Fact and Fiction - Wilburton is too far away from Cambridge

The "fiction" and "fact" below is from the 2002 Wilburton proposal, with a comment from the current Mereham proposal added.

FICTION:Wilburton is too far away from Cambridge.

FACT: Wilburton, less than 10 miles from the city centre, is in an ideal location to serve the needs not just of the city to the south but of the Fen towns to the north. The misconception began when a consultants report suggested that Wilburton was outside of an area set out in Government Regional Planning Guidance. In fact, the Guidance states no such thing specifically it does not set out in mileage terms how far from Cambridge a new settlement should or should not be.
In any case actual mileage from Cambridge is misleading in economic development terms it is travel to work times that are important. The improvements to the A10 and the rapid transit system that will be created and paid for by the Wilburton new settlement mean that journey times to/from Wilburton are very attractive.

THEY NOW SAY:Mereham is a proposed new community near to the villages of Wilburton and Stretham, in East Cambridgeshire district, some 10Km north of Cambridge.

WE SAY: It appears that the site has moved several miles to begin with - 10km being 6.25 miles! Anyone who knows the area will know that Wilburton and Stretham are further away from Cambridge than that. In terms of transport, if they claim the figure is "as the crow flies" then unless their buses can fly, that's a bit daft really. So, we thought we'd use some modern technology - and see what that says for Stretham to Cambridge City Centre.

View Larger Map
Google: 11.7 miles (and 20 - 25 mins)
The AA: 11.9 miles (and 18 mins) - note that this is from the centre of Stretham
The RAC: 11.67 miles (and 18 - 23 mins) - note that this is from the centre of Stretham

A quick comment on this - is appears that computer modelling of the journey is a little unpredictable, and very inaccurate in terms of journey times. Models such as this are only as good as the data which is put into them. These will have basic data for an average speed over each road type - and will not cater for junctions, traffic levels and congestion - such as that at and beyond the Milton roundabout. You may be able to get near Cambridge in 20 minutes on a good day, but we cannot remember the last time we managed the centre in 20 minutes - even setting off before 7am! Obviously, Mr Tucker knows this as he claims to have a good local knowledge having been involved here for the past 20 years. So we are assuming his proof of evidence documents will show real journey times, taking over many days, not just the results of computer modelling and online route planners.

So the distance is around 11 miles (17.6km) from the proposed site to the centre of Cambridge. Which means it's not "less than 10 miles" and certainly not "10km". Even if guidance doesn't state a mileage, common sense should do. If a new development is going to be "good" in terms of sustainability and the environment, as well as economically, then the distances travelled need to be as short as possible. For example, if the following numbers of cars travel from the site to Cambridge city centre every day of a 5 day working week, we have these sort of total annual mileages:

Number of carsTotal Miles per weekTotal Miles per yearTotal As Million miles per year

These figures are based on an average single journey of 11 miles, over 52 weeks per year - we understand that not all people will travel the same distance, or every week - these figures represent a basic calculation of the total mileages of the specified number of cars travelling the equivalent of one return journey from the site to central Cambridge per day 5 days a week. Some cars will go further, some will go less distance - but overall this gives a picture of the total annual mileages involves.

And yes - that's millions of miles per year. Quite staggering figures aren't they?

We can compare those with figures for Northstowe (on guided bus route) and Waterbeach proposal (on rail link) as follows:

Northstowe - around 7 miles from central Cambridge:
Number of carsTotal Miles per weekTotal Miles per yearTotal As Million miles per year

Waterbeach - around 6.5 miles from central Cambridge:
Number of carsTotal Miles per weekTotal Miles per yearTotal As Million miles per year

So for around 4000 car trips, Mereham adds over 8 million more miles per year. How can that be environmentally friendly?

Even for buses, we are looking at over 450,000 bus miles per year to provide a basic minimum service between Cambridge and the proposed site. A typical double decker bus will manage around 7mpg in town driving - so all those buses need to be full to minimise the impact on the environment of so many buses travelling such large distances.

We also need to consider things such as deliveries - most deliveries are done by large drop offs at distribution centres (such as those in and around Cambridge), and then the items taken to the final destination. Surely by building so far from a major centre, the environmental impact (and hence sustainability) of a site has to be put into question? The site is reliant on roads - no alternative why of getting freight to the site is possible.

A quick look of Wikipedia for large villages in England reveals the following for those villages around the same population size as the Mereham proposal (upward of 12000):
Distance From Nearest Town/City
WombourneStaffordshire12,7684 miles (Wolverhampton)
Flackwell HeathBuckinghamshire12,795On the outskirts of High Wycombe
ChurchdownGloucestershire12,998On the outskirts of Gloucester
Great BaddowEssex14,000On the outskirts of Chelmsford
KidlingtonOxfordshire14,9455 miles from Oxford
RawmarshSouth Yorkshire17,4432 miles from Rotheham

These large villages, comparable to the size of Mereham, are all near (5 miles or under) to their major centres of employment. And in most cases they lie on or near railways, and major roads trunk roads, dual carriageways or motorways. Although sadly in many cases the railway stations were closed back in the 1960s - the lines are still there and in use in most cases, so the government could easily fund reopening the stations as part of its' commitment to the environment.

OUR VERDICT: FICTION - the distances involved are too large for such a large development. The developers claims that a lot of people will work within the community require businesses to want to locate away from Cambridge, which just isn't happening (Ely, Sutton, Waterbeach and Cambourne to name a few all have business development area which are under utilised). And if somehow this does happen - then the community defeats the main objective - that of providing houses for Cambridge.

The distance creates a need to create jobs locally, and therefore does not satisfy the need to create homes for Cambridge.

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