‘Neither support nor oppose’, to ‘Strongly oppose’. What is “too restrictive” in that? See the slideshow below. Reading the detail will be clearer by viewing/downloading the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s explanatory booklet (PDF).

  • These images do not support reader technology. Please view/download the Greater Cambridge Partnership's explanatory booklet (PDF) mentioned earlier.
  • These images do not support reader technology. Please view/download the Greater Cambridge Partnership's explanatory booklet (PDF) mentioned earlier.
  • These images do not support reader technology. Please view/download the Greater Cambridge Partnership's explanatory booklet (PDF) mentioned earlier.

Moreover there are three open questions, each enabling an extended narrative response:

Do you have any other comments on the future of Mill Road?

Please comment if you feel any of the proposals would either positively or negatively affect or impact on any such person/s or group/s. [Relating to the potential impact on people of differing ethnic or religious groups, genders, people with disabilities, etc.]

Do you have any other comments about our proposals for Mill Road or how the road could function in the future?

Mill Road 2022 consultation

Quite how these questions are “too restrictive” is difficult to understand.

But I still find the questions unhelpful; I want to state my own views

If you really don’t like the questions, and would prefer to email your thoughts on the future of Mill Road, email consultations@greatercambridge.org.uk with the subject line “Mill Road Consultation spring 2022” or something very similar. Put as many paragraphs into your email as you wish and state your personal view. Add either your full address or all of your postcode except the last two letters. Your views will be recorded.

Back to related issues index.


Shouldn’t Mill Road take a ‘fair share’ of through motor-traffic?

This seems to be the view of Ian Sandison, CEO of Cambridge Business Improvement District.

We need to take a holistic view of city access and thus cannot just include one road, or even one bridge on one road. It is not surprising many Mill Road residents were happy with the closure – less traffic, cleaner air, and a nicer environment to walk and cycle. However, once the city did open up and visitors, workers and goods could not easily access the city, then the folly of a single-street solution became clear and it was demonstrated how unequal this approach is.

Mill Road can’t be viewed in isolation By Ian Sandison, CEO of Cambridge Business Improvement District, Sponsored feature, Cambridge Independent, 17 February 2022.

Sandison also writes:

Buses seem to be a popular solution and, to be fair, many workers would happily travel into Cambridge by bus if they were quick, available early and late at night, affordable, clean and green and the network was more comprehensive. This would make the city more attractive to workers and visitors who can be deterred by the current congestion issues. To really incentivise people to use buses we need them to be funded upfront so they have a positive alternative to their car.

ibid

That seems fair enough but, beyond any up-front ‘seedcorn’ injection of public funds, better bus services will require revenue schemes beyond farebox receipts. However, Sandison is on record for opposing a congestion charge which could provide exactly such a revenue stream.

Workers in the retail hospitality and leisure industries are towards the lower end of the pay scale. They often cannot afford to live in our beautiful city. They spend too long each day commuting, usually by car, since their home is poorly served by an inefficient and unavailable, at the right times, public transport system.

I was thus taken aback to read of the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s plans to introduce a congestion charge…

Good COP or bad COP? It’s hard to tell By Ian Sandison, CEO of Cambridge Business Improvement District, Sponsored feature, Cambridge Independent, 18 November 2021.

Indeed Sandison is in favour of allowing commuters to park in our residential areas, adding to traffic congestion and obstructing the existing bus services.

Many … workers park on the public highway for free in the residential streets around the city…

Maintaining … on-street free parking and not having a congestion charge are essential if the city wishes to still be able to attract workers in this sector. I would ask those in favour of more residents’ parking schemes to consider this.

You can’t park here mate! Considering the Cambridge parking and congestion challenge By Ian Sandison, CEO of Cambridge Business Improvement District, Sponsored feature, Cambridge Independent, 20 January 2022.

Improved bus services and lower fares would help the least affluent residents and workers – those who cannot afford cars nor the petrol to fill their tanks, nor shiny new electric vehicles. But, how is it possible to improve public transport without reducing the volume of traffic passing through the city?

It is astonishing how (even in the midst of a climate crisis) there are those who imagine that poverty can be eased by further facilitating private motoring.

Why does the CEO of Cambridge Business Improvement District use advertorial, to comment on Mill Road, an area of the city which is outside their remit? Should they be permitted, as a body, rather than as individuals, to influence the current Mill Road consultation?

Unfettered access to the city centre by private vehicles might be in the interests of Cambridge Business Improvement District – though, arguably vastly improved public transport would be of better benefit – but could seriously disadvantage Mill Road as a shopping destination.

And there is no sign of Cambridge Cambridge Business Improvement District seeking to remove restrictions on vehicular access to St Andrew’s Street, Sidney Street, Bridge Street, Magdalene Street, St John’s Street, Trinity Street, King’s Parade and Market Street in the historic city centre, nor to Fitzroy Street and Burleigh Street in the Grafton Quarter.

Ian Sandison says that providing a better Mill Road in a single-street solution is unequal. In what way is this so? In a densely populated area with significant numbers of multi-occupancy homes, with many householders that use bikes and foot as their primary means of travel, in a city with relatively low ownership of cars, why shouldn’t priority be given to the Mill Road area to become the first low traffic neighbourhood?

Paul Lythgoe, Mill Road 4 People

Moreover, the extent to which motor-traffic is displaced onto other roads when a road is restricted and the degree to which that motor-traffic ‘evaporates’ (ie vehicular journeys are no longer made) is a moot point. Fortunately there is  Cambridge City Smart Sensor Traffic Count open data which monitors this.

Image as caption
Weekly motor vehicle volumes on Mill Road, Coldhams Lane and Cherry Hinton Road,
from June 2019 to October 2021. Click here to view a larger version, in a new tab.

Counterintuitively, the evidence is clear – the 2019 bridge closure for railway works and the 2020-21 bridge restrictions had no sustained impact on traffic levels on Coldham’s Lane and Cherry Hinton Road. Read more, here – traffic displacement: myth or reality?

Should Mill Road wait?

Back to related issues index.


But hasn’t Mill Road ‘always been an arterial route’?

No. Despite what is alleged on some social media, Mill Road has not ‘always been an arterial route’, neither is it designated as a primary or secondary distributor road. Look closely at this video of a present-day OpenStreetMap fading to an Ordnance Survey 1″ 7th series map. Check the east end of Mill Road before the construction of Barnwell Road.

Video created from National Library of Scotland’s Explore Georeferenced Maps page.
The link should allow you to drag the slider (bottom left) to explore the maps yourself.

The use of roads in shopping and residential areas is always evolving. In the 1960s, the A10, A45 and A604 ran through central Cambridge, with Regent Street, St Andrew’s Street, Sidney Street, Bridge Street, Magdalene Street, St John’s Street, Trinity Street, King’s Parade and Trumpington Street all designated as trunk roads.

The Greater Cambridge Partnership are currently reviewing Cambridge’s ‘Road Network Hierarchy’ under which Mill Road would be designated a ‘Local Access Street’. Should Mill Road wait?

Back to related issues index.


So, what makes Mill Road special, and different from other routes into the city?

Mill Road is very much a destination for people seeking to source specialist foods and to sample cuisine from around the globe. It has a higher proportion of independent shops, cafés & restaurants than any other Cambridge street.

