Cambridgeshire has been leading the way in the UK in putting its spatial growth plan into effect. My presentation to a conference on the National Planning Policy Framework for local authority councillors and officers allowed me to explore the links between infrastructure and development.Permission has been granted for the first phases of the new town of Northstowe, on the route of the Guided Bus, which already runs past the new settlement of Orchard Park. Even more exciting are the developments in the Southern Fringe, and around Addenbrookes Hospital. New housing schemes such as Grosvenor/Barratt’s Trumpington Meadows, and Countryside’s Abode and Great Kneighton show the value of the Cambridgeshire Quality Charter for Growth, and the study tours I led to new Dutch communities and Freiburg, Southern Germany. Indeed there is even a cohousing scheme going ahead at Orchard Park, while all around the station are high density housing schemes.
My pleasure was marred by the experience of riding on the Guided Bus. This now goes from the park and ride at Trumpington all the way to St Ives, where the bus carries on to Huntingdon. Alas the experience is much bumpier than a tram, and the buses are noisier and dirtier than their Continental counterparts. Furthermore, with few people yet living North of Cambridge, the buses empty out at the Oakington Park and Ride site. The high costs, delays and criticisms of what was called ‘the misguided bus’ suggest that other cities, such as Bristol, should use their suburban railways to the full, or turn them into tramways, while ensuring there is enough development along the routes to justify a high frequency service.