How our mayor can help Cambridgeshire and Peterborough fulfil its potential

By Aidan Van de Weyer, Liberal Democrat Prospective Mayor

This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 5th August 2020.

In a few weeks, the government will announce plans for big changes to local government, encouraging all areas of the country to accept powerful mayors.

Here in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, we already have one of these metro mayors – the first one not based on a big city. It’s not a way of running things that I like: do people in Peterborough want their affairs decided from Cambridge, or vice versa? But that doesn’t mean we can’t make it work well with the right leadership, by being transparent in all we do and cooperating closely with all residents.

Our mayor has responsibility for creating transport plans and speeding up the construction of affordable housing, as well as providing skills and training to support economic development. These are all things that can have a big and positive impact on all of our lives.

We can be most effective when we are all pushing in the same direction. This is the most important way in which the mayor can contribute: bringing people together around shared goals. This takes a lot of time and effort, but the results will be worth it.

There are some enormous transport projects being planned, costing hundreds of millions of pounds – billions in some cases. We need to get them right. That means building routes in the right places, enhancing the environment, and making alternatives to the car attractive. We cannot make those choices without the involvement of residents and businesses. The mayor is in a unique position to get the broad support required.

We are all now agreed on the urgency of tackling climate change, but there isn’t yet concerted and effective action across the whole area. We are going to have to make big changes to how we live: using less water, coping with extremes of weather, drastically cutting carbon emissions. While we already know a lot of what has to be done, we do need to have everyone on board. The combined authority is able to play a vital role in bringing people together and ensuring focus on action now.

One of the most acute problems that we have is the lack of homes that people can actually afford. The astonishing cost of buying a house here affects people’s lives in so many ways. People have to endure long and expensive commutes. Young people have to move away. Businesses find it hard to recruit. The mayor has been given £170 million to help get more affordable housing built. This can only be done by coordinating with district councils, housing associations, house builders.

The terrible impact of the coronavirus pandemic will be with us for years. The job prospects of young people are disappearing, creating a lost generation. Small business owners are struggling to keep going. More and more people are losing their jobs. As we rebuild the economy after the lockdown, the combined authority can use its responsibilities for skills, training and business support to great effect. The job market will be very different – even if we don’t know exactly how - and we must do all we can to enable training for young people especially, but also retraining at all stages of careers. The combined authority has the resources to shape the new world, investing in a green recovery and making sure jobs are less precarious.

In all of this, the mayor will be constantly working closely with residents, businesses and partner organisations, and therefore must have their trust. As a relatively new organisation, the combined authority is well placed to show how the Nolan principles of public life can be applied to local government. Everything we do must be as open as possible and we need to design ways of being accountable to the public, not just every four years at election time. This needs to be backed up by some really robust processes around all aspects of the work of the combined authority, from spending and procurement to staff appointments.

Like any big organisation, the combined authority will come in for criticism. How it responds is vital to giving people confidence, and it’s not clear that it has been so far. It must always take heed of feedback and address issues with care, as transparently as possible.

With all of the big issues under the control of the combined authority – transport, housing, economic – we need to be thinking long-term, 20 or 40 years ahead. We are currently dealing with choices made 20 years ago; choices we make now will be felt for decades to come. This is well beyond the period of office of any single politician. That is why it is vital that we work hard to create a shared vision for what we want.

Despite all the setbacks we are facing – from coronavirus to Brexit – Cambridgeshire has a bright future. Together, we can realise our full potential and make sure that all of our residents get the benefits.

Aidan Van de Weyer's Positive Legacy as He Stands Down from GCP to Focus on Winning Mayoral Election

Lib Dem councillor Aidan Van de Weyer has stood down from the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) Board to concentrate on defeating James Palmer in the election for Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough next May.

South Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats have chosen Cllr Neil Gough to replace him as South Cambridgeshire District Council’s representative on the GCP Board.

Cllr Van de Weyer said, “Cambridgeshire needs better leadership than it is getting from Mayor Palmer. Our area is being held back by the incompetence and arrogance of the Tories at the Combined Authority. I will work hard to bring the whole of the county together around a vision for a fair and green future.

“It has been a privilege to sit on the Greater Cambridge Partnership for over two years, including one as Chair. I have been able to ensure that the GCP’s investment is targeted at making a positive difference to the lives of the people of Greater Cambridge.

