The Reality Of Northstowe

08:08 Thursday 25th October 2012
Bigger Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: The first phase of the biggest new town in Britain since Milton Keynes was approved yesterday, but residents are not happy. South Cambridgeshire District Council approved the first 1,500 of 10,000 proposed new homes for the Northstowe development, just north west of Cambridge yesterday. Eight parish councils around that site put forward their objections. Geoff Twiss is from Over Parish Council. He was one of the people unhappy.(TAPE)
GEOFF TWISS: Unhappy, resigned. I think people know which way the wind is blowing. But there was a lot of concern from local residents, and particularly from the local parish councils. So yes, people really were bothered on all sorts of grounds. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Well we’ve been to the villages around the area who are concerned. Our reporter Dotty McLeod is now in Longstanton for us, which will also be affected.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Yes indeed. I’m in Longstanton standing on the High Street just outside the post office. And Longstanton, for those of you who might not have visited, it’s a fairly typical South Cambridgeshire village. The High Street forms a central artery running through it. There’s a large number of fairly old stone houses, which have been here for hundreds of years, but also some modern brick houses, and indeed on the outside of twon, some modern estates. So this isn’t a village whuch is absolutely anti all development. Tha mein concern, as we’ve been hearing all morning really about the Northstowe development from the surrounding villages is traffic. And this high street that I’m standing on leads to Willingham in the north, and Oakington in the south. The traffic concerns from people living in these villages is really about the A14, and also the B1050. They’re already busy roads, and residents are worried they’re really only going to get busier when the town’s first phase of 1,500 houses are built. Now Paul, you might ask what about public transport. What about the Guided Bus. Do you want to ask me that?
PAUL STAINTON: What about the Guided Bus? What about public transport Dotty?
DOTTY MCLEOD: Well Geoff Twiss from Over, who I spoke to earlier this morning, he says that transport like the Guided Bus is going to take commuters off the roads from Northstowe. And more buses have to be put on. The County Council says that will happen, but that’s not actually their decision. That’s for the companies running the buses to decide. So a lot of unresolved issues.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. It’s an amazing thing isn’t it? We’ve got to build these houses, but where do we build them? Is this the right place? And this is what we’ve been talking about this morning. Dotty McLeod in Longstanton. Tim Wotherspoon is South Cambridgeshire District Council, Cabinet Member for Northstowe, and chaired yesterday’s meeting. Is this the right place? Really?
TIM WOTHERSPOON: Well it’s been the subject of a great deal of assessment over the years, and as you said earlier either in this broadcast or earlier this morning, we’ve been talking about this location for ten years now. It was very carefully assessed against other possible locations for a major new development close to Cambridge, and this was considered to be the best location among all options available.
PAUL STAINTON: Well it might be, if the A14 had been upgraded, but shouldn’t we wait? You’ve got parish councillors up in arms. You’ve got the people of Cambridgeshire just anticipating the A14 turning into a vast car park.
TIM WOTHERSPOON: As you know the A14 is now back on the Government’s capital programme for major road improvements. And Northstowe won’t be built overnight. It will take about 25 years I think to get up to those 10,000 houses. And during those 25 years we fully expect the A14 upgrade scheme to be built out in tandem with the gradual expansion of Northstowe.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. But the A14’s not going to be upgraded before you build these 1,500 new homes, is it? Not substantially anyway.
TIM WOTHERSPOON: Well as you know we’ve had recent announcements for interim measures that the junctions at Girton and Spittals will be improved, and then very recently we’ve had additional funding in what’s called the Pinch Point Programme, which will result in an extra lane ..
PAUL STAINTON: That’s like putting face cream on when you need a face lift, isn’t it? Really. You’re going to put an extra 1,500 homes up, which is, what, 2,500 maybe 3,000 people. If you say half of those are going to be travelling to work in the morning, maybe to Cambridge. There’ll be 1,500 people extra on that road straight away.
TIM WOTHERSPOON: Hmm. Remember that local people are actually more concerned about the B1050. That’s the main road through Longstanton, and as you’ve had other correspondents this morning speaking about, the road from Willingham and Over through to the Bar Hill junction. And in fact what Geoff Twiss, who’s from Over Parish Council and has been one of the most helpful residents in guiding us towards improving the scheme ..
