To receive any questions from members of the public. The standard protocol to be observed by public speakers is attached.
Councillor Lewis Herbert, Chairman, reported that twenty-five requests to speak had been received. Questions were grouped together based on their subject and were asked and answered as follows:
Question by Councillor Bridget Smith
Councillor Bridget Smith, as a South Cambridgeshire District Councillor, was extremely keen to ensure that as many South Cambridgeshire residents as possible benefitted from the Greater Cambridge City Deal. She felt that the A428 proposals as they stood were very city focussed and failed to acknowledge that South Cambridgeshire residents needed to get anywhere other than Cambridge or that they also may experience congestion, disruption and high costs getting to their workplace destinations. She asked the following questions:
· how many people of working age currently lived in Cambourne and of those how many worked in Cambridge;
· how many additional people of working age would be living in the new developments at Cambourne West and Bourn Airfield and was it likely that a similar percentage would be commuting to Cambridge from these new developments;
· how many people from Cambourne commuted to the main line station in St Neots and were any of them able to do so by bus;
· bearing in mind that the Greater Cambridge area included all of South Cambridgeshire, would the Board promise that any cycle route from the city through the new A428 corridor would run to the St Neots main line railway station and that any bus service would also carry residents to this location;
· why was the City Deal so focused on getting buses into the centre of Cambridge when that was not generally where people worked.
Councillor Smith asked whether it would be more sensible to run buses to a series of transport hubs located before the congestion pinch points and either for those buses to continue to the key employment sites or for passengers to be able to transfer to buses destined for the employment sites, rather than having to travel into the city centre only to have to travel out again.
Bob Menzies, Director of Strategy and Development at Cambridgeshire County Council, confirmed that he would provide the information requested by Councillor Smith via a written response from the data that his team had access to. Addressing the first point, data from the 2011 census stated that 4,826 people of working age lived in Cambourne, with 1096 of those people working in Cambridge.
In respect of onward journeys, Mr Menzies said that discussions would need to be held with bus operators at a later stage of the process but that Councillor Smith's suggestion was something to aspire to.
Councillor Francis Burkitt made the point that there was a focus on the centre of Cambridge but also lots of other places, with this scheme being one of many things the Executive Board was looking at as part of the City Deal programme. He reminded the Board that he had written to all Parish Councils in South Cambridgeshire District Council regarding transport hubs, the outcome of that piece of work he intended to report into the Joint Assembly and Executive Board in due course.
Question by Councillor Lucy Nethsingha
Cambridgeshire County Councillor Lucy Nethsingha was pleased to see that the Joint Assembly had asked for a route north of Madingley Rise to remain as part of the considerations going forward for the A428, stating that there were huge benefits associated with that route which she felt could bring a new bus route into the new development and the potential for a transport hub.
Councillor Nethsingha felt that this scheme provided a real opportunity to create a transport hub and ensure that a significant number of buses travelled, quickly, around the north of Cambridge without having to go through the city centre and asked the Board to ensure that it could be delivered alongside the Western Orbital scheme.
Councillor Herbert said that the issues raised in the question would be debated as part of considering the A428 scheme at item 9 of this meeting. He made the point, however, that the Executive Board was already anticipating that buses would use the M11 or the Western Orbital with buses going through north-west Cambridge and the Cambridge North station as well as other key employment sites.
Mr Menzies reported that the modelling had assumed nine buses leaving Cambourne per hour, with six going into the city centre. He emphasised, however, that this was solely an assumption and that the service would evolve in time in response to demand.
Question by Councillor Dave Baigent
Cambridge City Councillor Dave Baigent was supportive of the Joint Assembly's recommendations and said his views had been reflected in the draft minutes of that meeting, which had recently been published.
Question by Councillor Rod Cantrill
Councillor Cantrill made the point that this scheme failed to meet the criteria the City Deal had established to assess such schemes on value for money, environmental and social distributional impact and deliverability, only passing the criteria in relation to contribution to objectives. He was of the opinion that this was particularly the case on the part of the scheme that crossed the fields north of Coton and the West Fields of Newnham, stating that the scheme was also in direct contradiction with the position taken by the City Council's Local Plan regarding the status of the West Fields as one of the most sensitive elements of the greenbelt around the city.
