New reports on water resources and local transport published

…as the party political debate in the Cambridge Independent heats up.

If you thought local government in/around Cambridge was complicated (As I wrote in my previous post), it just got even more so. You can read the article by the Chair of South Cambridgeshire’s Conservatives on house building targets here. In it, he is critical of “business lobby groups like Cambridge Ahead” for favouring “grossly inflated house building numbers, driven by turbo-charged employment growth-models”. Many people – myself included have raised the issue of the over-stretched water resources.

“There is no environmental capacity for additional development in the new Local Plan [2030 ono] to be supplied by with water by increased abstraction from the Chalk Aquifer. Even the current level of abstraction is widely believed to be unsustainable”.

Stantec Report for Greater Cambridge Planning, p17.

My criticism however has been aimed at Conservative ministers who have had over a decade to force water companies (that they privatised and have weakly regulated) to make the necessary investment to support the housing growth that their housing and planning ministers want. At the time of writing, the OxCam Arc is still Government Policy – see this from July 2021 only six months ago. Which reveals a break between what their local politicians are saying, and what their ministers in Government are saying. This is normal in politics and public policy making – but it also means there is an onus on ministers to listen and consider policy changes. Talking of ministers listening, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson again avoided calls for him to resign in what was a disastrous Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons earlier – where the Brexit Secretary David Davis called for him to go, while one of his own MPs ‘crossed the floor’ to join the Labour Party. Cllr Pippa Heylings (Liberal Democrats, Histon & Impington – who I wrote about here) who is standing for election to Parliament in South Cambridgeshire at the next general election has also called on her opponent, the incumbent MP to condemn the behaviour of the Prime Minister over #PartyGate.

We also know that Greater Cambridge Planning Service Planners have stated in the North East Cambridge Area Action Plan, the recommendation from the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Independent Climate Commission Report that Ministers and OfWat the regulator must ensure the water companies provide access to new supplies by 2025,

“The report makes a number of recommendations of relevance to the built environment, including [For Central Government and Ofwat to provide for the] investment to allow inter-company trading and water infrastructure improvements by 2025 to enhance water supply, including eliminating Cambridge’s dependence on the groundwater aquifer.”

Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Independent Climate Commission Report p49
“What’s happened since?”

In July 2021 we had an early look at a new Fens Reservoir scheme from Anglian Water and Cambridge Water, which I wrote about in September 2021. Then very recently, an association trying to co-ordinate the response to climate change and water shortages, Water Resources East, published a regional plan.

Above – the WRE Emerging Plan which you can access here.

“This emerging regional plan, which we are now widely consulting on, will inform the individual statutory water companies’ draft Water Resources Management Plans
(WRMPs), which they’ll be publishing and consulting on later in 2022, together with water management plans for other sectors and organisations”

Emerging Water Resources Regional Plan for E-England, p3.

Above – the timeline from WRE’s 2020-23 Business Plan

Given how vocal the debate is on our water resources, my take is that executives from the water companies, along with ministers, should be the ones going around the region meeting councillors, campaign and community groups and business organisations, because at the moment it feels like the real decision-makers are not the ones being held accountable for the lack of water. Again, I strongly encourage people to get in touch with their councillors and MPs to ask what they are doing to persuade water companies to speed up investment to deal with the problems of over-extraction and environmental damage so long as their political parties are in favour of the large levels of house building that has happened and is still proposed.

The Local Transport and Connectivity Plan – what the people said.

You can see the website at for the essentials.

The report on the consultation that several people and organisations complained about (Such as me when I was in hospital a few weeks ago) has been published in the latest set of meeting papers to the Greater Cambridge Board for their meeting on 26 Jan 2022 – see item 4.1 Appendix 1.

Above – the LTCP consultation responses analysis – item 4.1 App.1 here.

I’ve not looked through it in detail – that’s your job! (This blog is meant to be more of a sign post!) Furthermore, Gemma Gardner of the Cambridge Independent has written her report here. Not everyone was impressed.

As others have said, the number of responses is far too low (under 600 from the general public for a consultation that covered the county with a population of over 600,000 people – and hardly any seemed to be healthcare staff), and the questions of too poor a quality to be able to draw out substantial conclusions. The problem is the Combined Authority Board meets on 26 Jan 2022 (see the meeting papers here) with a paper (item 8.2, p13) asking the Board for authority to begin the next consultation on 31 January 2022.

“Moving fast?”

I can understand why Mayor Dr Nik Johnson is anxious to get going. He only has a four year term and he needs to get his transport strategy signed off as quickly as possible so he can start delivering the new buses he promised. Amongst other things. He cannot afford to make the same mistakes that the Greater Cambridge Partnership made – of which there are many. My concern remains that not nearly enough people know about the existence of the Combined Authority and GCP, let alone the big plans they have got. Therefore the consent of the public on some of the important details cannot be taken for granted. Which means they have to take overhaul how they do consultations. Problem is the time between now and the due date for the launch of the next consultation is less than two weeks. Not long enough to overhaul things.

“What could he do?”

Ensure there are proper review periods – or even a continuous system of feedback and learning with the transport plan. Anything sound that will enable the people that use the transport system on a regular basis to feedback their experiences and have the transport and policy officers making the small improvements having analysed that feedback. Some of that learning might include:

  • Learning from delivery methods of active travel routes – i.e. new footpaths and cycleways
  • Learning from bus drivers where the transport bottle necks are, and ideas on how to overcome them
  • Learning from people who make a regular, scheduled journey who can report back over-crowding on specific routes (Eg further education colleges to/from villages) to make sure extra buses can be provided and quickly
  • Learning from bus firms about actual and predicted staff shortages so that publicity to encourage new drivers, through to increased pay to encourage more entrants, can be brought in as and when needed

All of these experiences will also feed into the policy proposals that future mayoral candidates will have to develop – assuming ministers still want to go ahead with what I still believe to be a flawed model of sub-regional public administration.

A hot off the press transport update – on Cambridge South Station

Noting the meeting that happened late last year, interested parties represented included:

  • Astra Zeneca Ltd and Medimmune Limited (Yaaser Vanderman)
  • Cambridge University Hospital (Beverley Firth and Jacqueline
  • Lean)
  • Trumpington Residents Association (David Plank)
  • University of Cambridge (Matthew Dale-Harris)
  • Medical Research Council (Mark Westmoreland Smith)
  • CBC Estate Management Company Limited & Cambridge Medipark Limited (Andrew Tait QC)
  • Cambridge Ramblers Group (Paul Cutmore)
  • Cambridge Past, Present & Future (James Littlewood)
  • Countryside Cambridge One and Two (Andrew Tait QC)
  • Cambridgeshire County Council (Gareth Blackett)
  • St Mary’s School (Hannah Helliar)
  • Smarter Cambridge Transport (Edward Leigh)
  • Cambridge City Council (Jack Parker)
  • South Cambridgeshire District Council (Jack Parker)
  • Hobsons Conduit Trust (John Latham)

So…keep an eye on the National Rail Cambridge South site.

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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