by Susan van de Ven on 25 June, 2018
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 email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
In the May 4th District Council elections, Jose and Philippa were elected to represent the new Melboun Ward, including Meldreth, Shepreth and Whaddon. In Bassingbourn the new district councillor is Nigel Cathcart, while the new seat of Foxton, Fowlmere, Heydon and Great and Little Chishill was won by Deborah Roberts.
The political balance at South Cambs has shifted in an about-face, to a Liberal Democrat administration comprising 30 Lib Dems, 11 Conservatives, 2 Labour and 2 Independents. Cllr Bridget Smith who is well known for her expertise in community project fundraising is the new Leader.
BUT WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SOUTH CAMBS AND COUNTY?
South Cambs District Council, headquartered in Cambourne, is responsible for planning, housing, licensing, environmental health including waste collection, running elections, managing benefits, and collecting council tax for all tiers of local government. Its annual budget is £19.5 million.
Cambridgeshire County Council is headquartered at Shire Hall, Cambridge, and is responsible for education, school transport, social care, waste disposal, public health, highways, and until recently with the advent of the Mayor, transport. It is comprised of 36 Conservatives, 14 Lib Dems, 7 Labour, 2 Independents, and 2 Independents for St Neots. Its annual budget is £562 million, plus £249 million Dedicated Schools Grant.
NEW STUFF AT SOUTH CAMBS
One of the first actions by the Lib Dem Group upon taking over control of SCDC has been to establish a Climate and Environment Committee, which will be looking at all the ways in which the Council can positively influence matters both in its own and its partners’ operations to reduce damage to the climate and improve our environment.
Jose now chairs the new Grants Committee that is reviewing all the grants currently administered by the Council to make sure that they are providing maximum benefit where it is most needed.
The new Brexit Working Group is investigating ways in which the Council can help businesses in and around South Cambs to cope with any current or anticipated consequences of Brexit. Local farmers say they’ve seen a fall in their seasonal workforce; our care homes can’t recruit all the staff they need and rely on costly agency staff; schools face increased pressures through workforce and fall in the pound – as one headteacher explains here.
Even Shepreth Wildlife Park faces a raft of challenges around its accreditation through the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, and the European Endangered Program. They benefit from 100 volunteers, many of them EU nationals here due to freedom of movement.
PLANNING LIMBO – RESOLUTION?
Philippa writes: South Cambs is now able to demonstrate a five-year Housing Supply – however the margins are very tight and some assumptions, including the outcomes of certain key appeals, have fed into this calculation. The new administration will be putting its mark on the Housing Strategy which will inform the next Local Plan and has already identified as one of the factors needing imaginative solutions the higher-than-average age of our village populations.
SELLING OFF THE FAMILY SILVER – AND THE VILLAGE GREEN
As has been well documented in the national press, local councils are selling off public land to rescue public finances. Cambridgeshire is one the top land-owning County Councils in the country, and as explained in Susan’s recent blog is in the process of selling off lucrative plots for commercial development – a prime example being The Rouses, Bassingbourn.
The Rouses sits in the heart of Bassingbourn’s natural green space and is integral to a green corridor comprising the Recreation Ground and Ford Wood.
Following several turbulent months, the County Council has now submitted an application for ten housing units at what it formally calls ‘Clear Farm’. This is a compromise scheme, in that it has been reduced in scale and includes a long lease to the parish of a significant portion of the site, intended to be safeguarded from development. A previously proposed scheme for 26 units took up the whole site. The ten-unit scheme with an element of protection offered by a 99-year lease was conceived by a now-retired County Estates officer who took the initiative to mitigate damage to the local community.
Together with District Councillor Nigel Cathcart, Susan is working to ensure that the wording of any lease is clear and unequivocal in offering long-term protection to the community.
While the ten-unit scheme is a significantly ‘less worse’ option, it is nevertheless about highly sensitive green land in the heart of the village. Proceeds from the sale of the land would put money into the general County Council coffers but not directly support Bassingbourn itself – it wouldn’t pay to pave the pockmarked road in Tower Close, nor would it save the Children’s Centre that is about to close.
The tactical problem is that, if the ten-unit application is rejected, what may well come back in the not-too-distant future is the 26-unit scheme omitting any protection of that space from development. The process of creating a new Local Plan must start in 2019 and wider influences out of our control will factor in the end result.
As we have been relentlessly reporting, the County Council is profoundly cash-strapped but also undergoing a major reshaping: the future is uncertain in the new age of the Mayor, a position of unprecedented power that will be looking for a funding stream to finance big projects elsewhere in the county. This is a profoundly frustrating and perverse convergence of big picture factors leaving local residents powerless over the future of their own communities.
FAMILY SILVER NEAR ME
You can see where the County Council owns land by clicking on ‘Maps’ in the top right-hand corner of the council’s home page.
