Final decision on controversial Mill Road closure to be made

The Mill Road Bridge closure will be reviewed next week after more than a year of complaints from some businesses. The controversial changes by Cambridgeshire County Council, which saw the bridge closed to all traffic except public transport, came into place in response to the pandemic to encourage active travel. It also created room for barriers in the street, known as ‘build outs’, that would widen the available space for pedestrians on the narrow road.

: Cambridge Market renovation consultation extended to allow new stalls to be tested It used an experimental traffic regulation order in June 2020 to make the change, which does not require public consultation. The Mill Road Traders’ Association has been the most vocal critic of the restrictions.

The restrictions will be reviewed on July 27 by the Highways and Transport Committee, after it was pushed back from March and then June. The first delay was due to the consultation being skewed by duplicated answers, which the council believed had been done to manipulate the results. Cllr Peter McDonald, committee chair and Lib Dem, said: “Mill Road is a special part of the city and I’ve talked to a range of local traders and residents about the bridge closure and I look forward to hearing from representatives on both sides of this debate at the committee.

“I’ve asked officers for more information on this project given the strength of views both for and against the bridge closure to private motor traffic, which they have supplied. This will help us councillors on the committee make the best decision possible on whether to continue with the bridge closure or to reopen the length of the road to all vehicles.”

Complaints from businesses and disabled residents acknowledged

The report on the Mill Road changes published yesterday (July 20) recommended the removal of the temporary build-outs, but suggested a permanent alternative could be investigated. It did not make a recommendation on whether to keep or remove the overall restrictions.

It also recommended considering funding options for any further plans to address traffic issues on Mill Road. Councillors were also asked to review the feedback to the closure to determine whether the restrictions should continue or whether the road should reopen to all private vehicles. If the committee chooses to continue with the existing closure, then further consultation is recommended and trial changes are suggested.

Changes could include varying the times of the closure or making exceptions for different types of drivers, like registered taxi services. Evidence will be presented to the committee to help them with their decision including the results from the statutory consultation period, qualitative feedback from the additional six week non-statutory survey, traffic information and air quality reports as well as petitions from local stakeholders and residents both in favour and against the current restrictions.

Members of Mill Road Traders Association demonstrating about the closure of Mill Road bridge. Holding banner are, from left, Abdul Arain, Shapour Meftah and Pamela Wesson.

The report noticed that businesses had complained of a negative impact on trade due to reduced passing trade and delays to delivery.

However, a council officer said that all properties remain as accessible to deliveries as before,since there was never much parking on Mill Road and residential areas are covered by residential parking schemes. This means the restrictions did not mean vehicles had to travel further to deliver. There have also been complaints that Mill Road traffic was instead displaced into surrounding areas.

The council said it was not possible to assess the exact impact due to the impact of lockdown and changed traffic patterns. The council has also acknowledged that people with accessibility issues who have to drive regardless will have struggled disproportionately, if public transport or walking is not an option. People have asked for blue badge holders to be exempt, but ANPR cameras cannot pick up blue badge holders, so there is no practicable way of enforcing this.

However, licensed taxis could be added to a list of exempted vehicles, which would give them use of the bridge.

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Final decision on controversial Mill Road closure to be made

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Changed your mind? There’s an ‘unsubscribe’ button at the bottom of every newsletter we send out. The report adds that the impact of the pandemic means it has been difficult to investigation the restriction fully, especially looking at the wider, holistic impact on the city.

It said: “The time to undertake such a review is estimated to require at least 12 months and will be dependent on how quickly travel patterns stabilise and the future impact of the pandemic. “The current Active Travel Fund is of limited duration until March 2022 and it is not possible to deliver a complete review within the time available. Therefore, an alternative source of funding will need to be identified for the implementation of a final scheme.”

The meeting will also discuss issues associated with the A14 Huntingdon to Cambridge scheme, Network Rail work in Ely, and more. The original decision was made by the Conservative administration. The council is now run by a Liberal Democrat-Labour coalition.

The Highways and Transport Committee meeting will be held at the Corn Exchange at 2pm on July 27.

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