Witcham litter pick

A beautiful day for a litter pick in Witcham. A well organised event, plenty of volunteers, a pleasant stroll down The Slade in the sunshine with my litter-pick partner Frances, and lots of bags filled with empty drink cans, crisp packets, chocolate wrappers, and general rubbish. We had to leave the traffic cone we found under the hedge!

Recent planning applications

The following local applications have been published by East Cambridgeshire District Council.

17/01751/FUL
Little Downham
10 Bury Green, Little Downham CB6 2UH
Single storey rear extension.

17/01794/FUL
Little Downham
Poplar Farm, 2 Fourth Drove Little Downham
Replacement dwelling.

17/01798/FUL
Little Downham
5 Bishops Close, Little Downham CB6 2TQ
Two storey side extension plus front and rear single storey extension (see 16/01778/FUL).

17/01800/OUT
Sutton
123 High Street, Sutton CB6 2NR
Erection of nine two-storey dwellings, garages, and associated works following the demolition of the existing bungalow.

17/01792/FUL
Witchford
Land adjacent to 39 Manor Close, Witchford
New dwelling.

Further information can be found on the district council’s planning pages.If you would like to respond formally to the council about any planning application, comments should be addressed to the district council and not to me.  Comments may be made

  • online using the council’s public access webpage (the link above);
  • by email to plservices@eastcambs.gov.uk;
  • or by post to the Planning Department, The Grange, Nutholt Lane, Ely, CB7 4EE.

New ambulance standards

New ambulance standards are about to be introduced across the country, following trials in a number of locations.  Here in Cambridgeshire, the change is set to take place this month.

Under current national standards, ambulance services are allowed up to 60 seconds from receiving a call to sending a vehicle. Ambulance services are measured on how long it takes from receiving a 999 call to a vehicle arriving with the patient, and life-threatening and emergency calls should be responded to in eight minutes. This target however has not been met for the last two years.

Under the new standards, when you call 999 and ask for the ambulance service, the call handler will ask a few questions to assign your call into one of four different categories:

  • life-threatening (Category 1)
  • emergency (Category 2)
  • urgent (Category 3) and
  • less urgent (Category 4).

Each category will have different response times and standards. The link above contains a short animation about each call category.

The trials that have been carried out have been closely monitored and appear to have freed up capacity to respond appropriately to emergencies without compromising patient safety. While this is encouraging, it’s important that the new standards continue to be monitored, and to recognise that while they may help, they won’t in themselves solve all the challenges faced by our under-pressure ambulance services.

Image by Graham Richardson from Plymouth, England (South Western Ambulance VX09FYP) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Highways depot open day

This morning saw the annual open day for councillors at the Witchford highways depot. We were offered a bus tour to see different types of road surfacing, and watch gully emptying. Unfortunately the Dragon Patcher machine wasn’t out on Engine Bank in Mepal as intended, but it eventually went on display at the depot, breathing fire as promised.

Council officers were on hand to answer our questions on a variety of highways topics. One of the most moving conversations was with road safety education officer Matt Staton.

Aaron Cook from Willingham was just 19 years old when he and his motorbike were in a collision with a skip lorry on the road between Histon and Cottenham. He suffered multiple and fatal injuries. His courageous family have allowed the remains of his bike to be used to educate local young people about safety on our roads. Matt runs the council’s Cambs Drive IQ programme for novice and young drivers.

Recent planning applications

The following local applications have been published by East Cambridgeshire District Council.

17/01738/FUL
Mepal
The Three Pickerels, 19 Bridge Road, Mepal
Extensions, loft conversion and alterations plus change of use from public house to hotel.

17/01728/FUL
Sutton
Unit 5 & 6 Sterling Place, Elean Business Park, Sutton
Retain chiller cover building extension.

17/01768/FUL
Sutton
48 Bellairs, Sutton, Ely CB6 2RW
Proposed bedroom extensions to existing dwelling.

Further information can be found on the district council’s planning pages.If you would like to respond formally to the council about any planning application, comments should be addressed to the district council and not to me.  Comments may be made

  • online using the council’s public access webpage (the link above);
  • by email to plservices@eastcambs.gov.uk;
  • or by post to the Planning Department, The Grange, Nutholt Lane, Ely, CB7 4EE.

Controversial Witchford site deleted from Local Plan

East Cambridgeshire District Council approved the final draft of its Local Plan at its meeting on 5 October. In a sudden last-minute change, major site WFD.M1 in Witchford was deleted from the plan, with a revised recommendation circulated round the table without notice.

