Conservatives threaten our children’s centres

Conservative councillors have today voted in favour of going ahead with a consultation to close 19 children’s centres, including Homerton Children’s Centre in Holbrook Road.

The centres themselves were only told last Tuesday, just as a public consultation is about to start.

In Cambridge, the Tories will also close children’s centres at Romsey Mill, Fawcett, and Cherry Hinton, which they say are ‘not needed’. Families are expected to  travel to other areas– eg Homerton families are directed to the Central Library in the city centre. Quite a distance if you are taking small children, and an extra cost if you have to pay bus fares or park in town.

The proposals have been met with anger and indignation by local people. A petition calling for a halt to the proposals has gained nearly 1,000 signatures in just 2 days.

Today I attended the County Council’s Children & Young People Committee and told them:

“Homerton Children’s Centre not only supports the excellent nursery education, but it provides a range of vital services to families: baby clinics and benefits advice and, at the sharp end, they deal with cases of mental health and domestic abuse.

If these services are taken away, the needs will not disappear but will still have to be met, by the NHS, the police and the councils. The Council’s £1m saving will cost that and more to other services, as well as the cost to quality of life.

It’s hard to see how families are going to access services easily if they have to go all the way into town to Central Library. This will not only turn a short visit into a lengthy trip in and out of town, but it will mean families have to pay for bus fares or parking. In practice, this will reduce the take-up from those who most benefit from the services.”

To make matters worse, the council’s consultation will run through the school holidays, 17th July – 22nd September – the worst possible time for families.

Liberal Democrats on the committee asked for the proposals to be sent back for more work, and for the consultation to be delayed until the beginning of next term but were outvoted by the Conservatives, who voted en bloc to go ahead.

We will continue to oppose these proposals to close children’s centres and to challenge the assumptions behind them. If you would like to join our campaign, please sign our petition opposing the closures, and follow our Facebook page Cambridgeshire Children’s Centres campaign.

Morley residents parking scheme

The County Council highways officers have been working on the back office systems for the Morley residents’ parking scheme, to ensure everybody eligible for a permit is listed properly. The scheme is bounded by the southern side of Cherry Hinton Road, the eastern side of Hills Road, and Blinco Grove.

The officers are about to order signs and pay & display machines, as well as book the yellow lining works. There will be letters to residents informing everybody that the parking scheme is going to be installed, followed by another inviting people to apply for permits. The first permits should be issued in September.

Streets need to be free of parked cars for the installation of bays to be installed and the painting of yellow lines. The Council is concerned that in the summer there may be some cars on the street belonging to people who are on holiday, which would frustrate the works – so the physical installation will take place in September, when the cars’ owners are less likely to be away.

The Council is about to commence consultation on seven new residents’ parking schemes, including two in Coleridge, starting on the other side of Cherry Hinton Road. Other areas of Cambridge should follow later this year. The Greater Cambridge City Deal have been asked if they will consider funding this scheme, as well as others, and we are hoping for a positive response.

For more information on residents’ parking, see https://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/residents/travel-roads-and-parking/parking-permits-and-fines/parking/residents-parking-in-cambridge/.

Thank you!

I am delighted to have been re-elected to represent Queen Edith’s for a further four years on Cambridgeshire County Council. The votes were verified on Thursday night and counted on Friday morning, with the  result announced just before noon on Friday:

Amanda Taylor, Liberal Democrat 1678
Adam Pounds, Labour 962
Manas Deb, Conservative 752
Joel Chalfen, Green 226

Majority: 716

Turnout: 47%

A heartfelt thank you to everybody who supported me and the Liberal Democrat team and our work for the community.

Hills Road cycleways: U-turn on total road closure but no end in sight

The Greater Cambridge City Deal has announced new plans for traffic management on Hills Road to facilitate cycleway construction.

Diversion routes for cycleway works

Having announced in January that they would close the top section of Hills Road entirely for five months, there has been some rowing back following public anger. The road between Long Road and the Addenbrooke’s roundabout will now be closed to outbound traffic for approximately 14 weeks, starting in June. There will be a diversion via Queen Edith’s Way and Fendon Road see right). The citybound lane will still be open to traffic.

The modifications to traffic management are welcome, but the works will still continue to be extremely disruptive to local residents as well as to people visiting the area, including the sixth form colleges and Biomedical Campus.

