Macmillan coffee morning

Macmillan 2014 close crop

Another brilliant success for Nellie’s, who today hosted a Macmillan coffee morning at Scott Court. It was exceptionally well attended, with bric-a-brac and books for sale, a tombola and a raffle as well as a large array of cakes and bakes to accompany the teas and coffees.  It’s great to see the community joining forces to make this event the success it was.

Monitoring our air quality

I recently had a useful meeting at the council to try to find out more about the way in which our air quality is monitored in East Cambridgeshire.  The presence of particulates and other pollutants in our air is something that has caused some residents concern, particularly in view of the large numbers of heavy vehicles thundering through our village every day.

The council is obliged under the Environment Act 1995 to assess and report local air quality, including assessment of a range of pollutants including nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulates.

Measuring nitrogen dioxide

Measurement of nitrogen dioxide is mostly done using small tube monitors fixed to lamp posts at a range of locations in the district.  The tubes most relevant to Sutton are at the junction with Tramar Drive and at the A142 at Witcham Toll. These monitors measure NO2 over a period of time.

Continuous monitors give a more accurate measure of NO2 in the atmosphere.  There is only one continuous monitor in East Cambridgeshire, which is hired from another council, and costs £5,800 a year to run.  This monitor gives readings as 15 minute mean averages. Originally partially funded by Sainsbury’s, this monitor is now funded by the County Council under its Local Transport Plan. King’s College London undertakes the data management for the monitor, which involves checking the data for anomalies and removing them.

Measuring particulates

There is only one piece of equipment in East Cambridgeshire to measure particulates, located at Wicken Fen; it measures PM10 (larger concentrations of particulates), and is hired from Fenland District Council.  It is resource-intensive to run, and is situated alongside DEFRA equipment in their station there.  It is not yet online, but replaces one that was previously located there. Its rural location provides some idea of the ‘baseline’ level of particulates in the district – that is, what the air would normally be expected to be like well away from traffic and other sources of pollution.

This PM10 monitor, known as a ‘Met One BAM’, uses low-level radiation to measure particulates.  More equipment to measure PM10 would be comparatively cheap to purchase but would cost in the region of £1,600 a year to run, and would need to be housed somewhere.

Equipment for measuring PM2.5 (the smaller and more dangerous concentrations of particulates) is much more expensive to buy – potentially £20,000 or more – and in any case there is as yet no clear guidance on what items of equipment and methodologies are acceptable to DEFRA as reliable ways of measuring PM2.5.

If villages like Sutton are to build a conclusive argument for a lorry ban, we need a lot more testing – the 24 hour ‘safe limit’ for PM10 must be exceeded on at least 30 occasions in a year for a breach of the limit to be said to have  occurred. That means a lot of testing – and without permanent PM10 monitors, and the budget to run them, gathering that body of evidence is difficult. That’s something the Joint HCV Group of local villages, which includes Sutton, is currently grappling with.

Three days to save our recycling centres

Witchford recycling centre (without Pauline)

Witchford and Bluntisham recycling centres could close permanently, depending on the outcome of a county council consultation which closes this Friday (26 September).

Members of the public are invited to complete the consultation online. (Follow the link that says Household Recycling Service Review Survey just above the subheading ‘Description’).  If you value your local recycling centre, it’s important to complete the consultation and show the county council why it’s needed.

The county council is seeking ways to save £149 million over the next five years, with part of that saving coming from the recycling centres.  The options the county council is considering include any or all of

  • complete closure of up to three recycling centres
  • transfer of up to three recycling centres to an external operator
  • closure of each centre for two weekdays each week
  • reduction of opening hours at all centres
  • charging for some items or
  • issuing a limited number of permits for larger vehicles and trailers.

There are nine recycling centres in the county, at Alconbury, Bluntisham, March, Milton, St Neots, Thriplow, Whittlesey, Wisbech and Witchford. Of these, Witchford receives the fourth largest quantity of waste, at 7,941 tonnes in 2013/14 – beaten only by Milton, St Neots and Bluntisham. A decision will be made by the county council’s Highways and Community Infrastructure Committee in the autumn.

My view is that closing recycling centres, or otherwise making it more difficult for people to use them, will simply result in an increase in fly-tipping. Clearing up fly-tipping is the responsibility of the district council not the county council, so it could be argued that this is just one level of local government pushing its problems onto another. And we know that East Cambridgeshire District Council has a poor record of tackling fly-tipping, with very little funding going to support this part of its work, and an absence of any prosecutions even for the most blatant offences.

Sutton to Ely cycle way

Plans for developing a direct cycle route from Sutton to Ely are pressing on apace.  Funding has been provided to the County Council to develop the area along the A142 from Wentworth junction to the area west of Witcham Toll. A shared use pedestrian and cycle path will be constructed that will be approximately 1.8m to 2m wide.

This path will provide a link between the existing paths from Sutton to the Witcham Toll area and Wentworth to Witchford. This will support a cycle and pedestrian path from Sutton to Ely.  Links around the area of Witcham Toll are limited in space and while this area will have paved access, this means that some reallocation of space will be needed.

The cost of this scheme is £350,000, and the money has come from the Department for Transport.  It is intended to begin Phase 1 in early autumn, and Phase 2 around Witcham Toll in late autumn.

