Lib Dem leadership: the timetable is set

The Liberal Democrats have today agreed the timetable to elect the next leader of the party.

Nominations will open on Monday 11 May and close on Thursday 28 May. The ballot (of all members – we’re a democratic party) will then open on Thursday 18 June and close on Wednesday 15 July, after which the party will announce the next leader.

The candidates will by definition be fished from a limited pool. They must be Members of Parliament and must be proposed by at least 10 per cent of other members of the Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons (that would be a threshold of two out of the current eleven).

Some have already ruled themselves out, or like Tim Farron will not stand again. Three of the eleven are brand new, elected to Parliament for the first time only last month.

Ed Davey, defeated in the last contest by Jo Swinson, is currently acting in the leadership role, and will no doubt throw his hat in the ring again. I voted for him last time, largely because I felt that Jo would face exactly the problems she did indeed face – defending her own marginal seat miles from Westminster, and trying to do so by running effectively a Scottish campaign across the whole of the UK.

(Note 1: that clearly wasn’t the only problem Jo and the party faced last month. The party needs its internal debrief to be firmly honest about the many shortcomings of the Lib Dem General Election campaign last month.)

(Note 2: for what it’s worth as a resident of England, though not born in England, one of the things I never understood about the campaign was why it was absolutely essential to hold a second referendum on membership of the EU while simultaneously absolutely unthinkable to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence. In the changed circumstances we now face, with the assurances about Scotland’s future as part of the UK in the EU given at the last ‘Indyref’ now lying in tatters, it seems to me entirely reasonable to ask the Scots whether they wish to think again, and I have a feeling that ultimately if we’re not careful the Liberal Democrats may find ourselves on the wrong side of history on this one.)

A number of challengers to Ed have been mentioned, all female: three from the ‘class of 2017’ – Layla Moran (Oxford West & Abingdon) most prominently, but also Christine Jardine (Edinburgh West) and Wera Hobhouse (Bath) – and newcomer Daisy Cooper (St Albans) elected to Parliament only last month.

The leadership campaign therefore is likely to look like Ed v The Rest on two counts. Gender obviously, but also the choice between someone who was a significant minister in the coalition government of 2010-2015, or a new leader who was not even a member of parliament during those years.

It’s clear that the Johnson government is here for the long haul, and that there is no hope of another party running the country for at least another ten years (my guess is more like fifteen or twenty). Is my previous choice the candidate for that long haul? Or would the party be better placed with a post-coalition leader unencumbered by the past and looking to that long-term future?

At the moment, depending whose names end up on the ballot paper, Ed will need to persuade me not to vote for the connoisseur’s choice, Daisy Cooper. But there will be lots for party members to hear from all the hopefuls in the coming months.

Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Against Scams

I’ve just joined up as a supporter of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Against Scams Partnership (CAPASP). Increasing numbers of parish councils and other organisations are doing the same.

Every so often I’ll be posting up the latest information about scams and how to avoid them.

Your digital footprint

https://getsafeonline.org/yourdigitalfootprint/ is an article on the Get Safe Online website all about your ‘digital footprint’ and why you should take care online.

For more information about scams

  1. Follow the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Against Scams Partnership (CAPASP) on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/CAPASP19/ or Twitter @CambsPboroAgainstScams
  2. Visit the CAPASP website www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/against-scams  

Histon Road Cambridge closures ahead

One of the main routes from the A14 into Cambridge will be seriously disrupted over the next fifteen months for major works to be undertaken.

Histon Road will be closed inbound from May, from a point south of Kings Hedges Road to allow vehicles to turn from the A14 into Kings Hedges Road and vice versa.

Details of the closure arrangements can be found here.

Meanwhile, if you want to be kept up to date with the scheme:

  1. You can sign up to receive regular email updates from the contractor Skanska – register at www.greatercambridge.org.uk/subscribe, selecting Histon Road in the Projects section.
  2. You can view the project web pages at www.greatercambridge.org.uk/histon-road
  3. You can visit the public drop-in points which Skanska will announce nearer the time.
  4. You can contact Skanska’s project team on histonroad.contact@skanska.co.uk or telephone their 24 hour contact centre on 0330 105 1980.

Lancaster Way roundabout objection

I’ve written to East Cambridgeshire district council’s planning department as the county councillor for Witchford to support Witchford Parish Council’s objection to planning application 19/01704/FUL for the changes to the roundabout at Lancaster Way. The roundabout is not in my county division, but Witchford is—a great many Witchford residents use it, and the proposed changes will affect them.

The proposed scheme has been drawn up with only motor vehicles in mind, and with no serious consideration for pedestrians and cyclists whose use of the roundabout it will make more dangerous by reducing verge space for active travel, and increasing the number of lanes walkers and cyclists will have to cross.

Skanska’s assessment of the scheme is poor: it gives scant space to assessing the needs of pedestrians and cyclists, and even then only considers pedestrian and cyclist flows west-east to Ely and the railway station. There’s no reference to crossing the A142 north-south in any kind of safety at or near the roundabout. And it doesn’t mention equestrians at all—there are a large number of horses south of the A142 near the roundabout.