Councillor Cantrill called for the Executive Board to:
· reject the recommendation contained within the report for any form of bus route to go across or along the West Fields or alongside the University Sports Ground onto Adams Road;
· develop proposals for a dedicated cycle route only, excluding a bus route, across or alongside the catchment area of the West Fields;
· develop proposals for a full transport interchange at the west Cambridge site, with buses terminating at that site or travelling north into the north-west Cambridge site or south along the M11 from the site;
· develop proposals for a major park and cycle facility on the West Cambridge site;
· develop proposals for a cycle route that would connect with the enhanced cycle route from Cambourne to Cambridge that would link into the north-west Cambridge site through a dedicated underpass or bridge on Madingley Road.
Councillor Francis Burkitt agreed with the focus on cycling and was also of the view that Councillor Cantrill's proposal for a pedestrian underpass was a good idea. He referred to the County Council's Greenways project that was scheduled to be considered as part of the City Deal tranche 2 programme and supported that aspect of the question.
It was noted that the issues raised in respect of the A428 scheme were likely to be considered as part of debating item 9.
Question by Baroness Cohen
Baroness Cohen highlighted that Heidi Allen, Member of Parliament for South Cambridgeshire, and Daniel Zeichner, Member of Parliament for Cambridge, had recently said publicly that they believed the City Deal was out of date and should be postponed or abandoned in favour of a different and more substantial financial settlement with the Government, which would enable a more holistic approach to transport planning in the city. Heidi Allen MP had also indicated that she was in discussion with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Baroness Cohen therefore asked whether the Executive Board agreed with the views expressed by the two local Members of Parliament and whether any approach had been made or any discussions held with Government.
Councillor Herbert explained that the Government investment for the Greater Cambridge City Deal was £100 million over the first five years, with up to £400 million over the following ten to fifteen years but that this would be dependent on the economic growth impact of the investment made. Funding beyond the first tranche of funding would therefore be subject to five-yearly reviews. He said that he was very interested in discussing greater flexibility around City Deal funding with Government and reminded those present that some of those schemes currently within tranche 1 would not be complete within the five year term of that particular part of the programme. Councillor Herbert reiterated that he was very keen and willing to open that dialogue with Government and discuss some key issues regarding the City Deal and devolution, but stated that the current restrictions around City Deal funding, imposed by Government at the outset of the City Deal agreement, had limited some opportunities.
Question by Jo Clegg
Jo Clegg was of the opinion that no further expenditure on piecemeal projects could be justified until the City Deal had properly formulated strategic vision capable of dealing with the problems of the Cambridge area. She therefore asked what action had been taken to persuade the Government to delay the City Deal funding until a comprehensive and workable strategy was devised.
Councillor Herbert felt that it was right to continue to progress the agreed progamme of investments, which supported delivery of the vision for Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire as set out in the Local Plans and Transport Strategy. This included city centre congestion proposals and looking beyond 2020 with significant infrastructure improvement schemes. In terms of persuading Government, he said that this was the Executive Board's aim and that he looked forward to discussing this issue with the local Members of Parliament.
Question by Dr Gabriel Fox
Dr Gabriel Fox highlighted that the benefit/cost ratio for the proposed A428 scheme was 0.2 and this project cost five times as much as it delivered in benefits. Under Department for Transport guidance he said that this was considered as poor value for money and was the worst of the five categories. Dr Fox did not see any prospect of the benefit/cost ratio going up sufficiently in order to make the scheme acceptable in value for money terms. He was concerned that the officer recommendations ignored this and instead used the Multi-Criteria Assessment Framework to support them. Under this Framework, option 3 in the report scored 73 points which was a narrow five points ahead of the 'low intervention' option 1. He did not place any faith in the Multi-Criteria Assessment Framework score and did not consider the five point difference to be significant. He also emphasised that the scores themselves did not stand up to any kind of scrutiny.
Dr Fox felt that there was a perfectly reasonable and hugely more cost effective option involving:
· a route from Cambourne to Madingley Mulch which would use uncongested existing infrastructure as much as possible;
· a segregated bus lane inbound on Madingley Rise;
· use of the existing M11 bridge;
· a route through the west Cambridge site to Grange Road avoiding the West Fields.
He asked, given there was a legal obligation on public bodies to achieve best value in procurements, defined as ‘the optimum combination of whole life costs and benefits to meet requirements’, how the Board could justify pursuing what he called an inappropriate, poor value and unwanted scheme when a far superior scheme was available.
Councillor Herbert informed Dr Fox that a written response would be provided to ensure that all of the points raised in his question were comprehensively addressed.
