Friends of Ditton Meadows Formed to Oppose New Foot and Cycle Bridge


Thursday, January 22nd, 2015. 3:32am

I attended the first public meeting of the Friends of Ditton Meadows on the 21st of January 2015. The meeting provided me with an update on the consideration of proposals for a new bridge over the River Cam to carry the Chisholm Trail cycle route.

I found out about the existence of the friends group having seen it mentioned on Twitter and I found out about the meeting by seeing a poster on the Green Dragon bridge.

I volunteered to film the meeting and place the video on YouTube. This offer was enthusiastically accepted and the video is now embedded here.

Initial publicity about the group was entirely anonymous, with no-one putting their name on the group’s posters or website and the group’s web domain was, and remains, registered to “Identity Protect Limited”.

Despite the initial impression of a secretive group it was good to see an open meeting being held, and those running it welcoming having it filmed. Those forming the friends group did generally identify themselves on the evening.

The group’s primary objective is:

To protect Ditton Meadows from the current threat of development, namely the proposed cycle and foot bridge across the meadow.

There were both people supportive of the aims of the group, and people in favour of a new cycle and foot-bridge, present at the meeting.

Some of those at the meeting urged the group to tone-down its stance and rather than oppose any bridge outright work to ensure that the bridge, and associated paths, are constructed in such a way as to minimally impact, or even enhance, the area. That is the approach that I am taking myself and I would of course like to see others join; those forming the friends group though were keen to stand by their objective though I could detect hints of wavering from some individuals.

The meeting was well attended with between forty and fifty people present.

Current Status of the Bridge Idea/Project

Cambridgeshire County Council has a webpage for the project at: http://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/new-bridge. (Update: The council have moved the webpage) (Further Update: the project webpage is now here.)

A consultation was held on proposals in July 2014. The County Council’s website stated consultation is ongoing but doesn’t give many details apart from stating:

There is a meeting for stakeholders and interested parties on 25 February, 2015 at Barnwell Baptist Church, Howard Rd, Cambridge CB5 8QS from 6 to 7.30pm. Those who wish to attend should email transport.delivery@cambridgeshire.gov.uk or call 01223 699906.

The council’s webpage on the project does not state the responses from the initial consultation were taken to a committee of councillors who decided more consultation was needed.

As someone who made a submission to the July 2014 consultation, and someone who is regularly on Stourbridge Common and Ditton Meadows and who reads posters in the area I have not been kept informed of progress, I wasn’t pro-actively informed about the committee consideration, or the stakeholder meetings.

I think the council’s communications have been poor; and the performance of local councillors in ensuring those interested are kept up to date has been poor too. I think the “stakeholder” meetings ought be freely open to the public and listed on the council’s meeting calendar.

The meeting heard that an architect has been appointed to design a bridge. Cllr Ian Manning confirmed this.

The bridge is to carry the Chisholm Trail cycle route which has the support of the County Council and City Council.

My Views

I made a submission to the July 2014 consultation:

I very strongly support a foot and cycle bridge being built in the area of the existing railway bridge across the Cam.

I think the prime consideration ought be the continuation of the Chisholm Trail path along the line of the railway to the new station with as little deviation in direction or level as possible for crossing the river.

I think a bridge west of the railway bridge should be considered; and the option of buying property where required to cut a path through ought be considered.

I do not share council officers’ concerns about “flickering” at all. [This relates to the potential visual effect caused by two adjacent bridges]

My prime concern is the impact on the open spaces of Stourbridge Common / Ditton Fields and I strongly oppose placing the bridge a long way downstream of the existing bridge, in the middle of Ditton Fields. I think keeping the new bridge as close as possible to the railway bridge will minimise the impact.

I liked the idea of hanging a new bridge off the existing one; if that’s not literally possible something giving that appearance would be the best option in my view.

I would like the new bridge not to restrict the navigation any more than the existing railway bridge does.

Having heard the comments made at the meeting I have the following additional thoughts:

I think the case for the Chisholm Trail has already been made so I didn’t re-state it in my submission. As Cambridge grows, if we are going to keep the city moving we need to see more people using alternatives to private cars such as cycling. Cycling is also a pleasant and healthy way of getting around the city. The bridge will link the Science Park and new station through to Newmarket Road and on to Romsey and the central station; it links places of employment with residential areas and shopping areas.

An argument is made that it’s only a short detour off the line of the route to use the existing Green Dragon bridge. I think the detour is significant and the benefits of an uninterrupted continuous cycleway are significant in encouraging use and making for speedy journeys with as few stops and starts and hazardous areas as possible. I’d like to see the cycleway continue off-road through to the Science Park Station and the Science Park itself.

While slightly off topic I think the path on the wooden structure under the railway bridge; while installed not that long ago isn’t really suited to the level, and type, of use it currently gets. It’s narrow and has sharp blind corners; some also complain about it being slippy. I think it needs to be upgraded and made more cycle-friendly.

