Section 38 application for cycleway and compounds on the common

The text below is the document sent to the Planning Inspectorate.   We had to patch this together based on our best guess of what the council were saying. The documents are here : City Deal application for works on common May 2017

23.6.17

Dear Sir/Madam

Application by Cambridgeshire County Council for Section 38 works on CL61 Coldham’s Common Cambridge.

I write in response to the Cambridgeshire County Council application for Section 38 works on the common.  We received some of the documents on 4 June; the application form from the council on 8 June and the full CL register entry on 21 June.

We have nevertheless attempted to respond in the available timeframe, but would request that we are reconsulted with additional information on the application.  We apologise for any typos as we have had to prepare the document at short notice with partial information.

Lack of information and prematurity

Firstly I would like to observe that the application as made lacks sufficient details of the works.  This is not a minor point, but occurs throughout the application and makes informed response very difficult.

No details are given on the ecology, landscape or historic interest of the area. The application affects close to 1 hectare of the common and will restrict or alter access to one of its major north-south axes.  No details are given as to how these rights of way will be affected – either temporarily or permanently.

We have set out additional comments on lack of information on an appendix to this document.

The application is presently the subject of a planning permission application, which has been delayed due to its inconsistences and deficiencies in information provided.  Furthermore many of the details ( e.g. design and layout of the scheme or mitigation for tree felling and wildlife ) are not yet confirmed.  The application is therefore premature before any planning permission decision and would prejudice such as decision.

We request that additional information is supplied by the applicant so that informed comment can be made on their application.

Legal right to carry out works

The applicant has no legal right that they have demonstrated to carry out the works.  They are not the owner of the land, will affect tracks and a culvert that do not belong to them and are carrying out works that are not on a public right of way.

We request that the applicant shows their legal right to carry out the works.

Fencing interfering with Rights of Way

The local highway authority should be consulted where fencing on common land would interfere with the use of any right of way.  Consent under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006 does not authorise interference with any right of way (see section 38(9)).

To the best of our knowledge the applicant has not supplied any information as to how these works will modify, extinguish or create public rights of way.

This is particularly vital as the rights of way concerned are a key existing route between Coldhams Lane and the Abbey ward.  Temporary closure would involve substantial detours via Barnwell Road or Newmarket Road, including for children travelling to local schools and people walking to the Beehive Centre, a major retail park.

Consultation

The applicant indicates that the scheme has been subject to public consultation.

However it is our understanding that the public consultation was based on an entirely different scheme e.g. with a connection to Abbey Pool and lacked any substantial information on the environmental effects.  For example Coldhams Common was not identified as common land or a Local Wildlife Site.  No details were ever provided of construction works.

We also note that there was significant criticism of the consultation, in particular that it was heavily biased in its questions. We are happy to provide additional evidence on these matters if requested.

We dispute that consultation has been carried out on the matters contained within this application.

Requests for rejection of application or delay until planning permission

We believe that either :

  1. the application should be rejected as premature
  2. the period for response should be extended to 28 days after planning is determined

If you should wish to continue with the application prior to planning, then we suggest the following :

  • that all documents submitted with the planning application are taken into account
  • that all public responses to the planning application are requested from the local authority and taken into account.

Request for a public inquiry

There are over 208 documents associated with the planning application, which extends over 5.75 hectares.  The rights of way across the site are used as an access route by local people, including to local schools, shops and sports facilities, and a registered  football association club.  The site has complex use by multiple user groups. The works are directly next to a group of four listed buildings, including a Grade 1 listed building, within a green belt and directly adjacent to a Conservation Area. The works affect a river course.  The site is a Local Wildlife Site, and adjacent to two more Local Wildlife Sites.  The vicinity of the site supports protected species including otters and bats.  The application has the potential for significant in-combination and cumulative effects with other elements of the project.

The site is environmentally sensitive and there is the potential for significant impact from construction.

None of these complexities are dealt with in the application, but also make the case very legally complex to determine.

We request that a full public inquiry is called on the project.

Objection to application as made

We therefore wish to object to the application as submitted based  :

  • on lack of clarity on what works are being applied for
  • on lack of supporting information on ecology, landscape and historic environment
  • on the basis of interference with owners and commoners rights
  • on the basis of the impacts on ecology, landscape, historic environment
  • on the basis that right of access will be affected on both a temporary and permanent basis.
  • on the consequent impacts on the neighbourhood
  • on lack of legal basis for application
  • on prematurity since the applicant does not yet have planning permission

We believe that the scheme fails to demonstrate any additionality over the existing facilities on the common.  Repairs to the existing footpaths do not require Section 38 permission by the responsible authority.

