Susan van de Ven

Liberal Democrat County Councillor for Bassingbourn, Melbourn, Meldreth and Whaddon Learn more

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New villages, new perspectives

by Susan van de Ven on 24 May, 2017

As a newly elected county councillor representing an area that includes two villages that are new to me, I have a good opportunity to see from the ground up the sorts of problems that South Cambs villages are coping with just now.

Traffic and transport go hand in hand. Outside of our superb rail services, South Cambs’ public transport provision is generally very poor or even non-existent. We don’t even have public transport connecting to rail stations. Combined with our relative affluence, car ownership is both necessary and the norm. This contributes to problems of traffic congestion in ancient villages – severe in places like Bassingbourn, Melbourn and Meldreth High Streets where people need to get to the shops. Congestion itself means that people understandably feel less confident about letting their children walk to school, and school runs add to the congestion.

The resulting culture is hard to shift, particularly when the county council is utterly strapped for cash due to Conservative government policy to eliminate revenue support grant – that’s the annual grant that makes it possible for councils to run public services properly. Besides lack of funding for public transport, pavements are in disrepair making it hard to walk or push a pram or wheelchair; road safety schemes are underfunded; even the role of the school crossing patrol officer has been cut back and not all villages have one.

Meanwhile, the collapse of the Local Plan means that speculative development is happening without regard to strategic infrastructure planning. Besides adding more pressure to traffic and transport problems, there is no guarantee that new housing will be affordable, and no ability to grow capacity at schools and GP surgeries.

All of these issues play themselves out in detailed ways at ground level, and there are no immediate solutions. If Conservative powers-that-be could 1) allow a reasonable funding structure for local government 2) get the Local Plan in place 3) explore and run with the new bus franchising powers that the new Mayor is entitled to do – then we’d be in the business of having the tools to create solutions.

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