The proposed scheme breaches the emerging Combined Authority Local Transport Plan, and in particular its user hierarchy. S2.17 (P68 of the draft Plan) says: “This Local Transport Plan privileges the ‘active modes’ over other forms of transport, as we believe that their benefits align closely with our three goals of Economy, Equity and Environment”. There is no evidence that the proposal for the roundabout aligns with this strategy or ‘privileges’ active travel in any way at all.

The proposed scheme also breaches the district council’s Local Plan policy COM7 which states (P104) that “Development should be designed to reduce the need to travel, particularly by car, and should promote sustainable forms of transport appropriate to its particular location. Opportunities should be maximised for increased permeability and connectivity to existing networks.” This application will promote car travel to the detriment of sustainable alternatives, and reduce still further any remaining connectivity north-south across the A142.

Both East Cambridgeshire District Council and Cambridgeshire County Council have declared a climate emergency, and this application does nothing to address climate concerns—indeed it promotes the interests of motorised transport and makes sustainable active travel less safe.

Congestion on the A142 at Lancaster Way is a daily occurrence, particularly at peak times, and of course this needs to be addressed. However, the specific proposal on offer fails to consider the needs and safety of pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians. The application as it stands should be refused and the applicant asked to return with a scheme which takes these concerns seriously.

Mepal Road Phase 2: a planning application arrives

A planning application has arrived from Linden Homes for Phase 2 of the large development at the top of Mepal Road in Sutton.

The application is described as ‘Outline planning application for the demolition of existing buildings and erection of up to 173 dwellings and provision of land for community facilities (sports pitches and burial ground), including access (not internal roads), open space, sustainable urban drainage systems and associated landscaping. All matters reserved apart from access.’

The application site is shown in red on the plan above. The site in blue is Phase 1 – the 77 houses currently being built.

Further information about the application can be found here, and the deadline for public comments is Tuesday 4 February.

If you would like to respond formally to the council about this or any other planning application, comments should be addressed to the district council and not to me.  Comments may be made

Note: Linden Homes originally wanted 427 homes in total at the top of Mepal Road – the first 77, plus a further 350 in Phase 2. They pressed strongly for this when the district council was developing its (now abandoned) Local Plan.

However, Sutton’s Neighbourhood Plan was voted through by local people in a referendum in May 2019. This plan allocates the whole site for ‘approximately 250 homes’. That is why the latest application is for 173 homes (77 + 173 = 250). This is much lower than the number Linden Homes originally wanted, and a real demonstration of the importance of Sutton’s Neighbourhood Plan in making sure the views of local people count!

Reducing emissions from transport in Cambridgeshire

Cambridge University Science and Policy Exchange (CUSPE) continued its valuable work with the county council recently, with a seminar specifically on reducing emissions from transport in Cambridgeshire. This follows on from their earlier report on our ‘carbon footprint’ – the amount of carbon our activities release into the atmosphere.

The report which forms the basis of this seminar has already been presented to the Greater Cambridge Partnership, which is working on transport issues in Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire. It’s about how to reduce congestion, CO2 and air pollutant emissions in Cambridgeshire.

Transport contributes 39 per cent of the emissions in the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough area, and this has not significantly reduced in the last ten years. Cambridgeshire has growing levels of congestion, and areas with air pollution over the legal limit. But there is a lack of quantitative research into the future of transport emissions in the county.

The latest project aims to estimate transport baseline emissions to 2050, focusing on road transport, reviewing policy in other cities and its success or failure, and estimating the effects of local policy interventions on passenger transport emissions.

In 2019, transport in Cambridgeshire will produce 1.6M tonnes of CO2. The faster traffic can be moved away from cars and on to more sustainable forms of transport, the greater the impact in reducing this.

The researchers looked at the effects of charging zones and strategic closures, modal shift, behaviour change, technological improvements and promotion of electric vehicle uptake, in cities including London, Durham Nottingham, Stockholm, Madrid and Milan. Nottingham has already met its 2020 target of 26 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions, using biogas-fuelled buses and increasing cycling by 43 per cent with segregated cycle lanes.

The researchers recommend that by 2030, 60 per cent of travel should be sustainable, and 60 per cent of new car sales should be electric vehicles, in order to achieve a 65 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050.

Recent planning applications

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The following planning applications in the Sutton division have been published by East Cambridgeshire District Council.

19/01158/FUL
Coveney
The Brambles 7A Main Street Coveney
Replacement garage and workroom, storage/shed.

19/01163/FUL
Coveney
Home Farm 7 Main Street Coveney
Extension to barn to form shed/secure store.

19/01534/OUT
Little Downham
Site south of Willow Farm Pymoor Common Pymoor
Outline application for three detached dwellings of two storeys with garages.

19/01130/FUL
Little Downham
1A Townsend Little Downham CB6 2TA
Single storey rear extension.

