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 8 December, 2020

Liberal Democrat Community Newsletter December 2020

New ‘South West Cambridge’ – a new town between our villages? 

A West Sussex speculative development company is proposing to create a new town sprawl of 25,000 homes between and encompassing the villages of Shepreth, Melbourn, Meldreth, Whaddon, Bassingbourn, Wimpole, Orwell, Barrington and Foxton. The new town, dubbed ‘South West Cambridge,’ would be half the size of Cambridge and would profoundly change the hinterland of a multitude of villages and eradicate the rural nature of much of South Cambridgeshire.

The developer, ‘Thakeham,’ has missed the deadline for the South Cambridgeshire Local Plan’s ‘Call for Sites,’ in spite of having spent the past two years preparing its scheme, during which time it will have been fully aware of the South Cambridgeshire Planning process. It now proposes a late submission in the Call for Sites.

While it has contacted relevant landowners, Thakeham has made no contact with local residents or their elected representatives.

The South Cambridgeshire development hierarchy is structured around its largest population centres at Cambourne and Northstowe, which are served by the A428, the Guided Busway and the planned new Cambourne Station, as well as its new schools and health services.

County Councillors Sebastian Kindersley, Peter McDonald and Susan van de Ven, and District Councillors Aidan Van de Weyer and Jose Hales have formed the South West Cambridge Action Group (SWCAG) and will be holding a Zoom information meeting for all interested residents on 16 December, 6-7PM.  To sign up for the Zoom meeting, please email info@swcag.org.uk

Information updates will be posted on a dedicated website and Facebook page:

www.swcag.org.uk

https://www.facebook.com/groups/southwestcambridgeactiongroup

Build Beautiful or Build by Tyranny?  Government’s Planning White Paper

Consultation on the government’s Planning White Paper (PWP) has now closed. The PWP is thin on detail and ignores opportunities to address the inadequacies of the National Planning Policy Framework or the very damaging consequences of new permitted development rights. Nor does it pay heed to Government putting its own planning inspectorate in order, which was partly responsible for the 4.5 years it took to approve the current South Cambs Local Plan, resulting in two years of no five-year housing land supply and 4000 unplanned houses built without adherence to a strategic infrastructure plan for the communities in which they are sited.

The Government loves to play to its audience and its ‘Build Beautiful Commission ’does just that.  But if a national design standard to deliver ‘beauty ’results in houses with no reference to local, indigenous architecture then we have countrywide ‘cookie cutter’ developments. Moreover, the PWP contains little mention of standards, climate change, or homes that support health and wellbeing – all the things that really matter to people.

The last 15 years has seen a 50% decline in small and medium sized builders and developers and though they often build better, build quicker and build cheaper they will need help if they are to purchase our very expensive land.  If the government is not going to give them that help councils need to have the powers and resources to do so.

Additionally, the proposal that no affordable housing will be required for developments of less than 50 units will preclude any new affordable homes in many of our villages, depriving people of the choice to live where they want to live – often close to family, support networks or jobs.

Housing Minister Mr. Pincher was quite convinced that parish councils and residents would be so delighted that they were to play a full part in local plan formation that they would not mind that this would be the point at which their voices ceased to be heard. Once ‘zones ’are created development could go ahead.  Our view is that the parish council and resident voice adds hugely to the evidence for and against development.

This White Paper appears to be a ‘developers charter’, removing democracy from planning, silencing local voices, and centralising decision making.

Drains: window on ‘managed decline’

As previously reported, County Council is no longer doing ‘routine gulley maintenance’ – i.e. not clearing drains on a regular scheduled basis.  That this is the case is a matter of deep concern: our drains, roads, pavements and other elements of highways infrastructure are in a state of ‘managed decline’ with nowhere near the funds needed to bring them up to an acceptable standard.  This year an already stretched workforce has been further challenged by the secondment of a number of staff to Covid response.  Now, a redeployment of some council staff to the Covid vaccination effort is about to take place.  The upshot is a system that’s not working properly.  We are working with officers to take forward parish concerns.   Sadly, the financial situation is not expected to improve, with Covid and Brexit costs ahead.

