by Susan van de Ven on 20 November, 2017
We are writing to you, as councillors and campaigners for our interlinked cluster of villages, to keep you informed of local issues involving the District and County Councils. If you would prefer not to receive this email newsletter, please reply asking to be removed from the distribution list. If you know of someone not receiving this newsletter who would like to do so, please ask them to contact firstname.lastname@example.org,email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WILL GOVERNMENT ALLOW US TO BUILD COUNCIL HOUSES AGAIN?
Government recently announced extra funding for affordable housing, suggesting that it would enable us to start building council housing again. In the end, the policy was a small extension of existing efforts. While an extra £2 billion going into the national pot for affordable housing sounds good, this will produce at most 15 houses per year per council – no meaningful help for the thousands of people on the housing list in South Cambs.
The new Combined Authority – the new layer of local government that sits with the Mayor – has recently got significant and welcome funding for housing. This is specifically for affordable housing on new commercial developments, effectively a subsidy to developers to improve their ‘viability’. But ‘affordable’ rents are pegged to rental rates in the wider market, so they are becoming more and more unaffordable.
Council housing is more genuinely affordable, but government policy is failing to enable councils to build their own housing. Last year saw the lowest number ever of houses built for ‘social rent’ (the classification that includes council houses) – just 5,380 for the whole of England.
PUDDING AND PEAS: ITEMS MOST NEEDED BY OUR LOCAL FOOD BANK
There’s a list on the homepage of foods urgently needed: click here to find out what they are and where you can provide them.
LOCAL PLAN RECORD-SETTING LIMBO
South Cambs has not received the report from the Local Plan Inspector about the changes that will need to be made to the Local Plan before approval. At the time of writing, the letter has not been published, but councillors have been told informally that there are no major new changes not previously announced. There will therefore be a consultation on the changes starting in late November or early December, going into the new year. Once that is complete, the Inspector will sign off the plan and we will once again have a full set up local policies to base planning decisions on. This will be in March at the very earliest, but may be delayed until after the May elections.
In the meantime, there is huge uncertainty about which policies we apply to current applications. We have had no official guidance about whether the five-year housing land supply loophole, which has already permitted over 4,000 speculative houses to be approved, is still open. There are lots of speculative applications in the pipeline as well as some outstanding appeals on big sites across the district. On what basis will these be decided?
The draft South Cambs Local Plan was submitted for inspection in March 2014, over three years and eight months ago. This makes it the longest running local plan inspection in the whole country ever. The next longest is Rochdale’s, which took three years and five months to completion. The reasons for this are clear: having to obey extremely onerous rules imposed by central government and being designated a part-time Inspector. Yet the current administration at South Cambs has made almost no effort to lobby government to get the rules changed.
WHADDON ROAD, MELDRETH: 150 HOUSES UPDATE
Following the unanimous rejection of this planning application, there has been no formal notice of appeal as yet, but Philippa has ascertained from South Cambs District Council that the appellant has indicated that they wish the appeal to be heard by written representations and thus far SCDC has not argued against this. Philippa is relaying all information to Meldreth Parish Council in a fluid situation.
CAMBRIDGE ROAD MELBOURN 160 HOUSES UPDATE
Jose reports: It is anticipated that this planning application will go to the January Planning Committee, pending uncertainties over traffic and transport issues relating to the proposed development’s designated primary school. Melbourn Primary School cannot expand any further beyond what is already in the pipeline, as the village is already absorbing large-scale development, and so the new development would need to feed into a neighbouring village primary school – most recently we understood this to be Meldreth not Foxton. We are working together with our respective parish councils to ensure fair opportunities to address material changes in the application.
THE ROUSES, BASSINGBOURN
The County Council’s long-standing aspiration to develop land at Clear Farm (known as The Rouses), an important interconnected green space in the centre of the village without natural road access, has had little local support. Bassingbourn has some of the most difficult traffic congestion and conflict issues among villages in our area. Nevertheless, the Council has persisted in preparing to submit a planning application during the current Local Plan policy vacuum. Susan is liaising with parish and district councillors and will report at this week’s parish council meeting.
COLLINS CLOSE SHEPRETH EXTENSION
Philippa reports: This application by Cambridgeshire County Council for 25 houses was passed at the November Planning Committee, subject to finalising the Section 106 agreement. Notable facts to mention about this development are that 10 of the houses will be affordable (affordable rented; 3x2bedroom and 3x1bedroom and shared ownership 3×2 bedroom) with a readiness on the part of the County Council that 50% of such housing be made available to applicants with a local connection to Shepreth. Under the proposed s106 agreement, £57,939.59 has been requested to finance the provision of a Multi-Use Games Area on Shepreth Recreation Ground and £11,149.08 for indoor community space by way of renovation and refurbishment works at Shepreth Village Hall.
