Monday, 15 December 2008

Willingham Primary School

On Friday evening the Chairman of the Council held his Christmas reception. As is usual, entertainment was provided by local young people and I am very proud that at the entrance to Shire Hall, the children of Willingham Primary School were on hand to give a musical welcome to the guests. They sounded magnificent and it was so good to hear them. Whenever I visit schools I am always impressed by the talent that is there and I was so pleased to that Willingham had the opportunity to demonstrate their musical abilities.

So well done - and thank you - to Willingham

Monday, 8 December 2008

Winter Gritting

I have just been given a leaflet (as I am every year at this time) about winter gritting. Priority is given the the roads that carry the most early morning traffic, roads linking centres of population and B rods adjacent to fen drains. It is the equivalent of the distance from Cambridge to Rome by road! The opening of the new bypass means that Station Road, High Street and Over Road will no longer be gritted, but the new bypass will be - and indeed was gritted on the morning of the opening because it was so frosty. If you need further information on winter gritting and which roads are gritted, then either phone 0845 045 5212 or go to All the gritting lorries in the county have been named, mostly by local schoolchildren. So over the next few months, look out for the gritting lorry for this area, which goes by the name of "The BFG" - the Big Friendly Gritter.

The A14, M11, A11 and A1(M) are the responsibility of the Highways Agency, not the County Council and they have their own gritting arrangements.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Over Pharmacy?

Great news! I had a letter today from the Primary Care Trust saying that they had rejected the application for a pharmacy in Over. This means that the current arrangements, which everyone thinks works so well will continue.

What is worrying is that the government have just completed a very badly advertised consultation on the future of rural dispensing practices. They are proposing that rural GP practices should be stripped of the right to dispense drugs. If this proposal is enacted, it will mean that we would have no choice but to have a separate pharmacy. I only found out about this proposal after the closing dates for comment. I hope others are more up to date that that this ludicrous suggestion by the government is rapidly rejected.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Longstanton Bypass

here is the photo to prove that the bypass is well and truly open. I've had a couple of e-mails expressing concern that some drivers are still not aware that it is fully open and I've asked officers to monitor the old road and if necessary put additional signage in place.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Longstanton Bypass

The bypass is finally open - hopefully fairly soon I will have a picture to prove it, but it will be a huge relief for so many people in Longstanton. Next target - a bypass for Willingham!

Monday, 1 December 2008

Willingham Parish Plan

I have mentioned in the Willingham newsletter the huge amount of work that went into the preparation of the Willingham Parish Plan. So last week I was really pleased to be at Shire Hall with members of the parish plan committee as they handed over a copy of the plan to the Deputy Leader of the Council - Mac McGuire. I have asked for the progress of parish plans and their implementation to be on the agenda of the next In Your Patch meeting on 10 December, to ensure that parish plans are not simply put to one side, but that views of parishioners are fully hear. In You Patch meetings are an opportunity for councillors to discuss district wide issues with officers. Willingham is the last of my three parishes to produce its plan and I want to know what the County Council is doing about the other plans.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Longstanton Bypass

Good news! The Longstanton bypass will be opening on Wednesday 3 December. A great Christmas present for everyone in Longstanton, particularly the residents of Over Road, Station Road and High Street

Local government and the credit crunch

I don't often comment on "political" issues, but this week's pre-budget report has left me feeling a bit bemused. I'm a pretty simple person when it comes to finance, so I find the current policy very hard to follow. Most commentators are agreed on the fact that the current economic crisis has been caused by the fact that people have borrowed too much and there is too much debt. So can someone please explain to me why borrowing even more by the government is going to sort the crisis out. I can't see that the temporary cut in VAT is going to kick start the economy, particularly given that people know it is only temporary and taxes will go up just in time for the general election. I agree that the economy needs a kick start, but helping small business to keep people in work and therefore money in their pockets would seem to be a more productive way of doing things.
Last week I was in London at a "Credit Crunch Summit" organised by the Local Government Association. There were a number of ideas floated as to what local government could do, particularly around housing advice for those in difficulty with mortgage repayments, but the main tranche of advice seemed to be to spend more money on infrastructure projects - and cut taxes at the same time. No one explained how we could do both at once, but as I said, I am a very simple person, so I'm obviously missing the obvious!

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Swavesey Neighbourhood Panel

On Tuesday 18 November the Swavesey Police Neighbourhood Panel will be holding a meeting in Bar Hill Village Hall at 7-00pm for a 7-30 start. The Swavesey Panel covers Over, Willingham and Longstanton as well as a number of other villages and is your opportunity to raise police issues that are worrying you. Representatives from both the County and District Council also attend, so if there is something "bugging" you - this is your chance. I will be asking the police about their response to the recent spate of vandalism in Over and asking them to have a more visible presence in the area. If you can't attend but would like a problem raised, then please let me know, either by phone (please leave a message if I am not in) or via e-mail.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Longstanton Bypass

More changes to the Longstanton bypass before it finally opens at the beginning of December.

As from Monday 17 November the newly opened part will be closed again for final works to take place. Instead traffic from Over will use the main bypass - in other words, from Over turn left at Ramper Road and then right onto the bypass. This means access to Longstanton will be difficult again for a couple of weeks - either going via Willingham or backtracking from the bypass. I am promised that we will all have a good Christmas present and the bypass will finally be completed, nearly three months early. At least we will see an end to all the traffic disruption that we have had to endure for the past twelve months.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Vandalism in Over

I have had complaints about vandalism in Over. The end of October with the combination of Halloween and half term is always potentially difficult, but this seems to be more than the usual egg throwing and appears to go beyond what might be described as anti-social behaviour. I have therefore asked the police to investigate and take action as a matter of urgency, before the situation gets out of hand.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

A14 Update

I met officers from the Highways Agency recently to discuss the current state of play with regard to the A14 upgrade. The news that the government plans to bring forward some major schemes as a way of dealing with the economic crisis may be good news, but I am concerned that, in order to do so, the public right for a full inquiry into the scheme might be curtailed. I also want a proper job, not a botched one done in a hurry to get the government out of a hole.

There will be a public exhibition in December at which the latest plans will be on display. The venues are the Marriott Hotel in Huntingdon on Sunday 30th November, Monday 1st and Tuesday 2nd December, and at Girton College Cambridge on Sunday 7th, Monday the 8th and Tuesday 9th December. The events will be bigger than any previous consultation/ exhibitions and will include three large models of the scheme including one of the centre of Huntingdon and large scale plans of the whole length of the scheme. I did ask for a third venue in the middle of the scheme - say Over or Swavesey services, but this has been rejected by the Highways Agency.

Over Post Office

On Thursday I recevied the following letter from the Post Office about the sudden closure of the service in Over. I am still working with the owners and the Post Office to try to see whether we can maintain a service within the shop.


Dear Shona
Post Office® Over branch
30 The Street, Over, Cambridge, CB24 5ND

I am writing to advise you of the closure of the above branch on 11October 2008. Such a closure is always regretted but, unfortunately, following the resignation of the subpostmaster, was unavoidable on this occasion.