Outstaying their welcome

When the first phase of the cycleway works started in January 2015, it was scheduled to last 37 weeks. Over 2 years on, Phase I is still unfinished and it seems the Council cannot even organize simple things such as bus stop signs. The City Deal told us the second phase would take 11 weeks from February, but it is now not due to finish till September 2017. (They might like to update their website.

The project is the responsibility of the City Deal but is being managed by the County Cycling Team.They have given us a Q&A, which I can share with you here. FAQs Hills Road June TM

Any other questions or complaints should be directed to them at [email protected].

Meet the Candidates: St John the Evangelist

Amidst all the excitement of an impending General Election and a metro mayor election, I am working hard defending my county council seat. Elections take place on 4th May.

Tomorrow night, Thursday 20th April, I shall be at St John’s Church for the Queen Edith’s Community Forum’s hustings for the county council elections, along with the three other candidates.

Do come along and ask questions about local issues and hear how we address these on the County Council. The County is responsible for vital services including transport, highways (streetlighting and roads maintenance) social care, health scrutiny, children’s and young people’s service, libraries and heritage.

We Liberal Democrats have published a manifesto for Cambridgeshire, which you can read here.

More on the Morley Residents’ Parking Plan

On the 14th March the Cambridge City Joint Area Committee (CJAC), composed of county and city Labour and Lib Dem councillors, approved the County Council’s Parking Plan for this area. This is the final stage of the process before implementation. At present the timetable is not fixed, but installation is expected within the next few months.

I want to thank everyone for their input into this difficult exercise. There is no perfect solution, but the plan drawn up by the council’s Parking Policy Manager should improve the parking situation for most residents. The council survey conducted in November last year showed 59% in favour, with 35% against. This favourable vote followed a similar result in the informal survey I ran about a year earlier.

I know many of you opposed the plan for a variety of reasons. All objections and suggestions were put before the CJAC in summary form, with commentary. One common issue raised was the question of whether there had been sufficient consultation. You may find it helpful to see this summary of the information and consultation process that has taken place over the last 18 months:

  • November 2015 An unofficial survey by me, to local residents. This showed strong support for residents’ parking in principle (62% For, 30% Against)
  • February 2016 Information meeting at St John’s Church. It was chaired by me, with the Cambridge Parking Policy Manager present. It had a good mixture of people for and against a residents’ parking scheme
  • November 2016 The formal council parking plan was delivered to every household in the area, with an invitation to express support or opposition.
  • The parking plan, with information about how residents’ parking works, was on display at Rock Road  Library
  • January 2017 The result of the formal survey was announced, showing a substantial vote in favour of  the residents’ parking plan (59% for, 35% against)
  • January 2017 The formal council letter advertising the Traffic Regulation Orders (TRO) was delivered to every household, posted in the street, and advertised in the local press. People were invited to put  forward material objections to the plan.
  • There has been publicity in the Queen Edith’s Community News, the Lib Dem Focus newsletter, and in local newspapers.
  • The parking situation was covered on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and in ITV’s Parking Wars.
  • Four leaflets have been circulated by local residents, two for and two against the plan.
  • On top of all this I have personally dealt with a few hundred emails sent to me about residents’ parking.

The Council invited residents to put their names forward, if they wished to speak at the 14 March committee meeting. Three residents did so: two for and one against.

Two other principal areas of concern were raised in the TRO process: pavement parking in Marshall Road and whether the plan provided sufficient residents’ parking bays. Here is how the Council responded:

Why is pavement/footway parking not being considered, when it is permitted in other parts of the city such as Romsey?
Cambridgeshire County Council is proposing that pavement parking is only considered in exceptional circumstances where there is no impact on safety or pedestrian movement and where the underlying construction is suitable for vehicle parking. Parking on pavements:

  •  Creates a hazard for the visually impaired, disabled and elderly people and those with prams and pushchairs
  • Ÿ Creates safety issues for pedestrians and can hide other vehicles particularly on bends, narrow roads
    and at junctions.
  • Ÿ Can cause damage to the footway.

As the proposed scheme reduces the overall parking spaces available particularly in Marshall Road, will there be sufficient space for residents and visitors?
Parking in Marshall Road, in its current form, is unsustainable and could represent hazards to all road  users not only now but in the future. In order to regulate parking effectively for the benefit of all highway  users it will be necessary to make changes which will ultimately limit and reduce overall car parking on  the street. Whilst this is regrettable, the safety of all highway users should take primacy over the  availability of car parking spaces.

