Saturday, August 29, 2009

United Reform Church considers Redevelopment

The United Reform Church on Cherry Hinton Road is considering how it will use the site in future, including potentially redevelopment of part of the site.

This may be complicated by the Council expressing an interest in designating the church a 'Building of Local Interest', giving it some protection in the planning system.

They are holding an open day on Sunday 6th September, with a BBQ from 4pm, and presentation/discussion at 6pm, and local residents are encouraged to attend.

The Church authorities are taking a very sensible approach here to this project, by consulting local residents, and are keen on developing community use of the site, so hopefully there will be a positive outcome for the community that also conserves and enhances the built environment in this part of Coleridge ward.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Police Respond to Speed Priority

The police have been in action today on Coleridge Road checking for speeding vehicles, following the successful campaign by Andy Bower to make speeding on residential roads a neighbourhood policing priority.

East Area neighbourhood Sargeant Mark Kathro issued at least one ticket for significantly exceeding the 30mph speed limit, after several previous sessions of speed checks by our PCSOs that resulted in advice being issued to residents.

I don't want to see the police issuing any tickets, but exceeding the 30mph speed limit on residential roads is socially unacceptable and increases the risk of any collision causing serious injuries - many people we speak to want action to stop drivers breaking the speed limit. The message needs to be spread far and wide that if you speed on residential roads in Coleridge you could get a ticket, so please just don't do it.

Many thanks to Mark and his team for following up on this neighbourhood priority - if communicating the message that action is being taken results in fewer people breaking the speed limit, it will be a good result in terms of residents concerns being taken into account, community engagement by the neighbourhood policing team, and real action resulting from this.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tesco set to open tomorrow as court bid fails

No to Mill Road Tesco has failed in its bid to secure an injunction stopping Mill Road Tesco opening tomorrow, clearing the last legal hurdle before Tesco's planned opening tomorrow morning. The action saw an individual campaigner as claimant, the City Council as defendant and Tesco as an interested party.

Whilst there remains an option for campaigners of pursuing a judicial review, some of the observations of the judge could prove problematic for the anti-Tescos campaigners, including:

"In so far as there is alleged to be a breach of planning consent granted or of planning control generally, there is an absence of evidence that the Defendant has acted irrationally of unlawfully. "

"The defendant Council has a wide discretion ... whether to take action in respect of any such breaches or not."

"There appears to be no legal basis for the claim that the installation of air-conditioning plant is development within the meaning of that term in planning law"

and perhaps most damning:
"This application is in reality an attempt to revive the No Mill Road Tesco Campaign under the guise of a Judicial Review claim. It is a misuse of Judicial Review"

I haven't blogged on the East Area committee last week yet - it took some time to calm down, after finding out that the Council's failure to provide a briefing for opposition Councillors resulted in me being excluded from actually making the decision. Under planning rules, Councillors cannot make decisions that they have predetermined, and it appears that this also applies to planning enforcement decisions.

It is unclear what would constitute predetermining the decision - I had certainly made it known that I didn't think large companies should be able to just ignore planning conditions, but without an adequate briefing beforehand I just didn't know if it would be legally safe for me to take part in the decision, so I did't.

I did however speak as a ward member to make it clear that on the main planning condition that Tesco had threatened to breach - delivering from Mill Road, the Council need to take a very robust view.

There are still questions to answer about quite why the Council was so slow in acting on this matter (which ultimately resulted in the last minute Tesco U-turn) - and why repeated requests for a briefing to be held for Councillors were refused. The chair of the committee Cllr Blencowe certainly didn't come out of the situation well - he had a briefing on 6th August, that other members of the committee were effectively excluded from, tried to cancel the meeting with a couple of days to go, and then proceeded to use the meeting to attack the No to Mill Road Tesco campaign members at one point.

Ultimately however, I think the press reports of the meeting were very harsh on the committee - who had at late notice received assurances from Tesco (and agreement to put these into a more legally binding form) that they wouldn't deliver from Mill Road. The committee did all they could reasonably do in the case of the deliveries from Mill Road - authorising officers to take immediate enforcement action if the condition was breached despite the undertakings from Tesco.

There remains the question of whether the changes made to the building to fit air conditioning require planning permission - the Council is looking in to this. Tescos will now be delivering to the rear of the store via Catharine St and Sedgewick Street - which is far from ideal, although doesn't appear to directly contradict any planning conditions or traffic laws, so it will be interesting to see how any problems that arise from this delivery method can be tackled.

