Many people have said kind things about my weekly election campaign articles, so in line with my aim of being the most communicative councillor possible, I shall try to keep up the weekly updates now that you’ve elected me to office. Do forward this to any family and friends locally – anyone can sign up to go on the circulation of these email updates here.
This week: a quick description of the interesting business of becoming a councillor, then a momentous announcement from the Biomedical Campus and some advice about bike theft.
On Monday, I took my Declaration of Acceptance of Office, a three-minute online call but with huge significance for me: “I take that office upon myself, and will duly and faithfully fulfil the duties of it according to the best of my judgment and ability”. I take that commitment very seriously.
Since then, I’ve been working my way through the induction programme organised by the City Council. Sessions this week have included an introduction to the Senior Leadership Team, a guide to how committees work, and a presentation on the major North East Cambridge (‘sewage works’) development. Not only are they (mostly) interesting in their own right, but they also provide a good way of getting to know other newly elected councillors.
Among these are the two Green Party councillors elected for Abbey ward, Hannah Copley and Naomi Bennett. I’ve agreed to form a Green/Independent administrative group with them, in the same way that Councillors Hipkin, Holland (both Independent) and Gillespie (Green) did in the mid 2010s.
This does not imply that we share an agreed policy position; it simply gives us access to some of the advantages offered to the bigger parties, such as office space in the Guildhall, and proportionality of representation on Council committees.
I’ll let you know more about how all of this works in the weeks ahead, but I just wanted to clarify that it is a different approach to that agreed by the Lib Dem/Labour/Independent councillors on the County Council who have agreed to work en bloc and have issued a joint statement explaining their shared policy positions.
You can read the full statement here – the most immediately important elements for Queen Edith’s are in the Transport section: “We will consult communities openly and transparently on highways projects that affect them. We will seek to invest more in road, footway, and cycleway maintenance and routine gulley clearance, and end the freeze on residents’ parking schemes.”
I’m sure much of that will be welcome news to residents here and I look forward to seeing how it works out in practice.
Fundamental questions about the Biomedical Campus
Of even more significance to our area is the Biomedical Campus’s ‘2050 Vision’ published on Friday. There’s a lot of content about the global significance of the Campus and the world-leading work carried out there, but also two statements which have huge local implications.
The first is the Campus’s ambition to not just be a ‘good neighbour’ but to actually become a destination and amenity for local residents in itself: “At CBC, available and undeveloped plots offer a wonderful opportunity to install new spaces for activities and events that would be of value to the wider communities living in South Cambridge. Whether temporary sports facilities, space for markets or more formal retail and events facilities, the available land could become a hub for new community resources, starting to integrate CBC and its neighbourhood to become a more connected place.”
The second is the scale of the further growth the Campus is now advocating: “Even taking a moderate view …over the next 20 years, this would equate to an additional workforce of between 14,000 and 20,000 – approximately double the staff presently working on Campus”.
No doubt its authors believe this to be an exciting and compelling piece of work, written for an audience in national government, the investment community and the biotech sector. However, from a local perspective, much is missing about the impacts of the growth strategy executed by the Campus over the last 20 years.
To take just one example, we all see every day that the transport ‘solutions’ to moving the current volumes of staff and visitors onto and off the Campus have badly lagged its growth to date. The 2050 Vision asserts that the building blocks are now in place to not only catch up that lag but also facilitate a further doubling in size. It will need some careful scrutiny to validate its claims.
More than that, though, the ‘Vision’ poses fundamental questions about the relationship between our community and the Campus. I have previously described our role as being “collateral damage” in the Campus’s growth. The Vision seems to suggest that the solution to this tension is by making incentives and amenities available to us via a further round of growth.
Is that what we want? Is that the only way better provision can be achieved?
We will need to pay very close attention to the trade-offs being proposed here over the next months and years, and I do encourage everyone to familiarise themselves with the Vision so they can contribute to the discussion to come.
Protecting against bike theft
Finally, can I please encourage you to take some precautionary measures against the threat of bike theft? There has been a spike in this crime in recent months. One estimate now suggests £160,000 worth of bikes are stolen every month in the city. They are not just being taken off the street (though that is bad enough), but from locked bike stores, people’s homes, even right next to people enjoying green spaces like Jesus Green. I have seen a report this morning that a metal door was cut off a communal bike store overnight on one of the new developments in Trumpington in order to gain access.
- Take a note of your frame number and register it with Immobilise or BikeRegister so you can report it stolen if the worst happens.
- Use the best lock you can and don’t assume anywhere is safe. An 11-year old had his bike stolen from outside his gran’s house on Hulatt Road last week in just a couple of minutes.
- Report any theft to the police – they are unlikely to investigate unless it’s a case of burglary or assault (rather than ‘just’ property theft) but it will add to understanding of the scale of the problem.
- Get in contact with the volunteer Stolen Bikes in Cambridge group, who are doing some great work in reuniting people with their bikes.