Private Briefing from City Deal Officers Reveals Intent of Milton Road Recommendations


Wednesday, May 25th, 2016. 1:11am

Speaking at a private briefing event on the 24th of May 2016 Greater Cambridge City Deal’s Milton Road project manager Richard Preston explained the intent of his report to the City Deal Board as being to recommend the board:

  • Approve the principle of the layout of the motor traffic lanes from the “Do Something” option prepared by consultants, ie. two general traffic lanes, and one bus lane, with the bus lane being located on the side of the road on which traffic approaches a junction. (see plans).
  • Allow officers to continue to consult on, and develop, plans for using the remaining road space for cycling, pedestrians, parking, and planting including grass verges and trees; with those plans being developed in conjunction with environmental experts.
  • Approve the principle of closing the Milton Road, Union Lane, junction to motor traffic, but keeping it open for cyclists.
  • Rule out proposed banned turns at the Gilbert Road, Arbury Road and King’s Hedges Road junctions.
  • Support replacing the Elizabeth Way / Milton Road roundabout with a traffic light controlled junction; to design the junction in light of the Cycling Campaign’s consultation response and to consider banning a right turn from Milton Road into Elizabeth Way.
  • Agree to consider major changes to the highway layout at the Mitcham’s Corner
  • Support the development of traffic management measures to mitigate displaced traffic and parking for the purposes of further consultation
  • Delegate the Executive Director of Economy, Transport and Environment, in consultation with the Chair man and Vice – Chair of the Executive Board, to approve a further consultation for a preferred option scheme design, as detailed in Section 43 of this report; and
  • Note the procurement plan for project delivery, the revised project programme and the consultation plan set out in this report.

The way the recommendation is currently written doesn’t clearly capture this intent. For example the current recommendation states: “Take forward the initial ideas in the ‘Do Something’ option for further design work”; this is too strongly supportive of the specifics of the ‘Do Something’ option which includes relatively detailed designs for the cross section of cycle lanes, trees, verges, and pavements at various points along the road.

The current recommendation doesn’t make clear the intent is to develop the plans for the non-motor traffic elements of the road once approval of the City Deal Board is given for the motor traffic elements.

The assembly and board should at least amend the recommendation to clearly say what the officer intends. I would like to see the recommendation amended to something along the lines of what I’ve written above.

Personally I would prefer to see the board commit now to fully segregated cycleways along the full length of the road separated from motor traffic by trees and grass verges.

Full Video of Briefing

Embedded above is an excerpt of what I considered to be the key elements from the 24 May 2016 briefing event. I have also made a video of the full event available, including, at the end, clips showing two officers attempt to stop me filming. I only saw from watching my footage that one even asked me to leave.

Transcript

Cambridge City Deal’s Milton Road project manager Richard Preston: Looking at Milton Road we recommending the “Do Something” option. The “Do Maximum” option, I’m sure you’re all aware, was bus lanes in both directions throughout the whole corridor, that would have required significant road widening.

Richard Preston: The “Do Something” option will require a three traffic lane width carriage way, we’ve pretty much got that along the route at the present time, so the impact on the street scene can be significantly reduced by adopting that approach. When I talk about “Do Something” that option is about in-bound and out-bound lanes on each of the key junction approaches, and they would be staggered so for example if you are on the section between Gilbert Road and Elizabeth Way roundabout you would have an inbound bus lane on half of that coming up to Gilbert Road and you’d have an outbound bus lane on the other half approaching Elizabeth Way.

Richard Preston: Now assuming these recommendations are accepted by the board what would happen then? Well we’ve still got an awful lot of detailed work to go though to move towards a second round of consultation. We would have to do a lot more work around the detailed highway layout, including looking at the landscaping aspects, particularly tree planting, but you know other areas of landscaping as well. We’ve still got some options to explore here, if we go with the “Do Something” the “Do Something” for Milton Road and the “Do Maximum” for Histon Road then in effect the only thing that’s fixing is the width of the road that you want to provide, the space either side still can be the subject of further discussion about how we put the various elements of the jigsaw together, for example the initial plans show cycle lanes running alongside bus lanes, would you want the cycle lane next to the bus lane or should we have planting next to the bus lane and have the cycleway segregated? Where do we fit the foot-way into that scenario? You know there are options we can look into and we would like to explore that in more detail.