Please contact me if you have further queries or require further information.

Your sincerely

 

Chris Smith

Chair, Friends of Coldhams Common

Cc Kate Ashbrook, Open Spaces Society

 


 

Section    Q       Narrative

A                1

B1              2        The applicant is a transport planner with Cambridgeshire County Council.

3

B2           4              It is important to note that ownership is not invested in the city council, but citizens of Cambridge as well.

The City Council is not the owner of the land.  The land is owned by citizens of Cambridge but held in charitable trust as set out in the 1807 Enclosure Award for St Andrew the Lesser.

 

C             5a           This question has not been answered.

Comment 1 : We request that it is answered.

5b           This question has not been answered.

Comment 2 : We request that it is answered.

5c            The extract from the Cambridge Act is not relevant within this section.

This section fails to identify who the common rights holders are.

Comment 3 : We would add the following points of information :

The rights are owned by “The Mayor Aldermen and the Citizens of the City of Cambridge.  This group are owners in trust for themselves and the inhabitants of the City of Cambridge”  The rights are not attached to a land parcel. Grazing is 1 April to 30 November.

The Common Rights are set out in the 1807 Inclosure Act for St Andrews the Lesser and subsequent award.  The rights are held by all Cambridge citizens. “ which Plot or Parcel of Land or Ground shall be held, stocked, and enjoyed by such last-mentioned Owners or Proprietors and their respective Tenants and Occupiers, of the said Messuages and Cottages, as a Common Pasture…..”

Please see attached an analysis from Peter Glazebrook on the relevant law surrounding the rights.

D             6              Cambridge City Council did not advertise grazing in 2016 for 2017.   The Cambridge citizens as common rights holders also exercise their rights as landowners and for “enjoyment” of the land as such [ see above ]

The grazing is normally awarded without advert.

I requested to be considered for grazing on the land on 04 October 2016 21:34 by e-mail to Anthony French at Cambridge City Council.

7              Comment 4 : We would add the following points of information :

 

All Cambridge citizens have a right of access over the common under XXXX

Cambridge United Football Club have no registered right of access onto the common, but this may be of right

Utility companies do not have a right to run utilities across the common, except by application to the Secretary of State. The council has granted wayleaves to teh water company and

There are wayleaves granted by City Council for utilities across the common. We cannot comment on their legality.

The City Council appear to have leased some of the sports facilities on the common (the all weather pitch, possibly storage containers ) to a management company. We cannot comment on the legality of this.

Parts of the common are used as camping for the Cambridge Folk Festival run by a charitable trust. We cannot comment on the legality of this.

The City may periodically lease parts of the common to commercial graziers, but we cannot comment on this as we are unsure.

The City sells or allows hay cuts from parts of the common on an annual basis.

                              The main ditch running through the common and Coldhams Brook are both main drains maintained by Cambridge City under its responsibilities as a drainage authority.  These ditches drain much of East Cambridge.  They have a right of access to maintain these ditches.

8              The applicant has ticked “other structure(s)”, “ditch(es),trench(es), embankment(s)” and “other works”.   They state that “An existing life expired bridge structure (culvert) which would normally be replaced under general maintenance will be replaced as part of the works in order to reduce disruption. Safety fencing is to be erected during the works and removed afterwards. ”

We are unclear what the applicant is referring to by ticking three boxes.

Are they referring three times to the bridge replacement or to other works ?

What are the “Other structures” ?

What are the “ditches, trenches, embankments ?

Comment 5 : Please can the applicant provide clarity on this point.

There is a culvert within the common that is used to move stock and machinery within the site.

Safety fencing “is to be erected during the works and removed afterwards”. There is no specification for what this refers to, where it will be erected or how long it will be put up for ?

Comment 6 : Please can the applicant provide clarity on this point.

                 9              There is no proper map showing the extent of the works ( temporary or permanent ) or the location of fencing (temporary or permanent). This is fundamental to being able to comment on the application.

Comment 7 : We request that the applicant supplies a map showing the extent of these works.

Responding to the question of area of the works, the applicant responds “Approx 9400m2 (enclosing the area of works and a safe working area adjacent)”.

 Comment 8 : Please can we be informed of the exact area and what the permanent area of the works is versus the construction area ? 

Please can the applicant specify the exact area or the maximum area.

                              Responding to the length of fencing the applicant states “Approx 1950m fencing (mostly temporary fencing on both sides of the path works)”.

Comment 9 Please can we be informed of the exact length for which they are applying and what proportion of this is temporary ? 