Looking at the plans, the following parking spaces are available (based on average vehicle length of 5m)

Marshall Road 39
Hartington Grove 108
Blinco Grove 100
Magnolia Close 7
Rock Road 28
Rathmore Road 67
Rathmore Close 4
TOTAL 353

A recent parking survey was carried out across Cambridge by a company called Mott MacDonald. This survey showed 291 spaces (in Rock Road,  Blinco Grove, Hartington Grove, Marshall Road and Rathmore Road) were occupied by residents (the count was completed at 5.30am, a time when the number of commuters would be negligible and the number of residents would be at their maximum). This indicates that there would be space available for all resident permit holders even with the number of spaces reduced as a result of the  introduction of public safety, access and junction protection.

I hope this helps answer some of the main objections raised. As you can see, even with Marshall Road no  longer able to park on the pavement the council’s’figures above show that with the plan there is a clear  number of extra spaces available for residents and visitors: 353 – 291 = 62.

The Parking Policy Manager’s report to the CJAC is 31 pages long. It can be viewed on line on the County Council’s website.

Morley Memorial school development gets go-ahead

Morley passed!

On Thursday 16th March, Cambridgeshire County Council’s Planning Committee passed plans for the developments at Morley Memorial Primary School.

The developments will bring the entire school onto a single site, and create three new classrooms, as well as make improvements to toilets, windows and the boiler, which will save the school money on maintenance. The details of the plans and the council report can be read here.

Local residents and Morley parents, staff and governors attended the meeting to listen to and participate in the debate. So did a prospective Morley pupil, a delightful gurgly baby called Hannah, whose presence reminded us what it’s all about.

Pamela McLeman and Mary O’Flynn, a former school caretaker, articulated concerns about loss of open space, and parking and traffic.

The Head, Nikki Brown, spoke of why the changes are needed and how they would improve the day-to-day logistics of school life as well as cater properly for pupils and staff with disabilities – and make all the children feel part of the school.

I spoke in support of the application, while recognizing the tension between traffic and the educational needs. You can read my speech here: Morley planning application

Councillors were impressed with the plans, praising the way the architectural design of the new build would blend with the old buildings, and showing an appreciation of how the school has balanced the need for play space. There was an understanding of the traffic and parking problems but an acceptance that parking is a problem at all schools, and that it was not of sufficient weight to stand in the way of the school’s improvements.

Construction traffic and pedestrians and cyclists do not mix, especially for young children and I asked if the condition on delivery hours could be amended to be well clear of school finishing time. I am pleased that this was taken up. Deliveries will now have to be completed by 2.45pm in termtime.

Contractors will be encouraged to use Park & Ride, as there will be no parking on Blinco Grove except for the school car park.

Residents’ parking scheme passed

A residents’ parking scheme for the north of Queen Edith’s has been approved by the councils’* traffic committee.

The Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) for the parking scheme was advertised to local residents and in the local paper, following  majority support by residents in the Morley area for the County Council’s proposals when consulted last year.  The council consultation followed my survey to establish in principle support for residents’ parking, and after a public meeting and display at the library.

Residents from the area attended the meeting and spoke both in favour of and in opposition to the proposals. The vote was 10 votes in favour, 2 against.

The scheme will cover the area from the Leisure Park to Blinco Grove, including both main roads.

Also yesterday, a new residents’ parking policy was passed by the County Council’s Highways Committee.

*Joint committee comprising councillors from Cambridge City and Cambridgeshire County Council.

 

 

Impact of Park and Ride parking charges on Queen Edith’s residents

Here is my statement to the County Council’s Economy & Environment Committee on Park & Ride parking charges:

I fully support the withdrawal of the Park & Ride parking charges. They have reduced usage of the P&R sites. Not only have optimistic income predictions been proved illusory, but the bus ridership has suffered and parking has been displaced to residential areas in the vicinity of the Park & Ride sites.

Cabinet’s expectation was that motorists might avoid the charges initially but then realize that Park & Ride was cheaper than city centre car parks. This was a false prediction: what actually happens in Queen Edith’s is that the motorists avoiding the charges at Babraham Road either take the P&R bus or, more frequently, take one of the numerous bus services operating in Hills Road or from the Addenbrooke’s bus station. They leave their cars in residential streets.

Commuter parking is a huge problem in Queen Edith’s due to several traffic generators: the Biomedical Campus, Homerton College, a Leisure Park and two sixth-form colleges. We need commuters’ vehicles to be in the Park & Ride sites, not parked in local streets, or worse, on local pavements.