CAMBRIDGESHIRE S congestion-charge transport commission came to Huntingdonshire this week to be left in no doubt that the county council s £500million proposals to improve public transport, walking and cycling do not do enough for the district s residents

CAMBRIDGESHIRE'S congestion-charge transport commission came to Huntingdonshire this week to be left in no doubt that the county council's £500million proposals to improve public transport, walking and cycling do not do enough for the district's residents.

The commission's seventh public hearing in St Ives, and the first outside the city of Cambridge, was told that the current proposals were too focused on Cambridge.

The commission, chaired by former Local Government Association chief executive Sir Brian Briscoe, was set up after Cambridgeshire County Council's ruling Tory group was profoundly split between ardent supporters of congestion charging in the city and its opponents.

The commission is due to report in July, after the county council elections.

The county's plans, originally submitted to the Government in autumn 2007, were for £514million of transport improvements funded by Whitehall through the Transport Innovation Fund (TiF) in exchange for introducing congestion charging.

But "the proposals are far too Cambridge-centric," Huntingdonshire District Council's transport team leader Stuart Bell told Sir Brian on Monday evening.

"There needs to be widened support for rural bus services and accessibility and for community transport."

HDC's head of planning Steve Ingram told the commission that, although Huntingdonshire was a predominantly rural district with half its population in four market towns, it sat at the heart of the largest growth area in the country and was facing significant expansion, with 14,000 new homes and the need for 13,000 new jobs.

"The biggest issue for Huntingdonshire is that previous planning policies put all the jobs in Cambridge and all the homes elsewhere."

"The need to travel could be reduced by more local employment and retail opportunities in the market towns," he added.

Sir Brian said figures he had been shown suggested that just 5.5 per cent of Cambridge's workforce lived in Huntingdonshire.

HDC's leader, Councillor Ian Bates, said the district already had a huge infrastructure deficit, half of which was transport-related.

HDC and virtually every other local authority witness on Monday stressed the need to put public and other transport improvements in place before starting to charge for driving in the city in the morning peak. But that has been the county's intention.

Nick Dibben, St Ives Town Council's planning chairman suggested the proposals should include better bus services in the towns and better links between them. St Ives had good links with Cambridge and Huntingdon but no direct buses to St Neots, Ely or Ramsey.

The TIF cash could also be used to make bus use more attractive by providing better information at bus stops and improving pavements to enable people to walk to catch a bus. He also called for better bus access to the rail network.

Stephen Burch, from the Huntingdonshire branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, opposed the proposed road-pricing scheme, calling instead for his mobile members - such as plumbers and electricians - to have access to parking permits in the city.

Councillor Terry Hayward, from Buckden Parish Council, called for a park-and-ride site for Huntingdon to be provided at Godmanchester.