£20million for Northstowe (or is it?), a new website for Cherry Hinton, & a Public Inquiry for Cambridge South Station

Above – the sign at the Robin Hood Junction from the new Cherry Hinton website.Plus the changing of priorities with the Highway Code in the midst of the chaos in Whitehall.

While all of the fun and games in national politics has been happening, Cherry Hinton Village now has its own website – see https://www.cherryhintonvillage.co.uk/ – which sits nicely by their neighbours in Queen Edith’s who have the Queen Edith’s Community Forum. Next to them is the Trumpington Residents’ Association who have been around the longest. Then you have a Mill Road specific campaign group, Mill Road 4 People who form one side of the debate about whether Mill Road Bridge should be closed to general motor traffic vs the Mill Road Traders’ Association who are against. For the record in principle I’m in favour of the closure, but not until we’ve seen some radical improvements to public and active travel networks, including at least the commencement of the tunnels for the Cambridge Connect Light Rail Network. But as I’m not in the immediate vicinity of Mill Road, I’m going to remain a bystander as both sides and the local communities engage in the face-to-face workshops & new consultation.

In the meantime in London…

…and sometimes the truth can be stranger than fiction.

Highway Code changes – which will be in place by the time most of you read this.

With thanks to CamCycle (of which I am a member) for flagging this. In a nutshell the priorities are being re-ordered so that whoever has the larger vehicle is the one who has to show more due consideration to those in smaller vehicles, on cycles, scooters, horseback or walking.

“The hierarchy places those road users most at risk in the event of a collision at the top of the hierarchy. It does not remove the need for everyone to behave responsibly.”

See https://www.gov.uk/government/news/the-highway-code-8-changes-you-need-to-know-from-29-january-2022

British Sign Language to become a recognised language

Every so often, a back bench MP tables a small piece of legislation that gets such strong cross-party backing that Ministers choose to adopt it and give it enough both the resources of the civil service policy and legislative drafting teams, and Parliamentary time to enable it to become law. This is what is happening with proposals to make British Sign Language (BSL) an official language. The use of BSL interpreters became a big issue during the early part of the Covid crisis as the early daily ministerial statements were not accompanied by sign language interpretation. Given how we now take online video for granted in our day-to-day lives, this is the right move to make.

Cambridge South Railway Station – Public Inquiry Opens

Or rather it will on 01 Feb 2022.

You can see all of the documents here. – scroll down to “TWAO suite of documents” which basically is a link to the documents that Network Rail has submitted to the Planning Inspector responsible for the public inquiry under the Order signed off by the Minister under legal powers granted to ministers under the Transport and Works Act 1992. And it’s full of ***lots of interesting pictures and diagrams***. These are from NR13 “Deemed Planning Drawings” <<– It’s a big document.

Above – the view from above.

Above – a sliced-through view.

Above – the main entrance to the station.

Above – an artist’s impression of Cambridge South – from NR 15 – the design & access statement. <<– Also a big document.

“How’s East-West-Rail progressing?”

Slowly but surely – see Cambridgeshire County Council here, and the 2019 prospectus here. The first consultation is now over, you can see some of the local-to-Cambridge proposal maps here. One of the sticking points is whether the line should approach Cambridge main station from the north or the south, before heading further eastwards. It’s worth keeping up to date with Rail Future East – especially if you are a commuter on the trains. Talking of which:

Saturday 26th February 2022 – Rail Future East’s AGM – Bury St. Edmunds at 14:00
Friends Meeting House, St John’s Street, Bury St Edmunds, IP33 1SJ”

Rail Future East

Bury St Edmund’s is also a lovely East Anglian Town which makes for a nice morning out should you be interested. It’s full of independent shops and also has its own cathedral and ruined Abbey.

Northstowe’s cash bonanza – or is it?

You can:

The latest update on what’s happening is via their Youtube Channel.

Other recent videos can be seen on the Northstowe Community Forum page here.

Of all of the meeting papers on outline planning permission, the concessions that local councillors and communities have been able to negotiate with developers are at Appendix 3b – B: Northstowe Phase HoT. This is where they have calculated the financial value of the concessions, reaching a figure in principle of over £20million. What percentage that is of the sales profits of the new homes remains to be seen.

Furthermore, for many residents some of the funding may not seem like a ‘nice to have’, but rather an essential component that central government should be funding – whether directly or via local councils. Such as improved road junctions. The same goes for services that the law requires the provision of – such as schools when the population of children reaches a certain number. In which case £20m seems like an over-estimate if, like me you tend to think of such developer funding going towards the ‘nice to haves’. I still have a lot to learn, even after over a decade of watching local government in Cambridge!

One of the things I picked out was the amount allocated to contribute towards a new swimming pool – but not the construction of it itself. So it will be interesting to see what becomes of it because North East Cambridge has a similar proposal – for a contribution towards a new swimming pool but little sign of where it might be. And that’s before working out whether it will be easily accessible to the communities that will need it the most. I’ve see in my civil service days such public facilities have money allocated to them for anti-poverty measures, only to be located in a more affluent part of town with token measures for the communities it was supposed to help. This cannot be allowed to happen this time around.

To list the categories:

  • Affordable housing – 40% (I hope this is evaluated post-completion to see if this was hit, and if not why not)
  • Sports provision
  • Transport
  • Healthcare
  • Community
  • Education
  • Open space
  • Drainage.

There are more than enough people more competent than me who are scrutinising the proposals in detail – including the issues over water provision and the impact of extraction on the environment. Again, this is still something that in my view has not been dealt with by the water companies and by ministers with anything like the urgency that is now needed.

It will be interesting to see how the above compares with Waterbeach Newtown, Cambourne West, North East Cambridge, and also the Cambridge Airport sites.

And finally…

With all new proposed facilities, councillors and planners should consider what district and county-scale facilities can be built as part of the new developments – if only to make up for shortfalls created by previous generations of expansion that did not provide the essential community infrastructure. Hence why I would like Cambridge City Council to revisit the principle of a permanent capital fund to enable the city & surrounding towns to raise the even a fraction of sums Cambridge University seems able to do, to go towards the provision of new / improved civic and leisure facilities. The incentive to improve public and active transport links for surrounding towns and villages is that the stronger the transport links, the better the case they can make to access support from the funds raised.

Food for thought?

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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