Looking after a nationwide network of Post Office branches, we have a responsibility to make sure every branch makes the best possible use of resources while ensuring that customers can still access our products and services. To this end, I can assure you that we will continue to work to find a solution that will provide a Post Office presence in the community at Over.

However, in the meantime, I would like to apologise for any inconvenience the forthcoming temporary closure may cause. Naturally, if you have any questions you would like to raise about this, please do not hesitate to contact me as detailed below, any correspondence received by us will be treated in the strictest confidence.

Following the temporary closure of this branch, we hope that our customers will continue to conduct their business with Post Office Ltd. Of course, customers are free to visit the branch most convenient for them. However, I can confirm that there are two branches in the surrounding area, the addresses of these along with the opening times, services available, details of transport, route and access are shown at the end of this letter.

I would like to thank you for your patience at this time. I will ensure that you are kept advised of developments in due course.

Yours sincerely
Steve Rolfe
Field Change Advisor
Post Office Ltd.
c/o National Consultation Team
PO Box 2060
WD18 8ZW

Customer Helpline: 08457 22 33 44

The Post Office® is able to supply customers with this information, free of charge, in an alternative format for people who are visually impaired. To obtain a copy, call the Post Office® helpline on
08457 22 33 44 or textphone 08457 22 33 55.

Details of nearby branches:
Swavesey branch
5 Market Street
CB24 4QG

Opening times
Thurs & Fri
09:00 - 13:00 &
14:00 - 17:30
09:00 - 13:00
08:30 - 12:30
The same range of services will continue to be available with the additional of Motor Vehicles Licences and On Demand Bureau Euros. Customers can still collect benefits in cash using our everyday banking services or Post Office® card account.

Access and facilities
This branch has steps at the entrance.
There is on road parking directly outside of this branch. There is a direct bus service from the closed branch.

This branch is 1.3 miles from the closing branch along a varied terrain.

Willingham branch
15 High Street
CB24 5ES

Opening times
Mon & Tues
09:30 - 17:30
Thurs & Fri
09:00 - 17:30
Wed & Sat
09:00 - 13:00
The same range of services will continue to be available. Customers can still collect benefits in cash using our everyday banking services or Post Office® card account.

Access and facilities
This branch has steps at the entrance. Internally there is a hearing loop.

There is a public car park within 50 yards of this branch. There is a direct bus service from the closing branch.

This branch is 1.8 miles from the closed branch along a varied terrain.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Longstanton Bypass

I have just had an e-mail to say that because of problems with some safety fencing the new part of the bypass won't be open on Monday as planned. It will be delayed until Thursday and as a consequence the closure of the road between Ramper Road and Longstanton will also be delayed.
If you have any queries, please don't hesitate to e-mail me

Sick Leave

Some of you may already know, but I am about to embark on a period of enforced sick leave - hopefully intermittent while I am treated for breast cancer. I plan to continue working from home, so should be able to respond to most correspondence, but possibly not as efficiently as I would like. Please bear with me and I will hopefully be back to full strength in about six months.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Confusing Signs

The sign that went up yesterday saying that Over Road will be closed from 13 October is confusing. IT DOESN'T MEAN THAT THE WHOLE ROAD WILL BE CLOSED!
As I mentioned, the contractors are getting on extremely well with the Longstanton bypass and next week will be ready to start work on the last section where the bypass crosses the Over Road. So traffic will, for a short while, be diverted around Longstanton, the B1050 to the end of the bypass and then along the northern section back to the junction with Ramper Road. This work will take about four weeks and by the end of November the entire bypass will be open. I am sure it will be a huge relief for everyone in Longstanton and regular users of the B1050.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Northstowe Schools

I attended a meeting of the County's Cabinet this morning to hear the outcome of the competition for the first primary school and the secondary school. There were two bidders for the primary school - Swavesey Village College and The Diocese. My own preference was for a local authority run community school, but this was not possible. There were four bidders for the secondary school - including a potentially very exciting bid from a Swedish company, that runs schools in Sweden. I had previously been to two workshops which had examined all the bids in depth, as well as speaking to both Gordon Jeyes, the Deputy Chief Executive and Adrian Loades, the Director of Planning about the bids. The outcome was that cabinet was recommended to approve the Diocesan bid for the primary school and the Swavesey Village College bid for the secondary school; I spoke in support of the recommendation as I think it will provide for the best education at the start of the new community. The work in building these schools - the community as well as the fabric will now start in earnest.

As I said this morning at cabinet - only another 5 primary schools to go!

Monday, 6 October 2008

Swingers Club

I had thought - well hoped - that with the refusal of the planning application we had heard the last of the swingers' club, but apparently not. I hard on Friday that the owners have submitted an appeal. My position remains as before - what people choose to do in their private life is up to them, but not when it impacts in a negative way on other people - in this case neighbours of the Industrial Estate. I shall be submitting comments to the Inspectorate, pointing out that it has been claimed that people are driving from as far away as Derbyshire and that the route to the club will take them through the village, often late at night and that this is an unacceptable intrusion.

We will see what happens and I will keep you posted

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Wilingham Library

The Libraries team at Shire Hall have advised me that they are proposing to change the opening hours at Willingham Library. This is what they say:

Existing times Proposed times
Monday 6-8pm 5-7pm
Tuesday 3-5.30 6-8 2.30-7
Wednesday Closed Closed
Thursday 3-5.30 6-8 10-12.30 2.30-7
Friday 11-1 3-5.30 10-12.30
Saturday 9.45-12.45 10.12.30
Sunday Closed Closed
The main advantages of the new times are:
- an extra half hour opening in total each week
- standard opening times - easier to remember
- an extra morning in response to requests from older customers
- no awkward half hour closing between 5.30 and 6.00
- use of the library has declined between 7-8 and we hope this would use the available hours more effectively

If you have any comments on these proposals, please let me know

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Government Red Tape Puts Lives At Risk

I suppose I could be accused of over-reacting, but this latest example of red tape has left me fuming. When the new part of the Longstanton by-pass linked into Over Road and Ramper Road in August, the priorities were changed and STOP signs erected. the observant among you will have noticed that the STOP signs have gone - because Department for Transport guidelines don't allow them without permission and this junction doesn't meet their criteria. My reaction - what does it have to do with the Department for Transport. I have had numerous complaints about the potential dangers of this junction and STOP signs seem to me to be an obvious answer until the full by-pass is open and traffic no longer continues along Over Road towards Longstanton.
In the meantime, please be careful through the junction - and if you have a view, let me know.

A14 Update

I had a meeting with representatives from the Highways Agency (HA) recently, to talk about the latest plans and timetables for the A14. The plans are still being refined - and there have been a number of changes (including some improvements) since I last met with them earlier in the summer. They now plan to publish the draft orders next year, but in the meantime plan to hold a couple of what they are describing as "information exhibitions" at the end of November. Unfortunately, they are only having two - one in Huntingdon and one at the Holiday Inn at Impington. I have tried to persuade them to hold a third, somewhere in the middle of the route - for example the Swavesey services, or even in Over, but they did not seem convinced. I am glad that the HA are much more willing to talk to local councillors now than in the past and to take on board our comments, but construction still seems as far off as ever - still currently scheduled for commencement in 2011. That will be ten years after I was assured that work would start by 2007 and be complete by 2010........

