Sunday, August 15, 2010

Chalmers verge plans emerge

Good news on verges for residents of Chalmers Road and safer parking for everyone off Birdwood Road!

Following a recent verge 'walkabout' with councillors and council officers the city and county councils have worked together and approved in principle a long-awaited proposal to deal with the verges and parking in this area.

There is clearly a chronic shortage of parking spaces in this area yet well-kept verges can make an area much nicer. St Thomas's Square probably has the balance about right, with some bays and verges. Coleridge Conservatives have long argued that in places like Chalmers Road a combination of turning some verges into parking spaces and protecting others vigorously is the right answer.

The plan for Chalmers Road is to repair and reseed verges as approporiate but to turn two substantial sections of verge into hard standing: the low odds and mid evens.

The junctions of Birdwood Road with Gray Road, Ward Road and Chalmers road will have double yellow lines on the corners to discourage unsafe parking (it's a shame these are needed since the highway code is clear on this point as it is...), enforced by wooden bollards.

The Southern side of Birdwood Road as it joins Perne Road is to have its verge strengthened and reseeded.

We have asked the city council whether it is also possible to have trees planted to mitigate the effect of losing verges. Such planting would also help to enforce no parking on the verges.

Overall this seems like a great plan - I hope that it will be accepted by residents and councillors and that it will attract funding.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Improve our parks and open spaces - Ideas wanted!

Having extracted loads of cash from local developers through 'section 106' agreements, the money is now burning a hole in the Council's pockets, and they are looking for ideas on how to spend it.

This money comes from cash payments made to the Council before planning permission will be granted, in theory to 'mitigate the effects of the development' but in reality is more like a 'developers tax' ultimately paid for by purchasers of new properties in Cambridge. Some of the payments are to mitigate the fact that insufficient open space has been provided on a new development, and the cash can then be used to 'improve' or provide facilities on existing open spaces.

Notwithstanding the fact that you can't really compensate for a lack of open space (i.e. overdevelopment) of a new site by enhancing existing open space, this does give an opportunity for the many recreation areas around Coleridge to benefit from some investment.

The Council says:

"We are seeking ideas from members of the public, councillors and stakeholders for potential new recreation and open space projects in the city, as part of the council's  'Improve your Neighbourhood' scheme.

If you would like to suggest an idea, please go to the website at this link to see how the scheme works and what type of projects can be funded:"

The weblink gives examples of the type of schemes the Council has in mind - if you have any ideas, be in touch with the Council, and don't forget to let you local Conservative team know as well!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

More misery for Mill Road

There is more misery for traders on Mill Road, as inspection of the sewer during the current works has revealed a further collapse.

While Anglia Water were carrying out the repair works to the collapsed sewer in Mill Road they discovered another blockage 20 metres further along the Mill Road line.

They put a camera down the sewer and confirmed at a site meeting yesterday that the sewer has collapsed at that point and that there is a void under the road. The sewer is deeper than the one they are working on now at about 8.5 metres.

The estimated repair time for this is 9 weeks. A second team will deal with this repair whilst the first are dealing with the original collapse.

As traffic is already used to using the diversion that is in place Anglian Water has been instructed to continue immediately with the second repair rather than wait for the first to be finished in two weeks time. CCC highways team has told Anglian Water that even when Hobart Road is opened again it should not form part of a diversion route as it is a residential area. Instead it should be for access only.

Cyclists and pedestrians will still be able to pass the works at all times.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Developers Present Plans for New Hotel

The developers of the Red House site on Station Road presented their latest plans to Councillors yesterday.

The site, on the north side of Station Road between Tenison Road and the station has been subject to two previous applications for hotels - a smaller successful application in 2006 (that wasn't implemented), and a plan for a larger 169 room hotel in 2009 that was turned down, mostly on transport grounds.

The site is next to Great Eastern House, which Microsoft wants to rebuild as its UK HQ. Whilst it isn't part of the area covered by the CB1 outline planning permission, the new plans seek to fit in with the CB1 proposals, which include a small open space behind the hotel site.

The developers, O'Callaghan hotels, are appealing against the refusal last year, but are also going to put in this new application to address the concerns raised (presumably in case the appeal fails). They are addressing the concerns by reducing the proposed height of the new building (which will be around 7 storeys), and putting in place a valet parking scheme.

Whilst the building itself looks to be a reasonable design for a business class hotel in an area destined to become more of an urban business district, I am concerned about the valet parking plans.

