Don’t forget the young trees!

We’ve been planting lots of trees around Cambridge, and we want them all to thrive. But in this hot period the ground is dry and they are suffering.

So I’ve started filling old plastic bottles with water and taking them to some of the trees in the area – and it would be great if more people did the same. There are signs on the ones that our tree officers think are most in need.

Restoring Our Chalk Streams

Chalk streams are one of the most important water features in this area. They are a globally rare habitat in Northwest Europe and an important habitat to the UK – our equivalent of rainforests. They are hugely important for supporting biodiversity, as they support a wide range of flora and fauna including freshwater sponges, brown trout, and mayflies.

So it was a real pleasure to work on a restoration project for Cherry Hinton Brook, along with Ruth Hawksley of the Wildlife Trust, Cambridge City Council, Friends of Cherry Hinton Brook and other environmental activists.

We met at the Daws Lane bridge to reshape the bank and improve the flow of water by restricting the brook in some areas, returning it to the state it was in before the area was developed.

Katie using a sledgehammer to hammer in a post
Katie using a sledgehammer to hammer in a post

In 2019 I convened a forum on the water crisis facing the region (you can read our full report here on my website), and we highlighted the importance of the chalk streams, so it was great to get my hands dirty – and my feet wet – helping improve them.

The work was covered by BBC Look East and you can see the report here

#StopRwanda

The great people at Care4Calais are fighting to stop Government plans to forcibly send refugees to Rwanda, a cruel and inhumane policy that I absolutely oppose.

Apart from the many issues around sending people to a country that they have no connection to, anyone sent to Rwanda will no longer be inside the UK asylum system, so if their application for asylum fails in Rwanda they won’t come back here – they will be sent somewhere else by the Rwanda government.

Yesterday I wore my #StopRwanda t-shirt around Cambridge, and I’ll be working with Cambridge Labour to do what we can to get this plan cancelled.

Katie cycling in her t-shirt. The message reads “If you are neutral in situations of injustice you have chosen the side of the opppressor”

You can buy your t-shirt directly from Care4Calais at
https://shop.care4calais.org/product/stop-rwanda-t-shirt-mens/

Take care over the next few days

As we go into this extremely hot weekend I hope that everyone will take the high temperature seriously and look after themselves. I was in Cambridge in July 2019 when the temperature reached 38.7 degrees and it was almost unbearable. It could be 40 degrees next week.

These sorts of extreme weather events, like gales or high temperatures or snow, are a consequence of the changes to the world’s climate we have made, and as long as we carry on putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere it will get worse. That’s why our net zero targets matter – we must do all we can as a local authority

I thought this advice from the ITV Weather presenter Chris Page’s Facebook was very helpful.

This is what Chris wrote:

Let’s clear a few things up about this Extreme Heat Forecast.
This is not “just summer”.

The average summer maximum temperature here in the UK is 23-24C. Temperatures in some parts of the country are set to be 16C higher than that.

This is not hype. The Met Office Red and Amber Extreme heat warning have been issued for a reason. Temperatures here in the UK rarely get above 35C and even then, in the past we have seen a steep rise in heat related illnesses and death.

We are now forecasting higher than that. Much higher. Possibly 40C.
Not only will this impact our health but also the UK’s infrastructure.

Roads will melt. Railways will buckle. Wildfires will happen. Power networks will see an increase in demand and so will the water network too where in some places there are reduced resources already.

The temperature at night will not drop below 20 degrees and in some places it could hold up into the mid-twenties. If your body can not cool down, you will suffer and could see problems such as heatstroke or heat stress. Please brush up on what to do if these circumstances arise and what to look for.

If you’re an employer, you should be considering not sending your staff to work especially if they have to use public transport. And if you’re an employee, you should be asking your employer what to do in this hot weather.

It’s common sense stuff. Stay well hydrated. Try to stay out of the midday sun between 11-3pm. We need to look after each other and check on those who live alone.

One last thing. Yes, people do go on holiday to temperatures higher than this and yes other countries do cope in this heat. Often, these people have either grown up with this heat and are used to working in it or if they’re going on holiday, it’s a choice they make and often air conditioning is available in countries where high temperatures occur.

For us, everyone in the UK, we do not have a choice and a lot of us don’t have access to air con. This dangerous heat is coming. Listen to the advice and you’ll be OK. Try and stay cool.

Oh and finally. If you’re going to take the micky saying its ‘over-reacting’, you’re not looking at the bigger picture, please keep it to yourself and don’t tell me you survived 1976 either. That wasn’t as hot as this and you’re not as young as you were then.
Stay safe! X

Election Day: Thursday May 5

Thursday May 5 is election day for local authority elections in England, Scotland and Wales and for all London borough councils, as well as some new unitary authorities.

Katie and Simon Smith, who is standing in Castle Ward

Please use your vote for Labour in these vital elections. Here in Petersfield my colleague and friend Richard Robertson is standing for re-election, along with many other great Labour candidates across Cambridge – see all their details here on the Cambridge Labour website.

