Agenda item

Public questions

To receive any questions from members of the public.  The standard protocol to be observed by public speakers is attached.


Questions asked or statements made, together with any responses from Members of the Executive Board or officers, were noted as follows:


Question by Lynn Heiatt


Lynn Heiatt presented the Executive Board with a petition, which had received 3,568 signatures to date, objecting to one of the City Deal proposals to build a two-way bus road across the Coton corridor and through the West Fields of Cambridge.  She said that this was being submitted as evidence of public opinion on option 1(c), now referred to as ‘option 1 South’, as part of the ‘Better Busways’ consultation process.


Mrs Heiatt pointed out that the petition demonstrated, despite early assumptions and public statements to the contrary, that the majority of petitioners did not live in one particular area of the City as responses had been received from all over the United Kingdom and from 33 countries abroad.  She referred to the Board’s ‘call for evidence’ and the sentiment that the public were being urged to come forward with their views.  She therefore asked whether this petition and the signatures and comments contained within it against Option 1 South would be counted in the consultation process.


Councillor Lewis Herbert, Chairman, thanked Mrs Heiatt for the petition and welcomed the fact that so many people had shared their views.  He gave an assurance that the petition and any comments included as part of it would be taken into full account as part of the consultation exercise. 


Councillor Herbert emphasised that the Board had not made any decisions on a scheme at this stage.  A report analysing the responses to this initial consultation process would be considered by the Board and he made the point that variations to the options published as part of the consultation documentation, or any other additional options, would be welcomed.  These would be subject to deliverability and assessment and would also be considered by the Executive Board Joint Assembly.


Question by Dr Gabriel Fox


Dr Gabriel Fox referred to the consultation document circulated for ‘Better Bus Journeys’ and claimed that it was materially inaccurate in four respects.  He believed that these inaccuracies would have such a significant impact on the response of consultees as to render the entire consultation exercise worthless.  These were noted as follows:


·         the potential impact on Coton was misrepresented;

·         journey times were inaccurate and misleading;

·         the potential for cycleway improvements had been mis-stated;

·         specific environmental impacts had been ignored.


Dr Fox believed that if consultees were properly informed on the above issues, they would form a different view on the relative strength of options and therefore felt that responses obtained from the current consultation would be unreliable and would not be able to be used to guide decision-making.  He asked whether the Board would agree to distribute additional material to consultees to correct these inaccuracies and allow additional time for responses to be submitted.  Dr Fox also asked if the Board would agree to be more collaborative with other stakeholders, such as Coton Parish Council, in the development of such additional material and in further consultations on transport issues to the West of Cambridge.


Graham Hughes, Executive Director of Economy, Transport and Environment at Cambridgeshire County Council, said that it had been made clear that this was a conceptual consultation which included broad principles and that any lines on plans included as part of the documentation were not precise.  He reminded the Board that there were likely to be two further consultation exercises in relation to this scheme as part of its development, with each stage becoming more detailed. 


Mr Hughes confirmed that recommendations on this conceptual consultation would be submitted to the Board following analysis of the responses received.  The consultation, in view of its solely conceptual status at this stage, was written in a way which balanced the need for detail against the need for simplicity in order to achieve the maximum number of responses possible.  Mr Hughes accepted that this balance was difficult to achieve, but emphasised that much more detail would follow in the later consultation stages.  He added that people may wish to submit much more detailed submissions in response to this conceptual consultation, which was something he would welcome.


Councillor Lewis Herbert did not think it was necessary to issue additional material at this stage in view of the conceptual nature of the consultation and the further consultation processes planned for this scheme that would themselves contain much more detail.


Question by Antony Carpen


Antony Carpen made reference to a statement Heidi Allen MP had issued on Twitter regarding her concerns about the pace and direction of the City Deal.  He put forward his own concerns that the City Deal Joint Assembly was not functioning as well as it could do and may not be value for money for the people that attended the meetings.  He suggested that presentations by officers be uploaded onto YouTube in order that they could be viewed before meetings themselves.


Mr Carpen felt that publicity and engagement for the City Deal had so far been week, with no substantial open or safe spaces facilitated by the City Deal structures being put in place for people to work collaboratively to develop and improve ideas for the City or Region’s future.  He encouraged systematic engagement with large educational organisations and employers in and around the City, as well as taking advantage of state-funded programmes such as the National Citizen Service launched by the Cabinet Office.  Mr Carpen had also heard nothing from the City Deal in terms of how best to use social and digital media and asked what was going to change, and when.


Councillor Herbert explained that City Deal partners continued to have a close working relationship with all local Members of Parliament.  He was of the opinion that the public dialogue and the call for evidence scheduled to take place in November in respect of congestion in Cambridge met a lot of the concerns that Heidi Allen MP referred to on Twitter.  This call for evidence on transport and congestion was further evidence of a consultative and listening approach by City Deal partners.