Travel beyond Reality Checkpoint on Parkers Piece and you might see that Mill Road is a fairly unique place in Cambridge. There is a vibrant street life from end to end with independent cafés, restaurants, and shops. The bridge restriction made the road a safer place to be for all. Active travel to destinations within Mill Road and as a through route to the city was encouraged. Mill Road 4 People have surveyed and talked to local residents and visitors.  We know how it was changing people’s lives and helping them choose active modes of transport. 

Paul Lythgoe, Mill Road 4 People

Mill Road is also the proud home of the beautiful Cambridge Central Mosque, its advanced eco-design giving it a near-zero carbon footprint. It will soon be home (again) to a carved stone archway. Saved after it was removed from a former Hindu temple, it could be installed in the garden of Ditchburn Place, a sheltered housing community, and former maternity hospital, subject to planning approval. Read more here: Hindu temple arch looks set for Cambridge garden home By Alex Spencer, Cambridge Independent, 25 February 2022.

We have, indeed, previously asked is Mill Road – the high street of a small town within Cambridge city?

However, not only is Mill Road a high street it is also a residential street with over 200 front doors opening onto the street behind which there live over 1,000 residents.

Nearly all premises along Mill Road are residential in whole, or in part, with over a mile of front doors and front windows situated less than 5 metres from the carriageway. This distinguishes Mill Road from all other approaches to the city centre from whatever direction, particularly roads which were developed later, with wider footways, verges and, in many cases, long front gardens separating most residential accommodation from the carriageway.

This makes residents particularly vulnerable to illnesses caused by pollution and to road accidents. Stepping outside their homes can cause injury, as mounting pavements is deemed to be the acceptable norm by passing motorists and by some cyclists avoiding the heavy motor traffic.

We support active travel initiatives across the city but we say that we have been endlessly consulted and promised change – specifically in Mill Road which is always kicked down the road in favour of a ‘holistic’ approach – which may or may not be delivered.

It is absolutely time that something is done and done now to make Mill Road a safer and better place. It will be an exemplar for other initiatives across the city, and following the link through to the north of the city along the Chisholm Trail to Mill Road it will be easily and quickly accessible to so many more. 

Paul Lythgoe, Mill Road 4 People

What Lythgoe asserts about Mill Road waiting, and waiting is amply illustrated by this 1973 clipping from the Cambridge Evening News. Presumably, this being before 1974’s local government reorganisation into two-tier councils, the report will have been on the priorities of the Highways Committee of the Borough of Cambridge.
Perhaps Cambridge Town Owl, Antony Carpen, can confirm or correct this.

Image is of a clipping from Cambridge News, 1973, detailing the highway priorities of Cambridge City Council.

Priorities

They include:

Preparatory work on the Arbury estate peripheral road, the dualling of the south end of East Road and the Napier Street link between East Road and Newmarket Road.
The expansion of car parking with reviews of parking meter charges and policies.
Pedestrianisation in the city centre.
A study into the possible reversal of the City centre one-way system. with some priority facilities for cyclists and buses“
A feasibility study of the “railway route.”
Ii" Ejahvestig‘atiod into the t‘Siossi-
Investigation into the possibility of traffic lights at Mitcham’s Corner, and a Cherry Hinton by-pass.
A study into the possible widening of city centre footpaths and the improvement of cycle bridges over the River Cam at Chesterton.
Closure of Mill Road to all traffic except buses, cycles and service vehicles.
A review of private off-street parking facilities.

Mill Road welcomes destination traffic, by foot, cycle, bus and motor vehicle. Motor traffic needs to be facilitated by clear signage to existing parking facilities, and by more on-street (but off-pavement) short-term parking.

Should Mill Road wait?

Back to related issues index.


Will the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s Cambridge Road Network Hierarchy Review solve the problem?

The two maps, below illustrate the basic idea. If they alternate too quickly, press the pause button.

This work forms a key component of the City Access work to achieve City Deal objectives of improving public transport and active travel opportunities, reducing traffic and vehicle emissions, and contributing to the net-zero agenda. A review of the road network hierarchy would be the subject of a public consultation in summer 2022.

Cambridge Road Network Hierarchy Review
Report to Greater Cambridge Partnership Joint Assembly 17th February 2022

For those who’d like to read the full detail of the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s draft network hierarchy, the papers, from the Thursday 17th February 2022 Joint Assembly agenda pack, can be viewed/downloaded in full, here (pp 36-53).

For the rest of us, an excellent summary –Biggest shake-up of Cambridge road network for 40 years, by Gemma Gardner, Cambridge Independent, may be read here.

Will this affect Mill Road?

Certainly, however, there does not, as yet, appear to be a timescale on implementation.

Should Mill Road wait?

Back to related issues index.


Road safety – the Police and Crime Commissioner’s view.

Darryl Preston, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is concerned that the road hierarchy review is insufficiently focussed on road safety.

I would like to highlight an important issue for consideration when discussing proposals for your Cambridge Road Network Hierarchy Review on 17th February.

As you will be aware, road safety is a key theme in my Police and Crime Plan. As a former police officer, I personally dealt with far too many serious injuries and fatal incidents and saw for myself the devastation these avoidable incidents can have on loved ones.

For the 3 years pre-pandemic, there were an average 69 Killed or Seriously injured (KSI) casualties in Cambridge city every year – 62% of these were cyclists and a further 16% pedestrians, making nearly 4/5 of all KSI casualties in the city pedestrians or cyclists.

I am sure you are all committed, as I am, to supporting the county’s Vision Zero Strategy to eliminate road deaths. I would therefore urge you to consider making road safety a more explicit priority or objective within the core of the Review document. I appreciate that there is some reference to it already and a number of measures already included could be interpreted as contributing to safer roads. However, given that this is such a serious issue, I strongly believe that any strategy or policy documents relating to our roads should explicitly include ‘safer roads’ as a priority. With that comes an ability to deliver outcome metrics based on safety which in turn can look at contributory funding. 

I urge you to take my recommendation forward and would welcome further discussion.

Darryl Preston, Police and Crime Commissioner
Email to Greater Cambridge Partnership members, ahead of the Greater Cambridge Partnership Joint Assembly Thursday 17th February 2022
And Mill Road’s safety…

It is worth noting that, following a Freedom of Information request, data from Cambridgeshire Police named Mill Road as the worst-affected single road for injuries over the past three years. Read more: Mill Road named most dangerous road in Cambridge by Krystian Schneyder, Varsity, Monday January 31 2022.

Further detail on Mill Road’s collisions, using Data from DfT/police STATS19, from 1999-2020, is mapped in this link. (Thanks to Martin L-S.)

Should Mill Road wait?

Back to related issues index.


Will the ‘Cambridge Eastern Access Project’ resolve matters for Mill Road?

The project will, will include Mill Road, but it will be a be a long time coming.

The Greater Cambridge Partnership held an eight-week public consultation on the Cambridge Eastern Access Project, which closed to comments on 18th December 2020. On 1st July 2021 the Executive Board approved the Strategic Outline Business Case that confirmed there is a strategic case – and public support – for improvements to public transport, cycling and walking for those travelling into Cambridge from the east. The Thursday 17th February 2022 Joint Assembly agenda pack, shows this project to be in the ‘Early Design’ stage, with a ‘Forecast Completion Date’ of 2027. Reference here (p93).

Should Mill Road wait?

Back to related issues index.


Why consult on Mill Road, alone?

One argument that is often put forward against traffic restrictions on Mill Road is that it should be done in the context of city-wide traffic reduction measures.