Lighting needs a comment; I think the level of lighting needs to reflect the use of the space. I think this is something which does change with time. I’ve seen attitudes among those in power to lighting in central Cambridge’s green spaces change over the fifteen years or so I’ve been in the city; with more consideration now given to those using the spaces to get around. I think sensitive lighting which wouldn’t impact the surrounding area, such as uplighters on a new cycle path would be acceptable should there be demand for that.

I think the Chisholm Trail could cross the common or meadows, and then the river with minimal impact.

One added benefit of a cycleway on the railway embankment would be more people getting new views of the river, Fen Ditton, and Cambridge; views of the kind only those who venture up on to the almost disused footbridge currently see.

Tweets relating to the Meeting


Jim Chisholm’s Contribution to the Meeting

Jim Chisholm said he first proposed a foot/cycle bridge here in 1998 and it’s been in the local plan since 2005 and it’s in the South Cambridge transport strategy. He said

We all value the wonderful green space in Cambridge, we cycle through it, we walk through it, we take trains through it. A bridge close to the existing rail bridge with ramps on the adjacent network rail land is what I want but I’ve been trying to campaign for that from Network Rail for some years and they are an organisation which is very difficult to work with. I believe that we should be able to get some sort of licence to use parts of Network Rail land. I originally wanted, when I proposed this, to hang the new bridge on the side [of the railway bridge] but for safety reasons they won’t do that. We can work to get the bridge as close as possible to it. There’s no way the bridge can be on the other side for various reasons.

Network Rail is a public body and it should be working with, and for, the public of Cambridge to assist with this project. Our elected representatives should be ensuring it does so.

When questioned why it can’t go on the other side Jim Chisholm said:

The reason it can’t go on the other side is because of the ramps, and ramps are required at a slope of about one in twenty because of disability access; they’ll have to in front of a group of houses there and part of the other side is common land and I think it would be much harder to build a bridge on common land that it would be on this side; and also because most of the demand for people wanting to use the bridge will be on this side.

My view is placing the bridge on the West side is possible. That will provide the best connection to the new station. I think the ramps could be parallel to the line of the railway and cycle-path. (I’m envisaging a cycle path along the line of the railway, next to it).

Jim Chisholm said most of the cycling infrastructure which has been installed in Cambridge has ended up with twice as many people using it as the county council originally estimated and some of those people have stopped using cars.

Further Coverage

If anyone else wants to extract further elements of the meeting, by transcribing, or commenting on elements I’ve not covered do add contributions below.

See Also

29 comments/updates on “Friends of Ditton Meadows Formed to Oppose New Foot and Cycle Bridge

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    I tweeted my consultation responses at the time:

  2. Hester

    It is not a short detour – it is an additional mile to go down to Green Dragon and back up to what will be the station walking and cycling access from Moss Bank. A considerable extra distance on foot, and not trivial to some people who cycle. Additionally, this means routing more journeys along Green Dragon bridge, which I’m sure existing users will tell you is already very busy at peak times, and the source of much conflict due to being narrow and hump-backed. I believe it also has a limited remaining lifespan – 20 years?

    I originally thought it would be better on the west side, but aside from issues of whether this is possible – I am not qualified to comment – I have come around to the benefit of it to the east. People who live west of the proposed bridge have Riverside and Green Dragon as crossings. Green Dragon has capacity issues, as mentioned, but Riverside is better able to cope with commuter traffic, even if it is already used more than was anticipated. Whereas people approaching from the East have to either use Newmarket Road, or the blind, wooden walkway under the railway line to access a bridge to the west, which would be disastrous. It is residents of Abbey and Fen Ditton who have most to gain from the new bridge.

  3. Richard Taylor Article author

    I have cycled up to the kissing gate on Ditton Meadows to view the notice reported to the meeting by the suspected troll. I can report that the meadows are incredibly muddy, especially in the gateway through the hedge which forms the Cambridge City boundary. It’s often muddy there at this time of year but today was the most mud I’ve seen there.

    notice on gate

    The notice is a “Notice of landowner deposits under section 31(6) of the Highways Act 1980“.

    The notice is an attempt by the landowner to prevent public rights of way being obtained over their land as a result of the use of the land by the public.

    It is easy to see how the suspected troll mistook “deposits” for “minerals”.

    In this case the “deposit” was submitted by Mr and Mrs Middleton of Fen Ditton Hall, CB5 8ST (Telegraph Article when the property was for sale). (Zoopla Current Estimated Value £3.2 million)

    The link provided on the notice appears broken; I suspect the council have not updated their notice template following website redesign, or one of the many ways the redesign was badly managed involved breaking the links published on printed notices. The link was ludicrously long for expecting the public to obtain from a printed notice and type in too:

    http://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/environment/countrysideandrights/definitivemapandstate/landownerdeposits/

    I eventually found the council system which I think is intended to show the “deposit”; but it appears the legions of officers at Shire Hall are yet to place it on their system despite it having been submitted in May 2014.

    County Council map of the area showing areas of similar deposits

    Similar deposits can be downloaded from the Cambridgeshire County Council maps service at:

    http://my.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/

    then clicking the checkboxes for section 31-6 and rights of way under the Leisure and Culture heading.

