Agenda item

Questions by Members of the public

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


Questions by members of the public were asked and answered as follows:


Question by Antony Carpen


Antony Carpen asked what plans the City Deal authorities had in place for organising events specifically targeted at young people, such as children at schools and colleges, and how they planned on improving the coordination of consultations with other important consultations going out at the same time, such as the consultation on devolution in Cambridgeshire and site specific works like the Chisholm Trail.


In addition, he asked whether Councils would be receptive to community groups and individuals that wanted to host consultation events in Council owned buildings and waive booking fees for such public meetings.


Tanya Sheridan, City Deal Programme Director, reported that the City Deal Partnership was using parent mail in respect of young people at schools to ensure that children and parents were aware of the City Deal’s key messages and updates.  Social media was also being used more widely to ensure that a broader audience could be reached.  She agreed that this group of people was a very important audience and said that the Partnership aspired to increase engagement in this respect. 


In terms of consultations, Tanya Sheridan reported that the three partner Councils did liaise with one another in respect of the publication and launch of consultations to ensure that, where possible, they did not clash and that they were coordinated.  She added her support, in principle, to community events but highlighted that there would be costs that needed covering in terms of facilities, especially after working hours.


Councillor Lewis Herbert, Chairman of the Executive Board, agreed that there needed to be wider engagement with young people and said that he would be willing to meet with Mr Carpen to discuss putting together an event focussed on young people and how this issue could be taken forward.  Professor Nigel Slater added that the University would support such an event if it took place.


Question by Wendy Blythe


Wendy Blythe referred to the meeting of the Joint Assembly held on 7 July 2016 in respect of the Smart Cambridge project where Dr Ian Lewis of the University of Cambridge was quoted as saying “we will know whether building a bus lane down Milton Road actually improves the journeys of the bus on the road or not”. 


Additionally, Wendy Blythe made reference to a recent public meeting where over 200 people from Cambridge and local villages voted overwhelmingly to support the following motion:


“We have no confidence in the City Deal’s bus lane proposals, and consider the consultations and decision making processes to be flawed and lacking in transparency and the decision making processes to be non-evidential.


We call upon the City Deal to consider instead better, smarter ideas, such as those already suggested by experts and residents.”


Wendy Blythe said that other ideas could include investment in rail, regional travel hubs, smart traffic signals and greater investment in South Cambridge projects to collect high quality data and provide personalised travel information.  She therefore asked what the Board’s response was to the call from the Greater Cambridge community for spending the money not on bus lanes, but on some of these other ideas which the whole community could support.


Graham Hughes, Executive Director of Economy, Transport and Environment at Cambridgeshire County Council, said that he and his colleagues had consistently said to the Joint Assembly and Executive Board that the City Deal transport schemes needed to balance a range of measures which, in his view, had to include bus priorities in order to achieve the objective of improved journey times and reliability.  He referred to the list of ideas cited above, giving an assurance that all of those elements were already being looked into.  Mr Hughes highlighted that the Board had supported two rail schemes in the area even though they were not City Deal schemes, and supported use of smarter  traffic signals making the point that their use would be considered as part of any transport infrastructure schemes as they were developed.  He said that such a measure was not in itself a solution and each scheme needed to embrace a balance, adding that a range of key projects were happening with these aspects developing further as the programme moved forward.


Councillor Herbert reiterated that the City Deal Partnership was either doing these things already or helping to deliver them.  He said that the main purpose of bus lanes was to give priority to buses at junctions and accepted that further discussion and engagement with the community would be helpful on this issue, perhaps later in the year.  


Professor Nigel Slater commended the system that Dr Ian Lewis from the University of Cambridge was working on, explaining that the data it had already collected could confirm how long individual bus journeys took on specific routes at particular times of the day.  This would eventually be developed into a system that could predict the time that buses would arrive at their destinations with complete accuracy.  He added that the more data and knowledge that could be collected, the more the information and system would develop and improve.


Councillor Ian Bates reiterated the points about Cambridge North and Cambridge South stations, adding that a proposed link from Bedford to Cambridge had also seen a lot of interest, confirming that  these projects were being developed with Network Rail.


Councillor Francis Burkitt repeated the Chairman’s comments in that the City Deal Partnership was already doing the things suggested as part of the question.  He was very keen to see the introduction of the Cambridge South railway station and also supported the Foxton rail crossing.  In terms of regional travel hubs, Councillor Burkitt reported that he had very recently contacted all Parish Councils in South Cambridgeshire to ask for their ideas in their respective areas for regional travel hubs, confirming that he had already receiving some responses.