Thanks to everyone who’s been reporting faults on the County website, which is vital for the sake of establishing the public record. 

https://highwaysreporting.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/

Path to Meldreth Station


We are working with County and District Council officers and Govia Thameslink Railway to begin pulling together the elements to upgrade the path from Melbourn to Meldreth Station, and to create a ramp from the path to the London-bound platform.  This is made possible due to developer contributions from the Melbourn Science Park expansion and New Road Melbourn housing and care home developments, in combination with the Melbourn Greenway scheme.  This will be a challenging but important project for a much-needed improved access to Meldreth Station. There are of course other key components of accessibility challenge at Meldreth Station and these will continue to be pursued by our Community Rail Partnership.

The dangerous route to Meldreth Station via the Station Road vehicle bridge, which has seen vehicle collisions in recent months, and the need to reduce local vehicle traffic and enhance station access by active travel, makes this improvement particularly important.

Network Rail Level Crossing Order:  community voices heard

Two years ago, a lengthy and expensive public inquiry was held to consider arguments for and against Network Rail’s proposal to close or amend 25 level crossings in Cambridgeshire, each of which would necessitate the rerouting of associated footpaths.  One of these crossings was just south of Meldreth Station, and Network Rail’s proposed safe alternative was through the busy industrial site at the base of the Station Road bridge, and then over the bridge itself on the narrow footway – with unprotected road crossings at the base on either side.  Local residents and councillors gave evidence to the inquiry, and unsafe conditions were the deciding factor in a long-awaited ruling by the Secretary of State, who ruled against Network Rail.  More on this story here.

https://www.royston-crow.co.uk/news/meldreth-level-crossing-closure-rejected-1-6944802

Park Close Bassingbourn to be resurfaced

The ‘dragon patcher’ machine has recently completed the pot hole job in Park Close, where the state of the road is truly and exceptionally appalling.  Thanks to the persistence of our dedicated Local Highways Officer, Park Close will be resurfaced sometime over the winter.  This is an extremely rare event, though sadly many roads need the same kind of work.

Water run-off on the A1198

Our Local Highways Officer has a plan for addressing persistent spring water run-off near the Kneesworth double roundabouts as soon as he is able.  Many thanks to local residents and parish councillors for reporting the matter so assiduously.

North End Bassingbourn bus turning

A site meeting has been arranged with bus and Highways officers, and the bus operator, to figure out what more can be done to the reduced island at the junction of North End, Fen Road and Guise Lane to facilitate bus turning.  Susan will contact local residents separately and beforehand, as Covid gathering rules will apply.

Latest on improving broadband

Connecting Cambridgeshire is the Cambridgeshire County Council project to improve the county’s digital connectivity, funded in part by EU regional development initiatives.  The scheme monitors, contract services and try to address anomalies, and are taking a close interest in what’s happening at the moment in Shepreth, Meldreth, Whaddon and Bassingbourn.   They are helping to facilitate the Rural Gigabit initiative, and have contracted BT Openreach to bring Full Fibre to the Premises to neighbourhoods where broadband speeds have fallen below a certain threshold no other provider is on the radar.

Currently they are in contact with the private company ‘County Broadband’ which is planning to deliver Full Fibre to the Premises in these four villages, each of which is at a different stage in the process.  Whaddon’s Broadband Champion Nigel Strudwick has been especially active in sharing information with the community and helping to achieve adequate uptake in interest to bring investment to the village – the only such opportunity for Whaddon.

Meanwhile, 25 properties in a small section of Stone Lane and North End Meldreth, and Meldreth Road Shepreth, where speeds have fallen below the minimum threshold, will shortly be able to connect to FTTP, following work by BT Openreach, who were contracted by Connecting Cambridgeshire before it became evident that County Broadband aspired to cover the whole of both villages.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions, which we will continue to send to Connecting Cambridgeshire.

