A councillor has questioned ‘why on earth’ Addenbrooke’s Hospital is planned to be within the potential congestion zone in Cambridge.

Cllr Daniel Lentell said he was concerned including the hospital in the charge zone could “derail the wider proposals”.

Earlier this month (September) the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) revealed plans to introduce a ‘sustainable travel zone’ where drivers could face a £5 weekday charge.

The charge is proposed to fund an improved bus network in Cambridge and the surrounding areas, including cheaper and more frequent buses.

The partnership said it would deliver the public transport improvements before any potential charge and is considering specific exemptions, including for some people travelling to the hospital.

A consultation on the wider scheme is expected to be held later this year.

At South Cambridgeshire District Council’s full council meeting on September 22, Cllr Lentell questioned the leadership about whether they shared his concerns about including Addenbrooke’s Hospital in the congestion charge zone.

The former Liberal Democrat councillor recently resigned from the group and is now standing as an independent councillor.

Earlier in the meeting he said he had “lost confidence” in the district council’s leadership.

Cllr Lentell said: “Does the leadership of this council share my concern that the inclusion of the hospitals at Addenbrooke’s in the GCP’s proposed congestion charge scheme is likely to derail the wider proposals and sink any chance for better public transport in Cambridgeshire?”

Deputy leader of the district council, Cllr Judith Rippeth, highlighted that the congestion charge was a proposal at present, and that a public consultation on the plans was due to be held.

She said: “As you indicate in the premise of your question, equality of access to medical care is essential.

“Some patients and visitors do not own a car either because they can’t afford to or they can’t drive, sometimes due to a medical condition.

“Presently not all of those residents have access because there are not cheap, reliable, frequent bus services.”

She added: “Equally, for many residents that come from further distance to a centre of excellence, for some currently their car would be their only option.

“This is why the consultation process is just so essential.”

Cllr Lentell argued the plans were being progressed the wrong way round.

He said: “Why on earth was Addenbrooke’s ever included in these proposals from day one?

“This is exactly the kind of policy shaping from the start that we need to have as representatives of our people; representing our people to the wider stakeholder map, rather than the wider stakeholder map to our people.

“This is looking down the wrong end of the telescope.”

Cllr Rippeth said setting the boundary for the congestion charge area was “always going to be complicated”.

She highlighted that some people do not have a car and may not be able to currently access the hospital.

Cllr Rippeth also raised fuel costs and parking charges faced by people who do drive and said it was “not just about those people who can afford to drive there”.

Concerns over the proposed congestion charge were also raised throughout the meeting by Conservative councillors.

Cllr Graham Cone said people on low incomes were coming to him worried about the charge and asking whether they would be exempt, but said the details were not available to answer this.

Cllr Heather Williams also questioned whether the planned bus cuts announced by Stagecoach earlier this month were “ringing alarm bells” for the administration that “buses might not be the answer to everything”.

Cllr Brian Milnes, Liberal Democrat, highlighted that there were proposals to exemptions to the congestion charge for people on low incomes and that the upcoming consultation would help inform the details of that.

He said: “Amongst those who can least afford it are some 20 to 30 per cent of the resident population who do not have a car and so are very reliant on a very unreliable bus service, and boy have we seen how unreliable that is going to become very shortly.

“The cost-of-living crisis has underlined the urgency of creating a reliable, affordable, attractive, sustainable public transport system.

“Without that, people on low incomes may well be excluded from access.”