Summer Shindig

Saturday 18th June 2022, Romsey Recreation ground

Poster – Summer Shindig – Saturday 18th June 2022, Romsey Recreation ground – 4pm - 9pm
For full details, click on the poster

The first Mill Road Fringe event of 2022 will be the Summer Shindig which will take place on Saturday 18th June from 4-9pm at Romsey Recreation Ground, Vinery Road.

Featuring live music, giant games, pebble painting and more, it promises to be a great family evening. Bring your own picnic (no barbecues though please), kick back and enjoy the summer!

Music will come courtesy of some amazing local bands:

  • Colonel Spanky’s Love Ensemble
  • The Scissors
  • The Electron Thieves
  • Mimsy and the Borogoves.

New Community Centre for Mill Road – information evening

NEW COMMUNITY CENTRE on the Ironworks site
Information Evening
27th April, 19.00-20.00
St Barnabas Centre, Mill Road
Everyone Welcome
Come along and find out more, share your ideas, have your say!
 
Would you like to run an activity, volunteer, help us fund-raise? CONTACT: helen@pactcambridge.org or admin@romseymill.org
Click the image to view/download a printable poster for this event

Everyone is welcome to attend this Information Evening, on Wednesday 27th April, 19:00-20:00 at St Barnabas Centre, Mill Road, CAMBRIDGE CB1 2BD. Maximum community participation is the best recipe for the success of this very welcome venture.

Since 1998, there has been an ongoing saga in Petersfield of the lack of community facilities. Many local people felt the loss of youth facilities due to the transformation of the Howard Mallett Centre (HMC), first into a multi-media centre from 1998, then leased to a local group who proposed building offices and housing (on land which was given in perpetuity to local residents “for rest and recreation”!)

Read more on the Petersfield Area Community Trust website.

Mill Road Bridges were delighted to learn in early 2020 that…

A new partnership of local community organisations has been appointed by Cambridge City Council to manage the new community centre that will be built as part of the ‘Ironworks’ housing scheme on the former Mill Road Depôt site.

Romsey Mill Trust and Petersfield Area Community Trust worked collaboratively to submit a successful tender to secure an initial 11-year lease to run the new community building for local residents and community groups to use. 

PLANNED NEW MILL ROAD COMMUNITY CENTRE

Fuller details of the project can be found in this Romsey Mill blogpost from Friday 31st January 2020 – Romsey Mill to manage new planned Mill Road Community Centre in partnership with Petersfield Area Community Trust.

If you would like to run an activity, volunteer, or help with fund-raising, click here to email helen@pactcambridge.org/admin@romseymill.org.


Whilst you are welcome to add comments, below, these will not be routinely monitored by Romsey Mill Trust and/or Petersfield Area Community Trust.

Mill Road Consultations (again)

Have your say on improving Mill Road

The Greater Cambridge Partnership is consulting on Mill Road and its potential future and want 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.

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

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)

The Greater Cambridge Partnership is the body set up under a ‘City Deal’ in agreement with (then) Chancellor, George Osborne, with a budget of over £500 million.

Venn diagram from Smarter Cambridge Transport, showing the complexity of local government bodies in Cambridgeshire
Image courtesy of Smarter Cambridge Transport

This consultation (and the related on-line ‘workshops’, run by Involve, UK’s leading public participation charity) are initial stages where the Greater Cambridge Partnership are asking the public for their views on a range of options for Mill Road. Read more about the consultation in the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s explanatory booklet (PDF).


Local groups welcome consultation

Camcycle (Cambridge Cycling Campaign), Mill Road Traders’ Association and local campaigning group Mill Road – A Street For People, issued a joint statement (PDF) welcoming a new round of consultation on improving Mill Road, recognising differences of views about how Mill Road could see improvements to safety, attractiveness of trade and an improved environment, and agreeing that the consultation must be carried out in an effective, fair and inclusive way. They did, however, express some reservations about the focus group ‘workshops’ mentioned above. As a result, an additional Sunday workshop session has been arranged. See below.

All are united in urging local residents, and everyone who travels or trades along Mill Road, to respond and share their views.


How else can I find out more, and give my views?

Greater Cambridge Partnership is holding public meetings, in-person drop-ins and a Sunday (on-line) workshop. All of these require (free) pre-registration. Find out more and register here – Public meetings, in-person drop-ins and Greater Cambridge Partnership workshop.

There will also be a Greater Cambridge Partnership East Community Forum (on-line) meeting, on Monday 21st March 2022. Projects that will be discussed include Cambridge Eastern Access, Chisholm Trail phases 1 & 2, Mill Road and the Greenways. Find out more and register here – Greater Cambridge Partnership East Community Forum meeting.


