Ian Sollom, Firouz Thompson, Edna Murphy, Ros Hathorn in front of a bus in Northstowe

Northstowe GP

It has always been the plan for Northstowe to have its own Health Centre and I do think it is time that residents saw detailed plans for how and when this will be delivered. I think though there has been some confusing and misleading information shared that the GP surgery should already have been built. The GP surgery has always been planned to be part of the Civic Hub, which will be built in the second phase of Northstowe. The land on which this will be built has not yet been transferred to the council by Homes England, who are the government developer for phase 2 of Northstowe. A priority for me would be to work all those involved to ensure the site for the GP practice is agreed and the land transferred to the council so that plans can move forward. I understand that local people need reassurance about how existing GP practices can meet demand before the Northstowe Health Centre is built. Responsibility for commissioning GP services sits with the NHS and the local Integrated Care Board (ICB) rather than the local council. The ICB have said that they think there is capacity within the existing practices to meet the demand from new Northstowe patients. This could be done by expanding staff and opening hours at existing surgeries. The Willingham Medical Practice has already expanded opening times at Longstanton surgery in the afternoons - which currently only opens on Monday afternoon. They presented some information about this at a recent Northstowe Community Forum meeting which you can find on the council website https://www.scambs.gov.uk/community-safety-and-health/community-forums/northstowe-community-forum.

Unfortunately, we have a national crisis in General Practice with GP practices across the country, not just here locally, experiencing huge pressures with declining GP numbers, rising demand, with the huge backlogs on hospital waiting lists and struggles to recruit and retain staff. This has knock on effects for patients like yourself who can wait weeks for routine appointments. We urgently need more GPs and more investment in primary care in our area to meet the needs of our growing communities, something I am campaigning for. In the new community of Eddington on the edge of Cambridge for example a new GP practice was built but they have not been able to find a GP practice to move into it. The Liberal Democrats have a fully costed plan to hire 8000 more GPs and make sure you can get an appointment with a GP within a week (or 24 hours if its urgent).

Northstowe shop

You have also mentioned the need for Northstowe to have a shop and I couldn't agree more that this is something that is needed. There are plans for shops in Phase 1 and in the new areas being built in Phase 2, as well as the Town Centre but I want to work with all those involved to make sure we get a shop for Northstowe residents as a priority.

Dewatering in Northstowe & Longstanton

I am very much aware of the concerns that have been raised, over many years now, about the reduced water levels in Northstowe and Longstanton. Concerns were first raised by residents and the Parish Council in 2015 about reducing water levels in the Kingfisher Pond and other ponds and wells in the village of Longstanton. When my fellow LibDem District councillors were elected to the ward in 2018, they immediately sought to address this, fighting for, and securing funding for a fully independent report into the falling water levels. This concluded that the dewatering was a result of Northstowe development, water levels were reduced to allow development, but was not able to find a cause for the failure of water levels to recover. At that time, the removal of water did not require consent from the Council or the Environment Agency, I am pleased the position has subsequently changed, and consent would now be needed from the Environment Agency (EA), to protect groundwater resources. We need to see strengthening of legislation to ensure the environment and biodiversity is enhanced by new development.The work that the former LibDem councillors began has been taken forward by the new LibDem Cllr for Northstowe, working with the council, the Planning Service and the Longstanton Environment Groundwater Group (LEGG) to try to establish the cause of the failure of groundwater to recover and I understand that regular meetings have been taking place.  The most recent update I received about this was that a land survey was conducted (by independent consultants) to establish if the drainage swales that feed the new Northstowe Lakes have been constructed in accordance with approved plans. This showed that largely they have been constructed in accordance with the Construction plans, though there remains a question about whether these have been excavated to a depth in accordance with separate excavation plans. The concern is that swales may not only be draining surface water into the lake as was planned, but also draining groundwater. The way to confirm this is via ionic testing to confirm the origin of the water draining into the lakes. With the heavy rainfall we had earlier in the year water levels in the Kingfisher Pond did partially recover but have dropped again, so work need to continue to understand the cause for this. South Cambs District Council is currently seeking required EA approval for this testing and commissioning a hydrologist company to undertake this work. If elected as your MP I would seek assurances that the work to understand what has caused the continuing reduction in water levels and that the problems identified are rectified.

Cycle Routes

To see people move away from using their cars we do need to see improvements in infrastructure, including cycle routes. There are challenges in a constituency like ours, where linking up villages with cycle routes can often involve finding off road routes or widening roads, which comes at considerable cost to the already cash strapped local councils. In our LibDem manifesto we do commit to creating new cycling and walking networks with a new nationwide active travel strategy. The LibDems also want to see more of the national roads budget going to local councils to allow them to maintain existing roads, pavements, and cycleways, including repairing potholes. Our road network has been neglected over more than a decade, which has left it in a terrible state. Speaking specifically about Northstowe we need to see the cycleways completed in phase 1, currently the roads are supposed to be completed by the end of 2024, but we need to ensure the developers are held to account on this. I also want to ensure that routes through the town from each phase of Northstowe are linked up and that the developers work together to ensure this happens.

In addition

  • Ensuring the Phase 2 Civic Hub plans are on track - currently targeted for 2028 - which will contain the GP practice and medical facilities for Northstowe, a Library and the Civic centre. I would push for strong local consultation so that residents get a say in the plans for the building, right at the start when it matters the most.
  • There is real opportunity for the community with the Enterprise Zone land and Phase 1 local centre (including the additional parcel of land that Cambs County Council have now decided not to use for the Recycle Centre) - I will be driving this development so it really works for local residents.
  • As part of this work, the Permanent Phase 1 community centre is scheduled to begin in autumn this year - I will be ensuring we bring together users and partners so this building is one Northstowe can be proud of.
  • In the meantime, the Temporary cabin has been really well used, and I’m pleased to see the variety of community groups who now use this space, as well as applaud the volunteers who make it work. Once this temporary cabin is no longer used, I want us to explore how we might be able to keep it in the community - perhaps for quality Youth facilities going forwards - I would talk to residents to ensure we got the right plans.
  • Phase 1 roads, cycle ways and footpaths: latest update from forum is that these are due to be completed by end of 2024 - I would hold the developers to account on completing this.
  • Holding Homes England to account. There is a slew of infrastructure work that the government agency has yet to do, and our previous Conservative MP has been silent on helping push for this. Including:
    • Ensuring the busway through Northstowe is widened were required to allow buses to pass side-by-side - it is currently too narrow!
    • Connecting access between Phase 1 and Phase 2
    • Completing of the paths to/from:
      • Rampton Drift/Longstanton
      • Guided Busway: two points Rampton and Oakington
      • Oakington Busway point - whilst built, it needs to be widened allow a larger cargo bikes and safer connection to busway
  • Parts of the paths around the lakes are flooding, these need to be rectified
  • Resurfacing of Bridleway from Busway Rampton to Stirling Road
  • Ensuring the surface on the wooden section of the paths from Rampton Drift/Longstanton are non-slip - currently Homes England are gritting this during winter months as it’s dangerous for pupils getting to school!

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