Milton Road Made Top Priority for Greater Cambridge City Deal Spending

On the 28th of January 2015 the Greater Cambridge City Deal Board decided to make spending £23.04m on Milton Road in Cambridge their top priority. The board was taking decisions on how to allocate money the UK nationally is investing in Greater Cambridge through the City Deal.

The leaders of Cambridgeshire County Council, Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council together comprise the voting members of the board.

Before voting to prioritise the spending South Cambridgeshire’s Cllr Ray Manning admitted he had no idea what exactly the scheme on Milton Road would involve, despite it being top of the list.

I used the public speaking slot at the meeting to question what the scope of the proposed scheme could cover. I was told no one has any idea at all how the money might be spent; although the idea of a dual-carriageway, which the Liberal Democrats and MP Julian Huppert have been asking people to sign up to a campaign against was dismissed as “scaremongering”.

On asking how the rather precise looking costing and the academic sounding economic impact assessments had been obtained without any details being known I was told the costing was derived from multiplying a sum which could be spent on a stretch of road by its length and the economic assessments had assessed problems, not schemes.

After the meeting one councillor told me he didn’t believe there really were no more details available on the schemes and another noted the amounts allocated to each road were not proportional to their lengths.

Transcript of My Question

Richard Taylor: I’m Richard Taylor. I’m a resident of Cambridge. I’d like to ask: What is the potential scope of the bus priority scheme for Milton Road?

Now my MP, the MP for the area is currently campaigning urging people to join his campaign against cutting down all the trees and turning Milton Road into a dual carriageway. So I’ve come here and I want to ask you: Is that scaremongering or is that something that could really happen.

Now I think you must have some idea of the potential scope for this scheme. You’ve got a fairly accurate cost which you published for it. You’ve supposedly done an economic impact assessment of it and we haven’t got any published details of what it involves.

Clearly even if the board hasn’t been told what the scheme involved offices somewhere know what they’re thinking of. I think that in order to inform public debate we should have published into the public domain at least the scope of potential options that you are considering.

Could it just be £20m of traffic light tweaks, is that what a bus priority measure could turn out to be? Could it be something that affects the full length of Milton Road? Could the problems on Milton Road be addressed by dealing with problems elsewhere on the road network? Could we see segregated cycling put in down Milton Road under this scheme?

So my question is just where on the spectrum of possibilities do your proposals lie? Where on that spectrum could we be seeing … can you rule out what the Liberal Democrats are campaigning against – the dual carriageway and cutting down all the trees? Could we see a segregated cycleway.

Just can we have some more details?

Cllr Lewis Herbert: Mr Hughes could you start the response.

Officer Graham Hughes: Thank you chairman. Well I think the first thing to say is there is no particular scope for this scheme or this project.

The reason why is the case we made it clear at the assembly meeting is that at the moment it’s a concept that we suggested or did suggest on the 12th of January to the assembly is worth looking at. That is being suggested again to this executive board and clearly the board members will take the decisions on that.

If the view is that is an important scheme what we’ve said is we will go away and look at the potential options and we will come back through the assembly and the processes which have been set down with some future options. And I think we made clear at the last meeting as well is that the process is that should none of the option be seen as worth pursuing then clearly that scheme can drop out of the programme so there are no preconceived ideas. We’ve put some very rough costs simply because to allow some sort of appraisal and build up of the programme you have to have some sort of criteria for costs.

No doubt you’ll be aware that in the dim and distant past there has been a scheme, there was a scheme proposed for Milton Road probably fifteen years ago I think now. We are not looking to resurrect that scheme now. There are certainly no proposals and I think it is scaremongering for anybody to talk about dual carriageways on Milton Road or any of the other roads because we made it very clear that as part of the city deal programme that this is about getting public transport buses principally, effectively and efficiently provided into the city centre. It’s not about dramatically increasing capacity for the car.

Having said that we do, if this board decides that it is a priority we do need to be able to come back with a full range of options now it’s just up to the board to take a view.

