Petitions limit slashed. Road repairs taskforce set up.

The new Cambridgeshire County Council met last week. I spoke in two of the motions, both of which were voted through:

Petitions: the number of signatures to get a petition debated by the full Council is slashed from over 15,000 to just 3,000.

I seconded this motion, which was proposed by my colleague Cllr Ian Manning.

A Conservative amendment to change limit from 3,000 to 5,000 was defeated by 35 votes to 29 with both UKIP and Labour voting with the Lib Dem group to reject the proposed limit as still too high.

No petition had ever succeeded in reaching the old threshold, not even the massive Save Cambridgeshire Libraries petition of 2011, which was just over 8,000.

Tackling the road repairs backlog. proposed by Cllr David Jenkins

There is a staggering £300m backlog in our road repairs, and it is growing at £50m a year. Liberal Democrats in the last Council succeeding in getting a review, and an injection of £90m to do more work, which includes next month’s work on Hills Road, but it is not enough. This motion called for an officer taskforce to develop an action plan on addressing this deficit for next year’s budget.

I spoke on the importance of having decent roads and pavements for daily life, whether it is work, social or leisure activity; and the need for safe pavements of all of us, especially anyone with disabilities.

The motion was carried by 32 votes to 28.

Lib Dem MP joins fight for fairer funding for sixth-form colleges

Cambridge MP Julian Huppert is to join a cross-party group of MPs to fight for a fairer deal for Cambridge’s sixth form colleges.

Julian has been invited to become a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Sixth Form Colleges which has been established to protect the future of the colleges nationwide. With Hills Road Sixth Form College and Long Road Sixth Form College educating thousands of 16 to 18-year-olds in the city, Julian is working to make sure they get fair funding and the same benefits as school sixth forms.

At the moment, sixth form colleges receive less funding per student than school and academy sixth forms. Disadvantaged youngsters attending sixth form colleges do not receive free meals and, unlike schools and academies, sixth form colleges are not reimbursed for their VAT costs. They are also not eligible for any publically funded improvement support.

Now there are fears that if a new proposed funding regime for sixth form colleges is introduced they will face reductions in funding of up to six per cent, far bigger than that faced by all other providers. Despite these inequalities sixth form colleges across the country generally send more young people to higher education than independent schools and a third of these youngsters come from the least advantaged areas of the country.

Julian said. “We are so fortunate in Cambridge to have two excellent state-run sixth form colleges which produce year-on-year fantastic results for our young people. Whether they are studying A levels or vocational courses, our young people are succeeding and going on to higher education.

“These results are being achieved against a backdrop of inequality. It is time the government gave them the same funding and support that other sixth forms receive.”

After a year of talking, the County Council unveils its Parking Plan

QUEEN EDITH CHAPEL THIS WEDNESDAY

Most residents of Queen Edith’s will know that parking is a big problem in this area. Lib Dem councillors have for many years been calling for action from Conservative-run Cambridgeshire County Council, the council responsible for parking management and highways.

Last summer the County agreed to set up a parking review group, to look at all of the south of the city, including Queen Edith’s, Trumpington, Romsey and some streets in Coleridge. Cllr Jean Swanson and I attended the first meetingabout a year ago, and since then Cllr Geoff Heathcock has represented Queen Edith’s on that group.

The County officers have visited twice, once to our South Area meeting at my request and again to meet residents in Queen Edith’s. It was made very clear that people were impatient with the long delays and looking for solutions soon.

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Parking Plan comes to Queen Edith’s, 30th August

Are you plagued with too much parking in your street?

Well, there’s a fine rhetorical question. I would be able to get a ‘yes’ answer to that question in almost any street in Queen Edith’s.

We have some very big traffic generators: Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Hills Road and Long Road VI Form Colleges. So – lots of commuter parking, blighting the local environment and causing practical difficulties, such as not being able to park your own car, being blocked in by strangers’ vehicles, not being able to see the way ahead clearly because of obstructions…

I and other members of the Queen Edith’s Liberal Democrat Focus Team have many times called for solutions from the Conservative-run County Council, the authority responsible for traffic management and parking controls. We have had some successes, with yellow lines in particular streets – but we feel the County Council has not given commuter parking the attention it deserves. After all, it is our local environment!

