A full review and consultation on the options and use of Mill Road will begin in just over a month’s time. In November, Cambridgeshire County Council agreed that the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) would manage this process as part of its City Access project, so that the scheme could be considered in light of wider goals to reduce traffic across Cambridge. At a meeting of the county council Highways and Transport Committee on 7 December, a report was presented which detailed the timing of initial engagement, beginning with independently facilitated focus groups of local stakeholders (including Camcycle, Mill Road for People, Mill Road Traders’ Association and a representative sample of the public) during the second week of January with a broader consultation on the options identified beginning in February.
Responding to points made on the report by Camcycle Chair Robin Heydon and Petersfield County Councillor Richard Howett, who said the council must ‘ensure the new consultation takes place in a spirit of constructive dialogue, respect and appreciation of diverse views’, transport officer David Allatt drew attention to the GCP’s goals for communications. They seek to focus on the widest possible engagement with local communities and groups, the holistic nature of the review (set within the City Access scheme to reduce congestion and air pollution) and the need for a procedurally sound solution which delivers both the consultation and the improvements in a fully democratic way.
Camcycle welcomes this report and the swift move to the next phase of engagement, which we believe should include a chance for stakeholder groups to present their visions for the future.
On 7 December, we united with Mill Road For People and the Mill Road Traders’ Association to release this joint statement:
We are delighted to see that County Council has agreed to expedite a consultation on the future of Mill Road. While there are differing views about the principle of a bus gate, we all agree there were shortcomings in its implementation. The period of uncertainty since has not been in the best interests of residents or traders. The Highways and Transport Committee have recognised the urgency of the situation and have promised that their consultation will deliver a ‘technically and procedurally sound’ solution for Mill Road.
All three of our organisations seek the best possible future for Mill Rd, and while we differ on how to achieve it, we all recognise that ultimately this is a decision for local people. It is therefore essential that any consultation is robust, wide-ranging, and accessible to everyone.
It must consider not just Mill Rd Bridge but wider questions of safety, attractiveness, accessibility, and business viability for the whole street. The question of access to and from Cambridge Railway Station is also key. A comprehensive solution for Mill Road should not be a binary one about whether or not to install a bus gate, but should include a range of options of how and when any restrictions should operate and mitigating measures to be introduced at the same time.
Any eventual solution must achieve two aims: significant progress on active travel, road safety and carbon reduction targets, and secondly the strong importance of maintaining the thriving businesses that are at the heart of Mill Road. Both must be central to its implementation. It is vital that the final outcome is based on reliable empirical data. All three of our organisations call on the Greater Cambridge Partnership, who are charged with carrying out the consultation process, to obtain robust data on issues such as why journeys are made using Mill Road by those whose destination is elsewhere, traffic flow in Mill Road and surrounding streets, modes of transport used by shoppers, and pollution levels.
We would like to see as many stakeholders as possible included in the initial focus groups and workshops as these will be key to the content of the public consultation. In our view, these should include organisations such as local schools, religious groups and disability groups as well as residents’ and traders’ groups.
We are pleased to note that the Council has promised measures to avoid multiple submissions to the quantitative element of the consultation. Given the well-documented problems of the previous consultation, we feel this is extremely important, since everyone needs to have faith in a fair outcome.
You can view the Mill Road report from the 7 December Highways and Transport meeting here and watch the footage (beginning with Camcycle’s statement and questions) on the county council’s YouTube channel.
Find out more about our vision for Mill Road at camcycle.org.uk/millroad.