The city council's Planning and Transport Scrutiny recommended the delayLouis Ashworth

Work on Cambridge city council’s Making Space for People initiative for creating a more ‘walkable’ city centre will be delayed until the start of 2022, according to a report from the council’s Planning and Transport Scrutiny Committee (PTSC) released on Wednesday (23/02).

The decision was made in response to a threat of legal action from the Fews Lane Consortium campaign group, which claims that the document setting out the Making Space for People plan does not conform to legislation on local planning.

The Liberal Democrats, who form the opposition in the Labour-run city council, accused Labour councillors of “poor leadership”.

“The legal challenges are not highlighting anything new, but clearly something that was not thought through at an early stage,” said Cllr Tim Bick, the spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats on Planning and Transport.

The initiative, which aims to “describe a new vision for our exciting city”, was set out in a document in 2019. The document presented the findings of a ‘Baseline Report’ on the city centre, which found problems in the current “allocation of street space”, “quality of cycling infrastructure”, and “vehicle dominance” in Cambridge’s historic centre.

In the document, Cambridge was described as “pre-disposed to being ‘walkable’“, and pedestrians were placed at the top of a ‘street user hierarchy’, followed by cyclists. The Making Space for People initiative plans to reduce traffic in central Cambridge, while making it “attractive and accessible” for pedestrians.

The PTSC report describes the document as “a high level vision document, where the key objective at this stage is to help inform the development of transport schemes that is ongoing by partners as well as COVID City Centre recovery work led by the City Council.”


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Following a consultation, the Council planned to produce and adopt a formal Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) describing the changes to be made in early 2021.

However, the Fews Lane Consortium claims that the original Making Space for People document should have been written as an SPD. The Consortium is a campaign group seeking to “encourage sustainable development”. It is based in the village of Longstanton, with five residents as shareholders.

The group later thanked the Labour Executive Councillors responsible for the initiative for “taking [their] feedback on board in such a positive and constructive manner”.

The council has now decided to make the required changes, delaying further work until the beginning of next year because it is “unable to release staff resources” needed for the change. An alternative plan, which would involve rewriting Making Space for People as a non-planning document, was rejected on the basis that it “would fundamentally change the scope and approach in the document”.

Speaking to Varsity, Cllr Bick described the initiative as “unnecessarily overclaimed” from the start.

He added: “The initiative is mainly about engaging and committing the county highways authority to the schemes in the city centre which we need them to sponsor and fund. This is an important issue, because the county council is run entirely by councillors a long way outside Cambridge and getting them committed is one of the biggest challenges.”

The Executive Councillor for Transport and Community Safety (Labour) has been contacted for comment.