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.

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


Aren’t there a number of other issues?

Yes…

But the present blogpost might stretch into eternity if these were considered here. The questions below, and related issues, are considered in a related blogpost, currently in preparation – More thoughts on Mill Road’s future. (This link will work as soon as the associated blogpost is published.)


Many people appreciated the greater safety for foot and cycle traffic during the earlier bridge restrictions, others complained about the limitations to the use of motor-vehicles. Whatever your opinions, do click through to the Greater Cambridge Partnership Mill Road consultation page to make them known.

And please make full use of the three narrative responses to give the Greater Cambridge Partnership the benefit of your comprehensive views.


This post was updated on Monday 28th February 2022, to correct links to the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s explanatory booklet (PDF), as the link had been changed, internally, on the consultation page.
It ws further updated to provide links to each section of the related blogpost– More thoughts on Mill Road’s future, and to clarify that this is now published.


Most of Mill Road Bridges’ blogposts are open to (polite) comments. This one is not, in order to collate comments in the related blogpost– More thoughts on Mill Road’s future.

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).

Pavements for Pedestrians

Pavement parking along Mill Road is a menace, especially to people with disabilities (physical, visual, auditory or hidden) and to young children. It is also wrecking Mill Road’s pavements, which were not designed to carry vehicular traffic.

Graphic, titled "Reclaim the Pavements, Mill Road," of child pedestrians including wheelchair user, holding signs prohibiting cycles and pavement parking and warning of pedestrians.

Many drivers feel entitled to park on Mill Road’s pavements. Indeed many drive aggressively onto the footway, honking their horn for you to move out of the way.


But isn’t it illegal?

At the present time, outside of Greater London, parking on the footway is not unlawful. But driving on the pavement is. Spotted the obvious logical flaw? Let’s see what the Highway Code says…

You MUST NOT park partially or wholly on the pavement in London, and should not do so elsewhere unless signs permit it. Parking on the pavement can obstruct and seriously inconvenience pedestrians, people in wheelchairs or with visual impairments and people with prams or pushchairs. [Highway Code, updated 29th January 2022, Rule 224]

Only pedestrians may use the pavement. Pedestrians include wheelchair and mobility scooter users. [Highway Code, updated 29th January 2022, Rule H2]

‘MUST NOT, should not’… What’s the difference?

Many Highway Code rules are legal requirements, identified by the words ‘MUST/MUST NOT’. Other Highway Code rules (with advisory wording such as ‘should/should not’ or ‘do/do not’) may be used in evidence, in court. See Wording of The Highway Code. You can view/download the latest update of the Highway Code (PDF, free) here.


It’s not just Mill Road, though is it?

Absolutely. Take a look around the corner along East Road. Then check out the verges of Barnwell Road and Whitehill Road when Cambridge United are playing at the Abbey Stadium. As well as commenting below, why not get in touch with Living Streets Cambridge who are working with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and CamSight to tackle the problem of pavement parking in Cambridge. Check out their rogues’ gallery and/or email the group.


Can’t the police do anything?

Pavement parking, in Cambridge, is not unlawful, and Cambridgeshire Constabulary have suffered over a decade of financial cutbacks.

But Cambridgeshire County Council have had powers to deal with this for over eleven years.

What? Eleven years of council inaction! Really?

Councils with civil parking enforcement powers (including Cambridgeshire County Council) were given ‘special authorisation’ in February 2011 by the (then) Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport (DfT), Norman Baker, to prohibit parking on footways and verges, wherever they considered it necessary. This would be through a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) or Experimental Traffic Regulation Order (ETRO).

Read/download a PDF of Norman Baker’s original letter here. A text-only PDF is available here.


So why have Cambridgeshire County Council done nothing*?

It may be political. The civil parking enforcement zone only applies within the Cambridge City Council boundary, although Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) ‘tickets’ are issued by Civil Enforcement Officers (CEOs) ‘traffic wardens’ contracted to the County Council. Until the change in control at the May 2021 elections, no senior County Council committee member sat for any Cambridge County Division.

Now, however, Councillor Gerri Bird (Chesterton Division) is Vice-Chair of the County’s Highways and Transport Committee. Perhaps she, and our local county councillors could bring about some welcome changes.

(*But see the discussion in our comments section about whether these powers may have been used on Fendon Road and Mowbray Road.)

So, if the County Council do make regulations will drivers just ignore them?

