Left hand, meet right hand

First published in the Cambridge Independent newspaper in November 2016

It’s notoriously hard to keep track of the various development initiatives in ‘Greater Cambridge’ because of the plethora of local government agencies involved: Cambridge City Council, South Cambs District Council, Cambridgeshire County Council and of course the Greater Cambridge City Deal all have their sticky fingers in the tasty pie that is the Cambridge Phenomenon.

You might think that these agencies would be diligently working together to solve Cambridge’s problems but this week has thrown up another example of the left hand and the right hand apparently working at cross purposes. South Cambs District Council is set to adopt into its Local Plan a proposal for a further 20 acre expansion of the Cambridge’s Biomedical Campus to complement Phase 1 (70 acres) and Phase 2 (14 acres). When completed, a staggering 28000 people will be employed on the Campus, compared to around 7000 today.

The need to move a workforce equivalent to the population of a sizeable town on and off that site every day presents a huge headache, especially since the infrastructure to do so is lagging so far behind.

Hopes of avoiding gridlock are pinned on a new dedicated Addenbrooke’s railway station but this is unlikely to be running services until early next decade, depending on Network Rail’s engagement.

The City Deal team will reveal the results of its consultation on options it hopes will improve the functioning of the A1307 in February 2017; but since they are all heavy engineering projects, they will also have a long lead time.

Meanwhile, Cambridge City Council’s Local Plan is promoting sites either side of Wort’s Causeway as a location for 480 homes, despite the fact that traffic exiting those sites directly onto the A1307 or via Wort’s Causeway will inevitably further exacerbate the bottleneck round the Campus.

Lack of foresight and joined up thinking and a reliance on big infrastructure projects have sadly become the hallmarks of Cambridge’s attempts to mitigate the impacts of growth. More innovative and more agile approaches, like those endorsed by Smarter Cambridge Transport, might get us to where we want to be, faster.

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