Our ‘Virtual’ South Area Committee Meeting Open Forum

We put out a call to local residents for the questions they would have asked at the June meeting, and offered to forward these to our councillors.

(updated with responses Tuesday 7 July)

Monday 22 June should have seen the quarterly council South Area Committee meeting, where City and County councillors from across the three south wards – Trumpington, Queen Edith’s and Cherry Hinton – come together to take questions from the public. These meetings are also a chance for us to seek information from council officers and other public representatives; and to provide input on local priorities regarding policing and environment.

Unfortunately, the June meeting was cancelled, due to the Covid crisis, as December’s was also cancelled due to the General Election. This means there will be only have been one chance to question local councillors between September 2019 and September 2020 – and with everything that’s been going on in that time, we at the Queen Edith’s Community Forum thought it was important to find an alternative to the usual Open Forum session, where any member of the public can ask councillors about issues of concern.

We put out a call to local residents for the questions they would have asked, and forwarded these to our councillors. Thanks for your response!

Two city councillors from Cherry Hinton and Trumpington went out of their way to find answers for us, including helping to get some correspondence from council officers, for which we are very grateful. None of the three city councillors from Queen Edith’s replied.

Our Queen Edith’s county councillor, Amanda Taylor, sent us some links to her website and a Facebook group, which we’re happy to include below, and wrote: “We have been answering these and other questions in private correspondence with residents”. She also points to a recent newsletter from her political party which covers some of the issues.

The Queen Edith’s Community Forum provides the answers received below with no comment, although the questions which received no response must be seen as a disappointment.

1. Fendon Road roundabout

– raised by Ann, Rahee, Karen and Olga

  • What is the new expected end date and why has the communication around this project been so poor?
  • How will the planting on top of the new central bed be managed such that pedestrians, especially those who are disabled, will be able to see over the top of it?
Councillor Mark Ashton (Cherry Hinton) remarked: “I’ve always voiced concern about the communication, following failures in earlier projects such as Cherry Hinton High Street and Hills Road. We knew this would run late, so communication was key.” Vanessa Kelly, Senior Project Officer at the Cycling Projects Team of Cambridgeshire County Council/Greater Cambridge Partnership kindly provided a timetable for the works to finish by 31 July, which featured in Friday’s Queen Edith’s news. We note that this includes the removal of parking restrictions on Nightingale Avenue. Councillor Amanda Taylor (Queen Edith’s) also provides this information on her website and points to a Facebook group discussing the works. Don Blair, Cambridge City Council’s Senior Operations Manager, Streets and Open Spaces, said: “On the issue of the planting in the island, the height in the middle is intentional, as it slows vehicle approaches, therefore making the likelihood of an accident less. The County Council designed and built this roundabout. More information can be found here.Mr Ashton said that planting on roundabouts is an issue elsewhere in the city, such as at the Newmarket Road ‘McDonalds roundabout’, and again, he does not think lessons are being learned.

As a “Matters arising” from the previous South Area committee meeting, Dorothy Higginson, Group Manager, Major Infrastructure Delivery at Cambridgeshire County Council wrote to a local resident who asked to see the cost-benefit analysis for the project. Ms Higginson wrote: “I have been looking back through the archives to locate a benefits realisation document or something outlining the benefits. At the time the South Cambridgeshire Cycle Improvement initiative was being progressed, local members were keen to have the initial S106 funding spent on safer walking and cycling on Queen Edith’s Way, Cherry Hinton Road and the Robin Hood junction and therefore the approach was to derive the benefits based on the consultations that took place and the general support received from the local residents.  As such, therefore, a BCR (Benefit–Cost ratio) was not calculated and therefore I am unable to supply such details. The situation today has changed in that we do now calculate a BCR and develop a benefits realisation plan for our projects, however I am sure the benefits will become self-evident once the roundabout opens in the near future.”

2. Proposed traffic controls on Nightingale Avenue and Luard Road

– raised by Arthur, Gavin, Fiona, Ingrid, Ayesha, Vivien, Peter, Joanne, John, Josephine and Elizabeth. Note: we did also receive several statements in support of the proposals but as they were not expressed as questions we have not included them here.

General questions

  • Why is the County Council doing these road closures?
  • Why has it used a device (ETROs) that deny residents and other interested parties any opportunity to provide even comments until they have instituted the block? What public consultation is now going to take place?
  • How will the success or failure of the trial be measured? What will determine whether the council will seek to make the road closure permanent?
  • Has the Council considered limiting the closure to the morning and evening rush-hour, Monday-Friday?
  • What assessment has been made of the impact of additional traffic on Hills Road and Fendon Road, specifically on ambulances and buses?
  • Will any bollards or control points be accessible for emergency vehicles (fire engines, ambulances) or will they too have to route the long way round?
Councillor Mark Ashton (Cherry Hinton) remarked: “It seems madness that only now is social distancing being used as a reason to make changes. We live by consensus, but we need to talk to residents and that’s paramount. Nobody is sure if disability regulations are being followed and I want to ensure the County Council is following through with this.” Councillor Amanda Taylor (Queen Edith’s) has this on her website about Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders (ETROs) and reports on the road closures here, here and here. No other councillors replied to us.

Luard Road

  • How does the Council propose to block the road to cars while keeping it safe and accessible for bikes in both directions (also cargo bikes)?
  • Will the restrictions apply to motorbikes and how would that be enforced?
  • What assessment has been done of impacts on the network of side roads around Cavendish Ave, Blinco Grove etc, which are currently quiet feeder roads which are safe to cycle on especially for pupils at local schools?
No direct answers were received from councillors.

