The Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) is proposing to improve journeys between Cambourne and Cambridge using funds from central government. The GCP is made up of three councils: Cambridge City, South Cambridgeshire District and Cambridgeshire County.

The main focus of this project is to improve bus journeys in order to encourage more people from Cambourne, and those arriving from the west of the city, to use the bus rather than their car and thus to reduce traffic congestion in the city.

Their preferred option is to construct a new road for buses through the countryside. From Cambourne it would run either alongside, or on, St Neots Road and then east of Hardwick village it would go across the countryside on the side of Madingley hill close to Coton village, through a traditional orchard and other wildlife habitats and over the M11 on a new bridge before going through the University West Cambridge Site, and then across countryside again (known as the West Fields) and along what is currently a farm track beside the Cambridge University Rugby Club to reach Grange Road, on the edge of Cambridge. Details of the scheme can be found on the GCP website.

This scheme would run through the Green Belt countryside and would be very damaging for habitats, landscape, views and local communities and so we have been campaigning for alternative routes that would deliver the much needed public transport benefits but without the damage. The video below gives a drones eye view of some of the habitat that would be destroyed at Coton Orchard.

We estimate that 1 mile of wildlife habitat would be destroyed; this is trees, meadow, scrub, orchard and hedges, not arable farmland.

A new East-West Railway connecting Cambridge to Bedford is also being progressed and will be routed via Cambourne. The railway would provide the mass transport system for the west of Cambridge which many people have been arguing is needed.

CambridgePPF has commissioned a report that demonstrates that there are other solutions which deliver similar transport and economic benefits and can be achieved quickly, at significantly less cost, with less impact on the environment, green belt and local communities. These alternative also much better options if East-West Railway goes ahead.

We are campaigning for this alternative scheme (an in-bound bus lane) to be compared against the GCPs proposal to build a new road through the countryside. Over 15,000 people have signed our petition asking for this. Click here to add your name.

It is also worth considering that:

  • There would be significant cumulative impacts of a new railway, new busway, new cycleway and expressway (A428) on the western approaches to Cambridge.
  • Although a new active travel route is proposed alongside the bus road from Coton to Cambourne it would mean cycling up a very long steep hill and then cycling next to the road. There is a much better cycle route that could be provided instead. This would use the bridleway from Coton to Bourn Airfield, along the valley and away from traffic. This is already being progressed half-way through the GCP's Comberton Greenway project and is also recommended by Cambridgeshire County Council.
  • A third of the traffic congestion on the A1303 is caused by vehicles wishing to reach the M11 from the A428, due to the absence of an access road at the Girton Interchange (junction 14). This junction is part of the the main road infrastructure for the government's OxCam Arc growth corridor and will surely eventually be made "4-ways" - and this would reduce congestion on A1303 by 30%.
  • Compared to an in-bound bus lane on the A1303, the proposed bus road would only save a few minutes off journey times into Cambridge. Therefore the damage and costs of the GCP scheme are not justified.
  • Between 2018 and 2021 the busway was being proposed as a future metro route, with tunnelling under Cambridge - but so far there is no evidence of sufficient funding being available for this and following a change of Mayor the metro idea has been abandoned. This means buses will arrive at Grange Road and enter central Cambridge traffic, the same as they would if a bus lane was created instead of a bus road.
  • Several less damaging alternative route options have been proposed and an Independent Audit in May 2021 confirmed that these were viable. The GCP is unwilling to use one of these options as a comparison with their proposed bus road route - and instead are comparing it with doing nothing. No-one believes that doing nothing is an option.

Initial proposals for the bus road scheme included a park and ride car park on top of Madingley Hill which would have had a significant impact on the landscape and local habitats. CambridgePPF lobbied strongly against this and the preferred option is now to locate a park and ride car park at Scotland Farm near Hardwick, which we feel is the better option if a park and ride is really necessary. We have also managed to persuade the GCP not to destroy a row of mature trees and a meadow at Madingley Mulch, by proposing an alternative route around them.

Madingley Hill is one of the few high points in Cambridge and has locally significant landscape and nature conservation value. Part of the GCPs proposed bus road would go through land purchased by our charity in the 1930s, and protected by the National Trust, to preserve the historic setting of Coton and Madingley villages, and the valued landscape around them. Our councils have said they would Compulsory Purchase this land in order to build on it.

Today we are continuing our founders’ efforts by opposing the route proposed for the new bus road, and pressing the GCP to choose one of the many alternative routes proposed, such as an eastbound only bus lane alongside the A1303 and a cycle route along the valley.

Our trustees, volunteers and staff are working hard on this in alliance with local communities and protest groups.

You can also read a blog about this scheme click here

Griff-Rhys Jones gives support

In summer 2018, Griff-Rhys Jones visited Cambridge and we took him to see the countryside which would be affected. He said “Having visited the site I hope that decision-makers will work with the local community and avoid damage here. Let’s plan for our great, great grandchildren. Something better and more visionary is needed”. 

What might the busway look like?

So far the GCP has not produced mock-up images showing what the busway might look like on the areas affected (we have asked them if they would). These photos, with super-imposed images of the Cambridge Guided Busway, might give you an idea. Can you see why we are objecting?

Latest Update

On 21 March 2023 we presented a petition to Cambridgeshire County Council asking them to save the Coton green corridor, spare the Coton orchard and find a better transport solution. The petition had 13,000 signatures.

