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.