Save The Haven!

People outside building

Conservative-run Cambridgeshire County Council is planning to close The Haven, a supported living scheme in Wulfstan Way.

The Haven was purpose-built – only 13 years ago – for older people with mental health problems, but now the County Council is saying it’s not up to standard and must close.

The scheme comprises eight flats as well as communal rooms, a garden, a manager’s office and a bedroom for staff on night duty.

Residents moved to The Haven with the promise that they would not have to move again. They take part in a recovery programme there enabling them to develop confidence and become members of the community — both the ‘family’ at The Haven and also the local Queen Edith’s community.

If this very successful unit closes, the upheaval will have a profound impact on the lives and mental states of these vulnerable residents, who will take a long time to adjust and to learn to trust again. And the dedicated and experienced staff there will lose their jobs.

The local churches and other members of the community are running a petition to the County Council asking them to reconsider. I and your other Lib Dem councillors are supporting this and invite you to sign the petition at bit.ly/the_haven. This will be presented to the Conservative councillor responsible for adult care provision and her committee.

If you prefer to sign a paper form, download one here, or sign at St James’s Church, the Queen Edith Chapel, or St John’s Church. We would welcome any other local places that can display the petition.

The Haven – letter – CCC

Children’s centres petition is IN. Decision will now be put to ALL county councillors

The councillor who chairs the Cambridgeshire County Council Children and Young People Committee, Simon Bywater, has announced that the debate on the children’s centre closures will be pulled from the 10th October committee meeting, and will instead be on the agenda of the full council meeting on 17th October. This means all county councillors will vote on the proposals.

Cllr Bywater, who took the chair of the committee in May, has issued the following statement:

“We have had a good response to the Children Centre Public Consultation with over 2000 completed responses. We welcome the level of detailed feedback and engagement we have had during this period of consultation and understand that whilst there has been some substantial support for the proposals from many residents there is also concern from others about some of the proposals.

In acknowledgment of this we have made the decision to take the consultation response and recommendations to Full Council on October 17. This will replace the planned presentation to Children and Young People Committee on October 10. We feel that this will give a wider group of councillors an opportunity to hear a wide range of views and take part in a debate before voting on the recommendations.”

Today, I went to Shire Hall to hand in our petition opposing the children’s centre closures, now on over 3,800 signatures. We will present it on the 17th October. This meeting will be open to the public, but if you wish to speak at the meeting you must inform the council by 10th October.

Parking survey in the Morley area

Working witMarshall Roadh residents, I am surveying the streets in the north of Queen Edith’s on parking problems.

The streets suffer from a daily influx of visitors: students, office workers, shoppers, Leisure Centre visitors – and even hospital staff. This severely limits the parking spaces for  local people, and there has also been dangerous parking, cars on the pavement, blocked drives, damage and petty crime.

Parking is a problem throughout Queen Edith’s, but it makes life particularly difficult in the older housing opposite the sixth form college and Homerton, as many of the houses have no drives.

Parking controls for some streets in the area have been agreed twice, in 2004 and 2009, but then not implemented by the County Council due to policy changes.

Residents ran a petition to Hills Road VI Form College earlier this year asking them to stop their students from parking in residential streets. I am working with some of the residents and with County Council officers  charged with addressing parking issues in Cambridge. Following a meeting and a walkabout with the officers, we are now gauging the support for parking controls – which could include a residents’ parking scheme*. If you live between Blinco Grove and Rathmore Road, you should receive a survey through your letterbox soon.

*For more information on how residents’ parking schemes work, including permits for visitors and medical professionals, see http://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/info/20018/parking_permits_and_fines/9/parking/2

Guided Busway lights are going in!

Cones for the trenches for the lights

Cones for the trenches for the lights

Amanda with one of the new light columns

The new lights are in hand!

At long last, work has begun to instal lights on the bridleway along the Guided Busway.

This is the culmination of a campaign that started in 2012, with a LightTheCycleway! petition presented to the Conservative County Council Cabinet requesting lighting on the southern section of the Busway, between the railway station and Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

Trenching work began on Monday near the Hauxton Road bridge, and column positions have been marked out this week. The plan is to complete the lighting by the autumn, in time for the darker evenings. Here’s a County Council document with more information.

See background on the reasons for the lighting.

 

Cambridge Central Library: huge public outcry

Cambridge Library_VJSThe people of Cambridge have reacted angrily to Cambridgeshire County Council‘s decision to allow a private firm to take over the third floor of Cambridge Central Library to create an Enterprise Centre. A petition launched by local resident Claire Dylan has attracted over 1,300 signatures in just a few days.

The decision was made on Tuesday by a council committee comprising councillors from all over Cambridgeshire. Although most of the councillors representing city wards criticized the proposal, councillors representing the villages in the rest of the Cambridgeshire outvoted us. For a report on how the meeting went see here, and for the council report see here.

We have big doubts about KORA, the company set to take over the third floor of the library, and we need much more information on them and how they would be operating: for example, would people have to pay to sit and read in that part of the library under their management in future? We also strongly believe that the library members should have a say in such a huge change, as well as the public of Cambridge. It is after all a PUBLIC LIBRARY.
My colleagues and I have called for the decision to be reconsidered so that councillors can be fully informed about this company and so that consultation with the public can be carried out. Our call-in has been successful and this will be looked at again by a committee of senior councillors on 14th April (10am).
Huge thanks to all those who turned out today to demonstrate public dismay at the proposals and to meet Julian Huppert MP, who is backing the project.