On the face of it, this is a seductive argument – who wouldn’t want to see lower traffic and pollution over the whole of the city? But in our view, that goal is totally compatible with starting work on Mill Road at the earliest possible opportunity.

Liz Walter, Mill Road 4 People, Saturday 19th February 2022

Liz, posting on behalf of Mill Road 4 People, cites speeding motor-vehicles, dangerous overtaking, pavement parking and air pollution levels regularly exceeding WHO guidelines, amongst other reasons why Mill Road can’t wait. See: Why Mill Road can’t wait for a city-wide plan

Councillor Neil Shailer, Romsey County Division, Labour, speaking at the Greater Cambridge Partnership Joint Assembly on 17th February 2022 argued that Traffic Regulation Orders for Mill Road need to be prioritised within the context of city access, as accident statistics confirm that Mill Road is the most dangerous road in the city.

The special characteristics of Mill Road noted above suggest that Mill Road should be prioritised as this has the potential to improve the well-being of the greatest number of people.  It would be impractical to deal with all of the city’s traffic and transport problems on a ‘big-bang’ citywide basis at exactly the same time as imposing all mooted measures across the city simultaneously would cause chaos. They need to be phased.

Back to related issues index.


Cambridge Cycling Campaign’s view

Camcycle’s position is that motor-traffic on Mill Road needs to be substantially reduced and that this is best achieved through a modal filter to prevent through motor-traffic while allowing cycling and walking journeys the full length of the road. It should be possible to exempt some motor vehicles such as those required for time-critical deliveries or to transport disabled people.

Camcycle’s vision for Mill Road sets out how Mill Road could be improved, following the reduction of traffic, to create a vibrant place for people where community and local business can thrive. Their summary can be read here: Camcycle guide to the Mill Road consultation – Spring 2022.

Back to related issues index.


Have your say on improving Mill Road

The consultation closes at midday on Monday 21st March 2022.

For fuller details on this consultation, public meetings, in-person drop-ins and a Sunday (on-line) workshop, see our earlier blogpost – Mill Road Consultations (again).

Back to related issues index.


Like most of Mill Road Bridges’ blogposts this post is open to (polite) comments, relating to this post or to our earlier post – Mill Road Consultations (again).

Party like it’s 1999?

Image © OutNewsGlobal click to visit their site. Click the image to see Prince.

And, would-Jubillee-ve it, you might get a grant!

Queen’s Platinum Jubilee event funding

The City Council are providing grants of up to £500 for events and activities in Cambridge that will commemorate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

If you are considering running such an event and are seeking funding, read the application information document (PDF, click here)  email: grants@cambridge.gov.uk or call the Grants Team on T: 01223 457857 to request an application form.


But it’s not just parties, and not just the Jubilee…

Groups of local residents or voluntary groups can apply to the Cambridge City Council’s area committees for funding for projects, activities or services.

The priorities for Area Committee Community Grants specifically focus on reducing social and economic inequality for disadvantaged residents. Projects or activities should benefit a specific community or people living in a particular area.

The application process for the 2022/23 round of area committee funding is now open. The closing date for completed applications for groups in and around the Mill Road area is Tuesday 8th February 2022.

For fuller information, including deadlines for other areas of Cambridge, visit the Cambridge City Council’s Area Committee Funding page.

To find out whether your group or activity is eligible, and for guidance on how to apply, read/download the Area Committee Community Grant 2022/23 application information [PDF, 0.3MB], and/or watch a webinar presentation explaining how to apply.


Party like it’s May 1945?

The scene in May 1945 when Gwydir Street residents celebrated VE Day. Click the image to read more about Gwydir Street on the Capturing Cambridge website. Photo courtesy of the Cambridgeshire Collection.

Party like it’s June 2002?

Gwydir Street held a street party on Saturday 1st June 2002 for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee…

Click the photo (© The Edkins family) to view more on this event.

‘Levelling up’ – can the Ox-Cam Arc achieve this?

Or is ‘Supersizing’ Cambridge the ‘Belt and Road’ to disaster?

A post in collaboration with the Federation of Cambridge Residents’ Associations

Contents:

What is the Ox-Cam Arc?

Map of the Ox-Cam Arc on the gov.uk website

The Oxford-Cambridge Arc Policy paper, published 18th February 2021 by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (formerly the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government) states:

The Oxford-Cambridge Arc (the Arc) is a globally significant area between Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge. It is formed of five ceremonial counties: Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire.

It supports over two million jobs, adds over £110 billion to the economy every year and houses one of the fastest growing economies in England.

There is an opportunity, recognised by government and local partners, to build a better economic, social and environmental future for the area. With high-quality, well-connected and sustainable communities making the Arc an even more beautiful place to live, work and visit.

Oxford-Cambridge Arc Policy paper, published 18th February 2021

‘High-quality’, ‘well-connected’, ‘sustainable’, ‘even more beautiful’ – what’s not to like? Or is the ‘opportunity’, no more than ‘high quality’ hot air, helping ‘well-connected’, people and PLCs ‘sustain’ high earnings?

Oxford-Cambridge arc: “Most people don’t know what it is”

Not sure yourself? This review By Ben Schofield & Pete Cooper, BBC East highlights some of the concerns. (Selected quotes below, click the link above to view the full article.)

The arc is being imposed on the residents.

The government has been thinking of the idea of an Oxford-Cambridge arc for over six years and this is first time the public has been asked for feedback.

Lara Davenport-Ray, Huntingdonshire Green Party

We’re getting good feedback from a wide variety of people and that will provide really helpful input to the policy propositions that we will generate over the next few months into 2022

Chris Pincher, Minister for Housing

I think it’s important, if you are going to develop such a long piece of land, you don’t leave us as a housing estate for the big cities at either end.

Business owner Philippa Shoobert, of engineering and software firm Smart Control Solutions, St Neots

I’m worried the Oxford-Cambridge arc and level of development they’re proposing is going to detract from our character as a historic town, and the rural nature of surrounding towns and villages, and I don’t think building that many houses will help us achieve our zero-carbon goals.

Councillor Stephen Ferguson, Mayor of St Neots

See also The Oxford-Cambridge Arc – Government ambition and joint declaration between Government and local partners (HM Government publication).


Will this corridor ‘Supersize’ Cambridge?

Over 230 people signed up to attend the virtual Supersize Cambridge event which followed the Federation of Cambridge Residents’ Associations‘ Annual General Meeting on Thursday 7th October 2021.

Speakers examined the potential threat which they believe the Ox-Cam Arc poses to Cambridge’s residents, and discussed who stood to benefit from the proposals.

A full video of this meeting is available, on YouTube here.

The Times, Guardian, Financial Times and others have reported on the concerns about China’s growing involvement in Cambridge. Residents are asking, “Is Cambridge and the Ox-Cam Arc part of China’s Belt and Road initiative?”

Wendy Blythe, Chair, Federation of Cambridge Residents’ Associations, addressing the ‘Supersize Cambridge’ event

Ms Blythe highlighted a tweet, earlier this year, by Ant Breach, senior researcher for Centre for Cities, a think tank funded by Cambridge University Chancellor, Lord Sainsbury, in which Breach said, “I make no apologies for demanding growth and a spicy hot labour market.”

People are asking, “Who are the interests promoting this ‘spicy hot labour market?'”

Wendy Blythe [ibid]

Developers and house builders?

