Monday, March 29, 2010

City Farm Proposed for Cherry Hinton Hall

A new group has been formed to champion the setting up of a City Farm at Cherry Hinton Hall. The plans are to  create and operate a 'vibrant and active City Farm and Community Garden' on the currently disused propagation centre site in Cherry Hinton Hall. The plant propagation centre was shut a few years ago in a round of Lib Dem cuts.

The proposers hope volunteers could be found to help run the farm, that would give people a chance to interact with animals and learn about food production.

More details are available here: - would be interested to know any local resident's views.

Friday, March 26, 2010

And another one

Cllr Bradnack, of Petersfield ward has also resigned as a Councillor, causing a by-election in addition to the expected election in Petersfield ward on May 6th. The deadline for resignations allowing the by-election to be held on May 6th expires today!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Two City Councillors Resign

Two Lib Dem City Councillors, Cllr Armstrong and Cllr Liddle have resigned.

The latter is not unexpected, having moved away from the City last November, leaving East Chesterton residents with one non-local Councillor for months. The resignations were clearly timed for the electoral benefit of the Lib Dems rather than to ensure residents have effective local representation - the by-elections will both now be held on May 6th, meaning there will be two City Councillors elected in each of East and West Chesterton, (with the remaining wards in the City each electing one City Councillor as expected on that date).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Victory on Disabled Adaptation Charges

As previously report on this blog, the Council was already backtracking on plans to charge disabled tenants with special adaptations several hundreds of pounds a year for basic servicing and inspection, even where they were installed years ago and on the basis that these charges wouldn't be payable.

But following an energetic campaign from one particular Coleridge resident and disability action groups, I was pleased to support measures agreed at last night's housing management board that see a complete U turn for tenants with existing adaptations who will not now face these charges. A report will be taken back to the next housing management board to consider new disabled adaptations, and if servicing costs on these should in future be recharged or continue as now to be paid for from the overall housing revenue account.

Whilst I look forward to that report, the key issue to me is why it is so expensive to perform these checks. It is only with more transparency over the procurements of these services, that we can know if the services could be provided cheaper, or if, for example, we could carry out more checks at the same time to meet the same health and safety objectives at lower cost. The Council is spending a fortune on health and safety related inspections and remedial actions - gas safety, fire safety (a major scheme affecting Davy Rd and Fanshawe Road flats was also agreed last night to improve fire safety) and other safety checks and actions relating to new requirements under the 'decent homes' guidance. Ultimately these all have to be paid for, and as a Councillor I want to be sure that we aren't just adopting an open cheque book approach to any theoretical health and safety risk, but really question if the response to possible health and safety concerns is proportionate to the risks.

Childrens Activity Day on Coleridge Rec

At a summit in November, Children and young people discussed how funds for children and young people's activities should be spent in their neighbourhoods, and the result is a number of events on parks and recreation grounds this Easter.

Provisional Plans include: (subject to change due to availability of equipment)

* Climbing Wall (Not Lammas Land or Jesus Green)
* Large inflatables (slides/assault courses/ sticky walls/giant people sized table football)
* Music displays
* Street Art Workshops
* Dance workshops
* Arts and crafts activities (different on each park)

On Thursday 8th April, Coleridge Road Rec will host a wilderness themed activity day, and their will be another event on Wednesday 14th April at Cherry Hinton Hall. Spread the word if you know of any young people who may be interested in these activities!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

22/23 Kelvin Close goes to appeal

The shoebox dwellings planned to replace 22/23 Kelvin Close (09/1106/FUL) but turned down by planning officers are back on the agenda now that the developer has launched an appeal.

As with the rest of the planning process a very strict procedure pertains to the appeal. A document explaining how it works may be found online.

The deadline for submitting comments is 13 April, by which time a copy of the city council's statement will also be available. The grounds for appeal can be inspected at the Guildhall by arrangement on 01223 457142.

To write to the inspector use the reference number APP/Q0505/A/10/2122940/NWF. The address is: The Planning Inspectorate, 3/16 Eagle Wing, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Temple Quay, BRISTOL, BS1 6PN. Some more information about appealing from the council:
Comments (3 copies) must be received by 13th April 2010. Any views submitted will be disclosed to the parties and may be read out at the hearing. Any views previously submitted to the Planning Department are automatically forwarded onto the Planning Inspectorate. You will only need to write if you wish to add or retract your earlier comments, or if you wish to appear at the Hearing.

The Planning Inspectorate have introduced an online appeals service which you can use to comment on this appeal. You can find the service through the Appeals area of the Planning Portal – see
Why can't developers just leave Kelvin Close alone?

Nick Hillman for Cambridge

Cambridge's Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate Nick Hillman introduces himself in this video clip:

Nick insists Cambridge should get a fairer deal from the government. He's right!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

How is the graffiti situation?