Mr Menzies explained that the Multi-Criteria Assessment Framework was a Department for Transport tool and that its use was also prescribed within draft guidance. The business case for the scheme had been written using a traditional methodology but it was noted that scoring would change as the scheme developed.
Question by Edward Leigh
Referring to the A428 scheme, Mr Leigh had submitted a document which set out various views in relation to the project brief, the benefit/cost ratio, Girton Interchange, Park and Ride facilities, service subsidy, cycling and walking, a bus route from Grange Road and an evaluation of the options.
He was of the view that to have congestion free public transport the solution could only ever be a segregated bus or rail route and felt that the project brief should instead have set targets for modal shift. With regard to the benefit/cost ratio, he noted that option 3a would cost less than option 3 but did not believe this to be by more than a third. He said that these still, therefore, required the benefits to be six times greater than currently estimated in order to bring the benefit/cost ratio up to a score of 2, which was the usual threshold for public money to be spent on infrastructure.
Mr Leigh said that even if the City Deal could not commission work on the Girton Interchange, there was no valid reason not to examine the business case for adding connections between the A428, M11 and A1307/Huntingdon Road. He added that the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway project was currently looking at the A428 and, he thought, would most likely recommend the addition of connections between the A428 and M11 which would have a very material impact on the business case for options 3 and 3a.
In terms of evaluating options, Mr Leigh claimed that feedback from the public consultation accounted for a maximum of just five points out of a total score of 125, which equated to 4%, and made the point that if public opinion had been given a 25% weighting options 3 and 3a would have come last. He added that the project was intended to underpin the delivery of new housing, as set out in the draft Local Plan for South Cambridgeshire, so asked why ‘accessibility to more housing’ also counted for only 4% of the total score.
Mr Leigh urged the Executive Board not to progress with the recommended option 3 or 3a and instead commission a business case analysis of the issues he had listed in the document he had submitted.
Councillor Burkitt could not understand the criticism for the Board seeking a congestion free public transport corridor and reiterated that the Board wanted to provide a reliable public transport service along that corridor, with a reduced number of stops. Referring to Girton Interchange, Councillor Burkitt understood that lots of people thought this was the solution. However, he had huge concerns in that any upgrade or redevelopment of Girton Interchange would rely on the Government to provide significant further funding, together with the need for substantial engineering which would impact the M11 and A428 and undoubtedly prove to be extremely expensive.
Councillor Burkitt noted that one of Mr Leigh’s proposals for a business case analysis related to addressing the lack of capacity of Burrell’s Walk, Garret Hostel Lane and Senate House Passage for more walking and cycling journeys, which he supported.
Question by Simon Naylor
Simon Naylor referred to the A428 scheme and asked what features of options 3 and 3a made them the best strategic fit with the City Deal objectives and the only option described as a high intervention. He asked whether any of these features could be built into other route options.
It was noted that this issue was likely to be debated as part of considering item 9.
Question by Roger Tomlinson
Roger Tomlinson said that the economic case for options 3 and 3a of the A428 scheme claimed a “£680 million overall contribution to economic growth”. He said that this appeared to have been based on a forward projection of 786 new jobs being created in the corridor as a direct result of the supposed improvement in journey time offered by a segregated busway from Cambourne to Grange Road. Mr Tomlinson therefore asked the Executive Board to explain, clarify or justify the following:
· the mathematical basis of this calculation and specific causality;
· any assumptions behind the projection of 780 new jobs;
· how the impact of journey time and/or reliability on the estimated number of jobs had been modelled;
· the degree of uncertainty around the estimated new jobs figure.
Mr Menzies agreed to provide a written response to Mr Tomlinson which would comprehensively address the points he had raised.
Councillor Herbert added that the conventional business case excluded development that was not in the current draft Local Plan, therefore excluding half of the houses proposed at Cambourne and the fourfold increase in employment proposed at Cambourne West.
Question by Rita Langan
Rita Langan asked, given the assertions from officers at the Joint Assembly meeting on 29 September 2016 that the proposed busway would sit in the landscape and was therefore ‘virtually invisible’, whether the Board would consider excluding from consideration the area of water meadows either side of the Bin Brook to the west of the rugby club in respect of the A428 scheme. She also asked the Board to challenge officers making misleading statements about visual impact and instead demanded clear impact drawings before the area of consideration was restricted to the sensitive greenbelt of the Coton corridor and West Fields.
