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.