Susan van de Ven

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

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About Susan

Susan has lived in South Cambridgeshire since 1988.  Following the 4 May 2017 elections, Susan is the County Councillor for the new ‘Melbourn and Bassingbourn Division,’ which also includes Meldreth and Whaddon.  Previously she served also as a District or County Councillor for Shepreth, Foxton, Heydon and Great and Little Chishill.

Susan stood in the 2017 General Election as Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for South Cambridgeshire.

Rail Service Campaign

In 2010 Susan established the Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Rail User Group which lobbies on train service issues. The Group created gardens at all three stations, maintained by local residents, businesses and schools and recognized by British Transport Police as helping to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour.

In December 2011, First Capital Connect responded to the Rail User Group’s long-term campaign for a reduction in station car park charges and announced that from January 2012, charges would be dropped by 50% to £1.50 per day at Meldreth, and abolished completely at Shepreth.  The Group lobbied successfully for the retention of Meldreth Station booking office, and twice-hourly off-peak services to begin in 2018.

Cambridgeshire County Council has supported the formation of a Community Rail Partnership as a means of enhancing collaborative working on strategic improvements to local rail service.

Extensive work lobbying for safety improvements at Foxton Level Crossing culminated in persuading Network Rail to commission and publish a feasibility study setting out a comprehensive redesign of the crossing including a bridge or underpass along a small bypass. Details can be found here.

In November 2012 Susan received Railfuture’s inaugural national award for ‘Most Outstanding Individual Campaigner’ and the Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Rail User Group was awarded the ‘Most Effective New Group’ and ‘Best Website’ honours.

Education Transport

Susan’s identification of anomalies in post-16 student rail fares served as a catalyst for organizing a meeting between Cambridgeshire County Council and First Capital Connect in December 2009, where agreement was reached to cooperate on a student discount rail fare. Students from across Cambridgeshire are now entitled to access this fare which is 50% off the adult fare (as opposed to 33% off previously). In anticipation of the end of FCC’s franchise, Susan worked with the new train operating company, Govia Thameslink Railway, to ensure that the 50% student discount would be continued. This has been approved and endorsed by the Department for Transport as a revenue generating scheme that benefits all concerned. The scheme has been featured in The Guardian and the Campaign for Better Transport.

In Shepreth, Susan campaigned successfully for free Cambridgeshire County Council for Shepreth children attending Melbourn Village College, a provision that is to remain in place until a safe pedestrian crossing is provided at the A10/Frog End Shepreth junction.

In Melbourn she has been active in helping to recruit a new School Crossing Patrol Officer for the crossing in the High Street near The Moor and to protect the future of the post.  In Bassingbourn she is working with the County Council and local residents to find improvements for walking to school.

At the County Council Susan proposed a scheme providing free transport for young people who are out of education, employment or training, inspired by First Capital Connect’s Job Seeker’s transport scheme.

Cycling

Susan launched the A10 Corridor Cycle Campaign in January 2013, with support from Sustrans, the Cambridge Cycling Campaign, and Cambridgeshire County Council. The purpose is to improve cycling conditions between Cambridge and Royston, and the villages in between. The Cambridge-Royston A10 Cycle Scheme was shortlisted in Tranche One City Deal, but not successful in the final cut. Instead, working with the A10 Corridor Campaign and County Council Cycling Team, efforts to secure Department for Transport ‘Cycling Ambition’ funding for much of the corridor were successful. Some segments of the scheme have now been completed while others are under construction. Efforts are now focused on completing the final segment of the overall scheme – a Melbourn to Royston path and bridge over the A505.

Through collaborative work with the District and County Councils, Susan supported the development of the Bike Bank pilot in Melbourn.  This involves the refurbishment of used bicycles by young people, who receive training and employable skills as well as a working bicycle.

Susan uses a bicycle to travel locally, and a folding bike with the train as her primary mode of transport to Cambridge.