BASSINGBOURN BARRACKS OPENER
With a number of local issues relating to the anticipated reopening of Bassingbourn Barracks needing resolution, Susan has made contact with the Barracks local representative for discussion on solutions – including the problematic Guise Lane entrance to the Ski Slope, the pedestrian link connecting the Barracks to Kneesworth, and the use of leisure facilities on the site by community groups.
The answer received: We are anticipating the first arrivals on to the Bassingbourn site by September 18 but this is still dependent on building work being completed in time. It is too early to give any details of numbers of school age children. Our current position is to say ‘no’ to civilian access to the site. This will be reviewed once we have settled in and established our security procedures. It is worth noting that these leisure facilities (ski slope, Astroturf, climbing wall) are not part of the refurbishment plan at this time. There are not a high enough priority and there isn’t enough funding. We would welcome any improvements in public transport to / from the site. Apologies that I cannot be more positive at this stage but our priority is to get the site to a position from which we can deliver our operational output.
Rest assured the conversation will continue. This will be reported on at Bassingbourn Parish Council on 21 November.
60% OF COUNCIL TAX TO COVER CARE COSTS
Local authority leaders have warned that an ageing population means 60p of every £1 received in council tax will soon be spent on social care. In 2010 the figure was 41p. They say other services will have to be reduced due to demand for support for elderly people, vulnerable adults and caring for children. Councils want an extra £1.3bn from the Chancellor in his Budget simply to plug gaps in the care system.
Cambridgeshire Hearing Help sessions are held every last Wednesday of each month at The Limes, High, Street Bassingbourn. This is a drop-in session between 2:00pm and 4:00pm for NHS hearing aid users to receive general maintenance on their hearing aids. They can supply new batteries which are free and clean and re-tube the hearing aid whilst offering a little bit of advice.
NORTH HERTS AND DISTRICT CITIZENS ADVICE BUREAU
Our area is served by ‘North Herts and District’ CAB, an independent charity that provides advice on basic rights and services, like housing and benefits. A common question that has come our way is how to establish entitlement to a carer’s allowance.
A free drop-in service is held every 1st and 3rd Thursdays (9.30 am-12 noon), Melbourn Community Hub, and every Monday and Wednesdaymornings (9.30 am-12 noon) at the Citizens Advice North Hertfordshire offices at Royston Town Hall, Royston, SG8 7DA. The CAB reports an increase in people requiring advice and support, but also an increase in people offering their services as volunteers – in a whole variety of roles. Any questions, please ring the CAB Monday–Friday, 10-4, on Tel 03444 111 444. More information here
If you have concerns about the quality of repairs to council housing of late, or prevalent damp which the repairs service is unable to fix, or any other concerns about work which has been done or which you are struggling to get done, please get in touch with Jose and Philippa.
HEALTHWATCH: QUESTIONS ABOUT ADDENBROOKE’S OR OTHER HEALTH SERVICES?
We’ve found Healthwatch to be a hugely helpful resource for answers to concerns about various aspects of health services. CEO Sandie Smith has made a point of saying that she welcome questions, so please feel free to contact her on Tel 0330 355 1285 (local call number) or by email: email@example.com
NEW VILLAGES COMMUNITY INTEREST COMPANY
With dedicated support from local residents, South Cambs District Council, Cambridgeshire County Council and the Association of Community Rail Partnerships, a new ‘Meldreth, Melbourn, Shepreth and Foxton Community Interest Company’ is about to be formed, for the purpose of providing a legally and financially accountable structure for our Community Rail Partnership. There are ample opportunities for the Rail Partnership to foster various community projects involving schools and local businesses, and we hope that this will help do that in the best possible way.
It is expected that a new paid part-time post to support the Community Rail Partnership will shortly be advertised. If you’d like special notice please contact Susan.
DUKE OF EDINBURGH AWARD STUDENT THANK YOU: SHEPRETH STATION
Thanks to one of our Station Gardening Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award volunteers, the strip of land alongside Shepreth Station that has been nurtured with wildflowers has now been prepared for next season, under the direction of our local ecology advisor.
… ALL STATION PLATFORMS REPLANTED
And teams of volunteer gardeners have now replanted all the new weather-proof tubs at Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Stations. We’d like to thank the platform lengthening contractor, Volker Fitzpatrick, for covering the cost of plants, plus a new supply of specialist wildflower seed mix for use around Shepreth Station. All these projects are underpinned by truly dedicated volunteers. If you’d like to get involved, please let us know.
NEW 8-CAR TRAINS TO GRADUALLY ROLL-OUT
Now that platform lengthening work has been completed, we are told by Govia Thameslink Railway that the new rolling stock will gradually appear, in stages. The new trains will be commuter tube style, with advantages and disadvantages. We’ve certainly made the point through our Rail User Group that peak time congestion on trains has reached a dangerous level and this is where the new capacity trains are most needed.
