Villagers fight to save 200-year-old cottages threatened by new busway
- Credit: Richard Youell
Residents who fear their homes could be demolished to make way for a busway in Waterbeach are encouraging people to fill out the public consultation before it ends next week.
The Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) is currently consulting on plans for a new busway to run between the north east of Cambridge and Waterbeach New Town.
A map of the four potential routes being consulted on shows three converging on one spot – and the residents who live there are now worried their homes could be demolished to make way for the £53m infrastructure project.
A GCP report says that at the intersection of Glebe Road and Cambridge Road in Waterbeach the space is “constrained,” and so any busway route to pass through “may either require housing demolition or would encroach on allotments”.
It says the potential route “passes close to houses and may face opposition from residents”.
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Residents have banded together to form Waterbeach Homes for Amicable Transport, a group which is now campaigning against the GCP’s proposals and encouraging people to take part in the public consultation.
They say a row of 200-year-old cottages is at risk of demolition in three of the four proposed routes, but they also argue the GCP’s proposals will not serve the whole village and could destroy green belt land and an area of “well-used” allotments.
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Gareth Wright, a radiographer who works at Addenbrooke’s Hospital and lives in one of the homes which could be affected, a row of houses just off Cambridge Road, said the GCP has been “less than transparent”.
And he and his neighbours, he said, have been “left in limbo”, while the GCP mulls over the options.
He and others said they only found out their homes were being considered for demolition from a neighbour, who had found the details “buried” in a document of over 400 pages. When the GCP then distributed leaflets about the proposals to the area, he said the homes feared at risk of demolition did not receive them.
Waterbeach Homes for Amicable Transport has since been attempting to raise the profile of the plans itself, with online meetings, an information stall on the village green on December 5, and distributing leaflets of its own.
Mr Wright said the GCP “has been a little bit more communicative since we started making a noise, but you suspected they were trying to sneak it under the radar to begin with”.
“With time running out on the consultation we are trying to encourage people to engage with [the GCP’s] process,” Mr Wright said.
“The consultation asks a lot of very closed questions, so from our point of view the important bit is to fill in the bit at the bottom with people’s views for other options other than just tick the boxes.
“Because they ask questions like, ‘would you like better public transport,’ and everyone says yes, but there’s no mention of the consequences of that in the GCP’s documents, it doesn’t mention the loss of the allotments or the houses.”
Andrew Taylor, a retired primary teacher who now works as an artist, also lives in the row of cottages which could be affected.
When he and his neighbours first found out he said “it was a big shock”
“It came as bolt from the blue really, we had never imagined that anything like that would happen,” he said, adding that since then “the general feeling is one of stress and anger”.
In addition to the threat to their homes, he and others in the residents’ group are trying to highlight other issues they believe exist in the plans.
“We want to talk to people not just to say ‘poor us they may be knocking our houses down’ – it’s to raise the issue about access to the busway.
“Even if you thought a busway was a good idea, coming across this western edge of the village – it’s really not in the village at all – for a lot of people it will be really quite a long way to get to the bus,” he said.
The residents’ group makes the case that an improved bus service through the village on existing routes would better serve the community, while a busway on the periphery they say appears to be more focused on serving the new town. In addition to homes and gardens, also under threat is an area of allotments, green belt land, and the general character of the area, they argue.
Mr Taylor said he and his family has lived in their home for 27 years, and brought up three children there.
They now face the Christmas period with the uncertainty hanging over them.
“In terms of everybody’s mental health, for all of us who are directly affected, there is that question mark – are they going to go ahead with this or aren’t they? The GCP have told us they will come to a decision sort of January or February time,” he said.
The area is “quite a little community” and a “quiet corner,” he said, “with a rich diversity of wildlife”.
“We just want [the GCP] to be aware of the environmental and human impact that following any of those three routes follow,” he said.
A spokesperson for the GCP said: “We welcome and appreciate the level of public engagement with our ongoing Waterbeach to Cambridge consultation, which asks people to have their say on a variety of options for a future public transport scheme.
“The GCP must follow Department for Transport guidelines and consider all available viable options before ultimately identifying a preferred scheme that works best for the area. We also welcome alternative suggestions – whether that is a hybrid of the proposed options or an entirely new option.
“Our initial work demonstrates these emerging proposals could be delivered without demolishing homes and the GCP’s starting point for all projects is that we do not carry out compulsory purchases of residential homes and gardens.
“However we cannot rule out any option until we have received and reviewed all feedback.
“We encourage people to respond to our consultation before the closing date of December 14.”
The consultation closes at noon on December 14 and can be found here: https://consultcambs.uk.engagementhq.com/w2c-consultation-2020