They might. But it would cost them – £70 for a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN). And the regulations wouldn’t be limited to places with yellow ‘no waiting’ lines. Currently, Civil Enforcement Officers (CEOs) need to wait to see why a vehicle is waiting (eg lawful loading/unloading or unlawful ‘Just popping into the shop’ waiting). Drivers know that they can come out of a shop with something heavy and get away with this misuse of pavements, time and time again.

However, where a pavement parking prohibition is in place, it is breached the instant a vehicle mounts the footway, for whatever reason. CEOs could issue an immediate PCN.


What about Romsey side-streets where the pavement is the only place to park?

In London, parking is allowed on the pavement where local boroughs have set out marked bays half-on, half-off the pavement and put up signs, just like there are in Mill Road’s Romsey Town. A ban on pavement (and verge) parking elsewhere wouldn’t affect Romsey side-streets.


And how much more council tax would we have to pay?

Potentially nothing. Zero. Nil. Zilch. There should be no ongoing cost to council tax payers. Enforcement should be self-financing as penalty charge revenue would help to pay the salaries of the existing enforcement officers.


How can we make our feelings known?

Whatever your view, as long as it is expressed politely, you can contribute to our comments section at the foot of this blogpost.

If you feel strongly about this issue, why not send a polite email to Councillor Neil Shailer (Romsey) and Councillor Richard Howitt (Petersfield) with Councillor Peter McDonald Councillor (Chair, Highways & Transportation Committee) and Gerri Bird (Vice-Chair) copied in? Click here to open an email to them.

If you don’t live in the Mill Road area you can find the county councillor for your division here.

The Greater Cambridge Partnership has launched (Monday 21st February 2022) a period of public engagement on parking issues in Cambridge. The engagement period will run for four weeks and will close at midday on Monday 21st March 2022. Although pavement parking is not on the list of the kind of on-street parking issues and problems the Greater Cambridge Partnership would like to hear about. They do point out that there may be other parking issues in your area that you may wish to comment on.

You can find the consultation site here – Parking issues in Cambridge: Spring 2022 – and add comments to their interactive map here – Parking 2022 – Discussion Map.


Where else has a scheme like this, outside London?

Peterborough, which is a Unitary Authority* brought in a city-wide Traffic Regulation Order prohibiting pavement parking in 2017. Although this is a Conservative-led authority, it was proposed by Labour councillors and gained multi-party support. The clever thing which they did was to bring in a overarching Traffic Regulation Order and leave implementation to be a matter for discussion where local communities, or the emergency services requested it, or it was otherwise seen as essential.

*A Unitary Authority means that Peterborough City Council have all of the responsibilities which, in Cambridge are split between Cambridge City Council and Cambridgeshire County Council.

Peterborough City Councillor Richard Ferris, Labour member for Park Ward, said:

“It’s unusual when you get cross-party support like we did at the meeting. It’s a massive issue in Park ward. It’s up there as one of the top half-a-dozen issues people contact me on.”

[Peterborough Today: Peterborough drivers face fines for parking on roadside verges or pavements]

More on Peterborough’s scheme…


Shouldn’t there be a national ban on pavement parking?

This was discussed by the House of Commons Transport Select Committee in September 2019. The Chair at that time, Lilian Greenwood MP, said:

“Pavement parking has a huge impact on people’s lives and their ability get around their communities. […] evidence to our inquiry revealed the impact on those with visual and mobility impairments and people with children.

“We are deeply concerned that the Government has failed to act on this issue, despite long-standing promises to do so. This is a thorny problem that may be difficult to resolve to the satisfaction of all, but the Government’s inaction has left communities blighted by unsightly and obstructive pavement parking and individuals afraid or unable to leave their homes or safely navigate the streets.”

House of Commons Transport Select Committee, September 2019.

Should Cambridgeshire County Council wait for a national ban? The DfT granted them their own powers – over a decade ago. What are they waiting for?

Time passes…

On 12th March 2020 it was announced: The Government is to run a consultation about a national ban on pavement parking following the Transport Committee’s 2019 influential inquiry and report. [parliament.uk]

The Chair of the Transport Committee, Huw Merriman MP, said:

“I am pleased the Government has taken on board the previous Committee’s concerns about the very real difficulties presented by pavement parking and our proposed solutions. […]

“However, we have to now deliver this change. The Government promised to look into the issue in 2015 but consultations, roundtable events and internal reviews failed to lead to any actions to improve the experience of the public. This Government has signalled an intent to finally deliver change. We now need a detailed timeframe from the Department for Transport to ensure this happens.

“In publishing today’s Response, we are putting the Government on notice that we will be monitoring progress carefully. We look forward to reviewing progress on each of the pledges and our Committee has committed to a further evidence session in 12 months’ time to drive real change.”

