Trouble on the Cam
The first is the threatened invasion of a Tesco Express into ‘bohemian’ Mill Road. Why, they ask, when Tesco already controls more than 50% of the grocery retail in the town should we hand it any more? And why should we give them a chance to squeeze out all the local shops? Particularly in this area of town, which is (as it is fondly put) a ‘retail version of the United Nations’, from butchers (old fashioned and halal) to health foods, Italians delis and Korean supermarkets.
I’m entirely on the side of the objectors. However many lorries it will take per day to replenish the proposed outlet, is bound to be too many. Yet it is funny to watch the middle class residents change their tune with the wind. Those who only recently used to deplore the vomit on the pavements, the loitering drug dealers, and the rubbish around Mill Road, are now extolling the cosy multi-culturalism of it all – against the even worse enemy of Tesco plc.
And well-connected as they are, they get their objections onto the Today programme too. All power to them. But it’s not a route open to most of the population who don’t want things in their back yard.
Even more worrying though is what is planned for the Cam.
Some local entrepreneurs have proposed to run motorised punts on the river to Grantchester. Apparently the motors will be as green as possible (electric, that is). And they will only go at 4 miles an hour, which is no more than the speed of regular competent punter.
So why put a motor in? Because these ‘punts’ are the super tanker variety, designed for the mass transport of tourists from the city centre to lovely Grantchester with its Rupert Brooke tea rooms, 12 in a punt – way beyond the capacity of all but the strongest wielder of the punt pole (especially on the way to Grantchester where the current can get pretty strong).
You can see the likely effects now. The river will be packed with these monsters, ploughing through the little manual punts and the assorted naked swimmers. And as for the idea that they will stick to the 4 mph limit . . . dream on.
And almost worse will be the land-side touting for business. Even the ordinary “chauffeur punt” trade has turned the two main bridges in the town into a less picturesque equivalent of the Istanbul bazaar – battalions of mostly (ex-)public school boys and girls, on commission, pestering every passer by with offers of a punt trip. Heaven knows what it will be like when they’re trying to fill up loads of 12 seaters.
The fate of this one is in the hands of the venerable Cam Conservators who will meet to adjudicate on the scheme in April. Meanwhile it’s punt poles crossed.