And the challenge is bigger than just one street. Removing parking in one area can mean the cars just move to another street and annoy somebody else. That’s why we have pushed for creative thinking, looking at the area as a whole. Pressure from the team, notably our county councillor Geoff Heathcock, has got the County to set up an Area Parking Plan looking at the whole of the south of the city. The County Council will soon be writing to residents in the worst affected streets to tell everyone about the Plan.

This Parking Plan has not been moving as fast as we would like, so in April, Cllr Geoff Heathcock and I asked Cambridgeshire County Council officers to visit the South Area committee and report on progress, which they did. See here for a report of that meeting. And at Geoff’s request, the officers will be visiting Queen Edith’s on 30th August to answer questions about their proposals, as a prelude to exhibitions in the autumn.

Please come along if you can. 

SOUTH CAMBRIDGE PARKING PLAN MEETING

7.30pm, Thursday 30th August

St James’s Church, Wulfstan Way

Meeting arranged at the request of the Queen Edith’s Liberal Democrats Focus Team and ward councillors

QE PARKING POSTER[1]

If you would like to keep up to date with the parking review and other local issues, please drop one of us an email, and we’ll add you to our email newsletter circulation list.

Stairway to heaven? New link from Hills Road Bridge to Guided Busway

Good news!

I am delighted to learn that Cambridgeshire County Council is going to build a link between the Hills Road Bridge and the Guided Busway cycle route. They have agreed to build a series of steps from the southern Busway Cycle route to the Hills Road Bridge. This will mean that people can avoid crossing Hills Road when travelling to Addenbrooke’s, Homerton College and Hills Road VI Form College.

There will be steps for pedestrians and channels for bikes. At present there is not enough space for a bike ramp, as the land alongside is owned by the property company, Savills.

Will Savills be public-spirited enough to release some of their parking space to allow the bridge-busway link to be even better? Not only cyclists, but people in wheelchairs or parents with pushchairs would be very grateful!

Cycling blackspots: government announces funding to fix jeopardous junctions

Personal injury lawyers Levenes published a Top Ten Cycling Blackspots for Cambridge earlier this year. Two are in Queen Ediths – see their interactive map.

The Queen Edith’s Way/Fendon Road junction near Addenbrooke’s has the second worst accident record in the city – 34 crashes between 2005 and 2010;  the Hills/Cherry Hinton Road junction had 23. Work has been done on the Hills Road bridge, but the Cherry Hinton Road turn into Hills Road is still the most unnerving manoeuvre of my daily commute. Addenbrooke’s is generally difficult on a bike – or, for that matter, on foot.

In Queen Edith’s as a whole there were 13 accidents involving cyclists that caused serious injuries.

With this in mind, I very much welcome the announcement by Lib Dem Transport Minister Norman Baker that £15 million is to be assigned to safety improvements at dangerous junctions for cyclists. It is not enough money of course – but it is a good start. There should be enough to do about 75 junctions.

Local authorities will be bidding for the fund. I would encourage you to write to the Transportation Department at Cambridgeshire County Council to support funding for the junctions that you consider dangerous, explaining why. As Cambridge MP Julian Huppert, a great cycling advocate, has said, “In order to promote cycling we have to make it safer, and that requires investment in infrastructure.”

Bring it on.

Amanda Taylor: Your Liberal Democrat candidate in Queen Edith’s

Amanda standing for re-election

Liberal Democrat Councillor, Amanda Taylor is standing for re-election in Queen Edith’s. Amanda has been in Queen Edith’s for nearly twenty years and represented the area on Cambridge City Council since 1994. She lives in Holbrook Road with her husband Ashley, and their eight-year old son, a Morley Memorial pupil.

Amanda is best known for her work on transport and housing. Her biggest achievements have been Dunstan Court on Wulfstan Way, which replaced Labour’s sub-standard sheltered housing accommodation; and improved bus services, following her campaign for improved reliability. ‘When I first came to live here,’ says Amanda, ‘there were just two buses an hour into town from Hills Road – and they didn’t always come on time. Now there are over twenty buses an hour, and bus usage has increased dramatically.’

