Bourn Airfield Park & Ride Site Coming to Highfields Caldecote

At the July 2017 meeting, the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) Executive Board (EB) received a report of eight potential Park and Ride (P&R) sites for the A428 transport corridor. This was as a result of the first phase of the P&R sites assessment showing up environmental concerns about the 3 options that had been looked at up to that point. Figure 1 shows the list of sites that were presented to the Board.

Cambourne to Cambridge Bus Journeys
Figure 1: Park and Ride Sites Options

The three original locations assessed were 1+4 (together as one), 2, and 5, whilst the others came into the picture as the most “feasible sites” for a P&R location. The GCP EB agreed that the officers should assess in more detail, these 9 sites in order to identify a short list for public consultation later this year.

So, in effect, rather than ask the public their views on all the 8 potential sites, the consultation will be on those sites preferred by the officers and/or consultants based on their scoring. And as we have already seen from experience of the scoring of the proposed busway options, the scoring process is less than transparent or fair.

I attended a Park and Ride workshop two days ago at Comberton Arts and Sports, which was billed as “intending to present the emerging views of the technical consultant as to the short list of sites.” Effectively, Mott Macdonald have been employed as consultants on this project, and together with the officers, came up with a short list of 5 sites, out of the 9 on the table.

The workshop was well attended, but it also included officers, consultants and University reps. Andy Campbell, the Stagecoach top boss also attended, and that was good to see.

The evaluation was based on what they called environmental/social impacts and transport issues, which are, Green belt, journey time, public transport connectivity, private vehicles connectivity, walking connectivity, cycling connectivity, congestion, noise, landscape/townscape, historic environment, impact on society, public acceptibility).

Attendees of the workshop were split into groups, and then discussed the pros and cons of each of the shortlisted sites – which were

  • 0- Existing Madingley Road P&R
  • 3-Madingley Mulch South West (Waterworks site)
  • 4-Madingley Mulch South East (Chrome Lea)
  • 5-Scotland Farm (Dry Drayton)
  • 6-Bourn Airfield (Highfields Caldecote)

Options 1,2, 7 and 8 were no longer considered viable or suitable. Site 1 was knocked out because of its proximity to the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and potential harm it would cause. It would seem that Option 2 is land belonging to the University which it needs for something else. So, if Option 1 would affect the SSSI, the obvious question is why is Option 4 still being considered, given that proximity to the SSS! and its location on a hill that can be seen for mile south of the site? Go figure!

One point that came out during the early part of the meeting is that the further away the P&R site is to the city, the more expensive the running cost, and potentially the longer the run time into the city – this was from Andy Campbell. This would explain why, despite of the potential harm, Option 4 was still on the table. On the other hand, if the aim is to avoid the congestion along the A1303, then surely, the P&R site should not be on that road, but outside of it? It is a balancing act to be sure!

Notice that on the Site Options map, Option 6 at the proposed Bourn Airfield Development (BAD) is nominally positioned within the pink hatched development area, which is currently the outline area in the submitted draft plan and on which the Planning Inspector carried out the public examination.

Imagine then, the shock and horror of discovering that the actual piece of land that had been scored is NOT within the allocated development area, but outside it on the section of farmland at the top of Highfields Caldecote, as shown in Figure 2.

 

Cambourne to Cambridge Bus Scheme
Figure 2: Park and Ride Site Option 6

To say I blew a gasket would be an understatement causing me to have a headache for the rest of the evening!

So, having already levelled a charge at Mott Macdonald consultant at the meeting that their scoring methodology was highly suspicious, and of with-holding its details, I now left him in no doubt as to what I thought about the whole project – another stitch up!!

Option 6, he said, is considered a brownfield site, and they had to include it in to show they had considered all potential options, both in the greenbelt and outside. That explanation seemed to be implying that, it was “just another option to tick the right boxes”, but I could be wrong. At which point, I expressed the opinion that it was a “window dressing” exercise then, that the decision had been made on which site the P&R would go. That was promptly denied.

So, if it is not window dressing, then I asserted that the only other conclusion is that it is serious potentially viable site that could work in conjunction with the plan to build 3,500 houses on BAD, except for the fact that the proposers of BAD need part of that land to make up the shortfall of what they need to fit in the planned number of houses and infrastructure. So how can one piece of land serve two opposing requirements simultaneously? Just how much joined up thinking is going on here?? It seems Mott Macdonald and the GCP Project team are unaware of the finer details that would affect the viability or otherwise of this option. Can we then be confident of their scoring process?

Figure 2 shows just how much work had gone into the assessment of Site 6, to the point of providing the entrance (via Highfields Road) and exit routes (old A428).

All 5 groups at the meeting considered the options on the table and wrote down our views, which we were assured would ALL be collated and presented to the the EB. We have copies of the comments we made on my table and will have to wait and see what the final short list will be.

Figure 3: Park and Ride Site 6 with workshop comments

Figure 3 above shows the points raised in my discussion group – guess who wrote the statement in green …….

Whether or not this park and ride site option 6 is further shortlisted remains to be seen. There are pros and cons to this option and it will be interesting to see the mitigation proposals for the adverse effects, especially of lighting and traffic. The cost of running it and the charges would likely be high – and Stagecoach boss will not be happy to run buses to/from it. Cost/journey time analysis here would be tricky and could determine its viability.

We should know more by the time the GCP Assembly meets in September when the final selection for consultation will be made public.

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