Cambridge to Brighton

Here’s some good news: next May, we’ll be able to take direct trains to Brighton from Cambridge, and next year, to Maidstone too. Travelling to Gatwick Airport is about to get easier too – through trains will mean no more struggling with luggage on the Underground.

Govia has been planning improvements to Thameslink for some time but has just announced the first phase of improvements scheduled for May 2018: top of the list are new cross-London connections from Cambridge and Peterborough to the south coast via Gatwick.

GTR also promise greater capacity and a new, more reliable timetable. And there are new trains too – the Siemens-built 700s are ‘smart’ trains are more comfortable and spacious. But what I most like the sound of are the RTI screens which GTR say will ‘ tell passengers how the Tube is running and where to find more space on board.’ The Reverend Awdry would have been in seventh heaven.

Labour cap on shared houses

The latest motion to appear from the Cambridge Labour Group alarms me greatly. They are raising concerns about shared houses, and call for a report on limiting the number of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). Labour wants to widen the HMO term to include homes with lodgers as well as shared houses of young single people (though whether this is legal or not we do not know). And they are contemplating a cap on the number of shared houses in individual streets.

I find the motion nasty in the way in which it demonises people who share as ‘troublemakers’.  When we first moved to Queen Edith’s, one set of next-door neighbours was a large family with children; the other had Anglia Ruskin students. We never had any noise or disturbance from the students; the family with children, though friendly and sociable, was noisier by far!

I fear for the motion’s effects on those who rent and share houses because they cannot afford to buy in Cambridge, as well as for the many families who depend on extra income, say, from renting out spare bedrooms to students from the universities or language schools. And quite honestly, not everybody fits into the nuclear family mould – why should we all conform?

My colleague Tim Ward, who runs the Cambridge Accommodation Noticeboard, details the problems http://www.brettward.co.uk/canb/threat.htm.

Here is the motion, proposed by Petersfield councillor Gail Marchant-Daisley:

The Council recognises the vital contribution that well-run Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) make in providing housing for families, students, professionals and migrant workers.

However, given problems from some HMOs failing to deliver quality, safe housing, or creating serious problems for neighbours, the Council requests the Executive Councillor for Housing to bring forward a report to assess options to improve the operation and regulation of HMOs in Cambridge, including:

1) extending the current HMO definition to include all properties with 3 or more people in two or more unrelated households, regardless of the building layout

2) improved enforcement of breaches of licences granted to HMOs, and

3) wider adoption of best practice on HMOs by comparable cities including Oxford,

and that the Head of Planning Services also report to the Executive Councillor for Planning and Sustainable Transport and the Development Plan Scrutiny Sub-Committee on the future option of denying permission for additional HMOs in any street or 200 metre stretch of any street where HMO numbers reach 25% of residential properties, to enable inclusion of this proposal in the summer ‘issues and options’ consultation on the Cambridge Local Plan 2014 to 2031.

Other motions this Thursday are on:

  • taking more local decisions at area committees, eg tree works, safety grants
  • recording protocol for council meetings
  • housing maintenance contract
  • Marshalls
  • supporting Post Offices

I attach the full agenda. The meeting is open to the public and starts at 6 p.m. in the Guildhall this Thursday.