“I helped set up a Citizens’ Assembly on transport in the area, which was a fantastic way of getting a cross-section of our community involved in the issues and has focussed our work on making our public spaces, including roads, more people friendly.

“I supported the establishment of an apprenticeship brokerage service to help young people access the best training. While I was chair of GCP, the Greenways programme was pushed forward, making so many villages accessible by bike, and I launched the first two electric buses in Cambridgeshire. I helped GCP unlock the next multi-million pound tranche of funding of investment from government."

Bridget Smith, Liberal Democrat Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, said, “Aidan will make a fantastic mayor who I know will be trusted to fight for all of the residents of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

“I am very pleased that we have appointed Neil Gough to the Greater Cambridge Partnership. He will bring his enormous professional experience in complex roles. He is just the person to take forward our work there, building on the close collaboration that is needed to deliver infrastructure improvements for the people of South Cambridgeshire.”

Lib Dem Motion to Tackle Structural Racism in South Cambs Passed by Huge Majority at Full Council

A far-reaching motion to eradicate structural racism through a series of practical actions was passed at South Cambridgeshire District Council’s full council meeting on Tuesday 14th July.

The motion, put forward by Lib Dem district Councillor Sarah Cheung Johnson (Longstanton, Oakington & Westwick) and seconded by Councillor Tumi Hawkins, was passed by all councillors present bar one.

The motion addressed insidious racism in a range of areas, including education, employment, health, housing and policing. It proposed:

  • Black History Month is made an annual event in South Cambridgeshire

  • Reviewing the council’s own structures to ensure ethnic minorities are not disadvantaged in employment or in access to housing and welfare

  • Auditing street names and public monuments for racist historical associations

  • Writing to the Secretary of State for Education to call for a review of the national curriculum to ensure the inclusion of BAME history and culture in lessons, and asking South Cambridgeshire schools to include such material proactively

  • Asking the Police and Crime Commissioner to report on measures for eradicating racism within South Cambs policing
  • Requesting a review of the impact of Covid-19 on the local BAME population

  • Calling for the Combined Authority to produce a toolkit for businesses to help broaden their understanding of race inequality in the workplace

  • Working with the NHS to ensure that it fully compensates BAME staff, who have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19

Cllr Cheung Johnson said: “The death of George Floyd sparked a renewal of the Black Lives Matters movement and it's imperative that we don't allow this to be merely a moment. We must understand that the work of sustained anti-racism is constant and requires our attention at all times. Black Lives Matters doesn't mean they matter more but that they matter equally - which they currently don't. To that end I hope you agree that this motion is one with practical actions we can take. The list is by no means finite and I hope that we would build on it with suggestions from council members, officers and residents on how we do this.”

“I would like to reiterate that racism isn't just about people expressing prejudice - it's not just about Cllr Tumi Hawkins being followed around shops because of her skin colour, or my Chinese friends being called C-words and being blamed for bringing Covid-19 to the country - although these things should not be happening in 2020. It’s about tackling structural racism - the unseen but very real barriers which mean those who are not white do not have equality in our society today. We as a council have a duty to lead these efforts across our district.”

Cummings Must Go - Ian Sollom. Sign Our Petition If You Agree

A letter calling for Dominic Cummings' resignation by Ian Sollom, local Lib Dem parliamentary spokesperson, was published in the 27th May edition of the Cambridge Independent. Below is the full text. If you agree with Ian that Cummings must go in order to restore public trust in the government's response to the pandemic please sign our petition.

It’s time for Dominic Cummings to resign

During times of national crisis, politics as usual is generally suspended. There is a natural and just tendency to 'rally to the flag': to will our Prime Minister, our government and our institutions to do their best regardless of our political allegiances. We all chip in and do what we can to help the national collective effort.

As a South Cambs district councillor, it’s been fantastic to see the army of volunteers and organisers step up in our communities to support the most vulnerable. But simply obeying the rules laid down to help prevent the spread of this deadly virus is the single most important contribution any individual can make. The sacrifices we have all made – and for some of us, there have been some truly heart-breaking sacrifices – have undoubtedly saved many lives.

