Mere Way: Frequently Asked Questions
The principles of the route were set out and approved in the Outline Application for the development of the former barracks and airfield at Waterbeach, which was approved in 2019. It was then subject to extensive consultation before the plans were finalised and submitted for formal technical approval to the County Council Highways Team. The final plans were approved through the Section 278 process.
The approach takes the historic connection from the City to the villages to the north – much of which became the route of the A10 road further north – and looks to invest in an upgrade to the connection so it can be used by more people, more regularly. To achieve this the route needs resurfacing and widening in areas to make it more useable for cyclists and walkers, and more accessible for wheelchair users and buggies: while still trying to ensure a grass surface for those who prefer a softer surface, such as equestrians and some walkers.
As well as consultation carried out on the Outline Application for the development of the former barracks and airfield at Waterbeach, extensive consultation was carried out from Summer 2020 to Spring 2022 during which over 30 meetings, events, walks and webinars were held with different stakeholder groups. Residents and wider users could also share their views and provide feedback in the online consultation from 25 June 2021 – 31 Sept 2021.
We have and will continue to talk to and work with our neighbours and representatives of user groups as we deliver the route that has been through a robust engagement and technical process; and ensure that we continue to tell its story to the future generations of Landbeach and Waterbeach residents and our neighbours.
The safety of the route has been a primary focus at every stage of the process, and this has taken into account the use of all those using the route currently and in the future. This includes cyclists, walkers, horse riders, as well as a few parts of the route where agricultural vehicles need to access the farms along specific stretches.
Through the consultation the approach has evolved to ensure that the grass surface current users enjoy is maintained, alongside a new hard surface, with the vast majority of the route enabling a 3-4.1m hard surface and a 2-3m grass surface. There are locations where this needs to expand to just over 4m to ensure space and the right surface for agricultural vehicles to travel along the length of the route. The route has been subject to the Safety Review process, and the technical reviews of the Section 278 process, and its final Safety Review will be carried out on completion of the works.
Inevitably, widening the route to ensure both hard and soft surfaces are included has had an impact on the setting. Some sections of the route have also been identified through feedback from the consultation and technical and safety reviews as needing management to ensure better visibility along the route (for example on the sharp corner of Cockfen Land and Akeman Street) and to widen pinch points to support all users.
Surveys and walks along the route have led to design changes to reduce the impact on trees, protecting those with greatest ecological value and benefit, including management work to improve the condition of 109 trees along the route. 16 trees were identified as needing to be removed, and this work was carried out earlier this year before bird nesting season. Vegetation was also cut back during this time, although the works being carried out now will require some additional removal of vegetation that has grown back since then.
All of this work is being carefully carried out in line with regulations and best practice guidance. This is being supported by an ecologist who is carrying out pre-work checks and working with the team to protect any wildlife found ahead of works.
The improvement works fall into two main parts, with the main section of work along the existing Right of Way and through Landbeach village being carried out through a Section 278 agreement. This was signed off by the Highway Authority (Cambridgeshire County Council) for Urban&Civic’s contractors to deliver.
There is also new infrastructure coming in between the A10 and Green End that has been progressed through a planning application. This route was consented by South Cambridgeshire District Council, with input from the Cambridgeshire County Council Highway Authority.
Part of the Section 278 approval process includes three independent Safety Audits which the route will go through: the first at early concept stage, the second at detailed design stage (before the technical approval of the scheme); and then a final one planned for after the works have been delivered. This is important to ensure the changes to the route meet the robust safety criteria we all share.
Concerns have been raised about the urban appearance of the surface, through the use of dark asphalt material. The challenge remains a tricky balance to strike as the route needs to work as an accessible cycle commuting route, as well as a main leisure route, and its surface must be to an adoptable standard for the County Council to take on long term maintenance. The surface material that will be used has now been finalised in line with County Council specifications and cycle/equestrian guidance, as a dark tarmac with aggregate stone size (10mm – at a surface course thickness of 25mm), which improves the grip of horses.
The cross section of the route, including the materials used, have been informed by the guidance provided in:
- CD 143 – Designing for walking, cycling and horse-riding
- CD 195 – Designing for cycle traffic
- LTN 1/20 – Cycle infrastructure design
- British Horse Society Advice documents
As well as comments provided by the Local Highways Authority, Cambridgeshire County Council.
Street lighting options were discussed at length, with many differing views: some seeking safety and support for riders using this route, especially at night, others concerned about urbanising a rural route and impacting on nature. Ultimately it was agreed that key locations – such as where the route meets Butt Lane and crosses the road – street lighting is needed. It has been ruled out across the wider route because of the significant impacts on ecology. However reflective stud lighting has been added along the full length of the route to light the way ahead of cyclists.
NB: solar studs were also considered and evaluated as part of the possible approach, but the trees and vegetation being retained would lead to limited value from the solar studs, and ecologists were also concerned that they would have a negative impact on the bat population, compared to the responsive, passing light provided by reflective studs.
A WCHAR is an assessment carried out for national highways route that ensures it provides for walkers, cyclists and horse riders as part of the design, planning and delivery of a new highways route. The WCHAR process is not something that Cambridgeshire County Council require for local routes, and as this is an upgrade to the existing public right of way (PROW) and not a new route, the process is not relevant for this work. Nonetheless the process of WCHAR has been followed to ensure all user group needs are met.
The team working on the route includes WCHAR assessors. WCHAR is not an independent process, but a review carried out by the developer team proposing the scheme. The County Council process involves an independent assessment of Safety through the Road Safety Review process, which ensures a review at early design, at detailed design, and after delivery of the scheme.