Question by Jean Glasberg


Jean Glasberg referred to a question she asked at the meeting of the Joint Assembly on 2 June 2016 and the Urban Design Guide for transport infrastructure schemes.  She had asked whether the City Deal would be conducting a skills analysis to ensure that the teams who would deliver the programme had the full range of competencies necessary to deliver good place making and sustainable development, as well as functional transport infrastructure, and had been assured that this was already in place.


Consultation was already underway on the improvements to Trumpington Road, which she appreciated was not a City Deal scheme, but she said that there seemed to be little awareness of design issues in this environmentally sensitive conservation area.  She referred to the lead officers being listed as a traffic engineer and two cycling officers and asked, therefore, where the input from architects, landscape and urban designers was as part of this.


Councillor Bates confirmed that this was not a City Deal scheme and was a scheme being developed by Cambridgeshire County Council.  He extended an invitation to meet with Jean Glasberg and other people in the community in order that any landscaping issues or concerns could be highlighted and taken into account as part of developing the scheme.


Question by Barbara Taylor


Barbara Taylor referred to the recently launched public consultation document on tackling peak time congestion in Cambridge and asked exactly where in the leaflet and questionnaire it mentioned that bus lanes were being proposed.


Mr Hughes explained that bus priorities were part of the overall package and would be included as part of the consultation processes for individual transport infrastructure schemes.  They were not included in the city centre consultation referred to in the question as they did not feature as part of that specific scheme.  He acknowledged, however, that communicating the City Deal’s overall vision was something that the City Deal Partnership should reflect upon.


Councillor Herbert made the point that a number of exhibitions and events were being held where discussion could take place in order to obtain a better understanding of the objectives behind the radial route proposals and proposals for the city centre.  Documentation would also be available at key information points in the Greater Cambridge area to ensure that members of the public had the opportunity to be informed.


Question by Gerry Rose


Gerry Rose said that a question to the Board on 9 June 2016 raised important matters about the published data files for the Milton Road and Histon Road consultations, where it was reported that the submissions from individuals, residents’ associations and other groups were provided on the City Deal website in a PDF image format that was not searchable.  At that meeting officials had promised that he would receive a written response to the question, but Mr Rose reported that he had not heard anything.  He therefore asked what progress had been made on this issue, why it was taking so long to resolve and whether officers could at least publish on the website their own in-house summaries of submissions in order that residents could understand how the data had been utilised.


Councillor Herbert offered his apologies to Mr Rose for the lack of a response on this issue.


Tanya Sheridan also apologised and reported that this process had taken much longer than anticipated, with various IT issues leading to the delay.  She committed to ensure that Mr Rose would receive an update on progress within a week.


In terms of officer summaries, it was noted that these had already been published on the City Deal website and were done so at the same time as publication of the agenda and papers for meetings of the Joint Assembly and Executive Board, which contained the report from officers on the outcomes of the consultation. 


Question by Michael Page


Michael Page referred to a question submitted at the previous meeting of the Board which did not appear to have been answered in relation to the Milton Road transport infrastructure scheme.  He said that public opinion had been ignored in respect of the Milton Road and Elizabeth Road roundabout and suggestions for the roundabout to be redesigned for safety reasons, adding that in the meantime the County Council had published a Dutch-style redesign of the Fendon Road and Queen Edith Way roundabout to improve safety.  Mr Page therefore asked why the City Deal had ignored public opinion and not given any detailed evidence or rationale in favour of replacing the roundabout with traffic lights and why consultants were not commissioned to design Dutch-style or signal controlled roundabouts as alternative options as the Council had seen fit to do for Fendon Road. 


Mr Hughes confirmed that the general principle, in terms of safety from the perspective of cyclists, was that traffic signals were much safer than roundabouts. However, the judgment from officers at the time in relation to the Milton Road and Elizabeth Way roundabout was that preference should be given to any option which balanced bus priority and cycle safety.  He made the point that it was impossible to satisfy everyone’s needs and views and that  judgments therefore needed to be made as schemes developed. 


Councillor Herbert said that this was a design issue that would need to be taken into consideration, in terms of whether a roundabout or an alternative solution was appropriate.  He asked Mr Page to ensure that he contacted officers outside of the meeting to ensure that they were fully aware of the issues relating to this part of the scheme.  Councillor Herbert also referred to Local Liaison Forums which he saw as an opportunity for members of the public to put forward their views on issues such as this.