We worked hard to make our case (read here) and they listened, but the council still voted 33 to 26 to destroy the orchard and green corridor.  

Our fight to save the trees and spare the orchard is not over.

The council will submit an application to government in May/June 2023, which will trigger a public inquiry. The inquiry will determine whether permission should be given.

We will take part in the inquiry and argue that permission should not be given.

To do this, we have launched a Fighting Fund to pay for independent experts to provide evidence and legal representation.

Donations can be made by clicking here or at the foot of this page. Every £1 helps.

The Fighting Fund is being promoted by local charity Cambridge Past, Present & Future, Coton Parish Council, Coton Busway Action Group, Coton Orchard, Coton Loves Pollinators and Save the West Fields.

We are very disappointed that local politicians are seeking permission to cut down trees, destroy Cambridgeshire’s largest remaining traditional orchard and cause irrecoverable harm to ecology and landscape. There is a better way, and we now need to make that case at the public inquiry.

Please continue to support this campaign and save the trees, in whatever way you can.

Who do I give my views to?

If you would like to make your views known to decision-makers, then you can write to the voting members of the GCP Board (local politicians representing the councils of Cambridge, South Cambs and Cambridgeshire) and ask them to carry out work to seriously look at the less damaging alternatives. Here are their email details:

[email protected] (Cllr Bridget Smith, South Cambs District Council, Lib Dems)

[email protected] (Cllr Dave Baigent, Cambridge City Council, Labour)

[email protected] (Cllr Elisa Meschini, Cambs County Council, Labour)

You might also like to contact the non-voting members of the Board:

[email protected] (Andy Williams, AstraZenaca, Business representative)

[email protected] (Prof Andy Neely, University of Cambridge)

[email protected] (Nik Johnson, Mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough)

If you are not sure what to say, then something along the lines of: The Cambourne-Cambridge Independent Audit and CambridgePPF's report shows that there are viable and less damaging alternatives to the scheme you are pursuing. Please instruct your officers to carry out work to properly assess these alternatives and compare them to the scheme you are proposing, so that you can judge whether the damage that will be caused by your support for this scheme is really justified.

How else can I support this campaign?

If the GCP continues to progress this scheme then they will submit an application to the government for permission to build their bus road through the countryside. This will be an application for a Transport & Works Act Order (TWAO) which will give them planning permission and compulsory purchase powers. A public inquiry will be held and a government inspector will consider the application as well as any objections and alternatives. The inspector will then make a recommendation to the Secretary of State for Transport to either approve or reject the application. This process can take around 18 months. We anticipate the GCP will submit their application in May-June 2023 and we will need to submit our evidence shortly after.

We need to raise funds to pay for professional representation to help us present our case at the public inquiry. You can make a donation by clicking here or at the foot of this page.

We would also welcome help from anyone who has a professional background in planning, transport or law who could help us put together our proof of evidence. If you can help, please contact us at [email protected] or call 01223 243830.

Previous Updates

In June 2020 GCP Officers recommended that the scheme be taken forward to the next stage (which would be a planning/transport application considered by a government inspector, as well as powers to compulsory purchase the land). The GCP Board (local politicians) had planned to make a decision on 25 June 2020. In response to this we organised a campaign to encourage people to email the GCP Board to let them know their views during Covid-19 lockdown. Faced with significant opposition from all-quarters the GCP Board decided to do further work before deciding on the fate of this scheme.

In December 2020 the GCP commissioned an independent review of the project, in light of the fact that it was several years since it started and things had changed during that time, such as East-West Railway. You can read Cambridge Past, Present & Future's response to the review by clicking here. The independent review reported to the GCP Board in July 2021. Frustratingly, the review only considered the process that the GCP had undertaken, it did not consider whether any of the alternative routes might be preferable. The audit concluded that the process was sound (which we already knew). It also confirmed that there were viable alternatives, that the GCP should review the business case for the busway to take into account the impact that an East West Rail might have, and that there would be environmental impacts and these should be considered further. 

Despite our pleas, the GCP Board voted to continue to progress the scheme. This will involve carrying out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the project and work on this is underway, with a public consultation planned for summer 2022.

Cambridge Past, Present & Future put forward an alternative alignment for the busway between Hardwick and Madingley Mulch, in order to save hundreds of mature trees and a meadow, which would be destroyed by the busway in this location. This alignment has now been adopted by the GCP.

We remain frustrated that the GCP will not produce a plan for the best scheme that could be delivered using the existing highway corridor, compared with their preferred "through the countryside" scheme. Thus allowing direct comparison of the two options. So, in 2021 we commissioned a report to look at such a scheme that we feel the GCP should have done. You can read our report which shows that such a scheme is possible and can be delivered more quickly, cheaply and without the damage to landscape, ecology and local community. We have shown that, in conjunction with East West Rail, there is a better way for public transport between Cambourne and Cambridge and we are asking the GCP Board to consider this option as an alternative to the off-road scheme when making a final decision.

In May 2022 the GCP launched a public consultation asking for views on how the environmental and social impacts of their development could be avoided or minimised. "By building a bus lane instead" is of course the answer, but not the one they want to hear. You can read about the proposals by clicking here. These proposals also show the areas that would be used for work compounds and also the location of bus stops. You can read what we said by clicking here.

In September 2022 the GCP Executive Board voted that the bus road scheme should be submitted to the government for permission (through Cambridgeshire County Council). We asked them to consider our alternative scheme instead of destroying wildlife habitats and valuable landscapes but they didn't want to do that.