    Two older depositions relating to Ditton Meadows are available:
    http://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/download/downloads/id/1793/section_31_6_114
    http://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/download/downloads/id/1874/section_31_6_194_2004

    Presumably the purpose of the advertising is so that if anyone knows of a “contary intention” of the landowners to in fact declare a highway over their land it can be challenged.

    The notice is not very informative; the council doesn’t tell members of the public with an interest in the area what it is trying to draw to their attention and what they might want to do about it.

  4. Daniel from Cambridge

    The cycle trail leading from the Green Dragon Bridge to the Railway Bridge is incredibly dark, and it is in my opinion dangerous to cycle along that path without powerful headlights, the cheap LED lights don’t cut it. I can’t imagine how anyone would walk along that path in total darkness, and while most pedestrians are wise to wear reflective clothing, the potential for accidents do exist if a cyclist with cheap LED lights encounters a pedestrian without reflective gear.

    What are the major cons of installing lights along the aforementioned path with similar light intensity to the strip of land to the west of the Green Dragon Bridge?

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      One argument against lighting is that it would change the character of the space; and urbanise it.

      In recent years we’ve had deliberations over more lighting on Cambridge’s more central green spaces; Jesus Green, Midsummer Common and Parker’s piece.

      There has been a shift away from the interests of those, mainly older, often immediate neighbours of the spaces, who lobby against lighting towards the interests of the much large numbers who use the spaces and travel through them.

      As you can see at the Friends of Ditton meadows meeting there were some who put little to no weight on the role of the spaces as routes people use get around, and gave little consideration to interests of those who use them as transport routes. For many the prime use made of the spaces is by walking or cycling across them (while benefiting from the often more pleasing environment than the road would offer).

      Personally there are lots of factors which go in to my choice of route – sometimes I use the roads – sometimes I cross the green spaces. My perception of safety is one of key factors I take into account. Balancing risks from motor vehicles verses risks of violent crime on the green spaces is something I try to do.

      I think our green spaces are fantastic routes for cycling and walking and this use should be catered for and encouraged.

      I think lighting ought change to follow changes in use of the spaces. I think the lighting ought be proportional though; we don’t need huge arrays of massive floodlights when a few solar studs would suffice. There is a question of badly implemented lighting actually making places more scary as your eyes become less accustomed to the dark and there more shadowy areas created.

      Badly implemented lighting of a new cycle-path across Ditton Fields / Stourbridge Common would make it much more intrusive than it needs be; I think it could be made almost invisible (other than where it crosses the river).

      I’ve noticed for example pedestrians on the hailingway and people and dogs on less well lit green spaces now carrying or wearing lights – presumably to try and avoid collisions with pedestrians – people are changing their behaviour as these areas get busier in the dark; and at some point usage may reach a level where lighting upgrades are the appropriate and proportionate thing to do.

    2. Daniel from Cambridge

      Thanks Richard that was a very thoughtful reply and helped me understand the issues more.

  5. Richard Taylor Article author

    The email list collected at the meeting has been used by Cambridgeshire County Council to circulate a list of answers to all questions submitted. This has not been published on the project’s website.

    My question of: “Could the Chisholm Trail approach alongside railway at railway level?” has been answered encouragingly:

    This is currently being investigated, however the track must be at least 3m from overhead line equipment. It might mean the rail embankment being widened. The existing embankment is a slope of 1 in 2 which if built today would not comply with current standards. An extended embankment would need to be shallower to minimise the risk of failure.

    My view is this is the best option to ensure the cycle route is straight and level. If extending the embankment is challenging perhaps extending the bridge would be an alternative option – running the cycle route at railway level but on steel supports.

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      The full Q&A distributed by the council via email:

      Technical

      If proposed bridge was near to Railway Bridge, cyclists could cross river and proceed
      straight to railway station. Where the proposed position is, cyclists turn left onto towpath and then?

      Exit the towpath through the current 4metre wide entrance onto Fen Road which is 75metres west of rail bridge. Then cross Fen Road and proceed to new station by travelling along Moss Bank and entering the station area from the end of Moss Bank.

      How long would construction take (compared to Riverside)?
      The period for construction will depend on the design and will be dependent on time of year, weather conditions, limitations imposed by The Environment Agency, the calendar of events on the River Cam, site access and others, but an approximate timescale of 9 to 11 months is envisaged, which is a little less than Riverside Bridge.

      Can we be assured that any access route for construction traffic takes the shortest route to minimise the effect on the meadow?
      We will work closely with those constructing the bridge and local interest groups to ensure that disruption is kept to a minimum. The shortest route would probably be the cheapest and the one requiring least reinstatement afterwards.

      There is currently a free plot on Ditton Walk.
      This is privately owned, but it is an option and may be available for use.

      Crossing the whole meadow to the Fen Ditton gate would be terrible. This point is noted.

      Why can’t you construct an underpass under the railroad on the Chesterton side to take the traffic directly from the bridge to the station?
      The cost of this would be prohibitive for the benefits it achieves.

      What are the reasons for not having a tunnel?