In this context, Dominic Cummings’ actions in travelling to Durham during lockdown must be condemned. His trip risked spreading the virus around the country and flouted rules we all need to obey to protect each other. That Mr Cummings believes his actions were reasonable in exceptional circumstances is an extremely poor defence. These were not exceptional circumstances: countless families with young children have, as instructed by the government, isolated without support at home in this crisis, gritting their teeth and battling on. Many are rightly angry that someone at the heart of government did not keep to rules we were all told we must follow.

The Prime Minister’s backing of his advisor, denying any breach of the rules in letter or in spirit, risks undermining wider public trust and adherence to government guidelines. The possibility of more infections and more deaths as a result cannot be ruled out, and it is deeply concerning that the Prime Minister would put lives at risk in this way, apparently encouraging Conservative backbenchers to do the same: in tweeting similar unapologetic support for Mr Cummings on Saturday, South Cambs MP Anthony Browne revealed his own priorities for his time in office.

I would urge Mr Browne to reconsider his stance. As we move into the next phase of this crisis and new guidelines emerge, it is vital that we continue to feel we are all in this together, making the personal sacrifices that will continue to be necessary. For as long as the government continue to stand by Mr Cummings they show contempt for that collective effort. It is time for him to go.

Ian Sollom
Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesperson for South Cambs

South Cambridgeshire Pulling Together

One month into this very challenging period of lockdown, the number of volunteers that have come forward in virtually every village in the area has been astounding and heartening; it really has been a time when the best in people has shone through adversity. 

We have been working closely with these community volunteer groups and putting them in touch with people who need their help, while our district councillors have been calling all elderly residents in their wards to check if they are ok or need any assistance. Find a volunteer group in your locality

The Lib Dem team and the staff at South Cambs District Council have been working very hard to offer residents as much practical help, continuity of service and reassurance as possible. They have compiled a huge amount of advice and support information on their coronavirus page, covering bill payments, housing, help for businesses, domestic abuse and emergency baby supplies among many other things. They have also produced a comprehensive advice pack for parish councils, to support their efforts to help the most vulnerable people in their communities.  

Led by Peter McDonald, Lib Dem councillor for Duxford, a dedicated team at the district council have been working at breakneck speed to distribute government grant money to small businesses. They have transferred funds to about 1500 businesses so far, and are trying to track down another 500 that are thought to qualify for aid. If you think you may be one of them and you haven’t heard from the council, please contact them, they are ready to help.

Another piece of good news is that the council is able to start a phased return of green bin collections from 4th May. After a difficult few weeks when they were suspended due to severe staff shortages, a skeleton service will resume, which will ensure safe distancing for the operatives. Find out full details 

This is undoubtedly one of the most difficult times that many of us have ever faced. But through pulling together as a community with acts of compassion and generosity, we can make some difference to those who need help the most. Take care everyone, and stay well.

Coronavirus Community Taskforce

In these very difficult times, your local councillors are here to signpost residents to accurate information and community support, especially for those who are most vulnerable. Please also check South Cambridgeshire District Council's coronavirus page to find out about the latest advice, council services and help available.

It’s been amazing to see volunteer groups springing up all over South Cambs to assist people affected by the coronavirus in their communities. The groups are offering to pick up supplies for people who are having to isolate themselves and check up on those who may need help. 

As part of a national initiative by the Liberal Democrat Party, South Cambs Lib Dems have set up a local taskforce to coordinate our network of councillors, members and activists with the volunteer groups’ efforts. We want to help ensure that all those self-isolating, especially the vulnerable and elderly, get the support they need. 

We’re pleased to be making the most of our leaflet delivery networks by sharing our street lists and maps with the volunteer groups to support their activities. We’ll also be calling elderly people in the area to check if they need anything.

Whether you are someone who needs help or you would like to volunteer, you can find out what group is active in your neighbourhood here. (If you know of a group that isn’t on this list, please get in touch to let us know.)

In a joint statement, local Lib Dem parliamentary candidates Ian Sollom and Pippa Heylings said:

"As the coronavirus crisis continues, people in South Cambs are rightly concerned about their family, friends and loved ones. Even more people are keen to do something to help.
This crisis is leaving the most vulnerable in our communities at risk and we are determined to do what we can to help them.
"That is why local Liberal Democrats are setting up the Coronavirus Community Taskforce. This will coordinate our network in South Cambs to help ensure that those who are in most need get support."

