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Public Questions Time

Meeting: 03/03/2022 - Council (Item 6)

Public questions time


Question 1

      i.         Councillors will be aware of our campaign with the RNIB and Cam Sight to address concerns about pavement parking. Since COVID lockdowns commenced the habit of parking cars on, or across, the pavement has increased substantially and shows no signs of abating now that restrictions have eased. Some of you may have visited our website at stumblingstreets.com, viewed the video produced by the RNIB or seen the gallery showing some of the many instances that have been photographed. 70% of the photos on that site were taken in the first two weeks of February and they must represent only a fraction of the reality. 

    ii.         While representing a nuisance for all pedestrians, pavement parking is a major issue for particular groups.  Wheelchair and mobility scooter users as well as parents with prams or buggies are often forced into the road to get around the vehicles. For the blind and partially sighted they represent a hazard with real potential dangers. One they are now likely to encounter at least once in almost every outing. If active travel policies are ever to work, barriers like this need to be reduced not, as they are now, allowed to grow unchecked.

   iii.         We are, of course, aware that the City Council has no powers to address this and similar problems under the current arrangements. We believe it has a major role to play, nonetheless. Will this Council and its members now agree to press the County Council and the Highways and Transport Committee for swift action to bring an end to the worst manifestations of what is rapidly becoming an epidemic, one that negates the positive work of the Active Travel Team? 

  iv.         First it is important to emphasise to the County Council and especially to the Highways and Transport Committee that they absolutely do have the powers to address the problem. These were bestowed on all local authorities including Cambridge by ‘special authorisation’ in February 2011 given by the then Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Norman Baker, to prohibit parking on footways and verges, wherever they considered it necessary. This would be exercised through a traffic regulation order (TRO, or ETRO).  A copy of that authorisation could be made available.

    v.         Secondly, this Council can refuse to accept the obfuscation, buck passing and denial of responsibility that seems to have greeted past complainants. Thirdly they can make it clear that, apart from London where there is a blanket ban, pavement parking has been, or is being, successfully tackled in cities like Peterborough and Sheffield through the use of TROs in localities where the problem is worst. This is easier and generally more acceptable than city wide action. Councillors can identify and nominate local hotspots for consideration. Finally, this Council can suggest that, if initial schemes have sufficient scope, any action could be self-funding through the administration of fines.


The Executive Councillor for Planning Policy and Transport said the following:


      i.         Thanked the public speaker for drawing the work of Living Streets Cambridge in this area to the Council’s attention. 

    ii.         This issue would be very familiar to Councillors across Cambridge who recognised the difficulties it can cause and the obstacles that many residents experienced.

   iii.         Agreed with the points that had been raised and would press Cambridgeshire County Council as the Highways Authority to ensure the concerns raised could be discussed and solutions found.

  iv.         Was aware that Cambridgeshire County Council had consulted with the London based national organisation representing disability interest Transport for All to work through many of the objectives raised.

    v.         Had requested a meeting with the relevant Councillors, Officers and the public speaker and hoped it would take place in the next couple of weeks from this meeting.


Question 2

      i.         How can we further accelerate the deployment of rapid, effective, no-brainer investment in housing insulation and heat saving retrofit across all council properties, as well as suitable local incentives for private dwellings, especially private rented dwellings - which is surely the most critical and comparatively easy priority for a sudden and significant reduction in fossil usage in the city, as well as significantly reducing cost of living, utility bills for as many local residents as possible.

    ii.         Would the Council commit to swiftly investing in these choices, and incentive private landlords and homeowners to undertake this work.




The Executive Councillor for Housing said the following:

      i.         Since 2020, the Council had been fitting external wall insultation and solar panels to council owned properties, with a programme of 150 solid wall properties in Arbury, to be completed this year at a cost of £3.2million.  Those residents should save at least £200 per annum on energy bills as the energy rating had gone from D to B

    ii.         In the new financial year, £1.9million had been allocated from the housing revenue account (HRA) to retrofit another 60 council houses.

   iii.         In combination with the HRA, using local authority delivery funding where applicable, and the social housing decarbonisation fund, there were plans to retrofit more council properties in 2023.

