One of my roles on Cambridge City Council is to look after our open spaces, ranging from Midsummer Common, where we host so many community events, to the new allotment on Glebe Farm and everywhere in between.
The open spaces team do a magnificent job keeping them in good order, and ensure that they are accessible to everyone. They also work hard to keep them litter free
Open spaces are good for people but they are also good for the environment, helping support many species of plants and animals, especially now that we have planted so many wildflower meadows across the city to replace grass and formal flower beds.
This has been a key element of our response to the biodiversity emergency which the council declared last year, at my request, along with our successful hedgehog awareness campaign.
We have also stopped using herbicides on land owned by the council.
Looking forward, I’m making sure we deliver on our tree strategy, looking after the thirty-three thousand trees in public places across the city and planting more as part of our Tree Canopy Project
I’m also continuing to work closely with all the relevant bodies to find a way to deal with the water stress that we face in Cambridge and the surrounding area, following the Forum I held last November.
We still have a lot to do to ensure that our long term water supplies meet our needs and preserves the natural beauty of our chalk streams and the River Cam.
When I’m working in the food hub I take the right precautions, to ensure that I don’t infect anyone, and that I am unlikely to be infected.
And when I’m out of the house, I do the same, with a fabric mask that can catch droplets I produce and reduce the risk of infection. I’d ask everyone else to to the same if they can, as there’s good evidence that masks really make a difference.
This is an enormously difficult time for so many people and we are all struggling in different ways as we cope with the pressures of being unable to live and work as normal as we deal with Covid-19.
As a City Councillor and member of the executive I’m spending a lot of time working to ensure that the council does everything it can. Many of our staff are working from home, and doing a great job, while some, like refuse collectors and street cleaners, have had to adapt their working practices in order to stay safe. Children’s parks are closed and we have limited car parks for use by essential workers.
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.
Yesterday evening, FeCRA (Federation of Cambridge Residents’ Associations) held their annual general meeting, which was followed by a talk from Professor Robin Hambleton about the inclusive approach for design of cities and a panel discussion on ‘How can Cambridge grow in a way that will make it Inclusive?’
I was invited to join the panel and delighted to be involved with this important event along with Daniel Zeichner MP, Chair of Woodland Trust Baroness Barbara Young , the Chief Executive of the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust Prof Brian Eversham, and Meredith Bowles of Mole Architects.
FeCRA represent 97 local residents’ associations and community groups across Cambridge, and at the event the chair of the meeting, Wendy Blyth, ran through some of their achievements, from questioning the County Council about procedure when ancient hedgerow was removed for a new cycleway, coordinating feedback on a space survey of Cambridge city centre, and organising a celebration of 53 new trees planted along Hills Road among many others.
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.
There have been changes to the executive of the City Council and on August 15 I became Executive Councillor for Streets and Open Spaces. As a result I’ve stepped down from the the Planning and Transport Scrutiny Committee and the Housing Scrutiny Committee.
This is an enormous privilege. I look forward to ensuring that all allotments are in full use and the streets and toilets are clean – as well as delivering Labour’s vision for Cambridge, tackling climate change and making the city cleaner and greener.