UPDATE: Highways England has since withdrawn its legal challenge at the eleventh hour.
Pippa Heylings, Lib Dem district councillor for Histon & Impington, Chair of the council’s Climate and Environment Advisory Committee, and recently elected Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for South East Cambs, said:
“In our last meeting with the director of the A14 project, I let him know how disappointed I was that Highways England had made this legal challenge now that the new thresholds had made things better for residents... I let him know that SCDC felt confident in its arguments. This has not gone the way Highways England thought it would. It thought it would create a precedent to stop other local authorities insisting on stricter conditions in residential areas. But it also creates a precedent if the local authority wins.”
South Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats were appalled and saddened by media reports of one particular resident who lives close to the ongoing A14 expansion works.
Sarah Hall, who lives near the Girton interchange, has spoken out about the impact of the noise and nightworks over the past four years. She says the relentless disruption contributed to the breakdown of her marriage and requires her to home-school her five-year-old daughter, who is too exhausted to attend school due to sleep deprivation.
Following a huge number of complaints by residents affected by the works, the Lib Dem-controlled South Cambs District Council took the unprecedented step of demanding stricter thresholds for noise and vibration, and establishing its monitoring and enforcement powers, under Section 61 of the Highways Act 1980.
The council consulted experts and set the conditions based on other major infrastructure projects across the country. This enabled the council to insist that Highways England follow requirements that uphold residents’ legal rights to protection against health-damaging noise and vibration levels during the project – something it was not previously doing. This should mean much less night-working, just around the time of exams for GCSE and A Level students.
The Lib Dem council is extremely disappointed that Highways England has now opted to take out an appeal against these conditions.
Pippa Heylings, district councillor for Histon & Impington and Chair of the council’s Climate and Environment Advisory Committee, said:
"The Lib Dem council have put their foot down and stood up for local residents by requiring strict thresholds of noise from Highways England. Excessive noise and vibrations leading to sleep deprivation is hugely detrimental to wellbeing, as can be seen in the nightmare being lived by Sarah Hall. There are laws in place to protect Sarah and all residents who are suffering like her. We are working very closely with the A14 Delivery Team to improve communication with residents and noise-mitigation measures.
I am, therefore, extremely disappointed with Highways England’s decision to take out an appeal against us as a local authority. This is the story of David and Goliath. Such an appeal has significant legal costs, but we will not allow Highways England to ride roughshod over our residents when the council has proposed very sensible processes to work co-operatively to minimise the harm while enabling Highways England to do its work. Highways England should stand by its Considerate Code for Constructors award, withdraw its appeal, and show that it can build a road on time and on budget whilst respecting the wellbeing of residents.”
There have been some positive results from the enforcement of planning conditions so far. Highways England has improved communications with residents by providing ten-day advance notifications of nightworks and road closures. Highways England and South Cambs are also working with residents on landscaping plans to restore the Green Gateway to Histon, Impington and Orchard Park, something that can truly leave a positive legacy in the area following the completion of the road.
Protecting and enhancing the environment are at the heart of the Lib Dem-controlled South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Business Plan for 2019-2024. Our goal of creating a cleaner, greener, low-carbon future for the district informs everything we do. We are working with urgency to deal with the climate and ecological emergency facing us all.
We have pledged to make South Cambs carbon-neutral by 2050, not just in terms of the council’s own property and operations but in terms of the entire district. This will be achieved through planning policies for housing, energy and transport, and through waste management among many other things.
Cambridgeshire is one of the UK’s least biodiverse counties and among those with the fewest trees. It is also one of the most water-stressed. At the same time, it is one of the fastest-growing counties. So, as well as avoiding adverse impacts on the environment from this growth, we want to ‘double nature’ in the county by increasing the amount of rich wildlife habitat and green space, and also by increasing tree cover by 50%. The role of nature in our physical and mental health is beyond dispute; for instance trees are now proven to reduce noise as well as absorbing and filtering pollution.
