Busway plans spark protest

News release by Howard Kettel, Stapleford Parish Council Chair

For immediate release: 1 June 2021

  • Independent review says no technical reasons why Cambridge South East Busway could not be routed along former rail route, avoiding damage to countryside.
  • Officers from Greater Cambridge Partnership release report asking decision-makers to approve a route that slices through the green belt countryside.
  • Local community plans protest on Thursday 3 June 10am at location of proposed route on the edge of Stapleford village. Media are invited to attend protest (details below).

A protest will take place on Thursday 3 June against plans by the Greater Cambridge Partnership to route a new busway through green belt countryside to the south of Cambridge. The protest is being organised by Stapleford Parish Council, who are campaigning for the busway to instead be routed along the former Haverhill Railway. Their route would see the busway go through the villages, serving the population and avoiding destroying the countryside next to the Gog Magog Hills.

Howard Kettel, Chair of Stapleford Parish Council, says: “We owe it to future generations to protect our remaining precious green spaces from unnecessary destruction. There is a need for a fundamental re-think of this transport scheme based on a whole different set of values and we are asking politicians to value local communities and countryside instead of budgets and expediency”.

Earlier this year, the parish councils of Stapleford and Great Shelford commissioned an independent report to establish whether re-using the former railway line was technically possible after the GCP had ruled it out. The report, produced by I-Transport, concluded that the route was technically possible and disagreed with a number of the assumptions made by the GCP in reaching its conclusion. The Parish Councils submitted the report to the GCP in March and last week (25 May) the GCP finally issued a response, and has said that it will continue to plan for a route through the countryside.

The GCP appointed WS Atkins to compare the work commissioned by the parish councils against the work that the GCP had carried out. Atkins’ report agreed that re-using the Haverhill Railway was possible and that further work was needed to better understand some of the risks and costs associated with this option.

The reports all agree that re-using the former railway would be more complex, take longer and be more expensive. However, the parish councils and community groups like Cambridge Past, Present & Future and Cambridge Connect, feel that this is outweighed by the long-term benefits to the community of having a high-quality countryside for the community and a bus service and active travel route at the heart of the villages. They want politicians to make decisions for the long-term that are based on community well-being, quality of life and protecting the landscape instead of short-term decisions based on cost and ease of delivery.

Despite the report from WS Atkins, officers from the GCP have released reports recommending that decision-makers approve their route through the countryside. The GCP Assembly will meet on 10 June to discuss the recommendations and a decision will be made by the GCP Board on 1 July. If approved, an application would be made to the Department of Transport for permission to construct the scheme.

Protesters are asking for the GCP to pause their decision and carry out further work on the alternative route instead. They also point out that another option to avoid damaging the countryside  is a bus lane alongside the A1307, this option was ruled out because it could not be adapted as part of a future Cambridge Metro proposed by former Mayor, James Palmer. Now that the Metro has been halted by the new Mayor, the protesters are also asking for the decision on the A1307 option to be reviewed. They are also questioning whether a £150m bus road will be needed if home-working continues beyond the pandemic.

Howard Kettel, Chair of Stapleford Parish Council, says: “The GCP won’t listen to the views of our community and continues to press ahead with its damaging scheme. We are protesting to raise awareness and to ask the GCP Board members not to approve the unnecessary destruction of our countryside”.

Media are invited to attend the protest which will gather at 10am on Thursday 3 June at Stapleford Recreation Ground, Stapleford, Haverhill Road, Cambridge, CB22 5BX.

A group of protesters carrying placards and banners will walk to the location where the busway is planned to go. The protest will be attended by Stapleford Parish Council, Cambridge Past, Present & Future and local people. They will be available for photographs, filming and interviews.

If you plan to attend it would be helpful for us to know. Please contact Howard Kettel, Stapleford Parish Council Chair; / 07766 107372.