This is the fifth of our regular updates on local issues during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Car park charges restarting 1st September
Parking charges and enforcement for vehicles using council-owned surface-level car parks will be recommencing. This includes Adam and Eve Street car park, which had been free to use until this point.
Traffic management schemes
The local authorities are still progressing their programme of traffic and public realm schemes in the city. Because experimental traffic orders are being used, there is no prior public consultation and no formal role for councillors, but we are making every effort to ensure that local residents’ views are heard before decisions are made. This is the current state of play in our area:
- Victoria Avenue/Maid’s Causeway – the plan for a camera-enforced ‘bus gate’ closure against private vehicles has been postponed for further consideration. We know from contacts with you that there are views on both sides about this and, if the plan is revived, we will continue to feed these into the people in charge.
- St Andrew’s Street – likewise this prohibition to private vehicles has been deferred for more detailed consideration. There are pros and cons to the proposal and we will try to ensure all views are considered if the plan resurfaces.
- Benet Street area – a trial is planned to restrict traffic in Corn Exchange Street and thus cut vehicle numbers in Benet Street and Trumpington Street. Streets in this area generally have narrow footways and are busy with pedestrians and cyclists, with various food and beverage providers looking for opportunities for outside seating space. Timeslots would be maintained for deliveries to businesses and for other essential needs. We understand this plan may happen soon and will run for a couple of months initially.
- Silver Street – the camera-enforced bus gate in Silver Street is now operating 24/7 in both directions, with the aim of improving conditions for cycling and walking.
The schemes will be introduced on a temporary basis and there will be a public consultation before a decision is taken on whether they should become permanent.
Café/restaurant trading on the public highway
The government has introduced a short-cut procedure aimed at helping the economy and the vitality of urban centres, and many businesses are taking advantage of this to create more space outside on pavements and in some cases within the carriageway, e.g. at Green Street. We are giving our views on the safety and feasibility of each of these applications.
Mutual Aid groups
Market Ward Mutual Aid groups are still up and running and available to help any Market residents who are self-isolating, either as a result of a positive test for COVID-19 or as a result of advice from the Test, Track and Isolate system or your medical practitioner. Volunteers can help with shopping for food or other items, picking up prescriptions, walking dogs, or having a chat by phone or online for anyone who would find this helpful (even if you are not self-isolating). Volunteers can also make referrals to more specialist services for care and support where appropriate via our community hubs at the city and county councils and they can help residents access our free food hubs and food banks across the city. If you need any help, or if you wish to volunteer, please contact the group at email@example.com or you can email Katie, who is the lead councillor for Mutual Aid in our ward at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We wanted to pass our thanks to the Mutual Aid coordinators in Market Ward, Gina, Sophia and Catherine as well as to the Wesley Church, who have kindly acted as treasurer for our funds since the pandemic began. It has been such a valuable and useful resource and we are very grateful to all of you who have played a part in this since March and who are continuing to do this as we move to a new stage in the management of the pandemic. It makes us all very proud to be representing you in Market.
Have your say!
As many of you will be aware, Market Ward is part of the West Central Area Committee (WCAC), a council group which meets several times a year to discuss issues affecting our ward (along with Newnham and Castle) and our residents. As a result of the pandemic, this will be our first online WCAC and we'd welcome your involvement. It will take place in the evening on Thursday 10th September (time TBC) and you can submit questions in advance of the meeting, attend (virtually) to speak if you notify the council in advance or you can follow it on the live stream. More details of how to submit questions and the live link to the meeting will appear a week before the meeting here. We hope to have a report from the local police team, an update on environmental schemes in our ward and officers from the city and county councils speaking on areas of interest.
This is the fourth of our brief updates on council-related matters during the lockdown.
Parking enforcement resumed Monday 15th June
From Monday 15th June usual enforcement of resident’s parking has restarted, along with bus lane enforcement. This is timed to coincide with reopening of non-essential retail. Please let your neighbours and friends know to avoid risk of incurring fines.
New traffic controls affecting our area
The Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) and County Council have announced plans for experimental traffic controls around the city centre. As local councillors we had no prior notice of these plans, so we are rushing to try and understand them and keep you informed as best we can. The schemes affecting our area are:
Maid’s Causeway – Victoria Avenue: A full-time camera-operated bus gate will be placed along these two streets so that through traffic has to use Chesterton Lane and Elizabeth Way instead. It will require local residents to change routes for some journeys, but all homes will be accessible at all times. The location for the bus gate is not yet decided, with the need for access to the city centre via Jesus Lane being one consideration. Traffic officers say they believe motor vehicle flows on Maid’s Causeway will reduce.