If you have any questions, you can contact project manager Paul Rawlinson at the County Council by phone on 01223 699906 or by email at  Congratulations to Paul for getting this scheme under way.

Council meets to revise local plan

The planning inspector considering East Cambs District Council’s local plan announced a couple of months ago that the plan didn’t demonstrate enough housing being built in the next five years. In fact, the council’s proposals fell short by 320 homes in that period.

Tomorrow the council holds a special meeting, to propose revisions to its draft plan. All these revisions involve bringing forward extra house building around the outskirts of Soham, in areas that were pencilled in for later in the local plan period, which extends to the year 2031.

This would mean 51o homes to be built by 2019 on five sites around Soham, which would more than cover the shortfall.

The council needs to resolve this matter not only swiftly, but also to the satisfaction of the planning inspector – because until it does, without a five year housing land supply, the National Planning Policy Framework states that there is a presumption in favour of approving planning applications, unless the adverse impacts significantly outweigh the benefits. In this period, all sorts of unsuitable planning applications could get the go-ahead – and in that situation, the only people with a smile on their faces will be the developers.



Black bag delivery

When the council introduced wheelie bins last year, it decided that rather than issue a single black bag each week as it used to do, it would give each household 52 bags at a time, to last the entire year.

It’s now almost a year since we got our wheelie bins, so the next year’s supply of bin bags – two rolls of 26 bags each for each household – will soon be arriving.

Here in Sutton, our bags are due in the week commencing Monday 29 September. Why not make a note now on your calendar to remind you? If you don’t receive your bin bags by Monday 6 October, contact the council by email or phone 01353 665555.  The last date for claiming non-delivery of black bags will be Friday 31 October.

Of course, if you need to use extra black bin bags, you can supply your own, though with the amount of waste that can now be recycled in the green and blue wheelie bins, one bag a week is enough for most families’ needs.

Visit to AmeyCespa

Lorna at AmeyCespa 2014-08-06 small

Today I was one of two councillors to visit AmeyCespa’s waste handling facility at Waterbeach. We spent a very interesting couple of hours learning what happens to all the waste – recyclable and non-recyclable – after it leaves our homes. We saw the green bin waste before and after it has been processed; the blue bin waste being split, mechanically and then manually, into the different forms of recoverable material; and the black bag waste being sifted for recyclable material and then readied for landfill.

The cleaner and less contaminated the material in our rubbish, the better quality the material recovered from it – so it’s really useful if we can wash cans before putting them in the blue bins, for example. Recyclable items can be recovered from black bag waste, but they’ll almost certainly be more contaminated and of less value than those which have been put in our blue bins.

The worst contaminants of blue bin waste are dirty nappies and – really! – dead pets.  Not nice for the staff who have to manually pick out non-recyclable material from the waste stream at the end of the process.

East Cambridgeshire’s recycling rate has shot up enormously since we’ve had the wheelie bins – where we were lagging seriously behind other parts of the county, we’re now not far behind.


County council highways drop-in

Pam Joyce, our local highways officer employed by Cambridgeshire County Council, has started running drop-in sessions for residents in various parts of the district, including Sutton.  Her next drop-in session here in Sutton is on Thursday 7 August, from 10:00am to 12:00 noon, at The Glebe. So if you’ve got a local highways issue you would like to raise with Pam, please do pop along.

NB I know not everyone is free on a weekday, so if you can’t make it but have an issue you’d like me to raise with Pam on your behalf, I’m more than happy to do so if you email me your concerns.

Foodbank in Sutton

Ely Foodbank hopes to have a collection and distribution service running in Sutton by the autumn. The Foodbank has already secured the agreement of the Parish Council to provide accommodation at The Glebe, and now needs to find at least 15 volunteers to help run the service in Sutton.

Volunteers will need to be available for about an hour and half once a week, on a rota basis.  Training will be provided before the service opens, which organisers hope will be in October or early November.

If you would be interested in volunteering for the Foodbank in Sutton please email Ely Foodbank no later than Monday 8 September.  Meetings about the Foodbank will be held in Ely at 3pm on Tuesday 9 and Tuesday 16 September, and potential volunteers will be very welcome – please email Ely Foodbank for details.

Background to the Foodbank

Launched 18 months ago with the remit to serve people within a 15 mile radius of Ely, Ely Foodbank provides a minimum of three days’ emergency food to people in crisis. This service has now expanded with Foodbank centres in Chatteris, Littleport, March and Soham – all part of the Ely Foodbank (Trussell Trust) partnership.

The main way food is donated is through regular giving by shoppers and supermarket collections. Volunteers engage the public at the stores by providing them with a Foodbank shopping list and asking them to buy extra items while shopping. These extra items are then donated to the Foodbank. Schools, churches, businesses and individuals also donate non-perishable in-date food to the Foodbank.

Once collected, the food is sorted by volunteers who check that it is in date and pack it into boxes ready to be given to people in need. Recipients obtain vouchers from care professionals such as doctors, health visitors, social workers, Citizens Advice Bureau staff, welfare officers, the police and probation officers. The vouchers can then be taken to a Foodbank distribution point where they are exchanged for food. The volunteers who distribute the food can also ‘signpost’ people in crisis to agencies able to provide help with their longer term issues.

More information about Ely Foodbank is available at

(With acknowledgement to Alan and Lynne Williams)