Many congratulations from all of us in South Cambs to Jo Swinson, the newly elected leader of the Liberal Democrats.
"I stand before you today not just as leader of the Liberal Democrats but as candidate for Prime Minister. I am ready to take our party into a general election and win it. Let's change politics so we can transform our country." - Read Jo’s first speech as leader
Ian Sollom, Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for South Cambs, said:
“It’s fantastic to see Jo Swinson elected as leader of the Liberal Democrats - our first female leader. Jo has been a strong voice for working together to stop Brexit through her work on the People’s Vote campaign, and I’m excited to be part of her drive to build a mass liberal movement in the UK.
This was a great contest between two strong candidates and I offer commiserations to Ed Davey, who ran a brilliant campaign. The contrast with the Conservative leadership contest, with its obfuscation on the key issue of Brexit, has been stark. The Lib Dems, led by Jo, will continue to fight against the disastrous course that the Tories have set on Brexit - a course that has been consistently rejected by the voters of South Cambridgeshire, in the referendum, in the district council elections and in the European Parliament elections.”
Jo on a visit to Cambourne during the European elections, with Ian, candidate Lucy Nethsingha and South Cambs Lib Dem councillors and campaigners.
A14 expansion works
Following a huge number of complaints by residents affected by the works, especially at night, the Lib Dem-run South Cambs District Council took the unprecedented step of introducing stricter thresholds for noise and vibration under Section 61 of the Highways Act 1980.
SCDC is extremely disappointed that Highways England has now opted to appeal against these conditions but it will be standing firm. Read more
Share your views
SCDC's new Local Plan has allocated Bourn Airfield to a community of around 3,500 homes with accompanying facilities and transport links.
The council's vision is of a sustainable, low-carbon village with plenty of green spaces and plenty of practical alternatives to using the car. The village should also have good schools, shops and a focal point where people can enjoy meeting for recreation as well as retail.
The council is now consulting the public on the development’s Supplementary Planning Document, which provides details and guidance on how the village will be built. Please get involved and have your say.
Meanwhile the Combined Authority is consulting on the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Local Transport Plan. It is disappointingly road-focused when there is the opportunity to strive for better, more sustainable, public transport. We know that building bigger roads just encourages more cars onto them, especially when there is no alternative.
The consultation runs until 27th September 2019. Consultation events are taking place at Cambridge Central Library on Wednesday 24th July, 2pm - 9pm and Saturday 14th September, 10am - 3pm. Please do take part in the consultation to share your views.
Affordable housing fund
Part of the devolution deal was £100 million for affordable housing, to be targeted at areas where housing is least affordable. Based on this, South Cambs should have received a significant amount of money in grants, but instead the Mayor has ring-fenced £40 million for a rolling fund of loans, about 90% of which has gone to East Cambs so far.
Our SCDC leader Bridget Smith voted against a loan of more than £4 million for a developer to turn an office block in the centre of Ely into flats. Only four of the 25 flats will be in any way ‘affordable’ and four are described as penthouses.
Continuing to pursue green initiatives
The Lib Dem council is investigating how it might be able to switch our diesel bin lorries to electric ones, as well as planning how it will reduce the amount of printed council documents.
It is also consulting on a new policy to make the district's licensed taxis greener - find out more about the proposed new licensing policy and comment
And we are excited about supporting a new green initiative to recycle used coffee grounds, collected from cafes to be turned into biofuel.
The council has pledged to generate 25% of its income from investments, and the greener these are the better. Battery storage, solar panels and electric-vehicle charging points are all possible investment opportunities to be explored.
An overview of all our green initiatives
The South Cambridgeshire Local Plan, adopted in September 2018, sets out the planning policies and land allocations to guide the future development of the district until 2031. Encompassing issues related to housing, employment, services and facilities, it emphasises affordable housing and protecting the environment. Read more about the Local Plan
Under the previous administration there were a couple of years when there was no Local Plan and no five-year housing land supply.
During that time more than 4000 houses were given planning permission in South Cambs, which would not have been under normal circumstances. Many of these houses were in the countryside and were not required to make any financial contribution to the communities they were associated with, to pay for healthcare, education or local amenities.
With the Lib Dem adoption of a new Local Plan and a five-year housing land supply, planning laws, especially those preventing development in the countryside, are being rigorously enforced.
Now this Local Plan has allocated the site of the Bourn Airfield to a new community of around 3,500 homes with accompanying facilities and transport links.
The vision is of a sustainable, low-carbon community with plenty of green spaces and plenty of practical alternatives to using the car. We want the new village to be a great place both to live and work. We want it to have good schools, shops and a focal point where people enjoy meeting for recreation as well as retail.
We are now consulting the public on the development’s Supplementary Planning Document, which provides details and guidance on how the village will be built. We would really like you to get involved in this major new development and have your say.
Deputy Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council and Lead Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning and Transport, Cllr Aidan Van de Weyer, said: “We really want help from local people to provide the best possible guidance for how this new development should come forward. It is an excellent chance to influence a green, low-carbon community right before a single brick is put into place. We’re always working to be green to our core and as environmentally friendly as possible, and that’s why we’re highlighting our aspirations for this site to be as kind to the environment as it can be, while delivering some of the new homes that we know we need. Please do tell us what you think of these proposals. It’s very easy to comment via our website.”
Find out more
The draft documents considered by the council
The six-week consultation period ends on Monday 29 July. Tell us your views now!
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.