Milton Road trees at risk from Cambridge City Deal plans

There are plans to completely redesign both Histon and Milton Roads to improve access for buses and bikes

blossom07:08 Thursday 4th February 2016
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: If you live on Milton Road in Cambridge you’ve probably seen these signs that have appeared all the way down the street saying “SAVE OUR TREES”. The notices have been put up by members of the Milton Road Residents’ Association, as they believe plans to change the road could mean four out of every five trees there are lost. We went out and asked people what they thought of the plans.
PUBLIC ONE: We live in the area. We feel very very strongly we want to save them at all costs. Many times they have tried to demolish the trees, and they have failed. And I think they should be preserved. It makes this place look really beautiful, especially in the Spring with the blossom out.
PUBLIC TWO: I’ll get on to my pet subject. I know the last project they did here was actually create the cycle path, to save actually doing other amendments to the road. But then the next problem is the cyclists don’t use the cycle path. That would save one of the traffic problems and help save our trees.
PUBLIC THREE: Well I think things have to progress. As long as it doesn’t become a motorway.
PUBLIC FOUR: You come in May, the blossom here is beautiful. It makes this road beautiful. So ..
PUBLIC FIVE: I understand Cambridge has got to expand. I understand that. This is a key route in and there’s a lot of traffic on here, but the changes that are proposed aren’t going to benefit the residents. We’re just going to get stuffed basically.
PUBLIC SIX: it depends really on how much it’s going to change the road and make it better, and how much we lose more of the trees, environmentally for oxygen and that, and also for looks.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Well our reporter Julia Greenaway is on Milton Road for us this morning, and Julia, you’ve been taking a look at these plans for changes to the street.
JULIA GREENAWAY: Yes. You can probably hear it’s actually quite busy along Milton Road this morning. Anyone driving this way just can’t help but notice those signs that you’ve mentioned. They’re attached to most of the trees down here using a piece of string. So this is one of the key routes into Cambridge that the City Deal board is proposing to develop, to improve congestion and access into the city. There are plans to completely redesign both Histon and Milton Roads to improve access for buses and bikes. Here on Milton Road one of the ideas is to have two bus lanes running down the middle of the road, with cars on the outside of those, followed by raised cycleways and then finally pavements. But in order to put in these extra lanes the road here would need to be widened, so that means getting rid of most of the trees and verges, which many of the people living here aren’t happy about, hence the “SAVE OUR TREES” posters. They’re also concerned about the extra noise and vibrations from the traffic, and argue that they won’t see any benefit from the buses coming down Milton Road.
DOTTY MCLEOD: And Julia, the save Our Trees campaign, it has got some backing from local politicians.
JULIA GREENAWAY: The Labour Party in Cambridge who are the ruling party on the City Council has produced a leaflet saying “City Deal – we are listening”. The leaflet says they agree two bus lanes aren’t needed on Milton Road, and trees and green spaces should be kept. Although this is a good endorsement for the campaigners, it’s not the City Council’s decision. That’s down to the City Deal executive, which is also made up of councillors from South Cambridgeshire Council and the County Council too.
DOTTY MCLEOD: And when can we expect some kind of decision on this?
JULIA GREENAWAY: Well the proposals are out for consultation at the moment. If you live in the nearby areas you’ve probably had a leaflet through your door explaining all the plans, and inviting you to have your say. That consultation will end on Monday 15th February. The results will then go back to the City Deal board to be discussed. We’re not expecting building work to start on any of these projects until next year at the very earliest.
DOTTY MCLEOD: And there is actually a meeting to talk about these issues tonight.
JULIA GREENAWAY: It’s the North Area Committee Meeting. This type of meeting happens regularly all over the county, and they’re an opportunity for people to raise concerns to the police and to the Council about what’s happening in their neighbourhood. But there is only one item on the agenda at this evening’s meeting, and that’s the City Deal plans. Councillors and officers will be there to take part in a public question and answer session for both the Histon Road and Milton Road proposals. That starts at six o’clock tonight at Chesterton Community College. And if previous meetings on this subject are anything to go by, we can expect a full house and plenty of interesting debate.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Julia Greenaway, thank you very much. On Milton Road for us this morning. Well Gerri Bird is the vice-chair of the North Area Committee, which is holding its meeting tonight, and joins me now. Morning Gerri.
GERRI BIRD: Morning Dotty.
DOTTY MCLEOD: I appreciate you’re vice-chairing the meeting, but you must have a personal view on this. What do you make of these plans for Milton Road?
GERRI BIRD: Well I can see something’s got to happen. We have so many people coming into the city every day. And the reason for this is a lot of people can’t afford to live in the city, so they’re having to buy properties out and come into work. Like the firemen, nurses, doctors, the whole lot. And they’re our key people. So things have got to change in the city.
DOTTY MCLEOD: But how? How do you address that?
GERRI BIRD: Well that’s it. That’s the problem. Some things have got to be changed. And not everybody likes change. We’re all the same. We like things to keep, keep as it is. But nothing’s been decided yet Dotty. Like you said, the consultation has got to be done, and then once that’s done there may be another consultation. Nobody knows.
DOTTY MCLEOD: But do you think that bulldozing the trees down Milton Road, Histon Road would also be affected, do you think that that is the right kind of drastic change? Would it work?
GERRI BIRD: Well nobody knows. As you know the Labour group don’t want the trees gone. But, you know, what can we do?
DOTTY MCLEOD: Well what would you do? What does the Labour group want to happen?
GERRI BIRD: Well they don’t want .. I don’t think we w ant the trees all gone, to be honest. But we’ve got to look at other ways. I mean new trees could be planted, but the trees .. they are right. They do look lovely in May. I’ve seen them because I live just round the corner from them. But there’s so many measures we can do. But we’ve got to sort out ..
DOTTY MCLEOD: What are they Gerri? Because this plan to knock down the trees and widen the road, whatever you might think about it, it is actually a tangible plan that someone has come up with. And at the moment I’m not hearing from you what the Labour group would actually put forward instead.
GERRI BIRD: Well it’s hard. We need to press for more buses to be coming into the city. This would help with the traffic. We’ve got to have cycle lanes, whatever happens, and pedestrian lanes. We all know that. We all live together now, so we’ve got to have them.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So you don’t feel that putting more buses onto the streets without some kind of change to the roads would just lead to more traffic?
GERRI BIRD: No. If we get the buses, more buses in, people to use the buses, I think would help. But we’re going to have to have more park and rides around the county to help.
DOTTY MCLEOD: OK. So more park and rides and more buses on the roads.
GERRI BIRD: Yes. Like Cambourne, Northstowe. because they’re big big housing complexes. Waterbeach.
DOTTY MCLEOD: What about bringing the Guided Bus through the city centre?
GERRI BIRD: Well that was thought about years ago, wasn’t it, before they even built it? So that didn’t happen.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Do you think it should be back on the table?
GERRI BIRD: I think that should have happened originally. Yes.
DOTTY MCLEOD: OK Gerri. Good to talk to you this morning. Gerri Bird there, who is the Vice Chair of the North Area Committee on Cambridge City Council.