Part of Melbourn Recreation Ground, much of Whaddon, strips of Shepreth and Great Chishill, chunks of Foxton and Meldreth and many other sites figure under Cambridgeshire County Council Rural Assets and Urban Assets.
MARLEY ETERNIT APPEAL
Following the rejection of the application for 150 homes part of the working Marley Eternit factory site in Whaddon Road Meldreth, the applicant has appealed. The appeal is scheduled to take place on June 26th at SCDC by public hearing. The understanding is that the Inspector will lead a round table discussion, which will likely be by inviting relevant parties to speak. The hearing is usually followed by a site visit. Please contact Philippa for further information.
NEW ROAD MELBOURN ACTIVITY SPILL-OVER
Thanks to local residents who have been in touch to report on traffic movement in the village by heavy lorries, specifically against planning conditions. Jose is on the case.
IMPASSABLE PATHS AND BYWAYS
We’ve received an unprecedented number of calls about impassable paths and public rights of way. The Highway Authority has a duty to keep rights of way in a fit state for public use.
Whaddon in particular has an extensive network of paths – and people who’ve contacted us have pointed out the persistent message from above, encouraging people to stay fit and active – but paths need to be kept clear! Melbourn too is affected, and the path leading to Meldreth Station is overgrown.
County Highways cuts these paths twice per year – or will pay parish councils a lump sum to take on the work if they wish. Susan is working with parish councils to clarify arrangements and find a way for paths to get cut as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, several people have contacted us asking if they can apply their own shears and strimmers on local paths and by-ways.
LOCAL HIGHWAYS OFFICER: VACANCIES
Every parish is assigned a Local Highways Officer. The Melbourn/Meldreth officer resigned and took a job in the private sector several months ago and a replacement has yet to be found. The Local Highways Manager our area, including Whaddon and Bassingbourn, has now announced that he too will be leaving the County Council in August, also moving to the private sector.
HOLEY ROADS & COMPENSATION CLAIMS
Thanks very much to everyone who has taken the trouble to report pot holes and other highways faults on the County Highways on-line system. If nothing else, this provides a service to anyone who damages their car or bicycle on a pot hole, because if a fault has been logged then compensation claims are much more likely to be processed. At the same time, it is obvious that faults are taking a long time to be addressed, and as explained above the Highways department is not fully staffed.
This month, casework has included a request to review a lengthy personal compensation claim for £134.40 for a burst tyre on a Bassingbourn road, which the County Council Local Government Shared Services spent some hours investigating, and rejected, partly on the basis that the defect in the road had not been logged on their system.
TRAINS – SAY NO MORE
We are now into the second month of a historic failure of rail services, affecting countless people who depend on the train to get them to work, school or other essential destinations. The May 20th roll-out of the new Thameslink timetable should have seen improved services for our stations with half-hourly off-peak services all day – instead the service is less than what it was pre-May 20th and completely unpredictable.
The pattern of peak-time cancellations and stop-skipping our small stations, non-working bus replacement services, returning people home late from the wrong stations by taxi, demands an assurance that a full restoration of the new timetable from Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton be restored as soon as possible. Letters to Govia Thameslink Railway on behalf of the Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Rail User Group, are posted here.
From Royston, a concerted effort to restore some peak time London trains lost in the new timetable configuration is being championed by the Royston and Villages Rail User Group. The two Rail User Groups are coordinating on behalf of common rail users.
RAIL USER GROUP MEETING 27 JUNE
A public meeting of the Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Rail User Group, to be attended by Network Rail and Govia Thameslink Railway on 27 June, 7 for 7:3-9:00PM, at the Melbourn Hub.
BUSES: 127/128 HANGING ON, 26 GETS A BOOST
The 127/128 bus exists only due to County Council subsidy, which runs out next April 1st. The two lines are to be amalgamated at the end of July and will run as the 127, in a familiar pattern of consolidation and compromise of rural bus services.
The Cam Vale Bus Users Group has joined the Cambridge Area Bus Users Group, with one of our members on the coordinating committee. The purpose is to pool collective concern about lack of public transport across the area and to lobby the Mayor to exercise his bus franchising powers to benefit people who depend on bus transport. The area served by the 127 and 128 buses has already been noted by the new group. The new group’s inaugural meeting took place on June 2nd – more information here. Or feel free to write direct to organizer Richard Wood, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, from 29 July, the number 26 bus that runs from Royston to Melbourn, Shepreth, Foxton, Harston and Cambridge will extend its reach, calling at Trumpington Park and Ride, Addenbrooke’s and Cambridge Station via the Guided Busway, Cambridge City Centre, Cambridge Regional College and on out to the northern Guided Busway.
HEALTH SERVICES: AVAILABLE MONEY AND THE TO-DO LIST
The County Council Health Committee is being asked to review the Cambs/Peterborough NHS ‘Sustainability Transformation Plan’ that seeks to get all health and social care providers coordinating together, to look after people as well as possible, and avoid wasting money. Our local health service faces what can only be described as eye-watering savings targets, as costs far outstrip available resource. On a £1 billion budget, the Cambs/Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group has negotiated a £35 million agreed deficit for the coming year, on top of £35 million savings plan.
