Susan van de Ven

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

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Community Newsletter

by Susan van de Ven on 11 June, 2019


Last November, South Cambridgeshire District Council declared a Climate Emergency and set itself a Zero Carbon by 2050 ambition, setting the basis for adapting new policies to meet its goals. The new Zero Carbon Communities Grant is one example. In April, school children planned a demonstration at Shire Hall to raise awareness at Cambridgeshire County Council of the Climate Emergency.

At the most recent meeting of Cambridgeshire County Council, Leader Cllr Steve Count brought forward a motion pledging to continue and improve the council’s good work on environmental challenges and proposed that officers be given six months to develop a new Climate Change and Environmental Strategy. The Liberal Democrat group proposed an amendment acknowledging the Climate Change Emergency and setting a Zero Carbon target ambition for 2050, in line with many other local authorities and indeed national government; the amendment also tasked a group of cross-party and cross-committee councillors to take the lead on setting new policy.

The amendment was lost, with objections raised against the Zero Carbon target and councillor involvement. However, the amendment proposer (Susan) came back with a suggestion confined to the declaration of a Climate Emergency and this was unanimously agreed.

As painfully preoccupied with process as this might seem, the outcome was significant because consensus building does not often happen in this way. It’s good to see consensus developing across the councils too. That said, the County Council’s planned move to Alconbury, away from public transport links, will be difficult to reconcile in climate emergency terms.


This long-awaited consultation starts mid-June and ends late-July; here’s some background to what the ‘Greenways’ project is trying to do.

Two events if you want to find out more or get involved:

July 10, 7:30-9:00PM – A10 Corridor Cycling Campaign meets upstairs at The Plough Shepreth.

July 11, 6:30-8:30PM – Melbourn Greenways main consultation event, at the Melbourn Hub .Please mark the date in your diary, come along and fill out a consultation form. We need the best consultation response in Greater Cambridge!

The on-line form will be published shortly.Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire are increasingly working together to deliver the Melbourn-Royston link, which we’re delighted about – and this is largely in response to representations by our campaign members to formal meetings in both counties.


The Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Community Rail Partnership is joining up with one of its partners, The Plough Shepreth, to promote sustainability at a community level. Three events are planned over a fortnight in July:

July 6, 1-3PM: Learn how to compost under the tutelage of three Master Composters including the Chairman of South Cambridgeshire District Council Cllr Douglas De Lacey (who promises to wear his chains of office with his composting clothes), Bob Noden and Amanda Davis. At the Plough – all welcome.

July 18, 10-12: Tour of Amey Recycling plant – 16 places available; sign up at

10% Off A Pint if you walk, cycle, train or otherwise get to the Plough other than by car: July 6-18.


Our region, the East of England, has elected seven new Members of the European Parliament.

Cambridgeshire County Councillor Lucy Nethsingha and Hertfordshire County Councillor Barbara Gibson were elected to help deliver the Lib Dem Stop Brexit Manifesto, which you can read here.

Officially their terms of office begin in July, at which point we’ll be able to circulate contact and information sharing details. More on key European Parliament dates here.

Meanwhile, Cambridge University remains the top UK EU university grant recipient, with approximately 40% of science research funding coming from the EU. The EU ‘Horizon 2020’ programme for the UK includes research on self-driving cars (technology and public confidence), infectious animal diseases, resilient cities in the face of climate change, and smart drinking-water management. More here.

Locally, we note that our village schools and colleges are desperate for a funding boost, which the outgoing Prime Minister says she would like to facilitate. But the Chancellor Philip Hammond MP says an education funding boost is not affordable, as the fiscal war chest must be guarded in the event of a No Deal Brexit – a scenario welcomed by front-runners to become our next Prime Minister via the Tory leadership election.


Numerous questions have been raised by Melbourn residents about the dangers of the New Road/A505 junction. We’ve asked County Highways for some guidance on what steps might be available to make improvements, though at this stage there are no obvious solutions because 1) Highways road safety budget is so thin 2) what funding exists is not triggered until enough accidents occur to create an accident black spot. A terrible state of affairs, perhaps explaining why the Road Safety team comprises so many vacancies. Nevertheless, we’ll report back when we know more.


Thanks to the Melbourn resident who pointed out that the trigger for traffic light change is not always activated by waiting motorcyclists or pedal cyclists, depending on where in relation to the sensor they are positioned. Thanks also to the Highways engineer for coming out immediately to examine the situation. A small change has been made to the trigger system and the situation should now be resolved, but please contact Jose if you have any concerns.