St Andrew’s St/Hobson St: A part-time (10am to 5pm or 6pm) camera-operated bus gate at the Emmanuel St/St Andrew’s St junction to reduce vehicle traffic using St Andrew’s St, Hobson St and King St. This is an “Access only” route already, but it is widely abused and the bus gate will ensure compliance.
Historic centre: Extension of the pedestrian zone hours to 10am-5pm or 6pm.
Fitzroy Street/Burleigh Street: Extension of the motor vehicle prohibition zone hours to 10am to 5pm or 6pm.
Silver Street: Extend vehicle prohibition to full-time in both directions.
Outside Market Ward, schemes are proposed for the Newtown area, Grange Road, Storey’s Way, Luard Road, Nightingale Avenue and Carlisle Road.
The schemes will be introduced on experimental traffic regulation orders for up to 18 months with delivery after mid-July. The decision to proceed will be taken by a council official with the County Council Highways committee, with no formal role for local councillors, but we are trying to make sure the schemes are sensibly designed.
Public consultation will run throughout the experimental period and we will make sure you receive information on how to respond. At the end of the experiment, the measures will either be removed or made permanent, with decisions taken by councillors on the Highways committee.
We know there will be concerns about some of the planned changes and we would always prefer to see public consultation in advance and decision-making by an accountable committee of councillors. The pandemic is, however, forcing unexpected changes and we believe there’s value in using that opportunity to try to improve how Cambridge deals with traffic. The schemes may make the conditions for cycling and walking better, whilst reducing carbon emissions and pollution. They may work and be popular - or they may not, and that’s what the experiments will reveal.
As always, we will do our utmost to support the interests of our local community:
- We will work now to make sure the schemes take your interests into consideration
- We will support you in making your views known during the experimental period
- We will insist on transparent and accountable decisions after the experiment ends
Decluttering the city centre
You may also notice some changes happening in the city centre as the City and County Councils work to assist social distancing and provide additional cycle parking. We have proposed that A-Boards are removed and feel that in busy places with narrow pavements the area occupied by café tables may need to reduce.
At May’s meeting of the City Council, Cllr Tim Bick successfully gained unanimous agreement that the Council would aim to use the achievement of housing rough sleepers during the pandemic to engender longer-term change. His motion, supported by Cllrs Martinelli and Porrer, focused on how access to services for substance abuse and addiction for vulnerable individuals could be improved.
Extended construction hours
As part of the national response to the pandemic, hours of work on construction sites may be extended to allow for social distancing. We are aware this may impact on residents and therefore have gained agreement that there will be consultation with councillors before out-of-hours work is approved - please contact us if you have any issues.
The aim from the Council remains to keep the market open - details on how to achieve this whilst avoiding overcrowding remain under consideration. We are grateful to all traders and would like to thank those who have continued operating under the difficult circumstances of lockdown.
Market Ward's local councillors have put together a new update with key information on local services, which we hope will be helpful. We are all grateful for the acts of kindness and committed public service that abound in these difficult times. It obviously remains vital for us to follow the guidance that is being set and to hope for a gradual end to this crisis. Stay safe!
The bins – The collection of green bins by the city council is resuming this month. Collections days will be the same as the blue bins. Because it has become slightly more labour-intensive to ensure social distancing among the crews, they are only guaranteeing one of your two dates in May and will just do their best to achieve the other: you can check against your address here: https://www.cambridge.gov.uk/check-when-your-bin-will-beemptied.
- If you use brown bags rather than green bins, and you need more bags, please tell Tim at his email address email@example.com as soon as possible.
Out-of-town recycling centres – The county council is re-opening these next week (including our closest at Milton). The emphatic message is only to visit if it is really essential, ie if you cannot store the waste at home safely or use kerbside or bulky waste collections. Because of the social distancing challenges and the potential for a lot of suppressed demand, a series of new operating rules have been introduced, including some limitation on items accepted, which you would be well-advised to consult before setting out to avoid disappointment. You can find them here: https://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/news/household-recyclingcentres-will-be-open-on-monday-11-may-for-essential-use-only.
Parking – The current position is that the county council has suspended enforcement, apart from cases of obstructing the highway or other dangerous parking. The city council is also not charging for use of its surface car parks (like Adam & Eve Street). No decision has been taken over how long these things will last, but clearly once shops and offices in the city centre start to open again, the system will need to revert to normal. The council has promised to give due notice before enforcement restarts, and obviously we will do our best to spread the word when news reaches us.