In terms of engagement in the wider context, Councillor Herbert said that Board Members would be pleased to attend community meetings or events whenever invited to do so in order to promote and discuss the City Deal programme. 


Councillor Herbert confirmed that the Executive Board and Joint Assembly structure had been established in agreement with Government.  He added that the City Deal itself now had its Programme Director in post to support and implement delivery of the programme, with a communications lead scheduled to be appointed shortly.


Question by Edward Leigh  


Edward Leigh listed seven consultations of major strategic significance for transportation in the region, together with a further four that were shortly scheduled to be launched.  He asked whether the Executive Board had considered the capacity of the general public, residents associations, businesses, special interest groups and Councillors to make considered and meaningful contributions to these consultations, together with the capacity of officers to present, collate responses and report on so many consultations.


Mr Leigh was of the opinion that the Board was already convinced that dedicated bus lanes were necessary because a smarter, more forward-looking and evidence-based solution was politically too challenging to contemplate.  He named cities throughout Europe that had been pioneering and innovative and asked why bus lanes were the top priority when there were so many other strategically critical projects that more obviously needed investment and did not depend on how congestion in the City was tackled.  These included:


·         train stations at the Biomedical Campus, Harston, Soham and Fulbourn;

·         new Park and Ride sites around the City;

·         transport hubs serving rural centres;

·         bridges over the railway at Foxton and Yarrow Road in Cherry Hinton;

·         an all-ways junction at the Girton interchange;

·         a three-way junction at the A11-A14;

·         a southern relief road.


Further to his suggestion to the Joint Assembly, Mr Leigh asked whether anyone had approached the relevant Government Minister to sound out his request to pause the transport workstream of the City Deal. 


Councillor Herbert highlighted that of the consultations Mr Leigh referred to, only four were City Deal consultations.  He said that innovative or ‘smart’ solutions would not be ruled out and were very much welcomed.  He reminded Mr Leigh that one of the key principles of the City Deal transport workstream was to address modal shift within the Greater Cambridge area. 


Reflecting on the list of suggested projects put forward by Mr Leigh, Councillor Herbert said that Park and Ride facilities were part of the City Deal agenda and would be considered as part of specific schemes as they were developed.  Network Rail had initially offered to pay for the Foxton railway crossing, hence it not being included in the list of City Deal priority schemes for tranche one and Councillor Herbert emphasised that the City Deal Executive Board did not have the funding or responsibility to address roads such as the A14 or southern relief road. 


Councillor Herbert reported that dialogue had been ongoing between City Deal partners, senior Civil Servants and Minsters over the last year and at no stage had there been any indication that they were expecting and wanting anything different from the City Deal programme to what was being proposed.  The key priority was to ensure that objectives in tranche one set by Government were delivered by 2019 to secure the next tranche of City Deal funding.


Question by Stephen Coates


Stephen Coates reported that the Save the West Fields campaign had serious concerns that consultation statements were based on a number of material inaccuracies, resulting in an imbalanced presentation that appeared to many readers as favouring one option over another.  He was of the opinion that this could lead to a flawed appreciation of the options presented and was even likely to be seen as misleading.  Mr Coates referred to a number of examples where such deficiencies, in his opinion, could render the consultation process defective and open to legal challenge.  These were noted as follows:


·         a claim that area 1 South only took 7 minutes when area 1 Central took 14 minutes was potentially misleading.  The Atkins report set out very basic data which suggested that these two areas had not been presented on a like for like basis;

·         a claim that area 1 South could lead to major improvements for cyclists was incorrect;

·         the ‘high quality’ bus route only label given to area 1 South and the green designation of the route presented an obvious bias to anyone filling in the questionnaire.


Mr Coates asked whether the public could expect these problems to be addressed immediately given that the Atkins data indicated the consultation as presented was misleading.


In response to the suggestion that the consultation sought to lead people to respond in a certain way, Mr Hughes made it absolutely clear that this was not the case.  As a conceptual consultation, there were very outline details attached to each option in the consultation documentation and everyone was welcome to submit their views which would be very carefully considered and analysed.  He reiterated the point that the consultation at this stage looked to achieve a balance between simplicity and providing enough detail so that people could understand what each option consisted of in order that they would engage and submit their views.


In terms of the Atkins data, Mr Hughes explained that the timings illustrated the relative differences between the different types of solution available and were very broad indications of estimated journey times.  More detailed information would be factored into subsequent consultation processes relating to this scheme as part of more in-depth work that would take place when developing a preferred route.  He reminded Mr Coates that the preferred route would be shaped by responses received as part of this conceptual consultation stage.


Question by Sarah Street


Sarah Street asked why no ecological and visual impact statements had been provided in the leaflets for the A428 bus proposals and stated that several highly respected ecologists and historians had objected to the option 1 area South route, claiming that their concerns were not being addressed.  As Cambridge was an important historic City, she felt that understanding the impact of the routes on the setting of Cambridge was critical.  Mrs Street therefore asked how the consultation could be credible without taking these two vitally important aspects into consideration.