A big thank you from Screenbank

Screenbank has surpassed all expectations, having now provided around 200 refurbished second-hand computers, laptops and tablets to Melbourn and Bassingbourn Village Colleges to ensure that no student is lacking IT set-up for home study, and for community use.  Coordinated under the auspices of Meldreth Coronavirus Community Support, Screenbank would not have been possible without many locally donated computers and months of total dedication by our volunteer team led by IT engineer Andy Thomas, and supported by Ian Mitchell, David Coton, Ian and Oliver Sharp, and Rob Stanford.  There is much experience to be shared with other communities looking to launch a similar endeavour.    

 An enormous thank you to all as we wind up this project and celebrate an incredible collaboration.

Melbourn Springs Care Home: a new community

We’ve been privileged to witness the remarkable establishment of Melbourn Springs Care Home, which opened in April 2020 and switched on its first Christmas lights on December 1st – remaining Covid-free and managing even in lockdown to help create a sense of community with new neighbours in the cluster of new streets that make up the ongoing development of 199 homes off New Road, Melbourn.   Melbourn Springs was recently featured on local news for its Covid-safe visiting rooms, separated by a see-through screen and providing a safe space for winter visiting time.

Mental Health Training for Community Volunteers: CPSL Mind

Thanks to a grant from the Cambridgeshire Community Foundation, a series of mental health support workshops has been offered by CPSL Mind to community volunteers working to support fellow residents during the Covid-19 pandemic.  This has been sponsored by the Meldreth Coronavirus Community Support group in partnership with the Melbourn Community Hub. 

There are a number of excellent resources available to all on the CPSL Mind website: https://www.cpslmind.org.uk/top-tips-self-help-resources/

A Royston contribution to Melbourn Youth Club

Since the growth in the Royston student intake at Melbourn Village College, the number of Royston young people attending Melbourn Youth Club has risen proportionally, reflecting important friendship groups during formative years.  ‘Melbourn Area Youth Development,’ which runs the Youth Club at Melbourn Pavilion, consists of Melbourn, Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Parish Councils, and is supported by District and County Councillors, having been set up in the wake of County Council cuts to youth services. 

It’s lovely to report that North Herts District Council has agreed a significant funding contribution to support the attendance of Royston young people, recognizing a community of young people transcending the county border. 

Electric Bin Lorry

South Cambs District Council is very pleased to finally be trailing a new electric bin lorry with a view to gradually exchanging the whole fleet of refuse vehicles as part of its work to become a zero carbon authority.

South Cambs Planning Service

The District Council has been working very hard to improve the new shared planning service between South Cambs and Cambridge City. Things are moving in the right direction and the processes are getting quicker and more efficient. There is now one, streamlined validation process for both authorities which has successfully conquered the historic backlog. The team are now working toward reaching the target of five days to validate an application.

New support grants for Covid-impacted businesses

Businesses premises forced to close as a result of Covid restrictions are to be eligible for government grants of up to £3000 per month. To be eligible you have to be paying business rates but we are expecting further guidance on discretionary grants which we hope will be available to those businesses that are experiencing serious hardship or have had to close but do not meet the criteria of the main grant pot. All the latest information is on the website which is updated daily. You can also get regular updates by registering for our Open For Business Newsletter which will be updated every time significant new guidelines are issued. If you have any queries that are not dealt with on the website do not hesitate to email openforbusiness@scambs.gov.uk to make contact with our specialist business support team.  Any businesses who believe they are eligible can find information on how to apply, along with eligibility criteria, via the Council’s website.

EU Regional Development Fund supports ‘Shop Local’ South Cambs Business Directory

A £140K grant from the EU Regional Development Fund has helped make possible a new South Cambs business directory aimed at encouraging and facilitating ‘Shop Local’ patronage of South Cambs businesses.  Local businesses are invited to register here:

https://www.scambs.gov.uk/local-business-directory

Community Grants

South Cambs District Council has made further money available to help community groups remobilise to deal with the second lockdown. These are small amounts of money in the first case but if your community has special circumstances you can apply for additional funding to help you meet your community’s specific needs.