Following the very welcome reopening of Bassingbourn Barracks, everything’s coming to life again. This includes, naturally, interest amongst local leisure and community groups in making use of some of the excellent leisure facilities on the Barracks site. One of these is the Ski Slope, for which planning permission for access via Guise Lane was obtained several years ago. There is understandable concern amongst local residents about the type of traffic that will be looking to access what is a very rural route. Susan has been liaising with Lt Col Paul Morris at the Barracks, as well as the Ski Club, local residents and the Parish Council. In line with planning consent conditions, the Ski Club will initiate a liaison forum with local residents, via the Parish Council, to discuss next steps.


Last year the much heralded Dragon Patcher attended Tower Close and finally managed to treat pot holes with a filling that has stayed put. However, new craters of various sizes have developed alongside the repairs, and the streetscape offers a lesson in tarmac decomposition. The new pot holes have been reported, but ‘do not meet intervention levels’ – a frustratingly familiar turn of phrase. However, an application has been made by our Local Highways Officer for more significant surface repair; if funding is awarded then we hope to see something less Dragon Patchy in another year’s time.


Residents of Kneesworth who live alongside the A1198 mini-roundabouts would like to minimize the movement of HGV vehicles up Chestnut Lane, the road that threads over Mettle Hill to join Kneesworth Road into Meldreth. Bassingbourn-cum-Kneesworth Parish Council’s query to Highways about imposing weight restrictions in Chestnut Lane was met with more questions than answers, and highlighted the fact of missing police support for enforcing Highways policies. More discussions to come.


The reopening of Bassingbourn Barracks has highlighted what is a dangerous entrance to the site, for various reasons including lack of warning signage and a speed limit that people find is not conducive to safe turning. A Road Safety assessment has been done and new signage will shortly be installed indicating a left turn into the site coming from Kneesworth. As for a speed limit reduction, County Highways has invited Bassingbourn Parish Council to initiate an application if it so wishes, but success is not guaranteed and the cost of the application and implementation would have to be met at least in part by the parish. Again, lack of Police enforcement support was noted by Highways, undermining the prospect of a successful application.


Last year, SCDC initiated the Community Sweeper pilot in Melbourn and along the A10 cycle path. The core principle of the pilot involved volunteers fully trained to drive and operate the SCDC street sweeping vehicle, which was transported down to Melbourn from the Waterbeach depot on a number of weekends when it was not in use elsewhere. The pilot has now been assessed and has been judged to have successfully improved the state of paths, and engaged the local community. However, operational costs have been higher than expected. A new phase of the pilot will therefore commence with SCDC deploying the street sweeper with its own operatives in areas specifically identified as needing attention. We will be liaising with parish councils on this. Along the cycle path, the A10 Corridor Cycling Campaign will continue to assist in mobilizing the local community for volunteer litter picking ahead of grass cutting, to reduce the risk of shredding and dispersing waste debris along the path.


Bad news, good news, and much work to come: Network Rail have confirmed that they will not be reopening the ‘unofficial’ car park at Shepreth Station for public use, as this constitutes important and useful depot space. This diminishes capacity to relieve traffic pressures on Station Road.

Following the most recent Community Rail Partnership meeting, Network Rail agreed to fully fund the minor highways improvements in the vicinity of the new level crossing barriers in order to keep road and drive junctions clear, restore a key segment of footway to keep pedestrians off the road, and encourage queuing cars to turn their engines off.

Meanwhile, Shepreth barrier downtimes seem less frequent in duration; the Rail User Group has asked Network Rail for data from which to ascertain any improvement trends. An invitation should shortly be issued by Network Rail for visiting Foxton Signal Box, which controls the Shepreth crossing – this will be done via the Rail User Group mailing list, so please write to if you’d like to join.

All to be discussed at the next Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Rail User Group meeting on 19 June, 7:30PM, Elin Way Community Room Meldreth. All welcome.


Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton, along with the other most impacted stations during last year’s timetable disruption, have been allocated £80k from the Passenger Benefit Fund for passenger improvements – arising from the £15m fine imposed on Govia Thameslink. The Medreth, Shepreth and Foxton Rail User Group will be putting together a submission, and would like to hear what passengers think would be the best use of the fund. Please contact with your ideas, or come along to the meeting on June 19.Although other ideas are being encouraged, some GTR suggested ideas for improvements, included in their costings sheet here.