Richard Taylor: Would it be a fair summary of what you’ve said on Milton Road that what you’re really looking for from the board at their next meeting is approval on the motor lanes and what happens to the cycle, pedestrian and planting, could come later and if so could you be clearer on that? and

Richard Taylor: How given that our local elected representatives have all been quite clear on the importance they give to the environmental aspects, including Lewis Herbert, how have you come up with an option for Milton Road which could result in us losing so many of our trees and so many of our verges?

Richard Preston: Well what I think the recommendation achieves is that we are working on the basis of a three lane carriageway; that we’re also going to have cycle facilities; that we’re going to attempt to improve the footways and we want to introduce some landscaping and trees. I think that’s what the recommendation will, that’s what the task that the board will set, that doesn’t mean to say that we can now say we’ve got a fixed cross section, there are lots of discussions which need to be undertaken about how we put those elements of the jigsaw together, there’s another document which is going to the board which sets out design environmental guidance, again it’s on the website, that gives you some images around the sort of cross sections that you could develop say as an example with a twenty metre highway boundary and some of those are model cross sections we could reflect on in taking the Milton Road scheme forward. We can do the same on Histon Road I think we have to be honest that our options on Histon Road are more constrained by the widths that are available so I think you know there is plenty of opportunity for people to feed in and influence the way that we put those bits of the jigsaw together.

Richard Taylor: I think the reference to the “Do Something” plan on Milton Road makes it not clear that that’s what you mean. I don’t think it would be clear, if the board approve the recommendations, I think there is a cross section there, and there are plans there they would be approving, I think it would be much better if clarified your recommendation so that it is as you’ve described it tonight.

Richard Preston: Fair comment.

Discussion with City Deal Board Chair Lewis Herbert

Board members, and councillors, had arranged a briefing just for themselves prior to the event for selected invitees which I attended and filmed. When board chair Cllr Lewis Herbert emerged from the building following that event I took the opportunity to speak to him, he denied holding a separate briefing to avoid the possibility of awkward questions.

Cllr Herbert said “Cambridge does not stop people coming into rooms”. I noted the private, and until a few hours earlier, secret nature of the briefing for invitees and said I expected there would be many more people interested than who were being allowed to attend. Cllr Herbert said he thought officers would be prepared to brief any group, for example a residents’ association meeting.

I asked Cllr Herbert if he had seen the officer recommendations before the day they had been released. He told me while there had been discussion about the principles he had not seen any of the detail, and he assured me there had been no “predetermination”.

I questioned the apparent disconnect between Cllr Herbert’s statements at public meeting in favour of improving the environment on Milton Road, and the officer’s proposals which could result in the loss of most of the current trees and verges on Milton Road. Cllr Herbert said it was all still for discussion at the Board and Assembly.

I told Cllr Herbert I was surprised to see the recommendation to pursue one of the consultant’s plans, albeit with amendments, when they had been presented by councillors as being just something to kick off discussion with, he reiterated that everything was still up for decision at the board, and I said I’d see him there!

I thanked Cllr Herbert for stopping to talk to me on his way out.

Why I Accepted an Invitation to a Private Briefing

I and others complained about the private nature of the event, I wasn’t happy with the event being exclusive and I hope by filming it and publishing the footage on YouTube I have made it accessible to more people. I hope my public campaigning and publication of the video mitigates my attendance.

The changes to Milton Road will have a direct impact on me, I own a house on the road, and I regularly drive and cycle on the road, My own personal interest was a factor in attending, though my motivation to do all I can to get the best out of the investment in the road is driven by a desire to get it right for the benefit of all.

