Saturday, January 30, 2010
Thank you to Mr Willetts for taking the time out to talk to Cambridge Conservatives - it just goes to show how we really need someone like Nick to represent Cambridge in parliament and who will stand up for Cambridge's interests at the heart of a possible new government. Conservatives were the first to raise the alarm over Marshall, a decade ago, and we still say it should stay.
Friday, January 29, 2010
I strongly opposed this proposed development, and am currently following up with the planning department to campaign for better policies locally to protect Cambridge from garden grabbing proposals.
Monday, January 25, 2010
This Surgery is a chance for residents to discuss any policing or community safety problems in your neighbourhood and to meet your local community policing team - all local residents are welcome to call in some time between 7 and 8pm.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
But the problem should be given a bit of perspective - it is one of a number of potential threats to our continued existence on the planet (at anything like current population levels), and when allocating resources careful consideration needs to be given to the balance between the mostly certain cost of taking a preventative measure, the possible effects of not taking a preventative action, and the likely costs of mitigating these potential consequences if they do come about.
Cambridge City Council spends hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers money each year on 'the climate change agenda', including a dedicated 'climate change' officer. Where this work is targetting investment that will reduce the energy costs of running the Council, and there will be cost savings going forwards, then great. Trouble is, I fear a lot of the money being spent in this area is more about being seen to do something, than a considered pragmatic response to the problem.
These fears have been heightened by an email received this week, inviting me to a workshop on the topic 'decarbonising Cambridge':
"The Decarbonising Cambridge study is being undertaken by energy consultants and town planning experts on behalf of the City Council. The study will provide part of the evidence base from which the City Council will develop policies aimed at controlling carbon emissions from new developments and increasing the level of local renewable energy supply. These policies will form part of the emerging Local Development Framework, the key set of documents that will influence the shape of Cambridge’s future growth."
Excuse me - 'decarbonising Cambridge' - who dreams up this quackery - if the City Council is really trying to remove all the carbon from Cambridge, we are all in real trouble.
Yes, local government can play a role in energy efficiency, supporting renewable energy production or lower energy lifestyles through the planning system, but the biggest way of persuading individuals that a low energy approach is a good idea is for such measures to unequivocally save them money.
As sensible as measures like low energy lightbulbs and energy efficient buildings might be, if the climate change threat is real, self-flagellation by the chattering classes, coupled with policies that could cripple economic development and therefore have a disproportionately damaging effect on the less well off (people and countries) aren't the answer.
The best responses to the climate change threat are going to involve technological revolutions in the generation, transmission and storage of renewable energy - and it is unlikely that these changes will require local or even national self-sufficiency in renewable energy production.
If the measures local authorities take now, particularly in the knowledge based powerhouse that is Cambridge, succeed in crippling economic development and consequently delay technological progress, to say they might be counterproductive would be an understatement.
Friday, January 22, 2010
I asked when approximately we can expect the Guided Busway to open. There was a distinct lack of willingness to commit to anything, but the rough answers were: Northern Section, weeks rather than months, Southern Section, autumn... maybe...
Cycling in Cambridge isn't something people do for a couple of hours leisure activity on a Saturday afternoon, it is vital to getting people to their places of work or study, and it is a vital part of transport systems in the city. We need this problem taken seriously, and co-ordinated steps taken to make it as easy as possible to securely lock or store bikes around the city, and to identify, track down and severley punish those that think it is acceptable to steal or trade stolen bikes in the City. I don't go quite as far as Boris, who as ever is very sound on the subject but pretty close.
I'm pleased to say that despite being the only Conservative Councillor on the City Council, it was my amendment that was passed to make cycle theft a priority, with Labour support, and the Lib Dems abstaining - leaving the committee in favour, and the leader of the Council with little choice but to accept the amendment!
When the annual community safety plan priorities were agreed last January, I was persuaded that cycle theft didn't need to be a priority as there was a separate project and it was already being taken seriously. Since then, cycle theft has increased in the city by 8% - whatever has been done over the last year clearly isn't working, and the suggestion that there is a special project to look at the issue just didn't go far enough. The lead police officer for the proposed special project mentioned in the committee report is apparently no longer even working in Cambridge City, which gives some idea of how much activity is really going on in this area at the moment.
