Friday, 7 August 2009

Cambridgeshire Guided Busway

A number of people have asked me in the last few days when the busway will be open, since it now looks pretty complete and indeed, Stagecoach have been trialling some buses along the Busway. The following press release has been issued by the County Council today
Busway contractors BAM Nuttall have advised Cambridgeshire County Council that they expect to hand over the track between St Ives and Cambridge at the end of October.
This news means that, provided BAM Nuttall achieve this date, Cambridgeshire County Council will be able to open the busway within a month of the handover once final testing and trials are complete.
A BAM Nuttall spokesman said: "Planning issues with the noise barriers at Histon are now being dealt with and all parties involved have committed themselves to deliver the northern section of the busway for this date."
Cambridgeshire County Councillor Roy Pegram, Cabinet Member for Growth, Infrastructure and Strategic Planning, said: "I am as frustrated as anyone that the busway will not open sooner. It is good news that we have reassurances from BAM Nuttall that they will be able to complete the work by the end of October and we look forward to it opening. It is going to give people a reliable, fast and frequent service and will be the best way to travel."
Bus operators have been informed of the news and have welcomed the announcement.
The Council plans to give some members of the public the chance to try out a longer stretch of the busway before it opens. When the busway opens it will take just 20 minutes to travel by bus along the track from St Ives to the Science Park in Cambridge with buses gliding along at up to 60mph.
Notes for editors:
For further information please contact Gareth Bell, Communications and Media Manager, Cambridgeshire County Council, on 01223 718510 or 01223 699997.
Cambridgeshire County Councillor Roy Pegram, Cabinet member for Growth, Infrastructure and Strategic Planning, on 07979 960140.
For further political comment contact Liberal Democrat spokes - Councillor Nichola Harrison on 01223 461636 or 07788 701901 and Councillor Kilian Bourke on 07737 782295 or Labour spokes Councillor Tariq Sadiq on 07976 789006.

Clearly I am disappointed that the late summer opening will not be achieved, particularly as the guideway will have stops at Cambridge Regional College, and Long Road and Hills Road Sixth Form Colleges, but I am glad that at last, the end appears to be in sight.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Abandon Northstowe!

I have long believed this government to be inept, but this week's example of quite how inept has left me fuming. Part of the deal to take the additional housing that the government wants is that the infrastructure required to support it will all be provided, either by developers or by the government. Cambridgeshire has received substantial amounts of money in the past (as have other areas) to fund some of the infrastructure. When the government announced last month that it proposed to build thousands of new affordable homes we all wondered where the money was going to come from. Now we know! Part of the answer has been to raid what is called the Housing Growth Fund - and the cost to Cambridgeshire is some 50% of this year's allocation, amounting to around £6m. This is where it is so stupid - that money would have been spent on helping to bring forward developments that would have contributed to the government's target of providing more affordable homes. So robbing Peter to pay Paul, will in effect, delay the provision of more and much needed affordable housing in this area.

My reaction has been to demand that we start a policy of non-cop-operation with the government. Most people only reluctantly accept all the new developments and if the government is going to renege on its side, then I don't see why we should co-operate. In essence, we should threaten to abandon Northstowe.

Andrew Lansley has called for a meeting with the local government minister, John Healey. I have asked Andrew's office whether I can be part of the delegation, since the impact on this area is huge.

I will keep you posted

PS - and where is the money being spent? answer - shoring up the Labour vote in the Midlands and north of the country. I call that tantamount to buying votes.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Guided Busway Newsletter

For those that are interested, the latest newsletter is now available by clicking on the following link:

I understand that although no formal date for opening has yet been agreed, it is still hoped that the busway will be up and running at the end of the summer.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Non Emergency Calls to the Police

The Cambridgeshire Police Force’s non-emergency phone number has changed by one digit. The 0345 456 456 4 number change will make it cheaper for
members of the public to call the force.

It will also allow people with free local calls to call for free as 0345
numbers are classed as local calls. This deal is included in many landline
and mobile packages.

The old 0845 number will remain live alongside the new number until April
2011 to allow people to get used to the number and for marketing material
to be replaced as it is used up.

Of course, if it is an emergency, then 999 is the correct number to call.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Swingers Club - the saga continues

Following the dismissal of the appeal against a change of use to allow the Club, South Cambridgeshire District Council issued an enforcement notice, since Mr Hobbs was still trading. He has now appealed against that decision on the grounds that the time given to comply with the enforcement notice is too short. The Planning Inspectorate have asked for my comments. I have pointed out that the original application was refused in August 2008 and Mr Hobbs has therefore had some ten months to make alternative arrangements. I therefore see no reason why he should not now be obliged to comply with the law. I await the outcome!