Councillor Burkitt agreed in principle but said that certain things needed to happen at certain stages of the process in respect of the scheme. Options for the scheme were scheduled to go out to public consultation next year and he said that he and the Board would consider excluding this area at that later stage of the process. He also gave an assurance that officers would be challenged, agreeing that detailed drawings were needed.
It was noted that this issue was likely to be debated as part of considering item 9.
Question by Kate Scotland
Kate Scotland was unable to attend the meeting, but her question related to the significant local concern for the West Fields, asking why public consultation and the views of local people had been given such a low weighting in the choice of route.
It was noted that this issue was likely to be debated as part of considering item 9.
Question by Stephen Coates
Stephen Coates said that an overwhelming majority of local residents had communicated to their local elected Members their outrage at proposals which may destroy the landscape of the Coton green corridor, which they felt had been protected not only by the High Court in 2008 but also by the democratic Local Plan. In particular he understood that many people felt that the business case for the busway did not include lost jobs which may result from damaging Cambridge’s rural setting, reputation, environment, heritage, quality of life and tourism from proposals which were so harmful to the historic city. He added that many also wondered about, what he called, questionable annual economic gains of £22.6 million for the finished scheme and 800 jobs at a potential cost of up to £267 million as claimed by officers, compared to the £300 million per year that tourism already brought to the city according to the Office of National Statistics.
Mr Coates therefore asked the Executive Board to reconsider the location of the Park and Ride site which harmed Coton and asked that an intelligent solution to achieve better bus journeys from Cambourne was identified which did not at the same time cause permanent damage to the unique economic asset which historic Cambridge represented.
Councillor Herbert recognised the landscaping issues and sensitives associated with that area and said that this would be a significant factor when making a decision on a specific route.
Councillor Burkitt sympathised with the views of local residents and Coton Parish Council in particular, but outlined a different perspective whereby someone living in Cambourne had found it more efficient to commute by train via St Neots station to their London office rather than commute via car, bus or cycle to their Cambridge office. He said that people would forsake their cars if there was a faster and more reliable alternative so it was essential for something to be done.
Question by Sarah Street
Sarah Street referred to the overwhelming public opposition to a bus route over the West Fields and referred to a High Court ruling in 2008 and the extensive Local Plan process which gave significant greenbelt protection to the Coton green corridor as well as land across the conservation area into Grange Road. She also made reference to a report produced by LDA Design in 2015 entitled ‘The Inner Greenbelt Landscape Study’ which gave the two fields to either side of the Bin Brook the very highest protective designation possible.
She therefore asked why the Executive Board was still persisting in including this greenbelt and conservation area of such huge landscape, heritage and ecological importance in its scheme, when all professional advice thus far had recommended that this be removed from its plans.
Councillor Burkitt reiterated his considerable sympathy but felt that now was the wrong time to remove small sections out of a proposed catchment area. He said that the real way to protect the West Fields from development was to ensure that developers built houses on those sites set out in the Local Plans for Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire such as Cambourne West, Bourn Airfield and Waterbeach.
Question by Carolyn Postgate
Carolyn Postgate said that, in view of the exceptionally poor benefit/cost ratio of the recommended busway option for the A428, she could not help but suspect that there was a hidden agenda for pushing ahead with it. She added that many people suspected that it was a way of enabling large-scale greenbelt development by the back door and was fuelled by serious concerns about the University of Cambridge. Carolyn Postgate highlighted that the University had made it clear in its consultation response and in its planning application for development on the West Fields that it supported the option 3 busway. Given that the University stood to gain financially from the implementation of that route, its role on the City Deal Executive Board even as a non-voting Member, was, in her opinion, a very worrying conflict of interest. She asked the Board to confirm or deny the suspicion that housing development was likely to follow the route of the busway.
Councillor Burkitt responded to the suspicion that the University might be seeking large scale greenbelt development by the back door by remarking that the landowners of the non-West Cambridge part of the West Fields were certain colleges rather than the University. Mr Coates correcting him, stating that the University was a minority landowner alongside the majority college owners. Councillor Burkitt accepted the correction.
Councillor Burkitt emphasised that there was no hidden agenda about development with this scheme as implied by the question. He reiterated that the Board wanted to see development take place on the sites allocated in the Local Plans such as Cambourne West, Bourn Airfield and Waterbeach and that the creation of transport infrastructure delivered via this scheme would help to ensure this happened. He said it was this that would protect the Coton corridor from development, with housing not being allocated close to the city but further out.
