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.
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.
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.
- Greater Cambridge City Deal Board Powers – March 2016
- Milton Road Consultation Response – February 2016
- Milton Road Made Top Priority for Greater Cambridge City Deal Spending – January 2015