Agenda item

Chisholm Trail cycle links

To consider the attached report by Graham Hughes, Executive Director (Cambridgeshire County Council).


The Joint Assembly RECOMMENDED that the Executive Board:


(a)        Approves the proposed route option for the Chisholm Trail for the purposes of public consultation.


(b)        Gives approval to proceed to consultation on the route in the Autumn 2015.


The Joint Assembly considered a report which summarised a recommended route for the Chisholm Trail proposed to be taken forward to public consultation.


Mike Davies, Team Leader of Cycling Projects at Cambridgeshire County Council, presented the report and highlighted the following benefits of the recommended route for the Chisholm Trail:


·         a safer, direct and more convenient largely off-road route for cycling and walking;

·         improved access to green spaces, employment areas, retail sites and residential centres;

·         links into a network of existing cycle routes;

·         minimal impact on other motor traffic journey times;

·         enhancement of the environment, streetscape and air quality;

·         provision of a link from the main Cambridge railway station to the new railway station at Chesterton;

·         the creation of more capacity for sustainable trips along the rail corridor;

·         links to strategic priorities for City Deal cross-city cycle improvements.


The Chairman took this opportunity to invite receipt of public questions and statements, as follows:


Statement by Jim Chisholm


Mr Chisholm explained that a number of European cities had tackled car congestion by providing better cycling facilities and better public transport and that Leicester, Nottingham and Coventry were examples of cities in England where car dominated structures were being removed. 


In relation to economic benefit, he said that some people feared that improved cycling facilities would solely allow individuals to cross town quicker and provided very little economic benefit.  He was of the view, however, that as a result of route improvements there had been huge increases in cycling into Cambridge from villages in the past ten years and it was getting new people to cycle that would provide economic benefits.  Mr Chisholm suggested that the recommended route should be seen as a route that would give many less confident riders, who currently drove to work, a pleasant, relaxing, healthy, more reliable and probably even quicker trip by cycle or on foot, therefore achieving those economic benefits by reducing congestion.  He added that many of the sections of the new route could be provided without any heavy engineering.


Mr Chisholm closed by saying that it was not necessary to force people out of their cars to reduce congestion, and that simply providing good alternatives for those willing to change would make a difference.


The Joint Assembly noted the statement.


Question by Chris Smith


Mr Smith said that the route was built over Fen Ditton Meadows, across the curtilage of the Leper Chapel, a Grade 1 listed building, over Coldham’s Common, a county wildlife site, and through other public and open green space, with no adverse effects noted in the report.  He therefore asked what the adverse effects of this scheme were believed to be prior to its adoption by this group, including those on the rights of commoners and landscape.


In terms of the cost benefit ratio, Mr Smith said that with a ratio of 35:1 and a cost of around £12.5 million including the Fen Ditton bridge, this would indicate implied benefits of approximately £420 million.  Given the route was perhaps 210 metres shorter end to end than existing cycle routes, this equated to £2 million per metre in benefits.  He therefore asked for an explanation as to how this figure of £2 million per metre would represent value for money.


Mr Davies responded by saying that the proposed underpass would provide a link from the Leper Chapel site to the lake on the south side of New Market Road.  This would present opportunities to enhance the site in terms of planting and landscaping, but also in terms of access by foot and bicycle.  It would also mean that more less-able people could use the car park near the lake and access the Chapel via the underpass.  He added that ecological and heritage surveys were planned and emphasised that the project presented an opportunity to enhance, not degrade, the Chapel as a destination and as an asset to the City.


It was noted that partners would work closely with Cambridge Past, Present and Future, friends of the Leper Church and other organisations to develop a project that met all needs and gave the best outcome. 


In terms of the cost benefit ratio, Mr Davies explained that the 35:1 ration had been put together based on the benefits of moving car trips to cycle, the figures relating to which had been endorsed by the Department for Transport. 


Mr Davies said that the proposed route was designed to be much more direct, safer and attractive for users in comparison to the existing road-based routes.  By crossing the River Cam on a new bridge, Newmarket Road via an underpass and Mill Road via spare rail arches, the proposed route would avoid a number of busy and dangerous roads and existing junctions.  Routing the path across green spaces and providing direct access to two stations and various important centres along the way, he felt, would ensure a pleasant, direct and convenient route that was likely to attract new cyclists and which supported the objective of model shift from the private motor vehicle.


Statement by Robin Pellew


Mr Pellew said that Cambridge Past, Present and Future had been a consistent long-term supporter of the proposed Chisholm Trail, and emphasised the organisation’s continued support for the project.


He referred to the Leper Chapel on the North side of Newmarket Road as being the oldest roofed building in Cambridge in continuous use, dating back to around 1150, and that it was a Grade 1 listed building together with its curtilage so as to protect its setting.  He also highlighted that the Meadows were ecologically rich in species and a county wildlife site.  In addition, Mr Pellew stated that the Stourbridge Fair dated back to 1114 and was held every year in September in front of the Chapel.  With the Chapel and the Fair he reminded the Joint Assembly that these were some of the oldest roots of contemporary Cambridge, dating back even before the founding of the University.  Cambridge Past, Present and the Future had steadfastly defended the Chapel and its Meadows from encroachment and development and Mr Pellew said that it would continue to do so.


