Susan van de Ven

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

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Whaddon report

District and County Councillors’ Report – September 2019

Local issues are at the top of the report.  We hope the more general information is also of interest.

Whaddon Brook: We were contacted by local residents over the summer at a point when Whaddon Brook was running dry, asking for help to secure intervention by the Environment Agency.  Thankfully water flow was restored in time, thanks to these proactive residents.  It has been made clear to us that water shortage is a widespread concern for local watercourses, as the River Shep and River Mel have been similarly afflicted.  Please see the item below on drought.

Weed killer and footways: Susan has asked Highways for a schedule for Whaddon – still waiting for a reply.

A1198 Speed Monitoring: In conjunction with Whaddon PC’s LHI application to reduce the A1198 speed limit, contact was made with the Police representative who offered to carry this out.  At that point it hadn’t happened yet, but would be happening soon.

A Car Club is now running in our area, run by Enterprise.  There are a few cars stationed at the Enterprise car rental facility adjacent to the garden centre in Shepreth (formerly Wyevale).  Cars can be stationed in areas where there’s demand, but not on the public highway.  Village hall car parks are the sorts of places that would be acceptable. If you’d like to know more, please get in touch.

Foxton Travel Hub public consultation: September 9 – October 21st, with public consultation event October 8, 6-8:30PM, Foxton Village Hall.   This proposal is for a very large-scale car park near Foxton Station. The consultation leaflet is not yet available for viewing but will be here: https://www.greatercambridge.org.uk/foxton-travel-hub-consultation/

A new ‘temporary’ Southwest Cambridge Park and Ride: A site for a new Park and Ride has been approved by the Greater Cambridge Partnership, though it still requires planning permission.  The site is on the south side of the M11 junction in Hauxton.

This is a deeply fraught issue, largely arising in reactive mode to the inability of Cambridge Biomedical Campus (Addenbrooke’s site) staff and other Cambridge-bound commuters to get to work.  Trumpington Park and Ride is often full (some work is already underway there for a small extension).  The new P&R will cost about £20 million from the Greater Cambridge Partnership budget, will increase traffic on local roads, and by decree of the Mayor can only be ‘temporary’ – the Mayor says the facility must be replaced by a new form of public transport that would obviate the need for the P&R (the funding for which is unknown).   Details of construction and transition of the new P&R will be unknown until the planning application stage. 

This situation reflects a failure over many years by the Local Transport Authority (Cambridgeshire County Council, now the Mayor) to develop basic public transport networks.  Over the past 15 or so years the local bus network has diminished rather than strengthened. 

How did we get to this point? Ten years ago, in 2009, we were at a hopeful juncture: the then Government’s ‘Transport Innovation Fund’ award was made to Cambridgeshire County Council to develop a sophisticated bus and public transport network feeding in and out of Cambridge.  Traffic modelling had showed that if nothing was done, gridlock congestion would become the norm.  The project was contingent upon the introduction of a congestion charge, the proceeds of which would finance the public transport network.  The first step was the creation of the network infrastructure; the congestion charge would only be introduced once high-quality public transport alternatives had been established.

The County Council supported the project on a cross-party basis, but then the government of the day found it didn’t have the money to deliver it, and it was cancelled.

Then in 2010, the County Council’s administration made the controversial announcement that it would remove all bus subsidies, effectively ending rural bus services.  A threat of Judicial Review caused the decision to be suspended pending a public consultation. Having satisfied the requirement of a public consultation, the council amended its decision, so that subsidies would be removed in a phased manner, even though the consultation demonstrated the public harm that would be caused by doing so.  Those bus services that still survive, including the 127 in our area, have won annual stays of execution. 

It is this collapse of basic public transport in the Greater Cambridge area (with the exception of rail, which only serves a limited area) that has contributed to the current predicament whereby traffic into Cambridge is frequently gridlocked, compounded by demand to reach rapidly expanding centres of employment.

Drought?  Within the Cambridge region we continue to experience lower than average levels of rainfall. This is now starting to generate concerns among the public, relating to levels within watercourses and the local environment. A press release from Cambridge Water:

“We are closely monitoring the situation in conjunction with the Environment Agency. We are not at the point where we believe a drought should be declared. We have suffered from some exceptionally low levels of rainfall and without the rainfall, ultimately the whole system isn’t sustainable in the long term.

