There are calls for more planning powers to make sure a Cambridge metro can deliver, as “aspirations” to extend routes out towards Huntingdon and St Ives were revealed.
Speaking on Wednesday (November 6), James Palmer, mayor of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, said he thought the best way to deliver a metro would be to set up a “mayoral development corporation” (or MDC), which would help consolidate planning powers in the region.
Proposals include having rubber-tyre, electric vehicles which can approach Cambridge on off-road routes from towns and villages, before heading underground in tunnels to avoid the traffic in the city centre.
Mr Palmer said: “Doing things in a different way is key. Development corporations are about sharing the opportunities. It’s not about the mayor coming in and taking power. It is about collaborative agreement. I can’t deliver without the local planning authority.”
According to the Localism Act 2011, the object of an MDC is to secure the regeneration of its area.
“An MDC may do anything it considers appropriate for the purposes of its object or for purposes incidental to those purposes,” the act reads. “The mayor may decide that the MDC is to have, in the whole or any portion of the area, the functions conferred on the local planning authority.”
Mr Palmer said creating an MDC was not an attempt to gain more powers from other local authorities, but said the move would make it easier to deliver such a major project across such a large area.
He stressed that the combined authority had to work in partnership with other authorities to deliver for the area.
Antoinette Jackson, chief executive of Cambridge City Council (the main planning authority for Cambridge), said the council had not had detailed conversations with Mr Palmer about the possibility of an MDC. She said the council would be “happy” to have a conversation about the “pros and cons” of such a move.
Mr Palmer also said the metro needed to reach out beyond Cambridgeshire to other towns in neighbouring Suffolk if it was to alleviate the “traffic misery” in the region.
“We have always wanted the route to include St Neots and Haverhill,” said Mr Palmer. “We are working with partners and are confident it will happen.”
Addressing business leaders, including delegates from Arm, and AstraZeneca, Mr Palmer revealed a new map of indicative routes for the proposed metro.
Mr Palmer said: “You will notice Mildenhall is included. This is a growth corridor. We want to work with partners in west Suffolk to deliver, and we want to deliver in Haverhill too. This is truly a project for Cambridgeshire, and beyond. It will alleviate the misery of traffic in the area.
“This project is a reality, and it is happening.”
More details of how the metro will be funded are expected to be available in December or January. Mr Palmer, however, said he was “very keen to make sure” it was not funded by “borrowing against ticket sales”. He said he has had “positive interactions” with investors.