      • Costs will likely be more than a bridge option, as will the construction risks.
      • Engineering difficulties associated with working below the river and water table,
        including managing flooding risk to the tunnel/adjacent properties and expensive
        dewatering.
      • Difficulties in finding enough land on the north side for the tunnel to exit, as
        approaches will be longer than for a bridge option. This will be further complicated
        by the logistics – working around utilities, existing houses and railway.
      • Personal security concerns
      • Future operating costs for CCTV, pumping, lighting, and any ventilation or fire
        detection/suppression measures required.
      • Potential for long term effects on groundwater flow.
      • A tunnel would require significantly more soil removal than a bridge, resulting in
        more trips by barge on the River Cam or by tipping lorries across the meadows.
      • People would be able to enjoy the views of the meadows and the river much more
        by using a bridge than a tunnel.

      Why not build a compound on the ECH side of the bridge? There is an empty lot there? This is privately owned and is being prepared for development. We will investigate all possible options for site location.

      The Skanska report states that the path would need to be 4m wide. How would that be divided between cyclists & pedestrians to ensure safety?
      Path width will be determined during the design stage. Options include 4 metres wide shared use or perhaps segregation by level difference of 2.2 metres (cyclists) and 1.8 metres (pedestrians). If segregated the pedestrian side would overlook the meadow.

      Where will the construction traffic access the compound? If via Fen Ditton High St will owners be compensated for the effect on their houses?
      Until we fully understand the type of construction, materials, and location of the bridge we will not be able to confirm where the compound will be located, however, it is highly unlikely that it will be via Fen Ditton High Street. A way in via Abbey ward (via Wadloes Road) is more likely.

      Will it ever be possible to restore the damage caused to the meadow? Our grass verges are already being damaged by just cars.
      Mitigation measures will be put in place to reduce any damage and restore any areas damaged as a result of the work being completed.

      Why would the proposed bridge have to be so far from the railway bridge?
      The distance between the rail bridge and the foot / cycle bridge will have to be agreed with Network Rail, but we are conscious that there is a desire and benefit to locate the bridge as close as possible to the existing railway bridge. Access for maintenance

      operations such as re-painting both the existing and proposed bridges would be needed. In lifting in a new bridge next to an existing one, a gap would be needed to ensure that the new bridge being lifted in does not strike the existing one. A conservative figure of 30 metres was quoted initially. Working with Network Rail we hope to reduce this to around 10 metres or less.

      Or how close will Network Rail allow? See above

      Fen Rd level crossing is an accident waiting to happen. How would cyclists be protected?
      Users would be directed to the west of the crossing so this would not be an issue

      Could Chisholm Trail approach alongside railway at railway level?
      This is currently being investigated, however the track must be at least 3m from overhead line equipment. It might mean the rail embankment being widened. The existing embankment is a slope of 1 in 2 which if built today would not comply with current standards. An extended embankment would need to be shallower to minimise the risk of failure.

      Why can’t construction happen from Chesterton side?
      There is insufficient space for equipment and there would be a greater impact on private dwellings in terms of noise, dust and general disturbance.

      Is the proposed compound area going to be as big as on the plans, or is that simply marking an area that will have the compound somewhere within it?
      Plans are just an indicative drawing of the area where a compound may be sited, this will be far smaller than the area shown.

      How can you ensure the meadows under the compound are restored fully?
      Mitigation measures will be put in place. We will also work with ecology and environmental experts

      Skanska report says temporary track would be retained for future use?
      This is an option under consideration that will require further discussion with the land owners

      Design

      Has the Architect actually visited the meadows?
      Yes, and they will do so again during the design phase

      To what extent do you need to comply with current standards re slope of ramps?
      The ramp access will need to be fully compliant with current standards this can be as steep as 1:12 with landings/rest points, however 1:20 is the best practice option.

      The total size of the bridge is a real concern in terms of length of ramps? The ramps will be designed to minimise visual impact as much as possible

      Will you be assessing the suitability of existing wooden bridge to carry traffic?

      The wooden walkway is a concern and will be looked at to see what improvements are possible. The project team consider that there will not be significant increased usage on the boardwalk.

      What steps are being taken above the legal minimum to help disabled people to navigate the bridge? Please include way finding and navigation for partially sighted users?
      We are working with the Cambridge Disability Forum and other groups. The design will meet all design standards relating to ramps, surfaces, hand rails etc. Our intention to build a crossing that meets the needs of all users.

      Is a curved bridge (S – profile in plan) possible?
      It is possible, but would be more expensive to build and to maintain.

      How will you ensure that the natural habitat is not compromised by the lighting which will be necessary to prevent accidents?
      Lighting is still under consideration, along with the use of solar studs. Clearly there is opposition to column type lighting, though from a public safety and security perspective some form of lighting may be a planning condition.

      What will be done to prevent motorised vehicles using the bridge? (mini-motos, trail bikes)?
      Measures can be taken to deter misuse of the bridge such as signage and temporary redeployable CCTV and/or targeted Police enforcement. However it is important to recognise that some measures may make access difficult for those with buggies or using wheelchairs and access scooters, and this would be undesirable.