No to Mill Road Tesco have secured significant concessions from Tesco on deliveries and blocking the sale of alcohol, as well as keeping them out for nearly two years, but it finally looks like Tesco has conceded enough to enable them to open.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Guided Bus Update

There was an update meeting this evening for the Guided Bus project. The main cause of delays in the Southern section (Station - Addenbrookes - Trumpington Park and Ride) remains the gas main in the Trumpington cutting, where getting agreement with the gas company over what (if anything) needs to be done to protect the gas main has proved tricky.

The rest of the southern section is now progressing, and is expected to be completed around the end of January/February next year. There is some possibility that the route from the station to Addenbrookes can open prior to the Trumpington cutting work being completed (which could be Feb/March time).

All dates are still provisional, but the really exciting news is that they on the final phase of Hills Road bridge work - reinstating the road as it was - and it could be fully re-opened without any traffic management by the end of this week. Fingers crossed...

Mill Road Safety Scheme

There are a couple of dates coming up for the consultation exercise being carried out for the County Council's proposed safety scheme for Mill Road, that could see a 20mph limit introduced - exhibitions will be held as follows:

• 20 August 2009 11am – 7pm, The Jordan Room, Romsey Mill
• 8 September 2009, 11am – 7pm, The Old School Hall, St Barnabas Church

If you have strong views about the plans, please turn up to the exhibitions to ask questions, or fill in the consultation - it is important that the views of people that use Mill Road but live slightly further away are taken into account. Further details and a download of the consultation form and online version of the survey are available at

A detailed speed survey was undertaken at several points on Mill Road over the course of a week in August 2007, and indicated average speeds along the road of between 13 and 26mph, almost all drivers were travelling under 30mph, with very few drivers going significantly over the (30mph) limit. I remain to be convinced by the case for a 20mph limit when so few cars speed at the moment - we need to understand the causes of the accidents that are occuring and tackle them. I would suggest dangerous overtaking of cyclists on the railway bridge and car drivers failure to spot cyclists when emerging from junctions (perhaps because it is dark and they don't have any lights on...) might be good places to start.

Tesco wont deliver from Mill Road

The Mill Road Tesco saga seems to be moving rapidly - they have just given a reassurance in writing to confirm that they don't intend to deliver to the store from Mill Road.

In a letter dated 17th August to the Council planners, they confirmed that contrary to previous statements, it is now 'Tesco's intention to deliver from the curtilage of the site'.

They have indicated that there will be 3 deliveries a day in 8m long lorries, along with a daily newspapers delivery in a transit type van.

Somebody is going to have a busy day looking at shop layouts - the floorplan presented to yestedays licensing committee had a section for alcohol and assumed deliveries from the front of the store...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Police Surgery Wednesday

Our Police Community Support Officers Mark Mitcham and Mick Stribling will be holding a Beat Surgery on Wednesday 19th August. Local residents are all welcome to just turn up and meet our PCSOs to disscuss any crime and anti-social behaviour problems that you may be facing where you live.

The surgery will be held from 19:00 to 20:00 at Lichfield Road Community Hall just off Cherry Hinton Road.

Exclusive: Tesco refused Mill Road alcohol licence

After a marathon 4 hours meeting of the City Council's Licensing Committee today, Tesco has been refused a premises licence to sell alcohol from its proposed store on Mill Road.

After hearing evidence from Tesco's, the Police and their legal team, and some impassioned pleas from local residents and No to Mill Road Tesco's supporters, the committee concluded that Tesco simply hadn't addressed the problems outlined by the police, and refused the application.

It was yet another bizarrely inept performance from Tesco. As I indicated in my response to the application, the store is in a Cumulative Impact Zone for alcohol related anti-social behaviour, so the presumption is that new applicants would be turned down unless they could demonstrate how they addressed the problems of the Cumulative Impact Zone.

Tesco rolled out a boilerplate defence of their application, then tried to claim that the main problem with Mill Road being addressed by the introduction of the cumulative impact zone was the sale of alcohol for consumption on licenced premises e.g. pubs, not the sale from premises like supermarkets for off-licence consumption. If you start by demonstrating such a complete lack of comprehension of what the actual situation on the ground is in Mill Road, you really are going to struggle to convince anyone that you have properly addressed the problems with your application.

A deserved round one victory in this battle to the No to Mill Road Tesco protestors - Tescos are expected to appeal.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Tescos East Area Committee date set

It has been confirmed that a special East Area meeting to discuss the potential options for dealing with Tesco's announcement that they intend to ignore the planning condition on deliveries when they open their new store will take place on:

Thursday 20 August 10.00 (presumably 10am - its not 100% clear...)
St Phillips Church
185 Mill Road

A formal agenda will be published on Monday.