I think just one other point I would make and I think this was a question that was asked of me at the assembly around cycling and these schemes and I think I made the point very clearly there that where we were in terms of design and principles fifteen years ago when this issue was last looked at compared to where we are now is a very very different place, so we seek to, I don’t like the term, effectively mainstream, cycling into all of our schemes, so whether it is segregated, whether it is other forms of provision, we don’t design these sorts of schemes just for one mode of transport. We seek to build in good quality cycling infrastructure into all of these schemes. I think that is a principle that whatever we as officers come forward to the assembly and board with we would be building into the proposals.

Cllr Lewis Herbert: Do you want to come back?

Richard Taylor: Is there any other response?

Cllr Lewis Herbert: I’ll respond to your response.

Richard Taylor: Well I think I’ve gained something there haven’t I. The officer’s first response was that there is no definition behind these words and there is no scope and then we got to hear that the dual carriageway is ruled out and confirmation that talking about a dual carriageway is scaremongering so I’ve achieved something here in narrowing it down but I still find it difficult to believe that there is genuinely no more detail there given that you’ve put a figure on its cost and assessed its economic impact.

Cllr Lewis Herbert: Well as you’ll see from the papers that went to the assembly and the discussions along with the presentations on each of the schemes these are concepts and as we’ll discuss depending on what the board decides there is a linkage between the schemes. There is a logic in looking to tie these schemes together but I don’t think that Mr Hughes was saying that this isn’t anywhere like necessarily the final amount it is just a concept and we could well consult on something which was quite different to it as we, I, advised you elsewhere members of the board and assembly have not been given any more detail than has been published but I can assure you that before there is any scheme proper there will be full consultation and full openness about what’s being proposed.

Cllr Steve Count: I’d like to re-emphasise what what Lewis Herbert was saying there. The way I see it at the moment is that what we’ve been told and the assembly has been told there is bottlenecks or perhaps capacity issues or maybe if we can improve an area it will have a knock-on effect there so it’s very easy to identify that there are certain areas that we would be better off spending our time working on than others so that Milton Road would be an example where you know it’s worth considering but to pre-design a scheme and actually cost it up would be a very long wrench for us at this stage the agenda to go and do that. So the assembly were told very clearly and I was part of listening to that discussion that these figures have come from knowing how long pieces of roads are and knowing what sort of things you can do over that sort of length of road. So the concepts are we need to look at those areas but we’ve got to redefine the scheme and that’s where I’ve always been understanding.

But I’m also been of an understanding that when we deliver a shorter list today that will really focus their work and in the papers today you’ll see against everything there are deliverability criteria you know not not criteria deliverability assessments where for example if we know a cycle path is going from A to B it will be a cycle path going from A to B we know there’s not likely to be any objections there it’s very easy to say we can deliver that but where we have a concept that’s got a myriad of different possibilities and we’re not exactly sure how that will work out that might have a high degree of uncertainty about deliverability and that’s where we’re coming and trying to decipher all this when we’ve got the longer list down to a shorter list officers will go away and do their work. They’ll come back to us, and the public, with the various concepts and then we’ll see what is plausible and what is possible and in some cases somebody might feel something really needs to be delivered and its too difficult to achieve we might have to move from that area into a different area so that we can achieve the early return and someone-else can receive the raw return and again this is very early stages so I think we’ve got as accurate a picture as possible at the moment.
Richard Taylor: Thank you.

My Views

This is certainly one to watch.

I wonder if MP Julian Huppert’s view of a dual carriageway would include, like Newmarket Road one general traffic lane and one bus lane in each direction. I think that gives the road the character of a dual carriageway and I certainly think of that arrangement as a dual-carriageway.

My view is an outgoing busway isn’t necessary and any rare problems with outgoing traffic can be significantly addressed by the proposed direct slip-road from the A14 to the Science Park and consequential traffic light changes to let traffic flow more freely out of the city.

Hopefully the widening of the A14 will give that road more flexibility to cope with problems and there will be fewer days when A14 traffic ends up entering Cambridge. Dealing with those occurrences better, and keeping through traffic on main roads and out of the city is something I’d like to see more effort put into.

See Also

20 responses to “Milton Road Made Top Priority for Greater Cambridge City Deal Spending”

  1. Thanks for taking the time to ask about this. It just seems bizarre, to say the least, that they are making this spending top priority without any idea of what it is to be spent on.