And here we are, two years on… So, where is the DfT’s Pavement Parking Ban? Nowhere to be seen. But there is no need to wait; the DfT granted Cambridgeshire County Council their own powers over a decade ago.


See also the earlier blogpost: Pavement Parking along Mill Road.


Would you like to walk along a vehicle-free pavement? Whatever your view, as long as it is expressed politely, you can add your comments below.

And do consider checking out the Living Streets Cambridge website and/or emailing the group.

‘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.

How will councillors help Cambridge and surrounding areas to thrive?

Cambridge Doughnut logo

Cambridge Doughnut asked candidates ahead of May 6th elections

Cambridge Doughnut envisions a new way of rebuilding the Cambridge economy following the pandemic to better meet the challenges of the 21st century, so asked candidates what issues they would prioritise in the aim to create a fairer, more sustainable city for all.

Cambridge Doughnut, a Cambridge-based community group working to support the regeneration of the Cambridge economy based on Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics principles, organised a digital “hustings” for political candidates contesting in the May 6th elections. Our questions covered issues that mattered to the residents of Cambridge while also considering the reality of the climate emergency we now live in. 

Cambridge Doughnut strives to foster an economy that supports the needs of all people while helping sustain the planet for future generations, using Raworth’s approach to build a society which is both socially just and sustainable. Launched in September 2020 Cambridge Doughnut have grown to over a hundred members in a little over six months. By asking candidates how they would help achieve the dual goals of social justice and environmental protection, the hope is to educate them in the principles of Doughnut Economics and its potential to transform administrative planning. 

Candidates from all key political parties standing for the Cambridge City elections replied to our call and their signed responses can be found in full here: Questions to Candidates

Cambridge Doughnut also wrote to candidates standing for the Cambridgeshire County Council and neighbouring district council elections; received a response from the Green Party Candidate for Cambridgeshire County Council in Abbey, and a collective response from South Cambs Greens at the time of writing. 

The following were the questions posed to candidates:

Ambitious growth plans for this most unequal of cities usually focuses on high-tech, bio and pharma industries – boosting opportunities for incomers, the already advantaged and the highly qualified.

1. How will you ensure the new Local Plan alongside council initiatives improves the living standards of the less privileged and those for whom ‘affordable housing’ is not affordable?

2. How will you seek to ensure the city as a whole delivers what’s needed to address the climate and ecological emergency (climate emergency was declared by the city council and Parliament in 2019)?

3. Will you work for (and how?) passage of the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill?

For the 100-and-growing residents from Cambridge and surrounding areas who are part of Cambridge Doughnut, the motivation to run a digital “hustings” was two-fold: firstly, to receive a public commitment from candidates on where they stand on the above issues, and secondly, to encourage them to adopt principles from Doughnut Economics in planning, following the path taken by other cities around the world, including Amsterdam and Brussels. Closer to home, Cornwall Council identified the Doughnut model as a useful framework to assess the impact of policies.  

David Stoughton, a member of Cambridge Doughnut, said, “While there is some good intent when it comes to narrowing the wealth divide or tackling climate change, urgent demands and party politics tend to override better motivations. Without an unambiguous statement of belief and intent it is impossible for voters to hold our representatives to account, and this is what we hope to achieve.” 

Acknowledging the limited influence councillors have in changing national-level policies, fellow member and long-time resident Geraint Davies adds, “We are interested to hear the links candidates make between the big picture and the local Cambridge system. Are they referring to national political stances or do they have aspirations for local change? Are they making system-level connections between local issues? Are they connecting environmental protection with societal change? The responses indicate to some extent candidates’ alignment with the principles of Doughnut Economics. If you are interested in these principles and believe they are important in creating a fairer and more sustainable society, you can use the responses to steer your votes.”

At Cambridge Doughnut, the intention is to make Doughnut Economics a more central theme in the political dialogue, and we want to continue to work with councils and the successful candidates to promote a better understanding of Doughnut Economics and of ways to implement it locally.

What is Doughnut Economics? 

In her 2017 book Doughnut Economics, Oxford economist Kate Raworth laid out a new way of looking at economics based on the priorities set out by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The Doughnut’s social foundation (the centre of the Doughnut) sets out the minimum standard of living for all covering basic rights like food, water and access to healthcare. The Doughnut’s ecological ceiling (the outside edge) comprises the planetary boundaries within which we must live to preserve our world – a stable climate, fertile soils, healthy oceans, a protective ozone layer, ample freshwater and biodiversity. 

