Number plate cameras for Waitrose car park in Ely

The John Lewis Partnership are applying to the council for consent to install two Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras at the Waitrose car park in Ely.

They propose to install a single MAV ANPR camera on a single post to cover both entrance and exit lanes. They say:

The new ANPR post and cameras will have the principal benefit to Waitrose customers and public users of the parking facility by improving security with the car park as well as adding to the efficiency of the management of the car park usage. We believe the new post will be in keeping with the surrounding site furniture in terms of scale and colour and will help to enhance and modernise this existing car park area.

The planning reference number is 17/01387/FUL. Details of the application can be found here and comments may be made (to the council, not to me!) until 31 August. You can make your views known to the council:

Garden Close, Sutton application now submitted

Endurance Estates has now submitted its planning application for the site east of Garden Close in Sutton. The application will need to be ‘validated’ by the council; it will then be given an application number and the application form and associated documents will be published on the council’s website.

Endurance’s proposals have changed from those shown at the first event in February, and the details are on their dedicated Garden Close website.  The changes include

  • Reducing the number of proposed properties to 53
  • Increasing the amount of public open space
  • Reducing the height of the houses on the boundary with Garden Close
  • Moving the ‘red line’ of the site on the boundary with Garden Close.

Once the planning application has been validated by the council, details will also be published on the applicants’ Garden Close website, along with the revised Masterplan.

Fenprobe talking newspaper

Janet and Sarah (pictured above) from Fenprobe Talking News were at Nellie’s Community Café in Sutton this morning. Fenprobe is one of the two charities for which Nellie’s will be fundraising over the coming months.

Fenprobe is a free service for blind or visually impaired residents in East Cambridgeshire. It’s moved on considerably since it was launched in late 1978, when the weekly news was sent out on 30 minute cassette tapes. Now there’s a smart black player (free of charge) with bright yellow buttons, which runs on rechargeable batteries – and the news is delivered on a USB stick, which holds a lot more information.

Fenprobe rents a studio in Ely, where over forty volunteers help read the news, on a five-weekly rota. There’s also a monthly magazine. Fenprobe relies entirely on donations and grants, and is very grateful for the support from Nellie’s.

Users of the service need to register, and must be referred by a doctor, optician or professional carer. If you know someone who has difficulty reading the local news, and who would benefit from this service, you can contact the secretary on 01353 861153.

Janet and Sarah also tell me they are always on the lookout for volunteer sound engineers – so if you have experience in that field, do give them a call on the number above.



Update: Re-development of the Princess of Wales, Ely site

Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust have just issued the following update about their plans for the Princess of Wales Hospital in Ely.

As Landlord of the Princess of Wales in Ely, Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust is working with health and social care partners to create exciting re-development plans for the site.  Our ambitious plans for the future will ensure we maximise opportunities for the site to meet the needs of the local population in the long term, building on existing health and social care provision locally.

We have begun a programme of meetings with service providers on site to identify their future clinical and physical requirements for any new build/redesign.  We’re also meeting with key external partners, including East Cambridgeshire District Council and the local MP, to ensure we understand and can take into account the wider aspirations and challenges for the East Cambridgeshire population.

This programme of meetings will culminate in the development of a business case which in turn will inform a planning application in due course.  Once we have a clear understanding of stakeholder requirements and potential plans for the site (which we envisage will incorporate the majority of existing buildings being rebuilt to modern day standards), we will host a number of events in 2018 to share these proposals with the local community.

We anticipate that this process will lead to building work commencing on site in 2019 with the new site becoming operational in 2021.

What now for community transport?

A ruling from the Driver Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) could have repercussions for community ‘dial a ride’ transport operations across the country, including here in Cambridgeshire.

Until now, many community transport organisations have been operating under special arrangements established for ‘non-commercial’ transport operations. Under these special arrangements, drivers are regulated to a different standard than that which applies to commercial operators. This has caused friction for some time with drivers of hackney carriage and private hire vehicles, who have to comply with more demanding standards and have claimed that they face unfair competition from community transport organisations doing what amounts to commercial work.

The DVSA has now ruled that these less stringent requirements do not necessarily apply to community transport organisations if they are carrying out commercial-type contracts won from a local authority in competition with other providers. And if such organisations are carrying out any services ‘exclusively for non-commercial purposes’, then all of the services they offer must be carried out to standards applied to commercial operators.

This could potentially have implications for local operator FACT (Fenland Association for Community Transport) along with its ESACT and HACT operations in East Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire respectively.  They operate a number of services for the county council, including most recently winning the contract to provide the new ‘East Cambs Connect’ minibus service set up following cuts to a number of bus services in East Cambridgeshire.

