A £1m route for cyclists, pedestrians, and horse riders to link Soham – and its rail station – with the world-famous wetland habitat Wicken Fen will be awarded shortly. The highways and transport committee of Cambridgeshire County Council is expected to give the green light next week to enable a contract to be awarded by January with work to start soon afterwards with a completion date target of July.
The money has come from a number of sources, but the full amount is being held by Soham Town Council.
The funding of £1,130,000 has substantially been made available from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority and East Cambridgeshire District Council.
Initial funding of £100,000 had been made available from the Delivering Transport Strategy Aims (DTSA) to enable the preliminary design to be undertaken following the initial feasibility study.
However, the committee will be told that part of the funding – circa £350,000 – is from the Transforming Cities Fund and must be spent by 31/03/2024.
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CAPCA) says the cycleway will plug into the National Cycle Network, and deliver a year-round connection between Soham station, its town centre, and the village of Wicken.
Frank Jordan, executive director of place and sustainability for the county council, sets out the timetable in a briefing note to the transport and highways committee.
He says the county council will “accept £1,130,000 of funding from Soham Town Council for detailed design and construction of the Soham to Wicken non-motorised user route”.
Next stage will be to authorise him and other officers and committee chairs to work with Soham Town Council and approve the ongoing development of the design.
Now to find a contractor to build it
Once the legal formalities are concluded the county council will find a contractor to build it.
He says the draft funding agreement with the town council “provides mechanisms to enable the county council to effectively manage the projects risks and cost increases”.
“It has been a long-established desire of Soham Town Council to improve the non-motorised user links between Soham and Wicken,” says Mr Jordan.
“A route has been identified during a previous feasibility study that found that if a number of byways and bridleways could be improved it would be possible to make these an attractive route for all non-motorised users including pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians.”
The route identified starts at Mill Drove, Soham and ends at Drury Lane, Wicken. The route uses the following existing byways and bridleway: • 205/113 (Byway – Soham) • 205/126 (Bridleway – Soham) • 258/23 (Byway – Wicken).
“Where possible the intention is to cut back vegetation so that the maximum width possible can be provided but within the extents of the existing highways,” says Mr Jordan. “A path width of 3m will be maintained for pedestrians and cyclists to share.
“A separate equestrian path will also be provided with a minimum width of 1.5m and being wider where possible within the extents of the existing highways.”
The surfacing of the shared pedestrian and cycle path will be self-binding gravel to provide a smooth surface. The equestrian route surface will include sections of a soil and gravel mix and natural topsoil.
The structure of the non-motorised user route will be enhanced in those locations that are subject to being tracked by farm vehicles.
Rubber crumb surface may be tested
“Subject to an environmental impact assessment there may also be an opportunity to test a rubber crumb surface formed from recycled tyres on certain sections of the route,” says Mr Jordan.
“The changes to the surface of each highway need to be approved by the assistant director highway maintenance and this application process is running in parallel to this report. Where practical low carbon materials will be included within the design.”
Mr Jordan adds: “The construction programme is challenging, and officers will discuss with Soham Town Council, and its funding partners to ensure that delivery takes account of the time limitations on parts of the funding.”
He says the draft grant funding agreement states that Soham Town Council will be responsible for any increase in the cost of the project in excess of the funding as result of change or unforeseen risk.
Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Dr Nik Johnson said: “This project will create a safer and shorter route for people to get out on their bikes in the fresh air, a year-round path along which students from Wicken could cycle to school, away from the very busy A1123.”
Wicken Fen is one of Europe’s most important wetlands, a rich eco-system supporting abundant and diverse plant and animal life. There are more than 9,000 species, including a priceless array of plants, birds, and dragonflies. Wicken Fen is part of the National Trust and has some 65,000 visitors a year. It is estimated that 90% of all visitors to Wicken arrive by car.
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