Drawing party politics in the debate over the £132m Cambridge South East Transport (CSET) busway will lead to a decision that is not in the interests of residents, it is claimed.
Greater Shelford Parish Council said there were “growing concerns” that the CSET busway plan had been “polarized along party political lines”.
In a letter to Cllr Elisa Meschini, chair of the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s executive committee, the parish council said it hoped its “apolitical stance would allow the debate to progress without resorting to other allegiances”.
Their letter, seen by the Cambridge Independent, follows an exchange between South Cambridgeshire Conservative MP Anthony Brown and Cllr Meschini, who is also Deputy Labour leader in Cambridgeshire Council.
A survey by MPs found that more than 80% of respondents did not support the current CSET proposal.
Of the 1,958 responses to the survey, about 71.96% of respondents “definitely do not” support GCP’s preferred route, and another 8.99% “probably not” support it.But Cllr Meschini said the topic was too “complex” to answer with a “yes” or “no” vote
“Asking binary questions on complex topics without providing background information or a detailed description of the situation for which the plan was developed may serve his political purposes but is unlikely to yield useful answers,” she said.
Cambridge Labour MP Daniel Zeichner also warned: “In my opinion, investigations by those with special needs should always be approached with caution.”
In its letter, Greater Shelford Parish Council said it disagreed with the assessment, adding it was “very grateful to see a simple, coherent survey that gave clear context and enabled locals to voice their concerns” .
CSET will provide a new public transport route from the A11 to Cambridge Biomedical Campus via Sawston, Stapleford and Shelford, as well as a new path for walkers, cyclists and horse riders, similar to the existing guided bus lanes. In addition to the existing Babraham Road Park & Ride, a new tourism hub will be created near the A11/A1307 junction. GCP has previously consulted on its plans in 2015, 2016, 2018, and most recently in late 2019.
An environmental impact assessment was conducted in 2020 and feedback from this consultation was provided in 2021. But the parish council noted that there had been some significant changes since the consultation, including the decision to cancel the Cambridge Autonomous Underground (CAM), a planned expansion of the Cambridge Biomedical Campus and a retirement village on Hinton Way in Stamford.
“We cannot understand how to move forward with the current proposal when so many significant considerations have taken place during this period,” the letter said.
It also accused the GCP of confusing two different proposals in its response, conflating the potential reopening of the Haverhill line with the “rail line” or Shelford Rail Alignment, which has been widely explored by i-Transport and Mott MacDonald, and has not been promoted by any opposition groups.
The letter concludes: “We firmly believe that we are speaking on behalf of our residents by asking GCP to carefully examine the route along or next to A1307 as it offers a simpler, cheaper and less impactful option than the current proposal.
“The A1307 routing option was reviewed in detail prior to requiring bus lanes to be CAM compatible and we urge you to re-apply the scheme with appropriate revisions to take into account any relevant recent changes in circumstances.
“The voting public is smart enough to understand that when circumstances change, business or project plans should be reviewed. As the content of this letter makes clear, your reasons for not reviewing the situation are simply unreasonable and allow this to be a partisan political issue It is not in the interests of our parishioners or the wider South Cambridgeshire community.”
A GCP spokesperson said: “The Greater Cambridge region faces a major challenge – we need to keep people moving while reducing congestion and air pollution to help support efforts to tackle climate change.
“Thousands of people travel the A1307 and A10 every day to travel to Addenbrooke Hospital or to work in the expanding employment sites in the south of the city. Without immediate action, congestion and air quality will only get worse for the future Ten years will create thousands of new jobs and new homes.
“Dedicated bus lanes and active travel routes created as part of the Cambridge South East Transport Plan – which has undergone four extensive public consultations – will reduce hundreds of vehicles a day by providing better journeys to the Cambridge Biomedical Campus cars, and from growing neighborhoods in the Southeast to downtown.”