Sam Davies

Why we can’t have nice things

Last week I commented that an exploration of the role of S106 contributions in delivering much-needed social infrastructure had raised more questions than answers. I’m very grateful to Jonathan Gimblett, founder of development consultancy HLME, who responded by publishing a detailed analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the whole S106 regime from his perspective. It’s a long read, but well worth it if you’re interested in ‘why we can’t have nice things’. The link is at the end of this blog.

This paragraph gets to the heart of the problem with which we are depressingly familiar:

This lack of transparency for communities over the delivery of Community Infrastructure materially affects all parties. Communities begin to mistrust the Developer and the Local Authority along with elected representatives who may make representations that they have secured certain community benefits in relation to new developments only for them never to appear. Communities may also notice increased demands on existing local services as developments become occupied questioning why it might take longer to see a Healthcare professional or why they can’t get their child into their preferred school. The implications of this makes communities more suspicious of the planning process, the parties involved and hesitant of accepting future development in their area.

A busy week ahead

There’s a lot going on this week, in addition to continued attention to my bulging casework file.

Tonight, I’ve been invited to attend the HPERA (Hurst Park Estate Residents Association) AGM. It will be a fascinating chance to compare experiences with the pressures and opportunities affecting their neighbourhood, close to the science and business parks in the north of the city.

On Tuesday afternoon, I’ll be participating in a conference organised by Cambridge University’s CRASSH unit on the topic of The Private Cost of Public Hardship. I’m particularly grateful for the opportunity to talk about the ‘double disadvantage’ of those residents who live in financial precarity in an area which is treated by the state as though all residents are universally affluent. This will be based on research I’ve carried out with Citizens Advice Bureau, the Queen Edith Medical Practice, Queen Edith’s Primary School and local residents. There is an incredibly important story to tell.

On Tuesday evening, the Queen Edith’s Community Forum is hosting its first in-person election hustings since 2019, in advance of the City Council elections on 4th May. It is always a great chance to hear from the candidates first hand, and I really do encourage you to attend if you can, in order to inform your voting decision. As my term of office runs until May 2024, I shall be in the fortunate position of being able to watch from the back (and help in the kitchen!). All the relevant details are in the Queen Edith’s magazine which should have been delivered to you this weekend, or you’ll find them on the Community Forum website.

Whether you’re coming to the event or not, if there’s a question you’d like put to the candidates, email it in to the event organisers at – they’ll be picking a decent selection.

And on Thursday I’m recording the second programme in the Cambridge Challenges radio series on aspects of the planning system, hosted by former Leader of the City Council, Lewis Herbert. This time, in conjunction with planning consultant Simon Payne, we’ll be discussing the specifics of how an application makes its way through the system, and how members of the public can most effectively have their say. The programme will be broadcast on Cambridge 105 after the election – I’ll provide more information nearer the time. And you can still catch up with the previous programme here.

Sam Davies

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