Nightingale Avenue

  • How can residents find out more about proposals for Nightingale Avenue?
  • Will the current parking restrictions continue when the road is closed?
  • Why does Nightingale Avenue have inadequate signage indicating that it is a 20mph zone and no speed limiting measures eg crossings, occasional islands, etc?
Some answers are provided under ‘Red Cross Lane’ below.

3. Red Cross Lane

– raised by Josephine and Steve

  • Why has the Red Cross area not been included in the plan to close Nightingale Avenue as it is a direct feeder road into ours? This decision will impact on the dangers for road users, cyclists and pedestrians trying to safely access the Hospitals and residents trying to access their homes.
  • The surface of Red Cross Lane is so badly degraded that I can no longer cycle along it, but have to push my bike. What can you do to get County Highways to prioritise resurfacing it?
Vanessa Kelly, Senior Project Officer at the Cycling Projects Team of Cambridgeshire County Council/Greater Cambridge Partnership, said that her team are currently liaising with Addenbrooke’s over the removal of parking on Red Cross Lane and its side roads – the aim is for this to coincide with the modal filter going in on Nightingale Avenue. However, Addenbrooke’s is understandably concerned about losing a sizeable number of parking spaces for its staff before the Babraham P&R extension is in place so, in the short term, we need to accept that NHS staff have to park somewhere (ie Nightingale Avenue) – and the modal filter will make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists. Once the new Babraham P&R spaces become available, that would be the time to look at removing the Nightingale Avenue parking.

4. Cambridge South Station

– raised by Andrew

  • What is the up to date position re the proposed railway station and is it correct that there is no provision for car parking even though it will be used for commuting to London etc? If so, what parking restrictions will be put in place to stop our residential streets being further ruined by commuter car parking?
No direct answers were received from councillors.

5. Nightingale Pavilion

– raised by Clare

  • What is the reason behind the non-existent progress of the replacement Pavilion in Nightingale Park?
Councillor Mark Ashton (Cherry Hinton) remarked: “I can only sympathise with residents over the glacial progress of these projects. We understand from our work on the extension improvements to Cherry Hinton Library, which has been going on for six years.”

6. Shrub cutting

– raised by Fiona

  • Why is there no council reminder to households that it isn’t OK to leave shrubs and trees overhanging/taking over grass verges and pavements? It is a hazard to eyes and faces, and a loss of public space, which is particularly important at the moment.
  • Why is there no maintenance programme for cutting back ivy on trees in Nightingale Park?
Don Blair, Cambridge City Council’s Senior Operations Manager, Streets and Open Spaces, said: “Ivy on trees provides a significant habitat for a range of wildlife. Ivy is not necessarily harmful to trees and our trees are inspected every 3 years. If there is a need to remove ivy either for further detailed inspections or there are health concerns we do remove it. We cover this in our published tree strategy (Policy BD1 [7]). In cases of overgrowing vegetation which is defined as shrubs or bushes, or other vegetation which impedes or prevents reasonable access to footpath users (including pedestrian and cyclists), hinders eye line sight of road users or otherwise prevents permitted access to a communal or shared area (including communal alleyways or access points), the Land owner who responsibility for the land should be contacted. The majority of instances are either Cambridge County Council’s Highways Department or Cambridge City Councils Housing Department.” Councillor Mark Ashton (Cherry Hinton) said: “Overhanging vegetation is a concern city-wide. I will ask if we can put an article in the next Cambridge Matters (the City Council magazine) to promote this. Thanks for raising the issue.”

7. Godwin Way

– raised by Ruth

  • What are you going to do to improve the safety around the main entrance to Queen Edith school in Godwin Way made dangerous by parents driving and parking irresponsibly?
Councillor Mark Ashton (Cherry Hinton) said: “This is a problem everywhere – we’ve been trying to do something about parents dropping off the children of Queen Emma school in Bosworth Road, and also difficulties in Cherry Hinton High Street. We’d love ideas from the public, and we’d love schools to be able to do more. We realise it’s hard though and enforcement is difficult. We are certainly aware of this but await new government powers.”

8. Queen Edith’s Way

– raised by Ruth and Paul

  • Is there any chance of re-seeding the grass verges in Queen Edith’s Way and of making it illegal to park on them?
  • When will we see action on the creation of cycleways along Queen Edith’s Way?
Councillor Mark Ashton (Cherry Hinton) said: “It’s actually been nice to see that some contractors have grassed over and made good their damage, so it can be done. I’m unsure of the legal requirements but will chase to see if there’s any more we can do nowadays. We’re still optimistic that the improvements around the Robin Hood junction will go ahead, but we’re always concerned about how long it will take – we realise that it will have to wait for other works like Fendon Road.

9. Potholes

– raised by Rahee

  • How do I raise issues with potholes in the pathway? I am particularly concerned about a pothole that is just on the entrance of the Mowbray Road cul-de-sac opposite Holbrook Road. As you are all probably aware, this pathway has a large amount of footfall on it due to the hospital with people going to and from work and could cause a potential safety hazard.
Councillor Mark Ashton (Cherry Hinton) said: “There’s a page on the County Council website where you can report these. Or talk to your County Councillor.”

The Queen Edith’s Community Forum team would like to hear from residents as to whether they found this a useful substitute for the real meeting.