Traffic Chaos on the B1050

I am told that there was traffic chaos during the morning rush hour yesterday (Monday) when the kerbing sub-contractor working on the Longstanton bypass decided, without checking, to put up temporary traffic lights - ouch! I have had an apology from the County Council, which I am passing on - with an assurance that it won't happen again. However, I have also been given advance warning that there will be 24 hour traffic lights on 29/30 September in order to do some reconstruction work. Signs should be put up later today, but my advice would be to avoid the area if possible.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Over Post Office

The news that the Post Office have confirmed their decision to close the post office in the village came as no real surprise. When we met with them earlier in the summer it was clear that it would be an uphill battle. However, last week I spoke to Post Watch and, in view of the County Council's opposition to its closure, asked whether they could intervene on our behalf. This afternoon I had a call from Laura Tarling, who has the unfortunate job of trying to justify the closure programme. She is extremely keen to operate some sort of outreach service within the existing shop and wanted to talk to me about whether it is feasible. I explained that I knew that this was what the owners and the tenants wanted and as a result we will be meeting, hopefully next week, to try to explore this in more detail.

So the news is, that at present, all is not lost. I will keep you posted and in the meantime keep working with all parties to try to keep the Post Office open.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Longstanton - The Missing Link

I had a meeting with senior officers from the Council last week to discuss the missing cycleway between Longstanton and the new Park and Ride site. Good news at last - they have agreed to construct a full tarmac cycleway/footpath between from where the current footpath ends to a point just past the roundabout at the start of the Longstanton bypass. This will be built by the same contractors who are building the bypass and will be done at the same time. Between the roundabout and the Park and Ride, the road as we currently know it will eventually disappear and become part of Northstowe and although the economic conditions mean that Northstowe may be delayed, officers, rightly do no want to spend large amounts of money on a path that will be dug up in a few years time. But they have agreed to construct a low value route, along the existing verge, using road planings. This is cheap, but also has the advantage that it is porous, so rain will drain through it. It is also quick to construct and should mostly be in place by Christmas. What it means is that people living along Station Road will finally have a safe path off the road to walk along - and this isn't going to come a moment too soon.

Over Post Office

I have been told that the decision on Over's Post Office will be announced on 17 September - this Wednesday. The vibes are not good and I have been in touch with PostWatch to see whether they can intervene on our behalf. Essentially it appears that the Post Office want to have their cake and eat it - and the deal on offer is laughable. If PostWatch can persuade the Post Office that it makes financial sense to increase the offer, then it may be possible to come to a deal. But the omens do not look good. I will give more details as I get them

Monday, 8 September 2008

Longstanton Bypass

Some good news about the Longstanton bypass. It is making much faster progress than was anticipated - looking at it as I drive past, you can see that much of it is now tarmaced. So, early in October, Over Road between Ramper Road and Longstanton will close. Traffic will be diverted onto the new bypass and will then have to travel back towards Willingham and through Longstanton while the contractors then construct the bypass across the old Over Road. This will take about a month and the whole bypass should be open by mid November - some three months ahead of schedule. There is still landscaping works to be completed, but the early completion is very good news - especially for residents of Over Road in Longstanton who have had to put up with additional traffic for nearly three years.

Swavesey- Over Road Closure

I received the following e-mail this morning about the forthcoming closure of Station Road:

You will no doubt recall that we originally advised that the road between Swavesey and Over would need to be closed between 15th September and 2nd November. We did say that these dates were provisional and would be subject to change.
Following discussions last week Nuttall have now confirmed that the date for the closure has moved back, but because they have been able to do some of the work that would have been in the closure the overall duration of the closure can be reduced by two weeks.
The revised dates are that the road closure will now start on 6th October and continue until 7th November, so the start is three weeks later than previously intimated but the end is only one week later.

I am pleased that Nuttalls have been able to reduce the length of time the road is closed by a further two weeks. One week of the closure is over half term, so I hope that journeys will not be disrupted too much during the month of closure.

Monday, 1 September 2008


At this time of year I usually get a number of calls, letters and e-mails about overgrown hedges - and this year, given the lovely summer (well for plants anyway!), it has been no exception.

So can I make a plea to all of you who have hedges that are adjacent to the highway - please check to see if they are causing an obstruction and if so, can you cut them back - AND remove the cuttings! Usually once the hedges have been cut back, I then get a stream of calls from parents whose children have got punctures!

Over High Street

Further to last night's post, I have heard from the County Council that the problem lies with EDF. They are treating it as a priority, but as yet they haven't said when the faulty wiring will be repaired. I will keep you posted as I get more news

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Streetlights - Over High Street

When I walked along Over High Street and Church End on Friday evening, I realised that all the lights were out. I have reported the failure to the streetlighting section and will update you when I know what the problem is and how soon they can be repaired

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Pharmacy Application for Over

I have been inundated with letters objecting to the proposed pharmacy in Over, virtually all of them pointing out that we already have a very successful dispensary operating within the surgery and questioning the economic viability of a pharmacy. I agree entirely with these sentiments and will be sending my own letter within the next few days, echoing these points. I hope to respond individually to everyone who has written to me - but it may take a few days, so in the meantime, this is a personal thank you for taking the trouble to write. I hope it will pay off

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Countryside access works in Longstanton

I have been advised of work to be carried out by the County's countryside access team in Longstanton in the next few weeks. The text of the e-mail is as follows:
Just to advise you of some countryside access improvements we will be making in Longstanton over the next month or so as part of the Northstowe countryside access project:
Replace 2 bridges at northern end of footpath 9 (at 'The Manor'). In order to improve safety and access for a wide range of users, new bridges will be wooden with a 'tar and chip' non-slip surface, and will be flush to the banks with no steps.
Replace broken kissing gates at each end of footpath 9. New wooden medium mobility kissing gates will be put in in order to be in keeping with this conservation area.
We will provide funds for the parish to carry out tree planting along footpath 3, next to the recreation ground.
We will be contributing to the cost of grass seed for the recreation ground.
There will be more improvements to Longstanton in the near future, but these works will be happening soon

Over Post Office

Having just come back from holiday I have now seen the formal county response to the proposed Post Office closures in Cambridgeshire. I am very glad to report that the County has taken on board all the comments that we have made about the recent history and the plans for an expanded shop and postal service in Over and is opposing the closure.

The Post Office will now consider all the responses received (today is the closing date for comment) and will make a final decision some time in September. If the closure is confirmed, which I very much hope won't be the case, then the Post Office would close in November.