The Community Safety partnership brings together police and local authorities, to tackle crime and community safety problems that need action from several agencies. I will be following up how this priority is taken forward, and would like to see a taskforce setup to tackle this problem, involving the police, the councils, the Universities and campaign groups like Cambridge Cycling Campaign, starting with a meeting that (once the hour long bleat from the police about lack of resources is over) brainstorms what could be done.
I'm sure there is lots more encouargement that can be given for locking bikes, and ensuring they are registered (e.g. at immobilise), but the authorities need to go much further. The situation with lack of suitable cycle parking, not just at the station but around the city is scandalous - this must be addressed, and urgently.
But we should stop just blaming the victims for having their bikes stolen - lets have 'bait bikes' with tracker devices around the city, not just one or two, but significant numbers owned and operated by residents as well as the police. There needs to be a senior police officer in the city (above sergeant level) who has tackling bike theft as a specific responsibility, and we need to make sure every effort is made to catch, severely punish and name and shame those reponsible for bike theft until it is clear it is totally unacceptable.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
I've tried several times to setup a meeting between local Councillors and someone in authority in the railway industry to discuss cycle parking and a wide range of issues of local interest such as the proposed second platform, the Chisholm Trail, Chesterton station etc, and keep getting fobbed off with 'public affairs' or 'customer service' people, and basically told they have no interest in engaging with locally elected representatives, and they show no signs of doing anything to respond to problems like the shambolic cycle parking arrangements - I would be fascinated to know who does make the decisions and how they can be influenced by someone elected - particularly important when so much public money and public interest is vested in the organisations they run.
Any suggestions as to how to embarrass them into action gratefully received...
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Next Monday, the 25th of January, is Burns night and more relevantly to you if you are reading this blog the night of our second Coleridge Conservative fundraising dinner.
Burns Night Dinner
7:45pm for 8:00pm
With Nick Hillman the new Conservative candidate for Cambridge
The Cherry Hinton Constitutional Club
£17:50 for branch members, students and Chery Cons. members.
served with a mushroom and whisky gravy.
Slow cooked thick end of belly pork
served on a bed of steamed cabbage
with and apple and red cabbage salsa.
Coffee and truffles.
Anyway must get back to the lab (ed. surely that's the kitchen?).
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
The problem is that pubs, even though in many cases they are a key community asset, have no protection at all in the planning system, under national or local Cambridge City planning policies. I would like to see local planning policies changed to give protection to pubs that do serve a significant community purpose, with a presumption that planning applications including their demolition or change or use won't be accepted in this case.
In the meantime, there are other protections that can be placed on a building. 'Listed' status does give significant protection from demolition. Requests for buildings to be added to the Statutory list are made to and decided by English Heritage, who assess the buildings according to set national criteria.
I understand that CAMRA have asked English Heritage for the Portland Arms to be listed, and this request is pending, but there has been a previous failed attempt to get the building listed.
Another form of protection could come from making the Portland Arms a 'Building of Local Interest' - a process the City Council controls. This would then become a possible reason to reject planning applications that do significantly affect the building.
This has already been requested for the Portland Arms, and I have supported those calls - I hope the Council can move forward on this proposal quickly, before any more pubs are lost.
This week a planning application was submitted to turn the Penny Ferry in Chesterton into five four bedroom houses, the Jubilee on Catharine Street has already seen a similar application for residential development - the Duke of Argyle pub site on Argyle Street having been sold and converted to housing with a significant profit for the developers last year. These won't be the last unless the planners can wake up to the problem.
In happier news - and a shameless commercial break - the Devonshire Arms is due to reopen in the next week or two. I had a sneak preview of the work in progress this week - I think they are doing a really good job, and it will be a great addition to the real ale circuit in the area as well as an asset for the community.
I should declare an interest - I am a shareholder in Individual Pubs, the company that will be running the Devonshire Arms - I'm also a member of CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Caroline Spelman MP, the Shadow Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government said:
"This is a tax bombshell – primed to go off after the general election, hitting families and pensioners with soaring council tax bills".The Conservatives would stop the revaluation and, furthermore, abolish council tax inspectors’ rights of entry into our homes.
