Smarter Cambridge Transport

When authorities won’t listen to themselves

It’s disappointing enough having so many separate local authorities arguing with each other over Cambridge’s future. It’s even more frustrating when authorities won’t even listen to themselves – and public safety gets put at risk as a result.

Here’s an example. Hills Road and Queen Edith’s Way are both receiving considerable attention from the County Council’s Cycling team, as a means of improving access to the Biomedical Campus. It took three years to build the Hills Road cycleways at a cost of nearly £2 million and there are discussions underway to replicate that model along the length of Queen Edith’s Way. The junction between the two is of course critical, and a recent major building development application there is probably the last thing that anyone needs.

So you might think that when the planning application was received for the building work, the County Council’s Highways team could be relied on to point out what an acutely important and constrained location it is for pedestrians, cyclists, buses and emergency vehicles.

We’ve all seen the kind of thoughtless pavement blocking by building contractors which has broken out like a rash across the city. So you might expect that the Highways team would request a specific condition to be included in any planning approval for the site, forbidding any blockage of the pavements, cycle paths or roads.

And there was a specific request from the Cycling team to the Highways team for this site to be given proper protection during the construction process. So you would definitely assume that would be respected and acted on.

You would be wrong on all three counts.

If the planning application continues without further comment by the Highways team, the safety of everyone using that route will be compromised. It’s bad enough that residents have to provide so much scrutiny of council proposals (for example, the City Council hasn’t replaced its cycling officer, leaving Camcycle volunteers to do much of the scrutiny). But you’d hope that officers would at least listen to the experience and insights of their own colleagues down the corridor.

You can register an objection to the planning application for 291 Hills Rd via the online planning portal.

This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 25 July 2018.

Sam Davies

Sam Davies is chair of the Queen Edith's Community Forum and a contributor to the Smarter Cambridge Transport conversation.

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