10           The applicant states in response to how long temporary works will be needed that these are : “Temporary fencing over 18 weeks during construction. Temporary fencing will be moved as the works progress. At any one time the area enclosed by the temporary fencing and the length of temporary fencing will be much less then the figures above. Short lengths of permanent fencing will be installed near and on bridges and cattle grids.” 

It is our understanding that the length of works is approx. 36 weeks, but that the maximum allowable period by the SoS for works affecting public footpaths is 18 weeks.

Comment 10 : We would appreciate from the applicant a detailed construction programme from the applicant to understand how the proposed works would be phased in order to make an informed response.

The applicant states that fencing will be moved as the works progresses, but provides neither a programme nor an indication of where the fencing wil be placed ?  This is quite significant as to its impact and at least some approximation should be provided.

Comment 11 : Please can the applicant provide details of a timetable and where the fencing will be placed.

11     There are no existing Section 38 applications on this part of the common.

The applicant indicates that the application is not for works that have already been carried out.

However later in the application they refer to widening of existing sealed paths or tracks, which are not on the alignment of existing rights of way, replacement of an existing culvert and replacement of existing gates and cattle grids.

Comment 12 : We would request from the applicant an indication of who carried out these works, when and under what legal authority.  We would also request clarity from the applicant as to which works are on an existing right of way and which are not.

E                 12     See below

13     See below

14           No consideration of the visual impacts is given, and no mitigation is provided.  The works will alter the landscape character of the common by creating an exceptionally wide cycle path across it and then also creating additional paths and associated paraphernalia.  Soil stripping, tree felling and construction compounds are all elements that are alluded to in the planning application, but not dealt with in Q14.

F              15           The proposed replacement parapet is much higher than that of the existing culvert.  There needs to be an explanation of why this is necessary as it is visually instrusive.

 Comment 13: Please can the applicant provide clarity on this point.

G             16           The applicant needs to separate permanent from temporary fencing.  There is no specified layout or lengths for either so it is difficult to add further comment.

Permanent fencing is presumably associated with grazing of the common and seems to be just the sides to bridges ( which are covered in Section D1 ?).  However we are unclear whether splays are also suggested ?

Comment 14 : Please can the applicant provide clarity on this point of splays.

Permanent fencing on the underpass was to prevent animals congregating here and causing a nuisance.  The fencing either side is maintained by Network Rail.

Temporary fencing is associated with construction and compounds and is Heras fencing.

Without any details, we cannot therefore comment on why the length proposed is appropriate or why particular lengths are necessary.

The applicant needs to specify what is being provided for public access e.g. gates within the fencing either temporary or permanent

Comment 15 : Please can the applicant provide clarity on this point.

H             17           The application is strongly focused on cyclists.  Alternatives to cattle grids on some entrances could include additional swing gates or squeezes.

Comment 16: We make the following observations.  The council could construct the works when grazing rights are not being exercised i.e. November to March as per register.  The council could then use less substantial fencing e.g. plastic barriers as works are not deep.

The council could restrict grazing to certain sections of the common during the works also removing the need for Heras fencing.  However since we do not know the extent of works or timings these are difficult to determine.

I               18           If the measures outlined are not agreed, then no measures have been taken.

The undertaking to keep the fencing up for “as short a duration as possible” is not enforceable.

Comment 17 : Please can the applicant provide details of what measures they have taken.

J                  19     Comment 17a : As per form please supply details of the number, type and locations in suitable diagrams.  Are existing gates and cattle grids replaced like for like ?  No confirmation is given of which gates and cattle grids remain “unchanged”, especially access gates for vehicles.   Will some be temporarily removed to allow formation of access routes and haul routes ?

20     The applicant did not have planning permission on the date on which we needed to reply to the application and consultation was still open.

21     No comment

22     No comment

23     No comment

24     Comment 18 : We would comment that we have recently succeeded in having substantial lengths of fencing with unclear legal merit removed from the common.  We comment that there are substantial lengths of surfaced paths which have no apparent legal basis, but are used as existing paths without impediment.  We comment that the north-south track appears to originate as a cattle track and access road and not as a project of the county council.

25     No comment

26     No comment

27           Comment 19 :  Works will exclude right of access due to fencing and works to the culvert and underpass on a temporary basis.

Works by altering the weight limit to the culvert will restrict rights of access on a permanent basis.

It is unclear how the access rights are affected to Newmarket Road and Coldhams Lane

We objects on the basis that right of access will be affected on both a temporary and permanent basis.

