“Cam Sam Slams G-Cambs”

Image from Cambridge 105

Alternative headline: What is the long term impact of no change of policy or strategy by the Greater Cambridge Partnership on community engagement and protest?

This relates to the Greater Cambridge Assembly meeting on 10 June, the video is here. The meeting papers are here.

You may have seen the social media posts.

You can read the thoughts of Cllr Sam Davies MBE (Ind – Queen Edith’s) here on the proposals for Cambridge South East Transport. You can also read the response to the consultation by Smarter Cambridge Transport here.

The alternative to the proposals are incorporated in the Cambridge Connect Light Rail – who are also opposed to the CSET proposals.

Above – the Cambridge Connect Light Rail proposals – updated for 2021.

For those of you interested in the above proposals, you can get in touch with the team here. Essentially the Isaac Newton Line makes use of the existing Cambridge-Haverhill railway line in the East, and preserves the fields in West Cambridge threatened by the proposed busway there by proposing two tunnels under the city (in part similar to the CAM Metro – now stopped by the new Mayor Dr Nik Johnson) from the west of the city to somewhere south of Mill Road. My preference is for such a pair of tunnels to emerge at Addenbrooke’s.

Given the inevitable funding constraints, my strong recommendation (as in previous posts) to businesses that were very interested in the CAM Metro, is to get behind the Cambridge Connect project and contribute towards the significant costs of the initial technical studies – without which the project cannot proceed. I think there’s an option for the Mayor – and the Greater Cambridge Partnership to offer match funding if the Greater Cambridge business community can come up with the balance.

Cllr Davies mentioned the Cambridge Biomedical Campus Transport Reviewyou can read the review here.

I tabled PQs to the Assembly on updates to the above review, but because the Campus itself was not a subject on their agenda, it was ruled procedurally out of order by the Chair, so will be subject to a written response (and less publicity) in due course.

The long term impact of being ignored by decision-makers

Former Cllr Francis Burkitt is the only board member on the Greater Cambridge Partnership Board who I have seen send back a paper presented to the board at a public meeting. How the papers for the next board meeting will determine whether Cllrs Herbert, Gough, and Meschini decide whether to go along with the proposals as presented to the Assembly, or whether they decide to direct partnership executives (the full time officials) to reappraise the policies and strategy in the face of the recent election results. Remember that when the Greater Cambridge City Deal was signed in 2014 – just before the city council elections that year, the nominal board was made up of two Conservatives, and one Liberal Democrat – reflecting the party political control of Cambridgeshire County Council, South Cambridgeshire District Council, and Cambridge City Council. Cambridge Labour overturned the LibDem majority in the elections that year giving Cllr Lewis Herbert the city council seat. Since 2018 we’ve seen the Conservatives lose control of South Cambs to the LibDems, and most recently the County Council to the Joint Administration (LibDem + Lab + Ind).

If there is no visible difference in the policies of the partnership, will the electorate wonder what it was all for?

That is not to say “Stop what you are doing and leave everything as it is”. I set out in an earlier blogpost that the GCP needed to take a different direction, and the Assembly needed to provide that political steer / provide The Board with the political cover to direct officers to make that change. As Cllr Davies writes, the Assembly failed collectively to do this, even though there were individual councillors that spoke out with concerns.

There are credible alternatives out there. Not just Cambridge Connect, but also credible proposals from the likes of the Cambridge Cycling Campaign, and Smarter Cambridge Transport. Three specific factors give board members the cover to change direction:

  • The continued rising profile of the climate emergency
  • The impact of the CV19 pandemic on public opinion and on what the public values as of growing importance (eg access to green spaces, safer walking and segregated cycling routes)
  • The local election results

Most recently, Living Streets Cambridge published results of an online survey which over 300 people responded to. Nearly two-thirds of them were unhappy with their experiences as pedestrians in Cambridge.

For those of you interested in joining, see https://www.livingstreets.org.uk/ and see the link on the top right of the page.

“What if nothing changes?”

Two things are possible.

The first is that you could end up with street protests like in 2016 in West Cambridge – especially if the elections are seen to have made no difference. (Thus proving the point made by Extinction Rebellion protesters in recent years that non-violent direct action gets results).

The second is that it will put people off from engaging at all, let alone constructively if all they see is business as usual in the face of continued representations – and in particular representations where campaigners have done the in-depth research (this is Cambridge remember), engaged with experts or have become experts themselves in the process. (Again, this is Cambridge – campaigners have been known to study at post-graduate level on the issue they are campaigning on).

I like to point people new to campaigning on local issues to https://www.writetothem.com/ in order that it may start new conversations between residents and their local councillors. But it’s got to be seen to have an impact at some stage. Especially where some of those conversations (or lack of) may have led to changes via the ballot box.

Am I hopeful that the issues Cllr Davies has raised in her post will be addressed substantively? To be honest, based on the past actions of the GCP, I’m not.

Have a listen to the public question from Edward Leigh of Smarter Cambridge Transport from 26mins40secs, and the response from Peter Blake, the Director of Transport for the GCP that follows:

Above – yes, that meeting was over 5 hours long. (The papers are here)

For those of you who want to ask more questions, you can contact the Partnership via https://www.greatercambridge.org.uk/contact-us (please don’t send abusive messages to the comms team – they are not the decision-makers, and also it’s illegal). Some of you may also be interested in the Freedom of Information page for the GCP here by My Society.

If you are interested in the longer term future of Cambridge, and on what happens at the local democracy meetings where decisions are made, feel free to:

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