Friday, 8 August 2008

A Pharmacy in Over

On top of all the other activity going on at present, there is now an application to open a pharmacy in Over. Whilst this may appear to be a positive in terms of regenerating the High Street area, it would have a very significant impact on the surgery. At present the surgery is able to operate a dispensary because there is no pharmacy within a one mile radius. The dispensary brings in enough income to fund at least one additional GP at the surgery. If a pharmacy opened, the dispensary would have to close. This would mean the closure of the dispensary. So the surgery would have to lose at least one GP. In addition, once you have been to the surgery and collected your prescription - or repeat prescription, you would then have to walk down to somewhere near the High Street (the location has not been identified) in order to have the prescription made up. This would cause serious hardship to a number of people - not least residents of Elm Court and clients at the Day Centre. It would not be popular at the surgery either - as one of the doctors said to me this week - if there is a query over a prescription the pharmacist can just pop out and ask; they couldn't do that if the pharmacy was a quarter of a mile away.
The applicants claim that a pharmacy would provide greater choice - personally I can't quite see how closing an on-site dispensary to open a pharmacy provides for greater choice.

Just as with the Post Office, it is really important that people make their views known. In this case, write to:
Contracts Department
Primary Care Services
18 Vinery Road
Cambridge CB1 3DX
But give the letter to either the Parish Clerk, or to the surgery. The closing date for comments is 5 September - so yet again, we are given just the summer holidays in which to respond.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Longstanton Bypass and Ramper Road

Since the Windmill Bridge opened again last week, it has emerged that there are problems with the new junction where Over Road meets the bypass and Ramper Road. At present the "old" priorities remain, but I know from watching that there is confusion as to who exactly does have right of way - as well as problems with visibility. The contractors have made some changes, but to no avail, so it is planned to bring forward changes to the junction. I have been advised that this means that from this weekend priority at the junction will be Ramper Road and the bypass.Traffic from Over will have to give way. There will be signs warning of the change and the road will be marked, but clearly this will be very different from what we are used to. Once the bypass is open then traffic from Over will need to run left at this junction and use a short length of link road before joining the bypass at a new roundabout.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Windmill Bridge and the guided busway

When I learned, back at the end of May, of the delays to the re-opening of the Windmill Bridge I have to admit to a degree of scepticism about the revised opening date. So much so, that I bet the officers a bottle of champagne that it would not be open again before the end of the week. Somewhat to my surprise, they agreed to the bet - in fact they even tried to raise it to a case! So, true to my word, I dropped into the site offices in Longstanton this morning to hand over the said bottle. It was a good opportunity to find out about the progress of the scheme. The gantry laying the beams has reached Milton Road and will now be heading back to Longstanton, where it will get a clean and service, before heading north towards St Ives. Certainly going over the new bridge, you get a real sense of progress, with the laying of the foundations towards Swavesey. The large crane between Windmill Bridge and Swavesey is for installing the new culverts, of which there are a number in this area. At present all seems on track (excuse the pun!) for a spring opening, although completion of Hill Road bridge on target will be challenging because of the scale of the works there.

The other good piece of news is that the butterflies seem to have accepted their move and have been seen in their new habitat. For such a rare species, this is really encouraging.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Swavesey Police Neighbourhood Panel

I have just received an e-mail to confirm that the next meeting of the Swavesey Police Neighbourhood Panel meeting will be held on the 19 August, starting at 7-30pm in Fen Drayton Village Hall. The Swavesey Panel covers Longstanton, Willingham and Over and is an opportunity for you to raise issues of concern relating to the police. Officers from the County and District Councils are usually also present, so if you have any issues you want to raise, this is a good opportunity. Unfortunately I won't be able to go, but will get some feedback afterwards.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

New Bus Timetable

Some good news from Stagecoach - they are introducing new timetables from 24 August and at long last are re-instating the route between Longstanton and Willingham, via Station Road. I have been asking for this route ever since they last changed the timetables and it was removed (bar one journey a day). At last we have some good news. The new timetable can be found by clicking on the following link:

It means that buses will run from Cambridge to Bar Hill, then Longstanton, Willingham, Over and Swavesey, before going to St Ives via Fen Drayton and Fenstanton. My suspicion is that these changes are prompted by the opening of the guided busway next year and the buses are designed to link villages with various stops along the route. Whatever the reason, we will have to get used to standing on the other side of the road to go to Cambridge!

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Over Post Office

As promised at this evening's meeting, below is a copy of the sheet circulated with suggestions for making a response to the Post Office. I am sorry that it is a bit long for a single blog entry, but thought it was worthwhile re-producing in full for those that couldn't make it this evening. If you want a copy of the branch access report the web address is as follows:

Over can be found on page 14.

Making a Formal Response to the Post Office

Responses must be made by 26 August and should be sent to the following address:

National Consultation Team
Post Office Ltd

Or e-mail:

The following might be useful in making a response:

Alternative branches, (as opposed to the mobile service) are listed as Swavesey, Willingham, Longstanton and Fen Drayton.

Bus services to these villages allow the following length of time in each:
Swavesey – 20 minutes
Willingham – 10 minutes
Longstanton – 5 minutes
Fen Drayton – the Post Office are proposing to close this branch!

See for the full timetable

Walking and cycling: there is no footpath between Over and Willingham or Over and Longstanton

Access: query whether Swavesey Post Office is easily accessible – small narrow entrance, very low door; takes only about 5-6 people at any one time. Given that Fen Drayton is also due to close, can it cope with the additional customers?

Car Parking: since the Post Office plan to park the mobile service in the lay by on the Green, there is limited parking, since this is on a junction and cars should not park within 10 metres. Also numerous private drives also make parking more difficult.

Car parking also difficult in both Willingham and Longstanton.

Mobile service – further away from the centre of the village and also from Elm Court and the Day Centre.

Effect on Royal Mail services: Royal Mail are understood to want to shut the sorting office and transfer to Cambridge. This puts more traffic on heavily congested roads and means that Over residents will have to travel into Cambridge to collect undelivered parcels etc.

Mobile service – planned to open Monday to Friday only between 11-00am and 2-00pm. What will be the effect on local businesses who drop off mail later in the afternoon?

The Branch Access Report is incorrect in a number of areas:
Bus stop is within a few feet of the Post Office – not 75 yards as claimed
Small convenience store in Swavesey – does not sell the range of goods currently offered in Over – the main convenience store in Swavesey is not in Market Street, but Middlewatch
Claims that “the terrain between the branches is mainly level” – there is a hill between Over and Swavesey

Population – figures are based on the 2001 census – there have been a large number of houses built since then – Papworth’s Close, Cox’s End, phase 2, a number of infill houses and the developments currently underway in both Fen End and to the rear of High Street.
Plans for Over Stores expansion: the s
hop has planning permission for a new sorting office and for expansion to provide a far greater range of goods. It will attract more business, which will make postal services more viable. The new owners should be given the opportunity to make the business successful before the Post Office makes a final decision.

