No Nets for Trees: the University backs down

updated February 29

There has been a lot of publicity recently around the placing of nets over more than 20 trees at the Whittle Laboratory on JJ Thomson Avenue. They have been placed there by Cambridge University with the aim of discouraging birds from nesting during the planning process.

I deplore this use of netting to cover trees and and have never seen netting used this way before in Cambridge.

I really do not understand the reasoning behind this – the university normally takes long, considered views on their investments and has done so for over 800 years. But in this case, there seems to be an urgency that has resulted in harm to the landscaping and danger to the wildlife.

These trees seem to have no ivy growing on them, no scrubs around them, and the canopies are open so it would seem that the risk of birds nesting was low. This now has to be weighed against the risk of birds being injured by the nets themselves.

I explored what action the Council could take in regard to the netting and it is clear that we cannot.  The trees are privately owned and not protected.  Even if they were protected, currently it is not a criminal offence to use netting on trees or hedges.

While our options are limited, I requested a meeting with the University and expressed my grave concerns by email and in a number of phone conversations.  I wanted to understand why the University thought that netting trees was an acceptable way forward and if they can consider alternatives.

Now the university has acknowledged its mistake and agreed to remove all of the netting. In a tweet they said: We are removing the netting over trees in West Cambridge that have upset people. The decision to use nets to discourage nesting birds ahead of building works was wrong and we unreservedly apologise.

The tweet from Cambridge University

I’m pleased that they have realised that nets are not the way to deal with this issue, and hope that we can continue to discuss how best to resolve this issue in the longer term.

Running with Hedgehogs

Donate here!

Last year I was given the honour of sounding the starting horn of the Cambridge half marathon, but I won’t be able to do that this year, because I’ll be somewhere in the line getting ready to run!

It’s an exciting prospect, and I’ve been enjoying my training, and like many of the other runners, I’m hoping to raise money for a cause I think is important.

For this marathon I’ve chosen to support Cambridge Hedgehogs, a local charity that was formed last year. I got to know the three directors of Cambridge Hedgehogs after the council launched its hedgehog awareness campaign last year, and I was impressed by their concern for the plight of these wonderful small mammals, and the help they offer to sick or injured hedgehogs.

They also support hedgehog mapping through The Big Hedgehog Map to help get a better idea of how many hedgehogs we actually have in Cambridge. Nationally the population has declined 97% since 1945, so it’s very important information to gather.

Continue reading “Running with Hedgehogs”

Dealing with the Water Crisis in the Cambridge Area

Last year I organised a meeting of experts on water management and representatives from water companies and government agencies to discuss the issues that we face here in Cambridge such as low water flows in the chalk springs around Cambridge, especially at the Nine Wells nature reserve, and the potential impact on local biodiversity.

I believe that we are facing a potential ecological disaster if we do not work to ensure that the chalk streams and other tributaries of the Cam are properly managed and have sufficient water flowing through them, and I wanted to hear from experts about the current problems and what we might do.

We have now published the report of the event, and I hope that it will help as we try to decide what measures to take to address this serious issue.

You can download it here as a PDF. If you would like it in another format, please email me at katie.thornburrow@cambridge.gov.uk.

Report on Water Crisis Forum

Trees and Water

It was a real pleasure to listen to students who had marched from Shire Hall to the Guildhall yesterday to highlight the need for more trees and to deal with our water crisis as part of an event organised by Cambridge Schools Eco Council, and I’m pleased that it got coverage in the local press. 

While I did say to the students that we wanted their help planting trees, it’s not that we won’t be putting the. on council land- we just don’t have *enough* council land. And I think that comparing Cambridge to the whole of Essex is a little misleading…

I’m looking forward to the forum on the water crisis that I’ve convened for next month. Although the report says I’m doing this as part of my work as Executive Councillor for Planning Policy and Open Spaces this isn’t the case- it’s just something I’m doing as a local councillor. The report will be available for the council and everyone else to use to help decide what we can do to deal with this important issue, but it’s not a formal City Council document.

Cambridge Independent: Screenshot of article 'Trees and Water: Youth Strikers look to Cambridge Council'

The article is on the Cambridge Independent website.

Bringing the Queen Edith’s community together

It was a real delight to spend time today at the Queen Edith’s Share Fair and Community Environment (Skip) Day on Wulfstan Way, organised by the Queen Edith’s Community Forum with support from City Council’s Streets and Open Spaces team. I was reminded about the event by Sam Davies, the chair of QECF, who seemed busy helping out at every stall.

There was so much going on, with ‘bring and take’ stalls, a skip for larger items that had no further use (though we hope most of the material will be recycled), dog chipping, and stalls from local groups.

Lots of activity at the event
Lots of activity at the event

The day was a great example of what a community can do when they work together, and all of the organisers deserve massive thanks for their efforts. As well as helping people get rid of household items they no longer need, these sorts of events encourage people to get to know their neighbours and bring communities together.

The City Council was there to help
The City Council was there to help

The City Council’s City Homes team have a regular programme offering community environment days (or ‘skip days’) so do get in touch if you’d like to find out how you could arrange something for your community

See https://www.cambridge.gov.uk/community-environment-days for more details –

We have them planned for

21 September: Ashfield Road – organised by our Streets and Open Spaces team
28 September: King’s Hedges (meet at The Ship)
5 October: Bliss Way and Tenby Close – organised by our Streets and Open Spaces team
12 October: Ditton Fields
19 October: Byron Square – organised by our Streets and Open Spaces team
6 November: Whitehill Road – organised by our Streets and Open Spaces team

We declare a biodiversity emergency

In May this year Cambridge City Council declared a biodiversity emergency and pledged:

to provide leadership and to ensure that we work with all organisational departments, partners and our communities to reverse the decline in biodiversity and deliver measurable biodiversity net gain within Cambridge and the wider region.