This time last year Coleridge Conservatives were reporting endless graffiti around the ward and elsewhere in the city. It had reached levels where anything that could be scrawled on was and the city was beginning to look shabby.

It does feel as if there is a lot less this year, even though there is still plenty appearing, and being reported on FixMyStreet by members of the public. What do you think? Let us know whether you think the problem is improving using the poll on our blog.

In general crime and antisocial behaviour are purported to have been kept down due to the cold weather so this may be the underlying explanation. It would be interesting to see an analysis of council or fixmystreet reports queried from their databases.

I had an interesting chat with a city council employee who was cleaning off graffiti from the Langham Road sign this morning. Unfortunately council rules prevented him from consenting to me taking a picture of him at work, which I thought would have made an interesting illustration, so we are stuck with a picture of the vehicle used instead!

Thanks to the employee for the good work and for suggesting I remind people to get in touch with the city council with any more reports. I use the FixMyStreet website so people can see what else has been reported and track problems - unfortunately the city council does not seem to submit updates - it would be great if they could integrate such a feature into their workflow system!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Budgens agree to new delivery arrangements

More good news - especially for one resident of Perne Road in particular who has suffered repeated damage to their fence by Budgens delivery lorries reversing into their service road.

After escalating the problem to Budgens holding company Musgrave Retail, Budgens have now instructed their drivers that before delivering to the store, they must phone ahead to arrange a banksman for all deliveries, to protect the neighbours property, and to avoid risks to pedestrians whilst the lorry is reversing. This appears to be exactly what we have been campaigning for on this issue - lets hope it is put into practice...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Mill Road Winter Fair AGM

The Mill Road Winter Fair will be on Tuesday 16th March at 7.00 in the Baptist Church on
Mill Road in Romsey. Everyone is welcome to attend. The success of the fair relies on volunteers, so if you are interested in helping, it might be a good opportunity to meet the organisers.

They also have a Facebook page if you would like to get regular bulletins about what is happening. You can do this here.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Police Raid Coleridge Brothels

Sounds like the police had an exciting last couple of weeks, after two suspected brothels were raided in Coleridge, on Perne Road and Lichfield.

In total, three people were arrested for people trafficking, sexual exploitation and immigration offences, and enquiries continue.

I think this type of of crime is fairly rare in Cambridge, but the police would welcome any further information and if you suspect that properties in your area are being used in the Sex Trade then please call 0345 456 456 4 or Crimestoppers 0800 555 111 where you can place an anonymous call.

Going off at a huge tangent, I a reminded of the ludicrous injustice of the press coverage of Lord Ashcroft over the last week - notably by the BBC.

Lord Ashcroft founded crimestoppers over 20 years ago - and since has put up many rewards that have resulted in convictions for very serious offences. He has also been a very significant donor to Anglia Ruskin University - which educated him and gave him the start of his successful business career. In short, he is a community minded philanthropist, of the type that this country should be very grateful for. He also donates money to the Conservative party, and one of his 'crimes' in the eyes of the Labour party (and therefore the BBC) is that he has tried to donate that money in a way it is most likely to be effective in helping secure the election of a Conservative government (by supporting marginal constituencies). Good - if I donate money to the Conservatives, it is also 100% because I want to see that money used to get Conservatives elected, and I'm yet to see any evidence that the sole intention of Lord Ashcroft's donations is anything other than to help facilitate the election of a Conservative government.

The real risk with large donors to a political party is where the party is so dependent on those donations that they are prepared to, for example, put the interests of the donor above the interests of the general electorate when deciding policy. Lord Ashcroft's donations at their current levels (less than 5% of the party's funding since Cameron became leader) simply dont come into this category. With Labour, it is not so much a risk, but a case of to what extent exactly public policy is being influenced by their major donors. There was Bernie Ecclestone and tobacco advertising, and their other individual donors (many of whom share Lord Ashcroft's perfectly legitimate 'non-dom' tax status) who seem to have remarkable influence over government. Why exactly was Lord Paul appointed to the Privy Council is a serious question that awaits an answer.

But the biggest paymasters of course are the unions. In 2009, over 60% of Labour's donations came from the unions. The mere threat of withdrawing this funding can change Labour policy, and it is at the unions behest that the country has embarked on the massive increase in the public sector wage bill, that is a key reason for the debt crisis that threatens to engulf the UK economy (particularly if Labour is re-elected).

As ever, there is a special brand of hypocrisy involved whenever the Lib Dems get on their high horse, as Vince Cable did at [deputy] Prime Ministers questions this week. You would never have guessed that the  Lib Dems campaign at the 2005 election was funded by a £2.4m donation from convicted fraudster Michael Brown - quite why they haven't had to pay back this money to the people it was allegedly stolen from I never could understand.

