Cambridgeshire Guided Busway: Inspectors Report

3.  Procedural matters and legal submissions

Scope of the Inquiry  A significant proportion of the objections touch on issues that go beyond the immediate scope of the draft Order. They concern, in particular, the on-road sections that the proposed buses would travel along in their unguided mode, within the City of Cambridge, within Huntingdon and St Ives and between these last two settlements. They are the subject of a number of proposed highway improvements and bus priority measures that are being pursued by the relevant local authorities through Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs) and other means. They are intended to benefit bus services generally within the corridor to be served by the CGB.

CCC helpfully uses the term 'the scheme' to encompass 'the project', which comprises the works covered by the draft Order (i.e. the guideways and the associated infrastructure) together with these additional bus priority and other measures. I shall use this terminology throughout this report.

While my recommendations address directly the project and not the other elements of the scheme, those other elements are of key relevance to the case for the CGB. In particular, the ease, or the difficulty, that the proposed buses would experience in passing through built up areas, or along the stretch of road between Huntingdon and St Ives, could be expected to have a significant bearing upon the effectiveness, the patronage and the financial viability, of the CGB as a transport system. Many of the objections touch on this very issue.

Therefore, in so far as the material is relevant to those matters, I have taken full account of the evidence presented regarding the on road sections. This is consistent with the Secretary of State's Statement of Matters, the first of which covers 'The aims and objectives of the proposed Cambridgeshire Guided Busway scheme as a whole' (my emphasis).

'Future Proofing'  I shall deal with each of those Matters in my Conclusions. However, there is one additional question that assumed some prominence during the Inquiry, the so called 'future proofing' of the scheme were it to go ahead. A large number of the objectors feel strongly that the two disused railway routes should either have their railways restored or, failing that, these corridors should be protected until such time as the resources become available for a rail based solution to the Cambridge Sub-Region's (and wider) transport needs. For its part, CCC claims that there is an overwhelming case, financial and otherwise, for the development of a guided busway system along these two routes.

The question that I posed to the Inquiry was, were the CGB to go ahead, to what extent would that system be adaptable to meet the needs of society in say 20 or 30 years time when living and working patterns, and conditions generally, might be very different? Over such a period, the economics of pursuing rail, for example, might have changed significantly; also, new viable transport technologies might emerge. Practically, could flexibility be built into the scheme so that the infrastructure could be converted to accommodate some form of light or heavy rail, or indeed other technology, at some stage in the future?

Regarding conversion to light rail, the West Edinburgh Busway Scheme (WEBS) suggests one possible way forward (6.24; 7.11; B180). In response to my question, CCC has looked at WEBS and, more generally, it has examined some of the main technical, operational and costings issues surrounding a potential, eventual conversion of a Cambridgeshire busway scheme to either light rail or heavy rail (B239; B239A). My conclusions take this discussion into account.

Adequacy of the ES  A number of objectors, including Save the Lakes (StL), The St Ives Civic Society, the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire and Peterborough (the Wildlife Trust), and Christ's Pieces Residents' Association (CPRA) made the case that the ES was inadequate. While the first three were primarily concerned about ecological impacts, the CPRA felt that inadequate attention had been given to the effect on the environment in Cambridge City Centre.

Following discussion at the Pre-Inquiry Meeting (PIM), I invited the applicants to enter into discussions with the objectors concerned to see whether any of these differences could be resolved. However, while various meetings took place, most of the objectors involved appear to have maintained their objections regarding the adequacy of the ES. In its statement dated 6 August 2004, StL expressed concern about the ES's lack of coverage on over-wintering birds and other aspects of the fauna and flora of the Fen Drayton Lakes complex. For its part, the Wildlife Trust felt that there were significant gaps in the ecological baseline. Also, several impacts had not been covered and the mitigation proposals were too sparse (letter dated 5 August 2004).

In a paper dated 6 August 2004, CCC referred to its discussions with the objectors but maintained that the ES was fully compliant with the relevant requirements. In response to the specific objections, CCC made a number of points. In respect of the on-road sections of the scheme, these fell outside the scope of the TWA Order. Nevertheless, the ES did contain an assessment of off-line impacts and significant effects and mitigation were identified. Regarding the Fen Drayton Lakes, the ES identified the likely main effects of the project. While StL and others might disagree with the judgements that had been made in the ES such disputes were matters to be addressed at the Inquiry.

CCC's paper also referred to a number of validatory studies prepared since the submission of the ES. This work was done in close liaison with English Nature (EN) who had initially objected to the proposals. The studies, in respect of great crested newts, water voles and otters, bats, reptiles, birds and badgers were completed and submitted to EN and copies have since been produced for the Inquiry (B46-B50). In CCC's view, they confirm the findings of the ES and thus support its contention as to the adequacy of the ES. These new reports have been advertised in accordance with Rule 17(4) of the Transport and Works (Applications and Objections Procedure) Rules 2000.

In a letter dated 24 September 2004, EN withdrew its objection. It confirmed that the additional survey information and clarification of information originally submitted was adequate in order to assess the likely impact of the scheme on birds, great crested newts and various other protected species. Moreover, enough information had been provided on which to base an assessment of the effort required - in terms of mitigation and future management requirements - to offset those impacts.

In opening the Inquiry I ruled that on the basis of what I had read and heard so far, there were insufficient grounds for me to conclude that the ES was inadequate. I return to this question in my conclusions.

During the Inquiry, the Wildlife Trust sought to bring forward evidence regarding the background to EN's decision to withdraw its objection. I ruled that in the face of EN's unequivocal withdrawal letter this would not be an appropriate use of Inquiry time. I have no reason to doubt that EN's decision was a fully considered one which took into account all of the relevant information.

Back to top