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Cambridge: Close vote but Mill Road bridge closure will be permanent

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In the end it came down to an 8-7 vote but enough to reinstate the Mill Road, Cambridge, bridge closure to all motor vehicles.

There will be exemptions, and these have been spelt out and will include buses, cyclists, emergency services, taxis, and blue badge holders.

The decision was made by the highways and transport committee of Cambridgeshire County Council.

An image of Mill Road taken in July 2021, when an experimental TRO and bus gate on the bridge was in place, are also attached.

An image of Mill Road taken in July 2021, when an experimental TRO and bus gate on the bridge was in place.

It follows a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) which has been advertised and an extensive public consultation by the Greater Cambridge Partnership.

There were 1,986 online and written responses and of these 72% of respondents supported restricting motor vehicles from crossing Mill Road bridge.

Members of the committee, following a majority vote, agreed to go ahead with the bus gate, including exemptions.

The closure will be implemented as a bus gate and blue badge holders will need to register via an application form online, which will be available from today.

Blue badge holders will be required to provide relevant details such as name, address, blue badge number and appropriate paperwork. They will also be able to register up to a maximum of two vehicles.

Following approval, work will now get underway to design and implement the bus gate in the summer. More details will follow.

The bus gate will be enforced by Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras (ANPR).

After the bridge closure is installed in the summer, there will be a month’s grace period where non-registered drivers would receive warning notices only and if they are exempt, would be encouraged to register online.

Cllr Alex Beckett, chair of the highways and transport committee, said: “We had a very good debate, heard from all sides, and listened to the concerns raised.

“This was not an easy decision with very strong opinions, but on balance reinstating the bus gate whilst making improvements to pedestrianised areas was agreed.”

Cllr Neil Shailer, vice-chair of the committee, said: “We have listened to the public feedback and decided to go ahead and prevent the majority of motorised vehicles travelling over Mill Road bridge.

“This will encourage safe, sustainable transport and access to shops at the heart of our community.”

 

A council spokesperson said: “There was also a wish to see the environment enhanced along Mill Road including improving the public realm and walking and cycling provision.

“Various funding opportunities are still being explored for this project, which we plan to develop in discussion with the local community. It is anticipated that, subject to funding, design and engagement work will begin in 2023/24.

The meeting was live streamed and is available to listen back on the council’s YouTube page.

Full details can be found on the council’s website here: https://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/residents/travel-roads-and-parking/transport-projects/cycling-pedestrian-improvements/mill-road-bridge-tro and the recording of the meeting can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAPkP67fhqY

Camcycle (the Cambridge Cycling Campaign) is a local charity which has been working for more, better and safer cycling in the Cambridge area since 1995.

It said it welcomes the decision “and the balanced and polite debate on a sustainable future for Mill Road”.

A Camcycle spokesperson said: “In December 2021, members of all parties agreed to expedite the public consultation and to review the issue of Mill Road in a timely manner.

“In July 2022, there was unanimous approval to proceed to the TRO stage. That TRO has now been formally approved and a new scheme will be implemented this summer.

“The community has been extremely helpful and patient as officers have worked hard to hold a comprehensive consultation and develop an improved scheme.

“There has been useful feedback and challenges from both sides. As was made clear during the meeting, this is just the beginning: the scheme will be reviewed and amended as needed in the coming months and years.”

The spokesperson added: “It is also essential that the necessary funds are secured for improvements to the streetscape and that policies are put in place to ensure traders are supported through the transition.

“Camcycle is grateful to the many people who have spoken in support of safer streets, cleaner air and a thriving community for Mill Road, often in the face of hostile discussion.

“We call on all who love this place to move forward in a positive and inclusive way to create a street that benefits everyone.”

Cambridgeshire Labour Party issued a statement in support of a “safer, cleaner Mill Road while keeping a through route for buses, blue badge holders and taxis.

“Other vehicles can access anywhere on Mill Road, but not via the bus-gate on the bridge”.

The statement said that Labour councillors, who are in joint administration with the Liberal Democrats and Independents in the county council, voted in favour of this scheme.

“We understand there are mixed views on this scheme, as there are on any highways and infrastructure scheme,” said the statement.

“However, as councillors, we need to make decisions on the balance of consultation results as well as weighting the costs with both short-term and long-term public benefit for Petersfield and Romsey residents as well as the wider community.”

Cllr Neil Shailer, local member for Romsey, which incorporates the eastern section of the bridge, and vice-chair of the highways committee, spoke in the debate.

He said: “The consultations, as well as my experience for years on the doorstep in Romsey, have shown majority support for having a Mill Road Bridge that is closed to motor vehicles, cutting through traffic on Mill Road, with the appropriate exemptions such as blue badge holders and taxis that we all support.

“This is the outcome of representative democracy and I hope all residents will be able to enjoy a Mill Road that is safer for all.”

Cllr Gerri Bird, local member for Chesterton and Highways committee member, said: “I have been a voice for disabled people and vocally campaigned for the rights of blue badge holders as well as our residents with invisible disabilities.

“I am pleased that the final scheme includes exemptions for blue badge holders and taxis so people who need a car to get to Mill Road shops have this option.

“I worked with officers and fellow councillors on the details of these exemptions to make sure no one who needs to drive due to their disability is left behind the scheme. We need to do more work on considering exemptions for carers and how people can apply for exemption through alternative ways other than online.

“I will continue to work to ensure residents are not discriminated against in any way.”

Cllr Richard Howitt, local member for Petersfield, which incorporates the section of Mill Road on the western side of the bridge, commented:

“I am pleased that the new public consultation has enabled a more inclusive and consensual public debate around this issue, focusing not just on limiting traffic movements over the bridge, but also on creating a better environment for local people and businesses alike.

“It is essential that the county council continues to monitor the effects carefully, including concerns about rat-runs in Tenison Road and delivers on its promise to get extra funding to fully implement proposals for the environmental improvements.”

 

 

 

 

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