The prospect of replacing or resurfacing the footpath on the edge of Midsummer Common between Auckland Road and Parsonage Street was discussed at Cambridge City Council’s West/Central Area Committee on the 8th of January 2009.
The path’s surface is broken up and the council have decided to improve it. The various options are all about the same price (around £22K) and are:
- Resin bound gravel
- Concrete (as it is now)
Councillors’ were given the option of removing the lighting, at a saving of £5,400, but decided retaining the lights was desirable.
The committee was told that replacing with concrete had the advantage of not requiring a license for works under Section 38 of the Commons Act 2006 meaning the work could go ahead more quickly. The question of if the footpath was part of the common or not was apparently unclear, but council officers had decided it would be prudent to obtain a license for works if a change, rather than a like for like replacement, was to be made. In response to a public question officers stated there was only a cost in time, not in money, in getting a license for works on the common.
A quote was reported for the retention of the existing “1909″ brass lettering, and the addition of new “2009″ letters to be set in the new path in a similar style, this was an amazing and clearly ridiculous £3000. Councillors expressed astonishment.
The Friends of Midsummer common stated their preference to be tarmac, saying this was what had been suggested by expert advisors. They argued tarmac was simple and unobtrusive as well as being the material used for the majority of the common’s paths.
Resin bound gravel might, I think, encourage more cyclists to use the path, which if it is seen by local residents as a footpath might bring cyclists into conflict with pedestrians. Resin bound gravel is typically quite bright in colour and I do not think it will be as unobtrusive as the other options. The proposed works do extend to the area of the cycle paths from the streets to the common and I am concerned that any potentially slippery surface in those areas would be bad for cyclists, I hope common sense prevails.
Members of the public had concerns about the “buff paving”, by which I think they mean the proposals for work at either end of the road in-front of the two roads, they don’t want anything too bright.
Despite the views of the Friends of Midsummer Common, and without giving any reasoning other than preferring to run a consultation with two options rather than three, the tarmac option was apparantly dropped. This is indicative of how this item was dealt with rather chaotically, and the final “decision” when it was made was not particularly clear.
Local people and the Friends of Midsummer Common are to decide between the other two options – councillors authorised officers to go-ahead with the works on the basis of the majority view. Officers and members of the public queried exactly who was going to be consulted, in terms of residents of which streets, but no conclusive answer was arrived at. I don’t think the councillors showed much leadership here, or any ability to take in the arguments and information put to them – they have left the decision down to mob rule, it is down to whichever group responds most actively to the council’s survey. I think the option for the brass numbers may also have made the consultation – though consultees will be told the cost.
It is not very good that the council are so poor at getting plans placed into reports to committee meetings. While a copy of the plans for this scheme were available at the meeting, it would help enormously if they were put online with the rest of the papers both for items like these, and more importantly for planning applications.