Thursday, 28 March 2013

"We Can’t Share Money For A14 We Will Never Receive" - Bick

Cllr Tim Bick

Cambridge City Council will not fund the planned A14 upgrade; but the council will not oppose the scheme and proposes complementary steps to help traffic to continue to move around in the city.

The council is planning to create a Keep Cambridge Moving Fund to concentrate its resources on encouraging the switch from car travel to public transport and bikes, to avoid the A14 improvements creating congestion inside the city.

The government called on councils to fund the A14 project in advance of the road scheme saying that they would receive financial benefit from development as a result of it.

But the city council says that as its boundary is tightly drawn around the city, none of its present or envisaged development is dependent on the upgrade and the financial benefits will go to other councils.

"We can’t share what we will never receive,” said Lib Dem City Council leader, Tim Bick.

“The idea of local councils funding national infrastructure like the A14 project is a novel one. The justification argued in this case is that councils will receive a financial benefit from development that is generated as a result and they can commit some of that in advance to the road scheme.

"The only problem in the city's case is that none of the developments that the A14 upgrade will enable, like Alconbury and Northstowe, are in Cambridge and the financial benefits will go to other councils. The City Council's boundary is tightly drawn around the city - with even the Science Park sitting outside it - and no current or envisaged development inside it is dependent on the road upgrade.

"Nick Clarke's finger-pointing at the City Council is laughable when you realise this, and more about politics than road improvements."

City Executive Councillor for Planning Tim Ward says: "Quite apart from the unworkable financial formula, the upgraded A14 represents much more of a mixed blessing within the city than it may do elsewhere. We are worried that it may frustrate our aim to keep private road traffic within our boundaries to a minimum. It's no good if people can travel more easily to the edge of the city and no-one can move around within it because of ensuing gridlock. That is no good for residents, visitors or businesses in the city."

"We had hoped to gain tangible commitment for increased mitigation from the County Council at this stage, but it seems to have fallen under Nick Clarke's impatience. Our fund will nevertheless be building up, enabling us to work together with the County Council when they get round to it."

The Lib Dems have always argued for targeted safety improvements to solve the problems of the A14 and for more emphasis on the alternative of east-west rail. They maintained these would generate less carbon emissions and enable improvements to come faster than they have.

"Sadly we lost that argument and the scheme that the government seems set to go with is similar to the last one," says Cllr Bick. "But we do understand the urgency of improvements and if this is the only project on the horizon, we are now not opposing it. Realistically we need to proceed on that basis".