Councillor Herbert gave an assurance that the University of Cambridge was treated as any other landowner as part of the City Deal process with no preferential treatment at all, making the point that the University’s Executive Board Member, in view of its interests, was not in the room or taking part in discussions as part of the A428 scheme considerations at this meeting.
Stephen Kelly, Joint Director of Planning and Economic Development at Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council, reported that there were distinct differences in the National Planning Policy Framework and Local Plans regarding the treatment of transport infrastructure projects and residential applications. Both the Framework and Local Plans acknowledged that it was not inappropriate for local transport infrastructure to be placed within the greenbelt, whereas residential development would by its very nature be deemed as inappropriate in accordance with these policies.
Councillor Burkitt made the point that you could not prevent anyone submitting an application, but that it could be resisted as much as possible which was why it was so important to have a Local Plan in place.
Question by Eva McLean
Eva McLean referred to the fact that the description of the route in respect of the A428 scheme was stated as saying that it may only affect the very northern part of the West Fields. She also noted that the recommendations claimed to rule out routes that would risk significant impact on the main body of the West Fields and therefore asked how the Board could justify a statement such as this when the economic case stated that “the landscape and visual impact of a scheme is likely to be greatest where there is new infrastructure that crosses open space, in particular conservation areas. Option 3, with the largest amount of offline infrastructure, is therefore likely to have the largest landscape and visual impact”.
Eva McLean also asked how the Board could claim that it did not have a meaningful impact on the West Fields when it threatened to destroy the most sensitive section of the West Fields down the Coton corridor, calling the report misleading in this respect.
Councillor Herbert reminded those present that at this stage of the process the Board was focussing on catchment areas and not specific routes. He acknowledged that there were particularly sensitive parts of the catchment areas proposed in the report but said that the next stage of the process would ensure that significant assessment took place on issues such as environmental impact.
Question by Ian Ralls
Ian Ralls asked how the citizens of Cambridge could be certain that any decision to build a busway across the West Fields was truly in the best interests of the City and the environment when the landowners of the West Fields were in partnership with the planning authority via the University’s representation on the City Deal Executive Board.
Councillor Herbert explained that the Executive Board included three elected Members, one from each of the partner Councils who had full voting rights, as well as two non-voting Members, one from the Local Enterprise Partnership and one from the University. These governance arrangements were set out in the original City Deal agreement signed by the Government, which was why the University had a seat on the Executive Board. Councillor Herbert emphasised that only the three elected Members on the Board had voting rights and added that there were considerable merits of having the Local Enterprise Partnership and University represented on the Board and the Joint Assembly. He reminded Mr Ralls that the University was aware of the interests it had regarding land and, as with this meeting, its representative on the Board would not take part in considerations where it had an interest. Councillor Herbert also made it clear that no special favours whatsoever would be granted to the University as a result of it being a City Deal partner.
Question by Chris Pratten
In respect of the A428 report, Chris Pratten thought it was clear that by accepting the recommendations contained within the report would render the on-M11 option impractical and have limited likelihood of acceptance. He said that this implied that further damage to the greenbelt would be required than indicated in the report. Given the short amount of time between this meeting and the presentation of the preferred options for the Western Orbital bus link, he asked whether it made sense to defer the decision in relation to the A428 until it could be made in the context of the report regarding the Western Orbital route.
Mr Menzies confirmed that the Western Orbital was not a tranche 1 scheme and therefore had no funding allocated to it at this stage. He also disagreed with the point regarding the impracticality of the on-M11 option, stating that it was practical. A report on the West Orbital scheme was scheduled for consideration by the Joint Assembly and Executive Board in November which would recommend how to move this particular scheme forward, in conjunction with other City Deal projects.
Councillor Herbert acknowledged that the two schemes did need to link with regard to bus use and the interchange east of the M11.
Question by Robin Pellew
Robin Pellew reported that Cambridge Past, Present and Future strongly endorsed the proposal raised by the Joint Assembly for a comprehensive topographical survey of the capacity of the A1303 to accommodate a two-lane busway alongside the existing carriageway. It also endorsed the recommendation that all potential Park and Ride sites, including a site at Scotland Farm, should be reassessed through a side-by-side comparison against the project criteria that included social and environmental considerations, not just vehicle access and traffic engineering matters. He also outlined the organisation’s support for a high quality cycleway linking Cambourne and the villages with the west side of Cambridge.
