Sunday, May 3, 2009

Transport commission response summary

The Cambridgeshire Transport Commission has released a summary of the responses it received from the public consultation on transport.

Coleridge Conservatives are pleased to note that the report seems to have been fair in representing the views of respondents from across the spectrum of opinions and to have aired some of the alternative ideas that people have come up with. Of course I remain completely opposed to congestion charging for Cambridge.

This is despite initial reservations by City Conservatives due to the duumvirate's history in recommending Labour's flawed TIF package in Reading.

The summary rightly starts off with some members of the public's criticisms of the premise of the questions and of the government's absurd regional housing targets.
1. With the congestion in and around Cambridge and plans to build a large number of new homes in Cambridgeshire, do you think transport improvements are needed?

Several respondents were critical of this question, which they saw as a leading question that would attract the self-evident response ‘yes’, luring respondents into then accepting the inevitability of a congestion charge.

“This is a leading question with all the subtlety of a double-glazing salesman - ask an opening question everyone… will say ‘yes’ to and leave the price (congestion charge) until question 5…” (email 9.2.2009)

Whilst indeed, many respondents did answer simply “yes”, accepting implicitly the growth agenda for Cambridgeshire and the consequent need for transport improvements, the survey found evidence of some very vocal opposition to Cambridgeshire’s development plans. There is concern that development is being pushed through despite the views of local people, and against their best interests.

“Why is Cambridge being forced into a policy of growth at all costs.” (427)

“We shouldn’t be building any more houses – the area is already ruined.” (18)

“Your first point assumes that this area is going to have thousands more houses built, because government and an unelected body (supposedly representing the Eastern Region) have deemed it to be necessary…” (email 5.3.2009)

“Building more homes should not be taken as a given but fought tooth and nail.” (737)

The commission also seems to have been perfectly willing to grill county officers in public meetings, confronting what sometimes seems like blind acceptance of the Labour Government's flawed plans for congestion charging and excessive and ineffective housing targets.

One thing missing from the summary, which various Conservative respondents had mentioned, was that it should not just be accepted that TIF requires congestion charging - the Conservatives have pledged nationally to abolish the blackmail link and the Conservative county council has asked Geoff Hoon to remove the link. Will Labour accept the challenge?

We look forward to the final report, due in June, as solutions to transport problems in Cambridge that do not involve punishing lower earning workers such as Labour's congestion charging would be highly welcome, such as the county's highly successful Park & Ride scheme.

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