Documents

Papers for the Greater Cambridge City Deal Assembly on 2 June 2016 were published on the afternoon of the 24th of May, including the report on Milton Road which contains the recommendation as it is currently written.

The Greater Cambridge City Deal webpage on Milton Road.

See also

18 comments/updates on “Private Briefing from City Deal Officers Reveals Intent of Milton Road Recommendations

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    Another potential meaning of the “Do Something” option has emerged in the Interim Options Report (another consultant’s report) which has just been published; it starts on p48 of the PDF at:

    http://www.gccitydeal.co.uk/citydeal/download/downloads/id/252/interim_options_report.pdf

    Again this contains detailed cross sections, so officers and the assembly and board, need to be clear if they are referring to this plan or not in the recommendation / the text which they approve.

  2. Tim Burford

    When you write
    the officer’s proposals which could result in most of the trees and verges on Milton Road.
    does this mean
    the officer’s proposals which could result in the loss of most of the trees and verges on Milton Road. ?

  3. Richard Taylor Article author

    I have sent in following in advance of the Greater Cambridge City Deal Joint Assembly meeting on Thursday, 2 June 2016 at 10.00 am in Cambourne:

    I would like to submit the following for the “Questions by Members of the public” agenda item at the Greater Cambridge City Deal Joint Assembly meeting on the 2nd of June 2016:

    == Transparency and Inclusiveness ==

    I attended one of the private, and largely secret, briefing events on the Milton and Histon Road schemes held on the 24th of May 2016. Would the Assembly recommend running the city deal process as inclusively and transparently as possible, recommending future such briefing events, including local liaison forums, are open to the public? (The paper on Milton Road to the Assembly today states: “Local councillors will be asked to determine which stakeholder groups they wish to attend the LLF meetings”) A number of organisations and individuals asked me to film the private briefing but I faced challenges doing so; one officer even asked me to leave.

    Also on the subject of transparency I am concerned there may be meetings of the board, such as pre-meetings, and briefings, details of which are not being made public.

    == Recommendation on Agenda Item 10 – Milton Road ==

    At the private briefing on Milton Road we heard officers explain the intent of their recommendation. Will the Assembly amend the recommendation to add clarity and bring it in line with officers’ apparent intent?

    There are detailed plans for Milton Road with the title “Do Something” in both the document consulted and in an “Interim Options Report” published after the briefing, clarity is needed as to what is being referred to.

    Officers’ intent appears not to be to seek approval for all the ideas in either plan, but to seek approval for the principle of the layout of the motor traffic lanes and the recommendations on the proposed banned turns, and allowing officers to continue to consult on, and develop, plans for using the remaining road space for cycling, pedestrians, parking, and planting including grass verges and trees; with those plans being developed in conjunction with environmental experts.

    I would like to see the assembly recommending pavements cycleways segregated from motor traffic by trees along the full length of Milton Road in order to make cycling a safer and more attractive option. There are often complaints at the local “North Area Committee” about what members of the public describe as cycling on the pavement, I suspect the inclusion of significant areas of shared use cycle/pedestrian areas will fail to take the opportunity to reduce conflict between cyclists and pedestrians.

    I think the assembly could usefully rule out the introduction of parking on Milton Road between Arbury and King’s Hedges Road (an option included in the “Do Something” plans). Parking and its associated “buffer zone”, is not in my view a good use of valuable road space.

    == Decision Making on Highway Trees ==

    Will the assembly consider the: “Summary of infrastructure decision making” document published by the City Deal, and in particular the section on decision making on highways trees?

    The document suggests the City Deal are not intending to use the powers the councils have delegated to them in relation to highways trees and claims the County Council have delegated decisions on eg. felling or moving highways trees to an officer.

    My view is contentious decisions on highways trees, such as for example felling, or moving, trees on Milton Road, should be taken by elected and accountable councillors.

    Richard Taylor
    Cambridge
    http://www.rtaylor.co.uk

  4. Richard Taylor Article author

    The assembly members endorsed the recommendation without amendment.