 The beneficiaries of such development will not be local people but shareholders of global companies and the losers will be the vulnerable across a broad range of species. It was a stimulating set of talks.

On-line participant

Who are the Arc’s ‘movers-and-shakers’?

On 21st September 2017,  the creation of a new lectureship, in Chinese urban development, funded through a gift of £1m to Cambridge University’s Department of Land Economy, was announced after a signing ceremony held in Hong Kong. The donor was Justin Chiu, a director of CK Asset Holdings, which owns Greene King, the Bury St Edmunds based brewer and pub retailer.

CK Asset Holdings, a property investment company, was founded by the Hong Kong businessman Li Ka Shing and is now chaired by his son Victor, as is its sister company, CK Hutchison Holdings. The latter is another Hong Kong based conglomerate, whose UK investments include the majority of UK Power Networks, Northumbrian Water Group, the 3 mobile phone network and Hutchison Port Holdings (a private holding company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, operators of Harwich International Port, London Thamesport and Felixstowe Port, much of the freehold of the latter being owned by Trinity College).

Writing in Cambridge University Land Society Magazine 2019 (p 108), Professor Colin Lizieri, then Head of the Department of Land Economy and Grosvenor Professor of Real Estate Finance, said:

We […] welcomed Dr Li Wan as the new Chinese Urban Development lecturer (the post funded by a generous donation from Dr Justin Chiu). Li’s expertise lies in spatial modelling of cities and infrastructure. After completing his PhD (in the Architecture department at Cambridge), he has been working in the Centre for Smart Infrastructure and developing models for cities in China, in Korea and in the UK. His knowledge of modelling and the use of large digital data sets will be very valuable for both our research and teaching and complements Dr Elisabete Silva’s work with the Interdisciplinary Spatial Analysis Lab (LISA) and with Dr Thies Lindenthal’s big data work as part of our growing emphasis on technological change and transformation of urban land and property markets.

Professor Colin Lizieri, Cambridge University Land Society Magazine 2019 (p108)

The postholder, Dr Li Wan, worked on Land Use-based Integrated Sustainability Assessment (LUISA) modelling for the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Review (CPIER).  The modelling work, for which he was the lead from 2017-2019, was funded by the business group Cambridge Ahead and the Cambridge and Peterborough Combined Authority. To download a high resolution version of the CPIER Final Report (PDF), click here.

It might be interesting to read (excerpts of) an article by Dr Li Wan, in Cambridge University Land Society Magazine 2019, since CPIER is cited in the government’s Local Industrial Strategy in support of the Oxford Cambridge Arc and in the Greater Cambridge Employment Land and Economic Development Strategy which justifies employment  ‘need’ for building forty-nine thousand houses. Click to read/download the Greater Cambridge Employment Land and Economic Development Evidence Study, Final Report, November 2020.

Planning for growth – the application of a new spatial equilibrium model for Cambridge and Beijing

By Dr Li Wan, University Lecturer in Chinese Urban development, Department of Land Economy BArch, MPhil, PhD (Cantab)

This short article introduces the application of a new spatial equilibrium model (LUISA) developed by Cambridge scholars for supporting the strategic planning of two fast- growing city regions – the Greater Cambridge in the UK and the Greater Beijing in China.

Greater Cambridge is an economic hot spot where growth has outpaced the rest of the UK throughout the past decade. But the economic success comes with a price: house prices have soared – the city’s average house price is now 16 times the median salary; worsening traffic congestion and air pollution is threatening the vitality of the city; and public services are being put under strain by the growing population. …

To quantify the possible futures of the Greater Cambridge city region, the modelling research started with a ‘business as usual’ scenario, assuming that the region grows according to current trends of employment growth and local plans for housing. This scenario showed that even a modest rise in jobs would lead to considerable wage pressure in Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire and an unmanageable amount of in- commuting which would choke growth. The LUISA model was then used to explore a range of alternative spatial strategies that aim to balancing (sic) the growth of employment, housing and transport infrastructure:

  • Densification – concentrating new employment and housing within the city boundaries: this can accommodate the largest amount of jobs and people around existing and new rail hubs, but could risk worsening congestion and air quality in spite of convenient public transport access;
  • Fringe growth – extending urban areas around the edges of the city: this brings the highest financial returns with more modest building construction costs, but needs to use Green Belt land and will increase car use;
  • Dispersal – encouraging growth to go to market towns or newly created settlements beyond the Green Belt: this could spread the growth and gain social and environmental benefits, but would rely on the willingness of companies to move away from current centres of high productivity;
  • Transport corridors – developing new sites for jobs and housing
    along existing and new fast public transit services that emanate from Cambridge: this offers space for continued growth of existing business clusters while unlocking potential of new sites that could attract growth, but this requires the highest infrastructure investment.
Dr Li Wan, University Lecturer in Chinese Urban development, Department of Land Economy BArch, MPhil, PhD (Cantab), in Cambridge University Land Society Magazine 2019 (pp 114-116)

Click the link in the citation (above) to read/download the publication cited.


But, the Ox-Cam Arc’s stated objective is to “enhance the area’s natural environment and biodiversity.” What’s wrong with that?

Place-making

With a strategic approach to planning for growth, we can enhance the area’s natural environment and biodiversity, ensure communities and businesses have access to the infrastructure they need, and ensure new development is more affordable and beautiful so that it enhances places across the Arc.

Oxford-Cambridge Arc Policy paper, published 18th February 2021

So what are the objections?

David Rogers, Emeritus Professor of Ecology at the University of Oxford, representing the Stop the Arc Group, gave a keynote speech on how increasing house building in the areas linking Oxford and Cambridge by 53% to 61%, when the average need, nationally, is assessed at a 13% increase, is unsustainable for our environment. Water shortages, pollution and loss of biodiversity will be the outcome, despite planners claiming that they are going to “double nature”.  It was pointed out that politicians still follow the mantra that economic growth is the gauge of societal and electoral advantage, ignoring our environment’s fitness for human habitation.

 The voices of the people need to be heard loud and clear, and the government consultation has too many “leading” questions for it to deliver accurate results. That is why the campaigning group Stop the Arc has created an alternative questionnaire to that created by the government for the stage 1 consultation. The survey is quick to complete (about 5 five minutes) so PLEASE take the time to do it, and then to pass on the link to as many people as possible.

Campaign to Protect Rural England, Cambridgeshire & Peterborough

You can take part in Stop the Arc Group’s 5-minute survey of the proposed OxCam Arc, here.

#Ecocide, adds Monica Hone…

Supersize Cambridge event, contribution from Monica Hone

‘Supersize’ resisters are in good company…

We’re abusing rivers in this country on a scale that we have never done at any point in the past. And yet, here we are, the proud possessor of 85% of the world’s total supply of chalk streams and not one of them is in good environmental health.

Feargal Sharkey, former Undertones frontman, on his love of fishing and saving chalk streams
Feargal Sharkey fishing on the River Lea in Hertfordshire where he is chairman of the Amwell Magna Fishery Credit: ITV News Anglia

ITV News Anglia reporter Hannah Pettifer caught up with Feargal Sharkey on the banks of the River Lea in Hertfordshire, on Tuesday 22nd June 2021. To read a summary and view the report on the ITV News Anglia website, click here.

Spot the ‘Undertone’ of Sharkey’s contempt for the Environment Agency…


See also, The Oxford-Cambridge Arc; An Environmental Catastrophe – with Professor David Rogers.

