A controversial new policy is likely to be implemented in Cambridge which would see motorists charged a daily free for driving inside a ‘Sustainable Travel Zone’ (STZ), the project is being called, ‘The Cambridge Congestion Charge’. Residents and business owners have been campaigning against the ‘Congestion Charge’ because they fear it will destroy businesses in the city and impoverish the less well off in Cambridge and Cambridgeshire.
The Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) have put forward the plan to bring in this controversial policy because they intend to fund a future bus service in Cambridge, to improve public transport and to improve air quality in the city. The GCP is a body made up of elected representatives from three local councils, Cambridgeshire County Council, Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council, plus some university and business representatives. Under the current plans the Cambridge Congestion Charge would be introduced after 2028 and daily charges would apply to all motorists. Cars will pay £5-per-day, vans £10 and HGVs £50 if they drive within the proposed STZ between 07:00 and 19:00.
Another controversial policy being overseen by Cambridge County Council is the closure of The Mill Road bridge. This is pedestrianisation and low traffic neighbourhood style policy which would see Mill Road Bridge only open to pedestrians, cyclists and buses. Local businesses fear it will cause a decline in visitors to the road and will ultimately result in their businesses becoming unviable. The Mill Road Bridge was previous closed during the Covid 19 Lockdown and reportedly resulted in significantly less footfall for the local independent business.
Currently plans are in place to close the bridge to motorists at the end of summer after members of the Highways and Transport committee voted to restrict private vehicles crossing the bridge. The decision has sparked outrage amongst residents and independent businesses along Mill Road who are trying to launch appeals against the decision and vowed to fight the closure all the way.
In March 2023 the plans for the Cambridge Congestion Charge sparked political debate across the parties in the Cambridge on the way this is being brought about. The Liberal Democrat, Labour and independent alliance, county council coalition rejected proposals for a local referendum on the Cambridge Congestion Charge with 32 votes against and 24 in favour, despite more than 15,660 residents having signed a petition to put the STZ to a referendum.
The GCP does not include East Cambridgeshire District Council, despite its residents and many businesses being affected by proposed Congestion Charge. East Cambridgeshire District Councillor and Conservative group leader, Anna Bailey, is a staunch opponent of the Cambridge Congestion Charge and campaigns against what is being proposed on behalf of her constituency.
There is a growing trend in the UK and around the western world, within urban development towards concepts like sustainable development and 15-minute cities. The basic concept of a 15 minute city is that within your local area the citizen should have “all necessary amenities within a short walk, bike ride, or public transit trip from one’s home”. Those in favour of 15-minute cities claim they will help reduce pollution and that they offer residents clean and safe environments in which to live, socialise and work.
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