Take care everyone, and whatever happens, together we can make a difference.

South Cambs News March 2020

Lib Dems Win County Council By-election

Many congratulations to Peter McDonald, the sitting Lib Dem district councillor for Duxford ward, who won last month’s by-election to also become county councillor for his local division.

Following the resignation of a Conservative councillor, a double by-election for Duxford division and Whittlesford ward was held on 27th February. Peter won by a comfortable majority of 517, gaining 60% of the vote.

A great campaign was also fought in Whittlesford ward by first-time Lib Dem candidate James Hobro. Commiserations to James, who came close with a big swing, achieving 45% vote share. Next time!

Safer, Greener Taxis

The Lib Dem District Council has adopted a new taxi licensing policy that will improve both personal safety and air quality on the roads. From March 2021, CCTV will be compulsory in all Hackney cabs and private hire vehicles based in South Cambridgeshire. And from December 2021, new licences will only be granted to taxis that are ultra-low or zero emission, and licences will be refused to vehicles more than nine years old. These environmental requirements support the Council’s goal of making South Cambs a carbon neutral district before 2050. Full policy details

Extraordinary Times at the Combined Authority

In February Mayor James Palmer announced that his Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority would take control of public transport improvements in the area. A final decision on the Cambourne to Cambridge Guided Busway was due to be made by the Greater Cambridge Partnership on 19th February, but the papers were pulled after the Mayor’s announcement, in which he said that the scheme didn’t fit with his plans for the Cambridge Autonomous Metro.

This despite the fact that the GCP has been working alongside the Mayor’s office, which had not raised any concerns since late 2018, when the Mayor agreed that the outline plan would fit with his vision for CAM. The proposals include delivering phase one of the CAM, covering connections to Cambourne, Waterbeach, Granta Park and towards Newmarket. So his announcement is completely at odds with recent Combined Authority decisions. It’s not clear if he has the power to take control from the GCP in this way, but we understand discussions with central government are ongoing.  

Dire Finances at the County Council Set to Continue

Cambridgeshire County Council has approved a budget that includes a £4-million deficit, while once again not raising Council Tax as much as it could. Council Tax will go up this year by 1.59% instead of the permitted 1.99%, which will further contribute to the tide of disappearing public services - and save the average Band D property 11p a week. The Council's annual revenue is now £22 million less than it would have been, had the Conservatives agreed to go up to permitted limits for Council Tax increases in recent years. 

Lib Dem county councillors have consistently voted for permitted Council Tax rises, in line with most local authorities around the country. But even this would not fill the enormous gap created over many years - most dramatically through central government's total withdrawal of the Revenue Support Grant, which used to be the lion's share of spending power for councils. The Conservative government's strategy of issuing one-off capital grants creates good-news headlines, but doesn't enable councils to plan and manage their finances in order to run effective public services. 

The Council is now introducing controversial and complex new charges to vulnerable people receiving Adult Social Care as a drastic measure to generate revenue. Meanwhile, in the realm of highways maintenance, you only have to look at local streets and pavements to see the effects of 'managed decline'. There are countless other stark examples of how services are falling apart and unable to meet growing demand, with a hard impact on so many people's daily lives.  

Lib Dem Council's Greening Plans for South Cambridgeshire Hall

As part of their continued efforts towards making South Cambs carbon neutral by 2050, Lib Dem councillors have drawn up a bold plan to dramatically reduce the energy bills and carbon emissions of the District Council building in Cambourne.

This includes a ground-source heat pump, which will reduce gas consumption by 80%; a solar canopy over the car park to generate more than 20% of the electricity needed; LED lights to save around 15% on energy; much more efficient systems for heating, cooling and air circulation in the building; and 20 electric-vehicle charging points.

These measures will save the Council about £100,000 within the first year as well as reducing its carbon footprint by almost half. The investments will pay for themselves within 16 years, after which they will start to generate revenue - and they will have lower ongoing maintenance costs too. It’s a win-win-win!

This is part of a £5-million investment to tackle the climate crisis in the Council’s 2020-21 budget, agreed by councillors in February 2020. It includes spending £1.3 million on improving the energy-efficiency of council homes, replacing 1800 streetlights with LED lighting and purchasing an electric bin lorry to see whether it’s viable to shift to an all-electric fleet.

