Do We Really Want to ‘Build Build Build’?

Almost all sectors of the economy  are struggling as we adapt to living with a deadly virus. Perhaps telecommunications is doing well, but manufacturing, engineering, hospitality, arts and construction are all suffering, either closed or falteringly starting up again.

The big wheel of commerce has stopped, but we need people back in their jobs, not least because the social support systems that offer help when in need have been dismantled and kicked away by over ten years of austerity. 

So it seems we are going ‘build, build, build’ our way out of trouble. And in order to make this possible planning laws will be changed to allow developers to build homes more quickly under ‘permitted development’ rules that mean councillors like me, who sit on planning committees, will have no say.

Really?

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My background

I was born and raised in Hong Kong to British parents, moved to UK to attend university in 1980 . and I have made this country my home and raised my family here, having moved to Cambridge to work as an architect after graduation.

I have had my own architectural practice for thirty years, working on social housing, older buildings and private homes.  I have always been interested in the connection between architecture, cities and food, and in 2013 I studied for a Masters degree in Food Policy at City University in London.

My grandmother was interned in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in Hong Kong for four years with her three children, including my mum who was four when they were rounded up. During that time they lived in one room shared with another family.

Growing up I heard many stories of that time, when they had no medicine, were cut off from most of the outside world . and had very little food. I heard how that time brought the family together and how the Christmases in the camp were so special as each year they realised they were still together and alive, part of a community that was working together in dreadful circumstances.

Understanding what they went through, and how it was family, friends and community that got them through has been important to me throughout my life, and has driven me to do all I can to support others.

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.

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.

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Thinking about an inclusive Cambridge

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.

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Cambridge Half Marathon

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.

It’s been a fabulous day.

Free Trees for Babies

I visited Cherry Hinton Park this morning to join the City Council’s tree officers as they gave out free trees to parents who had signed up for the council’s long-running Free Trees for Babies scheme. 

Apparently the most popular tree is the winter-flowering cherry tree, not just because it looks beautiful but because it fits in the smaller Cambridge gardens!

If you want to sign up for next year – the trees are all delivered during the dormant season – then go the website at https://www.cambridge.gov.uk/free-trees-for-babies

Chinese New Year 2019

This Sunday the Cambridge Chinese Community Centre held its Spring Festival Fair and Gala Performance at the Netherhall School.

There was Chinese food, entertainment activities and Chinese New Year gifts and decorations, and I was fortunate enough to attend with the Deputy Mayor, Councillor Gerri Bird.

It was lovely to experience the New Year celebrations and reminded me of my childhood in Hong Kong