Monday, 21 July 2008

It's Called Progress

This morning I went to visit the new Longstanton bypass. Anyone using Ramper Road on a regular basis will have seen the huge changes in the past week. I am told that over the next 10 days there will be times when the junction of Ramper Road and Over Road will be closed so that the "tie-in's" can be done. I did emphasize the need for this to happen before the Windmill Bridge is re-opened - and was told that the guided busway team have said that the bypass work has to be completed by 30 July, which is when the bridge should be ready.
Progress on the bypass is rapid and I am reassured it is on target, with the inevitable proviso that it is all dependent on the weather - so no excuses this week then!
The attached photos show how the project is progressing (and proves that I can handle the technology!!). The top photo is from the top of the roundabout looking towards Ramper Road and the second at the start of the bypass at the Willingham end.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Swingers Club

This morning I went to South Cambs District Council, along with about 20 other residents of Over to listen to the licensing committee listen to the application for an entertainment and alcohol licence for the Swingers club on the industrial estate. Many people spoke about the protection of children. I expressed my concerns about public safety, given the number of additional cars travelling through the village in the early hours of the morning, and the public nuisance caused by noise from the site.

I heard this afternoon that the application had been approved, but Mr Hobbs, the owner, will not be allowed to use the gazebo outside. This means that any "guests" who wish to smoke must go out of the front entrance of the building and will not be allowed to take any alcohol out with them. I think that this must be seen as a partial victory for those who oppose the application.

In the meantime the planning application is now out for consultation - the consultation period closes at the end of the month. If you have views either way, then do submit them to the South Cambridgeshire District Council planning department - should take you to the website

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Guided Busway - Art

Whenever any new development takes place that receives funding via a section 106 agreement, a sum of money must be put aside for public art. The Guided Busway is no exception and I am leading a group of local county councillors along the route of the busway and some local residents groups and other interested parties to develop an art programme for the busway. Four artists have been appointed with different skills to work on the project which will, initially, cover the park and ride sites and bus stops. I am very keen that the artists work with local schools, to encourage the artistic talents we have there. The art will reflect four themes, including the history of the area, the people, the ecology and the goegraphy.

I am sure that for as many people who will appreciate the project, there will be those who think it a waste of time or money and art inspires very different responses; for example I think that the DNA in the cycleway that runs alongside the railway near Addenbrookes Hospital is a fantastic piece of art, but when I mentioned this in the forum someone else said how awful it was! The artists will be consulting widely, through the Guided Busway Forums and other groups and I hope that some people at least will be as enthusiastic about the project as me - and indeed let me know if you have any ideas for art along the guideway.

Over Post Office

Last night I went to a briefing meeting, along with other councillors, to talk to the Post Office and officers from the County Council about the proposed closures in South Cambridgeshire and what it would mean.
It is clear that the Post Office are under instructions form central government to bring their finances back into balance; they currently lost around £3m per week and need to save some £45m through the closure programme. So I think any campaign to save the Post Office must also seek to demonstrate that Over can at least break even, if not make a profit. The plans for expanding operations at the shop are exciting and will help our case enormously.

So please come to the public meeting on Wednesday 23 July in the Community Centre to find out more about how to save this vital village community.

What worried me hugely at the meeting though was the fact that the Post Office are clear about the number of closures - so for every facility that is saved, another will be added to the list. While I think that Willingham is pretty safe, given that it provides a wider range of services, then if we manage to save Over, there must be doubts about Longstanton. So my advice over the next few months is to keep in touch with what the Post Office are doing - and be ready if Longstanton is threatened in any way.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Over Post Office

Following discussions with District Councillors and the Chairman of Over Parish Council, Rosie Wayman, we have now got a date for a public meeting about the proposed closure of Over Post Office and its replacement by a mobile service. It is "only" the Post Office that has been earmarked for closure - not the shop - and there are great plans for expansion of the shop to provide a greater range of goods. We have already seen changes, with longer opening hours, including lunchtime opening, and so it is very sad that a week after the improvements started the Post Office announced that they intend to close the Post Office.

The public meeting will be on Wednesday 23 July at 7:30pm in the Community Centre. As well as local councillors, officers from both the County and District council will be present to give us advice on what this means and what we can do to try to prevent it. Please come along - it is your chance to find out more.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Bus Services While Station Road Is Closed

The County Council has now had information from both Whippet and Stagecoach about how they plan to run services while the road is closed between Over and Swavesey. In Swavesey they will run as far as Swan Pond before turning round and going back to Over via Ramper Road; from Over they will turn left into New Road and run via Windmill Bridge and Ramper Road. Buses won't stop at the two stops between New Road and the MG Offices. Of course, none of these changes will take place until the Windmill Bridge is re-opened - and I am assured that the revised date of the end of July still stands. Also, building on the experience of the Oakington and Histon crossings, Nuttall are able to do a lot of the work without closing the road completely. The current plan is six weeks of single lane working, followed by up to seven weeks when the road will be closed to vehicular traffic only.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Northstowe Secondary School

Thursday evening saw presentations from four organisations bidding to run the new secondary school in Northstowe. Three could be described as local; the fourth is definitely not. Again, the concept of competition comes from government legislation and during the break there were some interesting discussions about the merits of competition - and how much it all costs and whether it is worth it. I guess that we won't know the answer to that question for many years.

The first presentation came from Cottenham and Impington Village Colleges, under the banner of the Greater Northstowe Learning Trust. They plan what is described as a loose Federation - the two existing schools will set up the new school and once it is established, it will essentially be on its own. Then we heard from the Diocese of Ely - who are also bidding to run the first primary school, who told us about their plans to run a school in conjunction with a company called Edison Schools. The third bidder is Kunskapsskolan, who are a Swedish organisation, looking to extend in the UK - they have won bids to run a couple of schools in Richmond in Surrey. They offer a very different kind of learning, which is completely personalised to individual students. Finally, Swavesey Village College told us about their plans for an all through 4-16 school (albeit based on 2 sites) based on what is called hard Federation with the college.

After the presentations there was an opportunity for questions, although it was very clear that most of the audience were not genuine members of the public, but either politicians, or supporters of one or other bid, although there were some good questions. It was amusing to see representatives of schools bidding to run the new secondary school south of Cambridge at the meeting - "checking out the opposition" as one admitted to me!!

The closing date of comments is mid August and then the Council's cabinet will make a decision on the successful bidder in October. So one of my holiday tasks is to read all four bids in detail before submitting my own comments to the council. If you want more details for bother the primary and secondary competitions they are available on the Cambridgeshire County Council website -

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Guided Busway - Swavesey Junction

I have just had an e-mail to say that Nuttall, who are the contractors are going to switch around the order of the work at the Swavesey junction. Originally they were going to do the work on the MG Owners Club side first and then move to the Church side. But they're now going to do it the other way (Church side first and then Club side).
So, from 4 August until 14 September there will be road works with temporary traffic signals and then the road will be closed from Mon 15 Sept until Sun 2 Nov. Although the road will be closed, it will still be open for cyclists and pedestrians to enable students to get to and from the college.