"Labour’s class war politics is all about punishing those who have saved and worked hard with even higher taxes", she said. "This Big Brother contract is yet another sign of how Labour Ministers have no respect for people’s privacy and how they want to snoop inside your home".
Is there no limit to how underhand and cynical this government is prepared to be? Only Nick Hillman can help in Cambridge to kick out this deceitful government. The Lib Dems are ideologically close to Labour and their activists tend to side with them (despite the image they try to give out in selected areas to get Tory votes) so they are no use.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
It would help if the area could be left free of cars...
Friday, January 15, 2010
"For such a liberal city it’s a shame that the most active bloggers at the moment seem to be tories."
I did notice while browsing the new blog that Martin Land has been selected Lib Dem PPC for Huntingdon. That would be the same Land who called Cambridge 'one of the scruffiest, nastiest little towns in England' in his blog. Yes we do have a copy of that post even though you pulled it down. I'm surprised Cambridge Lib Dems want to be associated with him!
P.S. Cllr Whitebread, is Colin going to be standing in Market Ward this year?
The Facebook campaign group has the news. Well done to the campaigners for drawing attention to the plans. It would have been a great shame to lose this venue, which is invaluable to many musicians.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Plans to repair fencing between Davy Road and Brackyn and Corrie Roads are back on track after a slight hiccup when the 'Safer City' grant application (which also covers new lighting in the passageway between Corrie Road and Brackyn Road) was realised not to include the stretch behind the Davy Road garages, as Chris had asked for but which would have taken the grant application value over the £5000 limit.
(We really need to get a grip of public sector procurement - these figures are always unbelievably high!)
The council has apparently now found "alternative sources of funding", which means the full works can be undertaken.
The exact plan for the fencing is:
It's taken a long time to get here, after being raised by Chris back in 2007, before he was elected, and including a question by me at the East Area Committee 'open forum' in July. This follows our successful campaign for signs to guide cyclists and pedestrians through the area without getting lost (yes it does happen)!
- To remove existing chain-link fencing and install 23.5m of "hit and miss" fencing to the rear of the Davy Road garages; and
- To clear the shrubbery, the broken/rotten wooden fencing and install 22m of close board fencing to the side of the flats (i.e. behind the Davy Road flats).
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
I want to update you on both the Cambridgeshire and national gritting situation and as I write this report (January 12th) the snow in our area is at last melting away but many other parts of the country are still gripped in deep snow and ice.
Cambridgeshire started the gritting season with all our four salt barns full with a total of some 12,000 tonnes, enough to do at least 60 full gritting runs which is the average number over each of the winter periods in the past 15 years. We have over the past ten years invested in 35 gritting lorries designed to the latest standards each of which can spread up to 5 tons of salt.
Salt works by turning the ice or snow surrounding each salt granule into a saline solution which has a lower freezing point than water. The action of traffic is essential for salt to be effective - moving the salt granules around and eventually meting the ice and snow.
Since 16th December we have carried out well over 40 runs, including on Christmas Day, plus undertaking a couple of secondary runs and numerous bits of spot salting on footways and cycleways. Each full gritting run uses over 200 tons of salt and covers about 42% of all county roads, the Highways Agency are responsible for the national road network.
We do have some material that is not suitable for the gritters which we are using in a targeted way to fill grit bins and to treat some of the busier footways. During this extremely cold spell we have worked with city, district and parish councils to treat as much as we can. Our teams have been working very hard, around the clock in very challenging conditions.
Nationally many areas have been harder hit than us, for example in the north and Scotland, this has meant that deliveries of replacement stocks normally destined for us have had to be redirected to those most in need. This happened last year and is a partnership between the Department for Transport, Local Government Association and salt suppliers to prioritise which authorities receive deliveries and when. Each council provides regular information on their salt stocks to help decision making.
As you know, like last year, we are seeing many potholes with many more likely to form in these extremely cold conditions. We are asking people to let us know of any problems in their area - they can notify us via our website or via the contact centre on 0345 045 5212 (contact centre is open 8.00 am-8.00 pm, Monday to Saturday). We will repair them as soon as resources and weather conditions allow.