Rough Sleepers – We said last time that the council is trying to get all rough sleepers into accommodation so they can self-isolate. By the end of last week 120 have been offered and accepted rooms, but a small number have been evicted or refused and additional individuals are still being found. The accommodation includes local hotels, student rooms and some council properties. We are keen to see a longer-term plan to prevent people going back to rough sleeping after the lockdown is over: there could be lasting progress here! Meantime, to highlight an individual who is still rough sleeping so an offer can be made, call 0300 500 0914 or report online at www.streetlink.org.uk.
Aggressive begging – We’ve heard reports of some aggressive begging around the city centre. This won’t necessarily be rough sleepers and may be a facet of less footfall on the streets making begging less lucrative. Please report any incidents of this to the Police on 101 or online at https://www.cambs.police.uk/report/Report. Our advice remains not to give money to beggars and contribute instead to the local charity which has been set up as a positive way of helping people off the streets: https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/cambridgeshirecommunity/csa.
Mutual Aid Teams – These great networks of neighbours remain in operation and are an important place to turn for those who need help while self-isolating. If you would like to either offer or receive help, email MarketWardAid@gmail.com or, if not an email user, call the city council on 01223 457000 who will put you in touch - or ask any of us. Please let others know about this, especially if they may be needing help. Contact us if we can help in any way.
Market Ward's local councillors have put together a short update during this unprecedented and worrying period. We hope you are managing well and find it helpful.
Mutual Aid teams – We hope you are aware of the fantastic street-by-street network of volunteers that has sprung up across our ward and the city to help neighbours out. If you aren’t, and would like to find a way of offering or receiving help, contact MarketWardAid@gmail.com. If you know of someone who isn't an internet user please call the City Council on 01223 457000 who will put you in touch – or you can ask any of us. Please let others know about this, especially if they may be needing help.
The bins – This is to remind you that at least until 4th May green bin collection has been suspended, so please don’t put them or brown bags out. The council took this decision to try and ensure black and blue bin collection can continue while staff are ill or self-isolating. They are asking that you put food waste in your black bin and try and compost garden waste. Note also that collection days will shift temporarily over the Bank Holidays and you can check these here:
Parking – Residents have reported unusual difficulties finding space in the residents’ parking scheme in the daytime because more are working from home. We have been in touch with the County Council and can report there will be increased flexibility, as long as vehicles are not parked dangerously or obstructively, but please get in touch with us for more specific details. The City Council has also stopped charging for use of the Adam & Eve Street car park.
Rough sleepers – As part of the Covid public health emergency the council is trying to get all rough sleepers into specially commissioned accommodation where they can self-isolate. So far around 60 have been placed. If you see anyone sleeping rough, please let the council know by calling 0300 500 0914 or via www.streetlink.org.uk. This will enable the street outreach team to go and talk to them and either make an offer or encourage acceptance of an earlier offer.
Other – There are lots of sources of information for this crisis available. Here are several:
Government Guidelines and other measures - https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
NHS Advice – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
Tenant/Landlord Guidance - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-and-renting-guidance-for-landlords-tenants-and-local-authorities
Updates on council services – https://www.cambridge.gov.uk/coronavirus-changes-to-our-services
We hope this is useful. Do contact us if we can help in any way. Meantime, in these difficult times, let’s keep on celebrating and thanking those giving their own time for acts of kindness and neighbourliness and above all those working in our public services. Follow the guidance – stay home (if your job allows) and keep safe!
Market Liberal Democrats are keen to help the community in any way possible as the country deals with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our priority is making sure that vulnerable people, particularly those self-isolating, are able to access the help they need. If you, or anyone you know, is having issues, please let us know by email or phone. Mutual aid is also being co-ordinated by the community through a Facebook group and if you need help there is also a WhatsApp chat or online form.
Please be aware that Cambridgeshire Constabulary have, sadly, reported cases of rogue traders using the pandemic to take advantage of the vulnerable. Please see their advice at http://bit.ly/3d6gtgS.
City Centre retail, including the market, will of course experience huge difficulties due to the change in lifestyles enforced by the pandemic. We hope to see robust measures from central government to support business and traders, but if you think we can help please get in touch.
For all the latest official medical advice, please see: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/.
