Northstowe and the A14

17:06 Thursday 6th October 2011
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

ANDY BURROWS: Plans for a massive housing development in Cambridgeshire are back on the agenda. The Northstowe development was first put forward over ten years ago. But the plans have been heavily criticised, because of the amount of traffic they would bring to the already congested A14. The Leader of Cambridgeshire’s Chamber of Commerce, John Bridge, says it must be stopped.(TAPE)
JOHN BRIDGE: The key thing is I don’t think we have to accept anything at all, in terms of the fact that the same decision makers that acquiesce with Government on the plans and saying we can’t afford to upgrade it have to understand there are consequences of that decision. And you can’t just carry on going on making the road worse. (LIVE)
ANDY HARPER: That was John Bridge from the Peterborough and Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce. Andy Lawson from the developers Gallagher says measures are being looked at for the A14. (TAPE)
ANDY LAWSON: There is an A14 taskforce currently looking at a whole range of measures to improve the A14, both in the long term and also short term with what are called interim measures. And there’s a very positive attitude  that improvements will take place along the A14 corridor. (LIVE)
ANDY HARPER: Well one county councillor, who’s ward includes what would be Northstowe, is Shona Johnstone. She spoke to BBC Radio Cambridgeshire today, and she says she’s confident the development will get the go-ahead, despite those concerns over the extra traffic. (TAPE)
SHONA JOHNSTONE: It was the most suitable place, in terms of access to high quality public transport, in terms of its location with relation to Cambridge, because it was close so people could get in and out of Cambridge quickly, in terms of the fact that it was originally planned on brownfield land,. That was the old airfield. (LIVE)
ANDY HARPER: That was Shona Johnston, who is a Conservative councillor. Joining me now is Councillor Sebastian Kindersley. He’s Group Leader of the Liberal Democrats on South Cambridgeshire District Council .. Just tell me about Northstowe from your point of view. You’ve heard the concerns there about the A14. Do you share them?
SEBASTIAN KINDERSLEY: I share them completely. I think any of your listeners, in places like Bar Hill, Lolworth, Girton, Histon, Impington, a long list of villages, will be listening to this and going, are these people absolutely bonkers, to even consider for one second building a single house in a new settlement anywhere near the A14, without the improvements to the A14 already having taken place. That road is closed more often than it’s not. So to say, as the developers are, it’s all going to be marvellous. We’ve got lots of lovely interim measures that we can put in place, and it’s all going to sort the problem out, is just lunacy.
ANDY BURROWS: It won’t go through then? It won’t go through because South Cambridgeshire District Council will refuse the application.
SEBASTIAN KINDERSLEY: I couldn’t possibly put words into the mouths of my colleagues, but what I would say is that they are all very very very well aware of the problems caused every day, to Cambridgeshire residents and to the economy of the country, for heaven’s sake. They are aware of those problems, and the connection of Northstowe with the A14 simply cannot be ignored.
ANDY BURROWS: Let’s look at the potential pluses though. You, like every other authority in this particular part of the world, needs to build new homes.
SEBASTIAN KINDERSLEY: We do. Yes we do. And in fact Shona may well have put her finger on an issue that we need to perhaps give some more thought to, which is this. That ten years ago, when Northstowe was selected as the most sustainable site, it probably was the most sustainable site. But the world has moved on. For example, we have now a very sustainable community at Cambourne. And there are, as you know, plans by the landowners around Cambourne, and at Bourne Airfield, and this is only just one example, they want to have large settlements built there. And so you’ve also got the Government saying, oh we’re going to close Waterbeach Barracks and develop it for housing. That’s closer to Cambridge than Northstowe would be. So you’ve got all of these new, quite complicated and sometimes a bit frightening issues that have arrived since we made the decision at Northstowe. If the developers had got on with Northstowe when the time was there to get on with it, then obviously we wouldn’t be saying, well now let’s look at somewhere else. We would be saying, Northstowe, we need to make it work. I’m not sure that actually that would serve the interests of Cambridgeshire, to simply blindly follow a plan that was placed on the books a long time ago, when the world was a very different place.
ANDY BURROWS: There are probably people in those two areas that you just mentioned there thinking , don’t pass it off on us. It’s a case of , when it comes to Northstowe, not in our back yard. You’ve got the Guided Bus, haven’t you? That’s the way people are going to travel in the future. They won’t need to use the A14, within the next few years.
SEBASTIAN KINDERSLEY: (LAUGHS) Yes. Very possibly. Not a single person moving to Northstowe will ever have a car, and will always use the Guided Bus. That doesn’t actually resolve the problem of the A14. It’s a bad road now, and to put any new development anywhere near it does seem to me to be completely bonkers.
ANDY BURROWS: Can’t the two go hand in hand though? Can’t you turn  round to the Government and say, look, there are these plans for Northstowe. We will build the homes that you need, but the payoff must be that you must help us improve the A14.
SEBASTIAN KINDERSLEY: I would not object particularly, if I had seen any serious movement by Government, to developing a proper road in place of the A14. But the sad truth is that project was £1.4 billion, and it was cancelled. It was almost the first thing that the Coalition Government did was to cancel the A14. I cannot see any appetite, in any Minister in the Government at the moment, saying, oh you know what, we’ll go back to the A14 and we’ll cough up £1.4 billion, and everything’s going to be rosy. We’ve got to accept that the world is a different place, and that is why I’m concerned, anxious, about the proposal of the developers, to put a small amount of building at Northstowe. I think it’s 1,500 1,800 hundred houses they’re talking about at the moment, which seems to me to be the worst of all possible worlds. Because you get extra traffic, extra housing, but you don’t get any benefit at all. And you certainly don’t get the investment in the major amount of infrastructure that Northstowe, a small town of 10,000 plus, major infrastructure still needed, secondary school and so on.
ANDY BURROWS: Thank you very much. It’s been a fun few minutes. That was Liberal Democrat Councillor Sebastian Kindersley, from South Cambridgeshire District Council.