      What route will the path from Abbey to the bridge take?
      This is not yet fixed but will be informed by the early architectural study and the work coming forward on The Chisholm Trail.

      What will be done to make the existing wooden bridge safer for the increased traffic in wet & icy weather?
      The existing walkway has a non-slip surface however, like some paths and roads in very bad weather this can still be slippery.

      Will architect also design Chisholm Trail?
      No, the architect is a specialist bridge designer only.

      Safety for pedestrians. You can’t presume that there will not be further congestion on the boardwalk?
      Users from Cambridge city direction wanting to cross the river would probably use Green Dragon and there is not likely to be an increase of people coming from Fen Ditton direction. The additional bridge users will be from Abbey direction (Chisholm Trail) or from the new station/Chesterton.

      How on earth could the northern ramp avoid clashes with the towpath and users?
      This issue will be considered as part of the design but it looks possible that the ramp could wrap around the pill box area and it looks as if there is scope to widen the towpath in this vicinity.

      How will congestion on the towpath, already a very busy place for pedestrians on a sunny day, or during the bumps be addressed?
      There is scope to widen the towpath in the vicinity of the bridge ramp.

      How are conflicts of movement along the northern towpath between those using the n-s trail and the e-w towpath going to be mitigated addressed?
      There is scope to widen the towpath in the vicinity of the bridge ramp.

      What about the pinch points under the railway bridge?
      These will be looked at as part of the design process. Users from Cambridge city direction wanting to cross the river would probably use Green Dragon and there is not likely to be an increase of people coming from Fen Ditton direction. The additional bridge users will be from Abbey direction (Chisholm Trail) or from the new station/Chesterton.

      What about re-routing all the way around Ditton Meadows?
      The aim of the scheme is to encourage sustainable transport either by foot or cycle. Re- routing will add additional time and distance to journeys and therefore not encourage people to walk or cycle.

      What consideration will be given to safety at the level crossing and to prevent accidents on Fen Road?
      We do not anticipate the bridge adding to the number of users to the level crossing.

      What heritage & landscape benefits will the bridge and its access route have? What quality is intended?
      A ‘high quality’ design will seek to be sensitive to both the heritage and landscape of the local area.

      Environmental

      With enlargement of Cambridge, surely that means green area become more
      important.
      The project team will assess the impact of the structure on the area and will look at
      ways to mitigate any impact.

      What can you do about the flooding during construction (on the meadow) Damage very likely to ecology?
      Flooding will be considered as part the design and construction methodologies and will be evaluated during planning as part of the statutory process.

      Tranquil open space is precious if we build on it we will never get it back. Lets build cycle ways on brownfield sites.
      There are no suitable brownfield options in this area along the river.

      Will the building of a bridge threaten the meadow area in the future (eg further housing developments, car parks)?
      This is a beautiful and precious green space. The provision of a bridge and a foot and cycle path should not imply subsequent development other than an opportunity for non-motorised traffic to use this area.

      Why no mention of conservation area? (all of Ditton Meadows is a designated conservation area).
      The design team are aware of the planning legislation impacting upon the area, including Conservation Area designation and its impact. There will be reference to this status in the planning application.

      If we look at the area of Stourbridge common/Ditton Meadows and the area of Grantchester Meadows. The latter is revered and proposals of this nature would not see the light of day across Grantchester meadows. But this area is even more important to the history of Cambridge – it is the site of the very first fair in England. A very important Medieval fair & essential to the origins of Cambridge. So how can we contemplate these desecrating proposals?
      The proposal is to provide a crossing route for pedestrians and cyclists, and for all of the residents of Cambridge, to get across their city in a sustainable manner. The context of the site and its unique history will be considered as part of the planning application. The Project Team recognise the historical significance of the Stourbridge Fair and Cambridge as a historic port and trading centre.

      What did the initial site walk over tell us, issues, sensitivities, flag up?
      The initial Architectural study will report on this and its impact. Extensive ecological surveys are planned. The initial ecological walkover survey confirmed various habitats being present.

      The local plan requires that mitigation must be in place if ecology is threatened, as will be the case here. What type of mitigation can be provided and what will it cost? Mitigation measures will be proposed as part of a planning application and will be open to public scrutiny. For Riverside Bridge the mitigation included bird and bat boxes and the creation of a planted up wetland vegetative margin adjacent to the river. The costs are relatively low in the context of the overall scheme.

      Can you ensure there is no threat to endangered species?
      A full ecological survey will be carried out in due course. Should any endangered species be found, measures will be put in place to mitigate any impact. The exact measures will depend on the species found by the survey. We will be in a position to advise further once the ecological survey has been carried out.

      Miscellaneous/Strategic

      Can we have a definitive answer from Abbey County Cllr whether she is pro or against
      this project?

      Please contact the Councillor directly for this question.

      Will comments from events etc be carried forward to planning to avoid need to resubmit?
      There will be a formal statement of community involvement issued to planners as part of the planning process and comments and questions are considered by the project team throughout the project.