WFD.M1 is the large site in orange on the map, split in two by a thin green wedge, spreading from the Lancaster Way roundabout west into Witchford. It was put forward late in the local plan process by the Church Commissioners, who own the land. There was consequently much less opportunity for local residents to give their views on its inclusion.

The site was proposed for 720 houses, a massive increase in a village like Witchford. It was also intended to include a school, though the relationship between this and the existing Rackham school was not clear.

The deletion of the site is excellent news for residents and for Witchford Parish Council, who have campaigned vigorously against it.

The draft Local Plan needed to allocate land for 8,933 dwellings, but in fact allocated well in excess of this, a total of 10,490 dwellings. Although this was not stated, the deletion of WFD.M1 presumably means that this excess of 1,557 is almost halved to 837. No additional sites have been included to compensate for the removal of the 720 dwellings at WFD.M1. This can only mean that the district council will have to work very much harder to ensure that the dwellings remaining in the plan are actually built.

What next? The latest draft of the Local Plan, without WFD.M1, will be opened to public consultation in November for six weeks. After that, the plan and public comments will be handed to the planning inspector, who will hold a public inquiry into the draft plan next year. The plan is expected to be finally approved in autumn 2018.

The rules for responding to the draft Local Plan at this stage are much more restrictive than at previous stages. Further information here in due course.

For the record, despite the welcome deletion of WFD.M1, I voted against the draft plan. I have always maintained that spreading growth in small pockets everywhere was likely to lead to unsustainable developments without access to good (or even any) public transport, and to make it difficult to ensure sufficient infrastructure. It is clear the council needed a ‘fix’ to overcome the failure of its current Local Plan and the resulting ‘Klondike’ of speculative planning applications. But we will have to live with the proposals in the Local Plan for decades to come, and it isn’t something we can afford to get wrong.

Ely Library Fun Palace

This Saturday (7 October) between 12:00noon and 4:00pm Ely Library will be transformed into a Fun Palace!  A range of craft, art and science events will include weaving, quilting, a talk on how to find the constellations in the night sky, robots and coding, hands-on demonstrations from the Cambridge Science Centre’s Cosmos exhibition, making friendship bracelets, healthy eating demonstrations, and the Rocking Ukuleles will be teaching people how to play the ukulele. All are welcome, and everything is free.

We must fund our public services properly

Today the Conservative administration at Cambridgeshire County Council has been holding private press briefings on the County Council’s budget for the coming year.

Journalists are being told about the significant cuts which are being pushed through, cuts being made to Children’s Centres, savings on concessionary bus fares, among other reductions in services.

These are savings which could have been avoided if local Conservative councillors had made different choices here in Cambridgeshire.  For the past two years Cambridgeshire’s Conservative councillors have raised council tax by 2 per cent, while central government expected 4 per cent or 5 per cent rises.

Cambridgeshire was the only county council to increase council tax by only 2 per cent last year. Other counties all raised tax by at least 3 per cent.

If Cambridgeshire County Council had raised council tax by 4 per cent rather than 2 per cent for the past two years, they would have an additional £10 million in the revenue budget this year.  More than enough to save our children’s centres and improve our bus services.

An additional 2 per cent on Cambridgeshire’s council tax would cost an average household 50p a week. Single person households get a council tax reduction, those in smaller houses pay less.

For that small additional amount we could have our roads gritted, our potholes filled, our schools better funded, and our children’s centres kept open. This is the choice Conservative councillors have made.

The Liberal Democrats on Cambridgeshire County Council will continue to argue that we achieve more by working together, and that we must fund our public services properly, starting at home here in Cambridgeshire.

East Cambs District Council waste collection snafu

East Cambridgeshire District Council is scrambling to restructure its new Trading Company in order to avoid breaking the law when it takes the district’s waste collection service back in-house next April.

The council is allowed to award contracts to its own Trading Company without seeking outside bids, but only if at least 80 per cent of the Trading Company’s work is done for the council.

The council thought that all the work being done by the Trading Company’s housing development arm, Palace Green Homes, contributed to the 80 per cent requirement. But in a huge embarrassment for the council, it’s been advised that this isn’t the case.

As a result, the Trading Company is set to carry out far less than 80 per cent of its work for the council this year. And that means that in its present form it won’t be allowed to take over the waste contract on 1 April 2018, which was awarded to it by the council without other bids being sought.

All this leaves a red-faced council rushing through an urgent (and as yet unspecified) restructure of the company to try to avoid being caught without a legal waste collection service in six months’ time.