The Rail User Group has been alerted in advance to another period of rail service disruption, due in part to the introduction of a new fleet which has required new training. Bern Parsons at Meldreth is keeping passengers alerted via the Group’s Facebook page. The Rail User Group has asked GTR if arrangements can be made for student rail passes to be accepted on Stagecoach Busway A from Melbourn, though it is expected that the bulk of disruption will occur on Saturdays. We’ve asked for as much advance notice as possible but the advice is to check the National Rail app an hour before travelling.


On Saturday 22 June, a ‘Virtual Dementia Tour Bus’, in association with Melbourn Hub, will be in Melbourn to offer a sensory experience to people with a healthy brain that is scientifically and medically proven to be as close as possible to what it might be like to have dementia. The virtual tour will help people supporting those living with dementia to develop greater understanding of the impact of disease on people. This follows the Hub’s popular ‘Mindful March’ sessions and the hard work of Melbourn resident Davina Biswell, who has been championing dementia awareness following her own family experience and who has raised the funds to pay for the bus. If you’d like to know more, please contact Jose.


Melbourn Child and Family Centre write: ‘This workshop is for parents/carers of children with diagnosed and/ or undiagnosed additional needs. Come join our relaxed, friendly workshop to gain information, share ideas and learn strategies to support your child to become school ready. Topics discussed will include independence and self-care skills, social skills, talking and listening skills, emotional regulation and academic readiness.’

Thursday 13 June, 6.00 to 8.00pm @ Melbourn Child and Family Zone, Mortlock Street, Melbourn, SG8 6DB. Booking essential: Tel 01954 284672 or email


The Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, James Palmer, has been in the news following the recruitment into his political office of ex-Cllr Charles Roberts without any reference to the Combined Authority’s Employment Committee, job advert or as far as is known even a job description. At the beginning of May Cllr Roberts was Leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council and one of the members of the Combined Authority Board. He has now stood down from that role to be employed part-time by the Mayor on a £54K salary.

The Mayor has also decided to appoint (again without the involvement of the Employment Committee) the current two interim CEOs as permanent for the duration of his term. These two individuals (one of whom is also the CEO of East Cambridgeshire District Council) were standing in following the sudden departure of the previous incumbent. A new full-time CEO was advertised for and interviews took place but despite there being very credible candidates the Mayor exerted his power of veto and no appointment was made. The Board voted to support the two interim roles being made permanent until the Mayor’s term of office ends, but without the endorsement of South Cambs District Council Leader Bridget Smith.

Finally this month, the Mayor chose to write to the Government Planning Inspector in support of a major development just off the A505 near Duxford and Hinxton. The reason this is an issue is that the application by Smithson Hill for an agri-tech site was rejected by SCDC Planning Committee and then, as is their right, Smithson Hill appealed the refusal. For the Mayor to try to interfere in a decision made by South Cambs councillors (and bearing in mind that a planning committee is non-political) is quite extraordinary. SCDC Leader Bridget Smith has made formal complaints about all these issues. Please contact Philippa with any questions.


Following a meeting behind closed doors, Cambridgeshire County Council has announced regeneration company Brookgate as its preferred bidder for its Shire Hall site in Cambridge. The decision was taken in confidential session very much against the spirit of openness and transparency. Brookgate will lease the Shire Hall site for a period still to be agreed. The company proposes to establish a hotel and office accommodation, while the County Council moves its HQ to Alconbury. The Lib Dem group opposed the move to Alconbury, on the basis that we should not be building an expensive new headquarters at a time when we should be reducing the number of councils and moving to a unitary structure.

The proposed lease arrangement leaves the council with a high level of future risk. The expectations of income over the next 30 years depend on complex calculations of inflation and rental income. This income is far from certain.


If you’re looking for a volunteering slot, and would like to help look after the flower tubs at the stations, please contact Susan.


We would be delighted to address any concerns you may have or help raise awareness of issues affecting our community via this newsletter. And any questions or concerns, please contact us any time – details below.


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. Join the Liberal Democrats here.

Sincerely yours,

Philippa Hart, District Councillor for Melbourn, Meldreth, Shepreth and, Tel 07811323571

Jose Hales, District Councillor for Melbourn, Meldreth, Shepreth and, Tel 01763 221058

Susan van de Ven, County Councillor for Bassingbourn, Melbourn, Meldreth and,, Tel 07905325574Twitter: @susanvandevenFacebook:

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