Mr Pellew’s question concerned the inter-connection between the Cambourne to Cambridge busway and the proposed Western Orbital, asking where this connecting hub would be located and how passengers would access it. He made the point that people commuting from the Cambourne area during peak hours did not actually want to travel into the city centre, with their destination more likely to be one of the main employment areas such as the north-west and west Cambridge sites, the Science Park or the Addenbrooke’s campus. In order to reach their place of work, Mr Pellew said that most passengers would probably have to change onto a connecting bus, meaning that the creation of an inter-connecting bus hub was essential somewhere on the west side of Cambridge. He asked where this would be and was of the opinion that it was premature to consider a preferred catchment area when details around the start and end of the busway and the location of the Park and Ride were not yet known.
Mr Menzies said that the need to connect around the city to multiple destinations was important and was why the bus service assumed as part of the business case included services through north-west Cambridge to key employment sites. Flexibility was the key issue, so the opportunities for interchange would be limited. However, if the Western Orbital did proceed then there would be a larger choice of routes and a more significant level of interchange at the point where routes intersected.
Councillor Herbert made the point that some of these issues could not be answered at this stage, with the process adopted by the City Deal being one which reduced the scope of the potential options for the scheme through phases of public consultation.
Question by Elizabeth Miller
In reference to the A428 scheme, Elizabeth Miller said that the main arguments for a Park and Ride site at the Madingley Mulch roundabout rather than Scotland Farm appeared to be based on operating cost, accessibility and the assumption that people’s behaviour was such that they would not use a Park and Ride facility unless they could see congestion. She explained that Park and Ride use was not an impulse activity and required forethought. She therefore asked whether the Executive Board had any evidence from quantitative research that a Scotland Farm location would get materially less patronage than one at Madingley Mulch.
It was noted that this issue was likely to be debated as part of considering item 9.
Question by Dr Bill Kalogerakis
Dr Bill Kalogerakis asked whether the area at Scotland Farm was being seriously considered as the proposed location for the new Park and Ride in respect of the A428 scheme and if not, why not.
It was noted that this issue was likely to be debated as part of considering item 9.
Question by Alistair Burford
In reference to the A428 scheme, throughout the consultation period Alistair Burford was under the impression that documents had always referred to a Park and Ride being located at or around the Madingley Mulch roundabout. He therefore asked whether the Executive Board was satisfied that the consultation conducted on the proposed location of the Park and Ride was both thorough and fair.
He added that only two sites had been assessed in the report, those being Crome Lea Farm and Scotland Farm, and asked why sites 1 and 2 which included land owned by the University had been removed from the process so early without any evidence of a thorough assessment of all sites.
Mr Burford also noted that sustainability and future proofing were highlighted throughout the report. He found it strange, therefore, that the qualitative appraisal was based upon the current tail of congestion. With at least an additional 3,000 dwellings planned in north-west Cambridge, Mr Burford asked whether the additional vehicles associated with this additional development would extend the tail of congestion from Crome Lea Farm to the A428, leaving this site unacceptably situated in the middle of the traffic build up similar to that of the current Madingley Road Park and Ride site. He said that, strategically, the site at Scotland Farm situated less than a mile west of Crome Lea Farm was a far more sustainable site and would offer the opportunity of a potential link to the M11 at the Girton Interchange at a later stage.
Mr Menzies made the general point that the area of land referred to in the question was included in the consultation literature that had been published and was still available for viewing on the City Deal website. Initial assessments had been undertaken in respect of all four sites, as set out in the report, and there were environmental impact issues with all of them.
In terms of the Scotland Farm site, it was noted that this issue was likely to be debated as part of considering item 9.
Question by Gerald Radford
Gerald Radford asked, given the strength of opposition within the community if the Executive Board pursued options 3 or 3a in respect of the A428 scheme, whether it was likely to face one or more legal challenges including an application for judicial review. He also asked whether the economic case took into account the costs and delays that would be incurred as a result of legal challenges.
Councillor Herbert reported that it was expected that a public enquiry would be likely should the scheme proceed and confirmed that this had been factored into the programme and cost. He said that this would provide an opportunity to examine and test all of the arguments, therefore meaning that there should not be any grounds for legal challenge.