Cambridge Central Library to close café and turn third floor over to ‘enterprise centre’

Rural Tory and UKIP county councillors have today voted to convert the top floor of Cambridge Central Library into an enterprise centre run by an outside company (KORA), and to close the café.

Cllr Barbara Ashwood (Lib Dem) opened the debate by saying that while she is generally very supportive of the library service, she could not support this because of the paucity of background information. The report left her none the wiser, and she was not sure what was really meant by entrepreneurs’ lounge, international membership and the KORA Club. More information was needed on KORA and how the services would be reconfigured. She said she needed more detail before she could make this sort of commitment.
Amanda Taylor (Lib Dem) also spoke of the need for assurance about KORA and to know if they are good at what they do. Although independent, if they are located in the library they will be seen as part of the County Council and affect the Council’s own reputation. It would be bad to lose the café, which caters for parents & children and  pensioners, to whom it offers economical lunches – a welcome contrast to commercial outlets in the Grand Arcade. Ironically, bookshops are improving their resilience by augmenting the books sales with cafés, but we are told the County’s library café is losing money. Amanda said that before any decision is taken, there should be consultation with library users as well as a presentation by KORA.

Cllr Susan van de Ven (Lib Dem) described it as an ‘enormous change’ for one of our key public services and that it was our job to ask questions.  On behalf  of residents who had contacted her, she asked what would become of the Cambridgeshire Collection during the interim period before being rehoused in Ely.  She also asked how GCSE and A level students would cope if the library was closed during exam period.   She said she felt it was entirely reasonable to have an opportunity to question KORA before decision making, and felt this was not a decision that should be delegated.

Labour councillor Noel Kavanagh highlighted the risk involved — there are other facilities in Cambridge offering the same services such as the CUP Pitt Building and the University Centre which could be undermined. Any new café might well end up having to be closed at particular times to accommodate business events.

Tory, UKIP and Independent councillors all supported the proposals and talked of the need for assets to pay for themselves and of the potential international links as well as to skills & employment and the opportunity for cross-fertilization of ideas.

Cllr van de Ven moved an amendment to the motion calling for a deferral pending a presentation from KORA, which I seconded. Unfortunately we were outvoted on the amendment and the original recommendation went through. 

For a copy of the report to councillors, see here:
http://www2.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/CommitteeMinutes/committee-document.aspx/committees-new/hci/2015-03-17/Reports/8816/150317-5.doc
38 Degrees is running a petition called Don’t privatise the third floor of Cambridge Central Library, in which they highlight the dubious tax arrangements of KORA’s parent company, the Regus Group. It’s already on over 600 signatures.

We did it! Busway lighting agreed

Busway 1Cambridgeshire County Council has agreed to provide LED lighting on the guided bus bridleway – a victory for all the 230 people who petitioned for lights in the interests of public safety. The new lights will go along the Busway maintenance track from Cambridge railway station to Trumpington Park and Ride.

The County Council’s Economy and Environment Committee voted almost unanimously for it yesterday, following speeches in support from myself and  Trumpington county councillor Barbara Ashwood as well as Jim Chisholm of the Cambridge Cycling Campaign.

I am delighted that at last we will be getting lighting along the bridleway. Usage doubled in the first year alone and there are now over 2,000 journeys a day, including many peoplewalking or cycling to work. Because it is completely unlit, it is unsafe in the early morning and evening, especially now the clocks have gone back. There have been accidents to individuals, and there are many who won’t use it after dark because of personal safety concerns.  This is very good news for everyone who uses the cycleway. Thank you to everyone who has supported this campaign.

Lighting up time for the Guided Busway

Most people in Cambridgeshire have heard of the Guided Busway that runs between Trumpington, Huntingdon and St Ives – even if not always for the reasons its creators would like. Sadly, one of the country’s most ambitious transport projects has been blighted by poor project management, leading to legal wrangles that have cost the county millions of pounds in interest alone.

It’s not all bad news. The guided buses have attracted more passengers than forecast. And one of the unexpected bonuses of the Busway has been the bridleway running alongside it, well used in the three years that the Busway has been open. Completely separated from traffic it provides a convenient and safe route, and it’s well used both by pedestrians and cyclists.

But it is not reaching its full potential. It could be better used still – were it lit. Illumination would make it safe for cycling and walking on at all hours, all year round. Back in 2012, people I know in the community and at work asked me to see if I could get lighting installed. In the winter months, it is pitch black at the end of the working day, and not much better at the beginning. Many people working at Addenbrooke’s start early in the morning and can get caught at both ends of the day. (more…)

The draft local plan and the green belt

local planCambridge  City Council has published its draft Local Plan, which sets the framework for future development in the city, and now is the time to give your views on it, for the government Planning Inspectorate to consider.

By law, local authorities must set a Local Plan for their areas, stipulating what kind of development can take place where. It covers employment and leisure facilities as well as housing, so it very much determines where people live and work and how they get about.  It is the master document against which individual planning applications are assessed, and incorporates local planning policies. For example, an important policy this time round is special protection for pubs, to preserve pubs as community facilities.

This Wednesday 28th August, there will be an exhibition on the options for the Cambridge Local Plan in the Hall at the Queen Emma Primary School, Gunhild Way, 2.30-7.30pm. You can also comment on line on the Council’s website set up for this purpose: http://cambridge.jdi-consult.net/ldf/

Cambridgeshire County Council‘s Transport Plan will also be on display. There will be officers from both councils to talk to.

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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.