South Cambs News February 2020

East West Rail route confirmed

Lib Dem district councillors have welcomed the route selected for East West Rail, the new railway that will link Cambridge and Oxford. The line will go through Cambourne, which was the option South Cambs District Council had supported. The environmental impact of the route was a top consideration in the decision-making. Details of the route 

Lib Dem councillor Aidan Van de Weyer, Deputy Leader and Lead Cabinet Member for Strategic Infrastructure at SCDC, said: “We are pleased and relieved that an announcement has finally been made on the route of East West Rail. We are also supportive of the decision to run the new railway from Bedford to Cambridge via Cambourne. We were told that one of the key factors in determining the route was the environmental opportunities that this option offers. Any project of this size has an impact, but overall it will offer huge scope for environmental enhancements, much of which will be in South Cambridgeshire. The decision on whether this will be an electrified line has not yet been made but we are told that it will be a net zero-carbon railway, which is exactly what we would want as we move towards being a zero-carbon district by 2050.”

Councillor Bridget Smith, Lib Dem Leader of SCDC, said: “I have asked East West Rail to work very closely with local councillors and officers, and to fully engage with all of our affected villages from the outset. This is vital so they know exactly what is going on and have every opportunity to input their views during the whole process.”

Have your say on these local issues

Cambridge South Station: Please find a moment to respond to the consultation on the proposed Cambridge South Station serving Addenbrookes, Royal Papworth and the Biomedical campus. The consultation closes on 2nd March 2020.

Fire Authority: Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire Authority is proposing a 2% increase to the fire service’s portion of council tax for 2020/21. This equates to an extra £1.41 a week for a Band D property. The government’s grant for the Fire Authority will stay the same, so the council tax increase will only cover inflation, enabling the Fire Authority to maintain the current service (but not to make any additional investments). Do you support the proposed increase?

New police stations: Cambridgeshire Constabulary is consulting the public on a proposal to “replace our outdated facilities at Parkside with both a new city centre police station and a police hub on the outskirts of Cambridge.” Find out more and have your say before 29th February 2020.

Schools funding (or lack thereof)

South Cambs Lib Dems are disappointed that the County Council has had to ask the Department for Education if it can redirect 1.8% of the main schools budget to the High Needs Block, to help provide for the increasing portion of children needing extra support. This would mean that funding in mainstream schools would decrease by £50 per pupil. Another illustration of the dire lack of government funding for the education of our children. 

Helping you to save on energy bills

The Lib Dem District Council carried out a survey of all houses in South Cambs to identify those that are least fuel-efficient. It has contacted 250 such homes to help improve their insulation or heating systems, as the Disabled Facilities Grant now covers this type of upgrade. Applicants are means-tested and there is a cap of £10,000 per household. Depending on the initial uptake, the Council will be able to extend the offer to more homes, as the grant was underspent in recent years.

The Council will also be offering an energy-efficiency advice service in due course. Owner-occupiers, and both council and private tenants, will be able to have a free assessment and receive advice on how to obtain grants or get discounts for energy-saving improvements. Look out for info on when this will be available! 

Find out about the Lib Dems' plan to make South Cambs carbon neutral by 2050.

New Year's Update from South Cambs Lib Dems

Whilst we were very disappointed that the huge 23% swing wasn’t quite enough for the Liberal Democrats to win South Cambs in the General Election, we are not in any way slowing down with the work we do for local residents all year round at South Cambs District Council. We have plenty to update you on about new projects and initiatives getting underway this year, to help make South Cambs a healthier, happier place to live for all.

Keeping it green

The Lib Dem Council has just launched a hugely popular Three Free Trees project, which is offering free trees to every village in South Cambs. We hope this will encourage parishes, businesses, residents and farmers to plant lots more trees. We have fewer trees in our district than almost anywhere else in the country, so a scheme like this was badly needed. 

The Council's Zero Carbon Communities grants scheme, which was successfully set up last year, has recently awarded just under £121,000 to community projects that tackle carbon emissions and climate change on a local level. The pot was increased because the Council wanted to support all the brilliant ideas that met its criteria.The scheme will continue this year with a boosted pot of £100,000 for further projects.  

