It’s been an exciting morning for me, as along with my fellow councillor Anna Smith I’ve been attending the Cambridge Half Marathon, and watching thousands of dedicated runners take to the streets of Cambridge.
I’m the executive councillor for streets and open spaces, so my team has a lot of work to do getting things ready and clearing up afterwards, and I was really pleased to be able to thank them for all they do.
As well as saying a few words as the runners assembled, Anna and I got to mark the start of each stage of the race with a klaxon, and I’ve also been at the finish mark to cheer the runners as they arrive and present them with their prizes.
As executive councillor for Streets and Open Spaces I’m looking at what the council can do to improve the environment across Cambridge. I have a special concern for the variety of plant and animal life, or biodiversity, but there are lots of other important aspects such as air quality and pollution levels, keeping open spaces clean and tidy, planting trees and so on.
However the Council does many other things, so in my recent report to the Cambridge Labour Party I highlighted one or two from each ward.
A great charity called Groundwork have built a stage in the community garden – watch out for events and entertainment!
There is a tunnel under Eddington Avenue to allow the endangered species Great Crested Newt to travel safely around the green spaces – I hope they use it!
A garden management plan has been prepared for Cherry Hinton Hall Park – this is a requirement for a Green Flag award which we hope to win this year for the park.
The residents parking scheme has been widely appreciated except for some issues on Coleridge Road, but these will be resolved by removing the bays which create pinch points.
Planning consent for the improvements to community centre is granted and the building works might start around end of May with completion at the end of September.
There have been some very successful Traffic Regulation Orders to impose verge parking bans on King’s Hedges Road, Ramsden Square, Lovell Road and Campkin Road! Hope we can learn from this for other problem areas.
The City Council is planning for the roll out of suitable biodiversity friendly/ low maintenance treatments on ornamental bedding across parks/ road islands here and across the city. This is will help to support biodiversity across the city.
The first water vole sighting after winter was today – on the River Cam at Coe Fen! This is part of the most exciting ecological project Cambridge has carried out in some time.
The alcohol license at Tesco was refused as the Council reinforces of the cumulative impact zone policy. This was despite the police saying it could be accepted (subject to special terms).
Planning application has been submitted for a new Nightingale Pavilion, 19/0040/FUL. The application might be dealt with by 8 March.
53 trees have been planted along both sides of Hills Road.
There will be temporary bridge for pedestrians and cyclist next to the Mill Road bridge during the 8 week shutdown.
I have reported the following lights not working:
60 lights in the Park and Ride; 7 by the train station; 4 by the Foster Road bus stop on the guided busway; 5 on the Addenbrookes approach on the guided busway. And reported on some on un-numbered lampposts too.
I’ve been informed that Balfour Beatty now have the number plates to be fix onto the lamposts, and all the replacement equipment required to make the lights work, and that this is proceeding. After this there will be electrical checks every 6 months, and replacement of old light fittings every 3 years.
The sudden death of my fellow councillor and Mayor of Cambridge Nigel Gawthrope has left me shocked and saddened. Nigel was a committed and dedicated ward councillor, an enthusiastic and energetic Mayor, and a supportive friend to all of us who worked with him. I would like to send my condolences to his family.
As a newly-elected councillor Nigel offered me a great deal of support, and I learned quickly from him that you should not be intimidated by the complexity of council proceedings or the formalities of office, but should just get on and do the best job you could – while enjoying yourself wherever possible.
I was lucky enough to accompany Nigel on a range of official engagements, such as the official opening of Stourbridge Fair and the Mayor’s reception for the Christmas lights, and it was always clear just how much he enjoyed being Mayor and how much energy he put into the role. He understood that as Mayor he could bring attention to issues and causes that might otherwise not get noticed, and he was dedicated to doing everything he could for those who needed help.
I was honoured to serve with him on the City Council, and I know that all of my fellow councillors will work to ensure that Cambridge delivers on the promises he made to those he represented in King’s Hedges and throughout the City.
It’s always interesting being on the Cambridge City Council planning committee. Every application is interesting and generally the discussions help to understand the pressure and opportunities that are being considered on a daily basis in this lovely city.
The National Planning Policy Framework (2018) does seek measurable net gains in biodiversity and this is expected in larger applications but I believe, it is something that we must endeavour to consider on every application.
Today we took a step in the right direction. An application was approved for three new council houses, which is something worth celebration on its own, but it was agreed that as the application involved new fencing an information item could be added as part of the approval. And this is what will be added:
Informative on wildlife access gaps within garden boundary treatments
The applicant is reminded that the National Planning Policy Framework (2018) seeks all developments to ‘minimise impacts on and provide net gains for biodiversity, including establishing coherent ecological networks that are more resilient to current and future pressures’. Residential gardens are increasingly important refuges for declining species such as hedgehogs and local enhancement can be achieved through provision of access gaps (minimum 130mm x 130mm) within boundary features to connect these habitats.
It’s a small thing, but it will matter to the local hedgehogs!
Yesterday I spoke to the County Council about the issue, as they are the authority responsible for the busway. I felt that the councillors understood the issues, and want to thank them all and especially Jocelynne Scutt for their comments. The meeting has been reported in the Cambridge News – thanks to Josh Thomas for being there.
We have already seen some changes – the white lines and warnings on the busway are a welcome development – but we need more.
It’s hard to miss the growing number of cargo bikes in Cambridge, being used to ferry everything from children to shopping to deliveries around. They use a lot less energy than cars do, and take up a lot less space, and I think they are a really valuable alternative means of transport.
Like many car owners, I’d like to use my car a lot less, but the thought of cycling a long distance with a week’s shopping, especially when it’s got heavy things like cat food or bulky things like toilet roll, is a bit of a deterrent.
Which is one reason why I was excited to see that there’s a new generation of electric cargo bikes, offering those of us who like to cycle but could do with a little help the perfect alternative to a car.
Last night I had the great pleasure of attending the opening night of this year’s Cambridge Film Festival – the 38th! It was wonderful to see my old friend and Festival Director Tony Jones in his element, and to meet the noted director Terry Gilliam, whose film ‘The Man Who Killed Don Quixote’ was being screened.
I’ve been going to the Arts Picturehouse – and before that the Arts Cinema – for as long as I’ve lived in Cambridge and have a strong connection to the Film Festival going back many years, and I wish it well.
The full programme for this year is available online and I urge you to have a look – you’re bound to find something to entertain, intrigue or challenge you among the excellent selection of new and old films curated by Tony and his team.
I really enjoyed last night’s film – it’s just what you’d expect from Terry Gilliam, and the richness of his imagination continues to astonish me. It’s showing again on Saturday 27, so you have a chance to see it.
As I write this on Saturday afternoon the petition calling on the bus companies that run on the busway to reduce speed in the section between Long Road and Cambridge rail station has nearly 2000 signatures. It’s a clear sign that the residents of Trumpington are concerned about the danger posed by buses going at speed just next to the path where they walk and cycle.
I hope that we get more signatures, and that on Monday morning we get a response from the bus companies – a positive one, that reassures us all. When we receive the report from the Health and Safety Executive then we can decide what long term measures are needed to ensure that all users of the busway are safe, but until then, I believe that a voluntary speed reduction is a sensible and proportional response.