      Will the Guided bus be next on the Meadows?
      There are no plans for a Busway on the Meadows. Improving public transport options is a key part of the County Council’s transport strategy, and as the city grows there may be a need to be think more radically in tackling bus journey time reliability.

      How many of the responders to the traffic survey at the Science Park were from Abbey? Was there a question to determine why people drove rather than cycle?
      We are not sure which survey is being referred to here. To drive to the Science Park from Abbey can take some time particularly at peak times. A bridge would make walking and cycling more attractive options.

      While I accept the inevitability of the bridge to serve the needs of people from other areas of Cambridge, the people living in Abbey will be the net losers. The beautiful meadow will become a rat-run for cyclists, making it effectively impassable for pedestrians, children and the elderly. Parking in the residential areas around will become more congested & expensive. Can we assure this already very neglected ward will be recompensed in some way be it an improvement in general amenities. We do all pay council tax too.
      The provision of a bridge and better access options including to a new station will be beneficial to residents. The bridge project cannot fund other amenities to improve a ward.

      What are the arguments against the expansion of either the New Chesterton Bridge or the Green Dragon bridge? And how do these arguments justify the spending of £4.5m of public money?
      This has been discussed at committees in both City and County and the decisions are made at that level.

      Given the Chisholm Trail south of Coldhams Lane, will the option to use a site by Pike & Eel be examined?
      The Pike and Eel is a private site, currently undergoing development and a plan to improve the road and cycle access in the parking area mean this site is not available to us. This area is a little ‘off line’ in the context of The Chisholm Trail coming from Newmarket Road to link up to the new station.

      Why no mention in the strategic introduction of the proposed guided bus/orbital route across the meadow?
      There are no plans for this. Improving public transport options is a key part of the County Council’s transport strategy, and as the city grows there may be a need to be think more radically in tackling bus journey time reliability.

      How wide was the initial consultation, where city wide bodies and the rowing community consulted?
      We are currently in early pre-design stages of consultation. We have spoken to various stakeholders as part of this engagement. The consultation events were advertised through our website and the local press. Leaflets were delivered to an extensive area. Nearly 900 responses were received which is a very good response compared with other

      schemes. Cam Conservators and Camboaters were specifically contacted but rowing clubs were not. One of the Project Team is an active member and coach of a rowing club.

      How soon is it likely that the bridge will be built?
      By 2018 at the earliest, but it could be much later depending on land and planning issues.

      Ditton Meadows should not be seen as a means to solve the traffic problems in and around the city. Both sides of this debate have valid reasons for or against this bridge, but if this proposal is about providing cyclists a shorter route to wherever, it is rather a selfish and lazy argument. This proposal does nothing to help mothers with children or elderly, who may well still use the same transport method even if the bridge is built. I have heard many comments that Abbey citizens will want access to the new station. If that is so why hasn’t anyone considered the feasibility of a small train station on the city side of Newmarket Road bridge? It would also be in easy reach of the wing development and keep away team football fans out of the city. Cambridgeshire’s councils just seem to snatch at available money, regardless of the damage it does to green spaces. Time to take a step back and do a detailed strategic study of its transport problems likely that the bridge will be built?
      The County Council has an adopted Transport Strategy in place. The City Council has a local plan. These documents set out the strategy for developing land use and transport in the city. Both documents were subject to extensive consultation.

      Cambridge is good at constructing cycle paths, but not so good at signposting them. Example: busway. Will the new bridge Chisholm trail have adequate signage for push bikes?
      There is a project currently underway that is updating signage in these areas.

      What evidence do you have that cycle traffic will not significantly increase on the wooden path under the existing bridge?
      These will be looked at as part of the design process. Users from Cambridge city direction wanting to cross the river would probably use Green Dragon and there is not likely to be an increase of people coming from Fen Ditton direction. The additional bridge users will be from Abbey direction (Chisholm Trail) or from the new station/Chesterton.

      What are the timeframes for the Chisholm Trail and the bridge, are they simultaneous? Both within the next 5 years
      The Chisholm Trail is likely to be a series of projects delivered as sections that make up the whole. This is dependent on planning where appropriate, and Network Rail access, however we are aiming at delivery within a similar timescale to the bridge.

      With enlargement of Cambridge surely that means green areas become more important?
      We believe green spaces are very important to the city as it grows, as indeed is access to them.

  6. P Verbinnen

    Q. What consideration will be given to safety at the level crossing and to prevent accidents on Fen Road?
    A. We do not anticipate the bridge adding to the number of users to the level crossing.

    In an earlier answer they say that users of the Trail will cross here and proceed up Moss Bank, so the above answer is clearly wrong as there will be a large number of additional users.

    A suitable crossing location would be at the station where there needs to be access to be sides in any case.

    1. Hester

      My understanding is that the bridge will connect to the tow path on the Chesterton side, so you then follow the tow-path and exit onto Fen Road on the Moss Bank side. Hence no additional use of the level crossing.

    2. Richard Taylor Article author

      Chesterton Station Plan

      While bridges are planned as part of the station to cross the goods line and provide access to both mainline platforms there isn’t a plan for access to the station from the river side. Also these bridges are going to be “inside” the station so not suited for through traffic on the Chisholm Trail going between the Science Park and Newmarket Rd.