YOUR CHANCE TO DRIVE A STREET SWEEPER?
In a sign of the times, when the District Council can’t afford to sweep streets and paths as often as it would like, Jose has been asked if we would help set up a Community Street Sweeper volunteer programme. This would involve providing the necessary training to local residents who would like to help out. A clean driving license is required, and training for health and safety and vehicle operation will take place in December. The actual sweeping would be up to the scheme to decide upon – so as and when the community scheme is willing and able. If you’re interested, please let us know.
The sweeper could be used to clear debris on pavements, gutters, and A10 pedestrian/cycle path – for which vegetation cutback is done three times per year through a grant from AstraZeneca, and twice per year by the council. While this is hardly an ideal situation, if you ever wanted to drive a street sweeper, now is your chance!
Meanwhile, thanks to all those people who we know take their secateurs on walks and bike rides and do their bit to keep brambles back.
CASH DEPOSITS TO DISCUSS HIGHWAYS PROJECTS THAT THE COUNCIL CAN’T AFFORD
This is about the fact that County Highways cannot do all the things it should, and ‘third parties’ including parish councils may wish to initiate and fully pay for a project on their own. The project needs to be approved by Highways as anything on the public highway is subject to various rules and regs. To begin a conversation on third-party funding, a deposit is now required, with two possible categories: a project requiring design and consultation (£500 deposit) or a project that needs no design or consultation (£250). These are non-refundable deposits, but are credited against schemes that go ahead. Again, this is far from ideal and is a real sign of the times. Please make use of your councillors to help obtain initial guidance.
TEACHING RECRUITMENT EVENT: JANUARY 11
Teach in Cambridgeshire is holding a Secondary Recruitment Event onThursday 11th January 2018, 17:00-19:00 at St Peter’s School, Huntingdon. The event is designed for secondary trainees to network with secondary schools in Cambridgeshire regarding possible posts and upcoming positions. There will also be the opportunity for delegates to opt for mock interviews to enhance their application experience. This event has been a great success in the past with many trainees being offered interviews/positions at the event itself.
BASSINGBOURN SCHOOL CROSSING PATROL OFFICER
There is a vacancy again for this crucial role in Bassingbourn, which the County Council School Crossing Patrol lead has described as the most difficult walking route to school in the county – there is no obvious engineering solution at the key village crossroads, and the escort provided by the ‘Lollipop Person’ is essential. Meanwhile Susan is meeting with County and Primary School representatives on November 28 to try and find ways of improving the overall situation – if only easy answers could be found. The vacancy is listed here.
PARLIAMENTARY BOUNDARY REVIEW
The Boundary Commission for England has now released revised proposals for our parliamentary boundary and viewable here.
The key changes that affect our area are that the Bassingbourn and Melbourn Wards are still proposed to move into a new constituency, renamed Letchworth and Royston; this proposed constituency now includes Meldreth and Shepreth as well. The villages north, including Foxton and Barrington, would remain in the South Cambs constituency.
If you have an opinion on these proposals, you have until December 11 to have your say. Commissioners will then decide on their final recommendations before submitting them to Parliament in September 2018. We have composed a template letter to assist on what we see as the key points – please do use as the basis for your own submission
WHADDON AND BASSINGBOURN STUDENT LIFTS TO MELDRETH STATION
Unfortunately, due to very poor take-up, Royston and District Community Transport has decided to end this service at the end of 2017, because it cannot afford to run a mostly empty vehicle. Through contacts developed over the summer holidays, it was anticipated that well over twenty people would be signing up for the lift service, and so it would have paid for itself. Ultimately it turned out to be just four. A driver had been hired to ensure that the lifts would run every day on RDCT’s minibus.
The cost of the lift (£3.55 per person per daily return journey), added to the rail fare and together with the restrictiveness of the offer (one journey time only) probably made this an unattractive choice for people with other options. But for those without other options some kind of solution needs to be found.
RDCT have now written to everyone who originally wrote to express interest, and are working to see if they can help develop a lift-share service instead. Please don’t hesitate to contact Susan if you are affected. And if you are in the position of being able to provide a lift to others, please do get in touch. You can contact RDCT on Tel 01763 245228. This very difficult situation provides a harsh window on the severe problems we face around basic public transport.
CAM VALE BUS USERS GROUP MEETING: DECEMBER 4
The group’s next meeting will be 4 December, 7:30-9:00PM, at The Limes Community Centre, High Street, Bassingbourn. We rotate around the villages, as all are affected by the 127/128 service. The bus operator, the County Council and Royston and District Community Transport are all expected at this meeting. A timetable change has been proposed by the Operator to reflect passenger comments, including Meldreth residents looking for a longer stay once in Royston, and also an inability to turn the bus around at the junction of North End/Fen Road/Guise Lane Bassingbourn.
