The controversial plans for a Camborne to Cambridge bus route have taken a major step forward after council members agreed to apply for permission to begin work.
Cambridgeshire County Council has approved an application under the Transport and Works Act for permission to build a new off-road bus route.
The proposals have been met with opposition, including from more than 2,400 people who have signed a petition arguing that the bus route will “irreversibly harm landscapes, scenery, and habitats.”
The Camborne to Cambridge scheme was drawn up by the Greater Cambridge Partnership, with the aim of creating a new public transport link between the city and the city.
Plans include a dedicated bus route serving Camborne and the proposed Bourn Airfield development, as well as the Hardwick, Coton and West Cambridge campuses.
It is suggested that busway-side running should be an “active travel path” used by pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians. A new Park and Ride site was also proposed under the plans.
The scheme was developed over eight years, but has been met with backlash from some who oppose the environmental impact of building the new bus route.
Cambridge Charities Past, Present and Future presented a petition signed by 2,407 people opposing the bus route to councilors at the full county council meeting (Tuesday 21 March).
The petition stated: “The proposed route will cut through fields, forests, and an ancient grove. It will irreversibly damage landscapes, views, and habitats. It will lead to unwarranted urbanization of the village of Cotton.”
James Littlewood, the charity’s chief executive, told council members the group had put forward another option to build a bus corridor along existing routes, which he said would be cheaper and less environmentally damaging than current plans.
A motion was made by the Conservative group in the county council to delay a decision on submitting the plans, so that the proposed alternative option could be considered.
Cllr Mark Goldsack (Con, Soham North and Isleham) said the proposed delay was “not to say no”, but to help the authority “make the right decision”.
Cllr Steve Count (Con, March North and Waldersey) said the county council needed to study and compare schemes side by side.
He added that he also believed the authority should wait to see what would be the proposed East West Rail route between Bedford and Cambridge, in order to see how it might affect proposals for bus routes.
Cllr Alan Sharp (Con, Woodditton) argued that to “ignore” the “viable alternative scheme” would be to “knock Cotton Village in its teeth”.
However, other councilors said that an alternative “route” scheme had already been considered, and that the Conservatives’ proposals were “largely a duplication” of work already done.
When the amendment was put to a vote, it failed to garner enough support for the county council to accept it.
Cllr Elisa Meschini (Lab, King’s Hedges), vice-chairman of the county council, said there was “no easy solution” to meeting the need for sustainable public transport infrastructure, without affecting the landscape.
She stressed that there was a need to connect Camborne to Cambridge, saying there were students in Camborne who were “barred off” from educational opportunities in Cambridge if they did not have a car.
Cllr Lucy Nethsingha (Lib Dem, Newnham), chairwoman of the county council, said: “Of course I wish it would be possible to build quality public transport routes without cutting down a single tree, but it is not possible.
“The path on the road has been meticulously scrutinized over many years and will have a huge impact on the trees.
“Camborne residents have waited many years for the long-promised public transport option to travel to Cambridge.
Yesterday’s UN report emphasized once again how urgent we are to take steps to decarbonize our economy, and quality public transportation is an important part of decarbonizing our region.
“If this motion passes today, I give my personal commitment to do everything within my power to ensure first that minimal harm is done at Coton Orchard, but also and just as important that the promises made as part of this motion to ensure biodiversity net are honored.” Profit as a result of this path.
When the resolution was put to a vote, 33 council members voted in favor of an application to build a new bus route, and 26 voted against.
Find more analysis and reaction in the Cambridge Independent this week – starting Wednesday, 22 March.
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