Mayor James Palmer, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority to present on Combined Authority Key Projects and respond to questions from Members of the Council.
(Members are reminded that all Questions are to be submitted in advance).
The Chairman welcomed the Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, Mr James Palmer, to the meeting. By way of introduction, Mr Palmer updated Members with details of the additional funding of £1.2bn for the Combined Authority that had been secured since its inception and welcomed the invitation that had been extended to him to provide responses to questions that Members had submitted in advance of the meeting.
In response to a question from Councillor J P Morris regarding investment in cycling and walking infrastructure, Mr Palmer explained that whilst it was not part of the strategic nature of his responsibility, the Cambridge Autonomous Metro (CAM) was being brought forward to encourage more walking and cycling and was intrinsically part of the single largest local government project in the UK. In addition, investment into cycling was an integral part of the masterplans for the four market towns within the District.
With reference to questions from Councillor D A Giles, Mr Palmer reiterated that the Cambridge Autonomous Metro was one of the most ambitious projects being undertaken. Members noted the business case had been outlined to the Board in July 2019 and a meeting of the Board had been set up tomorrow to see this through to the business stage. The project was designed to deliver a transport solution for all and encourage growth in and around Cambridgeshire, with St Neots directly benefiting. Mr Palmer also referred to a meeting he was attending tomorrow in Oxford on the East/West rail link to set out the Combined Authorities position on the proposals and explained that, although the District Council had indicated a preference for the northern route, the Combined Authority would be mindful of the needs of Huntingdonshire. Mr Palmer explained that he had been in consultation with Highways England in terms of how the plans for the upgrading of the A428 would affect the CAM and was keen to get the best possible solution.
Arising from a question from Councillor S Bywater on support for small businesses in Sawtry, Mr Palmer explained that the Combined Authority had provided business advice and grant funding to support existing businesses. He encouraged local businesses to get in touch to support the development of apprenticeships and jobs growth in the area.
Councillor J M Palmer raised a question in relation to his concerns that Ramsey had been overlooked from the Combined Authorities proposed Transport Strategy. In response the Mayor explained that the Strategic Bus Review had highlighted that the existing bus services were inadequate and work was ongoing with Homes England and Urban and Civic to look at the opportunities for the Metro to be extended from St Ives to Alconbury. An early stage report had also been funded into the potential of also extending the link to Ramsey. Members were reminded that the delivery of the Metro was about providing homes and the Mayor wanted to ensure that there was an opportunity to link up the entire County.
Mr Palmer responded to a question by Councillor Ms A Dickinson on the progress of the third river crossing and reported that given the growth in the area this was essential infrastructure and was open to a feasibility study.
Arising from a question by Councillor K Prentice on the proposed East-West rail line, Mr Palmer outlined his concerns should the preferred route fall to the south of St Neots. The Council was advised that work was ongoing with the Department for Transport and East West Rail to encourage the route as near as possible to enhance the town.
In response to questions from Councillor B S Chapman, Mr Palmer referred to his previous answer on the East-West rail route and explained that he was working with the District Council to ensure that delivery of major infrastructure would reflect local concerns. Should the preferred route fall to the south of St Neots, a solution would be needed to resolve the issues relating to access to the station within the town.
Mr Palmer went on to explain that housing growth remained one of the key projects for the Combined Authority. Members were reminded that a target had been set to deliver 1K low cost homes and £100k homes for first time buyers. Members were also reminded that £4.1m of investment had been committed to the St Neots Masterplan and work was ongoing with regard to post-16 education and adult education which it was hoped would provide further scope to re-train and take up opportunities across the area.
Mr Palmer responded to a question from Councillor P L R Gaskin on the investments which the Combined Authority has earmarked for St Neots and the surrounding villages. These included the reform of the bus services, the Cambridge Autonomous Metro and improvements to the A14 and A428. All of which demonstrated the massive investment that was being delivered to this part of the County.
Arising from a question from Councillor D Wells on the timescale for the Cambridge Autonomous Metro and the potential for the early implementation of a line from Cambridge to St Neots, Mr Palmer confirmed that the Combined Authority could deliver this.
Mr Palmer concluded his presentation by extending an invitation to all Members to contact him directly if they had any additional queries.