The new plans propose no on-site car parking, with those hotel customers who do have cars being offered valet parking - which will involve hotel staff transporting cars to the Leisure Park car park on Clifton Road. Even if, as developers claim, few guests will arrive by car - the valet parking will still create additional traffic on busy Hills Road and Cherry Hinton Road. It seems ironic that this scheme proposes to solve the problem of lack of parking on site by creating additional trips to the Leisure Park, when the lack of parking on CB1 was the reason given why such a large redevelopment wouldn't generate significant additional traffic. Even if the additional trips are relatively few, it will still add to an existing problem with the plans for the CB1 area.

The developers also claimed to have looked at parking restrictions around the site, and concluded there was nowhere that hotel customers could freely park for long periods of time. I asked if they had considered the Rustat Road area in their analysis, less than 10 minutes walk away - and as with the CB1 developer, the answer was no, this area, and its existing commuter parking problems had been forgotten. I don't accept that hotel users won't know about this, even guests who aren't on a repeat trip - all it will take is one comment about the valet parking and the Rustat Road alternative on a website like Tripadvisor and it could significantly add to the problems Coleridge residents are already facing and will face from commuter parking in the parts of the ward near the station.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

East Chesterton Councillor Resigns

Siep Wijsenbeek has resigned as county councillor for East Chesterton. A by-election is expected on 16 September.

The current make-up of the county council is:

42 Conservative
22 Liberal Democrat
2 Labour
1 Green
1 Vacancy

But of the county councillors within the city boundaries:

10 Liberal Democrat
2 Labour
1 Green
1 Vacancy

This by-election will be a great opportunity to elect a Conservative onto the county council from within the city. It would be hugely beneficial for Cambridge residents to be represented by at least one councillor in the ruling group on the county council. All the other city-based councillors who were present at the TIF vote last year voted for congestion charging - they clearly cannot be relied-upon to stand up for Cambridge's interests.

Cambridge Conservatives' James Strachan gave the Lib Dems the closest run at the last county council election in East Chesterton while Kevin Francis has been a close second in recent city council elections there.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Connecting Asbury Close & Golding Road

Coleridge Conservatives have supported a cycle route between Ashbury Close and Golding Road since 2007.

This is a scheme which Chris Howell requested for an environmental improvements grant. A plan has now been devised. See page 83 (87) of the agenda pack for the last East Area Committee for the details

Cycling is currently banned in the area but in practice this rule is barely followed, with people variously cycling on the pavement and on the grass, neither of which is ideal for residents.

A cycle path between the two, if well sited, could ensure that those who already cycle do so in a considerate fashion and open up the route to people who are currently penalised for following the rules.

If the path eliminates a couple of 4x4s from driving children to school and puts cyclists out of the way of pedestrians and children playing on the grass then it will have been a very worthwhile scheme.

We have generally found residents to be accepting of this idea, with a small amount of opposition. The concerns expressed have been:
  • It will increase cycle movements.
    Not much – the current prohibition is widely ignored & some movements will be instead of vehicle movements clogging up nearby roads and parking.
  • It will bring antisocial behaviour.
    I cannot see how this claim is supportable
  • Parking will be lost.
    This is a risk but a good scheme would lose only two spaces and possibly fewer
  • The money could be better spent.
    The proposed grant is from the environmental improvements pot and this is a capital project so comparisons with potential expenditure that would be recurring are not fair.
  • Cyclists will be a menace to pedestrians.
    This should become less true than it currently is because the path will mostly run along the inside of the existing pavement and will mainly not be shared.
  • The path would otherwise dissect the greens and be a loss to an area for children to play.
    The proposed plan has the path mostly adjacent to the path or nearly adjacent to the path. Of greater impact to children enjoying themselves must surely be the miserly 'no ball games' signs adorning the area?
The bottom line

I support this scheme but only on condition that:

1. No more than one parking space is lost at each end and options are investigated to reduce this to nil. (I think more work on the current plan is due in this respect.) It certainly would not be acceptable for council officers to introduce gratuitous parking restrictions by the back door through this proposal.

2. It is as much as is practical a separate rather than shared-use path.

3. The large grass area should not be dissected.

4. There is a proper consultation of local residents - and not the usual faux consultation.

At the city council's recent East Area Committee of 17 June Coleridge Conservative Councillor Chris Howell spoke in support of the scheme but stressed the importance of a proper consultation, which officers have promised to provide.

As a footnote, the record of what local politicians have said about this scheme in the past is available on the Cambridge Cycling Campaign website:

May 2010 District Elections (question 6; see also question 5).
May 2008 District Elections (question 8).