  iv.         The Council also had ongoing planned works for loft insulation for all council dwellings and cavity wall insulation for 148 council dwellings benefiting in 2021/22.

    v.         £5million had been allocated from the HRA to deliver a net zero carbon housing project in 2022/23.

  vi.         A package of energy efficiency measures across 50 different council home types would assist in calculating zero carbon measures required for all existing council dwellings. Evidence from this project would help assist with the Council’s request to Government for more funding.

 vii.         £365million was required to retrofit all council homes to energy rating B standard, but the HRA could not fund this. The Council was applying to every grant funding stream available, but the Government also needed to meet this challenge.

viii.         The Council were part of The Great Homes Upgrade campaign to lobby the Government to upgrade all homes.

  ix.         The Council would look at the planned maintenance programme and if funds were available and could be allocated for appropriate works, there was the flexibility to do so.


The Executive Councillor for Climate Change, Environment and City Centre said the following:

      i.         With regards to private owned and privately rented properties there were a number of initiatives being pursued by the Council; working in partnership with all Cambridgeshire districts to deliver retrofit to Cambridgeshire residents through the Action on Energy programme with the service planned to start in July 2022.

    ii.         There were a number of projects designed to provide residents advice and support on how to retrofit their homes.

   iii.         Two high level retrofit studies had been commissioned to identify what energy efficiency and renewable energy measures would need to be installed for different property archetypes in Cambridge. A building control project was also launched last year to provide homeowners energy advice through thermal imaging. The private rented sector would also be targeted through the minimum energy efficiency standards.


Question 3

      i.         On the 22 July 2021, the Council unanimously passed a motion outlining its concerns about the implications of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. With the Bill in its final stages having completed all its readings in the House and the Lords, it is due to enter the Commons for final consideration of the Lords amendments Monday, 28 February before proceeding for Royal Assent. Although a number of amendments on the rights to protest have been changed, there has been little movement on the provisions regarding the criminalisation of the Traveller way of life, the power of police to seize Gypsy and Traveller homes, to fine Gypsies and Travellers up to £2,500 and to imprison those who continue to follow a nomadic way of life because of the lack of safe legal stopping places.

    ii.         Since the passing of the Council’s motion last year there had been 7 evictions. The GRT community were asked to participate in the GTANA but they declined to do so stating that the Council had no relationship with the GRT community.  Trust needed to be built with the GRT community.

   iii.         What plans does the Council have in place now to supply legal stopping places and transit sites for Gypsies and Travellers passing through Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire?

  iv.         This is now an issue of great urgency. There are no legitimate grounds for delay.


Question 4

      i.         I am delighted that the council stood in solidarity with the Gypsy Roma and Traveller community against Jimmy Carr's appearance at the Corn Exchange in February. I was at the protest and delighted to see some councillors there.

    ii.         However, it is disappointing that the council does not currently have a negotiated stopping policy and continues to carry out evictions. I note that in their meeting of 22nd July 2021, councillors voted through a motion in which they committed to “Stand in solidarity with Traveller and Gypsy communities in Cambridge and continue to build trust and good relations with them”. However, councillors also voted down an amendment which would – among other things – have made provision for negotiated stopping in Cambridge. Negotiated stopping has a proven track record in providing secure housing and service provision for Travellers. It also eases tensions with local communities and, in Leeds, has saved the council £230,000 on clean-up and enforcement costs.

   iii.         I understand that Cambridge City Council was the only council in Cambridgeshire to carry out an eviction during the first COVID lockdown. As a Labour Party member, I am concerned that a Labour council would allow this. The motion of solidarity passed last July is encouraging but it is time to go further than words and take meaningful action to back up the rhetoric.

  iv.         I understand that the council may have considered the idea of negotiated stopping in the past. Will the City Council and its members act in accordance with its words of support for the GRT community, and commit to a formal negotiated stopping policy now, such as has been adopted in Leeds?'