  2. I echo Pete’s comment. Thank you for attending the meeting and asking on behalf of others

  3. Proposals drafted by consultants have been published:

    The next step is for the councillors on the Greater Cambridge City Deal Board to decide what to consult on.

    The consultant’s proposals include some odd things including adding planting but not using it to separate pedestrians and bikes from motor traffic and using space for car parking (and an associated dooring zone) where there is very rarely any parking at the moment – between Arbury Road and King’s Hedges Road.

    Some of my tweets commenting on the emerging ideas:

  4. On the 7th of October Members of the Greater Cambridge City Deal Assembly supported moving to consultation on the plans the consultants had produced.

    They proposed bringing in a landscape architect to advise on how trees and planting could be included and requested that the option to proposed new ideas ought be left open during the consultation period.

  5. The Greater Cambridge City Deal Executive Board
    Tuesday, 3 November 2015 2.00 p.m.
    is to consider launching a consultation on the proposals for Histon and Milton Roads. I have submitted the following:

    In relation to the proposed consultation on changes to Milton Road I would like to suggest the board:

    • give Cambridge’s area committees the opportunity to take a role in the consultation; offering them the same standing as Milton Parish Council.
    • place notices advertising the consultation on trees which may be felled as a result of the work.
    • publish relevant traffic modelling data and conclusions.
    • run the consultation in a manner which enables deliberation, publishing responses as they are submitted, allowing replies to others’ submissions.
    • point the to the City Deal Assembly’s planned work on landscaping options from the consultation materials.

    I think the area committees may have been omitted as the board employed consultants from outside Cambridge to produce the proposals and they may not have been aware of area committees.

  6. I attended to ask my question:

    I was told the transport modelling is already published (I’ve asked where); and that area committees will be involved in the consultations.

    The suggestion of notices on the trees and deliberative consultations were rejected.

    The board approved going ahead with the consultation without amending the plans, and without amending the consultation other than to accept the City Deal Assembly’s suggestion they make clear they’re open to all ideas.

  7. Cambridge’s West / Central Area Committee considered the proposals at their meeting on the 3rd of December 2015.

    Those attending the meeting to hear, and take part in, the discussion were largely residents of Milton Road, which is in North Cambridge. Councillors in North Cambridge have not yet put the item on their agenda.

    I sought, and obtained, an assurance the full tree condition survey results and details of the traffic modelling supporting the case for proposals to close junctions and install an outbound busway would be published to inform the consultation. I also asked for any information on the expected impact of improving the traffic lights (I think adjusting the Green End Road traffic lights could let traffic out of the city with much less congestion).

    I asked who “stakeholders” were and for information on the “stakeholder consultation”. The meeting was told councillors, the Cambridge Cycling Campaign and groups such as residents associations are considered stakeholders and there are to be private meetings for them which could shape the final consultation. Officers stated the public would not be permitted to attend the events on the grounds of space.

    I suggested consideration be given to efforts to reduce the need for travel along the road. I asked about the expected impact of the Enterprise Zone announced for Waterbeach, which could result in jobs, as well as homes, in the village. I asked if the breadth of the consultation was wide enough that consideration of fibre to the home internet for new homes Northstowe and Waterbeach, and making using the train to get from the Science Park Station into Cambridge attractive by providing sufficient trains and integrated ticketing could be included.

    The response given was that there are no limits to the scope of the consultation and challenges to the basis of the scheme are welcome.

    A couple of residents of Milton Road said they had only recently heard of the proposals to remodel the road.

    Once those who had attended just for the Milton and Histon Road item had left Cllr Bick announced that the meeting of the Greater Cambridge City Deal Assembly on the 17th of December will include a presentation on the options to reduce the environmental impact of the city deal schemes.