I am still waiting to find out what Stagecoach and Whippet plan to do with regard to running bus services and will keep you posted on this once I know more details

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Northstowe First Primary School

This evening I went to a presentation by the two organisations who want to run Northstowe's first primary school. Recent government legislation means that Local Authorities can no longer simply open a new school - they have to run a competition and any organisation that is interested can bid. The Local Authority can also bid, but if it does then, logically, it cannot determine the outcome. Cambridgeshire has decided that unless there are no other bidders it will not put forward its own application to run any new schools, but that does mean that the Council's Cabinet can judge the competition - something which I prefer to the government being the judge.
Two organisations want to run Northstowe's first primary school - the Diocese of Ely and Swavesey Village College. Both presentations were interesting (although I have to confess that traffic problems getting out of Cambridge made me late) and both put the child and family at the centre of what they want to achieve. Both are also bidding to run the secondary school and there will be presentations tomorrow night in Bar Hill for this competition. The Swavesey bid is interesting because it proposes essentially an all-through style of education - from 4-16. There are a number of questions around how this can be delivered when the schools will be on separate sites, which I think will need to be resolved before the cabinet considers the competition. As far as the Diocese bid is concerned they have a partnership with a local church charity, the Church Schools Trust, which from experience worries me and I think their involvement will need to be clarified. However, it is an interesting process - but will education be any better as a result???

Monday, 7 July 2008

Over Post Office

I have now received confirmation that Over Post Office is scheduled for closure - with a mobile service provided for 15 hours per week. Having had discussions with the owners of the Post Office and with the district councillors and Rosie Wayman, chairman of the parish council, we have agreed that we need to take action to try to stop the closure. In the first instance, we intend to have a public meeting as soon as possible - hopefully next week. I think that there is quite a good case for keeping the post office open and we need to argue our case well over the coming weeks. I am also hoping that we can have a meeting with the Post Office to put our case to them. What will be important is that as many people as possible write to the Post Office. To find out that the factual information behind the closure is correct go to and it will be listed under current public consultations.

I will keep you posted

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Over Post Office

Today's Cambridge Evening News gives the terrible news that Over Post Office is on the hit list for closure. I had been very worried that, along with Longstanton, it might be at risk and this confirms our worst fears. The news will be officially announced on Tuesday and we will then have the summer holidays to appeal against the decision. As I mentioned in the Over News, there will be a briefing note in the Post Office which gives advice on the criteria for an appeal and I have more copies if anyone wants a copy.
Assuming that the leak in the CEN is true, and there is no reason to believe otherwise, it is important to remember that this will also affect post services - in future all post will be sorted in Cambridge and parcels will also have to be collected from the central sorting office off Coldhams Lane. This will have a huge impact on the many people who have no access to a car.

I will await the definite announcement on Tuesday before saying any more, but perhaps a public meeting to formulate a village response might be a start

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Longstanton - The Missing Link

A major source of irritation has been what I describe as the missing link - a half mile stretch of road between Longstanton and the entrance to the new Park and Ride where there is no footway - or cycleway. The cycleway from Willingham currently ends at the level crossing, but will be extended to link into the park and ride site next year. I have had long and fruitless discussions with some officers over the past twelve months to try to get this extended as far as the junction with the new bypass, where the footway starts again. The main problem appears to have been that since Gallaghers will be developing this particular stretch of land as part of the Northstowe development, nobody wanted to spend any money on improvements which might only be temporary. My argument has been that temporary may well be many years, depending on the economic climate and how Northstowe is actually developed. Earlier this week I met with two Directors at Shire Hall to put my case yet again and it appears that this has had the desired effect. They are now looking at how the missing link might be delivered, so that residents from Longstanton will be able to walk or cycle to the park and ride and therefore access the guided busway. I am hoping to have more information in the next few weeks, but this is a major step forward.

Monday, 30 June 2008

The A14

Last week I went to a meeting with the Highways Agency to be briefed on their current proposals for the new A14. It has already been announced that contractors have been appointed to deliver the scheme and the Highways Agency hope to hold a series of public exhibitions later this year. What they propose at present is an express road between Girton and the A1 which will be dual three lane. It will have only limited junctions. Running alongside as far as Fenstanton will be a local access road, either dual two lane or possibly only single carriageway. Between Girton and Histon the road will be dual four lane, dropping down to three lanes beyond Histon. Crucially, because access to the express road will be limited, there will be no access at the Bar Hill/Northstowe junction. Traffic from there heading into Cambridge will have to use the local access road. The first junction for the express road heading westbound after Girton will the the Cambridge Services at Swavesey. The junctions at Girton and Swavesey look unbelievably complicated and construction will be a total nightmare - but on current plans we still have to wait at least another three years for work to start - by which time the price of fuel might have priced us off the road. I have a number of concerns about various aspects of the road currently under discussion, and am advised that the plans may change between now and the autumn. I have also been promised much better involvement by the Highways Agency than has been the case so far, so at least the meeting ended on a good note

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

MP's Allowances

All the fuss over MP's allowances and whether they should or should not be public leaves me mildly amused. In contrast to their own obsession with privacy MP's - rightly in my view - demand that allowances for councillors and others be made public. So every year, at about this time, the amount I received in allowances for the previous year will be published. For the record, I have no problem with people knowing what I received, so I am listing it below:

Basic allowance - £7,338.04
Special Responsibility Allowance (for the period that I was council leader) - £12,344.24
Mileage (4,976 miles) £1,990.40
Cycle mileage (76 miles) £15.20
Subsistence: £224.08
Other expenses (mostly train fares to London) £697.40
Broadband £120

Less - meal deduction £72
The Broadband allowance is one I receive for the fact that I provide my own broadband at home, rather than the council putting in a line for me. They save money this way and so do I. The meal deduction is the cost of the lunch provided six times a year at full council meetings, which are the only meetings that last a whole day.

In addition I received £2,499.21 from the Local Government Association as a member of the Regeneration and Transport Board.

As a local authority appointed member of the Police Authority I received further allowances as follows:
Basic allowance: £6,882.34
Mileage: £182.40

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Windmill Bridge

When I came back from holiday I asked the officers for the reason for the delay to the re-opening of the bridge. Nuttalls reason is that the delays because of the unidentified cables before Christmas, followed by the bad weather over the winter were the reason. Personally I am more than a bit sceptical - we were told that the problems with the cables would not delay the project, so why now are they the reason. And as for bad weather - what else can we expect in winter? Anyway, we are where we are, but it is very frustrating. I am assured, despite rumours to the contrary, that the bridge will re-open at the end of July, but I am not going to put any money on it just yet.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Nightclub - District Council response

I've had a very swift response to my e-mail requesting a Stop Notice on the nightclub. Unfortunately the Council don't think that a Stop Notice is required - this is what they said:

Such action is normally only taken where there is a clearly identifiable immediate and
ongoing harm to, for example, issues of neighbour amenity or where
immediate action is necessary to stop development that may otherwise be
more difficult to control if it continues, unauthorised building works
for example

I happen to think that there is clearly identifiable immediate and ongoing harm in terms of the amount speeding traffic late at night, and impact on local residents. If you agree, please let me or one of your District Councillors know so that we can put more pressure on the Council to take action.