There’s no imminent risk of anyone’s taps running dry, as there are adequate supplies to meet everyone’s demand at the moment but we’re really conscious of the environmental impact associated with the abstraction of our water. We’re working very closely with the Cam Valley Forum and the Environment Agency. We’ve limited the volume that we abstract and reduced our licence capacity in order to make sure we minimise that environmental impact. We’ve done that by using some alternative sources and moving water around. However, in the longer term with the continued growth in population we are going to find it increasingly difficult to do that.

New developments will have a significant impact on demand. We’re planning ahead and looking at our 25-year planning and investment strategy in order to make sure we’ll be able to meet everyone’s demands.

Invariably, we’ve all got a part to play in this. We all need to recognise that water is a precious resource and that we often take it for granted. So we all need to avoid, wherever we can, any waste or misuse of water. Increasingly we will need to implement recycling of grey water and rainwater harvesting, particularly in new developments, which will reduce the amount of water abstraction and allow us to better meet people’s needs in the future.

We work with Water Resources East, where we look at the challenge across the region and what needs to be done. Within that group there are water companies and representatives from agriculture and energy, so all the users of this precious resource. Our challenge is to collectively look at how we can meet everyone’s needs in a sustainable way. So the options we are discussing at the moment, construction of reservoirs, transfer mains using rivers to transfer water from wetter parts of the country and also desalination, which is an extreme measure and quite expensive to operate but potentially offers a solution to the problem.”

County Council Recycling Centres: new permit scheme for vans and trailers: CCC is to introduce a van and trailer e-permit scheme across Cambridgeshire’s nine household recycling centres (HRCs). Starting in October the scheme will allow the Council to better regulate the use of vans and trailers at HRCs helping to ensure only household waste is delivered to sites.  Any resident planning to visit an HRC with a van or trailer should obtain an e-permit using an online system beforehand. These e-permits will be limited to 12 visits per year. To allow larger household and garden jobs, there will be an exemption to the scheme for trailers up to 1.5m (5ft) in length (excluding the towing mechanism bar) and 570 litre capacity.

Between 2012/13 and 2016/17 there was a 20% rise in waste collected at tips. The County evidently thinks that this is because unlawful trade waste is being disposed of at HRCs, which is ultimately at a cost to the council tax paying residents of Cambridgeshire. It could also be because householders can’t put old TVs etc in their bins which are often full. The result of this scheme is likely to be a big increase in fly-tipping.

Voter Registration: South Cambs has recently sent letters to all homes in the district to ask them to confirm the names of people who are eligible to register to vote. Please respond! They need a response even if there are no changes and have to send someone to households who do not respond to chase response by law. Contact: elections@scambs.gov.uk or 03450 455 214

Brexit Ports in South Cambs:   We never thought of South Cambs as having any ‘ports’ mainly because we are so far from the sea. However, Duxford and Cambridge airports are considered to be ‘ports’ and this means that the Council will have to start to man them with officers such as environmental health officers once Brexit has happened.  The reason for this will be to ensure that no food stuff enters the country which is not permitted by our own laws. What the cost of this will be to the taxpayer we have yet to discover.

Brexit and Settled Status: At the time writing only about a 1/3rd of eligible EU citizens in the UK had applied for Settled Status.  In South Cambs this amounts to only 2360 people having applied. A Government sponsored advert has been removed from the air waves for being misleading in saying that the process was very straight forward.  It is actually rather complex – South Cambs and Cambridge City are planning a joint approach to helping people complete their applications.  Please keep an eye on our websites and also on .Gov website for updates.  If you are struggling, then make contact urgently with your councillors.  Both SCDC and CCC have a duty to disseminate information.

District Council July meetings: At an extraordinary meeting on 4th July, SCDC approved the appointment of a new Chief Executive, Liz Watts. Ms Watts is the former East Herts Council Chief Executive and previously to that held several senior roles elsewhere in local Government. Prior to her work in the public sector, she worked with asylum seekers in London and as part of the post-war peace process in Bosnia- Herzegovina, where she was based in Sarajevo for eight years.

