At the Herts County Council Meeting on 16th July, Mr S Czarnawski-Iliev, a member of the public and a resident of Royston, asked Cllr T Douris, Executive Member for Education, Libraries and Localism the following question:
“Would the Councillor lend his support in principle to the provision of a safe pedestrian/cycle route to enable Royston teenagers to have safe, cheap and independent transport for accessing education, leisure, parttime employment, friends, family and all the things that make up normal life, but might happen to be a mile or two over the county border?”
Cllr Douris replied:
“Thank you for your question which I note is similar in vein to that asked by Mr Nash to my colleague Councillor Derrick Ashley. I am also aware of questions posed by Mr Meadows and Mr Taylor at the November 2018 Council meeting.
“From an educational perspective, we would always encourage pupils of all ages to walk or cycle to school, where it is safe for them to do so. Indeed, we regularly review opportunities to create or enhance safe routes to schools within Hertfordshire recognising the health, environmental and financial benefits of walking and cycling in keeping with the Local Transport Plan 4 ambitions.
We want our young people to be able to engage in local leisure activities.
I believe that we are all of a similar view that such a route would be of benefit and indeed I am aware that Councillor Ashley wrote on 19th June this year to the Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Authority and to the Leader of the Combined Authority requesting their support for a cycle link over the A505 thus providing a continuous route and it is my understanding that we have had positive responses from Cambridgeshire.
Indeed, North Herts District Council and Herts County Council have been working with the local Parish Council and reviewing planning applications to secure developer contributions and other potential funding where appropriate. Herts County Council is also working on proposals as part of the North Central Growth & Transport Plan to help routes connect to the bridge and consider the wider cycle infrastructure in the town.”
Mr R Nash, another member of the public and resident of Royston, asked Cllr Derek Ashley, Executive Member for Growth, Infrastructure, Planning and the Economy, the following question:
“Could Councillor Ashley please give us an update on work within the Council on the planned pedestrian and cycle bridge over the A505 north of Royston – particularly with reference to the Council’s recent application to the Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership for funding for the bridge and also engagement with officers from Cambridge County Council and the Greater Cambridge Partnership on their Melbourn Greenways proposal?”
Cllr Ashley replied:
“Thank you for your question. First of all I apologise if the answer overlaps some of the answer to the previous question because of course they are related to the same topic. Just to repeat my colleagues report, I did write to Mayor James Palmer (Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority), Cllr Steve Count (Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, Combined Authority Board Member), and Cllr Lewis Herbert (Leader, Cambridge City Council, Greater Cambridge Partnership Board Chairman) who are the key decision makers in the Cambridge & Peterborough Combined Authority and also members of Cambridge County Council and City Council.
Prior to the development of the Greater Cambridgeshire Partnership there was an understanding between Hers County Council and Cambs County Council that the project to deliver the Cycle Link and Bridge over the A505 completing the route from Cambridge via Melbourne to Royston would be developed jointly, to help link communities to key services and employment areas – as per the Melbourn Greenway Review Report which says ‘the Melbourn to Royston route is partly in Hertfordshire and is dependent for its success on a new bridge over the A505 on the edge of Royston’. This clearly recognises the need for co-operation between the authorities to bring forward the project.
As part of this commitment Herts County Council took a lead role in producing the feasibility study for the bridge with a commitment to maintaining the bridge once constructed. It was agreed that the construction of the route connections and bridge itself should be the joint responsibility of both authorities to fund and deliver. It was understood that there was agreement in principal that the Local Enterprise Partnerships for both areas were supportive of the project. Herts County Council sought funding to support the scheme, submitting a Local Enterprise Partnership bid in the November 2018 Open Call which unfortunately was unsuccessful due to match funding not being secured and concern over delivery timescales.
North Herts District Council and Herts County Council have been working with the local Parish Council and reviewing planning applications to secure developer contributions and other potential funding where appropriate. Herts County Council are also working on proposals as part of the North Central Growth and Transport Plan to help routes connect to the bridge and consider the wider cycle infrastructure in the town.
Following an officers’ meeting towards the end of 2018, Herts County Council were informed that whilst the Greater Cambridgeshire Partnership still have similar aspirations to Herts County Council in implementing the project, support from the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority remained unclear and no decision had been made on committing funding to support the project.
Hertfordshire remains keen to work with the Partnership to promote the project and I have asked officers to re-establish links with the Project leads in the Partnership as the bridge is a vital component of the overall Cambridge, Melbourn and Royston Route. Unfortunately, I understand that the last two meetings have been cancelled. However, a new date for July has been proposed and I hope that it can be achieved to help discussions recommence. We hope that Cambridgeshire County Council and the Combined Authority recognise the value to South Cambridgeshire residents of a sustainable link to the employment opportunities offered by Royston; people do travel in from that route.”
Mr R Nash then asked Cllr Ashley a supplementary question:
“I wondered if Councillor Ashley was aware of the latest accident on the A505/A10 roundabout, involving a cyclist a couple of weeks ago. Fire, ambulance and police were in attendance. Luckily, no serious injury; but just to underline the importance of trying to get this key bit of infrastructure in place.”
Cllr Ashley replied:
“Thank you very much, I was aware of this accident and it just highlights the importance of trying to make progress and complete this project. I think it is very important that we keep up our dialogue with Cambridgeshire, and we are working closely with local Elected Members just across the border to try and bring this to fruition. Hopefully we can make some progress soon.”
Nick Hollinghurst, Herts County Councillor for Tring & the Villages commented later:
“The LEPs (Local Enterprise Partnerships) are mainly made up of business representatives and have huge sums of government money at their disposal. Unfortunately, apart from a minority of local authoritee appointees, there is little or no democratic oversight of their decision-making. My firm view is that this is a serious defect of the system and the LEPs are neglecting some of the smaller schemes like this bridge, which are so important to local communities.”