Mrs Street also highlighted that the draft proposed route of Option area 1 South went directly against the ruling of the High Court in 2008, which stated that the Coton corridor was critical for the setting of Cambridge and asked why this had not been taken into account. 


Mrs Street also reported that a number of people, particularly in the Newnham area, had not received a copy of the consultation leaflet.


Councillor Herbert reiterated that the three options contained within the consultation were conceptual at this stage, with further detail on preferred routes scheduled to be included in subsequent consultations which would include findings of ecological and visual impact studies.  Mr Hughes added that until a detailed scheme had been worked up these studies could not be undertaken but gave an assurance that, at the relevant stage of the process, ecology and other such studies would be very seriously considered as part of developing the scheme.


Referring to the High Court judgement, Mr Hughes confirmed that he was aware of the judgement but the option set out in the consultation documentation in relation to this was something that had to be considered at a later stage as more details were developed.


Mr Hughes thanked Mrs Street for reporting the issue of leaflet distribution and agreed to ask his team to liaise with her outside of the meeting to confirm those areas where copies had not been delivered and arrange for copies to be distributed.


Question by Richard Taylor


Richard Taylor, in respect of the proposed consultation on changes to Milton Road, put forward the following suggestions to the Board:


·         give Cambridge’s area committees the opportunity to take a role in the consultation, offering them the same standing as Milton Parish Council;

·         place notices advertising the consultation on trees which may be felled as a result of the work;

·         publish relevant traffic modelling data and conclusions;

·         run the consultation in a manner which enables deliberation, publishing responses as they were submitted, allowing replies to others’ submissions;

·         point to the City Deal Joint Assembly’s planned work on landscaping options from the consultation materials.


Mr Hughes responded to these points as follows:


·         officers would be very pleased to attend area committee meetings as a means of engagement, highlighting, however, that they were different bodies from a governance perspective to Parish Councils;

·         it would not be possible to place notices on individual trees due to the fact that there was not a specific scheme in place whereby individual trees had been identified as requiring felling.  At this stage the consultation consisted of a range of options for consideration and the scheme was likely to go through two more periods of public consultation, which were highly likely to result in modifications to proposals going forward.  It would only be when details of the scheme had been approved that information such as which trees requiring felling would be known.  Any proposals would be contained on scheme plans at that time and publicised widely;

·         the publishing of traffic modelling data and conclusions generally already took place as part of developing schemes;

·         the process to be followed for the consultation followed best practice for transport scheme consultations and was the normal way that these would be carried out, in terms of everyone having an equal opportunity to put forward their views.  It was therefore not proposed to run the consultation in the manner suggested by Mr Taylor;

·         officers welcomed the Joint Assembly’s planned work on landscaping options.


Question by Stacey Weiser


Stacey Weiser said that Cambridge Past, Present and Future agreed with the ‘consultation overload’ impression that Edward Leigh had raised.  She said that City Deal consultations were running at such a pace that it came across as desperation and uncertainty over how to resolve the traffic congestion issues and added that consultation surveys, in her opinion, were poorly conceived, misleading and a long way from providing the opportunity for alternatives to be suggested.


Mrs Weiser questioned the timing of the call for evidence in relation to congestion and said that this should have been carried out much earlier in order to inform a wider transport and congestion policy strategy.  Specific matters arising from such an exercise would highlight priorities and individual pinch points that could then be focussed on. 


Mrs Weiser closed by saying that the process to date, in her view, had been piecemeal, rushed and disjointed.


Councillor Herbert reminded Mrs Weiser of the process that had been followed to assess and identify prioritised schemes for the City Deal programme as part of the first tranche of funding.  He emphasised that there was significant pressure to deliver the Government’s objectives by 2019 in order to secure the next tranche of City Deal funding and transport schemes, in particular, also had to meet strict business case criteria set by the Department for Transport in order to be implemented.  Councillor Herbert said that the call for evidence was also a timely opportunity for contributions given the links to other consultations.


Question by Robin Heydon


Robin Heydon asked how the Cambridge Cycling Campaign could be involved earlier in the process such that the proposed junction designs could provide safer conditions for cycling whilst also doubling the motor traffic capacity and significantly reducing bus delays over those that were proposed to be consulted upon.


Mr Hughes responded by saying that the County Council had always had a good relationship with the Cycling Campaign, acknowledging that they did not always agree but explaining that the Council had to consider the balance of all users’ views.  Engagement had taken place with the Cycling Campaign on the Histon Road and Milton Road options and Mr Hughes agreed to arrange further discussions with the Campaign should they be necessary, although he reiterated that the process needed to be fair with regard to other user groups.  He suggested that these discussions should focus on how best to use the Cycling Campaign’s resources to move schemes forward effectively.

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