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.