These are just two of the many initiatives that form the Lib Dems' plan to make South Cambs carbon neutral by 2050.

More Mobile Wardens

The Lib Dem Council has proposed investing an extra £200,000 to expand its popular Mobile Warden Scheme. Mobile Wardens provide practical help with daily tasks to older people, to enable them to continue living comfortably in their own homes for longer while helping to combat social isolation and loneliness. The expansion will make the scheme available beyond the current 20 villages.

Nurturing local businesses

The Lib Dem Council is planning to create a Business Support Service to attract and nurture businesses in the district, especially small and medium-sized enterprises. The Lib Dems want to enable village economies to flourish, so that small communities become vibrant places where people can work and shop close to where they live, thereby minimising their impact on the environment too.

The Lib Dem Leader of the Council, Bridget Smith, said: "Our villages have so many fantastic small and medium-sized businesses and world-renowned names, farming, rural enterprise and tourism - and we want to ensure South Cambridgeshire is a place where they can all grow and prosper. I also want to ensure that our residents have the choice of working locally and avoiding long commutes to work, which we know are detrimental to wellbeing and productivity as well as damaging to the environment."

Potholes… again

We continue to receive complaints from residents about potholes across the district. Our roads are in such a bad state because of the government’s cuts to local authority funding in recent years. Central government has now promised extra funding for councils to repair potholes, so we are pressing our MP on when this will be delivered and when we will start to see improvements.

A better-run Council

The Lib Dem Council has reported that its investment programme, which aims to generate 25% of required income from its own investments by 2024, is ahead of schedule. This has been achieved through sound investment in business property among other things. It should enable the Council to offset central government’s funding cuts and spend more on much-needed local services.

New Local Plan consultation launched!

South Cambs District Council and Cambridge City Council are jointly embarking on the next Local Plan, which will affect where and how we live, work and play in the Greater Cambridge area over the coming decades. Encompassing everything from housing, community facilities, business development and job creation to climate change, biodiversity, wellbeing and social inclusion, this is "the most important document most people have never heard of". And both councils are keener than ever to get as many residents as possible involved in the process, starting with the initial consultation, called Issues and Options, which is running till 24thFebruary 2020. Find out more and begin shaping your future

There will also be a ‘Big Debate’ on the evening of 18th February 2020, when local groups are invited to share their ideas about what should be in the Local Plan, in a fun, provocative and lively public event. If you are interested in being one of the groups to present, please contact Hana Loftus at [email protected]



Thank You - And Let's Take Heart

All of us at South Cambs Lib Dems would like to thank everyone who voted for Ian Sollom, and everyone who has offered us their support and encouragement, both before and after the election.

Whilst the result is of course very disappointing, we must also take heart from the great success of the campaign. The Lib Dems achieved a huge 23.4% increase in vote share in South Cambs, which was one of the largest swings in the country.

With a 4.3% difference in vote share between the Consevatives and the Lib Dems, South Cambs has now become a marginal constituency, and we have created a solid platform from which to fight for the seat next time around.

So thank you once again to the 28,111 people who put their faith in Ian as their chosen candidate. It’s going to be more important than ever now to make the case for the kind of society we want to live in, and after the Christmas break the Lib Dems will be getting back to work to do just that.

In the meantime we wish you all a happy and peaceful Christmas and New Year.

South Cambs News September 2019

Transport updates

We have to wait a bit longer for a decision on the CAM Metro Cambridge to Cambourne route, as the Greater Cambridge Partnership has postponed this till October while more studies are completed.

Hopefully we’ll hear the outcome at around the same time that we know what route the East-West rail will take. The Lib Dems support a northern route through St Neots with a station at Cambourne, which would link thousands of residents to the London mainline as well as to Oxford, Milton Keynes and other towns.

What we don’t want is a route running via Sandy through Bassingbourn to Cambridge, which would create a semi-impermeable barrier right through the centre of South Cambs and potentially split established communities in two. There would also be the environmental damage of running a rail line through virgin farmland. The northern route, on the other hand, would hopefully hug the A428, creating a transport corridor where opportunities for environmental enhancement can be exploited to the full.