Friday, 5 June 2009

Thank You

A big thank you to everyone who took part in yesterday's elections - whether you voted for me or not. The turnout for the Willingham division was 37%, which although low, in the circumstances of the past few weeks was probably quite good. I am grateful to my two opposition candidates for the way in which the campaign was conducted. I hope that I will earn your trust over the next four years.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Councillors Expenses

I suppose it was only a matter of time, but Cambridgeshire has decided, quite rightly, that councillors expenses should be published on line. The system isn't live yet, but should be soon, so that our electorate can see what we have claimed for and how much.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

MP's Expenses

The ongoing row over MP’s expenses does nothing for the reputation of politicians of whatever party and unfortunately at every level. It is unfortunate that, yet again, a small minority of politicians have given the vast majority a bad name. I have a very simple solution – MP’s should be bound by the same rules as local politicians and by the standards that they insist (rightly) that we should abide by. At the County Council (and at District level) our allowances and any expenses we claim are a matter of public record and are published annually. Anyone can ask and be told what I have claimed for travel or subsistence. And as last year, once the figures are available, I will publish my own expenses on my blog. You can be assured that they do not include the now infamous bathplug, or horse manure!

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

New Buses

Yesterday I travelled on one of the new buses that Stagecoach has bought to run on the guided busway. The busway itself is making slow progress, which is unfortunate, but in the meantime Stagecoach are running their new fleet on a number of routes around Cambridge, including the 15. It was a great improvement on the old buses that we are used to. It has air conditioning and free wi-fi (not that I had my laptop with me), but I did see someone making use of it. The seats are also This goes towards making Cambridge one the the greenest public transport cities in the country.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Over Pharmacy

One of the first letters waiting for me when I came home after a recent spell in hospital was a letter from the Primary Care Trust advising that an appeal against their decision to refuse permission for a pharmacy had been allowed by the NHS Litigation Authority. I have been in touch with Over Surgery to offer any support that I can. In the meantime I wrote to the said Litigation Authority asking a number of questions. Specifically I wanted to know why nobody apart from the surgery appeared to have been advised of the appeal and therefore given no opportunity to comment. I also wanted to know whether anyone had visited Over before making a decision. I received a reply this morning. Apparently once the Litigation Authority has made a decision, it refuses to enter into any further correspondence and they therefore merely enclosed a copy of the decision, which is less than helpful. It appears that profit carries more weight than people when it comes to deciding whether we need a pharmacy or not. The cynic in me says that this is hardly the caring Labour government that we are continually promised.
I fear that there is very little that we, as local residents, or I, as an elected representative can do, but I will raise the prinicple of the way this decision was reached with Jim Paice, our MP, and ask that he speaks to the Department of Health.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Longstanton Bypass

It sometimes seems that in sorting one problem another is created. the Longstanton bypass has brought a welcome relief from the many thousands of cars that used to travel through the village, but it has created a problem for cyclists, who have lost a direct route from Over to Longstanton. As part of the Home Farm Development a cycleway will be created through the estate, but that now seems a long way off.

So as a temporary solution a new footpath has been created adjacent to the bypass and which links in to the Over Road in Longstanton. It is very much a temporary measure and has only been created from road planings, but it is much better than nothing and will enable cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders to have a safer and more pleasant journey between the two villages.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Swingers Club Mark 2

Just as we thought that we had heard the last of the Swingers Club, I heard otherwise at the end of last week. Having lost their planning application and subsequent appeal, I am told that the site is now advertising that a pole/lap dancing club will shortly be opening.

I have been in touch with the Planning Department at South Cambs District Council and they have reassured me that they are investigating.

My position remains as before; I make no comment on what people wish to do in private, but I do not believe that an Industrial Estate with little access to good public transport late at night is a suitable location.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Cycling to Longsstanton

Since the new Longstanton bypass opened at the beginning of December complaints about the diversion of National Cycle Route 51 from Ramper Road along the new bypass into Station Road and then through the village to the existing route.
It will be obvious to most that because of the recession, housebuilders in the area, including Longstanton, have shut up shop and the provision of the permanent link through the proposed housing development (which would have been funded by the developers) has been delayed. The County Council is not able to provide an alternative cycle route. However, we will be constructing a temporary footpath with planings along the eastern verge from roundabout 2 (the central roundabout) south to and over the new bridge to join the old Over Road. This will enable cyclists to walk this route as an alternative until the developers provide the permanent link.
Once the guided busway opens later this year the cycleway being constructed alongside will become the new NCN51 route and provide a more direct and safer route for cyclists.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Winter Gritting

Now that the weather has returned to a more familiar pattern and salt supplies have been restored, I have been told that the normal gritting routes have been resumed. There are also gangs of workers travelling the county repairing the many potholes that have sprung up in the bad weather.Some of these will be temporary repairs until the weather has improved sufficiently to carry out a permanent repair. If you spot a pothole, please call 0345 045 5212 or click onto to report it.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Winter Gritting

I have just received the following from the Director of Highways and thought it best to share it with you as soon as possible. I know that there have been complaints about gritting - no-one is ever happy, but I would like to put on record my thanks to Billy Gipp, who grits the roads in Longstanton, Over and Willingham. He can be seen driving a lorry called the BFG - Big Friendly Gritter.