Councillor Burkitt reflected on two meetings of the Local Liaison Forum in relation to the A428 scheme that he had attended.  He was disappointed that senior transport officers from the County Council had not been in attendance and felt that residents and elected Members would benefit from having either the Executive Director of Economy, Transport and Environment, the Director of Strategy and Development or the Head of Major Infrastructure Delivery in attendance at future meetings of all Local Liaison Forums for City Deal schemes. 


Mr Hughes responded by saying that they would certainly aim to do that.  In terms of the information made available for transport infrastructure schemes, he highlighted that lots of technical work supported those reports made publicly available, which also informed the recommendations contained within them.  Mr Hughes acknowledged that consideration may need to be given to the way in which reports were written and information was presented.  He added that Local Liaison Forums for previous transport schemes had been established at a much later stage of the process whereas for City Deal schemes it had been decided to involve them at a much earlier stage.  It was accepted, therefore, that officers were developing the way they worked in that context, but Mr Hughes made the point that he would seek to create a much more open dialogue through workshops and exhibitions where the rationale and objectives of schemes could be better explained, together with explaining how specific recommendations had been reached.


Question by Helen Bradbury


Helen Bradbury was the Chair of the Local Liaison Forum for the A428 and Western Orbital schemes and questioned how the Local Liaison Forum fed into the decision making process, together with the timings of Forum meetings and how new information required for them was shared by officers. 


She reported that her first meetings of her Local Liaison Forums were held on 14 June 2016 where twenty three elected representatives were in attendance at a packed community hall.  Ten issues were debated and resolutions adopted, almost unanimous in every case, and it was her opinion that this was a powerful representation of public opinion and collective resolve.  She therefore sought confirmation as to what happened next. 


Helen Bradbury understood that the minutes of Local Liaison Forums were reported to the Project Board for which there did not appear to be any reporting or communication structure set out in the Forum’s terms of reference.  It was therefore a concern of hers that these resolutions passed would simply be dismissed when officer recommendations were made and therefore recommended that the Chair of the Local Liaison Forum be invited to attend the Project Board meeting to report the views of the Forum.  She asked whether the Executive Board supported this recommendation and also whether the Board would instruct officers to work with the Forum to ensure that meetings were timed to take place before meetings of the Joint Assembly and that all new information was proactively shared in order that the Forum’s views could contribute to those debates.


Helen Bradbury also referred to the Joint Assembly meeting scheduled to be held on 25 August 2016 where she understood the A428 transport infrastructure scheme would be considered and asked whether the Local Liaison Forum Chair would be invited to attend and comment on the preferred options before any recommendations were made.  She was keen to receive information prior to 15 August 2016 in order that there was sufficient time to canvass views of members and prepare an adequate response.


Mr Hughes referred to the previous question and reiterated the point that Local Liaison Forums for City Deal schemes were being introduced at a much earlier stage than in previous transport schemes, so officers were still considering how they could most effectively operate.  He confirmed that the Executive Board was the decision making body in respect of City Deal schemes, making the point that the Project Board was an informal officer-level group which developed proposals and which elected Members did not attend.  He did not think that this was the relevant group for Chairs of Local Liaison Forums to attend and raise issues, suggesting that discussions or recommendations arising from Forum meetings should be fed into the Joint Assembly and Executive Board by the Chair being able to attend and present those views.


In terms of the timing of information being made available and the programme of meetings for the Local Liaison Forum, Joint Assembly and Executive Board meetings, officers needed to undertake some work to ensure that this was properly aligned. 


Councillor Francis Burkitt asked whether the A428 scheme, originally proposed for considered at the Joint Assembly on 25 August 2016 and subsequently the Board, was being pushed back.  Mr Hughes said that initial work had been undertaken which had highlighted the need for significant further work to be carried out and which could potentially result in a revised reporting timetable for the scheme.


Question by Mal Schofield


Mal Schofield was not in attendance to ask his question, which related to bus lanes.  He had asked at this late stage whether the Board would consider it prudent to test the hypothesis that bus lanes improved public transport perceptions of reliability to the extent that significant commuting by car would occur.  Additionally he asked, should not the measures already approved to discourage peak hour car travel together with the proposed behavioural research on travel choice take priority.


The Executive Board noted the question and in the absence of the questioner officers were asked to provide a written response.












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