Get Involved

Cambridge Doughnut are inviting residents and local organisations to join their efforts to help make the city of Cambridge and surrounding areas a thriving place for all. To find out more click here or email cambridgedoughnut@gmail.com.

Winter Fair 2021…??

Announcing the 2021 Mill Road Winter Fair Annual General Meeting

This year’s Annual General Meeting will be held via Zoom on Tuesday 23 March at 7.30pm. Mill Road Winter Fair will be planning the 2021 Fair and exploring a range of exciting ideas for Mill Road Fringe events, which may take place during the summer months as the Covid restrictions lift.

This is the perfect time to join Mill Road Winter Fair’s team of volunteers and help shape the cultural life of Mill Road’s ‘Community of Communities’. Getting involved in the Fair is a great way to meet a fabulous bunch of people while also making a massive difference in our community.

Please email info@millroadwinterfair.org if you’d like to find out more and/or receive the Zoom link for the Annual General Meeting.

The 2020 Fair

In 2020, the Mill Road Winter Fair could not take place owing to Covid-19 restrictions. Instead, the first Online Fair featuring many of the local performers, artists, stalls and organisations who would have been there on the day, took place.

The Fair committee also coordinated an amazing community event to celebrate and showcase the identity and culture of Mill Road. Fun for all the family, the Mill Road Lantern Trail was funded by the charity, Love Mill Road.

River Cam – from filthy ditch to Bathing Water status?

Whist slightly outside our territory, there is plenty of local concern about water quality in our city’s river and keen interest in our local Cam/Granta tributary, Cherry Hinton Brook.

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Cam Valley Forum has a tentative proposal to designate formally a stretch of the River Cam in Cambridge as a ‘bathing water’.

However, not everyone is in agreement, that this is the best route to cleaning the Cam…

At this initial informal consultation stage, Cam Valley Forum are inviting comments from local interests directly concerned with the River in the City. The proposal cannot proceed without the benefit of widespread support and agreement.

The area tentatively proposed for the designated ‘bathing water’ is indicated by the red line along the riverbank on the map and satellite images above (Source: Google Earth).

In the Victorian era, all rubbish and waste of every kind was disposed of directly into the river Cam, or into King’s Ditch, right near Market Square.

According to legend, Queen Victoria herself came to visit Cambridge early in her reign.  While she was here, she looked at the river, and found it so filthy that she couldn’t even identify all the kinds of rubbish that were floating in the water.  She asked, “What are those pieces of paper floating in the river?” Rather than saying they were book and newspaper pages used as toilet paper, the tactful answer was, “Those Ma’am are notices that bathing is forbidden!”.

Eglantyne Jebb was a campaigner for improved living conditions. She wrote an important policy report advocating proper piping from toilets to sewage pipes, and a sewage treatment facility. Her work resulted in the pumping station built on Riverside in 1894, now the Cambridge Museum of Technology.

Quayside from Magdalene Bridge, 1910, showing pumping station chimney downstream, from Tower Project Blog

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The Cam has been used for bathing for over four centuries. Traditionally men and boys from the town swam from the banks of Sheep’s Green, whereas those from the University swam a little further upstream. By the early nineteenth century, at least, both sites had become official bathing places known as the Town Sheds and the University Sheds. In the nineteenth century and for much of the twentieth, swimming in the river was immensely popular, and both sites had steps into the river, spring-boards, slides and diving platforms.

The Town Sheds were more lavishly equipped. They were managed by a custodian who, amongst other duties, taught boys to swim in Snobs’ Stream (the Millstream that branches from the Cam just south of Hodson’s Folly to serve Newnham Mill). The Town Sheds were a male preserve until, in 1896, the corporation opened the Ladies’ Bathing Place at the southern tip of Sheep’s Green where Snobs’ Stream leaves the river. In 1962 the Ladies’ Bathing Place was closed and mixed bathing was allowed at the Town Sheds.

In the 1970s, concerns about the health risks of polluted river water led to the closure of the Town Sheds and, by 1980, the site had become the base for the Cambridge Canoe Club. In the following decades swimming in rivers was discouraged and the Cam Conservancy, whose remit as the navigation authority includes the upper river, forbade swimming in daylight hours except at designated bathing places. By the beginning of this century there were no such designated places.

However, people continued to swim from the area of the Town Sheds. Jumping off the bridge remained popular. The secluded site of the University Sheds, by then renamed the Newnham Riverbank Club, provides simple wild swimming facilities for paying members. In recent years, people have increasingly enjoyed swimming from Sheep’s Green and Grantchester Meadows, and membership of the Newnham Riverbank Club is over-subscribed. Now, the Cam Conservancy allows swimming in the whole upper river from Byron’s Pool, above Grantchester, down to the King’s Mill Weir in Cambridge.