At the regular council meeting on 18th July, the council passed two motions. One motion aimed to double the area of rich wildlife habitats, tree cover and accessible green space in South Cambs laid out measures including the development of a mandatory biodiversity net gain policy and directing developers to use the Developing Nature Toolkit to use in planning new developments, as well as identifying areas for tree planting for carbon sequestration, flood management, air quality improvement and other environmental services.

The other motion instructed the council to make representation to the Secretary of State for Education and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, calling for them to take action to reverse, in full, the real-terms cuts to per-pupil school budgets since 2015 – meaning schools in South Cambridgeshire would receive £3,837,946 additional funding in 2020 – and fix the historic underfunding of Cambridgeshire schools by putting in place genuinely fairer funding through the National Funding Formula. Though the District Council is not directly responsible for education, schools are an important part of the communities we represent and the funding pressure they are under is beginning to damage those communities.  Both motions were supported by the opposition.

SCDC Financial Mismanagement: The Council’s Audit and Corporate Governance Committee has received a damming report about the previous administration’s management of the Council’s finances. After taking control of the Council last year, it was found that the Council’s accounts were not in a fit state to be audited. This extraordinary and unacceptable situation was made worse by a failure to ensure that corrections requested by external auditors were carried out. The errors go back over several years of Conservative control of the Council. Unfortunately, this means that the audit of last year’s accounts and that of the year before cannot be closed before the autumn, though we have put measures in place to ensure this doesn’t affect the setting of the budget for next year.

Local Authority Funding: The keenly awaited Spending Review has now been postponed by Government and so local authorities have to battle on for a further year with the inadequate amounts of money they have been struggling with since the advent of austerity.  The expectation was that there would be a reallocation of business rates between Government, district and county councils with the aim of addressing the crisis in health and social care.  What moving money from district to county councils fails to address is the need for more money for district councils to develop the work they do in preventing people becoming ill and a burden on social care through any number of ways including public health, high quality building standards, council housing, homelessness prevention – to name but a few.

For those of you who would like a bit more detail about local authority funding:

The recent announcement means that the three-year Comprehensive Spending Review – which was due to be delivered in the autumn – will now be held in 2020. The Spending Review, which ordinarily sets Whitehall budgets for a three year period, was due to cover the period 2020-2023, but will now not begin until April 2021.

In overall terms, between 2010 and 2020, Councils will have lost almost 60p in every £1 of central government funding; which has had a significant impact on the services which local authorities deliver in their communities. S Cambs, for example, budgeted for £7.823 million Government Grant (Formula Grant) in 2010/2011 and, by comparison, identified £3.439 million in the Medium Term Financial Plan for “Retained Business Rates” in 2020/2021 (equivalent to 44%) and £1.798 million for New Homes Bonus (the money we get from government for building new houses).

There is currently no certainty of funding for local government beyond this financial year,   though there are indications that Government will increase public spending and investment, with an expected review of funding for adult social care. Questions do, however, remain over the following areas which are potentially crucial for District Councils:

•         The continuation of funding streams such as the New Homes Bonus;

•         The impact of the Fair Funding Review on distribution of funding – with District Council’s expected to be losers;

•         The impact of the new business rates retention system and associated changes;

•         The overall level of funding for the sector.

It is vital that the Government uses the Spending Review to deliver truly sustainable funding for local government as the investment in local services is good for prosperity, economic growth and overall health and wellbeing.

Draft Greater Cambridge Sustainable Design and Construction Supplementary Planning Document (SPD)  Proposals to help make new housing developments as green as possible have been published by South Cambs District Council and Cambridge City Council. The draft guide to sustainable design and construction will, when adopted, give house-builders a clear steer on what is expected of them to reduce the environmental impact of developments. This includes setting out the need to minimise carbon emissions, flood risks, pollution and pressure on water sources and, following the motion passed this month at full council, strengthen biodiversity. The SPD provides additional technical guidance to developers, practical advice and examples of best practice, to demonstrate what planning officers will expect to see included in new applications. A consultation on the draft SPD is open until until 5pm on Monday 23 September 2019 and can be reached here: https://cambridge.jdi- consult.net/localplan/

Council homes: A priority in the Council’s Business Plan that was agreed in February this year is to bring forward housing that is truly affordable for everyone to live in, including doubling the number of energy- efficient Council homes built each year. Within the last year, 44 new Council homes have been completed in Gamlingay, Great Abington, Longstanton and Waterbeach (a mixture of affordable rent and shared ownership properties). A further 91 Council homes are now being constructed in Caldecote, Balsham, Great Abington, Waterbeach, Hardwick and Foxton and there are plans for a 178 Council homes in the pipeline.