The bottom line is that democracies inevitably produce political parties - and unless you want (even more) of your taxes being spent supporting political parties you vehemently disagree with, the political parties need donors. Ideally lots of smaller donors so that no one donor can exert a significant influence. But none of this excuses the rank hypocrisy of Labour and the Lib Dems over this issue, or the extraordinary coverage given to Lord Ashcroft by the BBC over a number of days - when there are no allegations he has done anything illegal and broken any rules. Was it really more imporant to talk about Lord Ashcroft for a sixth day, after our Prime Minister had told the Chilcott enquiry the military had been given all the equipment it requested, and the General insisted they hadn't? We are about to go into a general election, the outcome of which could determine the prosperity of the Country for a generation if the crisis in public debt is not tackled - and this is where the media should be focussing their attention.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Progress at The Forum, Tiverton Way

I was at the latest meeting organised by the Tiverton Estate Action Group for interested parties to review progress mitigating the impact of the new student residence, The Forum, which replaced Tiverton House.

Good progress was reported from the November meeting which I had also attended. In particular the owners, Whitfield Group, had made successful efforts at solving some of the problems at and around the site.

Coleridge Conservatives have found that residents of the estate still report a significant problem with students' cars parking (which is not permitted by Anglia Ruskin University), there are still some noise problems and it remains to be seen whether much of the improvement is simply down to the cold weather.

But things are clearly looking much better than they would have done had residents not taken such a strong lead in bringing together relevant groups to solve the problems that have resulted from the Lib Dems' failure to dispose of council property appropriately and a broken planning system that deprived local people of a say. Residents have also at last been granted an audience with ARU.

It is hoped that further planned measures will help with relations with students, particularly in the next academic year.

Well done to local residents and thanks to Whitfield Group for their cooperation.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Potholes Update

City and County Councillors were briefed on Tuesday by officers from the County Council about the scourge of potholes across the City.

It is pretty clear that the whole Country is suffering from huge numbers of potholes after the winter weather, not just Cambridgeshire - with temperatures hovering around zero for weeks, the repeated freeze-thaw cycles have done immense damage that is going to take a long while to recover from.

There are currently around 2,000 potholes reported, about 165 a week are being fixed, so it is going to take months to clear the backlog.

The County Council are doing all they can to get roads back to a usable state:
  • Extra funding has been made available for potholes, and they are spending next year's budget early. Repairs are not being held up by lack of funding, but because all road maintenance crews are already working flat out - you can't simply get crews from other parts of the Country, as everywhere is suffering.
  • Fixing potholes will take priority over more routine maintenance - this will likely affect the current and next year's routine maintenance programme.
  • It is difficult to do good permanent repairs in cold weather - the usual approach is a temporary patch then replace with a proper repair later. The temporary patches were lasting so little time, they indicated they would now try effecting a permanent repair first time - but this will also mean more potholes wait longer for attention.
  • Finally, the County has changed the way it prioritises work - it is drawing up new priority lists on a weekly or even daily basis, to tackle the worst areas.
The message was that members of the public should carry on reporting potholes, but be aware it may take a long while to get round to them. I tend to use to report problems (don't get me started on why the County Council can't post updates to this website - they say they can't provide updates, but that is patently ridiculous - they are now trying to reinvent the wheel and write some software of their own taking great time and expense...).

I do have suggestions for improving the situation in future years - I don't think the highways inspectors are proactive enough in getting utilities etc who dig up roads to replace the surfacing to a very high standard. They are allowed to make temporary repairs then come back, but this doesn't always happen.

But ultimately I think it is clear that keeping road surfaces in good condition, particularly in Cambridge where we have a lot of cyclists, is just an area of the budget that needs more funding if we want our roads to start the winter in reasonable good condition...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cambridge Conservatives Win Congestion Charge Battle

Cambridge Conservatives' long-running battle against congestion charging scored a win yesterday as the government belatedly admitted that its plan to force congestion charging on places like Cambridge was unpopular. The Transport Innovation Fund has been scrapped and Cambridgeshire's TIF bid was rejected by the government. There is a new replacement scheme going out for consultation that does not at first sight appear to include compulsory congestion charging.

Coleridge's Labour county councillor is left with egg on his face after voting for congestion charging for Cambridge with a declaration of praise for the Labour government, only to find his own party yesterday abandon TIF! Coleridge deserves better than "yes" men who will just follow their party line regardless of what local residents want. As candidate last year I pledged to vote against congestion charging and as prospective candidate for the city council elections this year I again pledge to oppose congestion charging for Cambridge.

We haven't heard the Lib Dem line yet - since they support congestion charging in principle we need to be vigilant for the likelihood that they will be lobbying to include congestion charging in any bid under the new scheme. We also need to watch out that the government doesn't include conditions that bring congestion charging back on the agenda.

Richard Normington has pre-empted some of the myths likely to be forthcoming in the pro-TIF propaganda.