We object on the basis of the interference with the weight limits and use of the culvert [ detailed further below ]

28     No comment

29     No comment

30     We would request to see a copy of the advert, which was not supplied to us.

31

32     We were not supplied with a copy of the commons register until later requested.

33     No comments.

34     The form originally supplied to us was not signed or dated. We have been sent a second copy. We would appreciate confirmation that this was the copy as submitted.

 


Response to Q12

 

There is no proposals map with the application to show works. The following text is copied from the provided details.  The details do not make clear which works have already been carried out.

No details are provided which separate works on public rights of way from those works that are not.

Comment 20 :  Please can the applicant provide further details so that we can make informed comment.

“The proposed works involve the widening of an existing path, the construction of a new path, the replacement of an existing culvert with a new bridge, the re-aligning of existing paths and the removal of some unneeded sections of path, together with associated bridge, gate and cattle grid arrangements. “

“The proposed works are linked to other works beyond the Common as part of a cross-city walking and cycling route in Cambridge.

Starting at Coldhams Lane the proposals are:”

  • To realign and reduce the width of some of the existing path between Coldhams Lane and the existing subway under the Cambridge-Newmarket railway line. “

Comment 21 :  Over what length is the footpath width being reduced ? Where is it being realigned ?  Also it seems peculiar to reduce widths. Please can the applicant provide details.

The access from Coldhams Lane is used to bring machinery and stock on, which is then stood on the adjacent widened section.  Removing the section directly adjacent to the gate will affect this.

  • To regrade and re-align the path under the Cambridge-Newmarket railway line, including replacing the existing cattle grids and gates.

Comment 22 :  There are no proper details for this.  The path is known historically as the Cattle Creep and is used for moving cattle from the north to the south side of the railway line.  It has an existing field gate on both side to allow this to occur, which is not mentioned in the application.

  • To widen and re-align the existing path between the Cambridge- Newmarket railway line and an existing culvert.

Comment 23 :  There are no details of what is proposed in terms of realignment or what increase in width there will be. Please can the applicant provide these.

  • To re-align an existing path from Pool Way near the railway underpass.

Comment 19 :  We wish it to be noted that :  This path is a public right of way of right, and a significant link from Coldhams Lane to the leisure facility at Pool Way as well as local schools.

  • To replace an existing culvert with a new bridge (10m span and width 4.5m) and re-align the path in the vicinity.

Comment 24 :  We wish it to be noted that : These works involve tree felling and installation of a temporary haul route to cross the drain, but neither are detailed.  The culvert is not on a public right of way and is part of the north-south track used for access for grazing and management.  Presently it can take the weight of a reasonably heavy vehicle.  The former crossing point for the public right of way, which provided access to the open air baths was further east and its bridge foundations appear still be visible.

Please can the applicant confirm that vehicle access will be possible over this bridge.

  • To widen the existing path from the existing culvert/ new bridge to Newmarket Road.

Comment 25 :  The applicant provides no details of existing widths.

The applicant also proposes to relocate lamp posts and cabling along this section as well, which are not noted.

The applicant may interfere with the adjacent Coldhams Brook along this length and need to move part of a berm, which may contain water voles and contains Crassula helmsii.

Please can the applicant confirm what the works proposed are with a suitable supporting diagrame.

  • To construct a new path from the existing path near the Abbey Stadium across the Common to a new bridge across Coldhams Brook to link to land near Barnwell Lake. The new bridge is to have an associated cattle grid and gate on the Common and will have a span of 16m and a width of 4.5m.”

Comment 26 :  Barnwell Lake is a Local Wildlife Site, which will be used by the applicant as a construction compound.

We understand that Barnwell Lake is privately owned, but that it is the owner’s intention to develop it for retail and a café, based on this link as an access.  This spur links to a proposed underpass.  There is presently no link between this underpass and the south side of Newmarket Road.  Within the planning application the applicant appears to aspire to opening up a new access to the Cambridge United stadium, which would result in a footpath from the stadium to the footbridge.

The applicant will have to access from a construction compound onto the common. No details of where this access will be formed are given. Please can the applicant supply details of the location of any compounds and the proposed access routes for construction ?

“The path is to be mostly 3.5m wide with timber edging and an asphalt finish approximately at the existing path or ground level, except:”

Comment 27 :  The existing path width where there is a Public Right of Way is we understand 4 foot.   The proposed width is a massive increase and out of keeping with the locality.

No details are given as to drainage and to whether it will be cambered.

  • At the approach to and under the railway where the path width will vary to suit the existing underpass and approach paths.

Comment 28 :  What does this mean in terms of widths ?   Does this mean they will taper and if so over what distance ?

“• At the approach to bridges and cattle grids where the path width will vary to tie in with the structures.”