You may be aware of the national shortage of rocksalt in the country. To address this the LGA and the Highways Agency have now set up a new system where deliveries are prioritised to those authorities in the most need. This has meant Cambridgeshire is no longer getting the deliveries it had been as authorities which are in the most need get first priority. I have discussed the challenges that this sets us with the Leader, Portfolio Holder and Chief Executive who have been kept appraised of the situation throughout last week.
In order to make sure we can grit as much as possible with the rocksalt we have the Council has, this evening, revised our main gritting routes. This means we will be gritting A roads and a priority network of B roads as well as waterside roads and access to hospitals.
More information on the roads we are gritting is available at:
This will be updated tomorrow with the roads we usually grit but are no longer doing so. We are emphasising to residents that they must take extra care as routes they are used to be gritted will not be. As soon as we can secure more supplies then we will reassess this suspension of gritting.
This is a difficult decision that we did not want to take and road safety is our paramount consideration. However, if we were to continue gritting the normal main routes our supplies would last for about three days, This measure, together with careful management of the amount of salt we spread per square meter will secure a couple of additional days of gritting. We will continue to advise GoEast of our stock situation so that they can supply us later in the week if needed.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Longstanton Park and Ride

I have received the following from the County Council about yet more temporary traffic lights along the B1050. I am sure I am not the only one who will be very relieved when the work is finally completed:

Work to build the new Park and Ride at Longstanton will begin on Monday (2 February). To make sure vehicles can easily access the Park and Ride when it opens the B1050 will be widened to build access roads.
For clearance work to take place temporary off peak (9.30am to 4pm) traffic lights will be in place from Monday 2 February until Sunday 15 February. To safely carry out the construction of the new access roads temporary traffic lights will be needed on a permanent basis from Monday 16 February restricting the road to a single lane. This work will be completed in the summer

Council Tax increases

This is the time of year when the council makes a decision on the level of increase in council tax. It is based on the amount of grant we get from government and the spending pressures we have. For as long as I can remember Cambridgeshire has always received an increase in government grant that is much smaller than most other authorities and this year was no different. At just 2% we were almost bottom - yet again. This means that the burden falls on the council tax payer. Our inflation pressures are similar to many of our residents - rising energy costs being the main one, but our rising population also means that we have to find money to pay for extra services. The council has looked hard at where savings can be made and next week will be proposing an increase in council tax of 3.9%. I can fully appreciate that this is above the rate of inflation and in the current economic recession might be seen as a large rise, but we will continue to have to make hard choices. As a gesture councillors have also decided to forgo their increase in allowance this year, which would have been 2.7%

Monday, 26 January 2009

Swingers Club

It seems a long time since the Swingers Club was generating a lot of angst among residents of Over. I had an e-mail at the end of last week to say that the appeal against the refusal of planning permission for the club had been turned down. There are very few routes left for the owners to appeal further - and no grounds - so hopefully that will be the end of the club in Over. The adjudicator who considered the appeal made reference to the suitability of a rural site for such a club and the traffic impact - which were also the basis of my concerns. I am very glad that the views of residents were heard.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Service 15

I have been told that there are changes to the evening service 15. They are only minor, but will affect you if you are planning an evening out in St Ives.

The current 21:05 will terminate at Swavesey and the 21:40 from St Ives will now start from Swavesey at 22:06. I hope this won't totally disrupt your social life as a result!

Friday, 16 January 2009

Children's Tax Credit

I was sent the following information last night - I bet many people are like me and had no idea of this - so if you are eligible, do claim and do pass it on to friends and family with children:

Unclaimed Children’s Tax Allowance for 2002/3 - Information for Parents
The year before Tax Credits were introduced there was a different non-means tested allowance available which was never advertised by the Inland Revenue. It is called the Children’s Tax Allowance for the Year 2002/3. You can still claim this allowance before the 31 January 2009 deadline. You need to phone HMRC on 0845 302 1409 and ask them to check whether you have already received this allowance and, if not, enquire as to what action you need to take. You are eligible to claim £520.00 allowance if: · You have a child born between 6 April 1986 and 5 April 2003 · The child lived with you for all or part of 2002/2003 · You worked and paid tax for all or part of 2002/2003 · You or your partner earned £6,000 plus in the year 2002/2003 tax year You are eligible for the £1,040 allowance if: · If you can answer yes to the four questions above, and · One of your children was born between 6 April 2002 and 5 April 2003 Notes:- · Making a claim does not affect your current or future entitlement to Working of Child Tax credits · Your Marital status is irrelevant · You cannot claim the allowance twice and if your final tax code on your April 2003 P60 ended in a H or a T, you have already had the allowance · This is an easy claim for you to make so do not get duped into paying someone to do it for you because they are likely to charge a large percentage for their services

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

School Governors

First a Happy New Year to you all.

One of the tasks of a county councillor is, with the local school, to identify suitable people to become school governors. I have four schools in my patch - Willingham, Over and Longstanton primary schools and Swavesey Village College. It is not often that one or other is without a vacancy for a local authority governor. This is currently the case in Longstanton, as the governing body has increased in size. You do not need to be a parent in order to be a governor, in fact I encourage people who aren't parents, but you do have to be interested in the well being of young people in your area and, of course, be prepared to commit to regular meetings at the school. It is not paid, but it is a rewarding role.
If you are interested in becoming a school governor, please let me know, via the usual contact details