19/01088/FUL
Little Downham
Site north east of 8 Fourth Drove Little Downham
New four-bed dwelling – previously approved 16/01253/FUL.

19/01403/OUT
Sutton
22 Link Lane Sutton CB6 2NF
Proposed one three-bedroom detached dwelling.

19/01086/FUL
Witcham
Oneway Headleys Lane Witcham
First floor extension above existing garage.

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 web page (the link above);
  • by email to plservices@eastcambs.gov.uk;
  • or by post to the Planning Department, The Grange, Nutholt Lane, Ely, CB7 4EE.

Health Committee

A pretty thin agenda for the county council’s Health Committee this afternoon, with only a couple of substantive items for decision.

One of those items is to give council officers delegated authority to award a contract for services for the prevention of sexual ill-health. This, like so many others these days, is a contract to be procured jointly with Peterborough City Council. My colleague (and Lib Dem lead member on this committee) Cllr Susan van de Ven makes the very good point that any such proposal should have a clear statement of the respective liabilities and protections of each council when entering into a joint contract. This is agreed. There’s also a discussion about climate change and its relevance to the contract – everything from use of plastics to arrangements for travel.

The same issues apply to the next item, on the recommissioning of sexual health services. It’s potentially a seven-year contract (three years, plus two years, plus a further two years) and the process is agreed.

The committee’s budget is on track. Because of the General Election, the committee’s training plan is revised, and any scrutiny of the NHS has been moved to the new year. The meeting is over in fifty minutes.

Remembrance Sunday

Meadow, Poppy, Poppies, Bloom, Red, Klatschmohn, Field

At St Leonard’s Church in Little Downham this morning for the Remembrance Sunday service, to read from one of the scriptures at the invitation of the minister Natalie Andrews.

A well-attended event, with the Brownies playing an active part in one of the readings and the children carrying battery-lit tea-lights to place on the altar.

Always sobering to stand in the church yard, with the Last Post sounded, standards dipped, the names of those to be remembered read out, and two minutes of silence to contemplate those who have lost their lives in conflict.

Overview & Scrutiny at the Combined Authority

This morning saw 11 of the 14 members of the Combined Authority’s Overview & Scrutiny Committee wrapping up warm to brave the chills of Peterborough’s Town Hall. It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!

Mayor Palmer was there to answer questions from the committee, of which we had a number.

  1. In answer to a question about public transport to Alconbury, the Mayor said he was ‘confident we will bring the CAM Metro to Alconbury’. He also hoped to see Ramsey-Hamptons-Peterborough as a public transport link.
  2. No, Mayor Palmer’s Combined Authority wouldn’t be declaring a climate emergency as he ‘hadn’t seen the evidence’. However, there would be an independent environmental review, and the ‘garden village’ concept and CAM Metro would ensure the Combined Authority was carbon neutral.
  3. Would the Combined Authority use Peterborough’s proposed new Housing Revenue Account as a way of delivering new affordable homes? The Mayor told us he was interested in ‘new models’ of housing delivery.
  4. With only 935 homes built by Community Land Trusts in the whole country, would the Combined Authority not do better to rely on tried and tested methods such as working with housing associations instead? According to the Mayor, the housing minister thought everything was fine with the way the Combined Authority was delivering housing.
  5. The Combined Authority had appointed a member of staff to work on Brexit impacts.
  6. The Mayor couldn’t give details as to the number of former Thomas Cook employees he had directly helped into employment following the collapse of the company with consequent effects in Peterborough.
  7. He would also come back to the committee with an update on the review of the processes used in the departure of the Combined Authority’s former chief executive and chief finance officer.

The committee’s vice-chair Cllr Kevin Price then presented us with an update of the work by the committee’s Task & Finish group scrutinising the CAM Metro plans. Several pieces of promised information had not yet been supplied to the group to help it do its work. There was some concern that a lot of money was being spent on the CAM Metro without exploring the fundamental feasibility of tunnelling under Cambridge.

We then spent some time considering the new arrangements for the Combined Authority Board and its Committees to take decisions, and how we will need to change our ways of working to scrutinise them effectively. We agreed to invite the committee chairs to our meetings to answer questions in the same way that we invite the Mayor; to appoint lead members to shadow each of the committees; and to adopt a system for agreeing which questions and comments to put to the Committees.

We confirmed a set of questions to take to the Combined Authority Board on Wednesday: on slippage of projects, Community Land Trusts, funding options for the CAM Metro, on the transport levy passed back to Peterborough and Cambridgeshire councils, on the review of procedures following the departures of the former Chief Executive and Chief Finance Officer, and on the declaration of a climate emergency.

We looked through the Combined Authority forward plan and identified the issues we wanted to look at in more depth, including the draft Local Transport Plan and the various stages of drawing up the Combined Authority budget, and we added these to our own workplan.

Same time next month then: Monday 25 November in Huntingdon. It’ll be feeling even more like Christmas by then!