Two controversial votes at Cambridgeshire County Council Full Council, 21 March 2023

1.) Cambourne to Cambridge off road busway vote. I voted in favour of this

The project will continue to the next stage of scrutiny by the Department for Transport.

This was controversial because the route goes through a mature orchard and green belt land.  It was a really difficult vote. No one wants to lose biodiversity but the alternative was more delays and Cambourne and the communities on the route not having an adequate bus service.   The GCP have committed to 20% biodiversity increase on what is currently there and to work carefully with the Orchard Owners.    Although it may not always seem like it unlike National Highways the GCP is locally accountable you can turn up to public meetings and hold both elected members and officers of the GCP to account by asking specific questions.  

Histon, Impington and Orchard Park benefit from the busway.  When Stagecoach have cut services the busway is the only area locally where they are recruiting more bus drivers because it is a really good service which generates revenue we are in a really good position to be on a route with a service like this.

Thousands of people use the busway to get to school, work and essential appointments it is a solid service. The development at Cambourne and proposed development on Bourne airfield depend on this public transport requirement.  The local plan has been developed on this basis.  Without the busway the local plan could fail which could lead to speculative development on the green belt.  Ie the risk to the green belt is far higher without the busway project.  

There was an amendment to look at an on road route but this option had already been discounted twice as not being good enough. The numbers didn’t stack up and to go back over this would have lead to more delays and every delay risks the project being permanently cancelled.

Decisions like this are never easy but the current provision of bus services to Cambourne are not fit for purpose. I am really happy to discuss my vote on this further with residents.

2.) Vote for a referendum on a Congestion Charge. I voted against this.

I voted this way for the following reasons.

I believe there is an issue with the state of bus services across Cambridgeshire this is locking people out of educational, employment, health and leisure opportunities. I also believe there are fundamental problems with the levels of traffic in the city at some times of day particularly in the mornings to the south of the city this is causing lots of people to spend a lot of time sitting in traffic each day, time that could be better spent.  I only see both of these problems getting worse unless action is taken.  To make these things work, to give all children fair opportunities for post 16 education and all the other things a good transport system unlocks we need to have a long hard look at the way transport around the city and South Cambs works. This is a complex, complicated problem. 

I don’t know what the solution is, I know that every elected politician has heard the complaints against the GCP consultation and is listening really hard.  I don’t think a referendum or certainly not a referendum for or against congestion charging is going to be able to solve the complex problem which has developed over time and will continue to develop.

It’s my belief that the Brexit referendum sowed discord and created more problems than it solved.  Had we been presented with even an outline view of what type of Brexit we were voting for it might have been a different story instead we just signed a blank cheque to allow the politicians to bicker over what they thought Brexit meant.   That referendum was the wrong mechanism for solving a complex problem it has created many losers.  I don’t believe a referendum would solve the complex problem of developing transport solutions which work for the residents of Cambridgeshire within an extremely complex system of unhelpfully overlapping tiers of government. This is not because I believe the residents of Cambridgeshire can’t cope with complex problems it’s because I don’t think we are anywhere near developing the complex question we need to ask residents which could solve that problem.

Again decisions like this are not straightforward and I am happy to discuss this with residents at any time. This vote specifically does not mean that all the GCP’s proposals as per the consultation will go ahead in the form suggested in the consultation document.

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