Our response to the Chisholm Trail consultation

The proposed route is on a highly sensitive area for heritage and wildlife. We do not believe that environmental and heritage concerns around the scheme are being taken seriously. We would be opposed to the present scheme on the basis of :

1. Lack of information on objectives or purpose of scheme
2. Lack of information on the standards that are trying to be achieved
3. Lack of information on environmental impacts or costs.
4. Lack of adequate consultation ( including links to 1 to 3 above )
5. The significant environmental impacts, including on a registered common, on a County Wildlife Site, ecological networks, heritage impacts ( including on a Grade 1 Listed building) and on character of common
6. The impacts on common rights holders and the enjoyment of the common by the public
7. It being contrary to emerging local plan policies on preservation of the green belt and protection and enhancement of wildlife

1. Lack of information on the purpose of the scheme

1.1. We are unclear as to the purpose of the route. The design and alignment, in actively avoiding employment areas such as Ditton Walk and Mercers Row [ where there are too many “white vans” apparently ], appear to imply that it is a leisure route, whereas publicity indicates that it is a commuting and transport link.

1.2. Publicity by the Cambridge Cycling Campaign implied that the Chisholm Trail is a cycle route; however the consultation implies that it is a cycling and walking route.

1.3.  Crossing points on Newmarket Road are described as unsuitable ( maybe by creating “significant delays” despite a 15 second average wait ); and the present Coldhams Lane crossing is similarly described as unsuitable.  It is unclear why existing provision is “unsuitable” as the purpose for the scheme is not described.

2.  Lack of information on the standards that are trying to be achieved

2.1.  No information was provided during the consultation as to the standards that were trying to be achieved.  No information was provided as to either existing or proposed future flows of cyclists. Indeed, we were told that these had not yet been carried out.

2.2.  We note that existing use of the common is relatively minor. Cambridge Cycling Campaign conducted the following survey in 2014 :
“In support of our response, the Campaign undertook a couple of surveys of path users between 8.00am and 9.30am on 14 January and 21 February this year. On 14 January there were 149 cycle journeys and 33 walking journeys. On 21 February, during half term, there were 85 cycle journeys and 25 walked journeys.”
http://www.camcycle.org.uk/newsletters/113/article5.html

2.3.  The existing path is used by local people, mainly for access to the sport’s facilities and pool; for access to schools; and from the Abbey ward to the Beehive Centre.

2.4.  The common is not well used after dark as is isolated and without overlooking properties, leading to security fears. The presence of cows probably reduces summer use due to fear of cows.

2.5.  The existing route widths stated in the consultation are incorrect and misleading : the present width is not 1-2m, but in fact 1.8 to 2.2m. This width is not substandard as implied, as there are no established single standards.

2.6.  Furthermore the existing width is comparable to the recently installed routes on Fen Ditton Meadows ( route ) and far wider than the proposed access from the Abbey-Chesterton Bridge westwards to and from Stourbridge Common.

2.7.  Council officers and others have stated that the route is not wide enough and overtaking is impossible and oncoming traffic makes it dangerous.  Furthermore it has been stated that the grass is being ruined by people cycling on it.  This is not the experience of our use of the common.   The species-rich grassland is also highly likely to be ruined by being tarmaced.

2.8.  We are not clear as to what the purpose of this route is, nor which standards are trying to be achieved, nor what the proposed volumes of traffic are.  We have been told both that it is a high-speed commuter route ( ~20mph ) and a low speed leisure route by council officers ( 12 mph ).

2.9.  For a major high-speed cycle route, then the apparently correct width would be 3m ( for cycles ) plus 1.5m for segregated walking route plus some separation for obstacles, giving a total of 4.5 to 5m. The proposed route width is 3.5m [ we are not wholly clear from documentation nor what this standard is based on], but this cannot be achieved either at  the underpass or bridge crossing.

2.10.  The on-road conecting routes to the Chisholm Trail are all substandard, including :
Coldhams Lane east ( north and south sides ),
Cromwell Road –
Newmarket Road – east and west –
Abbey Pool entrance road
At present it is these issues where cycling provision requires greater improvements.

2.11.  The widening across Coldham’s Common appears to be based principally on the basis that it needs to be wider “because it does”.  However it is perfectly adequate for present purposes.  We believe that the existing paths and widths are proportional to its’ level use and retaining its’ undeveloped character.