    Officers at the meeting restated their intent for future work to include:

    Detailed highway layout design work including tree planting and landscaping:
    Consider options for:
    Location of footway, cycleway and landscaping areas within cross section

    The recommendation itself doesn’t make clear that those items are still up for determination and it is not the cross sections shown in the various “Do Something” plans which are to be endorsed.

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      A rejected amendment from King’s Hedge’s Cllr Kevin Price sought to replace the recommendation with the following:

      That the Executive Board is recommended to:

      • Look at the findings in the initial consultation report and as the other one said welcome the many high quality detailed responses from residents and other stakeholder groups which have been used to shape the next stage.
      • And to take forward the initial ideas in the “Do Something” option for further design work including floating bus stops where highway space permits but excluding the ideas for banned turns at the Gilbert Road, Arbury Road and King’s Hedges Road junctions. This includes a single bus lane for the length of Milton Road in the direction of the travel leading up to junctions.
      • Segregated cycle lanes on each side of the road; additional on pavement two directional cycling on the West side of Milton Road from Arbury Road to Gilbert Road.
      • Mature tree planting and green landscaping within the highway throughout the route.
      • Further investigation for options for Union Lane to recognise the limited existing connectivity for residents to East Chesterton. (And I’ll come to that when I’ve gone through these chair).
      • Further investigation of options for Highworth Avenue roundabout ideas to evidence the benefits of any scheme and address the concerns of residents.
      • c) Agree to consider major changes to the highway lay-out at Mitcham’s Corner junction for implementation as part of the ongoing tranche two prioritisation work.
      • Note the further technical work undertaken over the summer period.
      • Support the development of traffic management measures to mitigate displaced traffic and parking for the purposes of further consultation
      • f) Request the executive director of Economy, Transport and Environment to develop in detail a preferred option design as laid out in recommendation (b) above section forty-three of this report and bring a report to City Deal Assembly and the Executive Board for approval of further consultation and
      • g) Note the procurement plan for project delivery the revised project programme and consultation plans set out in this report.

      The proposed amendment was only reluctantly seconded by one of Cllr Price’s Labour colleagues; and rejected by everyone else at the Assembly.

      I have transcribed the rejected amendment as it has not at the time of writing been published online, and wasn’t made generally available to those attending the meeting on paper, a paper version was passed around among assembly members and a copy passed to a couple of members of the public, but not me.

  5. Richard Taylor Article author

    Video of the Milton Road agenda item at the City Deal Assembly on the 2nd of June 2016:

    Decision notice published after the meeting, including the unamended officer recommendation on Milton Road:

    http://scambs.moderngov.co.uk/documents/g6656/Decisions%20Thursday%2002-Jun-2016%2010.00%20Greater%20Cambridge%20City%20Deal%20Joint%20Assembly.pdf?T=2

    Additional videos:
    * Officer report on Milton and Histon Roads: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUBG0y-jx7I
    * Public questions on Milton and Histon Roads: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xShW4F-OZAs

  6. Richard Taylor Article author

    Greater Cambridge City Deal Assembly vote on Milton Road plan on 2 June 2016.

    Exactly what councillors were expressing support for in their vote on the officer recommendations isn’t clear, as discussed above, but appears to include felling 105 trees, removing a large amount of verge, potentially introducing parking between Arbury and King’s Hedges roads and explicitly includes closing Union lane at the Milton Road junction.

    Councillors, and the unelected assembly members, decided not to record how they voted individually in the minutes. The committee officer announced the result as six in favour and three against, and I think he says one, abstention, though I directly observed two.

    The below attempt at a voting record is derived from my video of the vote.