Still no date set yet for a briefing for Councillors on the issue - I am yet to have the benefit of knowing what advice the Council has taken to date about this issue, what it thinks are the options, along with what it thinks are the relative merits of each option, or even why the Council thinks East Area Committee is the right place to take any decisions. In fact, the Council is still deciding whether or not it can give us a briefing at all before the meeting - possible legal issues apparently - (How did that episode of Yes Minister finish up in the end...)

As a random aside - if you are a large organisation thinking of pulling a fast one on the local planning department, I can highly recommend August as the month to try it on...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Exclusive: Conservatives call for Special Meeting of East Area Committee

Cambridge Conservatives are calling for a special meeting of East Area committee to consider the options open to the Council to enforce planning conditions relating to the proposed new Tesco store on Mill Road.

I have written to the Council's Chief Executive:

"In accordance with Section 4a paragraph 43.1 of the Council's Constitution I would like to formally request that a special meeting of East Area Committee is held as soon as possible to consider the options for dealing with Tesco's announcement that they intend to ignore the planning condition on deliveries when they open their new store on Mill Road.

I would also like to request that a briefing is arranged prior to the meeting for members of East Area committee to cover the Council's understanding and advice received about this situation."

I understand other members of East Area committee also intend to call for this meeting, that could result in a course of action being agreed prior to Tesco's planned opening of the new store.

Friday, August 7, 2009

New Plans Submitted for Cherry Hinton Nursing Home

A new planning application has been submitted for the Cherry Hinton Nursing Home at 369 Cherry Hinton Road - ref: 09/0701/FUL.

Local residents are very unkeen on the scale of development being proposed for the site and its impact on access and parking, and I suspect this application will be attracting a similar level of opposition to the previously rejected application on transport grounds.

Mill Road Tesco Heading for the Courts

The saga over the proposed Tesco store on Mill Road could be heading for the courts imminently.

Tesco has made it clear it intends to open its store on 26th of August, and has told the press that it intends to deliver to the store from Mill Road itself, in apparent contradiction of a planning condition relating to the site.

Campaigners including No to Mill Road Tesco and Cambridge Cycling Campaign are particularly concerned about the safety aspects of deliveries from Mill Road, and are calling on the Council to take pre-emptive action, for example, by taking out an injunction.

I am not against a Tesco on Mill Road in principle, but many of the details, including their requirements for very frequent deliveries that will be hard to satisfy safely are clearly very problematic, and Tescos should not be able to get away with bending the rules for its own convenience at the expense of public safety. I have been asking for weeks now for the Council to clarify its position, and agree a course of action. The Council however is still reviewing the legal position, and has suggested that any pre-emptive actions on its part will have to go through the normal committee procedure. The best it has come up with is a statement:

"There is a lawful planning consent for the use of 163-167 Mill Road for retail use which requires deliveries to be made only from a rear service yard. We are urgently contacting Tesco to establish the company's intention for the premises given the lawful consent. If it becomes clear that enforcement action may be necessary then the officers will report to members as soon as possible on options for further action"

This is a hopelessly inadequate response in view of the imminence of the store opening - I am calling on the Council to come up with some recommendations urgently, brief all relevant local Councillors and then immediately put recommendations for approval by the appropriate Councillors as part of the Council's procedures for urgent decisions.

It sounds like the patience of No to Mill Road Tesco has now been tested beyond the limit. They have engaged lawyers, and given the Council a deadline of today to confirm they will be seeking an injunction preventing Tesco deliveries from Mill Road (or for Tesco to confirm they will not breach the planning condition) - if no reassurances are forthcoming they will be in court without further notice to seek a judicial review of the Council's decision not to seek an injunction.

More events on Coleridge Rec?

The Council is finally making progress on looking at the capacity of the City's central parks to host events, and to put limits on the numbers of events of a particular size that will be allowed to avoid too much damage to the parks and complaints from local residents, and will shortly go out to wider consultation with proposals.

One effect of this will be a focus on the less central parks and open spaces, where there may be underused capacity to host events. Coldhams Common, for example, could potentially host more major or large events.

In Coleridge, there are currently no formally approved events held on the Recreation Ground, although it has been suggested that the rec could potentially be used for small festival type events, (similar to the Cherry Hinton Festival or Arbury Carnival - subject to people coming forward to organise a new event obviously!), but there is the question of whether any disruption to the rec or local residents would outweigh the benefits of having more local events.

