Our objection letter to the Bourn Airfield development

We have just submitted a formal letter of objection to application S/3440/18/OL, the Bourn Airfield outline planning application. The objection focuses primarily on the shortcomings of the walking and cycling network within the site, and also the poor and relatively meagre proposal for a single walking/cycling improvement along the A1303 – Madingley Road.

One of the early signs that motor traffic is prioritised above walking and cycling can be found in the Illustrative Master Plan. Throughout the Master Plan, wherever a footway or a cycleway meets a road, even a minor road, it gives way to motor traffic. The ‘strategic cycleway’ along the north edge of the site is interrupted and forced to give way to side roads three times before it even reaches the eastern strategic bus stop.

The site appears to be divided up into several distinct neighbourhoods that are separated by parks or open space, and in some cases the only direct links between adjacent neighbourhoods are walking and cycling. This could be good except that the primary streets through the site form an inner ring close to the middle, guaranteeing that almost all local journeys will be fastest by car. Furthermore, many of the off-road walking and cycling network routes are indirect or pushed to the periphery of built-up areas, which will raise significant problems of personal security at night or other quiet times. We anticipate that this development will become fairly heavily car-dependent in the future, if built as shown.

This is frustrating because we have good examples from the Netherlands of new towns that have successfully promoted the use of walking and cycling for local to medium-distance trips, of which Houten is perhaps the most famous. In Houten, the primary streets form a ‘perimeter road’ around the edge of the development, and nearly all routes taken by cars within the development are indirect: they must go out and around the ring road. This prevents rat-running, by design, which virtually ensures safe streets within the site. On top of that is a very strong, well-connected and conspicuous walking and cycling network that allows direct, convenient and safe journeys between any two points within the site. The result is clear: for Houten residents, of trips less than 7.5km in length, 63% are taken by walking or cycling (for more information see the ITDP Study).

Indicative layout of Houten (image courtesy of J. Parkin)

Our full objection letter to S/3440/18/OL may be read here.