The Rights of the River Cam – and Cambridge’s Biodiversity Strategy

The consultation on the new strategy opens next week – subject to approval from city councillors

Some of you may have spotted this by Tony Booth for Friends fo the River Cam.

[Update – the Cambridge News report from the event is now up here]

See also the poems via Alice Willitts here.

A number of people braved the rain and unseasonably cold summer weather for the declaration.

Prior to the gathering, a number of people in north Cambridge gathered for a rally to stop the sell off of Milton Road Library by the county council – a decision initiated by the previous Conservative-run county council’s arms-length body, “This Land”

You can also read the Cambridge News report here.

“Our libraries are safe civic spaces where communities gather, our imaginations are sparked and new conversations, knowledge, ideas and perspectives are discovered: absolutely critical as we work together to make the changes we need for a better future.

“I, along with my fellow Councillors, am fighting for the future of Milton Road Library for generations to come. The joint administration has only been in control for a month, and we have a large ship to turn – protecting the library was one of our first priorities.”

Cllr Hilary Cox Condron (Labour – Arbury Division) to Cambridge News, 21 June 2021

It remains to be seen whether it is possible for the new Joint Administration to reverse the decision, or whether Cambridge City Council are able to purchase the library and housing built on top as part of their council housing programme.

It was former city councillor Clare King who came up with the proposal. You can read the thread here.

Sounds like a credible route to follow. If you want this discussed at the Housing Committee meetings, get in touch with the Housing Committee Councillors here. Failing that, the next Strategy and Resources Committee on 05 July 2021.

Cambridge’s Biodiversity Strategy – out for consultation at the start of July – subject to approval from elected councillors.

It is in the meeting papers for the meeting on 01 July 2021 are here. See item 8, Appendix A

As an explainer to those of you unfamiliar with how something like the above is decided, the biodiversity strategy did not come out of nowhere. Sometimes there will be a legal requirements – with an Act of Parliament (or regulations approved under such an Act) requiring councils to do things. Sometimes it will be upon the resolution of the council at a meeting of the Full Council. Such as passing a substantive motion that might read: “The City Council shall produce a biodiversity strategy”. In this case, the production of the strategy comes from a motion of the city council’s full council declaring a climate and biodiversity emergency – something that required the council to review previous strategies.

It was then up to the executive councillor responsible to commission officers to produce it. So one way or another, we are at the stage where the senior officer (permanent, non-party-political council official) responsible presents the report to the executive councillor (whose appointment was approved by the full council at the start of the municipal year, when the Mayor is elected by councillors). In order for the strategy to be presented to the public, that has to be approved by the scrutiny committee responsible for holding officers and executive councillors to account. Which is what will happen on 01 July.

Screenshots from the meeting papers here, as well as the very detailed papers (anything that is in MegaBytes tends to be – if not at least full of images and diagrams rather than walls of text) generally indicates whether the any of the interested public can expect something substantive or routine.

Above – Mr Carre invites Cllr Alex Collis (Labour – King’s Hedges) – responsible for this policy area at Cambridge City Council to approve the next action. Again, this will be after councillors on the committee have had the chance to cross examine both Mr Carre and Cllr Collis. If there is an issue councillors are unhappy with, they can call for a vote against the recommendation, but given Labour’s large majority, this is extremely unlikely to happen. But comments from councillors can be taken on board – for example in this case it might be adding names of additional groups to the list of proposed consultees.

It’s the pictures, graphs, and diagrams that I tend to look out for.

There’s also the biodiversity toolkit – and the invitation to get involved.

“We hope this guide will be useful for City Council Community Engagement and Operations staff and especially for people who already volunteer with them – or who
might consider it in the future.”

Cambridge City Council – biodiversity toolkit, June 2021

Part of the strategy involves getting more people involved in helping protect our parks and green spaces. (See here for more on volunteering). Often this is through neighbourhood groups who look after specific stretches or areas – eg Friends of Cherry Hinton Brook, which every so often needs vegetation cutting back and re-gravelling.

One important project that is mentioned is the Cambridge Canopy Project. Part of the challenge here is ensuring trees get enough water during the now more frequent periods of extended dry weather.

I spotted this – a massive rain-water filled water butt that can be used to fill up watering cans with the weight of the water pressure. It enables residents to water trees and verges outside their properties on their roads without having to use water from the mains. I’ve asked councillors to see if the water companies can subsidise the purchase/installation costs.

Food for thought?

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