Next year’s County Council budget

Depending on how the Covid battle goes, the County Council will need to find savings of between £40-82M in the financial year starting next April.  Unless there is more cash coming Cambridgeshire’s way, the options available to the Council will mainly be ‘efficiency savings’, cuts to services, increased fees and charges, commercial investments, and council tax.   Commercial investments are not working so well at the moment – the money put into buying student accommodation in Cambridge and leisure facilities in Wisbech isn’t making good returns during the pandemic.

Government has announced a council tax rise ceiling of 3% for Adult Social Care and 2% for a general rise.   Indications are that administration councillors are favouring an increase of 2% in council tax for adult social care (a service facing huge increases in need), and 0% council tax increase for general services.  The Council administration has been vocal in recent years about not raising council tax, but at the same time squeezing budgets, which impacts services including for people who are vulnerable. The Council is now approaching Government to ask for more financial support. Government will want to see the Council doing all it can to bridge its own gap, including a general council tax rise.

Cuts to Police Community Support Officers

Cambridgeshire’s Chief Constable has announced changes to policing in order to assist in saving £1.7 million in 2021/22. Included in the cuts are the reduction of PCSOs from 80 to 40, but with a single role profile and improved alignment to their team and they will cover all 28 neighbourhoods in the county to deal with the issues that matter most to the local community. Also going is the community safety team resulting in the reduction of six community safety officer posts and the closure of nine enquiry offices (NOT the police stations), with the implementation of a team of police officers to provide people in each local authority area with an appointment-based service to allow members of the public to make an appointment to speak to an officer.

Chief Constable Nick Dean said: “We have had to make some incredibly difficult decisions over the past 12 months when considering how we balance the needs of the community and the policing service we provide, with being able to manage within the budget we have – we simply could not continue with the existing neighbourhood policing model with the budget constraints we currently face, and are likely to have in the coming years.’

Volunteer Police Cadets

The police are encouraging young people between 13 and 18 to join the Volunteer Police Cadets. The aim is to encourage the spirit of adventure and good citizenship to anyone wishing to support their community and gain an understanding of policing. It is not to recruit police officers for the future. If you are interested and can spare three or more hours per month, please contact Cadets@cambs.pnn.police.UK

Urgent Appeal for Foster Carers

The County Council writes: “The number of people who enquired about fostering in September and October has dipped, with the immediate need being for teenagers and brothers and sisters.  The myths surrounding the care of teenagers can often discourage people from fostering when in reality what they need are families who are empathetic, caring, resilient and open minded.   Around 154, 13-18-year-olds across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough are in need of caring and supportive families.

During COVID-19, we are taking all the necessary steps during the fostering process to follow the government advice, for example, we can conduct initial visits virtually and have made arrangements to do so. If your application progresses then we will discuss the next stages with you which will include a face to face visit as part of the assessment process, this will adhere to the social distancing rules at all times.

People who believe they can make a positive difference are encouraged to contact both councils today. All carers receive training, 24-hour access to support, along with allowances and the assessment process normally takes between 4-6 months. You will need to be over 21 and have a spare bedroom in your home.

Cambridgeshire County Council encourage you to find out more about fostering, visit www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/fostering, email fostering@cambridgeshire.gov.uk, call 0800 052 0078 or text FOSTERING to 60777.”

A10 Corridor Cycling Campaign January meeting

The A10 Corridor Cycling Campaign will hold a Zoom meeting on 18 January, 7:30PM, to update its members on the Melbourn Greenway scheme, and on its efforts to create a reliable maintenance plan for the years to come. This will also be its AGM.  Please visit a10corridorcycle.com to join the mailing list, or contact us directly for a link to the meeting.

Anything we can help with?  Issues we can raise?

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.

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.   Join the Liberal Democrats here http://www.libdems.org.uk

Sincerely yours,

Susan van de Ven, County Councillor for Bassingbourn, Melbourn, Meldreth and Whaddon

susanvandeven5@gmail.com, Tel 07905325574, www.susanvandeven.com

Peter McDonald, County Councillor for Shepreth and the Duxford Division villages

Peter.mcdonald@cambridgeshire.gov.uk, 07912 669092

Jose Hales, District Councillor for Melbourn, Meldreth, Shepreth and Whaddon

jose@josehales.me.uk, Tel 01763 221058

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