      The bridges won’t take cyclists while cycling on the level; they will be like those within the current station. I expect you’ll have to walk your bike up stairs with a channel at the side.

      That said those are all addressable issues and if we had a co-ordinated, planned, approach the same structure could have been used for both purposes (or as at the original station you could have internal bridges and the external bridge). Councillors appear not to want to open up and regenerate Fen Road so the station is entirely “facing” the business and science parks.

  7. Richard Taylor Article author

    The next forum meeting is scheduled for the 5th of September 2016.

    I’m considering proposing asking for :

    • consideration of electric de-icing of the bridge ramps (as we have on the Carter cycle bridge by Cambridge Station)
    • adding a link to my video of proceedings from the minutes, and perhaps embedded in the webpage which links to the minutes, given the sparsity and inaccuracy of the minutes.
    • asking the forum to consider signage and road / cycleway markings, in particular those connected with the crossing of Fen Road

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      Having noticed the planning consultation is still open I thought it might also be worth asking the Local Liaison Forum for the new closing date, and suggesting that be publicised. If I am able to I will also seek assurance that all comments submitted will be published, and seek clarity on which planning committee will take the decision. (My view is it ought pretty obviously be the County Council’s planning committee, but there have been other suggestions)

      Also – do we really need to lose all the grass from right next to the river?

  8. Richard Taylor Article author

    I attended the forum meeting on the 5th of September.

    It was revealed that a development control forum will be held at Cambridgeshire County Council on the new bridge, but the date for that meeting was not provided. As far as I can see from the County Council website there has never been a publicly acknowledged development control forum held for an application to go before the County Council planning committee before and I can’t see any details of criteria for and arrangements for holding one. The County Council constitution describes how the Joint Development Control Committee for Cambridge’s Fringes would run such a forum, and in that case:

    • the holding of a forum is trigged by a petition of 25 people
    • the forum not required to be publicised to the general public, though anyone who finds out about it can observe
    • the forum will receive a report from planning officers
    • three petitioners against (and three in favour, if any) and three applicants’ representatives are permitted to speak. Time limits are twenty minutes for, and twenty minutes against.
    • the forum is chaired by a senior council officer
    • minutes of the forum meeting are reported to the planning committee as an appendix to the officers’ report
    • The purpose of the forum is to enable petitioners and applicants to give their views and to provide the means by which consensus can be built between the
      parties.

    The lead petitioner against the application was present at the Local Liaison Forum meeting. It isn’t clear if there is still time for a petition of twenty five people in favour of the application to be assembled so that those in favour get the opportunity to present their views too.

    A date for the consideration of the application for the new bridge by the Cambridgeshire County Council planning committee was given, as the 19th of October 2016, with the Chisholm Trail planning application to be considered on the 16th of November2016.

    Holding the development control forum is delaying the bridge project by a couple of weeks. Officers told the forum that the bridge has to be completed on schedule or its funding will cease to be available. I asked council officer Mike Davies about this afterwards and he said it refers to the Department for Transport contribution, but that he expected, if required for there to be flexibility there. Mr Davies noted that the fact the funding was expiring out would not be something the planning committee would be able to take into account.

    I also asked Mr Davies about the impact of the planning permission given to redevelop the site with the pink bungalow on it next. Mr Davies said the project team had a good relationship with the landowner and as the land required for access is intended as a car park and planting he expects there to be no problem (or additional cost) in using it during the building of the bridge. I also discussed the possibility of retaining some grass along the riverbank, and installing a fence to help stop cyclists who come down the slope too fast, or who crash into those on the hailingway, or who slip on snow and ice, ending up in the river (something which could be deadly for some people, especially in the cold).

    Al Storer of CamCycle asked that consideration be given to electric de-icing of the bridge’s ramps. Mr Davies responded to suggest this might be particularly appropriate given a desire not to get de-icing salt in the river. Cllr Roberts suggested combining consideration of lighting and electric de-icing as both require power.

    Apparent inconsistencies in the planning application materials eg. on if the ramps to the bridge are to be planted with trees or grass were noted, but not resolved.

    The forum was told that the details of the lighting of the bridge would be a matter for the planning committee to determine.

    The forum agreed with a suggestion from me to consider road markings and signage at a future meeting, particularly where the new cycle route will cross Fen Road.

    The forum also passed a resolution I proposed asking the County Council and City Deal to bring their webpages on the project up to date and to keep them up to date, with, for example, the key planning dates and events – some of which were revealed at the Local Liaison Forum for the first time.

    See:

  9. Richard Taylor Article author

    Cambridge City Council’s planning policies are really strong on cycling and walking and councillors could have enforced them.

  10. Richard Taylor Article author

    I’ve submitted the following planning comment:

    1. Policy 8/4 of Cambridge City Council’s 2006 Local Plan requires developments be designed to ensure maximum convenience for those walking and cycling.