If anyone has any suggestions as to whether more events on the rec would be appreciated locally, and if so what types, or any other suggestions as to how the rec can be improved, please be in touch.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Speed patrols on problem Coleridge Roads

Following Coleridge Conservatives victory at East Area committee, the police are finally taking a role in speed enforcement on residential roads in Coleridge.

Our PCSOs were out today on Birdwood Road and Coleridge Road spending an hour on each checking the speed of the cars and motorcycles passing by, and some warning letters will be issued. Further checks are planned for Rustat Road.

I hope going forwards this can be developed into a more co-ordinated approach to tackling the problem of speeding drivers. I met with the new neighbourhood Sergeant for Coleridge a few weeks ago to discuss anti-social behaviour issues, crime reporting and to chase up some action on the new neighbourhood policing priority of speed enforcement on residential roads. I was surprised to learn that unknown to local Councillors, the road safety partnership has already undertaken the detailed speed monitoring that has been reported from other areas on key roads like Coleridge Road and I think Birdwood Road - this will indicate the real scale of the problem, as it records all cars speeds over a period of time, without giving warning such that drivers would slow down. I look forward to seeing the results of this speed monitoring, unfortunately I couldn't just be given them, so it has taken a Freedom of Information request, and I am still waiting...

Cyclists Second Class citizens in Lib Dem Cambridge

On numerous occassions when the City Council has run or sanctioned events on the main City Centre Greens and Commons, they have allowed paths forming key cycle routes to be blocked, and received complaints as a result. But in Lib Dem Cambridge, they just don't seem to be getting the message that these routes are a key part of the cycle network, and you can't just block them off without causing serious problems.

The latest example is just beyond belief. The comedy tent, organised by the City Council's Arts and Entertainments dept is back on Jesus Green. So far, so good, but they have managed to layout the site right across the path, with a food van fronting on to the path.

I received a complaint on Tuesday evening after there was a collision between a cyclist who couldn't avoid both an oncoming cyclist and a customer of the food van who just stepped backwards into the path without looking. Injuries were slight, but I can't understand how any practical consideration of Health and Safety as opposed to the all too common jobsworth variety wouldn't have ruled out what the Council has done here.

After I complained, the food van is being moved back from the path and some warning signs will be put up, but there will still be a hazard - it is ridiculous that the Council should be so oblivious to the importance of major cycle routes that they think it is acceptable to regularly block them without warning. They wouldn't set up a whelk stall in the outside lane of the A14 without warning and just expect cars to avoid the hazard. The Lib Dems in charge of Cambridge need to get a grip of this problem and stop it happening in future. On current form, I wouldn't leave them in charge of the whelk stall.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Second Tiverton House Public Meeting

There was a second meeting for local residents to discuss the latest situation with Tiverton House on Monday at St Thomas's Hall. All four ward councillors were present, as was the owner of Tiverton House. I was also present to learn from the experiences of the many residents who were present. A representative of the owner of the Perne Road shops site was also present.

Tiverton House
As Chris has explained in an earlier post, the current situation is that a planning application has been submitted for minor works (splitting the warden's house into two flats and adding extra cycle parking) but the bulk of the work in turning the building from a residential home to student accommodation, that has been proceeding apace, is not being submitted as a planning application.

We managed to tease out little by little some morsels of knowledge about the owner's plans so we now know more reliably that:
  • The owner has a verbal agreement with Anglia Ruskin University such that they will nominate student tenants to rent all of the flats in the block. The owner stressed that the university's policy of no student parking would apply.
  • There will be 96 bedrooms.
  • 37 rooms are being built on the second floor, i.e. in the roof, despite these not being visible on the plans accompanying the application.
The council's planning officer has suggested that the owner obtain a certificate of lawful use in order to satisfy residents' concerns about his development, but this would not be possible within the time before students are expected to take up residence in the new building.

Chris Howell suggested a petition for a development control forum so that residents might be able to have a chance to challenge the overall intensification of the whole site in advance of the planning application being decided.

The deadline for responding to the planning application is tomorrow, Thursday 6th August.

Perne Road/Radegund Road Shops
The owners of the shop buildings on the roundabout between Perne Road and Radegund Road were represented at the start of the meeting and showed a drawing of the complete redevelopment that they would like to do of the site. It is a larger and taller building and would mean the loss of the current style of building at the site.

The overwhelming concern is that action is needed as soon as possible because the site is currently a mess and attracts antisocial behaviour, but there is also some affection for the style and profile of the existing buildings and some concern about the extent of the proposed replacement.

The leaseholder of one of the shops does not want to move and has rejected a compensation package that was offered if they could move. There is another offer on the table and the owners of the site will know whether they can proceed with full redevelopment or will just refurbish at the end of September.