Statement by Heidi Allen MP
Heidi Allen, Member of Parliament for South Cambridgeshire, recognised that the wider Cambridge region needed a transport and congestion solution and said that the City Deal had offered the first real opportunity to get to grips with the challenge. She believed this could be grasped, but was of the opinion that the current Cambridge to Cambourne proposals were piecemeal, short-term and way off the mark, driven by spending deadlines rather than strategic vision. She therefore called on the Executive Board to pause and reconsider this scheme.
Heidi Allen MP said that there were more imaginative, sustainable and effective alternatives being proposed and wanted all key stakeholders to work together to seek out the right solution. This solution had to work for commuters and residents, but also had to support the local economy today and tomorrow, be future looking with inbuilt capacity and complement other infrastructure projects.
Looking specifically at the recommendations contained within the report, she was struggling to comprehend how they were still open for consideration, stating that she had consistently made it clear to the City Deal partnership that she would be unable to support the route known as area 1 south or, latterly, option 3 and 3a. The consultation responses alone overwhelmingly rejected this route and the benefit/cost ratio of 0.21 represented, in her view, unacceptably poor value for tax payers’ money and was well below the usual threshold for public spending on infrastructure. Heidi Allen MP questioned why other projects had been rejected by the City Deal on these grounds and why a different set of standards was now being adhered to, adding that options 3 and 3a also had the worst environmental impact and did not even connect into the city centre.
Heidi Allen MP believed that further opportunities, such as light rail and a Park and Ride at the Girton Interchange, were worth exploring further. She informed the Board that she had spoken to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government who had promised that he would look into extending the City Deal’s spending deadline. She also reminded Board Members that Cambridgeshire and Peterborough was on the verge of a devolution deal which would provide greater control over infrastructure funding and allow partners to look holistically at transport solutions. Heidi Allen MP noted that City Deal funding must be ringfenced solely for use in the City Deal area, but did not think it was wise to press ahead with this scheme when access to greater funds and control were potentially a few months away. She therefore implored the Executive Board to stop wasting further public money by pursuing options 3 and 3a and asked whether it had the courage to discontinue and reconsider this scheme.
Councillor Herbert made the point that the City Deal was working with the tools at its disposal, as per the original City Deal agreement with the Government. Cambridge to Cambourne had been identified as a key route at the outset of the City Deal agreement due to the significant growth in the area that had been included in the Local Plan. He had welcomed the opportunity to look at other options for connectively, particularly as part of the Western Orbital scheme proposed for inclusion in the tranche 2 programme. In view of this he did not support the view that the scheme should be stopped and did not believe that the work undertaken to date was of no value.
Councillor Herbert said that he and the Board appreciated the time that local Members of Parliament had spent engaging with partners on the City Deal programme and stated that he was very happy and keen to hold discussions with the Government to seek greater freedom for the City Deal’s delivery. He reminded those present of the current arrangement regarding the Government’s review process. This consisted of the first tranche of City Deal schemes and projects being reviewed in 2019 which, if unsuccessful, would mean that further funding for subsequent tranches of the City Deal programme would not be made available. Emphasising the significance of the City Deal, Councillor Herbert explained that the funding included as part of the proposed devolution deal was less per year than the next phase of the City Deal alone, making the point that City Deal funding increased as each tranche progressed. He therefore reiterated that he welcomed discussions with the Government about changing the rules with regard to City Deal funding.
In terms of the A428 scheme, Councillor Herbert said that no final decision would be made at this meeting and that this stage of the process was solely a scoping down of the options.
Heidi Allen MP understood the points Councillor Herbert had made but explained that the landscape was very different from when the City Deal agreement had originally been signed, with devolution being a significant aspect of that. In terms of the Cambourne to Cambridge route, she accepted that something needed to be done but did not believe that the recommended option, which was estimated to cost £140 million, was the right scheme.
Councillor Herbert reiterated that no final decision on the scheme would be made at this meeting and re-emphasised its importance and significant value in the context of the Local Plan.
Councillor Ian Bates acknowledged that a potential devolution deal was on the horizon. He welcomed any flexibility that could be given to the funding structure of the City Deal and asked Heidi Allen MP whether she would be willing to facilitate a meeting with relevant Ministers, Members of Parliament, Leaders of Councils and City Deal partners to discuss this and other relevant issues, together with the impact of a proposed devolution deal. Heidi Allen MP confirmed that she would seek to arrange this meeting.
Mark Reeve, from a business community perspective, shared concerns about a lack of vision with regards to a potential devolution deal and welcomed the opportunity to discuss this in further detail as proposed, with a view to working together to make a much better solution for the region.