Comment 29 :  What does this mean in terms of widths ?  Are the referring only to the bridge ?  Does this mean they will taper and if so over what distance ? Please can the applicant confirm what the works proposed are with a suitable supporting diagram.

  • At the Newmarket Road end of the Common where the path width will be 2.5m.

 

Comment 30 :  The applicant has not indicated the arrangement for the Newmarket Road entrances or existing widths. Please can the applicant confirm what the works proposed are with a suitable supporting diagram.

“Where the existing path is to be widened it will be widened with a new subbase typically 150mm deep adjacent to the existing path and with a new surface across the whole widened path. Where a completely new path is to be built a new dig will form a subbase of approximately 150mm with a new asphalt surface over. Excess materials will be removed from the Common.  Where the existing path is to be re-aligned or narrowed areas of the Common will be re-instated to grassland with an appropriate seed mix. “

Comment 31 :  There are no drainage details given.

The common is a Local Wildlife Site and parts a Local Nature Reserve.  The grassland is a significant feature of designations

“Where cattle grids and bridges are to be installed the works will involve significant local digs to form the bridge abutments or to position the cattle grids. The bridge abutments will be formed of concrete and piling with the final details to be determined following detailed ground surveys on site.“

Comment 32 :  We presume this applies to all the bridges. The bridge abutments are a key feature of its visual appearance.  Please can the applicant confirm their appearance and details ?

“Typical bridge and cattle grid sections are attached to this form. (Drawings P_5041030_BR_GA_201_B , P_5041030_BR_GA_500_C, P_5041030_HW_CCWC_106_A).  “

Comment 33 :  Are these actual designs or illustrative ? Please can the applicant confirm.

Comment 34 :  We note that on one diagram there are two cattle grid entrances on some bridges spanning to Barnwell Lakes and on another only one.  Please can there be clarity on what the arrangements are.

 

 

Q13 : Explain why the proposed works are needed and how they fulfil the criteria set out in Section 39 of the Commons Act 2006.

The applicant should refer to the DEFRA guidance for this section. The criteria used to decide the application are set out in section 39 of the 2006 Act. These are the consideration of :

(a) the interests of persons having rights in relation to, or occupying, the land (and in particular persons exercising rights of common over it);

(b) the interests of the neighbourhood;

(c) the public interest, which includes the public interest in:

  • nature conservation
  • the conservation of the landscape
  • the protection of public rights of access to any area of land ( not just the application area ), and
  • the protection of archaeological remains and features of historic interest;

(d) any other matter considered relevant.

PINS will apply these criteria in the light of Defra’s policy objective of managing, improving or protecting the common and of maintaining its traditional uses and with reference to Defra’s policy guidance.

The applicant has not presently either supporting evidence or clearly demonstrated how the proposed works meet the criteria. They have provided no details whatsoever of any of the bullet points under (c).

(a) the interests of persons having rights in relation to, or occupying, the land (and in particular persons exercising rights of common over it);

The  owners  and common rights holders( i.e. all citizens of Cambridge ) will have their rights to free enjoyment of the land including grazing and access reduced by the works.  Without further detail on what the applicant is applying for, then the extent of this is impossible to determine.

The County Council have considered that the land is their property and they have no legal interest in the land.

(b) the interests of the neighbourhood;

The SoS has been advised that he should not consider whether any application for consent will be of future benefit for the neighbourhood but whether it has regard to protecting the existing benefit arising from the common in its present state. [ Clayden 2007 ].

Where there is no apparent “benefit of the neighbourhood”and the purpose of the development is  to provide  private benefit then it should be turned down as per Coldharbour Common (DETR 18/6/99 ref CYF 1077/1056 ).

The path seems to be primarily installed for the private benefit of the owner of Barnwell Lakes and the owner of the Leper Chapel, neither of whom are allowing open access to their land.  The neighbourhood is already served by an existing point and adequate crossing point on Newmarket Road.

(c) the public interest, which includes the public interest in:

  • nature conservation
  • the conservation of the landscape
  • the protection of public rights of access to any area of land ( not just the application area ), and
  • the protection of archaeological remains and features of historic interest;

The common is a Local Wildlife Site, contains priority habitat, priority species ( water voles), protected species ( e.g. Cettis warbler ) European protected species ( bats/ otters )  and is identified within the local plan as of wildlife value.

The common is designated in the local plan as green belt and an open space.   It is also part of a small river valley ( Coldhams Brook ). The site is of landscape value as a large undeveloped open greenspace with significant tranquillity and semi-natural character within an urban matrix.

The application does not set out sufficient detail to say how public rights of access will be affected e.g. diversions or impediments.

