Azara Blog: Cambridge railway area proposal in trouble

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Date published: 2006/04/05

The Cambridge Evening News says:

Controversial plans for regenerating Cambridge's railway station could be derailed.

Cambridge City Council's planning department has recommended councillors refuse the £725 million plan submitted by developers Ashwell, which includes a new transport interchange, 1,400 homes, shops and a hotel.

The scheme will be decided at a special meeting of the council's planning committee tomorrow (Wednesday, 05 April).

In a report to the committee, planning officer Sarah Dyer has outlined 25 reasons for turning down the scheme. She claims the transport interchange "fails to meet the needs of rail users, public transport users, taxi users, pedestrians and cyclists".

There are also concerns about increased traffic, air quality, the height and scale of the buildings and the development's impact on a conservation area. The height of the buildings, some of which will be 10 storeys, could also affect the operation of Cambridge Airport.

Michael Chisholm, secretary of Brooklands Avenue Residents' Association, urged councillors to follow the recommendation for refusal and said a more radical approach to creating a transport interchange was needed.

He said: "I hope that the councillors accept the recommendation from the officers. I think the proposal is outrageous.

There's too much to fit in to that area and they need to start from the idea that there should be a proper transport interchange between bus and rail, taxi and rail, bus and bus in the station area.

"That ought to be the thing around which all the proposals are built. The present proposals do not fulfil that at all.

"What they are proposing, I believe, would be a gross overdevelopment of the area."

Of course developers always ask for over-the-top development because they know that no matter what they ask for, the NIMBYs will oppose it. So better to start big and then cut back to what you really want so that the NIMBYs can feel like they have had a victory. The proposals are not really that bad in most respects. The area around the railway station is such a dump that you cannot really make it worse. Transport access is poor because of the existing road layout in the immediate area, and that is not going to be changed very much, except to give an additional entry point for buses from Hills Road. And on the transport front, of course the Cambridge ruling elite hate cars, and it is for this reason that Sarah Dyer and Michael Chisholm fail to even mention car access as of any concern. The proposed pedestrian and cyclist access is no worse and in some ways better than now, and as noted bus access will be better. So Dyer is being disingenuous with her comments. And the idea that we need a "more radical approach" is a joke. Firstly that is a rather meaningless statement (it really means "only do what I want you to do"). Secondly, this is Cambridge, this is England, and the transport planners are hopeless (again because their hatred of cars means that they will never propose an integrated transport system).

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