Cambridge Local Plan Issues and Options

This article was published in 2012, in Newsletter 103.

Issues and Options Report is perhaps not the most thrilling title for the city council’s latest blockbuster. However, within its 364 pages it covers just about every practical planning aspect of Cambridge life with the purpose of gathering views which will shape how the city develops till 2031.

The headline is obviously about housing provision and this is important, as the plans could see anything from 12,700 to 25,000 new homes built close to, or in one case in, Cambridge, which the city council accepts will have a significant impact on the transport network unless there is a strategy in place to manage it. The council now also has a responsibility to plan for employment growth. Consultation is just starting on the Transport Strategy.

Areas for improvement

The consultation doesn’t, then, just look at housing but has to determine what approach the council will take on a wide number of areas and issues. For us, some key areas include Eastern Gate (the area around Newmarket Road) and Mill Road. Eastern Gate should be considered in terms of enhancing the environment for pedestrians and those on bikes: we supported the proposal put forward last year of filling in the roundabout – a much loathed relic of a bygone age – reducing the space for private motor vehicles and increasing permeability, but also asked for 2 metre wide cycle lanes the length of the road and linking up Occupation Road and Abbey Road to make a direct route to Riverside and Petersfield. These points need raising again to ensure they are included in the new Local Plan. Mill Road has a bad track record of accidents due to its many junctions and the narrow road and pavements which make it a hostile environment for pedestrians and vulnerable road users. Any increase in delivery traffic here, for example, would bring chaos and misery as there isn’t the capacity to accommodate it. We would want to see the hours for deliveries rationalised. Linking the end of the road (which is currently just a hostile junction) to The Tins and Snakey paths, rebalancing the road environment in favour of pedestrians and bike users, having two-way cycling on all the streets off Mill Road and a 20mph limit along it are things we will be asking for.

Broad locations for housing

Obviously the Campaign can’t take a view on whether housing developments are built or not, but in terms of infrastructure we’re asking for Dutch-style provision, reconfiguring the road layout where it’s needed (for example, Limekiln Road) and integration with current routes. These new developments also need to have 20mph zones throughout to make higher levels of cycling much more achievable.

Hills Road (aka Hyde Park Corner)

Here we need to remodel the junction which is another hostile area to cycle through. Since Eastern Gate will, we hope, be restructured, this could easily link to that to provide a direct, potentially Dutch-style, route between Newnham and Newmarket Road. Early ideas for a name include ‘N-to-N’ (see next article).

Cycle parking

At Addenbrooke’s Hospital: This was a key concern when the last Local Plan was being drafted and sadly it remains one. In a number of proposed developments, it’s clear that provision must be significantly improved if we are to tackle the level of demand there currently is and indeed the increase that the growth in employment here will surely bring. At Addenbrooke’s (or Cambridge Biomedical Campus to give it its new name) the provision is wholly inadequate for the people who cycle there now and it’s quite a surprise to see that the current standards let them have racks on merit. We need to ensure that they are given a figure to match in the future. This is doubly important because Papworth Hospital is due to move here in a few years’ time.

In the universities: Both universities have a part to play in this as cycle parking in the various sites can be patchy to say the least, both where students live and where university offices and departments are. For every car parking space in the West Cambridge Site, for example, the same number of car parking spaces should be removed from the city centre and cycle parking put in to replace it.

The new Local Plan has the potential to herald an exciting new strategy for transport in and around Cambridge but as you can see, we’ll need to be vigilant.

Bev Nicolson