Local Market Ward councillors, Katie Porrer, Tim Bick and Anthony Martinelli recently put forward a bid for "succession tree planting" on Parker's Piece, as part of their budget amendment to Council. The plan would have seen funding allocated to ensure that semi-mature trees are in place at the Piece's perimeter before older trees die and that consideration would be given to planting extra trees where appropriate. Cllr Martinelli and Cllr Porrer had attended a recent community meeting about trees on the Piece, where it was clear that there was considerable support for proper planning for replacement trees and for investigating means of improving biodiversity, whilst protecting the iconic character of the area and its use for recreation and sport.
Cllr Porrer said: “We are very keen to see more planting of trees in the city, as they help to soak up carbon and traffic pollution and provide shade. But like many residents we don’t want to limit recreational usage of Parker’s Piece or its sense of space which is so unique in a city centre."
“It seems to us that this is the right time to implement the recommendation of the Parker’s Piece Conservation Plan - to plant the next generation of trees which will eventually succeed to the majestic avenues as they come towards the end of their natural lives. If we don’t act now, we’ll face a very barren place in the future.”
The scheme, which would have provided for public consultation and professional landscape advice was rejected by the ruling group, but the campaign will continue.
In addition, Cllr Bick raised the issue of the future of the "North Pole" funfair which has created significant issues for residents over the winter. It has expanded dramatically in scope in recent years, resulting in the destruction of areas of the grass. Similarly, Cllr Martinelli awaits a written response to his oral question on the path resurfacing works which, as of February 2020, have been ongoing since July 2019 despite original plans to complete the works within 15 weeks. It is hoped that these works will also see the installation of a final heritage lamppost to illuminate the crosswords near the public toilets, which has been awaiting completion since the funding was originally won by ward councillors in April 2016.
Local Lib Dems have hailed the publication of a new feasibility study focused on improving Cambridge’s Market Square. Published by the City Council, the document looks at a range of ways the Square could be rearranged and refurbished to allow greater use by the community, whilst retaining a vibrant trading market.
Cllr Tim Bick, Market Ward Councillor and Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, noted “We originally pushed hard for this study to be funded, so it is gratifying to see such a comprehensive analysis brought forward. Residents often tell us how much they enjoy using the market, but we need to be creative about how we use our civic spaces whilst maintaining their historic character.”
The next stage of the project will aim to align the study with a new, city-centre-focused “supplementary planning document” which has been commissioned to explore how the city centre could be made more accessible. When this is published, further proposals on the Market Square are likely to be brought forward, with a view to public consultation in summer 2020.
Cllr Anthony Martinelli, Lib Dem spokesperson covering the City Centre, stated “I think the report does a really good job at setting the scene and coming up with some fresh ideas for the Square. We want to have an active local market whilst also being able to use the area into the evenings, which is currently not the case. All of the potential schemes would represent a significant investment in the city centre, but are currently unfunded - we will need to have a serious conversation about what our options are for taking things forward.”
Cllr Katie Porrer, also of Market Ward, commented “I know that some people are worried about the effect these changes could have on the market traders, so we were really pleased to meet with a few of them at setting-up time last week. We completely understand the concern - it represents their livelihood - and we all have a duty to make sure we take any proposals forward with the engagement of all stakeholders in the ward and beyond.”
Market Councillor Tim Bick used October's meeting of Cambridge City Council to call on the County Council to halt the withdrawal of funding from specialist hostels for rough sleepers, with a particular focus on Willow Walk which is located within the Ward. His motion, seconded by fellow Market Councillor Katie Porrer, was passed unanimously by the Council.
Writing in the Cambridge Independent, Cllr Tim Bick explained the situation:
The proposed closure of the Willow Walk hostel and the promised emergence of “housing first” in Cambridge brings into focus different ways of helping rough sleepers off our streets.
The city currently provides a pathway for single homeless people, graduated according to the challenges they face in getting back into mainstream housing. Those with few obstacles receive advice and signposting. Those who have difficulty in immediately holding down an ordinary tenancy - often because of a long period of rough sleeping - are typically referred to a hostel. There they receive support to help them into mainstream housing. There are hostels specialising in different levels and types of need.
This approach succeeds for many, but a look on the streets in parts of the city at night shows that it doesn’t work for all. Many of those you see are entrenched rough sleepers, who have been in and out of hostels, without it working for them.
Most entrenched rough sleepers suffer from drug or alcohol addictions or mental illness, or both, and it’s difficult to help with these while a person is sleeping rough. Some prosper through the structure and companionship a hostel provides, but for others the discipline and being at close quarters with others are difficult to bear. People are different!