    The membership of the assembly is taken from the official list of those expected to attend:

    Cllr David Baigent (Labour, Romsey) Absent from meeting
    Cllr Tim Bick (Liberal Democrat, Market) Unknown
    Anne Constantine Absent from meeting
    Cllr Kevin Cuffley (Conservative, Sawston) For the plans (Direct observation of hand up)
    Cllr Roger Hickford (Conservative, Linton) For the plans (Direct observation of hand up)
    Cllr Noel Kavanagh (Labour, Coleridge) For the plans (Direct observation of hand up)
    Cllr Maurice Leeke (Liberal Democrat, Waterbeach) Actively Abstained (Direct observation of hand up)
    Sir Michael Marshall Absent from meeting
    Cllr Kevin Price (Labour, King’s Hedges) Unknown
    Claire Ruskin Unknown
    Cllr Bridget Smith (Liberal Democrat, Gamlingay) Actively Abstained (Direct observation of hand up)
    Helen Valentine For the plans (Direct observation of hand up)
    Dr John Wells Don’t Know If Present or Not
    Andy Williams Unknown
    Cllr Nick Wright (Conservative, Papworth & Elsworth) Suspect no longer a member

    Cllr Cuffley had his hand up during the votes for and against (he didn’t take it down quickly I presume).

    Others present and now listed as members of the Greater Cambridge City Deal Assembly:

    Cllr Tim Wotherspoon (Conservative, Cottenham) Absent during the vote

    Presumably South Cambridgeshire had replaced Cllr Nick Wright with Cllr Tim Wotherspoon though this wasn’t made clear.

    I directly observed four voted for the plans: Cuffley, Hickford, Kavanagh and Valentine.
    I directly observed active abstentions from Smith and Leeke.
    Absent members during the vote were: Baigent, Constantine, Marshall and Wotherspoon
    The votes I didn’t observe directly were from Bick, Price, Ruskin, Wells (if he was present at all), and Williams.

    That’s a total of fifteen individuals, and there are fifteen members on the assembly: nine councillors, three University of Cambridge nominees and three Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership nominated members. The assembly papers don’t make clear which individuals are nominated by which body.

    The total number of votes announced was ten, though with the abstentions I think that ought be eleven.

    Based on the information I have I don’t know how Bick, Price, Ruskin, Wells (if he was present at all), and Williams voted.

    I didn’t notice Dr John Wells at all during the meeting, he didn’t make any notable contribution, if he said anything at all. He may have turned up for the afternoon session and sat between Claire Ruskin and the committee officer.

    This wasn’t a very important vote, I didn’t obtain a particularly clear record of it as I was recording with my laptop camera having already recorded many hours of footage and running out of camcorder batteries. I think it’s worth writing about as it shows how difficult it is to determine how committee members vote, especially if they don’t clearly put their hands up, if its not clear who’s on the committee, and if the vote is taken rapidly. Members of the committee are interspersed with officers, which is another factor which makes following what’s going on difficult.

    So I observed the Greater Cambridge City Deal Assembly, but have no idea what they voted to recommend in relation to Milton Road, or largely, which assembly members voted which way. I do have a much clearer video record of the vote on congestion charging, breaking the inner ring road, and introducing a workplace parking tax, and I often report which councillors voted which way, I thought I’d add this comment to perhaps explain why its quite rare to get detailed reports on how specific councillors voted.

  7. Maurice Leeke

    Hi Richard

    You seem to have made hard work of that !

    There were three votes against the Milton Road decision, and these were from the three Liberal Democrats – Tim Bick, Bridget Smith and myself. We three also voted against the plans for blocking roads in the city and Work-place Parking Charges, and against the changes on Histon Road. All of these would be un-necessary if we had a morning peak-period congestion charge (or free-flow premium as I would prefer to call it).

    I hope that helps.

    Maurice Leeke

  8. Maurice Leeke

    Two other small points if I may.

    Your report suggests that members of the Assembly “decided” not to have their votes recorded. There was no “decision” or even suggestion that votes should be recorded, and it would have been unusual to do so.

    Also, just for the record, there were three votes for Kevin Price’s amendment, the third being mine.

    Maurice

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      Members of the assembly could have requested that the details of individual votes be recorded in the minutes; they decided not to do so.

  9. Chris R

    Jeez. “Free Flow Premium”? Well, that makes it alright then.