Anyone for Greenwashing?

As we rebuild our economic life, we should do it on green principles, averting a crisis many times greater than the coronavirus: climate breakdown and the collapse of our life-support systems.

This means no more fossil fuel-based infrastructure. Even existing infrastructure, according to climate scientists, could push us past crucial thresholds. It means an end to megaprojects whose main purpose is enriching construction companies.

Perhaps the definitive example of such projects in the UK is the Oxford-Cambridge Arc. It’s a plan to build a conurbation of 1 million homes – twice the size of Birmingham – from Oxford to Cambridge. This is far beyond the region’s housing demand. Its purpose, government agencies admit, is not to meet the need for homes, but “to maximise [the area’s] economic potential”.

But [recently], a new campaign came to the rescue. It has rebranded the project Nature’s Arc”. Apparently, with some adjustments, this massive exercise in concrete pouring “could show how development can restore nature, rather than destroy it”. Building up to a million homes, the new PR blitz tells us, is “the perfect opportunity to invest in nature, improve people’s lives and realise the green recovery.”

How did wildlife groups start collaborating in the destruction of nature?
George Monbiot, The Guardian, June 2020

Resources are under pressure

Cambridge and the surrounding area has always been a great place to live. But what will it be like in 20 years? The city is facing a period of huge change. The local population is growing and getting older. There is an urgent need for more housing. Resources are under pressure. And transport networks are becoming increasingly congested.

Peter Landshoff, Professor Emeritus at Cambridge University, speaking in 2013, as reported in Cambridge Network’s CambridgePPF welcomes launch of Cambridge Ahead.

Two of CambridgePPF’s trustees – Matthew Bullock and Peter Landshoff – are members of the Cambridge Ahead board and are helping to put together its initial projects. Matthew Bullock is a member of the project group looking to ‘Clarify The Growth Agenda’ and Peter Landshoff is involved in the body’s work to ‘Improve the Quality of Life’ in the city.

Cambridge Network, ibid

Economic Bonfire

Business, enterprise and employment are flourishing in Greater Cambridge. But housing and infrastructure are struggling to match the jobs boom, and gaps in social equality keep widening. 

University academics are connecting their insights, data and algorithms to find solutions to the area’s ‘growing pains’.

“Economic growth is like a bonfire,” says Matthew Bullock. “You can get a bonfire going and expand it as long as you keep feeding the centre. But you can’t pick a bonfire up and move it somewhere else.”

Bullock is talking about the economy of Greater Cambridge, where a staggering level of growth has outpaced the rest of the UK over the past decade. As one of the founders of the business and academic organisation Cambridge Ahead, Bullock has been helping to shape a vision for Cambridge and the people who live and work in the area.

“Growth here comes up through the floorboards,” says Bullock, who was one of the original financiers of the ‘Cambridge Phenomenon’ – the development and growth in high-tech businesses in and around the city since the late 1970s – and is now Master of St Edmund’s College.

How to tend an economic bonfire, by Dr Louise Walsh

Growth requires sustainable infrastructure

The debate about growth around Cambridge is still far from settled.

The government wants growth because it yields more tax revenues to pay for pensions, healthcare and all the other public services without raising tax rates. Why Cambridge? Because jobs here are, roughly speaking, more profitable than elsewhere in the country. In part that is because of the concentration of talent and new ideas within the university, research and start-up ecosystem.

For transport, that means planning further extensions to the rail network, giving serious consideration to creating a tram network, and building a major transport hub at the Girton Interchangetravel hubs in every large village, and hundreds of miles of new cycleways linking everywhere.

Edward Leigh, leader of Smarter Cambridge Transport from an opinion piece first published in the Cambridge Independent on 13th October 2021.

Read Edward’s full post on the Smarter Cambridge Transport website, here.

What is happening to bus services around Cambridge?

Stagecoach East is far from unique in having staffing problems – and they’re not the only operator to have been cancelling services recently as a consequence. In order to (try to) provide a little more stability for passengers, they will be implementing a number of changes to Cambridge-area services from Sunday 24th October.

Cambridge Area Bus Users – Stagecoach changes from 24th October

With passenger numbers below pre-Covid levels, some operators are reducing journeys on higher frequency routes in order to minimise the number of drivers required. This runs counter to the ethos of the Bus Recovery Grant and to the needs of passengers. In marginal and rural areas where services were already basic, the impact is particularly severe with people now struggling to access work, education, apprenticeships and healthcare.

Letter to The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport, from Bus Users UK

“We need to give people better transport choices.
And fast.”

‘Slow travel’ is all the rage in the Sunday colour supplements, but has less of a pull when balancing up how to get from Cambridge to Huntingdon on an overcast Wednesday morning in October. We know there’s an urgent need to reduce the number of journeys made by private car, which means making the change a realistic option for more people. So it seemed like a good idea to remind myself what the bus journey was like.

Unsurprisingly, the trip showed how much more investment and imagination is needed in public transport.

Sam Davies, Independent City Councillor for Queen Edith’s ward in Cambridge, update 17th October 2021. (Read Sam’s full post here.)

Interestingly, Centre for Cities hosted an event to discuss the next steps for improving the quality of bus services and their contribution to the economy, supported by bus and rail operator Abellio.

A brief summary – Centre for Cities calls for mayors to reverse outdated bus service – can be found on the Abellio website, here.

Centre for Cities’ report, supported by three bus operators, calls on England’s metro mayors to take control of bus networks to double passenger numbers. The main recommendations are:

  • All metro mayors [should] step up and use their powers to franchise bus services in order to improve passenger uptake and access to buses.
  • Government should simplify the franchising process and back this model everywhere.
  • Centre for Cities criticises deregulation for creating ‘local private monopolies’ that failed to deliver on the promise of better services and increased choice for passengers.

And what of ‘levelling up’?

[O]ne cabinet minister [of Boris Johnson’s government] told The Independent: “It will take 10 years and there will be some pain along the way, particularly in the early part.

“A lot of it depends on building infrastructure – roads and railways and so on – and it takes time to complete and time for people to feel the benefit.”

‘Levelling up’ will take a decade and there will be pain along the way, say ministers – Andrew Woodcock, Political Editor, Independent, Thursday 7th October 2021

Do we need to slash ‘planning bureaucracy’?

Levelling Up will fall flat on its face

Recent statements by the Government and Tory think tanks seek to justify their repeated attacks on the planning system as a contribution to the Levelling Up agenda of the Johnson government. [However] planning reforms will do nothing to level up or reduce glaring geographical inequalities in our country: in fact, they will make these disparities even worse.

In 2021 we are facing the challenge of possible new planning ‘reforms’ based upon […] the idea that planning is the reason for falling housing affordability so relaxations of planning will provide the solution.

[M]ore planning permissions will lead developers and land owners to develop more and bring prices down. It has yet to be explained why developers should continue to build when selling prices are falling, indeed they seem to be adept at avoiding ever doing that by trickling-out their completions slowly enough to maintain high selling prices.

