Campaigners are making a final appeal to councilors to reject plans for a £160m Camborne bus to Cambridge in favor of a road-going solution.
Cambridgeshire County Council will decide next week whether to seek a Transport and Business Act order from the Department for Transport to build the bus route.
If approved, the controversial bus route pioneered by the Greater Cambridge Partnership could open in 2026.
But a group of organizations are appealing to the authority to avoid the ‘unnecessary destruction’ of an important green lane and instead build a traffic-free lane next to the A1303.
They will bring a petition — signed by 2,300 people calling for a solution on the way — to the meeting on Tuesday (March 21).
James Littlewood, chief executive of Cambridge Past, Present and Future, appealed to councilors to act in favor of nature.
He stated to Cambridge Independent.
“There is a viable alternative scheme for a bus route over the existing route that could achieve similar journey times, is less harmful to the environment, is much less expensive and can be delivered more quickly. All we ask is that the two schemes be properly compared before a decision is made.”
The C2C bus route will connect Camborne and Cambridge via the new Bourn Airfield development, a new travel hub at Scotland Farm, Hardwicke and the University of Cambridge West Cambridge campus.
The Friends of the Cam River volunteer organization described it as a “Trojan horse” designed to open up new areas of green land for housing and industrial development.
“Building concrete runways through ancient orchards and other green spaces at exorbitant cost is a way to increase land values and make it easier to build on – not solve Cambridge’s appalling traffic congestion as GCP claims,” Susan Buckingham, a River spokeswoman, said.
“There are far better ways to extend existing routes to use buses than the bus routes dreamed up by the unrepresentative GCP whose advisory group is filled with those with commercial interests,” she added.
It was recommended that the council – run by a joint administration of Liberal Democrats, Labor and Independent councillors – apply to the DfT to “authorize the construction and operation of the Camborne to Cambridge directed transport system”.
The petition is organized by the Cambridge Past, Present and Future Charitable Trust, Coton Parish Council, Coton Bosway Action Group, Cotton Orchard, Cotton Loves Polynewators and Save Westfields.
Hardwicke Parish Council was not involved in the petition. Public meetings were held with the GCP which led to the route being changed, so that it would run on the road via St Neots Road in the village, without a bus gate.
GCP says the bus route aims to significantly improve active bus and travel routes between Cambridge and Camborne via the new Bourn Airfield development, a new travel hub at Scotland Farm, Hardwicke and West Cambridge campuses.
The scheme has been the subject of three public consultations and an independent review of the proposed off-road public transit route. GCP has committed to providing at least 10 percent of net biodiversity gains to the system, with a target of 20 percent gains.
Mark Abbott, chair of Cotton Parish Council, said: “Coton is fully supportive of improving bus services from Camborne to Cambridge, but the project as proposed would be a waste of £200m. It would not make journey times to Cambridge appreciably faster – a difference of just 1.5 to 3.5 minutes. Between crossing the countryside and using the bus lane next to the road.
“Will not provide easy commutes to actual destinations except for the University of Cambridge West campus. The plans do not take into account the change in road use and work/commuting patterns post-Covid, which has reduced congestion. No wonder the feasibility study is negative: only 43p of value per 1 ££s spent. No part of government – central or local – should approve a project of poor value.”
GCP says that parts of the existing Camborne to Cambridge road network, in particular the A1303/Madingley road, experience heavy traffic congestion at peak times.
Without action, she adds, car trips into the city by 2031 are set to increase by up to 70 percent, with already long journey times expected to double.
GCP said that monitoring of traffic shows that “while the Covid-19 pandemic has affected travel patterns, traffic and congestion are returning to pre-pandemic levels” and “planned development in West Cambridge will only exacerbate this in the coming years”.
The proposed bus route will pass through existing and planned urban development, first through Upper Cambourne and then into Bourn Airfield, the first 2.3km. The next 1 mile runs alongside the A428 through grassland and woodland before reaching the proposed Scotland Farm travel centre.
The scheme continues east along St Neots Road on the northern edge of the village of Hardwick using the existing road alignment of over 1 mile before crossing farmland into the Cotton Green Corridor, which consists of woodland, meadows, ancient orchard, hedges and fields. The route also includes a new bridge over the M11 before heading into Cambridge, passing through Charles Babbage Road, before joining the existing public motorway at Grange Road.
Campaigners say the road will irreversibly damage landscapes, scenery and habitats on one of Cambridge’s few hills.
