Paradise (almost) lost: bypass threatens to destroy Cambridge farmland rich in wildlife

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The Coton Orchard is the eighth largest accepted orchard near successful the UK, its proprietor Anna Gazeley is arrogant to say. “Not due to the fact that we’re immense but due to the fact that 80% person gone since the 1900s,” she said. Commercial effect trees are smaller and much productive, but this orchard is filled with wildlife, a bequest of Gazeley’s father, who bought the onshore 3 decades agone to prevention the trees from developers.

That whitethorn person been a impermanent reprieve. The destiny of the the trees and farmland westbound of Cambridge volition beryllium decided connected Tuesday, erstwhile Cambridgeshire region assembly votes connected a £160m strategy to see a autobus bypass that would teardrop done the orchard.

“They’ll beryllium voting to chopped down 1,000 trees,” Gazeley said. The orchard, which is sustained financially by a plot centre, has 520 apple, pear and plum trees, and different 500 poplars, ash and oaks. “We person 3 pairs of foxes, 4 pairs of badgers, woodcock, 3 sorts of woodpeckers. There’s virtually a partridge successful a pear tree. It would beryllium devastating to suffer this.”

Gazeley is portion of the Coton Busway Action Group and a conjugation of campaigners hoping that the threatened demolition of the orchard, designated a situation of main value successful England, volition provoke a akin nationalist effect to the destiny of thousands of street trees successful Sheffield, and 100 much that were felled successful cardinal Plymouth past week.

“We’re telling people: ‘you can’t prevention those, but these ones you can’.”

At slightest 6,000 caller homes are being built which would beryllium served by the projected busway, a bus-only roadworthy moving from Cambridge implicit the M11, done Coton colony to Cambourne. It’s portion of the Cambridge City Deal, a large enlargement of the metropolis and its surrounds announced successful 2014 that is being implemented by the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) involving 3 section authorities and the University of Cambridge.

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Badgers astatine  the orchard. The workplace  is besides  location  to woodcock, woodpeckers and foxes.
Badgers astatine the orchard. The workplace is besides location to woodcock, woodpeckers and foxes. Photograph: PR Handout

Building much homes creates a request for amended transport, truthful the GCP is proposing 4 busways astir the metropolis – Coton is the archetypal – cycling and walking routes and a congestion complaint portion to deter drivers from the metropolis centre. There is statement of a request for amended autobus routes, but campaigners accidental that alternatively of a abstracted busway, the GCP could widen the existing road.

James Littlewood, main enforcement of Cambridge Past, Present and Future, a section conservation charity, said: “If you built a autobus lane adjacent to the road, that would person the aforesaid payment astatine a fraction of the outgo and biology damage. Our vexation is that each we truly privation them to bash is comparison the strategy we’ve travel up with. And they’ve ne'er done that.

Our foundation purchased farmland astir determination successful the 1930s to support that broadside of Cambridge from municipality sprawl.”

Peter Blake, GCP transport director, said it had examined expanding the road. “There’s not the space,” helium said. “On that conception of roadworthy you person the American Cemetery and Madingley Wood, which is simply a tract of peculiar technological involvement and has the highest biology designation successful this area. The strategy needs to equilibrium the biology harms.” The GCP had conducted 4 consultations and its plans person been independently audited twice. The GCP’s process was recovered to beryllium robust, helium said.

Blake said astir 1.6 hectares of the orchard would beryllium affected. “And we’ll effort to enactment with the landowners to trim that further if we can.”

Tuesday’s ballot volition beryllium finely balanced – the 60-seat region assembly is controlled by the Liberal Democrats with Labour support. with 30 councillors betwixt them. The absorption is mostly Conservative with immoderate independents.. “We deliberation Labour and the Lib Dems are being whipped to ballot for it,” Gazeley said. “We request each escaped ballot we tin get.”

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