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.
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.
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.
I’ve worked with Cambridge Sustainable Food and know how awful food poverty is. A Community Fridge provides fresh food which is coming up to or just past its sell by date, but not its use by date. The food is donated by local businesses and is free for anyone who needs it.
There are three Community Fridges currently running in Cambridge, in Abbey, Arbury and East Chesterton. I have volunteered at the one in Abbey and I can see how valuable they are to so many people so I want to set one up in Trumpington, here in the south of the city.
I’m proposing to run the fridge on Tuesdays and Fridays 11am – 1pm, and am seeking volunteers to help, especially anyone with food hygiene training.
Can you help?
Please contact me via email@example.com if interested. Everyone is welcome and training will be available.
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.