Anna Gazeley, of Cotton Orchard, explained: “Cotton Orchard’s fruit trees were first planted in 1922 to produce apples for the wholesale trade at Covent Garden and finally to produce cider and cider. A hundred years later it is one of the few remaining traditional orchards in the UK and the largest in the No longer economically viable as a fruit farm, the development of a garden center on the fringes has afforded the current owners the ability to preserve the original orchard, leaving it relatively intact and a haven for wildlife.
“The choice before the council would divide the orchard by a new road, destroy at least a third of the trees and replace them with tarmac, leaving it unmanageable as an orchard. The disturbance and noise from construction and any buses that would run along it in the future would drive out the remaining wildlife that currently calls Cotton Orchard home.” “In the midst of a biodiversity emergency, it’s clear we need to protect our habitats now more than ever. Off-roading through an orchard, especially when with a less expensive (environmentally and economically) option, is far from reckless.”
Friends of the River Cam, a volunteer organization created to restore the health of the river, believes that bus routes are an unnecessary and intrusive tool that will greatly benefit landowners and developers – not existing bus users or local residents.
“The proposed C2C bus route will carve through an ancient orchard and destroy its biodiversity,” a statement from the group read. This is despite the UK government having signed an international biodiversity treaty committing to tackling biodiversity loss and restoring ecosystems, and Cambridge City Council pledging to provide leadership and ensure Ensure that we are working with partners and our communities to reverse the decline in biodiversity and achieve measurable net gains to biodiversity within Cambridge and the wider region.
“The current imported food shortage, exacerbated by global warming, shows that we cannot afford to lose farmland.”
The group argues that the bus route – one of four proposed by the GCP – runs counter to the government’s settlement agenda.
“Industry and business are being encouraged to move from poorer areas to the sweltering Cambridge area – within the hottest and most drought-prone region in the country,” they said, adding: “The Cam Friends are particularly concerned about the development of these areas. Fixed bus routes will further erode Quality and quantity of Rivers Cam, Ouse and tributaries.
“We urge the county council not to support fixed bus routes, but to use its experience to insist on the implementation of alternatives that are less environmentally harmful and more convenient for passengers.”
In its latest advisory, the GCP revealed that it had amended its plans to route buses on an existing section of St Neots Road in Hardwick between Cambridge Road and Long Road.
The previously approved route would have led to eight lanes of uninterrupted traffic outside homes on St Neots Road where the bus route will run alongside the A428.
However, GCP will need to install a bus gate along this stretch of road so that only public transport, local traffic and those visiting businesses are allowed to pass.
Alan Everett, who served on Hardwick Parish Council, added: “Hardwick succeeded in getting GCP to abandon plans to build an off-road bus route through the village and to install a bus gate on St Neots Road. Instead, GCP agreed Google accredited” on the possibility of running buses on the road through the village.
“This avoided the great ecological devastation and disturbance of the village of Hardwicke and I can’t see why the same approach would not have been taken for the section from Hardwicke to Cotton. This would also avoid the desecration of the fields east of Hardwicke.”
The C2C scheme is a GCP priority project and is one of four travel corridors being developed as part of the city deal delivery, which was signed in 2014 with the aim of “seeing a step change in transport infrastructure, creating jobs and strengthening the local economy” .
Sharon Cairns, of Cotton Loves Pollinators, said: “We are horrified at the proposal to run a 20-metre-wide runway through the historic Cotton Orchard. A designated priority habitat, this traditional orchard is the largest of its kind in Cambridgeshire and of recognized national importance. It is the simple fact that it is No mitigation scheme can compensate for the loss of this habitat, which includes an old hedgerow on which the rare protected bat species feed.
“Moreover, it does not make sense for local politicians to support wildlife restoration projects on the one hand, while at the same time also supporting projects that destroy irreplaceable habitats, especially when there is no viable alternative.”
Chris Bratten, of Save the West Fields, added: “We are horrified that GCP will continue with its plans to build an unnecessary road through the West Fields. The proposed route would require the construction of a large ‘flybridge’ over Ben Brook at the eastern end of Westfields, although The High Court has previously agreed that this area of greenbelt is important to the historic setting of Cambridge. There are other, less harmful options.”
A GCP spokesperson said: “The Cambourne to Cambridge (C2C) project forms part of an integrated sustainable transport network being developed by GCP. The project will provide better public transport services and active travel opportunities for thousands of people in developing communities in the west of the city, helping to reduce congestion on the roads. reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality for all.
“To build infrastructure of this scale we need to submit an application to the government via the Highways Authority. If the proposals are approved, Cambridgeshire County Council will send a Transport and Works Act Order (TWAO) to the government on behalf of GCP in the summer for approval.” .
A decision will be taken at the full board meeting of the authority on Tuesday, March 21.
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