17:10 Thursday 2nd June 2016
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
CHRIS MANN: Plans to close key commuter roads in Cambridge during peak hours have passed their first hurdle. The proposals have been approved by business leaders and councillors at today’s City Deal Assembly. Our political reporter Hannah Olsson was there and joins me in the studio now. Hannah evening.
HANNAH OLSSON: Hello Chris.
CHRIS MANN: Remind us what was being discussed today.
HANNAH OLSSON: Well Chris it was the eight part plan to tackle congestion in Cambridge that I told you about last week. It was outlined by City Deal officers. It includes as you say peak-time road closures in some key roads in the city, including Hills Road and East Road, charging some of the larger businesses in the city for commuter parking spaces, and increasing the number of park and ride and residential spaces. What it doesn’t include is a congestion charge, an idea that lots of people believe is the solution to Cambridge’s traffic problems, but that the City Deal officers say wouldn’t necessarily work, and would be unfair to people who live outside the city. Changes to Milton Road and Histon Road were also discussed today. They proved very controversial, because widening Milton Road involves cutting down the trees that line each side of it. Now if you travel up and down there at the moment, of course it’s near our studios here, you can see people have tied yellow ribbons to all the trees. Have you seen those Chris?
CHRIS MANN: Absolutely.
HANNAH OLSSON: Yes. The people that are campaigning to save those trees.
CHRIS MANN: So what was the point of today’s meeting?
HANNAH OLSSON: So a very quick reminder of what the City Deal is all about. It was set up to decide how to spend the millions of pounds the Government is giving Cambridge to improve transport and infrastructure. There’s an Executive Board which actually makes the decisions, and they’re advised by a City Deal Assembly, which is what we had today. That’s a group of councillors and representatives of business, universities and the NHS, who come together to debate proposals and the report back to the Board. The Assembly meetings are also an opportunity to have public speakers, and there were lots of those today, twenty seven in fact. They were representing different groups in the city, so that’s CamCycle, Cambridge Past Present and Future, and various different resident groups. They all spoke very passionately, but a common question was why the congestion charge had been dismissed so quickly. With so many speakers, the newly elected Chair of the Committee councillor Roger Hickford made the decision to limit the public speakers to a minute each.. Now I was sitting in the public gallery, and that didn’t go down very well. But I asked councillor Roger Hickford, and he told me he was confident there was enough opportunity for the public to have their say.
ROGER HICKFORD: It’s a very long meeting today, but even as it’s our meeting that we’re having, we cannot get everything in that we want in the agenda on the agenda as much as we want. So yes, the Members of the Assembly are always open to communication, email or phone. And that’s the same with the officers. So if anyone has any concerns at all, they haven’t been able to make it along today, or they feel they haven’t had quite as much time or response that they wanted, there are other channels to use.
CHRIS MANN: So the Chair of the Committee Roger Hickford there. Did the Assembly eventually reach a consensus.
HANNAH OLSSON: Yes and no. The Assembly voted on each of the proposals in turn, and although all of them were passed, they certainly weren’t unanimous decisions. Councillor Tim Bick stood down as Chair of the Assembly last week, and he spoke out to say he didn’t agree with not allowing the public the opportunity to have their say on a congestion charge.
TIM BICK: But this is a really critical thing for the future of the city. It’s going to affect everyone’s daily lives for a long time to come. It’s about changing our behaviour. We all have a piece of that. And I think that it’s very clear that there are two fundamentally different ways of tackling the same goal. I think the public should be able to participate in the choice between those two, and give their view.
HANNAH OLSSON: Part of the response to that was an interesting analogy by Council officer Bob Menzies. He admitted that he once saw congestion charging as the best solution for Cambridge, but now realises that if you see congestion as a disease in Cambridge, a congestion charge is just a drug to treat the problem, and one would have to increase the amount of drug over time for it to carry on working .. are you following so far ..
CHRIS MANN: Oh absolutely.
HANNAH OLSSON: .. whereas the eight step proposal is a surgical option, offering a permanent long-term solution. So make of that analogy what you will.