Cam Valley Forum
Swimming in the river in the 1970s. The Learner Pool, behind the honeycomb block enclosure, was built in 1972 – Cam Valley Forum


Read/download the whole of the Cam Valley Forum informal consultation paper on this tentative proposal, here.

You may send any comments to Cam Valley Forum at info@camvalleyforum.uk. If you would like to have a meeting to discuss the proposals, please mention this in your email. You may also leave (polite) comments on this website, below.

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Elsewhere…

Campaigns to use Bathing Water Status to improve river quality are now taking place across the country. One of the latest is in Bath…
One man’s fight to get bathing water status for a stretch of river near Bath

Johnny Palmer was so determined to tackle water quality at an island beauty spot near Bath that he bought the land. He now hopes to make Warleigh Weir the first area of river in the UK to be given bathing water status to spearhead a national campaign to clean up inland waterways.

Palmer, a property investor who has swum with his family at Warleigh Weir for many years, was shocked to find out that Wessex Water is allowed to discharge untreated sewage into the River Avon around the beauty spot.

“When I was told, I was like, ‘Woah, hold on. Back up a second. Seriously?’ I didn’t realise storm water mixed with untreated sewage flowed into our river.”

Sandra Laville, The Guardian, Wed 1 Jul 2020
Read the full article, here.

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River Wharfe, Ilkley

Perhaps the most persistent campaigners have been Becky Malby and her fellow advocates from the Ilkley Clean River Group.

Swimming, paddling and playing in Wharfe at Ilkley – Ilkley Clean River Group

Here is a flavour of the unfolding unfolding story…

Local people in a Yorkshire town are pressing for their river to become the first in the UK to be designated as a bathing area to force the authorities to clean up the water they say is being used as an open sewer.

In the spa town of Ilkley a grassroots campaign has uncovered the regular and routine dumping of untreated sewage by Yorkshire Water – with the approval of the Environment Agency – into the River Wharfe.

Growing pressure to clean up Britain’s rivers to meet bathing water quality is a “game changer” that will require more government funding as the public embrace the outdoors, the head of the Environment Agency has said.

A growing number of river users are calling for action to tackle the routine and legal discharge of untreated sewage into Britain’s waterways, which they say amounts to treating them like an open sewer.

The Environment Agency says nothing will be done to stem the flow of sewage into a Yorkshire river popular with swimmers and families until at least 2030.

Despite acknowledging that the level of sewage discharges into the River Wharfe at Ilkley – which have been admitted by Yorkshire Water – should trigger an investigation, the EA told campaigners nothing will happen for 10 years.

Campaigners seeking to make a river in Yorkshire the UK’s first to be designated a bathing area have accused environment ministers of blocking their application.

In the spa town of Ilkley, river users and residents submitted a 65-page application to turn part of the River Wharfe in the town into a bathing water area last October.

Ilkley’s three Bradford district councillors have expressed concern that the ongoing campaign to get the Wharfe designated for ‘safe swimming’ fails to acknowledge the river’s poor safety record.

Part of the River Wharfe in Ilkley, which is a popular swimming and paddling spot, is to be added to the list of bathing waters next year, after months of campaigning.

A stretch of the River Wharfe in Ilkley will have its pollution levels monitored by the Environment Agency to ensure it is safe for swimming.

The move follows a campaign by local residents who said they had seen “human solid waste” on the river bank.

Becky Malby, from the Ilkley Clean River Group, said she was “absolutely over the moon” at the news.

Selected paragraphs from news reports on the Guardian, Yorkshire Post and BBC websites. Click on each to read more details.

For full details of correspondence and more, head to the Ilkley Clean River Group website.

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Are we all agreed?

Just as there were multiple issues over the Ilkley River Wharfe proposals, not all Cambridge people are sure that this is the best way forward…

This is the response from Newnham Croft Residents’ Association to Stephen Tomkins and Cam Valley Forum.

Dear Stephen and CVF

I am writing on behalf of Newnham Croft Residents Association in regard to your proposals for Sheeps Green.