Apparently there are a number of measurement stations across the county and information from them is combined with hourly predictions from the meteorological office to produce charts from which the decision to grit is made. The threshold for gritting is a predicted 2°C.
There is an arrangement with the city council for the city to have a daily supply of salt, which they can and do take to distribute to city centre footways as they see appropriate.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
As a general rule I'm sceptical of splashing paint around, which is often just a way of cutting transport capacity of particular kinds for ideological purposes, but welcome genuine improvements. It looks like there's a mixture planned:
Cherry Hinton RoadThere's a chance to view the plans and air views at the consultations:
Facilities for cyclists have been reviewed in detail to see what improvements could be made. Due to the relative narrowness of the road, it is not realistic to have on-road cycle lanes on both sides of the road. The proposals involve improvements to the shared use off-road cycle route.
The team have been looking at improving the provision for cyclists with a combination of onroad and off-road cycle paths. From Queens Road to Storey’s Way the existing off-road shared use path will be widened. From Storey’s Way to the Park and Ride there will be a combination of on-road and off-road paths, as the width of the road varies considerably.
Discussions are currently taking place regarding the purchase of land to widen the route on the north and/or south side. From initial survey work carried out the most likely improvement will be to the north side.
The proposal is to introduce traffic calming measures and improve the cycle lanes along Gilbert Road. There is a separate leaflet available with more details of the proposals.
Tuesday 19 January 2010 - 4.30 - 7.30pmColeridge Conservatives are keen to know what residents think of the ideas.
Cherry Hinton Village Centre, Colville Road
Wednesday 20 January - 8 - 10am and 4.30 - 7.30pm
Madingley Road Park & Ride waiting room
Thursday 21 and Monday 25 January - 4.30 - 7.30pm
Chesterton Community College Lounge, Gilbert Road
Wednesday 27 January - 4.30 - 7.30pm
Cambridge Central Library, Lion Yard (Third Floor opposite the Café)
Friday, January 8, 2010
Conservative local government spokesman Caroline Spelman revealed this latest instance of dither.
We really do desperately need a general election - government in the UK is currently paralysed. And a Lib Dem MP in Cambridge won't help either - vote Nick Hillman!
Thursday, January 7, 2010
"As you will be aware the Council approved the following motion in October:
"This Council believes that the interests of democracy and the country are best served if the result of a general election is confirmed as soon as possible after the close of polls. It therefore strongly supports general election counts being conducted on election night immediately following the close of polls, and requests that the returning officer takes note of this opinion."
As Returning Officer I have now had a chance to review the arrangements for election counts with the Democratic Services Manager and electoral services staff and have undertaken a risk assessment of the risks inherent in a Thursday night count, particularly for a combined election.
I can confirm that we will go ahead with a parliamentary count on the Thursday night as in previous years. But if it is a combined election then we will not start the local election count until 1pm on the Friday afternoon. This will allow key staff to have a proper break between the two counts and to minimise risk of error due to tiredness.
If the two elections are on separate dates we will do Thursday night counts for both.
I will be writing to local election agents to advise them of this decision."
The motion to Council was proposed by myself, and was probably the first time a Conservative proposed motion has been approved at the City Council for a great many years!
I blogged on this issue in June 2008, and followed it up with a request to the department of transport. It seems that there has been some common sense coming out of the review of signage regulations (the rules that are used to ensure central government bureaucrats can over-rule local decision making on issues where local circumstances suggest a local decision would be better...).
It has just been announced by the County Council that there will now be a trial of more sensible signage arrangements in Cambridge:
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Government minister Phil Woolas was supposed to come to the St Andrews Street Post Office this morning to open a biometric facility. Coleridge Conservatives and Nick Hillman joined the local NO2ID group to give him the kind of welcome he wasn't looking forward to, but it seems the minister was unable to visit due to 'the weather'.
We are suprised Mr Woolas would have wanted to be associated with the government's unpopular identity agenda but hope we have helped to get the message across a bit more that the scheme is not needed and not wanted.
