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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
[Image shows the shadow of Katie and her phone, as she takes a picture of dry grass on the hottest day recorded so far in the UK, in Cambridge in July 25 2019. ]
On Monday that Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its Sixth Assessment Report, looking at the the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, and it made chilling reading, as this report from the BBC makes clear
I was invited onto BBC Radio Cambridgeshire to talk about the report with Chris Mann
I’m angry because we knew this was coming and we know what is needed – we have to live resilient lives and act in emergencies, we have to adapt our built environment, and we have to make hard choices in order to make sure that our planet remains one we can live on.
The last Labour government put in place a Code for Sustainable Homes, which called for zero carbon homes and the recognition that water neutrality was necessary in water stressed areas – but these forward thinking policies were abandoned by the Tory-LibDem coalition between 2011 and 2016 and we are still waiting for replacement regulations to reflect the dire situation we are facing.
In the face of this global crisis, what we can do as a local authority can seem insignificant, but it does make a difference, and it offers an example for others.
We are working hard to do what we can to deal with the climate emergency, and our priorities for the next Local Plan include Climate Change and Biodiversity as well as Wellbeing and Tackling Equality. Our aspirations for the Plan go well beyond all current regulations, and we will do whatever we can to assure new communities are sustainable, ensuring that we are “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (this is taken from the National Planning Policy Framework NPPF 2021, paragraph 7).
The City Council has put in double glazing and sealed external doors in all council homes, and have started on a programme of external insulation, loft insulation and solar PV as part of a retrofitting programme. We are working with local organisations like Cambridge Sustainable Food, Cambridge Carbon Footprint, Transition Cambridge and other to transform the way we think about food, waste, recycling and reusing materials, and much more. And we are working to make sure that Cambridge is a net zero council by 2030, and we will work to help our residents, local organisations and businesses to do the same. Some of the other things we are doing are:
A 6 month trial of giving free advice to residents on options to reduce energy use in homes latter this year.
Actively encouraging new opportunities for sharing of tools and re-using materials, including starting a library of things in the central library.
Listening to residents wanting to start community gardens and more food growing.
Working towards having the best possible local plan for sustainable development and communities.
Looking at more opportunities for food growing including more meanwhile growing areas and talking to local farmers.
Preparing a transport and movement strategy for the whole city and for all living in and around our city. Including tackling pollution, congestion, and provide more opportunities for walking, cycling, and public transport.
Starting a trial of electric community cars
None of these will solve global heating, none of them is enough – but they show that we are serious about what we can do here in Cambridge, offer ideas for other people to adopt, and demonstrate that we are willing to change the way we live.
We believe that we can make a difference – but at the same time we will be campaigning for governments and the large corporations that are responsible for most of the world’s carbon emissions to change the way they work too.
In 2019 I convened a Water Crisis Forum which was attended by representatives of many local organisations, as well as Anglian Water. That forum, and the hard work of many organisations that care about water like the Wild Trout Trust, FECRA, the Wildlife Trust, Cambridge Eco Schools, and Cam Valley Forum, managed to put concern over the local water supply on the news agenda, and made people more aware of the threat to our precious chalk streams from over abstraction of water from the chalk aquifers.
I’ve continued to talk and campaign about this issue, and have followed up on the report we issued last February.
In this video (which you can watch by clicking the link) I talk about biodiversity, and the chalk streams. Labour is committed to doing more to help, so please vote for your Labour candidate on Thursday May 6.
One of the most important activities I am responsible for as the executive councillor for Planning Policy and Open Spaces is the Cambridge Canopy Project, which is planting 2,000 trees across the city between 2019 and 2022.
This is part of a bigger European project to roll-out ‘green infrastructure’, or natural solutions, to make cities more resilient to the likely impacts that will be brought about by climate change.
This week we hit two milestones – the 1,000th and 1,024th trees – so it seemed fitting to make an occasion of these milestones and celebrate accordingly, and I’m really pleased that we are going to commemorate one of the city’s best known residents in the process.
The 1,000th tree – a magnolia ‘Galaxy’ – was planted in Stourbridge Grove, adding spring colour with its large pink flowers, and today (Jan 29) we are planting the 1024th in Christ’s Pieces. This will be the Turing Tree, named for the mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing.
The period since March has been among the most challenging any of will us ever have known. I know how much the pandemic has affected my family and my work, and I hope that everyone has been able to cope. My sympathies go out to everyone who has been ill, or who may have lost loved ones.
Like many of you I have been busy doing what I can to support those who have been badly affected, in Trumpington Ward and across Cambridge.
I worked with residents and other councillors to set up the trumpington.info online hub to share information and provide a focal point for volunteering
After spending time working at Abbey Food Hub I initiated a similar offer for Trumpington, which has been open in the Pavilion since May 5, initially for two afternoons a week but currently on Fridays only. Over the last twenty weeks we have provided hundreds of families with access to much-needed food. The Food Poverty Alliance has used funding from the City Council and Cambridge United to buy food from Fairshare, and we have also had generous donations from local businesses and residents.
Life on the City Council has been very different as all our meetings are now online. This has had the welcome side effect of making them more accessible to councillors with caring obligations, and I plan to make sure that we retain online access even after we go back into the Guildhall.
I am now the City Council lead for a local action group seeking to establish whether the ‘doughnut economics’ model would be useful for our long term planning. Doughnut economics combines the ideas of planetary and social boundaries to provide a framework for sustainable development shaped like a ring doughnut.
This is an idea that has been growing in importance and has been adopted by many cities around the world, including Amsterdam. I believe it offers us a way to plan for a sustainable world, and will be one of the ways we will come through these difficult days.
I get to use an attic room overlooking King’s Parade, and it is a great place to view all very many ways this significant Cambridge street is used: for protests, for dancing, singing and busking, for weddings and funerals and picnics both on the wall outside King’s and, more recently, on the college’s lawn.
I often get my phone out to photograph the comings and goings of people but also the rain, sunsets and birds. Some I post up on Twitter with or without comments, but mostly they get left in my cloud storage.
Today I photographed some dancing, singing, a bubble machine, families with dogs, some drummers, all in blue and silver glitter with flags, bunting and banners. A protest about the threat to water, and the climate crisis. Both things I am very concerned about.
The group behind it was Cambridge XR, and once they had assembled there were some speeches. About the climage emergency. About Black Lives Matters as well. Taking the knee and silence. All on the green in front of King’s College, while the sun shone and a group of brass instruments played loudly further down the street.
After a short while the group reassembled and moved on, while continuing to protest while dancing and singing. I posted a couple of photos and quoted the banners, and referenced Cambridge XR.
I don’t support any form of violence, but I do support freedom of speech and peaceful protests. I campaign for equality, to protect biodiversity, nature and to mitigate the climate crisis.
I’m not a member of XR but I can see the impact they have had on the conversation about the climate crisis. The younger people are speaking out and I am trying to listen.