"Swingers" Night Club

Not surprisingly I have been inundated with complaints about this nightclub - and the mess that it created on Saturday night. I have confirmed with South Cambridgeshire District Council that the club does not have planning permission to operate on the Industrial Estate - although an application was submitted at the end of last week. It begs the question that if the club has a licence to sell alcohol, why the magistrates did not check that it had planning permission to operate. In the meantime I have written to the Council to ask that the club be closed until the planning application has been determined. I will keep you posted

Friday, 13 June 2008

Northstowe Trust

The County's Cabinet discussed the proposed Northstowe Trust again on Tuesday. The idea behind the Trust is that it would manage what is called the public realm in Northstowe and would raise funds for investment in the town. These funds would come from running the leisure centre etc. Trustees would include the developers Gallaghers and English Partnerships as well as local people. Now I have real concerns about the Trust, not least how the Trustees would be chosen - or appointed. I also do not believe that the Trust would be able to raise the sums of money needed in the way that is envisaged. As a simple example, since the main leisure facilities - swimming pool etc - would be attached to the secondary school it would seem reasonable for the school to manage them as already happens elsewhere in the county. Since there is going to be a Town Council in due course, what would the Trust do that a Town Council wouldn't - and the Town Council would be democratically elected, unlike the Trust. It seems to me that the only advantage of the Trust would be to ensure the long term commitment of the developers to the success of Northstowe.So far the District and County Councils have spent three years on this project and we still do not appear to have left the starting post. So my strong preference - as I said to Cabinet this week - is to move ahead quickly with the formation of a Town Council, once the houses start being built - although at the current rate of progress that could be a long time away!

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

A night Club in Over?

Having been away for a couple of weeks, I'm not entirely sure of the actual position with regard to a night club on the Norman Way Industrial Estate and I don't really know the full details of what is happening there - or not. My understanding is that an "Adults Only" nightclub has started. If this is the case, then I am concerned that a business is running from a site for which there must be concerns about its suitability. Has planning consent been applied for for a change of use - and granted? Has a fire certificate been given to ensure safety for visitors and users? Have the owners obtained a licence for selling alcohol? I am also concerned about traffic implications - is a small(ish) village the best place for a nightclub when the only means of access is by car - there is no public transport, especially late at night? Until these questions have been answered, then my concerns - and those of a number of other people will remain.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Windmill Bridge

The power of modern technology is such that despite the fact I am currently on the other side of the Atlantic, I can still access all my e-mails and get all the news from home.
I have just be advised that Windmill Bridge will not be opening in the next few days as was originally scheduled and the contractors say it will not be completed until the end of July. I find this a totally unacceptable state of affairs and I am trying to find out why, suddenly the long delay. In the meantime I have had assurances that the Over-Swavesey Road will not be closed, as had been the plan, but will remain open until the Windmill Bridge is fully completed.

I will keep you posted on the latest developments as I get them.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Station Road Swavesey

Once the Windmill Bridge is open again (currently scheduled for June) work will shift to Station Road in Swavesey. The contractors are looking at the least disruptive way of laying the concrete across the road. It is likely that the road will only be completely closed for a few weeks, rather than the months that happened nearer to Cambridge. The contractors hope to carry out all the utility diversions while keeping the road partially open. There will be access at all times for pedestrians and cyclists, which is essential for students going to the village college. Given the work being done at the same time at the guided busway junction with the B1050 as well as the long awaited Longstanton bypass, it is essential that roads are shut for as little time as possible. Once I have more information I will let you know

Cycleways - the missing link

We had a meeting of the guided bus liaison forum last night. There are four of these which run along the line of the guided busway and their role is essentially to ensure that the planning obligations set by the Inspector at the Public Inquiry have been correctly disharged. We also look at plans for junctions and bus stop designs and comment on them. One thing that really concerns me at present is what might be described as "the missing link". There is a cyleway from Willingham to the railway line and then it stops. As part of the guided busway project, that cycleway will be extended - but only as far as the Longstanton Park and Ride site. Half a mile beyond that the new bypass starts, but the big question is - how do people in Longstanton access the guided busway without having to use their car? What is needed is a footway/cycleway from the park and ride site to the start of the bypass. Beyond that, once the bypass is completed the road will be reasonably quiet. Apparently space has been allowed along the side of the road, but no plans to acutally construct it because it doesn't meet the criteria for any of the funding sources. Extremely irritating - especially for residents of Longstanton who may want to use the guided busway. I'll keep trying to find a way to fund this very small, but vital, peice of infastructure.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Northstowe Trust

Another day - another policy development group (pdg) - this one looking at the possibility of a Northwtowe Trust. The idea of a Trust has been around for a number of years. The theory is that the Trust would look after the "public realm" in Northstowe - open spaces, the civic hub, leisure centres etc. I've got real concerns about this for a number of reasons; first, where will the Trust get its money from, what will be the difference between the Trust and the Town Council (who will raise the precept), how will it relate to the secondary school, where the main leisure facilities should be located etc etc. The developers - Gallaghers and English Partnerships - are reluctant to take part in a Trust at this stage, so I am bcoming increasingly to the view that we should simply be looking to set up the Town Council as early as possible. The views of the pdg will form part of the recommentaions to the County's cabinet next month, when I will again give my views on the Trust.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Guided Busway and the B1050

Having completed the work to the junctions heading into Cambridge, the contractors are now starting to head north. I received the following e-mail last week about the impact on the B1050.

As part of the construction of the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway, the County Council’s contractor Edmund Nuttall Limited will shortly begin constructing a new crossing for the busway where the old railway line crosses Station Road, Longstanton.
Some preparation works for the new crossing will start on Monday, 12 May. These works will take place in the verges of the road and won’t affect the traffic flow on the B1050.
Initial works for utility diversions are scheduled to start on Tuesday, 27 May. The diversion works will require a lane closure under temporary traffic lights.
In order to build the new junction safely and efficiently it will be necessary to temporarily close one lane of the B1050 at a time. This will be done using temporary traffic lights and cones and will follow on from the utility diversions.
The work will be done in stages and access along the B1050 will be maintained at all times.
There is a great deal of construction work to be done in this area and we therefore expect the temporary traffic lights to be in place until September ‘08.
Access for cyclists and pedestrians will be unaffected and although vehicular access will be maintained at all times, it is likely that there will be some disruption for drivers.
We very much hope to complete the work as quickly as possible and apologise for any inconvenience caused. We would like to urge drivers to leave plenty of time for their journeys.
In order to allow one lane of traffic to be opened at all times, the road will be temporarily widened. A total area of approximately 300 square metres of the road needs to be reconstructed. The finished road surface will be lowered by about 300mm. Works to be done include installation of ducting, drainage, kerbing, street lighting, traffic signals, surfacing and a reinforced concrete slab laid across the junction.
Excavators, dump trucks, support vehicles, a generator, lighting set, pumps, paving and concrete delivery trucks will all be used.
Construction work will take place between 7.30 am and 6 pm Monday to Friday and between 8 am and 1 pm on Saturday. Outside of these times the traffic management will still be in place.
The new junction will allow buses travelling on the busway to cross Station Road safely. It will also allow for cars and other motor vehicles to cross the route of the busway safely. There will also be new facilities for pedestrians and cyclists crossing the road and the busway.
The construction of the entrance to the Park and Ride site at Longstanton will be carried out later in the year.
If you have any queries regarding the busway project please do not hesitate to contact the Guided Busway team at the County Council on 01223 716972.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Local Government Association (LGA)