The state of the river, as you show, is indeed shocking, and we all want to see water quality improved. However, we have concerns about designation of this small area as a bathing place for the following reasons:

 1. Safety 

There are major safety issues:

  • Scudamores now have many more punts, which come along this part of the river
  • There is now a canoe club on the site with 500 members situated next to the Learner pool, with canoes launching along the area in front of it.  They are aware of the hazard this poses, and are suggesting that the bathing place should be at the former Ladies bathing place. This is adjacent to the Nature Reserve however, and increased noise and disturbance would be very detrimental to the wildlife there.
  • Even if lifeguards were provided, with so much activity in this part of the river it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for them to supervise swimming safely here, and there are real dangers – a child drowned here only a couple of years ago.
2. Environmental Impact

As your photos show, Sheeps Green used to be a popular bathing place with people from across the city, and many of us have very happy memories of swimming there in the 1970s. However, there was no car park then and although it was very busy on fine days, most of us walked or cycled. 

There would now be serious issues of environmental capacity – Sheeps Green and Coe Fen are both protected green spaces, and Paradise, which was like a jungle in the 1970s is now a very popular city nature reserve. 

The pressure on all these places and Lammas Land has grown enormously over the past year, and it seems that this will continue to increase as Cambridge expands and people are prepared to travel long distances by car to enjoy the places they have heard about on ‘what’s app’ and Facebook.There would need to be an environmental impact assessment as this proposal is likely to lead to a large increase in noise and disturbance that would be to be harmful to the wildlife and biodiversity, which should be given priority here. 

3. Access

The only access  for cars is down the Driftway, which leads off a rather hazardous junction. It is a narrow lane shared with pedestrians and cycles, and the small car park is used by shoppers, visitors to Lammas Land, Sheeps Green and Paradise as well as members of the Canoe Club. It is usually completely full already in the summer, with people parking (illegally) along the lane as well.

4. Facilities

The information given regarding the facilities available on site is rather misleading.

  • There are no changing facilities – the Canoe Club now occupies the site of the former bathing sheds and the couple of small rooms at the Learner Pool are only for children.
  • The 6 toilets at Lammas Land are not adequate for people using the park in the summer, let alone additional people coming to swim at a bathing place on the river.
  • There is no café, only a small kiosk serving drinks and ice- cream.

This is a small, environmentally sensitive area, and not suitable for building these facilities to meet the needs of visitors at a designated bathing place. We allwant to get the water quality in the Cam and its chalk streams improved, but a focus on this one small area could cause unintended harm.

 As Stephen wrote to me, ‘Wearing my ecology/wildlife hat I am not so keen on expanding the use of that area for people in high summer, but it is unquestionably a gambit that will force the hand of Anglian Water to really make a much bigger effort to raise the water quality’

It should not be necessary to risk irreparable harm to a protected green space and nature reserve to get Anglian Water to improve water quality along the whole river, and I hope we will be able to work with you to achieve this .

We would be happy to attend a meeting to discuss it with you further.

Kind Regards
Jean Glasberg
Chair Newnham Croft Residents Association

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And the views of Friends of the Cam*

*Friends of the River Cam was initiated by Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, Cambs and Peterborough, Federation of Cambridge Residents’ Associations, Cambridge Friends of the Earth, Cambridge Schools Eco-Council and Cambridge Labour Party Environment Forum.

Tony Booth started this petition – Save the Cam – on behalf of the Friends of the River Cam, are asking individuals and organisations to put pressure on local government, water companies and the Environment Agency in the Cambridge area to Save the River Cam and its tributaries by signing up to support the Cam River Charter.

Friends of the Cam letter to Cam Valley Forum

The Friends of the Cam have given consideration to the CVF proposal to apply for bathing quality status for the Cam at Sheep’s Green.

While we are eager to explore ways of restoring the health of the river, we are deeply concerned that choosing one small point on the river could, paradoxically, do more harm than good.

DEFRA requires that a bathing area on the river should provide adequate parking, toilet facilities, a cafe and lifeguards

These facilities are currently either inadequate or would need to be provided, and this would have a hugely detrimental effect on this delicate nature reserve.
Cambridge has doubled in size since Sheep’s Green was last a popular swimming location. 50 years ago locals would have travelled there by bike or walked. Today, however, official designation would draw people in from a much larger city, and from a further afield too, bringing traffic and related air pollution.

Sheep’s Green would become a huge draw, attracting far larger crowds than at any time in the past, to what is an environmentally sensitive water meadow, grazed by cows which, as Kim Wilkie pointed out in his talk to Friends of the Cam, have been a critical part of this finely balanced ecosystem for centuries. The cows kick up ground which allows wildflowers to seed, prevent larger plants from establishing and fertilise the soil. This ecology is also described here, in the Eastern Daily Press.

It is extremely likely that authorities would decide that the cows should be removed.