We are continually exploring opportunities for green energy generation, greater energy efficiency, more recycling and improving air quality.
So far we have:
- Eliminated the procurement and use of single-use plastics at the council within just three months.
- Put in place a full recycling system at the council offices, where minimal recycling was being carried out previously.
- Installed solar panels on the roof of the Waterbeach waste depot, which are providing 25% of the energy the plant needs.
- Set targets for increasing household recycling and reducing the total volume of black bin waste. We aim to achieve these through information campaigns and working with resident groups.
- Initiated the drafting of a two-year climate change action plan. In partnership with Cambridge University, we will produce a baseline of current carbon emissions from all sectors, and scenarios of projected emissions as a result of current growth plans in transport, construction, housing, etc. We will use this as a basis for decision-making about what we can do directly and indirectly as a council to radically reduce carbon emissions.
- Launched the Zero Carbon Communities grant scheme, which provides funds to local groups for measures that reduce their carbon emissions and reliance on fossil fuels.
- Included a green investment stream in our new Business Plan’s investment strategy.
- Begun to tackle the growing problem of fly-tipping, with proposed initiatives such as gating Setchel Drove in Cottenham, and staging a mock fly-tip to highlight the issue.
- Launched a public consultation on making our taxis greener.
- Supported an initiative to convert used coffee grounds from cafes into biofuel.
- Launched a public consultation on proposals to make new housing developments as green as possible through sustainable design and construction that minimise carbon emissions (as well as running costs), flood risks, pollution and pressure on water sources.
Going forward, we plan to:
- Impose high environmental standards on new homes, in the form of sustainable design and construction that minimise carbon emissions (as well as running costs), flood risks, pollution and pressure on water sources.
- Ensure new homes are built close to places of employment to reduce commuting, and work with partners to make sure walking, cycling and public transport improvements provide alternatives to using the private car.
- Replace 1800 footway lights with LED, which will save 60-70% energy.
- Provide electric-vehicle charging points.
- Install new air-quality monitors in hotspots across the district, such as schools on busy roads.
- Audit our stock of council houses and retrofit them with insulation and other energy-saving measures, to keep people warm, and reduce both their energy bills and their carbon emissions.
- Make Biodiversity Net Gain a mandatory consideration in planning.
- Trial electric vehicles in our recycling and waste services.
- Incentivise taxi operators to switch to electric vehicles.
What a fantastic result - the Liberal Democrats won 38.1% of South Cambridgeshire votes in the European election, and two wonderful Lib Dem MEPs, Barbara Gibson and Lucy Nethsingha, will be representing East of England in Brussels. Our Remain voice is being heard loud and clear in a constituency that saw one of the highest turnouts in the country (48.31%).
A huge thank you to all of our supporters and our members who worked very hard to achieve this brilliant result, especially with such a short run-up to the election.
On the national level, the Lib Dems have followed up the recent local elections triumph of 704 new councillors with 16 MEPs and 20% of the vote share in the European election, not forgetting the amazing win for Naomi Long, a new MEP for Alliance, our sister party in Northern Ireland.
We will keep working hard to give this set of diverse and fantastic MEPs their full term, fighting for liberal values in Europe and trying every way we can to stop Brexit.
South Cambs Liberal Democrats condemn Mayor James Palmer’s interference in a major planning application as an ‘intolerable affront to local democracy’
Leading councillors in Lib-Dem run South Cambridgeshire have expressed their anger at the way in which Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mayor James Palmer has intervened in the planning application for a controversial proposal by SmithsonHill for an Agritech park in the countryside.
It's a year since the Lib Dems' big election victory saw us take control of South Cambs District Council from the Conservatives. So what have the 30-strong Lib Dem Group been up to in the past year? Here's a roundup of some of our achievements.
South Cambridgeshire District Council has installed a large array of solar panels on the roof of the waste management depot at Waterbeach.
