Cambridge has always been the beating heart of the Cambridgeshire foodie scene. Offering disproportionately high numbers of excellent restaurants and food vans for its population and area.
This has been slowly changing over the years, with Cambridge already losing dominance to surrounding villages and towns as businesses move out of the city. This is mostly driven by sky high property prices, business rates, and unnecessarily painful access into the city for the 5/6 of the people in Cambridgeshire.
With half of the top Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants now outside of the city, more and more diverse restaurants are popping up in the surrounding towns, excellent craft beer establishments popping up in St Neots, St Ives, Ely, Harston, and Linton, as well as the rise of food vans which are now able to take their cuisine out of the city into hubs like Cambourne and Northstowe. Why bother having to jump through the hoops, waste half your day, and fork out for unreliable and expensive public transport just for a sandwich? Especially with the likes of Amazon and other online retailers chipping away at any reason to go into the city for shopping too.
The balance is already tipping away from Cambridge, with the only thing keeping a lot of restaurants open in the city is the high amount of people traffic, but with the news that a congestion charge is now on the table looking to charge people £5 to drive within the Cambridge city limits, could we finally see people unwilling to battle through Cambridge to eat and drink?
People I have spoken to are almost entirely against the congestion charge (usually people who aren’t lucky enough to live in the city). I am hearing people not just refusing to pay the congestion charge on financial ground but a moral one too. The proposed public transport upgrades to help mitigate the congestion charge immediately falls flat for anyone who isn’t close to the city, with proposed bus routes still looking like they will take up to an hour to get into the city and some requiring changes between. It’s just not a realistic thing to expect people to do. It’s going to be quicker, easier, and with significantly more dignity to pop between the numerous surrounding towns for dinner rather than battling into a city which is trying to push them away.
With demand soon to be falling thanks to the congestion charge and a half arsed attempt to introduce a cop out bus service, I predict that the future of good food and drink will move even further away from the city and into the surrounding villages and towns as demand drops significantly.
In a way, the congestion charge might actually make life easier for real people. It’s just a shame so many businesses will suffer because of it.
What do you think?