    How about “Riff-Raff Prevention Tax”? Yeah, let’s sweep the underclass off our roads and restrict driving to the people who really matter.

  10. Richard Taylor Article author

    I have made the following submission to the board, along the same lines as what I said to the Assembly:

    Re: Item 11 Milton Road

    Will the board please consider the following submission?

    == Amend Recommendation to Reflect Officers’ Stated Intent ==

    Based on the officer presentations at a private briefing event on the 24th of May 2016 and to the Greater Cambridge City Deal Assembly on the 2nd of June 2016 it appears officers are seeking the board’s approval of the principle of the layout of the traffic lanes shown in the “Do Something” option for Milton Road but not the layout of the planting, parking, cycleways and pavements. Officers suggested detailed highway layout design work including on tree planting and landscaping and consideration of options for the location of the footway, cycleway and landscaping areas within the cross section could be carried out in the future.

    If the board intends to accept the officers’ recommendations I suggest amending the suggested text in-line with officers’ intent and to clarify which elements of the “Do Something” plans the board is endorsing.

    It would also be useful to clarify which version of the “Do Something” plan is referred to. A “Do Something” plan was put out to consultation following the board’s decision in November 2015, another, dated May 2016, is published within an “Interim Options” report on the City Deal’s Milton Road webpage.

    I have made footage and a partial transcript from the events mentioned available via:

    http://www.rtaylor.co.uk/7781

    == Suggestions for Milton Road ==

    I would like to see the board give clear direction to officers by clearly:

    * expressing a desire to see pavements and cycleways segregated from motor traffic by trees along the full length of Milton Road in order to make cycling a safer and more attractive option.
    * expressing a desire to eliminate shared use cycle/pedestrian areas from the plans as including them fails to take the opportunity to reduce conflict between cyclists and pedestrians.
    * ruling out the introduction of parking on Milton Road between Arbury and King’s Hedges Road (an option included in the “Do Something” plans) as parking, and its associated “buffer zone”, is not a good use of valuable road space. In this area the space allocated in the plan to parking and the buffer zone could be split giving space for planting and trees on both sides of the road.

    I am concerned a new crossing near Fraser Road could introduce extra hazards in an already cluttered road-space near a junction where there have recently been significant incidents.

    I have published my full consultation submission at:

    http://www.rtaylor.co.uk/7711

    == Budget for Milton Road Works ==

    At Cambridge’s North Area Committee on the 4th of February 2016 board member Cllr Lewis Herbert said one of the reasons for the £23m budget for Milton Road was to restore the environment after the changes. The report to the board estimates of the costs of the scheme at £6m. I would like to see the board confirm the budget still stands at £23m, and that money is available if required, for example, to reinstate trees and verges.

    == Intention of the Board to Exercise Powers ==

    Following my question at the last board meeting seeking clarity over which powers delegated to it the board intends to exercise the Greater Cambridge City Deal has published a “Summary of Infrastructure Decision Making” document. I suggest this document should be brought to a board meeting so the board can decide if to endorse it or not. The document states a County Council officer is to be: “responsible for making decisions regarding trees on the public highway”. My view is elected, accountable, councillors should take contentious decisions about highways trees.

    Richard Taylor
    Cambridge
    http://www.rtaylor.co.uk

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      Officers have published an “addendum” (see p5) on the day before the meeting making even clearer their intent is to ask the board just to approve the motor vehicle lane arrangement on Milton Rd and to leave other elements to be discussed later:

      If the Executive Board approves the report recommendations for preferred options as the basis for further detailed design work, this will fix the carriageway layout however a key consideration in developing the preferred option layouts will be how the other elements (cycleways, footways, landscaping and plant ing areas) are put together to form the highway cross sections . As highlighted in the Design Guidance document which the Executive Board is considering, there are permutations that could be considered. For example , should cycleways be located adjacent to the road carriageway or should they be separated by a planting area?

      Hopefully, as my submission urges, board members will amend the recommendations before them to reflect this intent.

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