Labour’s budget for planning and transport

As the executive councillor for planning policy and transport I had the opportunity to share our budget proposals for the next financial year at the Council Meeting on Thursday February 24.

You can find full details of the meeting here: https://democracy.cambridge.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=116&MId=3965

and we will be meeting again on Thur March 3 at 6pm – there’s a live stream too https://democracy.cambridge.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=116&MId=4204

Here are the notes I spoke from – some of this was cut to make sure I kept withing my allocated five minutes

Notes from Council Meeting

I’d like to begin by reflecting on what we have done this year as officers, elected members, and staff, to keep this local authority running and deliver One Cambridge, Fair For All.

In my area of Planning Policy and Transport we have achieved so much.

Continue reading “Labour’s budget for planning and transport”

Facing up to the cladding crisis

As an architect and a local councillor I’ve been following the Grenfell Inquiry with enormous interest, and have been appalled by the evidence that has emerged. The implications for the safety of our buildings are severe, and the impact on residents has been enormous – both emotional and financial.

Last July I convened a forum to discuss building quality issues (you can find out about it here on my website), and this month I’ve written an article for Cambridge Architecture, the magazine published by the Cambridge Association of Architects. I’m republishing it here


Cover of Cambridge Architecture issue 82

We should all care about the quality of the buildings around us, whether they are council homes, private developments, schools, offices or civic buildings. Since the Grenfell Tower disaster in 2017 attention has rightly focused on concerns about unsafe cladding, with serious concerns about the safety of people living in affected properties, the costs of replacing potentially dangerous materials, and who should pay.

Continue reading “Facing up to the cladding crisis”

Planting Trees at Logan’s Meadow

Logan’s Meadow is an open space on the flood plan in East Chesterton that used to be sports fields and is now being turned into a nature reserve. And today I joined Friends of Logan’s Meadow and the City Council’s tree and ecology officers to plant two out of the planned 244 trees.

It was such fun and great to catch up with some wonderful people in this exciting space.

Plans for the meadows started about two years ago, when I was executive councillor for open spaces. I’d come along to a meeting to update local residents about a funding bid I had made for improving vehicular access onto the meadow. Our ecology officer Guy Belcher felt that access was important to really begin to consider ways of improving and expanding the nature reserve. The residents had similar inspirational ideas and it was a truly serendipitous time that we came together and the council could find funding for some key elements.

Since that meeting the project has come along driven by the energy of the residents and great council officers, and with an occasional nudge from me when I was the relevant executive councillor. And it has all happened so rapidly, when all the restrictions of the pandemic are considered.

While we were together I also learnt from Tony Ava from the Friends Group about some of the many reasons that people came along to plant a tree or two, for example n remembrance of loved ones who had connections with Cambridge, to be part of this community project happening now, and for future generations

By 3pm on Sunday the 244 trees will be planted, each labelled and attached to a stake with a hessian cord. And the best possible growth that we could wish for – for trees, woods, ecology, nature and community has started.

Thinking about sustainable homes

Today is a lovely, sunny autumn day, and I had a long walk with a good friend, the wonderful artist and County Councillor Hilary Cox Condron, discussing all things sustainable. Everything from hedgehogs to the emerging local plan, and what we can do as local politicians (or not) and in our own lives too.

Hilary is going to start to make her home more sustainable and I’m going to give some advice, starting with measuring what the footprint is first – actually measuring up the home and using the utility bills – then look at reducing energy 20% every year.

A few years ago I wrote a guide to making homes and buildings more sustainable, and I thought it would be worth sharing with Hilary and anyone else, so I’m publishing it here

Katies’ Guide to Becoming More Sustainable

Visiting a Building Site in Petersfield

Since I became a ward councillor for Petersfield I’ve been getting to know the area again, as it has changed a lot since I last lived here over two decades ago. One of the most obvious changes has been the growth in office buildings, especially around the rail station, and so I’ve made a special effort to talk to developers and builders, and to visit sites where I can.

This morning I was at a new office development on Station Road, and got to see the building from basement to the roof – wearing all the appropriate safety equipment, and carefully following the site manager’s guidance of course.

Katie and a Crane

I wanted to know more about traffic management plans and how the developers/builders used them, to see if there are ways we can improve things.. I also asked about how residents contacted the contractors with issues regarding noise, dust, and deliveries and how they could work to minimise disruption.

This is important because works to demolish buildings and to excavate for basements can be very disruptive for residents. How things are planned and how residents are kept informed can make a big difference.

Some contractors are very good at this – joining residents groups with regular updates, leafleting homes nearby before disruption is expected, responding quickly if residents and businesses asks for quiet periods or extra protection, and we can encourage this best practice

While there I also learned about the recent concrete availability problems, and saw even more evidence of workers moving to EU countries where there is significant demand for their skills. We can’t do much about this at council level but it’s important we understand the wider framework within which development takes place in Petersfield and across Cambridge.

I hope the people I talked to on site appreciate the interest that we take in what they are doing, and that it helps them understand more about the city and about the needs of residents who have to live with the building activity and the buildings themselves.