A14 victory - Highways England withdraws appeal

Following a huge number of complaints by residents affected by the A14 expansion works, Histon & Impington’s Lib Dem councillors helped to bring about South Cambs District Council’s deployment of Section 61 of the Highways Act 1980. This means the council demands stricter thresholds for noise and vibration, and requires Highways England to obtain permission for any night-working and give residents sufficient notice.

We were extremely disappointed when Highways England lodged a legal challenge against SCDS’s use of Section 61. But the Lib Dem council stood firm on protecting the health and wellbeing of residents, and Highways England recently withdrew its appeal 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 David Bray, Director of 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. Communications have also been much better, which had always been a problem. 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 and strengthens its hand in setting adequate provision and control.”

SCDC is applying the same level of thresholds to the night-works about to take place at Bar Hill. It will also continue liaising with Highways England to make sure the A14 improvement happens as smoothly as possible, with due consideration for residents. 

Beating our target for council houses

South Cambs District Council bought 144 new council houses in August (81 at Northstowe and 63 at Sawston), using funds raised through the government’s bonus on new market homes built, as well as receipts from the Right to Buy Scheme. With the 91 council houses currently being built and the further 178 in the pipeline, the Lib Dem council continues to exceed our target of providing 70 new council houses each year. More affordable homes coming to South Cambs 

Get your skates on

We’re excited that, after 25 years in the making, the Cambridge Ice Arena is finally open! This public ice rink on Newmarket Road meets International Ice Hockey Federation standards and is also home to the Cambridge University Ice Hockey Team.

The Lib Dem South Cambs District Council provided a large loan for the rink to be completed, so that it could finally open as a new amenity for local people – let us know what you think of it!

Water pressures

We continue to experience very little rainfall in the Cambridge region and the resulting low water levels we see in the surrounding environment are starting to raise concerns among residents.

Cambridge Water has said that, while it’s not at the point of declaring a drought and it currently has enough reserves, it is very conscious of the environmental impact of having to abstract water. It has also said that pressures on supplies look to worsen in the future as the population in the region increases.

South Cambs Lib Dems recognise that we all have a part to play in conserving this precious resource. The Lib Dem district council has published proposals, in conjunction with Cambridge City, to make new housing developments as green as possible, minimising the pressure on water sources as well as carbon emissions, flood risks and pollution. Find out more  and have your say  on the proposals before 23rd September. Read more on South Cambs' green initiatives

Community Chest grants

The district council’s Community Chest scheme awards up to £1000 each to grassroots projects and good causes that benefit local residents most in need, and help to build a sense of community.

Recipients of grants in the past two months include:

  • Melbourn Mobile Warden Scheme – to pay for 50 meals at a Celebrating Ages event
  • Duxford Preschool – to provide a training workshop for staff to work in a new way
  • Sustainable Cottenham – to fund Sunday social events
  • Meldreth Village Hall Trust – to replace the stage lighting with energy-efficient alternatives
  • The George Long Charity for Swavesey Memorial Hall – to transform a derelict piece of land into a remembrance garden
  • Cottontails Preschool in Girton – for equipment that promotes intergenerational and environmental learning
  • Wilbrahams Youth Group – to buy a New Age Kurling kit

The Chair of South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Grants Advisory Committee, councillor Jose Hales, said: “All of these projects do very valuable work in their communities and it’s excellent that these small grants help them to continue to make a positive difference. The benefits of the funding that we recommended at our meeting will be felt by lots of people because two of the grants will go directly towards bringing communities together for social events. This Community Chest scheme is a fantastic way of providing valuable funding to local community and voluntary groups.”

The council’s Lead Cabinet Member for Finance, Lib Dem councillor John Williams, added: “I was pleased to sign off on all of these grants because they all support excellent local good causes. We’re committed to being a modern and caring council and our Community Chest scheme is a good way of showing this. Funding remains available so I’d urge groups to submit their bids now.”

Local groups can apply for Community Chest funding here. To quality, the project or activity must achieve one or more of these aims:

  • Help promote healthy and active communities
  • Enable inclusive communities
  • Develop skills
  • Enhance the natural environment

It must also meet a local need, leave a legacy for the community and ensure equality of access.

The council also runs the Zero Carbon Communities scheme - find out more

Sign in with Facebook, Twitter or Email.