No information is provided on archaeology or historic interest. The application site is directly adjacent to a group of listed buildings.

The site is clearly sensitive and we believe that there will be impacts on the public interest from it.

“The proposed works are needed for a number of reasons, which overlap:

“1. There is an existing path across Coldhams Common that is already busy and needs maintenance and the need for improvements for the benefit of walkers and cyclists have been identified along the path. This is in the interest of those having rights to use the path which is a public footpath and a permissive cycle route. “

Section 38 consent is not required for maintenance of existing rights of way.  The council does not have the legal right to maintain unadopted paths on the common.

Comment 35 :  Please can the applicant detail by whom the need for improvements have been demonstrated and which improvements they referred to from the list of works applied for ?

We often visit the common on a daily basis, sometimes twice or three times daily and use this path.  The description of the path having reached capacity does not accord with our personal experiences, and therefore in our opinion the need for widening [ to an extent that is presently not specified by the application ] is not justified.

We do not feel that the works are needed or justified on this basis.

“2. An existing culvert is in need of repair. Replacing this culvert with a bridge as part of other works will minimise future disruption and will improve the habitat for wildlife.

The existing culvert is a vehicle access route and not on a public right of way.  It is unclear if the County Council has the authority to replace this as it is not their property.

The culvert replacement by a non-vehicle bridge will have a deleterious impact on commoners by preventing vehicle access for management.

Since access from the public highway is possible to this section of the common via the culvert, removal of the culvert affects access for the landowner and common rights holders. [ Pool Way is not a public road, although there may be a right of acess ]

It may also create issue for the police and emergency services since it would leave only a single access to the west side of the stadium and much of this area of the common. Emergency services often arrive via the wrong entrance ( since the common is a large place ) and need to be able to drive across as much as possible.

To replace the culvert with a bridge requires tree felling and the construction of a temporary haul route.  The loss of habitat and trees have not been justified.  The area of the culvert was within the territory of a breeding Cettis warbler and the ditch it crosses has otter spraints ( pers obs C Smith 2017).

We do not feel that the works are needed or justified on this basis, but furthermore has an obvious deleterious effect on access for the landowner and commons rights holders.

  1. A strategic need has been identified to make improved provision for cyclists and walkers along a south-west/ north-east corridor through Cambridge. This proposal known as the Chisholm Trail addresses deficiencies in the walking and cycling network along a corridor of major growth and demand, which includes Cambridge Station and the CB1 development, Cambridge North Station and Cambridge Science Park.

The proposal is included in Cambridge City Council Planning Policies and has been supported by the Greater Cambridge City Deal, with £8.4 million of City Deal funding allocated to the scheme. On top of this funding has been allocated from various sources to the proposed £4.5m Abbey Chesterton Bridge.  After many years of investigating options and public consultation a route across Coldhams Common has been identified as the best option. 

Works are needed to improve walking and cycling links across Cambridge to support the economic growth of the City, to encourage sustainable transport and to provide alternatives to the private car. This is in the wider public interest.

Comment 36 :  The applicant needs to indicate the specific benefit of this scheme to the present neighbourhood.  Future economic growth would not be a suitable reason for this since the benefits do not accrue to the neighbourhood. The applicant needs to demonstrate the additionality of their application for the benefit of the neighbourhood if that is their argument.

The Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire Local Plans are presently the subject of public examination by PINS within which the approach to transport planning is a major topic.

The applicant states that “After many years of investigating options and public consultation a route across Coldhams Common has been identified as the best option.  “

Actually the route alignment is only partly finished and has no designated alignment south of the common that can complete the route.  There is already a route across Coldhams Common and an adequate crossing point on Newmarket Road.

Furthermore ( since the works are subject to a planning permission application which is not yet determined ) the opinion remains the opinion of the applicant.

We do not believe that the works are justified based on the presumption that simply having wider paths is better or based on the need to spend funds.

“4. There are a number of open spaces in this area, which include Coldhams Common, Barnwell Lake, land near the Leper Chapel (Chapel of St Mary Magdalene), parts of the disused former Mildenhall Railway, Ditton Meadows,  Stourbridge Common and the River Cam.

Some of this land is inaccessible and much of it is disconnected, with Newmarket Road (a major road into and out of the City Centre) forming a major barrier.

The proposed works are part of a wider scheme to connect up these open spaces and improve access to these areas.

The best way to do this has been identified as making improvements to the existing path across Coldhams Common and adding a new path to link directly with the other open spaces.

