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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.


Planning Advisory Service Conference in Cambridge 21, 22 March 2013 from urbed

Cambridge's southern fringe is developing fast

Cambridge’s southern fringe is developing fast

The area by the station is being comprehensively redeveloped

The area by the station is being comprehensively redeveloped

The community at Trumpington Meadows  has a mix of tenures

The community at Trumpington Meadows has a mix of tenures

The adjoining Park and Ride site is a real place

The adjoining Park and Ride site is a real place

Sites are being imaginatively promoted

Sites are being imaginatively promoted

New types of housing are being built - Apartments over maisonettes

New types of housing are being built – Apartments over maisonettes

Variety comes from a number of builders

Variety comes from a number of builders

The countryside is being opened up

The countryside is being opened up

The development incorporates play areas

The development incorporates play areas

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3 thoughts on “Postcard from Cambridge

  1. Nick, sorry you didn’t like the bus-service. I like the leather seats with wifi, and have always thought the guided parts are smooth and quick. Like everywhere, the numbers of passengers varies according to the time of day. In the morning, the buses are often very busy before they reach the Park and Ride at Oakington/Longstanton on the way into Cambriddge. In future, once the guided bus is linked to the Enterprise Zone at Alconbury and there are new homes at Northstowe, I expect it will become even more of a preferred route. I like all your photos.

  2. Thanks for the comment, and I have probably under-estimated usage, which I believe is higher than expected. But the appeal of leather seats does not compensate for what was for me (in the front seat of a double decker bus) a bumpy ride. Also I could hardly see out of the windows though the driver assured me they were cleaned every day, and it was filthy weahter.

    My point was essentially that Guided Buses are not that much cheaper than converting railway lines to tram trains, and do not have the same appeals in terms of securing a modal shift from the car. I believe in our search for a less costly solution we may be going down the wrong path. Adelaide and Essen which also have short guided busways are not necessarily the best models to follow.

    So all praise to Cambridgeshire for developing attractions along a high quality transport spine, and for playing a leading role. But I do hope that a proper evaluation of the costs and benefits of different options before other cities, such as Bristol, follow your lead.

  3. Nick,
    Fascinating stuff, I’ve always enjoyed your observations. After 30 years of better urban design thinking though I worry that this is the best urbanism we can produce. Maybe others could capture additional views. From this set of pics it looks a pretty uninspired place to live…no great advances in Placemaking so far as I can see. Happy for others to tell me I’m wrong.
    Regards
    Stephen Gleave

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