Mr Pellew said that the preferred route by the consultant involved a tunnel under the Newmarket Road opening some 50 metres from the Chapel door, which would then run to the east of the Chapel through the curtilage and then up the east side of the Meadows.  Cambridge Past, Present and Future had serious concerns about this proposed route which it felt was an invasion of a Grade 1 listed property that would seriously impact the setting of the Chapel.  With a public cycleway through the middle of the site, Mr Pellew did not think it would be possible to stage the Stourbridge Fair in front of the Chapel.


Mr Pellew, on behalf of Cambridge Past, Present and the Future, therefore advised the Joint Assembly that it did not at the moment endorse the preferred route as proposed and that consultation would need to take place with the Friends of the Leper Chapel, Historic England and other partners.  It would then like to enter into discussion with the consultant and the City Council to explore other options, not least the route outlined in option (b).  Mr Pellew repeated overall support for the Trail, but reserved the right to oppose the routing through the Grade 1 curtilage of the Leper Chapel.


Mr Davies responded by saying that his colleague and the consultant had met with a representative of the Friends of the Leper Chapel and the Chief Executive of Cambridge Past, Present and Future on 1 June 2015 on-site to open discussions about the proposal.  Subsequently there had been further discussions to seek permission to enter Cambridge Past, Present and Future land to undertake ecology, heritage and topographical surveys, for which agreement had been given.  He added that the Chief Executive of Cambridge Past, Present and Future was helping write the scope for the heritage survey which was extremely useful and would be mutually beneficial. 


Mr Davies said that, if developed carefully and sensitively, the project should enhance the setting and access to the Chapel site, stating that partners would work closely with Cambridge Past, Present and Future and other bodies towards the very best outcome.  He added that the consultant had a proven track record of delivering sensitive sustainable transport projects, most of which included habitat enhancements, public art and, in many cases, had strived to showcase historic and heritage issues.


Referring to option (b), Mr Davies said that it would impact negatively on the privacy of a property which currently backed onto fields on one side and the railway line on the other, but confirmed that this issue would be covered in the consultation.


The Chairman invited Members of the Joint Assembly to discuss the proposal set out in the report, further to which the following points were noted:


·         careful consideration had to be given to the impact on Leper Chapel as a result of any route proposed as part of this project, including landscaping and the location and design of proposed public art;

·         a question was raised as to why the proposed route could not follow the existing railway line.  It was noted that the railway had been followed as much as possible, but railway infrastructure and buildings, together with operational issues such as delivery and storage yards for some commercial premises, did not make this possible for the whole route;

·         the report was very encouraging and sought to address an aspiration that had been around for a long time;

·         safety and convenience were two important aspects of the route that made it very positive;

·         the Leper Chapel was a very valuable asset, but this should not prevent the route progressing nearby, or prevent a proposed underpass near Newmarket Road;

·         a question was raised as to whether specialist conservation expertise would be used to ensure that significant advice and consideration was given to the sensitivities surrounding the Leper Chapel.  It was noted that the City Council’s urban design team had such expertise in place, together with the Chief Executive of Cambridge Past, Present and Future who had significant experience and who would be working closely with partners on the project.  Reassurance was given that further specialist advice and expertise would be sought if necessary.  Mr Davies made it clear that the Councils would be working closely with all interested parties in the area and that this was not purely an engineering project.  He addressed fears of unsightly underpasses by referring to examples in Royston of attractive and safe underpasses which had been put in place that were much different in appearance to the perceived concrete underpasses commonly seen in urban areas;

·         it was agreed that the words ‘for the purpose of public consultation’ should be added to the first recommendation contained within the report, to make it clear that the route was a proposal for consultation, rather than a route proposed for approval;

·         the terms ‘premature’ and ‘undeliverable’ had been mooted by one of the public speakers as part of their statements and a response to these claims was requested.  Mr Davies said that a significant amount of work had been undertaken by the consultants on this proposed route and the option set out in the report, in his view, represented the best, most balanced, direct and safe route in order to achieve the ambitions of the Chisholm Trail.  He acknowledged that certain sections of the route may present problems in due course which could themselves become undeliverable.  If such circumstances occurred, however, alternatives would have to be found;

·         in answer to a question regarding the flexibility of the scheme in terms of changes that could be proposed as part of the consultation, Mr Davies said that there were a number of options that could be included within the consultation to aid responses.  He cited four possible options regarding Leper Chapel and the use of a crossing instead of an underpass for Newmarket Road as examples that could be included within the consultation document.


The Joint Assembly unanimously RECOMMENDED that the Executive Board:


(a)        Approves the proposed route option for the Chisholm Trail for the purposes of public consultation.


(b)        Gives approval to proceed to consultation on the route in the Autumn 2015.

Supporting documents: