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You have to ask WHY?

This is a personal opinion, but WHY do planners think and behave the way they do? Why do we need to march and have to shout to make our case for a better solution? – hopefully you’ll be there on Saturday 2 September 2017 starting from The Backs, Garret Hostel Lane at 11.00am.

March on Saturday 2 September 2017

The former City Deal, now the ill-named Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP), is following a process along a time-line which requires them to consult at various stages.  Note that it doesn’t appear to require them to listen and take note of public views, and their track record is entirely to ignore them.

This was brought home to me at the July meetings of the GCP Joint Assembly and their Executive Board.  These appear to be the key “democratic” opportunities, drawing in councillors and selected representatives of parts of the community.  This appeared to be working at the Joint Assembly when Cllr Bridget Smith asked if any members would ever vote for a Park and Ride site at Crome Lea on top of Madingley Hill, near Madingley Mulch; since the majority said no, it was proposed and agreed that the Crome Lea site should be removed from further consideration.  Obviously, the transport officers servicing the meeting witnessed all this.

Democratic deficit demonstrated

However, at the Executive Board, the chair of the Joint Assembly was not present to explain what had happened and instead the transport officers recommended Crome Lea remained in consideration, essentially because it had been under their previous consideration (and that of their paid tame consultants)!  So it was put back in for further consideration.  Democratic deficit demonstrated,  transport officers clearly pursuing their own agenda, ignoring the public and the elected and selected representatives. So we plan to march and shout loud.

The GCP transport officers also hold “workshops” to try and engage local residents and their representatives in the detail of the planning process – many people recommend against participation since it can be used to say the community helped plan the details of an opposed scheme.  Bizarrely, the next one on the Park and Ride sites, including Crome Lea, on 22 August 2017 clashes with the Hardwick and Coton Parish Council meetings which are discussing the options for the guided busway and the Park and Ride sites….

Considerable criticism of what the planners have actually achieved

Transport officers and planners around the world have form on this, and quite a few have been recorded saying how they disregard public opinion to get their way.  BBC Four TV recently showed Citizen Jane: Battle for the City on 9 August 2017 (still on iPlayer till early Sept 2017) about the historic conflicts between planners and residents in New York, from which we can learn a lot.  There is also considerable criticism of what the planners have actually achieved.  Here in Cambridge there is not exactly a surge of praise for either the Leisure square around The Junction or the new CB1 around the Station.  And Antony Carpen (Puffles) has researched lots of past examples in Cambridge’s history of what has been lost for little gain.

The most current example is the frankly disastrous construction and maintenance costs for the guided busways from Huntingdon/St Ives to Cambridge and out to Trumpington (ironically built on old railway lines).  Originally estimated to cost £64 Million, it actually cost £181 Million and currently scheduled repairs will cost another £36.4 Million with suggestions from consultants that eventual repair costs will exceed the original construction cost! Smarter Cambridge Transport has reviewed this nightmare: http://www.smartertransport.uk/guided-busway-defects/ and asks whether it is design flaws as well as construction defects.  Why did the County Council settle the dispute with their contractor out-of-court?  Apart from being dangerous and having more accidents than any railway, it now looks like costing much more than rail would have done, and runs slowest in the City where rail to the stations would not have been delayed.

Memorably described Cambridge as “being in the way”

What is hard to believe is that the same transport officers behind that scheme are the ones pushing a guided busway from Cambourne to Grange Road in Cambridge (Yes, it is odd that it doesn’t attempt to reach the City Centre, but Bob Menzies, the responsible officer, memorably described Cambridge as “being in the way” of their plans).  And it is “fake news” says Cllr Francis Burkitt that GCP are considering a bus interchange of some kind on The Backs at Silver Street, despite it being referred to in the papers for the Executive Board meeting in July and Atkins having worked on a study for one in May.

So what is it that motivates our planners and transport officers to build these daft schemes, which don’t meet any reasonable objectives such as improved journey time, but do damage the fundamentals of the Cambridge environment?  You will often hear arguments that this is corruption at work: close relationships between councillors who want to improve their city (sometimes to earn more council tax and business rates), planners, land owners and developers out to maximise their profit out of new development.  Unfortunately, in Cambridge add in the University as landowners, and a whole industry of consultants eager to spend public money to the planners agenda.  Ironically, we British criticise other countries where this happens, but accept it as our way of business life at home, and, more ironically, spend our limited public funding on helping it happen.

Network of interests refuses to listen or understand

Lobby as hard as we like against a “wrong” scheme, the network of interests refuses to listen or understand.  And as Upton Sinclair wrote: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

Dame Fiona Reynolds, former Director General of the National Trust and now Master of Emmanuel College Cambridge has written a book about this: The Fight for Beauty, published by OneWorld in 2016, which offers an alternative way forward, but documents the struggles to protect landscape beauty and the quality of the environment.  Dame Fiona will be talking about this at Coton Parish Hall on Wednesday 15 November 2017 in the evening.  Her book makes clear that if you admire beauty, and the coded words we use around it, such as the environment, bio-diversity, ecosystems, natural capital, sustainability, quality of life, you have to defend it and fight for it.  NIMBY-ism is a clever but meaningless criticism of people wanting to defend beauty against environmental destruction.  You can see why we march.


The residents of Newnham around the West Fields, Coton and Hardwick villages are not NIMBYs.  They know the Green Belt was created for a reason, that Cambridge Past Present and Future bought the land in the Coton Corridor to protect and preserve it, and the National Trust put covenants on the land to make it inviolable.  They know that the County Council could have improved traffic flows on Madingley Road years and years ago – there is room for bus lanes from Madingley Mulch down across the M11 bridge to the Park and Ride and High Cross.  We don’t know why some of the County transport officers lied about this to the Parish Councils?  We know the right answer is to keep traffic and buses on the A428 and create a transport hub and Park and Ride site with an all-ways junction for the M11 and A428 at Girton.  We don’t know why the County transport officers have not been lobbying the Highways Agency/Highways England for this for years, and indeed accepted the southbound connection being removed from the current A14 improvement scheme?  We don’t know why we are constantly told that options which many believe could be “right” answers are always “out-of-scope”.

A kind of aesthetic and sensitivity deficit

There are lots of arguments that many planners somehow don’t “see” the environment in the same way as the rest of us, a kind of aesthetic and sensitivity deficit, and that their experience of objections from people who do, makes them reject out-of-hand alternatives and objectives.  There are arguments that they see big over-riding change as necessary, imposing “order” and “over-arching vision” as the road to the future, and that somehow a new paradigm for quality-of-life will be created.  That often means residents and planners are talking a different language and a different agenda, and objectors are dismissed as NIMBYs.  You can see from their body language and behaviour in meetings that listening to public input is not a priority for their attention.

Better schemes, better solutions

We are not NIMBYs because we have always argued for better schemes, and don’t understand why the transport officers won’t consider them.  Cllr Grenville Chamberlain in Hardwick, along with Smarter Cambridge Transport, the Coton Busway Action Group and others argues that any extra busway should be light rail and run alongside the A428 to the Girton interchange, or buses run on the existing A428, where Cambridge Connect argues for a light rail/metro solution into and under Cambridge serving the City Centre and Station.  The new mayor of the Cambridge and Peterborough Combined Authority wants light rail solutions from St Neots and Peterborough in the context of an over-arching strategy for Greater Cambridge.

The Coton Busway Action Group and Coton Parish Council has always recommended the low cost on-the-road option for Madingley Hill/Road, possibly tidal, through to High Cross where buses could enter the West Cambridge University site.  And Coton’s own Colin Harries who devised the Cambridge Connect plan is now discussing with Mayor James Palmer the light rail/metro solution.

GCP won’t pause while feasibility studies are completed

But GCP won’t pause while feasibility studies are completed – they may have already decided what the consultants conclusions should be – and press on regardless.  We are promised a final consultation after they are expected to announce their final solutions in September/October.  Do you really think they will listen then?  Yes we can take legal action, we can force a public inquiry, we can challenge them and their processes, and possibly slow the project down.  But fundamentally WHY is it not possible to get them to listen properly and change their minds for a more cost-effective solution?  So we are going to march and shout now.  Apparently we have our local MP, county councillor and the new Mayor on our side, but we don’t like the democratic deficit we keep witnessing.

For us in Coton – and apparently in Madingley, and Barton – we don’t have the support of our South Cambridgeshire District Councillor, Cllr Francis Birkitt, now Chair of the GCP, who champions the proposed guided busway over the better solutions, and against the views of his constituents.  He says he is standing down at the next election in 2018, so no reckoning at the ballot box, just increasing the democratic deficit for us until then.  Again, we ask WHY he is not representing our views and not taking them into account in decision taking?

Marching and shouting on Saturday 2 September 2017

So we don’t have an answer to many WHYs, and you have to understand why we are marching and shouting.  Be there on Saturday 2 September 2017 starting from The Backs, Garret Hostel Lane at 11.00am

Roger Tomlinson, member of the Coton Busway Action Group

The Executive by John Betjeman

I am a young executive. No cuffs than mine are cleaner;
I have a Slimline brief-case and I use the firm’s Cortina.
In every roadside hostelry from here to Burgess Hill
The maîtres d’hôtel all know me well, and let me sign the bill.

You ask me what it is I do. Well, actually, you know,
I’m partly a liaison man, and partly P.R.O.
Essentially, I integrate the current export drive
And basically I’m viable from ten o’clock till five.

For vital off-the-record work – that’s talking transport-wise –
I’ve a scarlet Aston-Martin – and does she go? She flies!
Pedestrians and dogs and cats, we mark them down for slaughter.
I also own a speedboat which has never touched the water.

She’s built of fibre-glass, of course. I call her ‘Mandy Jane’
After a bird I used to know – No soda, please, just plain –
And how did I acquire her? Well, to tell you about that
And to put you in the picture, I must wear my other hat.

I do some mild developing. The sort of place I need
Is a quiet country market town that’s rather run to seed
A luncheon and a drink or two, a little savoir faire –
I fix the Planning Officer, the Town Clerk and the Mayor.

And if some Preservationist attempts to interfere
A ‘dangerous structure’ notice from the Borough Engineer
Will settle any buildings that are standing in our way –
The modern style, sir, with respect, has really come to stay.

Key sequence of meetings starts 11 Sept 2017

The Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) grinds inexorably on, despite marches and the packed house public meeting. They have now announced their preferred route options and Park and Ride sites.
They still want an off-road concrete guided busway, apparently to take high-speed buses running at over 100mph, and because of this there may not be intermediate stops at Hardwick and Coton. The busway hugs village properties and in Coton runs next to the school and through the historic Coton Orchard before crossing the M11 on a new bridge.
The Crome Lea Park and Ride site at Madingley Mulch is no longer recommended – they have moved it a few hundred yards west to what they call the Waterworks site, off the St Neots Road.  Still on top of Madingley Hill and visible from miles around.
There are two important meetings next week:
Monday 11 September
Local Liaison Forum meeting
6pm Comberton Village College
It’s very important to have a good turnout from Hardwick and Coton for this last chance to have our say and influence the Greater City Partnership (City Deal) Assembly and Board in making decisions that will affect us greatly and will devastate the village environment and the Green Belt.
Wednesday 13 September
Greater Cambridge Partnership Joint Assembly
2-5pm Kreis Viersen Room, Shire Hall, Castle Hill CB3 0AP
Again, a good turnout from Hardwick and Coton is essential! More details, including the Agenda, at https://www.greatercambridge.org.uk/the-greater-cambridge-partnership-joint-assembly-130917/
If you would like to speak or ask a question (directly related to an Agenda item), please submit any questions by 10am Friday 8 September 2017 to Democratic.Services@Scambs.gov.uk
The new Mayor James Palmer of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority reminds us the final decisions will not be taken until the summer of 2018, and he, MP Heidi Allen, Cllrs Lina Joseph, Grenville Chamberlain are firmly opposed to the busway. The Mayor and GCP have commissioned a study to look at light rail and metro solutions for greater Cambridge. Most people are still in favour of keeping solutions in the A428 corridor and having an all-ways junction to link the M11 and A428 at Girton with a major Park+Ride site there.
But we need to continue to lobby loudly and challenge the GCP processes and their huge democratic deficit.  Please contact your councillors and MPs about this – full contact details in previous post – and try and attend the meetings to make your voice heard.

Watch the Protest March Medley

There may have been smiles for the camera but there is real anger at the GCP. Councillors Burkitt, Herbert and Bates, you must listen to residents now! You must not waste our money on a scheme that will destroy our landscape, devastate the heritage of the city and even goes to the wrong place. It’s not too late to change tack!

Make the March count, contact councillors now

Well we marched.  We protested.  We shouted.  On Saturday (2 September 2017) we reckon over 400 people were marching, chanting, singing, waving banners and posters, by the time the March threaded through Cambridge City Centre.  The reaction of the public was great, with loads of leaflets given to people angry about the busway proposals.  Of course, no one from the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) was at the Guildhall to meet us, perhaps as well, because at the Federation of Cambridge Residents’ Associations’ stall in front of the Guildhall where we were answering questions and giving out information, the overwhelming reaction of the public was deep suspicion of the motives of the GCP in pushing the busway through the Green Belt.

claimed to have listened but in fact demonstrated they had not.

We were particularly cross because the GCP had issued a press release published on Friday (the press had it beforehand and had been clearly briefed to take a negative line against our protest) which in their mendacious City Deal tradition claimed to have listened but in fact demonstrated they had not.

The GCP officers now recommend the new Park + Ride site not on the skyline of Madingley Hill at Crome Lea at Madingley Mulch visible for miles around, but a few hundred yards to the west on the skyline of Madingley Hill at the Waterworks site at Madingley Mulch visible for miles around.  Do they think we are stupid?  This is still environmental vandalism.

What is worst is that they manipulate their comparative scoring of locations and routes to favour what the officers and their tame consultants first thought of.  For example, the Madingley Mulch site remains inaccessible for people travelling from the East, while our recommended Scotland Farm site is much more accessible, including to Hardwick.

positively vindictive to Coton

The GCP officers of course don’t favour our recommended on-the-road scheme for bus lane(s) on Madingley Road through at least to High Cross, with an improved M11 Junction 13 bridge, with more lanes and a separate bike and pedestrian bridge.  That would save public money and be too sensible. (And of course suggestions such as making the Girton Interchange on the A428 an all-ways junction with the M11 with a Park + Ride site, are “out-of-scope” for the GCP, despite everyone else recommending it).

Instead the GCP officers recommended off-road busway route is positively vindictive to Coton, low down on Madingley Hill, hugging the village, right behind the school and housing, crossing Cambridge Road right next to the houses and demolishing Coton Orchard, crossing the M11 on a new bridge north of The Footpath footbridge and into Charles Babbage Way on the West Cambridge site.  They claim this means it doesn’t go through the West Fields so they don’t understand the definition, as they breach the Green Belt, violate National Trust covenants, and cut up land Cambridge Past Present and Future owns to protect Cambridge’s historic landscape.  Environmental vandalism writ large.

off-road busway route is a Trojan Horse

The public say they see through all this.  They question why the councillors would ever allow this to happen.  They reckon the off-road busway route is a Trojan Horse so developers and the University can breach the Green Belt and put houses in the fields along the route.  They say the councillors are “giving up” and abandoning Cambridge’s historic landscape and heritage.  Quite a few remember the County Transport Officer Bob Menzies saying “Cambridge is in the way” of their plans.

After Charles Babbage Way on the University’s West Cambridge site the off-road busway is proposed to go through the Cavendish Lab site (scheduled to be re-developed by the University) and then threads its way past the Tennis Club and The Footpath probably to Adams Road and the dreamed of destination of Grange Road.  Quite why Grange Road has featured as the destination is only for the officers convenience of not explaining the impact from the rest of the unknown route.

Mayor says “The busway must not happen.”

No one will say where the buses will go from there, and it is apparently “fake news” to say the buses will be routed along The Backs and Silver Street – except that consultants refer to a bus terminal/hub on Silver Street in GCP papers and the consultant to the Workshop on the route options in Newnham refers to “a bus lane on The Backs”.  Odd that.  Of course there is an ‘alternative’ of a bus tunnel starting at the Cavendish Labs into the City Centre.   Really?  These are the people who told us tunnels and light rail/metro solutions were impossible.  They won’t even wait while the new Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, James Palmer, completes a strategic study of the transport needs.  He says “The busway must not happen.  My view has not changed and I am working to provide an underground/light rail solution that will be a complete solution”, as proposed by Cambridge Connect.  Clearly GCP are still trying to push their mad concrete guided busway scheme through before the new Mayor can stop it.

You can see and hear the Mayor on Tuesday 5th September 7- 8.30pm at Cambridge Rugby Club, Grantchester Road at the meeting of all the Cambridge residents’ associations: FeCRA

spectacular waste of public money

And this is all a spectacular waste of public money – the first guided busway in Cambridgeshire cost three times more than estimated, faces £36.4 Million in immediate repairs and has many crashes. It is likely that their new concrete guided busway will cost even more than £207 Million, especially with new bridge over M11.  We have to save them from themselves.  Blind to the value of the historic landscape and the environment, completely insensitive to better alternative proposals, prepared to lie and cheat to get their scheme through, the officers and councillors need to be told in no uncertain terms to desist, and now.

Contact your councillors, the Mayor and MPs now

Frankly we need everyone emailing and contacting them now (ideally before 10 September 2017):

The key GCP decision makers, who currently support the off-road concrete guided busway, need to hear your opposition:

Councillor Francis Burkitt: francis.burkitt@btinternet.com  Chair of the Greater Cambridge Partnership and South Cambridgeshire District Councillor (ironically for Madingley, Coton, Barton and Grantchester, yet he supports the off-road busway)

Councillor Lewis Herbert: Lewis.Herbert@cambridge.gov.uk  Leader of Cambridge City Council

Councillor Ian Bates:  Ian.Bates@cambridgeshire.gov.uk  Cambridgeshire County Council

Councillor Kevin Price kevin.price@cambridge.gov.uk Chair of the Greater Cambridge Partnership Joint Assembly and Deputy Leader of Cambridge City Council

These are key people who mostly object to the concrete off-road guided busway and need to know the strength of public opinion:

Mayor James Palmer: James@jamespalmer4mayor.Co.uk  Mayor of Cambridge & Peterborough Combined Authority

Heidi Allen MP:  heidi.allen.mp@parliament.uk South Cambs MP, give your postal address if a constituent

Daniel Zeichner MP: daniel.zeichner.mp@parliament.uk  Cambridge City MP, give your postal address if a constituent

You can find your local councillors in the links below, so you can contact them; Grenville Chamberlain (District Council) in Hardwick and Lina Joseph (County) are opposed to the busway:

Cambridgeshire County Council: https://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/council/

South Cambs District Council: https://www.scambs.gov.uk/services/council

If you want to read more:

Greater Cambridge Partnership: https://www.greatercambridge.org.uk/

Mayor James Palmer: http://www.jamespalmer4mayor.co.uk

Cambridge Connect: http://www.cambridge-connect.uk

Cambridge Credible Transport: https://cambridgecredibletransport.com

Smarter Cambridge Transport: http://www.smartertransport.uk

Save the West Fields: http://savethewfields.wixsite.com/savethewestfields

Thank you if you Marched.  Thank you for Protesting. Thank you for Shouting.  But now shout louder, please.

Roger Tomlinson

Coton Busway Action Group


Frustration as GCP “plough on regardless”

Yet another day of relentless ignoring of the views of the public by the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP). Our colleague Amanda Fuller was in the first part of the meeting at the Guildhall this morning 26th July at 10am, when the meeting started with the appointment of Councillor Francis Burkitt as Chairman – he’s our Madingley, Coton, Barton and Grantchester South Cambs District Councillor, but don’t hold your breath: he supports a concrete busway past Hardwick through the Coton Corridor and the West Fields.
But we are not on our own since South Cambs District Councillor Grenville Chamberlain is opposed as is Cambridgeshire County Councillor Lina Joseph. See below for our future plans, but it probably really is time to contact your local councillors – we’ll get you details.
Amanda had a question about whether the GCP would appoint truly independent consultants to do the new transport study for greater Cambridgeshire which the Mayor and GCP have agreed to commission jointly. We don’t want the officers usual tame consultants such as Atkins or Skanska or Mott Macdonald. Of course we got the usual ‘not really answering the question’ fudge – more on this later.
I joined the meeting at Noon to watch the Executive Board continuing to trample over Milton Road residents while pretending they were wonderfully doing everything the residents wanted. I don’t remember the residents wanting unsafe bus and cycle lane combinations at great expense, to save less than 2 minutes in-bound and just over 4 minutes out-bound by 2031. And it was revealed that in all this, they stopped short of dealing with Mitcham’s Corner, so like the Cambourne to Cambridge Busway proposal, it doesn’t deal with reaching the City Centre.
The meeting continued at 2pm and we then had more of the same fudge, but this time with explanations from the officers that “independent consultants” meant all the ones they were already working with, the ones we are unhappy with.  Councillor Lina Joseph, like Rod Cantrill in the morning session, asked for the whole busway scheme to be paused until the Mayor’s new study was completed and the proposals for very high speed rapid transit (“bullet buses”) were completed.  Ignored.  Helen Bradbury laid out clearly the Local Liaison Forum’s views and, together with Gabriel Fox’s question, challenged the analysis and scoring of the options for busway routes and our alternative schemes.
Now you have to acknowledge when the officers cleverly manoeuvre round objections and Transport Director Chris Tunstall basically said they were ignoring the analysis and scoring, and putting through our Option 6 for evaluation – that’s the on-road bus lane not busway option, possibly tidal, from Madingley Mulch down Madingley Road across the M11 on the existing (widened) bridge to High Cross – so in effect he implied we should back off and wait until September!
That left us in limbo with issues such as bullet buses blasting past Hardwick and Coton at over 100 mph, proposals for a bus terminal on The Backs at Silver Street, and other madnesses just parked, unanswered.
Francis Burkitt has upped the management of the meetings and they did note and discuss the questions and objections and, lo and behold, did deliberate amongst the Board members, and former chairman Lewis Herbert even sounded like he acknowledged some of the issues we raised. But No, they voted to press on regardless, ignoring all the objections and challenges.
They even ignored the Joint Assembly recommendation to remove Crome Lea from the Park+Ride sites being considered. Again Transport Director Chris Tunstall was on manoeuvres with a frankly confusing circular argument that appeared to say that if they had thought Crome Lea was a possible site earlier it had to stay under consideration – quite how you eliminate rejected options under this thinking, I don’t know. I thought the Joint Assembly had comprehensively rejected it, saying they would never vote for it.
We retired angry after 3pm vowing that we have to escalate our challenge to a much louder public scale.  That meant we missed Councillor Burkitt accusing Wendy Blythe, of the combined residents associations (FECRA), of “fake news” when she referred to the proposals for a bus terminal on The Backs at Silver Street – it was in the Board’s own papers circulated for the meeting.  Save the West Fields confirms this was already in an Atkins study dated April 2017.  Yet more reasons to be angry.
So a date for your diary: Protest March Saturday 2nd September 11am starting from Queens Road (The Backs) into the Market Square. We need to be big and loud. More details to come. But please, you plan to come.