June City Deal Assembly report


Thursday's meeting was probably the best attended (by the public) of any so far. There were 27 questions submitted which unfortunately put huge pressure on the time for which people were allowed to speak as the agenda was also enormous.

I only received the questions the evening before which made it difficult to give them all the attention they deserved.  This was made more difficult still when the time allowed to ask questions was reduced from 3 to 1 minute.

This meant that most people had to gabble their way through their questions and for some this meant that the gist was largely lost.

Some people were obviously frustrated that only officers were allowed to answer the questions but I hope that they saw that there was such a diversity of views amongst the Assembly members on some subjects that having an Assembly member answer would not have been sensible.  

Capacity study

The first agenda item was the Cambridge Access and Capacity Study. I was not at all pleased that congestion charging as an option has been ruled out so early on in the process.

It may well not be the answer to the problems but it should have been kept on the table so that proper comparisons and analyses could have been done.

What we now have is a rather unexciting package of measures which may or may not reduce congestion and improve the experience for cyclists and walkers but will certainly not produce the revenue to deliver a fit for purpose rural bus service - which as a South Cambs councillor was my hope.

It is those of us living far outside the City who have no option but to drive because we have no buses and many of us live too far away to cycle.

I expressed my concerns about how young people from South Cambs attending CRC or 6th form college would be affected by further restrictions on street parking - they certainly cannot afford the carparks (assuming that they can afford to drive).

My experience is of young people dropping out of education because it is too difficult and too expensive to get to the City. I voted against this but it was passed.

Histon and Milton Road woes

I was also extremely unhappy about the recommendation for Histon Rd and Milton Rd that the 'preferred options' consultation be delegated to an officer who would then pass it for final decision, not to the whole Board, but to only the Chair and Vice Chair.  I felt that this 'preferred option' should come back to the Assembly so that both we and you could have a chance to comment further and only then it should go to the full Board.

The argument against this was that it would slow the process down by 6 weeks - which the audience did not seem to mind!  I think this is very undemocratic and risks us being told, if we do not like the 'preferred option', that it is too far down the line to go back.

The push to get things done is because of fears that we will not get the next tranche of money if we have not spent this lot. So basically we have to spend public money (perhaps not as well as we could given more time) in order to get more public money.

I was also concerned to read in the papers that the Local Engagements Forums' membership would be determined by the local members.

However, we were told that they were public meetings which means that anyone can go.  Let's hope that is in fact the case, (and that this is minuted).

I also asked what 'success would look like' especially in relation to Histon Rd where the proposed journey time savings are 3 minutes for AM journeys and nothing for PM journeys.

We were told that many more expensive infrastructure programmes deliverred less savings in journey time that this and that 'yes' 3 minutes off the morning bus journey was what success would look like.

I am not sure I would agree that this was worth £5million and the felling of an awful lot of trees and the loss of an awful lot of gardens.

The cycling reports were good but I hope that this is not all they are going to do on cycling.

Design guide 'lacking inspiration'

Finally, the Design Guide, which those of you who were there will have heard me being unreservedly critical of.  I was so pleased when we managed to persuade them to do this work but what was presented to us was lamentable.

I have little parish councils who have done better as part of their parish plans.  It was 4 pages of tiny, blurry photos with numerous references to other guides but no mention of the special heritage status of the City and no aspiration, vision or quality.

I had hoped for something that would show us better than best practice - what we should be aspiring towards- but that is not what we got.

Interestingly I was not alone in my views and they agreed that this needed to go back for further work and that people would be asked to send in pictures of what they thought was good (please do) and that ALL GCCD projects would go to the Design panel

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