It is also a sad reality that large crowds would leave litter, which is harmful to the cows and wildlife. Last year a young heffer died after swallowing a plastic bag in the river

We urge CVF to explore alternative ways to improve water quality in the Cam and alternative sites for swimming. River campaigners in Oxford are demanding that a whole stretch of the Thames have bathing quality status

We would urge CVF to explore a similar approach in Cambridge.

Friends of the Cam

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And the views of the Federation of Cambridge Residents’ Associations

Dear Cam Valley Forum,

Cam Valley Swimming Proposal

Lots of residents have contacted Federation of FeCRA committee members about the Forum’s application to make the area adjacent to the Canoe Club into a Designated Bathing Area. We are hearing citywide concern that this will endanger unique medieval green spaces, described by the landscape architect Tom Turner as equivalent to the best art in the Fitzwilliam Museum.

If the intention is to put pressure on Anglian Water residents wonder why Cam Valley Forum isn’t asking for a much bigger stretch of the river to be clean. Anglian Water’s track record on pollution is bad and yet despite that it is receiving substantial government funding from Homes England to relocate the sewage works.

This Ends Report article states that the Environment Agency will no longer be monitoring pollution incidents. Residents ask if this is why the Environment Agency are keen to support small designated clean bathing areas in rivers.  

We have previously flagged concerns [To the Cambridge City Council Strategy and Resources Scrutiny Committee. Click to read/download the PDF.] about what appears to be a well orchestrated lobby against cows grazing on the commons. There are concerns that a bathing place at Sheeps Green could lead to the loss of the cows which are an intrinsic part of the ecosystem there. This was raised again in our question to the Scrutiny Committee about the council’s support for plastic cows on the commons but not the real cows. 

Cambridge commons losing their cows and, with that, their status as commons goes completely against all that the landscape architect Kim Wilkie said at the recent Friends of the Cam talk about a river landscape strategy and the role of grazed meadows in flood management.

Other concerns people have shared with us include the impact on biodiversity and on much loved city nature reserves and the big impact on local wildlife and nature large numbers of bathers, picknickers and sunbathers on the edge of Paradise Nature Reserve is likely to have. 

Safety is another issue that has been raised. The punting route to Grantchester Meadows is very popular and the proximity of the very popular canoe club with a membership of 500, drawn from a wide catchment, makes this unsuitable for a designated swimming area. Wild swimming is also very popular and people are likely to come from miles. The car park is already full in the summer months, more people driving over for a swim would soon cause overflow.

Has there been any health and safety assessment about the likely number of users and congestion on the river ? Any traffic impact assessment ? 

The recent report commissioned by the City Council and Cambridge Water included no impact assessment of river areas and/or river green spaces at risk or threatened by development.

Residents are asking if this bathing initiative relates to Natural Cambridgeshire’s plans for a Cam River Park corridor, the proposals  for Accelerator Parks and the Wider Cambridge Visitors Project.

The lack of changing cabins and public toilets will require infrastructure which would not be acceptable to people in a protected green space. People have highlighted that Cambridge’s famously rus in urbe style of cows on the meadows is admired all over the world. This New York Times article was widely syndicated.

Allan Brigham, Cambridge’s champion of the commons, wrote :

“Whichever way you approach Cambridge, you see grass, trees and lots of sky. The college gardens, parks and commons bring nature right into the town. Cows graze on Midsummer Common just five minutes’ walk from Marks & Spencer – and in the summer office workers and students eat their lunch beneath the willows trees that line the river at Coe Fen. At weekends Jesus Green becomes a giant playing field with games of every kind – from skateboarding to lacrosse. These spaces are vital to people’s wellbeing,” 

“It’s easy to take Cambridge’s open spaces for granted. But … the protection of these spaces is, to my mind, just as important as the preservation of Cambridge’s iconic buildings.”

For all these reasons the FeCRA committee cannot support this application. As we have said before, it would be great if Cam Valley Forum can work with FeCRA and Friends of the River Cam so that together we can urge the City Council to use its powers and that of the Environment Agency to be much more ambitious, ensure that the green spaces of the Cam are protected, that water quality along the whole river is improved and that the river is safe for all users. 

Best wishes,
Wendy Blythe, Chair
For the FeCRA Committee

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Further links and resources

Let it Flow!
Proposals from the Cam Valley Forum for an Integrated Water Resource Management Plan for the Cam Valley
(PDF)

CAM VALLEY MATTERS No. 64 22 February 2021 The Occasional Newsletter of the Cam Valley Forum (PDF)

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What are your views on this tentative proposal? You may send any comments to Cam Valley Forum at info@camvalleyforum.uk. If you would like to have a meeting to discuss the proposals, please mention this in your email. You may also leave (polite) comments on this website, below.