Does this matter for us? GP surgery capacity, improving the way mental health support works, relieving congestion and capacity limitations at A&E, and helping elderly people who may be waiting in hospital even though they are fit to return home – including to a care home – are affected. The issue of ‘Delayed Transfers of Care’ reached crisis levels in Cambridgeshire this year and a Care Quality Commission inspection is therefore likely in the autumn.
The recent government announcement of ‘extra NHS funding’ has been thoroughly derided as own-goal spin, in fact a missed opportunity to support critical improvements to health and social care. The County Council Public Health Committee soon begins the process of identifying £700 K in spending cuts for the coming year.
CARER’S ALLOWANCE FACT SHEET
A local Citizens Advice Bureau advisor has forwarded to us the Disability Rights UK Factsheet, which he says ‘is always written in plain English and doesn’t expect the reader to have a deep understanding of the benefits system.’ We hope this is useful to anyone with queries.
WHERE ARE THE POLICE?
The Police and Crime Commissioner recently announced the ‘new Policing Model’ and support for our communities. What does this actually mean for the noticeable spike in reports of criminal activity across the villages?
Jack White, nearly 88 and of Kneesworth, describes what it is like to feel suddenly vulnerable.
LOCAL STUDENTS: VOLUNTEERING, AND HELPING THE NEIGHBOURS
This summer a large number of students can be found helping out in our communities: in Bassingbourn, taking the bins out for elderly residents; in Meldreth, litter picking; at the stations, keeping the gardens watered – whether just as good neighbours, or as part of Guides, Scouts and Duke of Edinburgh Scheme. Please get in touch if you are looking for an opportunity to volunteer and we can help put you in touch with organized activities.
TUESDAY NIGHT YOUTH CLUB: MELBOURN AREA YOUTH DEVELOPMENT
A reminder to all 11 to 16-year-olds, of the regular Tuesday night Youth Club taking place at the Melbourn Pavilion, on the Melbourn Rec adjacent to Little Hands off The Moor. This is free and welcomes young people (with friends) from the parishes that make this thriving local activity possible in the first place: thanks to Melbourn, Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Parish Councils for their support. Youth Club is provided by Groundwork Hertfordshire and runs from 7-9PM. More information here.
MELBOURN VILLAGE COLLEGE ARTISTS – SHEPRETH PLOUGH
A display of Melbourn Village College artwork is currently on display upstairs at the Shepreth Plough– all welcome to pop in.
BASSINGBOURN VILLAGE COLLEGE DEBATERS
The long tradition of debating at Bassingbourn Village College was formally recognized when the college came runner-up in the English-Speaking Union’s Debating Culture Award. Many congratulations to all.
PICNIC AT MELDRETH STATION
Station garden volunteers will be tidying up the Meldreth Station gardens on June 30th and enjoying a pot luck Elevensies picnic at 11AM. Guests of honour will include the Duke of Edinburgh volunteers who have been keeping our flowers watered, the local residents who manage the platform gardens year-round, and our station master Bern who has been working flat-out during to assist stranded passengers during the current train timetable chaos. Everyone is welcome!
WIMPOLE HALL ESTATE – MULTI-USE TRAIL
You may be interested in the application by the National Trust to build a multi-use trail around the estate – the second application for this is now open for consultation quoting reference S/1694/18/FL here.
INNOVATE AND CULTIVATE FUND
The latest rounds of the Cambridgeshire County Council’s Innovate & Cultivate Fund are now open. The aim of the fund is to support initiatives that strengthen communities and reduce pressure on County Council services, thereby giving a return on investment. Council services that are inviting applications include adult social care, children and families services, and the waste service.
The fund is open to voluntary, community and social enterprise sector organisations based in and outside of Cambridgeshire, and public sector organisations in Cambridgeshire. The Innovate and Cultivate Fund has two funding streams: a ‘Cultivate’ stream for small grants of £2,000-£10,000 and an ‘Innovate’ stream for larger grants of up to £50,000. Cambridgeshire Community Foundation can answer questions about applying for the Fund: email@example.com.
DROP-IN ADVICE SURGERY
We are at the Melbourn Hub every first Monday of the month, 3-4PM, except August. Next on July 2nd.
Susan is at the Limes Community Room Bassingbourn every third Monday of the month, 3-4PM, though July and August dates see a clash – normal service resumes from September.
Or 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
Philippa, Jose and Susan
Philippa Hart, District Councillor for Melbourn, Meldreth, Shepreth and Whaddon
Philippajoyhart@gmail.com, Tel 07811323571
Jose Hales, District Councillor for Melbourn, Meldreth, Shepreth and Whaddon
firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel 01763 221058
Susan van de Ven, County Councillor for Bassingbourn, Melbourn, Meldreth and Whaddon
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