3.  Lack of information on environmental impacts

3.1.  Coldham’s Common is a registered common with commoner’s rights for all Cambridge citizens. Ownership is vested in all Cambridge citizens and held in trust by the city corporation.  The common enjoys special legal protection on this basis.  The scheme will impact the common rights holders and the quiet enjoyment of this open space.

3.2.  Coldham’s Common is a County Wildlife Site and contains a number of significant species e.g. spiny restharrow and Cetti’s warbler as well as species-rich grassland, chalk stream and scrub habitats.

3.3.  The Leper Chapel is a Grade 1 listed building and additional surveys on the serious impacts of the scheme are being carried out.  This was not indicated in the consultation.

3.4.  Coldham’s Common is a major Cambridge greenspace with an undeveloped character and significant wildlife and heritage interest.  Its landscape character makes it a highly valued area of Accessible Natural Greenspace.

3.5.  A significant proportion of the common has been taken by city for use as recreational areas. There are at least two blocked or obstucted footpaths on common , and significant lengths ( ~ 3.5km ) of illegal and/or unnecessary fencing

3.6.  Despite the sensitive environments through which the route passes, no information was supplied during the consultation on the potential environmental impacts.  We do not believe that the City Deal has considered this point.

4. Lack of information on costs

4.1.  Despite requests, no information was supplied as to the costs of the scheme or its cost-benefit ratios.  We do not believe that the City Deal has considered this point.  This information is essential for an informed decision by the public on the scheme.

5. Lack of proper consultation

5.1. We do not believe that the consultation has been conducted properly. We note that as part of the consultation that as per previous sections :

1. There was inadequate or contradictory information on the objectives or purpose of scheme
2. There was no information on the standards that were trying to be achieved
3. There was no information on the environmental impacts
4. There was no information on the scheme’s costs or cost-benefit ratios.

5.2.  We note that the decision to proceed with planning for the Abbey-Chesterton Bridge was made prior to the close of the consultation and was prejudicial, reducing the consultation to a farce.  We also note that compulsory purchase powers were gained at that meeting, creating a climate of fear for consultees with affected land.

5.3.  We note that the web link to further information was not working during the consultation period : http://www.gccitydeal.co.uk/citydeal/info/2/transport/1/transport/6
with this being the target page : http://www.gccitydeal.co.uk/chisholm-trail2

5.4.  We note that the information from the public consultation events did not match that on any links of the website.  The design appears to have been altered from the original study.

5.5.  We note that during the middle period of consultation online that consultees were obliged to provide their name and address before their comments could be validated.

5.6.  We believe that all these matters above are prejudicial to an informed consultation with the public.

Recommendation

5.7.  We recommend that the public consultation is rerun with the indicated failures rectified.

6.  Comment on individual scheme elements

We will now provide comment on individual scheme elements.

Commentary on Newmarket Road proposals

6.1.  There is an existing pelican crossing on Newmarket Road, which serves adequately.  This has a maximum 30s trigger, with the average crossing time probably being 15s at busy periods.  The crossing also serves bicycle traffic and pedestrians going up and down Newmarket Rd on north and south side, for crossing to Mercer Row, for crossing to Ditton Walk and on football matches.  The underpass cannot replicte these flows for pedestrians and cyclists.

6.2.  Ditton Walk is a wide, pleasant and very quiet street with employment areas and a number of heritage assets, such as the maltings.  Mercers Row is a key employment area and links to Green Dragon Bridge and the riverside by existing cycleways.  Neither of these areas are linked to the present scheme properly.

6.3.  The proposed new underpass would have significant issues in that it only serves north-south route and is likely to be unsafe or unused after dark.  This is significant given its £1.5m to £2.5m price tag, and we do not believe that it can achieve a positive cost-benefit ratio.

6.4.  The new underpass requires an additional cycleway creation to link to underpass.  This- crosses an area used by breeding Cetti’s and will destroy part of a County Wildlife Site, and urbanise the northern end of the common.

6.5.  We are concerned about all the development, especially the underpass, and its impact on the setting of a Grade 1 listed building.

