Campaigners fear time is running out to preserve the historic Mere Way byway from north Cambridge to Waterbeach.
Camcycle and The British Horse Society is calling for developers Urban & Civic and Cambridgeshire County Council to engage on the Mere Way route “before the precious natural setting is destroyed for a substandard active travel path.
“Time is running out but there is still a chance to work together on a better design that works for everyone”.
Cycling charity Camcycle and The British Horse Society (BHS) said today they have united in a critical attempt to preserve byway.
The two organisations are concerned that around half of the trees and hedgerow on the section of the ancient Roman Road south of Butt Lane will be removed as part of works to construct an active travel path from Cambridge to the 11,000 new homes at Waterbeach New Town.
Both groups objected to the principle of putting the bound road along this historic byway, proposing that it should have been constructed behind the hedge on county council land.
However, given that this route has been selected, they believe a better design could be delivered which would provide a route suitable for all users while protecting the mature vegetation that makes the path so special.
Works on Mere Way by Waterbeach developers Urban & Civic began on 29 May, with the approval of Cambridgeshire County Council, and are due to be completed by the end of November.
Construction has begun on the section north of Butt Lane, where a tarmacked, all-season surface is being installed alongside a grass verge.
Although this is a wider section of the rural route, the groups believe that too much of the natural setting is being compromised for a 4.1m bound surface, which is broader than the existing tarmac road near Landbeach. Camcycle and the BHS would like to see the width of the tarmac surface reduced to three metres.
In the mile-long section south of Butt Lane, which is narrower, the proposed path should also be reduced in width.
Here the groups would like to see a three-metre shared-use path installed with a surface that works for both cyclists and equestrians to minimise the loss of valuable trees and hedgerow.
Josh Grantham, Camcycle’s Infrastructure Campaigner, said: “The main issue with Mere Way is that the council and developers have not engaged properly with local stakeholders to produce a scheme that provides a high-quality route for active travel users of all kinds while preserving the historic natural setting of the path.
“At the moment, cycle safety is being compromised by unsuitable crossings at Butt Lane and Waterbeach and the complete lack of lighting, while trees and hedgerows will be destroyed for a path which is unnecessarily wide for this location. A better outcome is possible for all.”
He added: “We’re joining with The British Horse Society to find the right solution and we call for Urban & Civic and the county council to engage with us now before it’s too late.”
Mark Weston, Director of Access at The British Horse Society, said: “As vulnerable road users, horse riders face considerable dangers on our roads and the need for safe off-road riding routes such as Mere Way has never been greater.
“But we believe that a more efficient outcome is possible to make sure that everyone can use this historic byway safely, whilst minimising the loss of valuable vegetation.
“Both the BHS and Camcycle objected to the principle of putting the active travel route along this historic byway, proposing that it should have been constructed behind the hedge on county council land.
“Ultimately, we call for a collective approach to find a more suitable solution for all involved.”
The letter Camcycle and The British Horse Society have sent to Urban & Civic and Cambridgeshire County Council can be read on Camcycle’s website at camcycle.org.uk/mereway
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