Green cycleway bid to link Soham rail station with Wicken Fen
Residents, visitors, and green tourists alike are set to benefit if Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority Board gives Soham Town Council a major grant to link the town’s new railway station by a cycleway to the world-famous wetland habitat and beautyspot, Wicken Fen.
Wednesday’s Board (30th March) is being asked by Mayor Dr Nik Johnson to approve £330,000 for the cycleway proposal, received under the Combined Authority’s Market Towns Programme. The bid is in the 8th tranche of proposals received, with £13.1 million already shared out by the Combined Authority among the eleven market towns.
If approved, the cycleway will plug into the National Cycle Network, and deliver a year-round connection between Soham’s brand new railway station, its town centre, and the village of Wicken with its unique wetland nature reserve.
With the station, funded by the Combined Authority and opened in December by Mayor Dr Nik Johnson, now fully operational, the proposed cycleway connecting Wicken with a vibrant Soham High Street, is expected to encourage visitors, boosting covid-recovery and high street spending.
Mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Dr Nik Johnson said:
“This inspired application from Soham has the support of East Cambridgeshire District Council who may also match-fund the project if our Board gives the requested Combined Authority grant.
“It’s fantastic to see councils cooperating on an initiative that ticks so many boxes – helping both high street recovery and public health, joining up active travel with public transport, and protecting our environment by cutting the need for car journeys to the wetland site.
“This project will create a safer and shorter route for people to get out on their bikes in the fresh air, a year-round path along which students from Wicken could cycle to school, away from the very busy A1123.”
Wicken Fen is one of Europe’s most important wetlands, a rich eco-system supporting abundant and diverse plant and animal life. There are more than 9,000 species, including a priceless array of plants, birds and dragonflies. Wicken Fen is part of the National Trust and currently has some 65,000 visitors a year. It is estimated that 90% of all visitors to Wicken arrive by car
The total cost of the proposal is £655,000 and Soham Town Council’s bid to the Market Town Fund of £330,000 represents around half the cost. If the Combined Authority Board grants the money, Soham Town Council may be able to apply separately to East Cambridgeshire District Council for matched funding to support the project and bridge the gap.
If the grants are awarded, work could start on the project in the next few months with anticipated completion in 2024
In another Market Towns Programme item, the Board will also be asked to approve the request to extend funding timeline for remaining programme budgets for Huntingdonshire (£802,150 for the towns of Huntingdon and St Ives) and East Cambridgeshire (£1m for the town of Littleport).