This is our Longstanton January update on local issues involving the District and County Councils.
Be a councillor?
In May, there will be Parish Council elections across the whole of South Cambs. Being a Parish Councillor is a hugely rewarding position; you can really influence what happens in your village. We are running an informal drop-in event on Saturday 3 February, 3-5pm, at the Elin Way Community Room in Meldreth for any one who would like to know more about the role of a Parish Councillor by speaking to someone currently in the role. This is open to any one, of any political persuasion or none. Please do attend if you are at all inclined to find out more.
Local Plan Consultation
The ongoing saga of the South Cambs Local Plan is limping to its conclusion. A consultation on the Planning Inspector’s proposed modifications to the Plan has been launched. Comments are only permitted to be made on the modifications, not any new business. The key issues are:
- The Inspector looks set to accept a joint housing supply strategy between SCDC and Cambridge City which should reinstate a five-year housing land supply.
- Sites for new developments at Bourne Airfield and Waterbeach will be enlarged.
- The affordable housing threshold is now triggered at >10 houses, rather than >2.
The consultation will end at 5pm on Friday 16th February. You can find more information here.
It looks highly unlikely that the Inspector will report before purdah for local elections starts on 23rd March (during which the Council may not make key decisions) so even assuming there are no more modifications after the consultation, we will not have a Local Plan in place until the middle of the year.
Lib Dem councillors are asking the ruling Conservatives how much the Local Plan has cost to date.
Does your home leak money?
New easier-to-use compact thermal imaging cameras are available now from South Cambs, to borrow free of charge for the purpose of locating where heat is leaking out of your home. Ideal for taking action on insulation issues and draught proofing. To book, call 03450 450 063 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The cameras have an operating manual accessible online and brief training sessions are available provided free of charge.
Cambridge Magistrates’ Court Closure
The Ministry of Justice has just revealed plans to close the Magistrates’ Court on St Andrew’s St in Cambridge, which serves South Cambs.
The MoJ says that the current court is underused and that it could save money by closing it. Some civil matters would be moved to the County Court on East Road, but all the minor criminal work would go to Huntingdon and Peterborough Magistrates’ Court.
The Cambridge Magistrates’ Court is housed in a purpose-built part of the Grand Arcade complex. It has full disabled access to the court rooms.
This change would make it very hard for all of those involved in the work of the court, whether defendants, lawyers, CPS, witnesses, or families. Many defendants and witnesses have limited means and often don’t have a car. It often takes an hour to get to Huntingdon by car, and even longer by public transport.
It goes against the principle of local and accessible justice.
The MoJ is running a consultation on the proposal until 29 March 2018. Please do add your comments.
EU Impact Study Proposal
At the January South Cambs council meeting, Liberal Democrat councillors argued for a study of the impact of Brexit on Cambridgeshire, building on the recent work done in London and Scotland. This study, to be done in collaboration with other local bodies, would help residents and businesses in planning for Brexit. Unfortunately, the majority Conservative group claimed that such a study would be better done later in the year when we know more about how the withdrawal negotiations are going, and the proposal was not passed.
Park and Ride Charges to be Dropped, but...
The Greater Cambridge Partnership has agreed to subsidise the removal of Park and Ride charges from April. Since the £1 charge was introduced, use of the sites has dropped significantly. Councillors have asked the Board also to review P & R opening times and the Stagecoach bus schedules that serve them – in particular for people working early and late, and for night time leisure activities in Cambridge.
Unfortunately, this is not a sustainable way of financing Park and Ride. Greater Cambridge Partnership funding is a one-off grant intended for infrastructure development, rather than supporting ordinary council services.