It’s early days, and it’s not yet clear how all of this will work out.  But at the very least it could cause some disruption while it is resolved, and at worst it could mean current contracts being withdrawn and re-tendered.

Meanwhile, investigations into FACT/HACT/ESACT are still ongoing, following various allegations about its operations including grant applications.  I asked at the time how this would affect the county council’s decision to award the East Cambs Connect contract to ESACT, and was told it wouldn’t.  And a grant of over £13,000 to ESACT from East Cambridgeshire District Council is still being held back after I proposed it would be wise not to allocate this money until the investigations are concluded – one way or another.

Recent planning applications

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

Little Downham
Land Parcel South West Of 6 Third Drove Little Downham
New dwelling.

29 Vermuyden Gardens Sutton CB6 2QR
Construction of single storey rear extension which extends beyond the rear wall by 4.5m, has a maximum height of 3.4m and an eaves height of 2.7m.

Site North West of 27 Sutton Road Witchford
Detached three bed bungalow.

Land Adjacent to No 2 Market Way Witcham CB6 2LP
Outline application for two storey dwelling, single carport, parking, access, turning and associated site works.

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;
      • or by post to the Planning Department, The Grange, Nutholt Lane, Ely, CB7 4EE.

Fat Cat Tuesday

Today has already been labelled Fat Cat Tuesday – the day Cambridgeshire’s Conservative county councillors tore up the recommendations of an independent panel and voted themselves a massive pay rise instead.

The independent panel had been asked to advise on the allowances paid to county councillors for doing their duties. The panel interviewed a range of councillors, asked searching questions, and made informed and sensible recommendations.  These would have cost about £750,000, which is less than the council had budgeted for this year.

However, Conservative councillors (with just one exception) decided to rip up the panel’s proposals and invent their own allowances. To everyone’s utter surprise (not), these were far more generous, totalling £936,726 – over £185,000 more than the panel had recommended.

The Leader of the Council currently gets £21,000 a year.  The panel proposed he should be paid £25,000.  He has decided he is worth over £31,000.

The Deputy Leader, currently on over £14,000, was recommended by the panel for a pay cut, to £11,250.  Instead he’ll get a pay rise too, to £20,627.

Both of those allowances are on top of a basic allowance that rises to over £10,000 a year.

Two additional committees have been set up: that means seven committees instead of five. Each one has a Chair (on over £18,000) and a Vice Chair (on nearly £8,000). That’s an extra £52,000 just for those two committees.

And there will be five new councillor posts called ‘area leads’ within the new Community & Partnerships Committee, each on an extra £5,000.

It’s a job creation scheme on a massive scale. Almost two-thirds of the Conservatives’ 36 county councillors could be on some kind of extra allowance.

Meanwhile, residents in Coveney and Wardy Hill are losing their one bus a week, because the council says it can’t afford it. Families in Sutton are about to lose their children’s centre, because the council is pleading poverty. There’s no money for services, but there’s enough money for a massive pay rise for councillors.

The sheer naked greed of the exercise is breathtaking – and unforgivable.

Sutton Co-op update

The Co-op has now submitted updated plans for its proposed store in Sutton on the triangle of land at the A142 roundabout.

The original 32 car parking spaces weren’t enough in council officers’ view, so the applicants have removed one of the two original hot food takeaway outlets, and a small additional retail unit, leaving only one takeaway alongside the Co-op store itself. This will create room for a total of 49 car parking spaces. There will also be space for twelve bicycles.

The store is proposed to open from 7:00am to 10:00pm Monday to Sunday. The applicants have not yet said who will operate the takeaway unit.

The applicants are proposing vehicle entrance and exit from Ely Road, where the old road joins Ely Road. They intend to create a three-metre wide shared cycle and pedestrian way on that side of the road, with a pedestrian refuge to serve pedestrians crossing from the Tramar Drive side.

Comments on the revised application are open until 28 July, and can be made here.


East Cambs councillors vote themselves a 25 per cent rise

Councillors on East Cambridgeshire District Council tonight voted themselves an immediate 25 per cent pay rise. The decision was in line with the recommendation of an independent panel report on the council’s allowances.

I proposed delaying the increase until the elections in May 2019.  At that point, there will be 28 councillors instead of 39, and an increase won’t cost the taxpayer any more money. Not a single other councillor was prepared to support my proposal, which therefore didn’t even make it to a vote.

The immediate increase in allowances will cost the council over £48,000 a year until the next elections. The former council leader (now the Mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough) said last year that reducing the number of councillors was our contribution to saving money in difficult financial times.  Not if Conservative councillors vote for a 25 per cent pay rise it isn’t!