But what planning reforms would support long term locality improvement for the worst hit areas? We can state six broad criteria to start with:

  • Reforms must give localities public steering strength, by withdrawing the recent rash of permitted development rights (which strip places and communities of power) and ensuring local plans can take back control of how space is used.
  • Within localities, reforms must strengthen the roles played by citizens and communities, without whose active creativity and support neither Levelling Up nor adequate response to the climate emergency will be possible.
  • Reforms must enable decisions at the right level, by creating strong strategic plans for economic development and housing with long term funding attached.
  • Planning must make public health a key objective of decisions about new development.
  • Reforms must make zero-carbon a core requirement of every Plan and every substantialplanning application decision.
  • Social housing & special needs housing should be prioritised to help reverse themechanism which makes housing worsen inequality.
Levelling Up: the role of planning
By an independent group of planning practitioners and academics, hosted on the Town and Country Planning Association website, here.

The Ox-Cam Arc and the growth of Cambridge are issues which affect us all – those living in and around Mill Road, in Cambridge, all of the surrounding villages and our nearby market towns. The post is open for contributions. You are welcome to continue the debate.

Food for Change

Maurizio is on the run!

… to raise funds for local community-based Cambridge Sustainable Food’s  food justice work across the city.

Cambridge Sustainable Food provide food justice work across the city. They work with residents, businesses, organisations and community groups to advocate for, and enable access to, healthy and sustainably produced food that is good for people and good for the planet.

Tackling food-related inequality is one of today’s most urgent challenges if we are to stem the rising tide of hunger, obesity and other diet-related ill-health such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Cambridge Sustainable Food convenes Cambridge Food Poverty Alliance, a multi-agency partnership which aims to reduce food poverty locally. Read more about this work here, the emergency food access here, and read/download the Covid-19 Emergency Food Response April 2020 – March 2021 (PDF) here.


Maurizio is on the run!

photo of Maurizio, running

Mill Road’s godfather of pizza and pasta is taking part in the Cambridge Half Marathon on Sunday 17th October 2021.

Maurizio Dining & Co. logo

You can help Maurizio raise funds for local community-based Cambridge Sustainable Food’s food justice work across the city and reach his £500 target by donating what you can via his GoFundMe page, here.


Eat for our Future Campaign

Food poverty is only one aspect of Cambridge Sustainable Food’s work. Food needs to be not only good for people and the planet, but also good for local economies, businesses and jobs.

As part of the newly launched Eat for our Future Campaign Cambridge Sustainable Food will be holding a variety of events across October to help Cambridge eat a Climate Diet, with in-person stalls where you can ask your questions and make a pledge, online events chaired by local sustainable food experts to guide you to a diet that is kinder to the planet, and running seminars for businesses to help them serve food for the future.

Read Cambridge Sustainable Food’s Eat for our Future: Climate Diet Campaign October Events bulletin here.

Full information about Cambridge Sustainable Food and their work can be found on their website.

St Philip’s Church say farewell to Stewart and Sarah

Stewart Taylor, Vicar of St Philip’s Church for the past 30 years, is retiring at the end of September and will be greatly missed by parishioners and the wider community.

Stewart and his wife Sarah, photographed in 2003

Many people who are not churchgoers will know Stewart and Sarah through the many ways in which St Phillip’s is embedded in the community. If you would like to say a fond farewell, here are some other the weekend’s events.

  • Saturday 25th September 3pm – 4pm: Presentation with speeches in the Church
  • Sunday 26th September 10.30am: Stewart’s final service. As you would imagine, St Philip’s are expecting high numbers of people in attendance. There will be no distancing in church, but please (if you can) wear a mask throughout the service and the building will be kept well ventilated. Refreshments will be served afterwards.

More details details can be found on the St Phillip’s Cambridge website and in the latest edition of Lookout in which members of St Philip’s share memories of, and tributes to Stewart and Sarah.

Browne’s Bookstore – much loved, greatly missed

The recent death, aged 85, of former proprietor Gerd Browne (née Hamer) – Norwegian ski champion, intrepid adventurer, active member of the Buddhist community and anti-nuclear campaigner – has prompted us to publish some memories of the much-loved – now much-missed – Browne’s Bookstore, and of its proprietor and staff.

Photo of exterior of Browne's Bookstore
Browne’s Bookstore, after it had expanded from Nº56 into the adjacent Nº54a, formerly ‘Stitches’ bearing Cecilie Browne’s new shop-front design
Photo, courtesy Cecilie Browne

Born in 1936, Gerd completed an English and teaching degree at Oslo University and was working at a Norwegian ski resort when she met her husband-to-be Patrick Browne in 1960. The couple married in 1962 in Norway. They lived in London, before spending two years in Italy, with their eldest child, Cecilie, still a young baby at the time.

The family lived in Cambridge from 1965-1974 –during which time Gerd gave birth to their two sons, Alex (b 1965) and Anthony (b 1967) – before moving to a 10-acre smallholding in Fowlmere, half of which was planted with potatoes. Gerd threw her energy into vegetables, and chickens, and starting the Bookstore, as well as bringing up her three children.

Gerd moved to Cambridge in 1982 after separating from Patrick, becoming politically active in the anti-nuclear movement, including visiting Greenham Common. In 1984 she bought the house in Newnham where she lived for 37 years, until her death, this year.

Family get-togethers for Gerd and her three children may have been interesting, as her children have rather different political persuasions. Cecilie has been an environmental activist, Alex has been an animal rights activist, while Anthony was an adviser to then London mayor Boris Johnson before being elected as Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire.

Gerd died peacefully at Addenbrooke’s on 4th July 2021, following a short illness.


For fuller obituaries of Gerd Browne see:


Browsing at Browne’s

For 30 years Browne’s Bookstore – opening in 1976 as a husband and wife joint enterprise, before husband Patrick moved on to publishing – was a Mill Road institution, closing its doors to customers for the final time in 2007. When the Bookstore opened in 1976 it also sold potatoes by the sack, from the family smallholding in Fowlmere. Very Mill Road!

Patrick Browne outside the original Bookstore
Patrick Browne outside the original Bookstore Photo: courtesy Cecilie Browne

When Browne’s was extended to include the former tiny haberdashery shop – ‘Stitches’ – next door at 54a, daughter Cecilie was employed to design and paint the new double shop front. (See the photo at the head of this post.) She also designed plastic bags and bookmarks with the slogan: Come and browse at Browne’s.


Staff memories

For more than 30 years, Browne’s Bookstore flourished; an institution, a constant of life in and around Mill Road.

Gerd Browne loved her shop; and, perhaps because it was a small local enterprise and they were a small team, the staff all cared about Browne’s too. For many of them Gerd was a friend as well as an employer. She shared her ideas with them and listened, open-mindedly, to theirs. She was thoughtful, and generous.

In autumn a jostling stream of students arrived, needing course-books, advice and information – keeping everyone more than busy; then flowers for the workers came from Gerd. At Christmas there was an evening out together. And, after the New Year stocktaking, when friends and partners were invited in for a day of book counting, she took everyone to the Salisbury Arms, around the corner in Tenison Road, for a companionable meal.

Browne’s was never just any old bookshop. It was useful, regarded with deep affection, and familiar to so many people.

  • Do you want the latest novel by your favourite author? Browne’s will probably have it.
  • The big book shops have all told you that the book which you want is out of print, unavailable? Browne’s will somehow track it down.
  • You need an obscure come on pamphlet published in 1946? Browne’s will get you a copy.
  • There is a birthday coming up and you’ve forgotten to buy a card? Browne’s have a wonderful selection; and wrapping paper, too, if you need it.
  • You’ve been cooped up with the children for seemingly endless days of rain. Take them to Browne’s. They can choose a book and sit on the floor in the children section whilst you socialise and browse; then you can go home refreshed and read their choice till bedtime.
  • Do you want to put up a notice? It can be displayed on Browne’s free noticeboard. Where can you find the leaflet that’s going around? At Browne’s.