Commentary on proposals for Barnwell Lake

6.6.  The proposals for the lake are unclear, but it has been stated that here could be developed : “a series of public facilities including a car park, publically [sic ] accessible toilets, café and restaurant all to act as a central base for the public visiting the Chapel, Coldhams Common and Ditton Meadows. “

6.7.  The proposed café and car park location is not tenable. The vehicle access is substandard due to lack of visibility splays and lack of a feeder lane. The site is within the greenbelt and floodplain and is not suitable for development. Any development could not be restricted and would likely to lead to later change of use to housing. We are concerned about its effects upon the wildlife and landscape character of the common and the lakes.

6.8.  Construction of the underpass will require partial or full closure of Newmarket Road for construction. We have been told this would only be a full closure for 1-2 weeks, but partial closure is likely to parallel the Hills Road bridge for its impact on the city traffic.

Recommendation

6.9.  We suggest that the existing pelican crossing is used and that the route connects to Mercers Road by improving the railway crossing on the north side, and via the existing cycleway along Ditton Walk to Stourbridge.

7.  The main route north to south

7.1.  The existing route widths stated in consultation are incorrect and misleading : the present width is not 1-2m, but in fact 1.8 to 2.2m. This width is not substandard as implied, as there are no established single standards. Furthermore the existing width is comparable to the recently installed routes on Fen Ditton Meadows ( route ) and the proposed access from the Abbey-Chesterton Bridge westwards to and from Stourbridge Common.

7.2.  We note that under the railway linking Fen Ditton Meadows to Stourbridge Common, which is presently 1.5m wide, that a 2m width ( 1.5m functional width ) is acceptable.

7.3.  The levels of traffic are relatively low and the present width is fit for purpose.  We note that the width when installed was deemed “ fit for purpose” and that there is a danger of ever widening it simply to adhere to the latest fad in standards.

7.4.  With respect to the Cambridge East main drain crossing, we welcome repairs to this culvert . We have no idea what “visibility improvements” mean. We note that the- trees planted here were put in by a previous city council scheme.

7.5.  We note that there are some narrow sections on the existing path.  These were caused by ditch clearance with slubbings being put placed onto the path.  At the worst section, this reduces the width to 1.3m.   We also note that the path has never been properly maintained. This is especially an issue just north of underpass.

Recommendation :
7.6.  We suggest that the path is restored to existing limits by removing vegetation and earth spoil from it, and carrying out adequate repairs and maintenance.

8.  Railway underpass – “the Cattle Creep”

8.1.  This underpass is the “Cattle Creep” and is Victorian and allowed cattle movement under the line from one side to the other. Cattle grids and fencing were installed relatively recently to prevent cattle standing under the line.

8.2.  We welcome acceptance of our suggestion to rearrange access to improve visibility at entrances, where the cycle and pedestrian routes cross .  We do not believe that increasing height by 20cm is value for money and furthermore note that this may also cause drainage issues. The existing height clearance is adequate and means that cyclists slow down when passing.

8.3.  The present width is 2.1m, but we note that the effective width of this underpass is less than 1m – as such it is an obvious bottleneck, which reduces value considerably of widening path on common.  Proper underpass widening is said to cost £5m, but if the underpass is not widened, then widening of the rest of path seems valueless.

8.4.  The underpass is badly lit on south side. This is as a result of bad location of new lamp posts. We suggest that additional lighting would be of assistance,

Recommendation

We suggest that the underpass is better lit, and that the approaches are sorted out where the cycle and pedestrian routes cross.

Abbey Pool branch

8.5. This is the most used section on the common.  As well as others, it is used both for the pool and for people going to school in both directions. Some sections were poorly installed and have now failed. None of this section has been maintained, but appears to be about 1.8 to 2m in width.

8.6. It connects to the Abbey Pool car park, but this pool access road is very badly maintained and laid out with issues with flooding and broken kerbstones. The present layout is not fit for purpose and presents a risk to children and pedestrians.

8.7. We also note that the pubic footpath leading from the car park north of the pool to the play area has been obstructed by the council.

