by Susan van de Ven on 9 March, 2019
East West Rail Route Options consultation
Melbourn and Bassingbourn County Councillor Response
I write to you as County Councillor for Bassingbourn, Whaddon, Meldreth and Melbourn.
Please refer also to points made in the response from the Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Community Rail Partnership, which I co-authored.
Public confidence in the consultation process
Tight timescales have allowed no opportunity for parish councils and communities to meaningfully prepare their own discussions and deliberations. East West Rail should have notified elected representatives of intended consultation dates in order to allow logistical planning and preparation. Such steps would have resulted in a more useful consultation outcome, and encouraged public confidence in the result.
A consistent remark from people who have engaged in the consultation has been that the maps are notable for their lack of information. This has been perceived as obfuscating and has undermined public confidence.
Site selection outside the statutory planning process
This exercise of route selection is arguably at least as much about development site selection as it is about railway line route selection. It is profoundly concerning that this exercise is taking place outside the statutory planning processes that exists precisely to protect the integrity of new settlements and their accompanying infrastructure – indeed, to ensure the outcome is safe.
It must therefore be for the Local Planning Authority, rather than a railway company, to lead and manage this process. A consistent remark from people who have engaged in the consultation exercise is that EWR representatives have openly referred to their own lack of expertise in housing and infrastructure development. This too has undermined public confidence.
None of the Local Plans covering the Bedford-Cambridge segment of EWR have assessed housing growth and associated infrastructure requirements on anywhere near the scale that is implied in the EWR proposals.
Flood risk and environmental assessments, for example, have not been carried out; development on sites suggested by EWR’s route selection may be unviable.
A comprehensive response to this consultation by The Wildlife Trust sets out overwhelming and profound concerns on the ecological impacts of all five route options.
The ‘cheapest’ Route Option A, as well as options C and D, omit:
Any planning gain for Routes A, C or D selection may be wiped out by the need to dual the A603, the A1198, the A10, and the A505, for example.
EWR’s claim of undertaking economic analysis cannot be accepted as sound, given that EWR has not published its own high growth scenarios.
The importance of adhering to principles of multi-modal transport corridors to encourage and facilitate sustainable transport in heavily populated areas at a time when climate change and biodiversity crises are well understood should be a critical factor in weighing the EWR route options.
Options A, C and D run in isolation of the multi-modal transport corridor principle.
Options B and E most closely adhere to multi-modal transport corridor principles and sit largely within a statutory growth area subject to transport infrastructure investment; however, from Cambourne they depart from those favourable conditions in order to make a southern approach to Cambridge.
The CamBedRailRoad proposal meets the multi-modal corridor principle most closely. People who have engaged in the consultation process have consistently expressed frustration that the CBRR proposal has not been formally presented for consideration alongside the current five options.
Local dysconnectivity: a wall for South Cambridgeshire?
It has been made clear in the Cambridgeshire County Council report on East West Rail, in comparison with EWR’s resolute ambiguity, that all public rights of way are potentially at risk.
If a railway line is built on a no level-crossing policy and along a series of viaducts and embankments, it will become South Cambridgeshire’s Wall, bringing profound dysconnectivity to a wide area.
I reject Options A, C and D whose merits have not been convincingly argued. Options B and E hold some merit in their partial adherence to a multi-modal corridor in a designated growth area subject to significant transport infrastructure investment. None of the options have been subject to assessment and testing by Local Authority statutory planning processes and are therefore fundamentally unsound, given the objective of accompanying development on an unprecedented scale. A statutory planning process would also have allowed consideration of the merits of the CBRR proposal, which is the one option endorsed by the Wildlife Trust.
A railway project cannot be properly assessed in isolation: this is a project with very significant impacts and consequences about which EWR has been able to tell us very little.
Susan van de Ven
Bassingbourn, Melbourn, Meldreth and Whaddon
9 March 2019
Leave a comment