Lifts are being arranged for anyone who’d like to attend – please contact any of us. And if you’d like to be added to the mailing list to receive agendas and minutes, let us know.
TRANSPORT CORRIDORS DON’T OBEY ADMIN BOUNDARIES
Cross-county border efforts continue in earnest for a Melbourn-Royston off-road walk/cycle link. This week, a Year 9 Melbourn Village College student will appear before the Greater Cambridge Partnership Board, seeking their support for allocating government funding intended for sustainable transport infrastructure to the path from Melbourn to the Herts border – as will employees at Melbourn Science Park who live in Royston and Cambridge and cycle the A10 to work.
Meanwhile, Royston residents have launched a crowd-funding effort to supplement Herts efforts toward bridge infrastructure on their side of the border.
CHILDREN’S CENTRE CLOSURES
As previously reported, the County Council proposal was to cut £1 million spending on children’s centres (then refined to £900K), which would result in a large number of closures – and detail on revised services yet to be worked out. Bassingbourn in particular would experience a deep loss of service, and with the scarcest of public transport links it is obvious that accessing services in other villages for families without a car would be impossible. In the rest of the county, there are many examples similar to Bassingbourn.
Overwhelming advice from professionals was that this cut would be harmful for young children and families. Unfortunately, expert opinion made no impact; the council’s Conservative group won the day, with everyone else against. More detail on what will happen for Bassingbourn children’s centre services has been requested, but at the time of writing there has been no response.
It has been pointed out that there only needs to be a small number of children taken into care across the county, as a result of the failure to provide these services, for the saving to be completely wiped out.
COUNTY COUNCIL CREATES MYSTERY AREA CHAMPIONS
In light of increasingly severe cuts to council services, it is important to keep a scrutinizing eye on how the council is spending its scarce funds. Therefore we are sorry to report on the new ‘Community Champions’ role, whereby one county councillor is paid £5K per year to ‘champion’ an entire district, including one specially for South Cambridgeshire. The new chairman of the new ‘Communities and Partnerships’ Committee, who created the Area Champion roles, receives an extra £18,372 per annum to chair the new committee on which the five Area Champions sit. The new vice chair is paid £7927. This is now the council’s most costly committee to convene, and the value it brings to residents is not obvious.
TESTIFYING IN NETWORK RAIL’S PUBLIC INQUIRY ON MELDRETH LEVEL CROSSING CLOSURE
Together with Meldreth and Melbourn residents and representatives, Susan will be testifying in a public inquiry commencing around 28 November. Network Rail’s proposal to the Secretary of State to close the minor level crossing just south of Meldreth Station Road bridge, which is a key right of way on a public footpath route, is being fought very hard by Cambridgeshire County Council – officers have been very impressive.
It is sad to see the huge expenditure of public money on this process, when Network Rail couldn’t afford to extend platforms at Meldreth Station a few hundred yards away.
TIME TO SMILE
A few events that sound like fun – we can point you in the right direction for contact people:
Bassingbourn Village Band: Thursdays 8:25-9:15 pm at The Limes Community Room, High Street. Bring an instrument or just come and listen.
Melbourn Hub: Santa’s Grotto Christmas event December 2nd:
Christmas Tree Festival, Holy Trinity Church Meldreth, December 2 and 3.
Shepreth Disco December 9 evening.
Meldreth Marvels multi-village cycle ride – 2nd and 4th Tuesdays, 9:15 from the church lay-by, Meldreth.
United Reformed Church Bassingbourn: Homemade soup and cake, 24 November 12:30-4:00, South End Bassingbourn.
DROP-IN ADVICE SURGERY
We hold monthly advice surgeries: Jose, Philippa and Susan are at the Melbourn Hub every first Monday of the month, 3-4PM, and Susan is at the Limes Community Room Bassingbourn every third Monday of the month, 3-4PM. Please contact us any time with any questions or concerns and we’ll do our best to help.
ANY ITEMS WE CAN HELP TO RAISE?
We would be delighted to address any concerns you may have, or help raise awareness of issues affecting our community via this newsletter.
WHAT WE STAND FOR
The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. Learn more about or join the Liberal Democrats at http://www.libdems.org.uk
Philippa, Jose and Susan
Philippa Hart, District Councillor for Meldreth and Shepreth
firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel 01763 261255
Jose Hales, District Councillor for Melbourn, Heydon and the Chishills
email@example.com, Tel 01763 221058
Susan van de Ven, County Councillor for Bassingbourn, Melbourn, Meldreth and Whaddon
Twitter: @susanvandevenLeave a comment