The District Council bought 144 new Council houses last month (81 at Northstowe and 63 at Sawston) for £24m, which is great news.  The money comes from the reward government gives us for building new market homes – New Homes Bonus as well as the receipts we get from people acquiring their council houses under the Right to Buy Scheme. We are aiming to build or acquire over 70 council houses each year and so far have exceeded our targets.

New Hackney Carriage and Private Hire ‘green fleet’ licensing policy proposed: SCDC has published a draft new licensing policy to make the taxi fleet greener. If adopted, the proposed policy changes would see drivers and operators making the move to zero and ultra-low emission vehicles. To support the transition to an electric fleet, South Cambs District Council and Cambridge City Council have secured joint Government funding to establish new electric car charging points across the district by the end of 2019 for exclusive use by taxis.

In addition to new licences no longer being granted to vehicles older than four years, the policy would see licences no longer renewed for: petrol or diesel vehicles older than seven years; ultra-low emissions vehicles older than 12 years; or zero emissions vehicles older than 15 years.

New conditions have also been added that would see all first-time vehicle applications be zero or ultra-low emission by December 2021, and all licence applications be zero or ultra-low emission by December 2028.  You can comment on the proposed policy here: https://www.scambs.gov.uk/licensing/types-of- licence/taxi-licences/

Green coffee shop initiative: An initiative from the shared waste service is giving practical support to a green initiative that takes used coffee grounds from local coffee shops and turns them into biofuel. Free caddies to collect and transport the coffee grounds are being supplied by the Commercial Waste team to Cambridge Food Hub, which runs the Green Coffee Shop Scheme. This involves Cambridge Food Hub delivering barista-style oat milk produced at Glebe Farm in Kings Ripton to coffee shops, while at the same time collecting used coffee grounds. These grounds are then delivered to bio-bean, a clean tech firm at Alconbury which manufactures biofuels and biochemicals from spent coffee grounds.

Launch of The Village Survival Guide: Prince’s Countryside Fund last week published The Village Survival Guide, a manual featuring case histories, checklists and practical advice. The guide is intended to help those of us living in the countryside to utilise the talents available in our own communities to tackle some of the social and economic challenges we face. The guide covers topics including how to set up shops, pubs, and hubs; rural housing; transport; business development; digital infrastructure; and how to get help when you need it. There is also a Village Sustainability Top 10, which looks at the key things’ communities must do to safeguard their future viability.  Read the online version of the guide here: https://www.princescountrysidefund.org.uk/research/read-vsg

Cambridge Ice Rink: It’s time to get your skates on as the new ice rink in Cambridge is now open.  The company building this had quite a lot of money from the University but SCDC was able to make them a large loan when they overran their budget due to finding lots of unexploded bombs on the site (which is on the old military airfield run by Marshalls in Cambridge). We made the loan because we felt that this would be a significant attraction to the residents of South Cambs. Let us know what you think of it.

Genome Campus (thanks to Cllr Douglas De Lacey who wrote this for his parish meeting in Girton)South Cambs has had a second briefing on the Genome Campus’ proposals for a vast expansion of their site together with 1500 dwellings which would be exclusively for employees. The current workforce is some 2500; they anticipate this would rise to in excess of 8000. Therefore a great deal of ancillary development is also envisaged including a school, hotel and retail units. The proposals go against South Cambs Local Plan but entail significant benefits for the community. It will be an interesting and complex application to decide. It will also not fit the 40% affordable housing requirement because of the restrictions on how the housing will be handled; the scheme will make an overall loss not the usual developer’s profits. We were told the total cost of the scheme is £932,822,110.00 — they must have some very competent bean-counters.

Papworth Hospital: You will likely be aware that Papworth Hospital has moved to a new site near Addenbrookes Hospital. We have recently learnt that Global Healthcare Real Estate Ltd has won the bid to acquire the site of the former hospital site in Papworth Everard. They plan to open a five-star health and wellness village comprising a country club and spa, convalescence and rehabilitation units, villas, and apartments. This will of course require planning permission from the Council. l