CAMBRIDGE City Council is set to determine whether controls on motorised traffic access along King’s Parade should continue beyond the present 18 month experimental period, which comes to an end this summer.
A report proposing permanent measures will be considered by the council’s Strategy and Resources Scrutiny Committee on 8 February and follows monitoring of the existing scheme’s impact and consultation with the public and stakeholders.
The existing temporary measures, which were implemented in January 2020 and include a safety barrier, are designed to prevent motor vehicles accessing King’s Parade when the street is busiest between 9.30am and 7pm, while still allowing access for pedestrians, cyclists, emergency services and for other special events.
The traffic orders enabling the temporary measures come to an end this July and will need to become permanent if controls are to continue thereafter. If councillors approve proposals for permanent controls on motorised traffic access along King’s Parade, the existing temporary scheme will remain in place until a permanent scheme is developed.
The measures were installed following police counter terrorism advice recommending that steps be taken to protect the many thousands of people who use King’s Parade throughout the year, especially during the summer months. The area has continued to be popular during the pandemic.
Police counter terrorism advice has been given to councils in other tourist hotspots across the country, including central London, Canterbury, Windsor, York and Edinburgh, where similar vehicle access controls and barriers have been installed.
The police remain supportive of the need for traffic control measures on King’s Parade, particularly in light of the UK’s national terror threat level rising from ‘substantial’ to ‘severe’ since the barrier’s installation.
The temporary scheme has achieved its objective of keeping the area safe through 2020 and, although everyday life and the number of visitors has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, it has also delivered benefits to the area.
It has for example enabled local businesses to provide more outside seating for customers and helped people to move around freely in a traffic-free space.
The recent consultation identified that just under half of respondents support making King’s Parade a safer space with controls continuing.
Those who were not supportive were primarily concerned about the scheme’s impact on deliveries, blue badge parking and limitations arising from the temporary apparatus. Many people also appreciated the broader public realm benefits arising from the reduction in traffic.
When asked about the scheme’s existing closure timings (9.30am to 7pm) more respondents felt these should be reduced than supported an extension, though the greatest number offered no opinion.
Respondents also wanted any permanent scheme to enhance the street’s historic character, and to improve the sense of place and support for local businesses, enabling residents, visitors, shoppers and students to better enjoy the area.
A summary of the 499 responses to the council’s online consultation can be viewed here:
The council has been clear since the introduction of the controls that, while the temporary barrier is limited in terms of flexibility, any replacement permanent measures need to be better suited to this iconic location.
If councillors approve proposals to make the traffic control measures permanent from July, the city council will continue to work with partner organisations, including the Greater Cambridge Partnership, Cambridgeshire County Council, Cambridge University and its colleges, to consider what would be appropriate as a longer-term replacement for the existing temporary barrier.
Cllr Nicky Massey, Executive Councillor for Transport and Community Safety said: “Regrettably, the UK terror threat level is ‘severe’ and this underlines the importance of giving careful consideration to the police advice on the need for measures on King’s Parade to protect people. To ignore that advice would be irresponsible.
“Cambridge welcomes so many visitors in normal times and while coronavirus has had a big impact on the number of people visiting, we need to do all we can to protect people when they return.
“It is unfortunate that the pandemic has restricted our evaluation of the full expected benefits of the scheme so far but given the police advice, it is important that we remain focused on ensuring the city centre is a safe place.
“Thank you to everyone who responded to our consultation which provided us with valuable feedback about the effects of our temporary scheme. A wide range of views was expressed that will inform our future direction.”
Nick Dean, Chief Constable, Cambridgeshire Constabulary, said: “The national terrorism threat level increased from ‘substantial’ to ‘severe’ on 3 November 2020 which means an attack in the UK is highly likely.
“While this is not based on any specific threat it is a reminder that we all need to remain vigilant and take steps to keep ourselves and each other safe.
“I have recommended that local councils seek to introduce motorised traffic controls on King’s Parade on a permanent basis, and fully support them in their proposals to bring forward a more sensitive replacement solution if one can be identified.”
Ian Sandison, Chief Executive of Cambridge Business Improvement District, said: “Over the past months we have seen how cities have utilised their public realm for outside dining and leisure activities.
“As we look towards the summer and, we hope, the steady return of initially domestic and then international visitors, the beautiful King’s Parade lends itself to be 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 want to be using our public realm in a more flexible manner and the BID supports proposals for permanent control measures that allow 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 will continue working with the public and partners to ensure that the most appropriate solution can be brought forward for the longer term.
The report to Strategy and Resources Scrutiny Committee is available here: https://democracy.cambridge.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=159&MId=3799
Anyone who witnesses any suspicious behaviour or activity should report it to police, in confidence via www.gov.uk/ACT or 0800 789 321.