  8. Cycle routes: The current cycle path to the north of Milton Road is used by cyclists travelling in both directions. Much of this would continue particularly by parents doing the school run. Their alternative is more crossing the roads – pedestrian traffic lights – accidents.
    Roundabout: The present cause of the blockage on the roundabout is the lights at the Arbury Road junction and sometimes back from Kings Hedges Rd. Why then remove the roundabout to cause more blockage with the proposed lights

  9. Regarding the Highworth/Milton roundabout I agree with Daphne. What is it about the roundabout whereby it is proposed to replace it with lights ? And also why block off access from Highworth Ave onto Milton Road ? I have watched a number of the videos and read the reports but there is only very scant mention of the roundabout, and nothing discussing the proposal to replace it with lights and nothing about the blocking off of Highworth Ave. Are the concerns regarding the roundabout about cycle safety ? Vehicles travelling towards the city are, most of the time, able to negotiate the roundabout to either continue along Milton Road or turn left onto Elizabeth Way. Vehicles travelling out of the city are, at busy times, unable to negotiate the roundabout due to tailbacks from the Arbury/Union lights. Even at slightly less busy times vehicles are still able to filter through the roundabout. Hold ups at the roundabout are not due to the roundabout itself. I live on Highworth Ave near to Milton Road and know the roundabout well

    • One reason I have been asking for more information is so that we can find out the answers to questions like this. I want the City Deal to tell us what it expects to gain from each element of the proposals.

      The draft options report states:

      Removal of the roundabout with the installation of traffic signals to improve cycle safety and to allow the prioritisation of bus movements

      The report also says the removal of the roundabout can create new public space and notes the current roundabout is a site where there has been a cluster of incidents.

      I think there are pros and cons for cyclists from removing the roundabout. Cyclists entering the city may be stopped by the lights; but outbound cyclists will be able to go straight through all the time. I think switching to lights will be a safety improvement for cyclists, as the risk of not being spotted by a left turning car should decrease.

      The proposals include a new crossing near Fraser Road too, so I think there is a risk of more traffic lights causing more delays.

  10. Bus lanes are designed to allow buses to bypass queues of stationary traffic. If the City Deal is successful at solving Cambridge’s congestion problems by encouraging more people to cycle or take the bus then surely there would be no queues to bypass? And therefore bus lanes would become unnecessary.

    Sorry if this is stating the obvious, but I never see this line of thinking explored.

    Perhaps it is because the truth of the matter is that increasing the capacity of Milton Road will in fact lead to more traffic of all types. After all, there is massive “suppressed demand” in the form of people who currently choose not to travel around Cambridge by car during peak hours, or even at all, due to the congestion. Personally I always cycle to the Science Park, even in heavy rain, as I prefer this to sitting in a queue in my car. However, if the City Deal resulted in reduced congestion I might decide to drive there more often!

  11. I attended and filmed a meeting intended to start a Milton Road residents association on the 17th of December 2015:

    I didn’t speak myself as I thought the section in which most members of the public got to speak was for asking questions on the presentation. Perhaps I should have been more pushy as others were.

    I have given some thought to why over a hundred people turned up to the meeting to start a residents association when there has been so little interest to-date over the year since the city deal prioritised Milton Road. Clearly single issue local meetings get people along, and perhaps the decision making meetings with longer agendas, often held during the day, put people off because they can involve sitting around for hours awaiting an item of interest.

    People are judging councillors by their decisions, the councillors on the City Deal Assembly and Board have approved the plans produced by the consultants to go out for consultation. That the councillors took no interest in the detail of those plans, viewing them as just something on which to base an open ended consultation has been lost. I think it was irresponsible and lazy of councillors to consult on a scheme containing elements they do not support, it puts the a burden on individuals and campaign groups to waste effort opposing things that have no chance of happening. I think councillors should have considered the plans and amended them prior to the consultation, putting only serious suggestions forward to the public consultation.

    While a residents association of a hundred or so members may have some influence our biggest local influence is through our elected councillors. There are local City Council elections in May, before the final decision on the Milton Road proposals. Councillors will be elected with the support of a thousand or so votes from an electorate of many thousands. I think we need to make the Milton Road proposals an election issue and ensure candidates’ views on the proposals are known. We have many inactive councillors locally, we need to elect better councillors if we want to preserve and enhance our local environment.

    I still see the central government investing in Cambridge and our local councillors deciding to spend £23m of that money on Milton Road as a positive thing. We can get a substantial improvement to the environment, a more striking avenue of trees along with continuous cycleways uninterrupted by junctions, segregated from motor traffic by trees and verges.

