Nowhere in the country has more local authority organisations working side by side than in Cambridge: a city, a district and a county council, a mayoral combined authority, and a city deal delivery group.
Confusion and blame-passing are witnessed almost daily, especially between Planning (City Council) and Highways (County Council).
On a construction site near me, contractors are parking their vehicles illegally on the shared-use foot/cycleway. This endangers pedestrians and cyclists, who have to go onto the road to get past. For six months I’ve been asking city councillors and officers at the City Council parking and planning enforcement departments to remedy the situation. The response: despite the terms of the planning consent, the City Council has no powers to act; I should instead ask the County Council Highways team to intervene. Past experience tells me that the County Highways team will swiftly rebut a suggestion that it is their responsibility to act. So people continue to be endangered unnecessarily.
Then there are the new residents parking zones. The City Council and the Greater Cambridge Partnership see these as strategically important for reducing congestion in the city. But they’re not in charge of implementation – that’s the County Council, which has rather different priorities. These include applying inflexible rules that do not allow schemes to be tailored to local needs, in the way they have been elsewhere in the country. We’ll be lucky if more than one or two schemes win the support needed to implement them.
The list goes on: the fiasco of Great Northern Road and the station area; the remodelling of Addenbrooke’s roundabout, which local city councillors didn’t know about; road junctions at Eddington seemingly designed to deter people from cycling or walking; historic hedges on Arbury Road wrecked; the mayor objecting to a busway in the County transport strategy, which he adopted.
So call me cynical, but I would find the publicity around the brave new world of Cambridge transport more credible if we first created a single authority competent and willing to take responsibility for delivering it. All I want for Christmas is to know that might be a possibility.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 20 December 2017.