Some local questions

Questions regarding King’s Hedges from Cab Davidson:

In response to confirming my candidacy for King’s Hedges in May’s County Council elections, Cab Davidson (@gnomeicide) raised some important local questions. I don’t think Twitter (140 characters) allows for a proper response; so please find my answers below:

[A] cycle route on remainder of Arbury Road is needed to best serve KH residents. Which do you support, parking or bike lanes?

I assume this is referring to the stretch of Arbury Road running between Milton Road and the Cambridge Gurdwara. I ride a recumbent tricycle and therefore I am acutely aware of how vulnerable cyclists can feel in this area, especially when riding up from Milton Road with cars parked on the left hand side.

Following recent boundary changes this area will fall within the new Chesterton Division and therefore is not an area where I have spoken to residents (yet – but I plan to now join Cllr Ian Manning in that area to discuss this very issue). As the King’s Hedges candidate, it may be politic to suggest that parking restrictions are applied and a full cycle lane added. However, this would be a very significant change that is likely to adversely affect the residents on Arbury Road (who have bought houses with on-street parking). Therefore I think it’s important that we discuss options with local residents and campaign groups (e.g. Cambridge Cycling Campaign) before making major changes. Where one group will be adversely affected, we must seek to find mitigations to help limit impact and provide compensatory measures.

From my travels across King’s Hedges, I have already highlighted to Council Officers a number of problems in the existing cycling network (e.g. the pram irons between Ramsden Square and Campkin Road, the narrow chicane leading onto Arden Road etc.).  As we seek to improve transport efficiency, we should be constantly identifying opportunities that will help reduce conflict between pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.

Thus far, [I have] seen no progress in dealing with pavement parking and grass verges being wrecked - how will you approach this?

First priority is identifying locations where this is a problem (usually created through parking of cars on grass), which we are doing through discussions with residents across the area.

Once identified there are two primary options; greater protection through clear and enforced parking restrictions, or paving over the area so that additional parking is available without messy mud pits.

As well as a cyclist, I am a naturalist (my undergraduate degree was Plant Biology), so my instinctive preference is towards preserving the greenspaces in the area, a huge asset of King’s Hedges which can be under-recognised. However I think there may some instances where the space under discussion has minimal environmental value and, with local resident consensus, we may consider extending car parking. For example, I am open to discussions with residents on Haviland Way who have suggested extending some parking bays on their road to remove the existing mud-pits.

Re[garding] trees/hedges in the ward; what are your priorities? Aesthetics, habitat or ease of management?

As noted, I do really value the greenbelts that run across King’s Hedges which significantly enrich living (and canvassing) in the area. There is also clear evidence of vibrant suburban ecosystem; there are not many city divisions where you get to see a Green Woodpecker on your travels.

I think aesthetics and habitat will normally be served together; a diverse and healthy environment is also more interesting and beautiful. However, there can obviously be need for compromise when considering ease of management and the other needs of local (human) residents, which I think is best addressed at initial planning stages.

For example, speaking to people on Apthorpe Way and Beales Way, some trees in that area have now grown so large that roots and branches have caused damage to local housing and some being inevitably removed. Such expensive and damaging interventions could have been avoided with better initial planning for the long-term, with consideration given to the species of trees planted and their distance from homes.

My priority will therefore be to work with officers, residents and local groups to develop the long-term plans for our area. I was recently admiring the Exeter St James Neighbourhood Plan and I am keen to discuss ideas for a similar project with local community groups. I understand that one such scheme is just beginning in South Newnham and I would be keen to work with the local community on a similar project.

I've got a BIG problem with Rosenstiel - he's still active among local LibDems. Are you ok with that?

I am attempting (possibly naïvely) to avoid personal disputes in my campaign as I’d rather focus on the issues around King’s Hedges. I understand that you are referring to an event that happened before I joined the party and I think it would be inappropriate for me to make public comments about sensitive personal matters.