The list of roles played by Browne’s is seemingly endless. You met all sorts of people there. Local authors. Local artists. Eccentrics. Academics. Hippies. Three successive generations of the same family.

People on the street still stop to talk to one-time customers and one-time members of staff. They all say the same things:

Oh, I DO miss Browne’s.
I STILL miss Browne’s.

Elizabeth (Mysia) Baggs and Sally-Ann Ball, former employees

Gerd was a joy to work for – very ethical and good to her staff.

Gill Wakefield, former book-keeper
Gerd enjoying a festive snack in the office Photo: courtesy Cecilie Browne

20th anniversary

For 1996’s 20th anniversary the Bookstore window was decorated with Cecilie’s memorable browsing at Browne’s phrase.
Photo: courtesy Cecilie Browne
Gerd with son Anthony Browne, at the Bookstore’s 20th anniversary celebrations
Photo: courtesy Cecilie Browne

Meet some of the Bookstore staff


Interior and exterior views

When Browne’s Bookstore closed its doors to customers for the final time in 2007, independent bookshops across the UK had been closing down at a rate of two per week for some time. Gerd had held out for as long as she could in order to keep her loyal staff employed, but with the rapid rise of internet book sales and the end of her contract with Norwegian libraries, there was no option but to close.

Gerd , at home, post ‘retirement’ Photo: courtesy Cecilie Browne

Customers’ memories (and memories of customers)

I have pleasant memories of browsing through bookshelves brimming with so much useful and interesting literature, in Browne’s Bookstore.

I suppose the most significant memory is that of negotiating with Mrs Browne’s son, c 1986,  to set up an exchange system for A level (and O level added later) Physics & Mathematics text books, to help the relatively impoverished students of my Evening Class at what was then the Technical College. (Although I admit to also informing my students at St Andrew’s VIth Form College, where I was head tutor in Maths & Physics, of the arrangement!) He was very obliging and the arrangement was a great success, both for the students and for Browne’s, and ran for some years as the Tech morphed into a Poly, and beyond.

Ed Lloyd Jenkins, local resident

People would pop in for a chat, whether it was the two old ladies needing an ear for their woes, families coming in with their children, students returning to introduce partners and offspring, all were welcome.

Mysia Baggs, former employee

One day, a young woman took her time choosing which of two brand new, and very expensive, academic books was in the best condition.

Having made her choice, and paid for her purchase, she revealed that, with heavy books like these, she always cut them into sections at the spine, as this made it lighter to carry just the one or two sections needed for her studies on any particular day.

Sally-Ann Ball, former employee

I used to buy some of my undergraduate text books from Browne’s bookstore in the mid 1990s. It was especially convenient, because at that time we lived in Norfolk, so I travelled to Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, by rail.

I’d often pop into Browne’s to and from the station. They had a great range of academic books, including second hand texts, and the staff were always extremely helpful.

In 1998 we moved to Perowne Street, so I enjoyed a few years of browsing Browne’s on a very regular basis. Sadly by the time I took my Master’s degree, the store had closed.

Carol Ann Wood, local author and resident

At some time in the 1980s I read a review in The Observer of a first novel that sounded interesting.  I meant to keep the review but forgot. 

It was several weeks before I could afford to buy a book by which time I had forgotten both the name of the book and the author. 

I went to Browne’s and explained the situation to Gerd and said that all I could remember was that the photo of the author was a woman wearing glasses and that the review had referenced King Lear. 

Within 30 seconds I had Jane Smiley’s ‘1000 Acres’ in my hand!  I was extremely impressed!

Andy Laing, local resident

I was a great fan of Browne’s Bookstore from its opening day.

I remember ordering an obscure academic book from them not long after opening as they were often quicker than the large established bookshops such as Heffers. (This was long before the internet!) ‘Computing methods in Crystallography’ by J. Rollett.

When it came in Mr & Mrs Browne said it is far too expensive (£21) and they could not possibly charge me that, so they gave it to me at wholesale price.

You may like to see these three drawings I made of Browne’s Bookstore over the years. For the eagle-eyed: the pavement A-board sign still exists outside Arjuna, repainted.

Sam Motherwell, local artist, and resident

And finally, which shop was which?

We were asked: “Did Browne’s take over the former Last Exit bookshop premises?” We checked. No. Last Exit was at Nº 54 and is now the premises of Mr Ho, Chinese restaurant.

Discover more about Nº54 Mill Road, in its incarnations as Last Exit, Bar Italia, Bosphorus and Tulip Restaurant – with a tiny glimpse of Stitches at Nº54a – on the Capturing Cambridge website.

And, “Wasn’t Andy’s Records at Nº56?” Yes, but… both shops shared the same street number, though entirely separate premises!

Photo linked on We’re All Neighbours
Today Mill Taylor and Petersfield Pharmacy share street Nº 56, whilst Modigliani occupies Nº 54a Photo: Google street view

This post is open for comments. Please add your own recollections of browsing at Browne’s.

Mill Road Bridge restrictions end – but what of the future?

By CB & RW

In the real world the relationship between cause and effect can be difficult to trace but that is the task that Cambridgeshire County Council’s Highways and Transport Committee faced in deciding the future of Mill Road Bridge. 

Nobody doubts that Mill Road Traders experienced hard times during the pandemic, but was their hardship the result of restricted access to Mill Road Bridge? Or could it have been part of a wider decline in trade, which caused huge retail giants such as John Lewis and others to teeter, with Debenhams, Top Shop and others vanishing from our High Streets and shopping centres?

The Highways and Transport Committee’s decision to reopen the bridge, which was passed by the acting Chair’s casting vote on Tuesday 27th July appears to endorse this correlation. A connection between poor respiratory health prior to lockdown and pollutants that exceed those levels considered acceptable by the WHO, was not endorsed by that majority of one.

This followed a noisy demonstration the previous Saturday, which highlighted the strongly-held opinions on both sides of this issue.

image as caption
Protest by people opposed to the experimental closure on Mill Road bridge
Picture: Keith Heppell (linked from the Cambridge Independent website)

Cambridge Independent‘s Mike Scialom put it accurately – Mill Road bridge closure protest reveals divisions that will take time to heal. The article has embedded videos which show City Councillor for Romsey ward Dave Baigent, who supported the bridge restrictions – but as a city, rather than county councillor, had no vote on the implementation of the ETRO and has no vote on the future status of the bridge – being roundly abused by some of the demonstrators.

A Cambridge Independent report –Mill Road bridge in Cambridge set to reopen after single deciding vote – by Alex Spencer also includes photos and videos.

Over at Cambridge News, Christy O’Brien reports: Mill Road Bridge to reopen to traffic after controversial closure.

A live report of the meeting, from Camcycle can be found here on Thread Reader App here.

The positive aspect of this decision is that there will be a consultation on the experiences of residents and traders and the impacts that removing the restrictions on the bridge will have on health, collisions and an upturn in trade. These are trends that must be monitored.

Cambridge Independent‘s Gemma Gardner reports that work to reopen Mill Road bridge to all vehicles is set to begin on Tuesday 3rd August – Date set for work to reopen Mill Road bridge in Cambridge to all traffic. Whilst Cambridge News‘s Harry Gold advises Drivers warned Mill Road Bridge not yet open to cars.