I've been in London today, at the LGA. The LGA is sometimes described as the trade association for localo government - it represents all local authorities in England and Wales. Its role is to represent the interests of local government, particularly in our dealings wiht central government. There are a number of Boards, which cover the key areas of local government responsibility and I represent the Conservative group on the Regeneration and Transport Board, which met today. Half of the meeting was taken up with what is called the Sub National Review. Last summer the government announced that it would be abolishing regional assemblies - I don't know of many people who will mourn their passing, but what is replacing them is of serious concern to local authorities. The Regional Assemblies are responsible for agreeing (among other things) plans for housing numbers (the Regional Spatial Strategy) major transport spending and most recently for the East of England, a consultation on gypsy and traveller sites. They consist of local councillors, and other interested bodies, including the community sector and business. However, at least 60% of the members are democratically elected councillors. When they are abolished, their work will tranfer to the Regional Development Agencies, who are accountable only to ministers in Whitehall. Now you could argue that the reason local authorities don't like this change is because we worry about our loss of influence. However, it is the case that all parties in local government are concerned that decisions we believe should be taken locally, are now going to be determined, ultimately by central government. There is an additional irony, that in another part of government, they are talking about community empowerment and how we, as local authorities, can empower local communities to feel that they can influence decisions locally - err, something doesn't quite add up here! I suppose it all makes work for a working man to do!!

Hanley Grange

For those of you who don't know, Hanley Grange has been proposed as one of the government's eco-towns, just south of Cambridge, near Sawston. Many years ago (on 2001) when we were drawing up the County's Structure Plan, this area was proposed as a possible site for a new town, but we ruled it out, because of transport problems and because we thought it would simply become a housing estaste for London overspill, rather than provide homes for Cambridgeshire residents. We have a Structure Plan and a regional spatial strategy (it says how many homes the region needs ), which happens to have been signed up to by the government, but makes no mention of eco-towns. Great example of joined up government, that one department says "this is how many houses you, the eastern region, needs to build" while another, with no reference to the first says "oh, and by the way, we want you to have an eco-town". Now I don't think anyone objects to the concept of an eco-town - but it has to be in the right place - and Hanley Grange, having been ruled out of the process, is definitely not the right place. Yesterday, at full council, I seconded a motion objecting to the inclusion of Hanley Grange in the government's list of eco-towns. Some very simple reasons - the county council and district council are already stretched to full capacity trying to cope with the current plans - Northstowe, southern fringe, east of Cambridge, north-west fringe etc - and Hanley Grange would be a development too far. It would enable the developers of all the sites to run roughshod over the local authorities. It is bizarre that we want Northstowe to be an eco-town, but the government says it can't be, but then wants to put one where we, locally elected politicians say isn't suitable - crazy!

Northstowe - again

I think that title could become very well used over the coming months! Yesterday was full council, when there was an opportunity for the whole council, rather than just the cabinet, debate the response to the planning application. I made the point, yet again, that the government has continually reneged on its plans for Northstowe to be an eco-town and that the planning application has failed on many, many counts to live up to the developers claim that it is "an exemplar in sustainability". I also used the occasion - again - to press for a Willingham bypass; having spent just a short time in Earith Road in the height of the rush hour, it is blindingly obvious that a bypass is required - and that once Northstowe starts, the queues will get even worse. At least the County Council are undertaking a study into a bypass - one small step forward on what promises to be a long road.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Earith Road Willingham

Just been out to Earith Road - it's been five years since the interactive signs were installed and they have never worked. It has been an ongoing saga - and at times I have lost the will to live!!! John Reynolds ( the then lead member for transport) promised at a parish council meeting in December 2006 that they would be fixed in 2007 - but still nothing. So at the parish council meeting last week we finally lost patience and decided to have a photo - and cake - to mark the fact that they were still not working. Funnily enough, since then, I have been told that the signs will be replaced within the next few weeks - they should be delivered in two weeks and fitted almost immediately. I won't hold my breath - I've tried that before and it wasn't very pleasant (!), but the photo at the top shows a few members of the parish council marking the occasion. When the signs are replaced I think champagne may be in order!

Monday, 12 May 2008

Northstowe - Section 106

This afternoon I have been in Shire Hall discussing Northstowe. It's probably the subject that I talk about most at present, but that's because it's so important for the future of the whole area. I was at a policy development group - which consists of a group of county councillors from all parties who meet to discuss policy issues and give advice to the relevant cabinet member. The meetings are held in private, which is often the subject of heated debate. Personally, I prefer the concept because it means we avoid the political posturing that characterizes many public meetings and we spend the time discussing the real issues that matter most. This afternoon was spent discussing the draft section 106 agreement for Northstowe. When new development is planned, the developers have to contribute to the infastructure - extra classrooms for a school, roads, and perhaps something towards additional health requirements. This is called section 106 (from a planning act so passed long ago I can't remember the year!). A development the size of Northstowe is of a magnitude bigger than most. The developers - Gallaghers and English Partnerships - will be providing six primary schools, a secondary school, contributing towards the cost of the guided busway, currently being built, a health centre, a library, police station, leisure facilities and numerous other facilities that we take for granted, such as allotments and a burial ground. The County Council is curently working with South Cambridgeshire District Council to draw up a list of what facilities we think that the developers should provide. It will, of course, be far more that the developers claim that they can afford, so over the coming months, there will be many hours of negotiations over what is reasonable and what might not be. All this will have to be agreed before planning permision can be given and development can start. So a long way to go yet before we see the first houses being built.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Traffic Network

Some months ago the Network Manager for this area agreed to a suggestion that the local highways team should meet with members of my three parish councils - Longstanton, Over and Willingham. The meeting tonight was well timed, because just a couple of weeks ago final agreement was reached on the bypass for Longstanton and work will start on 19 may. It will take some 40 weeks to complete and will radically change the road layout in the area - that long straight stretch of road between the Gravel Bridge and Longstanton will disappear. Although I am extremely glad that the bypass is going ahead, there is a part of me that much regrets the changes taking place.

As well as talking about the bypass, we discussed the county policy on grass cutting - villages get their grass cut four times a year, the failure of the interactive signs on Earith Road ever to have worked and the problems with lorries - particularly in Over at present. I'm not sure we reached any conclusions, but I think the meeting was helpful in gaining a greater understanding on both sides of some of the issues.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Trying it out

Sunday 27 April - trying out my blog for the first time; Roderick suggested it would be a good way to keep in touch while I was in Canada, so I thought I would see if I could set up my own blog - and here it is. Oh well, now that's done, off to do some organ practice!!