Ely transport plans are sent back to the drawing board

A QUESTION mark hangs over the future of new proposals to solve Ely s mounting transport crisis after the council s watchdog committee sent the plans back to the drawing board. East Cambridgeshire District Council s overview and scrutiny sub-committee vot

A QUESTION mark hangs over the future of new proposals to solve Ely's mounting transport crisis after the council's watchdog committee sent the plans back to the drawing board.

East Cambridgeshire District Council's overview and scrutiny sub-committee voted on Tuesday afternoon to send a raft of new proposals - including a 180-space park-and-ride car park at Cambridgeshire Business Park - back to the committee that made the original decision for further debate.

The new car park aims to free up existing parking in the town centre for shoppers and visitors by providing the city's rail commuters with extra space at the business park, but furious Liberal Democrat members said they referred the decision to the committee because the proposals, agreed at an environment and transport committee last month, would be a costly mistake.

Cllr Sheila Friend-Smith, who 'called-in' the decision, said in a statement to the scrutiny committee: "I feel that the decision that was taken is fatally flawed."

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"The expense of this will be a millstone around our necks and the figures produced to justify the expenditure of so much taxpayers' money is unduly optimistic."

Fears that the new car park would undermine negotiations with Network Rail to build a single deck car park and interchange at Ely station were also expressed.

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Chairman of the City of Ely Perspective, Philip Eden, said there would be an environmental implication to the new plans in that they "foster an increasingly car-dependent approach to city access, which is not sustainable in the medium to long-term."

Cllr Brian Ashton defended the scheme, which he originally proposed.

"The major issue here is to release car parking spaces in town - it's the only option that's been brought forward that gives a chance for increasing the capacity for shoppers and visitors," he said, adding that the scheme would not exclude the station plans.

The decision to send the proposals back to the environment and transport committee has angered the Ely Traders' Association, who supported Cllr Ashton's proposals and were represented at Tuesday's meeting.

William Burton, of the ETA, said: "A perfectly democratic vote was taken and won and it seems that process is being hampered.

"It will go back to the same committee who will presumably take the same vote - the people who come into our shops are totally frustrated with what's going on."

The environment and transport committee will debate the issue on November 14.

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