PAUL STAINTON: Ok. Let’s just hear what Geoff had to say. (TAPE)
GEOFF TWISS: It’s going to produce a complete blockage on that road. At the moment the road clogs up in the morning at Willingham traffic lights, and it clogs up at Bar Hill, as people try and get on to the A14. But Northstowe is going to come along and introduce firstly 1,500 houses feeding out onto the golf course corner, which is a tight bend. It’s a narrow road anyway. So then they’re going to .. they say they’re going to bring four junctions into that section. But as the scheme develops, and Phase Two comes along, and then Phase Three, there are actually going to be six sets of traffic lights, three pedestrian crossings, and a roundabout, all within half a mile. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: And a partidge in a pear tree. It doesn’t sound good, does it?
TIM WOTHERSPOON: In fact I think he gave the best soundbite of yesterday’s meeting actually. He hasn’t actually given it to you this morning, but I’ll give it to you on his behalf. And he said, what transport experts call reassignment, that is to say through traffic avoiding the B1050 and using other roads to access the A14 for example, local people call rat running. And that’s exactly right. That’s why we’re setting up a traffic monitoring and management group, which will have access to very careful data, automatic traffic counts and things like that ..
PAUL STAINTON: I can tell you now what it’s going to look like. You’re going to have people searching for ways round the four junctions and three sets of traffic lights, the clogged up B1050, an A14 going nowhere in both directions. What I’m saying to you is, isn’t it better to wait? I know people need houses, but wait until the A14 has been upgraded. Because for the wider people in Cambridgeshire, that’s going to be the issue. You won’t be able to get into Cambridge.
TIM WOTHERSPOON: I’m absolutely certain you’ll be able to get into Cambridge. By the way, you had a chap on from Oakington who had a rather poor opinion of Cambridge. I can’t agree with that at all. I think..
TIM WOTHERSPOON: .. Cambridge is a fantastic city.
PAUL STAINTON: We had somebody else on who said even yesterday morning they’re going on the A14 at Bar Hill. They were queueing all the way into Cambridge. This can only make it worse, without substantial improvements, surely.
TIM WOTHERSPOON: We just don’t know that, do we?
PAUL STAINTON: Well we do.
TIM WOTHERSPOON: Because even Justin this morning, your transport guy, wouldn’t be drawn.
PAUL STAINTON: Well he can’t. That’s a political thing. That’s not .. he’s not ..
TIM WOTHERSPOON: We’re all residents. Let me say ..
PAUL STAINTON: He’s not allowed to comment on the travel.
TIM WOTHERSPOON: Seven out of ten of the councillors on the committee yesterday represent villages which are either immediately adjacent to Northstowe, or ..
PAUL STAINTON: Let’s turn it around. You tell me that the A14 and the B1050 are not going to get worse because of this development.
TIM WOTHERSPOON: I don’t know that either Paul. What I’m saying to you ..
PAUL STAINTON: What do you know?
TIM WOTHERSPOON: that we are all local residents. Seven out of ten of us on that committee represent Longstanton, Oakington, Cottenham, Rampton, Willingham, Over, Girton, Bar Hill. We use these roads ourselves.
PAUL STAINTON: And they’re not happy, those people of those villages. Are you representing their views correctly?
TIM WOTHERSPOON: We have no interest in making our own environment any worse. We are determined to make Northstowe a Quality First town for its own residents. But we are also determined that that should not be at the expense of the high quality of life that existing residents already enjoy. And it’s because Cambridge is such a great city, and its economy is relatively strong, that we need these extra houses. And there are plenty of listeners out there who are waiting for houses to be become available that they can afford to live in.
PAUL STAINTON: Oh I know. I know.
TIM WOTHERSPOON: Young people waiting to set up homes together, young families wanting houses in which they can bring up their children, and I think in years to come people like that are going to be able to look back on yesterday, and the date on which the planning permission gave them the homes in which they were able to build their lives together the go-ahead. And that’s why I’m delighted by this result.
PAUL STAINTON: Are you representing the views of the people in those villages around Northstowe properly?
TIM WOTHERSPOON: I’m absolutely certain that if it hadn’t been for the very close involvement of all the people locally .. and can I say this is unique in the country. There is no other place like Northstowe, where we have had such close public and community engagement. I’m immensely proud of that, and we’re going to continue that throughout the delivery stages. If it hadn’t been for that careful listening process, and working together to improve the proposals over the years, we wouldn’t have such a good proposal before us already. And all the details are still to be worked out, but we will be listening and working with people throughout the process of these 1,500 homes.
PAUL STAINTON: Thank you for coming on this morning Tim. Appreciate that. Tim Wotherspoon, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Cabinet Member for Northstowe, chaired the meeting yesterday.