We didn't notice any Labour councillors.
Saturday, January 2, 2010
Conservative Huntingdonshire has extended its lead over Lib Dem Cambridge in the recycling stakes according to the latest statistics.This poor performance is despite the city Lib Dem insistence that fortnightly waste collections are either necessary to keep up recycling rates or to save money.
Despite lots of hot air on global warming being produced at the Guildhall for public consumption, the figures show a different story of how the Lib Dems have let Cambridge lose the race to recycle.
Now, some 57.2 per cent of household waste in Tory Huntingdonshire is for reuse, recycling or composting. This is compared to just 41.2 per cent for Cambridge.
The Tory authority extended its 2001 lead of one per cent to 16 percent today
The Lib Dem arguments are nonsense (see an old press release full of bluster from the Lib Dems in the name of the relevant former executive councillor, Cllr Rosenstiel).
On recycling rates: the current advice from the city council is to use the black bin for food waste in the alternate weeks in which the green bins aren't emptied. That would no longer need to be the case if at least the green bins were emptied weekly. Better service needn't mean less recycling.
On saving money: the cost of handling non-recycled waste has increased significantly in recent years due to the government's bin taxes. Fortunately the Conservatives announced that they would pull back from Labour's punitive approach and make it easier for local authorities to collect all waste weekly if they wanted to.
There were 124% extra unique visitors in 2009 over 2008, when the blog began. We made 212 posts, which is broadly equivalent to the 188 in the ten months of the previous year that the blog was running.
We're being kept on our toes in Cambridge by Richard Normington's blog, which has thrived since moving to its own site with 196 posts in 2009 and now by our new PPC, Nick Hillman, whose blog is updated most days. Both blogs are highly recommended.
The top ten most visited posts from 2009 were:
- Andy on a Latest Graffiti Outbreak by 'Melon'.
The city was plagued by graffiti from 'Melon' AKA 'ATS' last year, initially apparently concentrated around Coleridge and Romsey. The commenter on this thread was admiring the artwork; it's almost tempting to agree, but when every single cabinet, road sign and booth in an area bears the tags it does start to look a bit shabby...
- Chris Reviewing the case for the Guided Bus.
Some of the traffic was driven to this page by a link from flat.earth cast.iron's anti-guided bus page, as you can tell from the comments - single issue action groups often pile in like this. All visitors are welcome!
- Chris on the Runners and Riders for June 4th's Cambridgeshire County Council elections.
Thanks to Chris for an interesting summary of the chances of the hopeful candidates from the city. Some of us were surprised when we read a rumour that City Cllr Colin Rosenstiel had been selected to fight Market Division for the Lib Dems, but it turned out not to be true... or did the Lib Dems change their minds in private after his censure by the standards committee? It will be interesting to see if Colin stands again for the city council in May. One to watch.
- Grafton Centre M+S store to close.
- Exclusive: Folk Festival Fiasco – Second financial calamity hits Council.
- Residents' Parking Rejected by Blinco Area.
So good Labour used the text verbatim for their own blog post before editing it a bit. The Lib Dems are still trying to push for this unpopular scheme despite its rejection by the public.
- Blog Exclusive: What's all this then.
First with the news on what appeared to be the latest exploit of a certain city councillor. Thanks to the commuter for sending us the photograph!
- Tesco Approved on Leisure Park.
This application didn't turn out to be as controversial as the application for Mill Road, despite Labour trying to cash in on the NMRT momentum - the cases were clearly not comparable.
- Cambridge Cycling Campaign Strategy Day.
Coleridge Conservatives are strong supporters of cycling in Cambridge but don't buy into the car versus cycle dualism to which some people in both lobbies try to reduce the arguments.
- Folk Festival Report is Truly Shocking.
Subsequently Chris found himself on the enquiry into the fiasco - the rest of us await the outcome of the enquiry with interest.
Friday, January 1, 2010
You can sign up online to receive David Cameron's regular e-mails.
Nick Hillman, Cambridge's Conservative parliamentary spokesman, also has a New Year message. E-mail Nick at email@example.com to receive Nick's regular e-mails.