The works are needed in the interests of the neighbourhood and the wider community across Cambridge, who will have much improved access to attractive spaces including a new link between two Commons that does not involve going on a road.  “

Coldhams Common, Ditton Meadows,  Stourbridge Common and the River Cam all have existing good public access, including permissive cycle routes.  Coldhams Common and Stourbridge Common are both registered commons with public right of open access

Barnwell Lake is owned by a private landowner who is seeking to develop it commercially. The council has provided no details of what rights of access will be provided and to what area in this application.

Land near the Leper Chapel (Chapel of St Mary Magdalene) is privately owned by the Cambridge Preservation Society and has no public right of access.  The applicant has provided no details of how access will be enhanced in this application.

The parts of the disused former Mildenhall Railway are in private ownership, including part of a oil depot, and no details are given of what public access will be permitted and on what basis.

“5. The Leper Chapel, also known as the Chapel of St Mary Magdalene, is the oldest complete surviving building in Cambridge and is an important historical landmark. Its position close to Newmarket Road means that it is a prominent part of the local landscape, but is also difficult to access due to the nature of Newmarket Road. “

The application for planning includes a landscape assessment which indicates that the Leper Chapel is not “a prominent part of the local landscape”.   We have contested via comments on the planning application that this it is not the case and that the application for the underpass and Trail should be refused on the basis of its impacts on this Grade 1 and a nearby cluster of Grade 2 listed buildings. .

The Leper Chapel is directly accessible off Newmarket Road, which is well served by walking, buses and cycle routes.   Newmarket Road has a light controlled crossing that operates within a maximum of 30s.   The Leper Chapel is privately owned by the Cambridge Preservation Society and there is no public right of access to it.

The use of the underpass would involve a considerable detour for any visitor parking south of Newmarket Road. These arguments are under discussion within the planning application.

“As part of this project it is proposed to construct an underpass under Newmarket Road and paths linking to this, which includes a new path across Coldhams Common. 

The works are needed in the interests of the neighbourhood and the wider community across Cambridge, who will have much improved access to one of the most important historical buildings in Cambridge. “

The applicant argues that “much improved access to one of the most important historical buildings in Cambridge”.  No details are supplied to support what these might be and there are no proposals in the planning application for an improved access route, which is to a private building.   The planning application is Reg 3 and cannot provide private benefit.

“During consultation about the Chisholm Trail 1,457 consultation responses were received. In addition, 18 responses were received by letter or email. 84.6% supported or strongly supported the Coldham’s Lane & Coldham’s Common part of the Trail. (Consultation Summary Report February 2016)  “

PINS Guidance Note 1 COMMON LAND GUIDANCE SHEET 1aCONSENT TO CONSTRUCT WORKS ON COMMON LAND  states “You should carry out extensive informal consultation before submitting an application. This should help identify objections to the proposal and how it can be amended to overcome them.”

There has been no prior informal consultation on the application.  We believe that the application is being used as a surrogate for proper consultation which is unacceptable.

The consultation which is referred is for the planning application and is a generalised questionnaire that provides no environmental information or indication that the site was a common.   The present scheme design varies substantially from that consulted on and now omits resurfacing or upgrading of the path from the underpass to Pool Way.

The consultation was not confined to the local area and responses are believed to be heavily dominated by those lead by the Cambridge Cycling Campaign, a local lobby group for cycling.

The consultation for the planning application was the subject of three petitions, one of which lead to a full planning forum meeting, and public complaints as to its bias.

Comment 37 :  We suggest that if the applicant wishes to rely on the consultation document that it is submitted along with any objections received.

“The existing path approximately follows a public right of way and widening the path and adding new links is expected to be beneficial for those walking along the public footpath as well as for other users. The way that the public footpath interacts with proposed cattle grids has been carefully considered. Cattle Grids and gates are considered essential to allow cattle to graze the commons in a way that fits well with the human users of the Common.  “

“The works on the Common will generally be of minimal dig and are not expected to have any archaeological impact, but there will be more significant excavations at the cattle grid locations and for the footings for the new bridges. These digs will be carefully monitored for any significant archaeology. The most significant known feature of historic feature is the Leper Chapel, which is not on the Common, but improving access to the Chapel will involve some works on the Common. “

Comment 38 :  The applicant failed to carry out an archaeological or historic environment assessment for the Chisholm Trail planning application.  Please can they provide details of the report on which they are depending for this application.

