Smarter Cambridge Transport

Requesting a meeting about new buildings at Cambridge Station

After the Cambridge City Council planning committee voted on 17 June 2020 that they were minded to refuse planning permission for two buildings proposed to be built on Cambridge station car park, Edward Leigh of Smarter Cambridge Transport and many other interested parties wrote to Jamie Burles, Managing Director of Abellio East Anglia Ltd. The letter asked for an open discussion to give stakeholders an opportunity to review the station area and consider new ideas for how it should evolve. The letter and Mr Burles’ reply are below.

Dear Mr Burles,

As you are no doubt aware, the Cambridge City Council planning committee voted on 17 June that they are minded to refuse planning permission for the two buildings (‘B2’ and ‘F2’ on the CB1 masterplan) proposed to be built on Cambridge station car park.

We note with considerable concern that Abellio East Anglia (AEA) renegotiated its franchise agreement in 2018 to remove an obligation to provide an additional 1,000 cycle parking spaces at Cambridge station, citing, “There is no capacity within the leased area to install additional cycle racks.” That of course is true only if the new buildings planned for the car park are built as currently designed.

As the leaseholder and custodian of the publicly owned land that underlies the car park, there is a conflict of interest between AEA’s duty as a provider of a well-functioning transport interchange and its commercial ambitions to gain a return from this land.

We note that AEA has a franchise obligation to produce by the end of this year a Full Station Travel Plan, covering how it will reduce the environmental impact of travel to and from the station. In light of the Climate Change Act and evolving government policy on active travel, that plan must address the many shortcomings in the design of Station Square and approaches to it from all directions.

Decisive leadership by AEA could avert a costly and wasteful legal battle (in the event that the planning committee reaffirms its decision and Brookgate elect to appeal it). We suggest it would be opportune for you to convene a meeting before the planning committee meets again (most likely on 21 July) to reconsider the planning application. An open discussion now would give stakeholders an opportunity to review the station area and consider new ideas for how it should evolve from here. Community groups in particular have constructive ideas to share based on deep local knowledge and experience.

There is good will, plenty of imagination and a wealth of expertise available to co-create a solution that will benefit AEA, station users, the local community and the long-term future of the city. We look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely
Edward Leigh, Leader, Smarter Cambridge Transport
Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge
Cllr Nicky Massey, Executive Councillor for Transport and Community, Cambridge City Council
Cllr Linda Jones, Petersfield division, Cambridgeshire County Council
Cllr Noel Kavanagh, Romsey division, Cambridgeshire County Council
Cllr Richard Robertson, Petersfield ward, Cambridge City Council
Cllr Mike Davey, Petersfield ward, Cambridge City Council
Cllr Anna Smith, Coleridge ward, Cambridge City Council
Cllr Dan Summerbell, Trumpington ward, Cambridge City Council
Claire Ruskin, Executive Director, Cambridge Network Ltd
Michelle Hargreaves, Managing Director, Stagecoach EAST
Tony Williamson, Managing Director, Whippet Coaches Ltd
Paul Hollinghurst, Secretary, Railfuture East Anglia
Robin Heydon, Chair, Camcycle
Richard Wood, Secretary, Cambridge Area Bus Users
James Littlewood, Chief Executive, Cambridge Past Present & Future
Tariq Sadiq, Chair, The Cambridge Commons
Frank Gawthrop, Secretary, South Petersfield Residents Association
Jane Porter, Chair, Great Northern Road Residents Association
Wendy Blythe, Chair, FeCRA (Federation of Cambridge Residents Associations)
Tony Eva, Carbon Neutral Cambridge
Colin Harris, Director, Cambridge Connect


Dear Mr Leigh,

Thank you for your letter dated 2 July 2020.

We are, of course, very happy to work with you on any issues which relate to optimising the impact of projects affecting the station area.