The panels will deliver clean, renewable energy, reduce costs and cut carbon emissions, providing around a quarter of all the electricity the building needs.
It's another step towards the Council's ambitious target of making South Cambridgeshire carbon-neutral by 2050.
Accordingly, concern for the environment runs throughout the Council's new Business Plan for 2019-24.
It will be exploring further opportunities for green energy generation, greater energy efficiency, more recycling and improving air quality.
Plans include replacing 1800 footway lights with LED, which will save 60-70% energy, and installing new air-quality monitors in hotspots across the district.
The Lib Dem-controlled South Cambridgeshire District Council is planning to make provision for up to five refugee families in the district.
Depending on the scheme through which they arrive, they may be Syrian families who have fled violence and torture in their country, or they may be parents/carers with vulnerable or ill children from Sudan, Syria or Iran.
During the previous Tory administration, the Lib Dems’ calls to assist such people in desperate circumstances were repeatedly overruled. Under Lib Dem control, the Council is now pleased to be able to offer suitable accommodation for these families alongside the practical support they need to set up their new lives and integrate into their new communities.
Leader of the Council Cllr Bridget Smith said: “The previous administration refused to make provision for any refugees in what is one of the wealthiest areas of the country. We are very fortunate to live in South Cambs - we should be sharing that fortune with people who have less than nothing through no fault of their own.”
This humanitarian response also reflects the Council’s recent consultation for its 2019-24 Business Plan - its intention to work with regional and local partners to support refugees and asylum seekers received no negative responses.
Cllr Hazel Smith, Lead Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “The international refugee crisis sees families fleeing their homes and enduring truly horrendous experiences. It is up to all councils across the UK to take action to provide safe accommodation and, since taking control of the Council in May 2018, the administration has been determined to play its part and offer these families a chance to integrate into safe and welcoming communities.”
A final decision on the plans to support the refugee families will be made at the Council Cabinet meeting on 3rdApril 2019.
South Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats: The Mayor hasn’t made the case for the off-road Cambourne to Cambridge route
South Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats do not believe that evidence so far presented by the Mayor has made the case for the off-road option for the public transport route between Cambourne and Cambridge that he is advocating.
by Ian Sollom
On Saturday a large contingent from South Cambridgeshire headed to London to join the People’s Vote March, to send a message to government that we must have a vote on the final deal.
I wrote about why I was going to the march here:.
I joined with so many others on Saturday.
We had an active LibDem conference this year at Brighton with several newly elected Councillors making their first speeches and our own Leader Bridget Smith being interviewed by Christine Jardine at the Rally on Saturday evening. See below for their videos.
Our success in the May elections locally provided much motivation and optimism from other delegates at the Conference and we would like to thank all those who were involved in our campaign big or small - we made an impact not only locally but with the party nationally - for that, thank you.
For a round up of LibDem Conference itself and the motions passed please see this section on the LibDem website or see here for a summary of the key commitments we made . The next Spring Conference is in York - 16th-17th March.
Combined Authority Mayor James Palmer has shocked Coton residents by insisting that the route for his proposed metro must go through the village. As recently as August the Mayor had assured Coton Parish Councillors that an off road route through Coton would not happen. Previously he had denied that plans for a metro implied his support for such a route.
Liberal Democrat District Councillor Ian Sollom said "the Mayor has let Coton residents down badly with this u-turn. He has made much of the fact that the Greater Cambridge Partnership can only deliver transport infrastructure he approves, but now he is driving his metro straight through the village."
The Mayor announced his plans to stunned Parish Councillors at a meeting last week.
This is a compilation of local conversations about the positive impact of our country's membership of the European Union, on every sort of community-based concern: the school, the doctors' surgery, the fruit farm, the care home, the shoe shop, the zoo - or whatever happens to be the nearest business to where you live. Equally, it is about the damage to local economies and opportunities, in particular for young people, that extrication from the European Union inevitably brings.