CAMBRIDGE City Council is asking for people’s views and feedback on the temporary scheme to control access for motor vehicles introduced on King’s Parade in January. The council is starting to develop plans for a permanent barrier, the design of which will be supported by funding in 2021, with likely further funding to be allocated in 2022.
The existing temporary measures, which include a deployable safety barrier, are designed to prevent motor vehicles from accessing King’s Parade, while still allowing access for pedestrians, cyclists, emergency services and for other special events.
The measures were installed following police counter terrorism advice recommending that steps be taken to protect the large numbers of people who visit King’s Parade throughout the year.
The police remain supportive of the need for access controls, particularly following the UK’s national terror threat level rising from ‘substantial’ to ‘severe’ since the barrier’s installation.
While the effectiveness of the measures introduced have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, the traffic orders utilised to enable the measures are due to come to an end in July 2021.
The council is therefore undertaking a public consultation to assess how the changes have impacted residents, shoppers, visitors and businesses, either positively or negatively and, the level of support for a more permanent arrangement.
Police counter terrorism advice has been offered to councils in tourist ‘hotspots’ across the country, including central London, Canterbury, Windsor, York and Edinburgh, where similar vehicle access controls and associated barriers have been installed.
Although the coronavirus pandemic has affected the number of visitors to the city, with far fewer international visitors coming this year, the scheme has delivered clear benefits to the area.
Working with partner organisations including the Greater Cambridge Partnership and Cambridgeshire County Council to improve city centre access, the city council has started to plan for what might be appropriate as a longer-term replacement of the existing barrier apparatus - if the traffic orders are made permanent from July 2021.
The council has been clear since the introduction of the controls that, while the temporary barrier would be limited in terms of flexibility, any replacement permanent measure really needs to be better suited to the location.
Feedback over the trial period suggests that most people support making King’s Parade a safer space, especially during the busy summer months when thousands walk up and down the road each day.
They also want any permanent scheme to enhance the historic character of King’s Parade, to improve the sense of place and support for local businesses, enabling residents, visitors, shoppers and students to better enjoy the area.
The temporary scheme has also enabled many local businesses to provide further outside seating for customers to enjoy the city centre safely during the pandemic.
Cllr Lewis Herbert, Leader of Cambridge City Council, said: “Sadly, the UK terror threat level has risen to ‘severe’ recently, which underlines the importance of following the police advice on the need for appropriate measures to protect people - to not do so would be irresponsible.
“Coronavirus has had a big impact on Cambridge – we do after all welcome so many visitors in normal times. That makes it all the more important that we do everything we can to protect people when they return to the city.
“It is unfortunate that the pandemic has restricted our evaluation of the full expected benefits of the scheme but, on the basis of police advice, we remain committed to the principle of such controls to ensure our city centre can be used safely.
“While we know the temporary barrier is by its nature inflexible and inconvenient to some, including cyclists, we want to make sure that any permanent solution addresses as many concerns as possible.
“It is also important that further access controls are suited to and located in the most appropriate locations to ensure our changing city can still be safely and conveniently accessed by all.”
Cllr Herbert added: “As we start to develop plans for a permanent barrier the design will be supported by funding in 2021 with likely further funding to be allocated in 2022.”
Chief Constable Nick Dean, said: “The launch of this public consultation follows a recent change in the national terrorism threat level, which was raised from SUBSTANTIAL to SEVERE on 3 November 2020.
“The change, which means an attack in the UK is highly likely, was taken as a precautionary measure and was not based on any specific threat. Nevertheless, it reminded us all of the need to remain vigilant and the importance of keeping each other safe.
“This consultation therefore offers the people of Cambridge a timely opportunity to comment on the temporary vehicle restrictions and security measures that were introduced at King’s Parade at the beginning of the year. Importantly, it gives them a say on how their community should respond to the threat and whether the current arrangements should continue.”
Ian Sandison, Chief Executive of Cambridge BID, said: “Over the past nine months we have seen how many cities have utilised their public realm for outside dining and leisure activities.
“As we optimistically look towards 2021 and the steady return of initially domestic and then international visitors, the beautiful King’s Parade lends itself to being a flexible space where more outside dining spaces can be provided.
“When customers dwell longer this invariably benefits local businesses. Now more than ever we wish to be using our public realm in a more flexible manner and we fully support the barrier being made more permanent whilst allowing businesses to maintain essential access.”
Engagement with key stakeholders, including emergency and other public services, colleges, businesses and user groups, was undertaken prior to implementing the temporary scheme. The council is keen to continue working with partners to ensure that the most appropriate and suited solution can be brought forward for the longer term.
The consultation can be accessed from the council’s website at: https://www.cambridge.gov.uk/consultations/kings-parade-vehicle-restrictions-consultation
It will end at 9am on 11 January 2021 and the feedback received will be considered in the following weeks with any proposed changes to traffic orders published in spring of next year.
Anyone who cannot complete the online consultation can request a paper copy of the consultation document by phoning 01223 457000 or by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments can also be sent to the council by email or in writing to Cambridge City Council, PO Box 700, Cambridge, CB2 3QJ.
Anyone who witnesses any suspicious behaviour or activity should report it to police, in confidence via www.gov.uk/ACT or 0800 789 321.