Recommendation

8.8. We recommend that the entire Abbey Pool car park is repaired and redesigned to allow safe access to the pool.

8.9. We want the obstructed public footpath reopened.

Southern end onto Coldham’s Lane

8.10. The present Coldhams Lane has an existing crossing, which has a 90 second cycle.  Waiting time is therefore likely to be about 45 seconds, described as “ difficult with long delays”. This junction provides access to Cromwell Road, east along Coldhams Lane, onto the playground and main common, onto the footpath across common to railway bridge, west on cycle bridge to Beehive centre and Newmarket Rd.  This junction is well designed and relatively recent.

8.11. The proposal for the new link to Brampton Rd destroys and urbanises part of common along its Coldhams Lane frontage.  It will require additional cattle grids or enclosure of part of common. The- new crossing point will create additional congestion on Coldham’s Lane and is dangerously close to an existing junction.

8.12. Furthermore- Brampton Rd is too narrow to support safe cycle route due to parked cars.  We are suspicious that this proposal is an attempt to grab part of the common for junction widening.  The proposal is wholly unnecessary and unjustified.

8.13. We suggest that a higher priority issue on Coldhams Lane ( higher than the improvements across the common ) is lack of adequate provision east-west along it. The present cycleway is ~1.2m wide and substandard and dangerous. Furthermore it is used by many children. We suggest that any cycleway could easily be placed on the existing wide road verge ( measured as 3.5m + 1.2m on road ) and that money spent on removing or relocating BT lines and signage where necessary.

8.14.  We note that on Cromwell Road, the cycle lane put in about 4 years ago has recently disappeared. We suggest that this is restored and suggest that speed calming measures are done again.

Recommendation

8.15. We object strongly to a slice from the common being taken along Coldhams Lane and believe this is a stupid idea as both the proposed crossing point and Brampton Road route are unsuitable for a cycleway.

8.16.  We recommend that a cycleway could easily be placed on the existing wide road verge ( measured as 3.5m + 1.2m on road ) to provide an adequate cycling along the whole length of Coldham’s Lane.

8.17.  We recommend that the “disappeared” Cromwell Road cycle lane be restored and suggest that speed calming measures are done again.

Concluding remarks

8.18.  The scheme consultation has provided no information on the scheme’s purpose, environmental impacts, costs, cost-benefits, proposed levels of use, or any details of design.  The consultation period was prejudiced by the decision on the Abbey-Chesterton Bridge, and by the requirement to submit personal information.

8.19.  The impacts of the scheme on the ecology, heritage and landscape character of the common are all significant, and unjustified.  There are significant impacts on a registered common, on a County Wildlife Sites, on ecological networks, on heritage assets ( including on a Grade 1 Listed building ) and on character of an important open greenspace.  The scheme will impact on common rights holders and the enjoyment of the common by the public. The project is contrary to emerging local plan policies on preservation of the green belt and protection and enhancement of wildlife

8.20.  We note that the majority of cycling provision in city is substandard and that there is no coherent connecting network.   Short sections of “improvement” abandon cyclists once they meet dangerous areas.

8.21.  The scheme cannot achieve any established standards for a quality commuter route and connects with a substandard on-road environment, including :
Coldhams Lane east ( north and south sides ),
Cromwell Road –
Newmarket Road – east and west –
Abbey Pool entrance road
At present it is these areas where cycling provision requires greater improvements and is of a higher priority.

8.22. There is no present intention by the county council for a rolling program of re-surfacing, and the potholes on Romsey roads are chronic. Without that coupled with adequate lighting and less aggressive motorists, the project is a terrible waste of public money.  If the county do not have the cash to maintain present roads and infrastructure, where the maintenance funds for all this extra stuff be found?

8.23.  It is therefore meaningless to invest money where makes no economic sense and has very significant environmental impacts.  This is the case for this scheme.

8.24. We suggest therefore that existing widths are maintained as it and that localised cost-effective improvements made.

8.25. We suggest that money is invested higher impact investments elsewhere e.g. Mill Road Bridge, where the environmental and heritage impacts are minimal or in “less sexy” options such as cleaning drains or fixing potholes.  We note that the latter is an acceptable use of Section 106 money.

8.26.  The consultation has been inadequate. The scheme is wasteful of public money and environmentally destructive. We will legally oppose any proposed works on Coldham’s Common where necessary in the owners’, common right holders’ or public interest.

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One Response to Our response to the Chisholm Trail consultation

  1. Pingback: New Chesterton Bridge threatens Ditton Meadows | Friends of Coldham's Common

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