Against overwhelming public opposition, Cambridge City Council, Cambridgeshire County Council and other authorities in the 'City Deal' partnership, are busy trying to rush through plans to permanently prevent motor vehicles (except public transport) from using Cambridge's main roads at peak times.
The road closures are due to begin next year, to be in force between 7am - 10am and between 4pm to 6:30pm. The roads they are planning to shut down are: Hills Road, Mill Road, East Road, Queens Road, Coldhams Lane and Grange Road.
Since Hills Road and Mill Road would be blocked, access to Cambridge from the South would only be possible via Trumpington Road. This would be the only way in or out of most parts of central Cambridge, the exception being access to the King Street/ Jesus Lane area via the North of Cambridge.
But imagine the combined traffic of Hills Road, Mill Road, Trumpington Road AND all the traffic travelling in or out of the city centre - but all stuffed into Trumpington Road, a road which already has long tailbacks towards Trumpington during rush hour and a serious bottleneck/ tailback where it meets the Fen Causeway on the corner of the Leys School. Then factor in all the parents who need to pick up their children on Trumpington Road's several large schools! There will be gridlock on a scale Cambridge has never seen and people will be trapped in traffic for hours.
The wider impact of all the road closures on the city would be catastrophic for tens of thousands of people and for many local businesses. Hundreds of local businesses would be rendered inaccessible by car for much of the day wiping out a significant proportion of their customers. The loss of business would be disastrous, inevitably leading to widespread job losses, liquidations and bankruptcies across the city. Their supply chains would be heavily incapacitated too, further damaging their competitiveness.
Local businessman Edward Williams puts it like this: "I run the largest independent swim school in Cambridge (Elite Swimming Academy.) All of our customers come to us after school and 90% drive. If this goes through we could be put out of business losing 30 jobs and stopping 1000 children every week learning to swim. I can not stress enough how highly opposed to this I am and it has clearly not been looked at from the point of view of the many small businesses like myself who will inevitably go out of business very quickly."
Alison Wright of Fitzbillies has warned that fresh food businesses such as Fitzbillies may be unable to get their produce in time for opening. She has also produced a map pointing out how absurd this plan would be in practice. Their delivery van, which transports freshly baked food from one shop on Trumpington Road to another on near by Bridge Street would have to leave the city centre, take a 5 mile detour outside Cambridge onto the M11 motorway and then travel back into Cambridge via Madingley Road and finally navigate to Bridge Street, less than a mile away from where it had set off in the first place! And this journey may possibly take hours stuck in gridlocked traffic, leaving the shop unstocked and forcing them to turn away hundreds of customers, not to mention causing far greater exhaust pollution and damage to the environment. Delivery vans from further afield could find it impossible to get in in any reasonable time frame.
There would be tremendous knock-on effects for the wider economy too. Thousands of Cambridge tradesmen such as local builders and plumbers who have to transport their heavy materials and equipment in vans would be unable to access customers for most of the morning and much of the afternoon. This would seriously reduce the number of jobs they can carry out in a day, decimating their income, causing more bankruptcies, and resulting in people all over Cambridge having to wait much longer for tradesmen to visit them.
Businesses and residents throughout the city will be unable to receive deliveries except at certain times and delivery drivers unfamiliar with the closure times would get trapped, unable to leave the city except via grid-locked Trumpington Road.
Residents in various areas of the city would sometimes be blocked in, unable to leave the area where they live or unable to get back home for hours.
Many parents who live too far to walk to their children's school could be unable to drop them off in the morning or collect them on time, being locked in or locked out by the road closures.
Sick or infirm people would be forced to hang around in the rain waiting for buses instead of being able to drive or get a lift to the hospital or their GP.
The list goes on and on... this is the stupidest idea imaginable. It will make congestion far worse and devastate Cambridge's economy.
If you haven't heard of these plans before, you're not alone. Neither Cambridge City Council nor Cambridgeshire County Council have bothered to write to the people of Cambridge to inform us of their plans or ask for our opinion or consent. Instead the plans have been pushed forward while the public have been left in the dark. One can only assume the planners did not want the inconvenience of opposition to their plans. What a disgrace that our representatives in local government have such disdain for the people who pay their salaries, that they would bring in sweeping measures that would seriously debase thousands of people's livelihoods without even bothering to write to people.
Thanks to campaigning and leafleting by Cambridge Lib Dems, press coverage in the Cambridge News and two petitions that are going viral throughout social media, the people of Cambridge are now finding out about these plans.
There are currently two petitions you can sign:
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