Bus Services

Since 2010, when the Cambridgeshire County Council Conservative administration announced the elimination of all bus subsidies, Susan has been working to maintain support for basic bus services.  A welcome change in policy saw some services retained, but with continuing austerity cuts the future of council-supported bus transport is uncertain.  In April 2017 Susan launched the Cam Vale Bus User Group, designed to provide a collective voice for people in the new Melbourn and Bassingbourn County Division who rely on bus services.

Flood Avoidance

Following serious household flooding in Meldreth in July 2006, Susan worked to instigate a Flood Avoidance parish council subcommittee, tasked with action on flooding hot spots and investigating the revitalization of a historic drainage system that once utilized the River Mel.  Focus on District and County Council drainage services, and their ability to cope with extreme weather events brought about by climate change, emerged through this project. A number of snags in the drainage network have been identified and corrected, and work is necessarily ongoing. Similar groups were set up in Shepreth and Melbourn, and will be starting in Bassingbourn.

Community Groups and Campaigns

Susan has stood up for fair and equal treatment for minority groups in the district, and has participated in Council programmes that engage young people in democracy, supporting writing and debating competitions.

She is a supporter of Polls Apart, a campaign for better disabled access to polling stations, and has worked with young campaigners from Meldreth Manor for disabled access to rail service.

She has worked alongside Cam Sight on practical support for people living with visual impairment.

Susan has helped kick-start a new mental health drop-in service provided by Mind in Cambridgeshire. This is a free monthly service for local people, who can self-refer. She also works alongside the school counselling service Allyance, which is established at Melbourn Village College and area primary schools.

Susan is a member of the Melbourn and District Villages Association, which works for the future viability of the Melbourn Library Access Point and she chairs Melbourn’s Practical Solutions Group, which brings village, council, police and youth work representatives together on a regular basis to support initiatives for positive community activities.  Susan helped set up Melbourn Area Youth Development, a cooperative effort by several parishes to provide a youth club and associated activities for young people in the area.

District Council Work

At South Cambridgeshire District Council, Susan worked against officer recommendation to bring new affordable housing to Meldreth, with the 24-unit development at Burtons, opening in May 2007.   Susan was a member of the Scrutiny and Overview Committee, where she worked successfully to change council policy on planning appeals, bringing a higher standard of local participation in the appeals process.

She was a founding member of the Council’s Climate Change Working Group, and in that role initiated a successful bid to the Local Strategic Partnership for funding for a climate change awareness pilot project at Melbourn Village College.  She challenged the Council on its bin charging policy for social rented housing and has supported improvements to recycling provisions for secondary schools.

Local press and communications

Susan writes a monthly community newsletter: please contact her at susanvandeven5@gmail.com to join the distribution list. She has been a regular contributor to BBC Radio Cambridgeshire’s Sunday Paper Review over the past several years.

Personal

Susan was raised in Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, England, France and the United States. She and her Dutch-born husband, Hans, who is a Professor of Modern Chinese History at the University of Cambridge, have three sons who have grown up locally, attending Thriplow Primary School, Melbourn Village College and Long Road and Hills Road Sixth Form Colleges. The family has spent several years in China and Taiwan and became British citizens in 2003.

Education

Susan studied Arabic and History at the American University in Cairo and Oberlin College in the USA.  At Harvard University, she received an MA in Middle Eastern Studies and a Doctorate in Education.

Professional Work

Susan taught primary school at St. George’s School, Jerusalem, and Waterside School in Bishop’s Stortford, and has worked also at Cambridge University Press as a copy-editor for books in Arabic and Oriental Studies.

She is the author of a book, One Family’s Response to Terrorism: A Daughter’s Memoir, which explores the quest for legal justice in the aftermath of her father’s assassination in Lebanon in 1984, where he served as president of the American University of Beirut.

Voluntary Work

Susan coordinated an after-school creative writing programme at Thriplow Primary School for ten years, and is currently a Governor at Melbourn Village College.

Why the Lib Dems?

“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.”

(Preamble to the Liberal Democrat Constitution)