    I agree with those who’ve said to tackle congestion on Milton Road we need to look more widely. We need to be promoting the enterprise zones at Northstowe and Waterbeach and ensuring people can live and work in those new settlements, while benefiting from their proximity to Cambridge, rather than commuting daily. We need to make it quick, easy and reliable to change from a bus to a train at the Cambridge Science Park station for example. I’d like to see the station, science park, business park and park and ride connected by a small local rapid transit system of some kind, as well as better off road cycle lanes and paths.

    I hope the residents association continues to operate in as open and transparent a manner as it did at its inaugural meeting. I think an open and democratic structure is essential if the organisation is to have any credibility. It will be interesting to see if the new body seeks members, and publishes its membership statistics. Also I hope that when the body is deciding how to form it will choose a structure which limits the liability of members as that may make it easier for more people to join.

    Even before its inaugural meeting the putative residents association had taken a public position supporting a congestion charge:

    I am concerned a charge would be illiberal, increase the degree to which the government tracks people’s movements and hit the poorest hardest. I think free and equitable use of our roads is a key basic principle of our society which shouldn’t be eroded. (see more on a congestion charge).

    • Resident of Milton Road area. Could a residents’ congestion charge not be pegged to council tax bands, so that the poorest pay less and those who can afford more, pay more? And non-residents pay per visit?

    • Milton Road Residents Association have written to me asking me to delete my quote of their tweet supporting a congestion charge for Cambridge. They have deleted the tweet from Twitter and have also apparently deleted a similar statement from Facebook.

      I’m not aware of anywhere where the organisation has explained and publicised its policy change.

      I won’t be removing the quoted tweet.

      I have been told the association now see adopting that policy as a mistake and a position which was reached too hastily without proper consideration of other options.

      I think it’s important not to delete and hide what happened here. I think it’s crucial that councillors making decisions question positions purporting to come from Residents Associations. They may be, as appears to be the case here, the views of just one individual, arrived at without any process within the organisation. Councillors should ask about an organisation’s processes for coming to a view, they should ask if there is any internal democracy within an organisation, if they hold regular meetings, if they have members and how those members are involved in, or informed about, what is done in their name.

      As far as I’m aware (and I gave my email address those who organised the inaugural meeting of the Milton Road Residents Association) the organisation has no members, and no process for coming to a position.

      Often my views in respect of residents associations are wrongly characterised as opposing them. I don’t oppose them, I’m in favour of people being free to get together and do what they like so long as it doesn’t harm others. I merely urge our councillors not to assume a view presented as that of a Residents’ Association necessarily reflects the views of those living in an area. I have also opposed delegating powers and decisions to Residents’ Associations, lobbying instead for greater use of the local area committees comprising of our locally elected councillors.

  12. Video of a meeting of Hurst Park Estate residents:

    My contribution starts at 46 minutes 44 seconds.

    One of the last speakers was County Councillor Jocelynne Scutt who told her constituents the Milton Rd plans are “absolutely abject nonsense”; this isn’t something she’s said at a City Deal Board meeting, or at any council meeting in the run up to the launch of the consultation.

  13. Further material has been published today:

    · Modelling summary note (Histon & Milton page)
    · Parking survey report (Histon & Milton page)
    · Tree survey (Histon page)

    The documents are linked from

    I note the parking survey says parking on Middleton Close is available for those displaced from Milton Rd. As of recently that was a private road, not intended for adoption (and not built to standards for adoption) and the option of gating it was being considered. (more).

    It appears councillors have again engaged consultants from elsewhere for the parking study. I would have thought the local knowledge from local council officers would be invaluable.

    The City Deal have pro-actively informed “stakeholders”. Their idea of stakeholders doesn’t include Milton Road residents, owners of properties on Milton Rd, or those who’ve spoken at City Deal Board meetings about the plans.

    • My initial view is the traffic modelling shows outbound bus lanes are not required.

      As yet though the models don’t account for improving the traffic light timings and set-up. Hopefully we’ll get more material published before the consultation concludes.

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