A meeting of Cambridgeshire County Council’s Highway and Transport Committee today took the decision to reopen Mill Road Bridge, reversing the controversial Experimental Traffic Regulation Order (ETRO) that closed it to cars, vans and lorries in June 2020. The ETRO was introduced in a bid to allow pedestrians greater space for pedestrians on the bridge.
Today’s decision, made after a lengthy and extremely impassioned debate on both sides of the argument, will see the bridge reopened and a full review undertaken of all options, in consultation with local residents.
The vote was tied 7 – 7 with the chair, Labour’s Gerri Bird, voting in favour of the reopening.
Cllr. Elisa Meschini, Deputy Leader on Cambridgeshire County Council and leader of the county Labour group, reacted to the committee’s decision;
“There are clearly very strong opinions on both sides of this debate. That much has been clear right from the introduction of the ETRO. It’s deeply unfortunate that the previous Conservative administration so spectacularly mishandled its introduction, without any proper consultation with local residents and businesses. There is no easy answer to this question, and their mishandling has only confused the issue.
“We are now, as a council, faced with finding a way forward from the mess created by the previous administration. Members of today’s committee were free to vote in line with the feedback they had received from their residents. Of course, residents hold widely differing views on the closure, and we’ve seen that reflected in the debate.
“What we need to focus on going forward is the consultation process, and ensuring we listen to all residents’ views on how we achieve a less polluted, less congested city.”
Cllr. Lewis Herbert, Leader of Cambridge City Council highlighted the part the ongoing Mill Road consultation will play in plans to reduce pollution and improve air quality across the city.
“We badly need a package of changes across Cambridge. Labour County and City councillors support the work already underway from the Greater Cambridge Partnership on potential citywide action that will deliver cleaner city air, improved walking and cycling, better bus services for longer journeys and far better alternatives to reduce car journeys.
“When those GCP proposals are developed in the Autumn, we look forward to a lively debate on the best way forward given that the majority view in our city is that we have to cut car journeys and congestion to improve our daily lives and also reduce carbon emissions.”
Labour ward councillors from Romsey and Petersfield have also reacted to the news of today’s vote.
“So many more families with children of all ages and commuters have chosen to cycle and walk to school or work while the road has been safer. Allowing the Mill Road to be a rat run only encourages more car use. Climate change and health-damaging pollution are here now. We cannot ignore this and carry on as if nothing is happening.” (City Cllr. Dinah Pounds, Romsey)
And from speeches given at the committee meeting earlier;
“There is no clear view of the residents living in the areas mainly affected in Petersfield. There is strong opinion on both options, and it is important to respect and represent the views on both sides. It is also apparent that the bridge closure has had knock on effects on other roads such as Coldhams Lane and Cherry Hinton Rd. What is needed is a strategy for traffic across the whole city.” (City Cllr. Richard Robertson, Petersfield)
“I and many of my constituents want better traffic management, but we don’t want it at the expense of our neighbours. The report does make clear that relative traffic levels have increased in East Road, Cherry Hinton Road and Coldhams Lane… Like many of my Labour colleagues, I want to see a lower traffic, lower pollution Cambridge. However, I think there is a case to consider that this should be done as part of the forthcoming city access for Cambridge as a whole, using the holistic approach outlined in the report and not picking out Mill Road as a special case.” (County Cllr. Richard Howitt, Petersfield)