2022 is all about delivering on the people’s priorities. Nationally, we are boosting our plan for jobs, growing our economy (which is now back to pre-pandemic levels) and investing in schools, the environment, and the NHS. But what does that mean for South Cambridgeshire?
It means ensuring we grow in the right way, not just concreted over with new houses for Londoners to move into. It means improving our natural environment, biodiversity, and green spaces without the need for regressive taxes like the congestion charge. And it means keeping South Cambs moving with better, more frequent public transport.
No politician, campaigner or civil servant disagrees on that last point, but they all disagree on how best to do it. It is also a recipe for disarray that we live in a part of the county with three different transport authorities - the Combined Authority run by the elected Mayor; the County Council and the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP). The coming decision on the CSET Busway is a perfect example.
The Cambridge South East Transport scheme, also known as CSET, is one of the GCP’s flagship project. This would see a new busway (a purpose-built road for buses only) built through the countryside to connect the Biomedical Campus with a new park and ride car park near Babraham. But, while the GCP favour the scheme, they need the County Council to vote in favour so they can progress it. That vote comes in just three weeks’ time – the clock is ticking.
Many residents and their parish councils, as well as prominent environmental and transport groups, have expressed grave concerns to me, and I have called for a rethink. These include the unnecessary destruction of our countryside – driving a huge concrete swathe past the Gog Magog hills - and the cost of the project, which may not represent good value for taxpayers' money. Opponents have proposed various alternatives, including adding a new bus lane to sections of the A1307, and note that the scheme ruins any opportunity to reopen a rail link between Cambridge and Haverhill in the longer term.
Now, as we come toward this vital vote, I’m offering you the chance to have your say. My new survey, which can be accessed via my website at anthonybrowne.org/cset-survey, offers you the chance to make a simple choice between the GCP’s route and another, making use of our existing road network. I’ve written to everyone in the villages directly affected, but I’m also very keen to hear the views from those in the city who might use the busway.
I won’t prejudge the results, but in contrast to official consultations, I want to ensure residents can make their views known on the choice of routes. Gamesmanship has become a common thread in GCP consultations – much like the magician, they make sure they know what card you are going to pick. Every time I pick up their latest survey I am reminded of Yes, Prime Minister, where the scheming civil servants give ministers two options that, on reflection, are the same, alongside a third that is completely impossible. You won’t get that here.
Why ask you now? Because, if I am to truly represent you in this, I need to show our various transport authorities more than the many emails, calls and doorstep chats I have had about this.
I’m willing to work with all three to get the job done and am trying to get them all around a table. But each has a different agenda. When I come to that table, I need to have your voice behind me so someone can speak for our residents to let the Mayor, the County Council and the GCP know where you stand.
For just five minutes of your time, you add your voice to thousands demanding change. Together, we can keep South Cambs moving!