I was proud to propose the motion, and as I introduced it this is what I said:

I’d like to stand before you and say how pleased I am that Cambridge City Council is leading the way in acknowledging the significance of species collapse, and pledging action, but I can’t, because I fear that even this will be too little, too late.

I hope I’m wrong, and that what we do today makes a contribution to turning us away from the ecological and agricultural disaster that faces us

Continue reading “We declare a biodiversity emergency”

Replacing gas mains in Trumpington

As I cycled into the Guildhall this morning I went down Porson Road and noticed the large yellow pipes standing ready to be laid along the road. Yellow is the colour used for gas, and although I was pleased to see that Trumpington’s vital infrastructure is being properly maintained, I also wondered how long we will want to keep providing gas to people’s homes when we are planning to becoming a zero carbon economy by 2030.

We all know that if we are to avoid dangerous levels of global warming then we need to change many of our current practices and assumptions, especially here where so much of our daily life and industry rely on oil, coal and gas. However we don’t seem to reflect on what that means – and it will mean not piping gas to everyone to burn, however convenient it may be.

Clearing Floating Pennywort from the Cam

At the weekend I had an enjoyable if tiring time canoeing on the Cam near Horningsea. It wasn’t just a pleasant afternoon on the river – I had joined enthusiastic members of the Cam Valley Forum and the Cambridge Canoe Club as they embarked on their mission to clear floating pennywort from the river.

This involved carefully pulling the weed away from the bank and collecting it in buckets on our canoes, and then either putting it on the bank to provide useful compost or putting it into a boat being used by the Cam Conservators.

Katie canoeing
katie canoeing

It was a beautiful summer day, and great to work with such a committed group of volunteers. And my upper arms really benefited from the exercise!

river in the evening
river in the evening

Dealing with the real issues Trumpington faces

Barbara Ashwood quoted in the Cambridge News

It’s hard to know where to begin after reading the deeply objectionable remarks about Trumpington made by newly-elected LibDem county councillor Barbara Ashwood, reported in today’s Cambridge News. They reveal a set of attitudes towards the people she is supposed to represent that I find deeply depressing and worrying and that run completely counter to my views. They also seem to be based on hearsay and prejudice, with no supporting evidence.

I am sorry that Trumpington residents find that they have replaced the absent former LibDem Donald Adey with someone who seems to have no real understanding of the issues facing us and seeks to create social division by claiming – without any evidence – that newly arrived residents are responsible for problems in the ward.

I am also sorry that the real challenges that Trumpington faces as a result of rapid expansion will be overshadowed by this sort of ill-considered comment. We do have problems, because the ward has grown massively and this places a great strain on transport and other services. We have issues because we have less to spend after years of Tory and LibDem led cuts in public services as a result of the false narrative of austerity in public funding. And we have issues because many people are struggling, and some are failing, to keep their lives together.

Continue reading “Dealing with the real issues Trumpington faces”

We Need Safe Junctions in Trumpington

If you shop at the Waitrose in South Trumpington, or pass it regularly on foot, cycle or by car, then you may have noticed how hard it can be to turn into or out of the site, and how badly positioned the traffic lights are.

The issue of safety at the junction was first brought to my attention during my campaigning in 2017 and 2018, when I heard from several families with small children about their concerns. It’s not just that the road is inherently unsafe as cars approaching from the south can always turn into the junction, but it’s also impossible to teach young children to cross the roads safely as there is no safe way to cross here.

There are often queues building up to get into the carpark, and then a rush to drive over during the short period when the cars have the right to cross. And the visibility for cars turning in when coming from the M11 junction can be an issue if not kept under control.

When the junction was built, long before the thousands of homes in Trumpington Meadows and the new junior school, it was a minor inconvenience as it was only really used by people walking to Monsanto or cyclists heading south.

However, it is now part of a major thoroughfare.
There are many families who live in old Trumpington who cross twice a day to go to the Trumpington Meadows Primary School.
People who live in Trumpington Meadows use this route to go to the Clay Farm Centre, and the recreation ground.
Then there are visitors who go to the successful Country Park or want to walk over to Byron’s Pool Local Nature reserve.
And of course, the Harston – Trumpington cycleway also uses this route.

With so many more people using the junction, it has become a real concern, and not just because of the way cars turn into the site. Last week I heard a really worrying story from a local resident about a father and son who were heading south and waiting to cross.

A bus was pulling out but did not have enough time or space to leave the site, so ended up blocking the pedestrian route over the junction. The family crossed in front of the bus, with the father leading the way. The lights went green and the bus pulled forward without the driver noticing that the young son had not reached the safety of the crossing island.

As a result, the boy was trapped between the railings and the departing bus, and ended up bruised, and in shock. It could have been so much worse.

It’s clear that as well as some traffic control we need a safe crossing for pedestrians and cyclists before someone is seriously hurt. Having worked closely with local residents to support the campaign to put safety measures in place along the guided busway, I hope we can pull together similar support here.