      The convoluted cycle and walking route proposed in these plans for a new bridge and approach ramps do not achieve this “maximum convenience”, an ideal route would be straight and level, and would not involve the proposed loop.

      I urge councillors to consider what Thomas Telford or Roman politicians and engineers would make of the proposals. There are many options for a route, and bridge, in the vicinity which would be straight and level; my view is the design proposed is unacceptable on the grounds of the indirect nature of the cycling and walking route it introduces.

      I support a new pedestrian and cycle bridge in this area, and can see the benefits of the proposed development would be positive, it would be a substantial improvement, however I do not think the proposals meet the high standard of “maximum convenience” set in the planning policy.

    2. Figure 1 in the Design and Access Statement shows a band of grass between the foot/cycleway and the river, this band of grass is not present in Figure 5 of the same document.

      My view is the grass next to the river bank will soften the impact of the proposed works, and improve the view from the river and opposite bank. The grass slope towards the river makes means there is a lower vertical drop to the water level which makes it easier for people who have ended up in the river to get out, and makes it easier to get in and out of boats. I would like to see the grass river bank retained. In my view the grass river banks are an important part of the context of the development and the development should reflect that, following policy 3/4 of the 2006 Cambridge City Council local plan.

      I suggest councillors clarify what they are considering, and if they approve the application, exactly what they are approving in this and other cases of inconsistency in the application documents.

    3. I would like to suggest a planning condition requiring a common sense safety audit be carried out, and its recommendations complied with. I suggest the audit is carried out by relevant city and county council officers, pro-actively published in draft form, with its recommendations to be finalised following public consideration by the Greater Cambridge City Deal Local Liaison Forum covering the bridge and Chisholm Trail. Matters I would like to see considered include de-icing and the potential for electric de-icing elements to be included; lighting, signage and markings, surface colours and textures (and the grip they offer) as well as any need for fencing opposite the bottom of the ramp where it joins the hailingway to reduce the chance of people ending up in the river. I envisage people could end up in the river after collisions at the bottom of the ramp, or after descending it too fast particularly in winter weather, for some unexpected immersion in cold river water could be deadly.
    4. I would like to suggest a condition requiring the lighting installation on the bridge be compatible with the county council’s control systems enabling dimming, switching off at certain periods, and also for the option for the lighting to be responsive to usage.
    5. I would like to see the report, and councillors, consider if the proposals leave open the future option of a more direct connection to Fen Road, and on to the rear of the new station, for example from the apex of the proposed looping ramp. Perhaps a specific condition on this point could help the development meet Cambridge City Council local plan policy 8/5 which requires the safeguarding of land for identified cycle routes in this case the connection between the Chisholm Trail and the new North Cambridge station.
  11. Richard Taylor Article author

    Despite having submitted a planning comment the council didn’t let me know this application was finally being taken to the planning committee; it is on the agenda for the county council’s planning committee on the 16th of February.

    As I had submitted a comment I would have expected to have been pro-actively informed.

    While some of my comments have been mentioned in the report, the report only says objectors said there was a “Poorly chosen route choice”; I don’t think that captures the essence of my key concern, that the convoluted route taken by the ramps is contrary to policy 8/4 of Cambridge City Council’s 2006 Local Plan which requires developments be designed to ensure maximum convenience for those walking and cycling.

    The agenda makes no mention of any public speaking opportunity. Section 9.2 of part four the council’s constitution says the usual public speaking rules don’t apply to a planning committee meeting. A search of the council’s website using the search form on the front page reveals a form for registering to speak at a planning committee meeting and guidance saying five working days notice is required. As I found out about the meeting via a Cambridge News article published two days before the meeting I have not been able to make an application. Five working days notice is about the same period of time in advance of the meeting which papers are typically published, so a member of the public may not have had a practical opportunity to register to speak, or the time-window to spot the item and apply could have been only a few hours.

    The expected decision / committee date is not published on the application webpage which is where the public seeking more information on the application are directed from the project webpage. The project webpage doesn’t mention the planning committee date.

    At the time of writing there are no planning committee meetings scheduled according to full schedule of upcoming meetings linked from the council’s “committees” webpage.

    Officers note lighting details could be dealt with via planning conditions and propose a condition requiring a further application on that subject. It will be interesting to see if councillors decide to determine that application themselves. A proposed condition also requires a further application on signage both on the bridge and in the surrounding area. Dealing with signage and markings was something I suggested in my submission. Deicing is mentioned under “further comments” but officers are not proposing a condition relating to safety in winter conditions. I would have liked to have seen such a condition.

    The report states “A full anonymised list of comments is available on the application page on the County Council’s website”; in fact from the page in question an an Excel file with a title including “neighbour responses” 410 responses, including mine, along with the submitters’ names has been made available. I think it’s right to publish the names of commenters, and doing so is in line with the practice of Cambridge City Council.

    There is one amusingly silly objection to the new bridge pulled out in the report:

    Reducing cyclist/walking time will have negative health benefits, reducing exercise;

    councillors will be the arbiters, but in my view safe, direct, cycle routes will encourage more people to cycle or walk rather than taking a less active option.

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