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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’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
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
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
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.
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.
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!
It’s Hedgehog Awareness Week, organised every year by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) to highlight the problems hedgehogs face and how you can help them. This year Cambridge City Council is helping Cambridge Hedgehogs, a new charity, to give hedgehogs a higher profile both during the campaign and all year around.
In the UK hedgehog numbers have declined by 97% since the 1950s, and this is a particular issue in Trumpington, where I’m the local councillor. When I was first out canvassing in Trumpington in 2016, I met many Green Party members living in the ward and we talked about biodiversity loss in the ward as development increased and the number of new dwellings was delivered. What seemed to be a thriving population of local hedgehogs had dwindled as new homes increased. I was shocked about the news, and that I had not been aware of the situation.
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.
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.