Meanwhile, there is a question mark over whether the abrupt ending of the scheme could have financial implications for Cambridgeshire County Council’s future central government (DfT) funding for active transport schemes.

£338 million package to further fuel active travel boom

Funding for infrastructure upgrades, changes to The Highway Code and new requirements to ensure that active travel schemes’ effects are properly assessed.

Department for Transport and The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP

In a sign of the growing frustration within government at some councils, both Conservative and Labour, which have removed active travel schemes in the face of sometimes noisy objections, transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris is formally writing to the leaders of all English local authorities with transport responsibilities.

Peter Walker Political correspondent, The Guardian

Read the full article: Hastily abandoned low-traffic schemes could cost councils funding


But how can we all help our much-loved restaurants, cafés, pubs and independent shops to thrive? Promotion would be a start.

Gwydir St Car Park (car symbol)
For Mill Road’s great restaurants, cafés,
pubs, independent shops and much more
Could we have signage like this on Gonville Place?
Mill Road (cycle symbol, pedestrian symbol)
Great restaurants, cafés,
pubs, independent shops
and so much more
And signage like this on the Chisholm Trail, at the railway station, on Parker’s Piece and at the Collier Road exit of Anglia Ruskin University

This post is open to (polite) comments. Before commenting you might wish to read 10 views on the decision to reopen Mill Road bridge in Cambridge to all traffic, compiled by Cambridge Independent‘s editor Paul Brackley.

From Risky Streets to ‘Living Streets’?

The Living Streets local street survey of Cambridge

In December 2020 and January 2121 Mill Road Bridges featured Pavement Survey – Living Streets and Pavement Survey – Update from the Cambridge Living Streets group.

The group’s report From Risky Streets to ‘Living Streets’? – The Living Streets local street survey of Cambridge (PDF) is now available online. Click the image below to read/download the report.

image: Living Streets Group Cambridge
Image courtesy of the Cambridge Living Streets group
The report’s author, Linda Jones. Photo: Cambridge News

Authored by Linda Jones, Emeritus Professor of Health, The Open University (also former Cambridgeshire County Councillor for Petersfield Division in Cambridge) the report highlights Cambridge residents’ dissatisfaction, with fewer than 6% happy with their experience as a pedestrian.

Table 3: Overall pedestrian experience
Are you generally happy with your experience as a pedestrian in Cambridge?
Overall YES 5.4%
Overall NO 62.9%
It Depends 31.6%

Nearly every respondent mentioned the state of the pavements themselves, with nearly 3/4 of respondents complaining about pavements blocked by parked vehicles. Cambridgeshire County Council have had powers for over a decade to tackle the issue of vehicles obstructing our pavements. And it wouldn’t put a penny on the council tax – enforcement would be self-financing as penalty charge revenue would help to pay the salaries of the existing enforcement officers.

See Protecting Pedestrian Space.

Table 4: Pavements: quality and obstructions % reporting
Pavements that are sloping, uneven, cracked or potholed 90.7%
Pavements blocked by parked vehicles 71.5%
Pavements blocked by waste bins 62.6%
Traffic signs and street furniture obstructing pavements 41.5%
Hedges protruding onto pavements 53%

Read/download the report From Risky Streets to ‘Living Streets’? – The Living Streets local street survey of Cambridge, here.

See also Living Streets Cambridge report says just 6% happy with conditions for pedestrians by Mike Scialom in the Cambridge Independent.

And don’t forget to contribute to the Living Streets organisation’s national Cut the Clutter! week of Action Monday 12th July – Sunday 18th July 2021 by mapping the pavement-clutter around your area. If you haven’t already done so, click here to start mapping your local pavement-clutter.

Cut the Clutter!

Week of Action Monday 12th July – Sunday 18th July 2021

The Living Streets organisation is hoping to map some of the obstructions that clutter our pavements throughout this week. Can you help to highlight the problems which pedestrians face in and around Mill Road?

This is a great opportunity to highlight some of the major barriers to safe walking, especially for wheelchair users and others with disabilities as well as for parents with buggies. Click here to start mapping your local pavement-clutter.

Photo as caption below
Black, green and blue wheelie-bins and ‘side waste’ block a narrow pavement, off Mill Road. Photo taken two days before blue bin collection, nine days ahead of black bin collection and 15 days before green bin collection.

If you can, please take some time, during the week, to record the locations of misplaced or broken street furniture and guard rails, A-boards cluttering narrow pavements, badly located bike racks, disused phone boxes, traffic signs or street lamps in the middle of pavements and other obstruction. Enter those details in the simple map provided, together with a photograph if you can take one.

However…
Traders are permitted to place sign-boards, produce stalls, tables and chairs on their forecourt area. Often the only way to distinguish between the footway and the forecourt is a line of paving blocks. Take a look at the annotated photo, below.

Photo showing footway and adjacent forecourt area on Mill Road, Cambridge
The cycle-stands and the two vehicles are pavement clutter. The produce stall, chairs and table are not, as they are on a shop forecourt.

We thank, David Stoughton, Chair, Living Streets Cambridge, for drawing this campaign to our attention.

Litter survey

Cambridge City Council’s consultation is open from 2nd July to 15th August 2021.

Litter has been a long-standing problem for Cambridge, as the photo and linked article, below, illustrate.

Young volunteers collecting rubbish in summer 2020 Click the image to read the full story Alcohol ban in Cambridge parks considered to tackle littering menace, by Alex Spencer in the Cambridge Independent

Tidying litter costs us all a lot of money every year, so maintaining a cleaner, greener Cambridge is a priority in Cambridge City Council’s Corporate Plan. It’s unrealistic to expect a completely litter-free city, but the council want to significantly reduce it and increase re-use and recycling.

The council are developing a litter strategy, which will cover the management of litter on streets and open spaces. It will include flytipping and street sweeping.

Cambridge City Council need to hear your views on litter and the litter-cleaning services they provide. This will help the council to shape future priorities and recognise what they do well and where they could make improvements.

It would be great if Mill Road area residents respond. Whilst many respondents may focus on the city’s more well-known open spaces – like Parker’s Piece, Jesus Green and Midsummer Common – along with the historic city centre, we need to make our local needs known.

Mill Road Cemetery has its own problems, as do Romsey Rec, Coleridge Rec and St Matthew’s Piece, But what about our side streets? Is your side street near to a take-away? Does each morning bring a regular harvest of discarded drinks cans, expanded polystyrene boxes and part-eaten food? Does it suffer from fly-tipping?

Please respond to the City Council’s online litter survey to tell them your views, and share any ideas you have to help them tackle local problems.

The survey should take about 15 minutes, and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve been a good citizen by taking part, and, as a bonus, you can enter a prize draw for £100 of vouchers at the end!

The survey closes at midnight on 15th August 2021. You can contact parks@cambridge.gov.uk if you have any questions about it or the council’s work to prevent litter. They can also provide a printed version of the survey if you know someone without internet access who would like to participate.

But if you’ve got a litter problem now, you don’t need to wait until after mid-August for the City Council to act. Find out how to report fly-tipping including asbestos, here. Click here to request a litter pick. And click here to find out how to join or set up a volunteer litter picking group.


This post is open for comments but, remember these will not be seen by Cambridge City Council’s officers, nor contribute to the council’s survey.