“In selecting the alignment for the proposed works many options were considered. There are no roads between Coldhams Lane and Newmarket Road in this vicinity. Barnwell Road and Newmarket Road are both major roads, which are a significant detour and are not considered suitable. Coldhams Road is a no-through road with no access from the northern end. It uses a level crossing to cross the Ipswich-Cambridge railway line and is not considered a suitable option. A route following either the Ipswich-Cambridge railway line and/ or the Ely-Cambridge railway line is not considered possible due to the lack of space available and the operational needs of the railway.  “

The argument presented here is a circular one, since whether it is a detour depends on your start and destination.  Barnwell Road has a major existing cycleway which is highly suitable and leads to Addenbrooks and major retail areas.  Newmarket Road has good cycle provision and connections to major retail centres.  Coldhams Land and Newmarket Road meet at a junction just west of the proposed site and lead from there to the city centre.

In our view the present route choice is mainly based on the easiest option as there have been a series of refusals by Network Rail and other landowners to allow use of their land.   The route was not selected as the preferred option by the council and differs markedly from the original vision for the route .

The County Council has repeatedly refused to consider other options for route alignment and design.  An alternative approach “Cheap as Chips Trail” has been repeatedly ignored and requests not minuted at Local Liaison Forums.  This alternative would use existing quiet roads and cycleways and avoid the need for an underpass.  This matter was the subject of three petitions, one of which resulted in a Greater Cambridge Development Control Forum.  The applicant has refused to interact with the petitioners despite the guidance of that forum.

“Crossing of the Ipswich-Cambridge railway line is a major factor in route selection, with the existing subway under the railway providing a major opportunity and with Network Rail having policies that discourage projects that might increase usage of Level Crossings. The only realistic alternative to the existing subway would be a new underpass or new bridge across the railway on Coldhams Common, which would have had a major impact on the Common. This was rejected as an option.  

The applicant does not proposed widening of the existing underpass, but a slight increase in head height.  The width of the underpass is less than 4 foot and very narrow by the applicants standards.  A bridge or new underpass on the common have never been mentioned by the council.

“Analysis of all options suggests that the only realistic way to achieve the aims of the project is an alignment that crosses Coldhams Common utilising the existing subway under the railway. Given this situation and the fact that the existing path is considered to be of inadequate width for existing and future use the choice was between widening the existing path or adding a brand new path nearby. The best way to minimise the impact was considered to be to widen the existing path and adding a brand new path was discounted except in the area where there was no path (for the link to Barnwell Lake and the proposed underpass). “

Comment 39 :  It would be helpful for the applicant to state what the aims of the project are.

“considered to be of inadequate width for existing and future use”  : the future use is not of relevance to the application. Present widths appear adequate to us based on personal observations.

 “The width of the proposed path has been a matter of careful consideration. The existing path can already be busy and for the benefit of cyclists and pedestrians a wider path is needed.

There are existing paths in Cambridge which are 3m wide or less and 3m is often considered an acceptable width for paths across parks within urban areas, but in Cambridge some existing paths of 3m are considered to be too narrow particularly at peak times where there can be significant numbers of pedestrians and cyclists of variable speeds travelling in both directions. “

The applicant contradicts themselves on widths in the following paragraph. This is not very informative, but indicates that 3m or less is perfectly acceptable .

Comment 40 :  It would be helpful if the council could indicate whose opinions they are espousing when they state “  in Cambridge some existing paths of 3m are considered to be too narrow”

“The successful path besides the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway in the vicinity of the Science Park and Regional College is 4m wide, whereas the path besides the Cambridgeshire Busway to the south of Cambridge station is only 3m wide and at busy times can be congested and uncomfortable for users. 4m was therefore the preferred width for the path across Coldhams Common and for the ongoing route, but in order to minimise the impact 3.5m was considered acceptable.”

The applicant indicates that they have recently installed paths to a width of 3m, but then contests that they are not suitable ?

We have stated previously that we have never observed “congestion” on the cycleway on the common.  They may refer to high speed cyclists being unable to overtake, but since it is grass then it is easy enough to utilise the margins either side should you so wish to overtake ?

The applicant has still failed to state on what basis the width of the path should be 3.5m rather than existing ?  Furthermore in the connection to Newmarket Road the path will only be 2.5m and near Coldhams Lane it will be narrowed.  For the underpass it will be less than 2m.  At single cattle grids it will be just over 1m.  Why is a width of 1m or 2.5m acceptable in some sections but not others ?

“ It should be noted that the levels of cycling in Cambridge are much higher than most other parts of the country and the best way to judge required widths is an analysis of paths in the Cambridge area. A comparison with other parts of the country is unlikely to be appropriate. “

The argument is also non-sensical since they infer that they are relying on a standard to justify widening the path, but then state it may not apply locally. Since the county is the authority responsible for cycle paths in Cambridgeshire, this becomes a somewhat subjective argument if only they can judge what is suitable.

 

 

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