A new approach, ‘housing first’, enables some people, despite having significant obstacles, to jump over the hostel pathway, and into an ordinary tenancy, where they get the specialist support they need on a visiting basis. The difference between the two approaches is whether the support happens in a hostel prior to getting into mainstream housing, or whether it happens in a mainstream housing setting.
In other places in the UK ‘housing first’ has already become a very useful complement to other services, helping entrenched rough sleepers with a track record of not succeeding in hostels. In the report I published last year with County Councillor Nichola Harrison, we made it a top recommendation to bring this system to Cambridge. It’s good news that it’s now been promised.
Unfortunately, that’s not the end of the story. It seems that the county council intends to fund its ‘housing first’ initiative by withdrawing the funding it provides for hostels – in particular the Willow Walk hostel, owned and operated by Riverside Housing. Willow Walk is the only homeless hostel in the city specialised in supporting individuals with the highest level of need. Professionals and Police alike are concerned that this will remove the only suitable accommodation for many individuals.
In Cambridge our problem is too many people sleeping rough, not too much accommodation for them! ‘Housing first’ could fill an important gap, but I’m worried that paying for it by withdrawing existing services will leave some vulnerable individuals worse off.
Using ‘housing first’ for the wrong individuals could set them up to fail and land up back on the street, or could create problems for their near neighbours. Without high needs hostel accommodation, the city seems likely to see more people, not fewer, on the street.
This is why last week I won the city council’s support to ask their partner in homelessness services, the county council, to withdraw their plan to de-commission Willow Walk. Before contemplating such a move, they must carry out a proper needs analysis and define the new mix of future provision that will meet the full spectrum of needs.
Without this, we face the absurdity of Riverside Housing having to consider using Willow Walk hostel for homeless people from London, while some of Cambridge’s own most vulnerable citizens are left out in the cold.
Last year Cllr Bick and Cllr Harrison published a report into homelessness in Cambridge, which they updated in 2019.
Cambridge Lib Dems have called on the City Council to reconsider urgently its plan to install a barrier across King's Parade. The proposed installation, due to take place this autumn, would lead to loss of disabled parking spaces in the city centre and a substantially narrowed route of access for cycle traffic outside of peak hours.
Lib Dem members of the Cambridge Joint Area Committee had voted against the proposal in March, following which the scheme was paused due to legal issues surrounding the type of traffic regulation to be used.
"I have significant concerns that this barrier design is simply not suitable for a road like King's Parade" said Market Ward Councillor Nichola Harrison, "Cyclists will not have sufficient space to travel safely and this will impact on pedestrians too."
"Although this blockade is supposedly temporary, it could be present for up to two years. Alternative designs, for example incorporating a chicane, would cause less disruption whilst performing the same function."
The scheme had initially been suggested due to concerns regarding the possibility of terrorists targeting Cambridge's city centre, though there had been no specific threat to King's Parade.
"Whilst we clearly agree that ensuring the safety of Cambridge residents is a priority, this has to be done in proportion to the threat faced. Cambridge police did not approach the Council requesting this roadblock and we are told the overall threat level remains low." said Lib Dem Highways Lead Cllr Ian Manning.
An urgent decision to implement the scheme was communicated at a meeting of the Council's Strategy and Resources Committee on 7/10/2019. Chair of the West Central Area Committee, Cllr Anthony Martinelli (Lib Dem) commented:
"We discussed this at West Central Area Committee, which covers the city centre wards. Councillors were unanimous that this scheme was not appropriate in its current form and had not been thought through properly. I have written to both the Executive Councillor and the Chief Executive to request reconsideration."
Representing the city centre as Councillors brings with it a complex set of issues relating to antisocial behaviour, the nighttime economy and criminal activities. Having always enjoyed strong relationships with our neighbourhood police force through biannual reports at the West Central Area Committee, we have taken this further by arranging additional regular face-to-face briefings.
We had the opportunity to raise problems brought to us by residents including drug-dealing in the Brunswick area, mopeds disregarding traffic regulations and bike theft at the railway station. We were pleased to hear that antisocial behaviour reports are actually decreasing and that the city centre team will be expanding over the coming year.
We confirmed that the city centre policing team will retain a base at a police station in central Cambridge and gained useful insight into how the police review licensing requests in the Cumulative Impact Zone. We also discussed crime statistics for the area, which are available at https://www.police.uk/cambridgeshire/CamCity_Cambridge_City/crime/+Gs1t1U/ - although not having access to these in a tabulated form at Committee remains a source of frustration as we aim to recommend police priorities.
As always, the major message for residents is to keep reporting crimes to the police to give the team the data they need to make arrests.