More recent successes for Amanda and the Lib Dem Focus Team include revamped play facilities at Nightingale Avenue Recreation Ground and new lighting and paving outside the shops on Wulfstan Way. They have also got the police to monitor parking outside schools.

Amanda is currently campaigning for improvements to cycleways in the area, for example lighting the Guided Bus cycleway, and for road safety improvements, eg yellow lines on junctions near the Queen Edith’s Primary School.

She is an active member of the Friends of Rock Road Library, which started as a gardening group and then took on a campaigning role in the fight to prevent the Conservative County Council from closing the library down.

In our wider community, Amanda chairs the Council’s South Area Committee, is a member of St John’s Church on Hills Road, and is a member of the Cambridge Fairtrade Steering Group.

Amanda and Lib Dem team visit residents in Queen Edith’s all through the year, not just at election time. When there are issues in a particular street, we always try to listen to the concerns of residents. At election time we try to call on as many households as we can, and we look forward to speaking to you soon, if we haven’t already! The BBC came to see us in action on Tuesday: see here.

Please see the link on the left for this year’s Liberal Democrat election manifesto for Cambridge.

Charles Dickens coming to town: Geoff Hales’s one-man show at Rock Road Library

Watch out: Mr Micawber, Scrooge and maybe Oliver Twist is coming to town.

The Friends of Rock Road Library are celebrating the bicentenary of Charles Dickens with a one-man show at the library by local actor Geoff Hales. Mr Hales will be performing dramatised readings from Dickens’ works – in Dickensian costume.

The show starts at 8 p.m. after a welcome drink. There is no fixed charge but the Friends invite the audience to donate towards their funds, which go back into events such as this.

Geoff Hales read English at Cambridge, went away and came back! He runs his own theatre company, ‘Travelling Theatre’, which performs one-man shows about great writers. He has appeared all over England and in Prague, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Germany and Switzerland.

2012 is the 200th year since the birth of Charles Dickens and the Friends are holding this event to join with the celebrations this year.

Hills Road VI Form College travel plan is in

Hills Road Sixth Form College recently applied for planning permission to demolish their existing sports pavilion on Sedley Taylor Road and build a new one. The application was considered at the recent South Area meeting on 7th November.

Many residents of Sedley Taylor Road have concerns about parking and access to the existing sports pavilion and playing fields, and fear that the new pavilion could increase these difficulties. There has been a well supported petition, and residents met the College before the application to express their concerns. So parking and traffic were very much in councillors’ minds at the meeting, and although the application was approved, one of the conditions was that the College submit a travel plan including measures to discourage private motor vehicles and to encourage other means of transport. The travel plan has now been received. Here it is: HRSFCtravelplan

I have asked that it come back to the Area Meeting for consideration.The next meeting is on 9th January, at the Cherry Hinton Village Centre and begins at 7.30 p.m. The travel plan is the third item on the agenda.

Car crime spree in Queen Edith’s

police car

E-Cops report that there have been thefts from vehicles in Queen Edith’s recently.

Cars in Topcliffe Way, Beaumont Crescent and Hills Road have been broken into. The police comment: ‘Items taken in some of these crimes include property that has been left on show inside the vehicle. Please make sure you do not make your vehicle a target, by removing property from within when you leave it and always lock and secure it. These offenders are usually just opportunists who will spot something left inside the car and that will be enough for them to gain entry and steal that item in the process causing damage to your vehicle.’ It’s so easy to forget to remove or hide something.

Bikes have also been stollen in Hills Road and there was an attempt to break into a property on Queen Edith’s Way.

The police will be at the November South Area Committee (Cherry Hinton Village Centre) to report in more detail on what is happening locally and to propose their priorities for the coming season.

If you would like to receive regular updates from our local police team and have an e-mail account, why not sign up for e-cops. Visit http://www.cambs-police.co.uk/myneighbourhood/ecops/