I will address each of your points in turn, however I thought it would be useful to begin by clarifying Greater Anglia’s understanding regarding the planning application. Brookgate’s planning application, made for the combined new aparthotel and replacement rail user car parking, has been adjourned, rather than refused, until the next planning committee meeting while the following two matters in the application are addressed:

1. The prioritisation of pedestrians and cyclists and protecting the future route for the Chisholm trail; and
2. The proximity of the new aparthotel and replacement rail user car parking to Carter Bridge.

We believe that further information has been requested and provided for the above matters and is being discussed with Officers and Members for a planned return to the Committee during July.

In relation to the other points raised:

Whilst Greater Anglia has a long lease interest from Network Rail, the freeholder of all the land at Cambridge station, our terms of occupation are strictly governed by the leasing and rail regulatory framework that support it. Even as far back as 2012, when Abellio won the initial franchise, there was an obligation to work with both Network Rail and their development partner, Brookgate, on the regeneration of the Network Rail owned land. It is worth noting that as part of the initial franchise these Regeneration works contributed £4m to the refurbishment of the station via a S.106 Agreement.

Network Rail are the only party entitled to dispose of or develop the land under the legal framework. Greater Anglia will not receive any financial return whatsoever from the next stages of the development. As the station operator we are an important stakeholder on any scheme, but only in as much as it affects the current operation of the station and its existing facilities.

The proposed scheme reduces the footprint of the station lease area, but it does ensure that the existing facilities are re- provided within the remaining site. We do not have available space to install further cycle parking spaces without the loss of other customer and station facilities. Network Rail are promoting the scheme, supported by Greater Anglia, but Network Rail are the recipients of the financial return for this land which they then reinvest back into the railway.

Therefore, it is not accurate to suggest we have a conflict of interest in this respect. Our aim is always to provide the best possible service for the customers and communities we serve, including station facilities. Sometimes this is not straight- forward, and a balance has to be struck.

Since the start of the franchise, Greater Anglia have proactively improved Cambridge station facilities and the immediate environs, engaging and working collaboratively with key stakeholders. We would be more than happy to meet to discuss integrated transport arrangements and station planning.

We understand that the planning application brought forward by Brookgate does not significantly increase traffic/car movements, nor require any works beyond the application boundary which is confirmed in the Officer’s report with his recommendation to approve the planning application.

You may be aware that we have been working with the Brookgate team and other key stakeholders, including the City and County Councillors, local ward Members and Officers over the past 2 years to bring forward a range of options for the Station Square. These works relate to the varying modes of transport and pedestrian interfaces in this busy transport interchange.

Greater Anglia has worked with the County Council (responsible for the busway), other train operating companies and bus operating companies to agree a coordinated and planned procedure for replacement coaches to use the guided busway terminal at Cambridge, in the event of emergency and routine rail closures.

We are aware that the options for Station Square have been presented by the planning officer to the Members of the planning committee, and their decision is currently outstanding due to the planning committee meeting for this application being adjourned.

The Developer’s planning application for the combined new aparthotel and replacement rail user car parking is, as far as we know, unrelated to the Station Square proposals.

We understand that there is to be a working group set up to lead on the options presented to Members, and we very much see ourselves as a key contributor to that working group along with other relevant stakeholders and interest groups.

Greater Anglia would be more than happy to meet with you and other key stakeholders and community members to discuss these matters. It would be best to meet after the planning committee has decided on the planning application. With that context clear, it will then be a logical environment in which to proceed to develop initiatives which balance the aspirations of customers, the local community and all relevant stakeholders, to deliver a positive overall outcome.

Yours sincerely
Jamie Burles
Managing Director
Greater Anglia

(Original PDFs are here and here)

Smarter Cambridge Transport

1 comment

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  • Let’s have a look at what the developers promised Station Square would be like:

    Oh, wait, that’s not much like what we got, which hasn’t been a pleasant plaza with pavement cafes, but a large queuing area for taxis all spewing toxic emissions.

    And not a rapid charger in site or planned!