In September 2016, nine new council houses were completed on Hawkins Road, replacing a set of garages with desperately needed new homes. Initially there were some objections to the plans, but I have spoken to many affected residents who understand the extent of the housing crisis and who were glad to support the project.
Sadly, one year later and to the considerable frustration of the community, these houses continue to sit empty. Failures in project management mean that the properties remain without electricity and, in turn, more people suffer due to the Cambridge housing crisis.
These houses are just one part of the ‘146 Programme’, a project to build 146 homes across the city and awarded to the developers at Keepmoat. The management of this contract has clearly failed, with local Cllr Kevin Price taking to Cambridge News to voice his frustrations. Cllr Price blames Keepmoat for the delays and failures (and seeks to end their contract). As the Exec Councillor for Housing, this is the the crudest form of contract management available to Cllr Price and fails to address the project management weaknesses of the Council that led to these delays in the first place.
I have raised this issue with Rod Cantrill, the local Housing Spokes for the Lib Dems, who has repeatedly challenged the Council Exec for faster delivery of homes. He recently commented that Hawkins Road is another “illustration of the shameful position the council has got itself into. When there are over 2500 households on the councils waiting list, it can’t even deliver 9 new homes for 9 of those households.”
Nine new homes are not going to solve the Cambridge crisis, but they are going to solve the crisis for nine households currently unable to find security in our city. The project could also be used as an important lesson for improvement in the future. I recently congratulated Kevin Price on his appointment to Chair of the GCP Assembly, but upon reflection I would recommend that Cllr Price should take lessons from this recent failures and refocus his efforts on his existing responsibilities to deliver homes in our city.
The title of this post is a common question I get: often I find that people think County Councillors have an office and/or staff. There is also an issue of transparency.
So, I've started, in a very modest way, to try and record how much time I'm spending on activities I consider I do "because" I'm a Councillor. I've deliberately made the definition of this very wide.
I've been a Councillor for East Chesterton and the new County Division of Chesterton since 2010 - long enough that several large scale projects have gone from dream to preparation to reality. The most obvious examples are of course the Cambridge North station (although that started before my time), and Chesterton Primary School, but there are numerous others.
One example is the new housing that is finally being occupied on Water Lane.
A £193m bid to unlock an extra 5,200 new homes on and around the site of Cambridge’s Sewage Works could go forward to the Government, if the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority accepts a recommendation to back it at their meeting on 27th September.
Success with the bid to the Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund would enable the relocation of Anglian Water’s plant outside the city and the realisation of the full potential of the important north Cambridge site, transforming the scale of development near the new train station from the currently envisaged 2,400 new homes to 7,600.
Cllr Rod Cantrill and Cllr Tim Bick
(Bus lanes expanding, whilst the trees begin to disappear)
On Tuesday, I attended the first GCP Milton Road Workshop for developing the ‘Final Concept Design’ recently approved by the GCP board. This was an invitation only event, with local officers presenting potential options for bus stop designs and seeking comments on the placement of bus stops.
The bus stop design issues were interesting and I was pleased to see that officers are not looking at any options which would force cyclists out towards traffic. Instead focus was on how to pedestrians could safely reach bus stops, with a preference from many residents to avoid ‘shared’ areas (which cause significant conflict between different groups and would be especially dangerous on long straight cycle paths) and focus on segregated options. However, as one resident noted, we were left picking the ‘least bad’ options and many did not want their preferences on proposals treated as endorsement of the developing plans.
This is because the ‘modified’ plans looked problematic from the outset and the GCP have failed to explain how they would deliver on the City Deal's original objectives. From tonight’s evidence, they seem to be getting worse than when they were presented to the Local Liaison Forum (LLF) and they are increasingly unrecognisable to resident’s own Do-optimum plans.
From discussions around the safety of the latest extremely narrow (3m) bus lane proposals, it became clear that the bus lanes have already been widened compared to original presentation (now 3.2m). It was not explained where the additional width would be taken from (i.e. pavements, cycle ways or green verges).
At the same time, the length of bus lanes has also been expanded, with plans indicating a bus lane on one side of the road for almost the entire length of Milton Road. The obvious victim of this did appear to be the grass verges. For example, the maps presented showed no grass verges north of Ramsden Square running to the King’s Hedges Road junction. This follows a presentation to the LLF where the following was presented as the proposed outbound view:
I was at the GCP Board meeting where these proposals were agreed despite resistance, with Labour Councillors scrambling to heap praise on local residents and providing assurances that the ‘Final design concept’ was an exciting development of their ‘Do optimum plans’. They in fact appear to be moving further and further from those proposals.
However, I would warn the GCP Board (and its City representative Cllr Lewis Herbert) that they clearly underestimate Milton Road residents at their own peril. If these plans continue to deteriorate and they break their commitment to an avenue of mature trees; they will be challenged, they will be resisted and they will be held to account.
The City Deal "Greenways" project is proposing a cycle/walking link from Waterbeach to Cambridge. This would come near to Chesterton, and possibly use the Halingway.
We'd like your thoughts on whether it should or not, and if it should, would you want to make changes to the tow path as part of it?
I regularly travel to London too see my girlfriend and/or friends, but experienced a very odd ticket issue yesterday, which has meant I've raised a complaint with greater anglia.
If any constituents have had this issue, please let me know
Further to consulting door to door and with residents associations via this post I have told officers and fellow County Councillors in neighbouring wards that I am not happy for plans to progress at this stage, until I have had time to run some meetings with resident, particularly around the Hurst Park area.
To be clear: a scheme around the Triangle area south of Milton Road is likely to go ahead, in some form; it is for the residents North of Milton Road to decide whether and what form they want to happen.
ALso for clarity: I will only be dealing with those roads in the County Division of Chesterton.
For those interested there is a video of the meeting where this was discussed, taken by a private individual, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKfTuZppwQw with my first contribution here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKfTuZppwQw#t=07m13s
Credit to Richard Taylor for the videos (http://www.rtaylor.co.uk/ ).
Provisionally I have booked Milton Road Library for 2017-10-11 and 2017-10-18 to run some workshops with residents to a) look at refining the current plans for north of Milton road and/or 2) start from scratch in working out what they might want.
I've also booked Milton Road library for 2017-10-05 from 18:00 - 19:00 to answer general questions about how schemes like this work, the background to the project etc. If there is time I'm happy to cover any other topics residents may wish to talk to me about.