The Executive Councillor for Open Spaces, Sustainable Food and Community Wellbeing responded to questions 3 and 4 together:

      i.         Agreed this issue was a matter of urgency and did not intend to delay. 

    ii.         Fully supported negotiated stopping places as an alternative solution for the Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller (GRT) community to stop safely and legally.

   iii.         In the case of Cambridge City Council, the current availability of unused pieces of council owned land, which could feasibly serve as a temporary legal stopping place was a significant limiting factor. Given these limitations our current approach in respect of GRT encampments on our land was a de facto negotiated stopping agreement, which included agreeing stopping time and services to be provided by the Council. These services include welfare assessments, water, rubbish disposal and sanitation. In most cases, such as on our parks and open spaces, stopping can be agreed for weeks or in some case months (eg. Coldham’s Common in 2019).

  iv.         As said previously, any need for transit site provision needed to be included in the Greater Cambridge Local Plan; and therefore clear evidence of GRT need was required. A Gypsy & Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessment (GTANA) was the recognised way of doing this.

    v.         Recognised that GTANAs had their limitations, which included the willingness and trust of the GRT community to be interviewed. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic (with lockdown starting just before interviews across the study area were due to take place) had inevitably had an impact this time round due to delays in carrying out surveys and additional reluctance of some individuals and families to be interviewed face to face.  She had been reassured that the consultants were now completing these interviews.

  vi.         She attended the Corn Exchange and welcomed the show of solidarity with the GRT community from a whole cross section of the Cambridge community against GRT racism.

 vii.         Had spoken with a member of the GRT community whilst at the Corn Exchange and asked what the Council could do to support the GRT community. Their response was to provide stopping places. To support stopping places, un-used sites needed to be found.

viii.         Would work with neighbouring councils to understand what needs there were and how these needs could be met.


Question 5

      i.         The woefully inadequate provision of formal sports pitches at the proposed North East Cambridge development is on tonight’s agenda.

    ii.         What is the prospect of the new development getting a bigger share of sports facilities that the council’s own policy says it should bring?  

   iii.         Why shouldn’t sports pitches and a swimming pool be part of the promise of a five-minute community that the council is promoting to its future residents?


The Executive Councillor for Planning Policy and Transport said the following:

        i.       The proposed development at north east Cambridge would not be coming forward for the next 10-15 years.

      ii.        Would work towards the full requirement of sports facilities contained within the current adopted Local Plan being delivered on site or close by.

    iii.        There was nothing within the North East Cambridge Area Action Plan preventing all sports facility provision being provided on-site.

    iv.       Noted that further debate on the matter would take place during item 22/10/CNLb.


Question 6

      i.         Why are there insufficient rubbish and recycling bins throughout Castle Ward. What plans has the Council got in place to properly reflect the increasing pedestrian traffic in the Ward to ensure litter reduction?


The Executive Councillor for Climate Change, Environment and City Centre said the following:

        i.       Dog waste (preferably bagged) could be disposed of in any litter bin.

      ii.        Tackling the environmental and financial impacts of litter was a priority across all wards in Cambridge. The Council was currently developing a Litter Strategy, which included a litter bin review (which would look at the location, size and type of bins).

    iii.        A resident’s survey had been undertaken and responses stated that litter impacted on resident’s satisfaction of where they lived and their wellbeing.

    iv.       Detailed litter issues could be sent to the Executive Councillor and would be shared with officers as part of the litter bin review.


The following questions were not asked during the meeting, written responses where available, would be provided following the meeting.


Question 7

      i.         The City Council is to be congratulated on its successful application, with South Cambridgeshire District Council, for funding to undertake restoration work on the city’s chalk streams and their critically important biodiversity.  Would it therefore not be appropriate to also provide statutory protection, in the form of Local Nature Reserve (LNRs), for all those streams that meet the criteria for such designation?  As has been found globally, restoration of biodiversity and its habit is of little value unless the areas involved are also protected and suitable measures put in place to reduce the threats that led to deterioration in the first place. The 11 LNRs in Cambridge include Nine Wells and Byron’s Pool, but no other chalk stream habitat.

    ii.         Cherry Hinton Brook is a particularly important example and is currently designated only as a City Wildlife Site, which carried no statutory weight.  The Brook meets the key criteria for designation as an LNR in terms of local importance for wildlife, education and enjoyment (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/create-and-manage-local-nature-reserves).  It has a very healthy population of breeding water voles (a protected species), visiting otters and a rich bird diversity including kingfisher, egret and water rail.  It is enormously popular as a leisure spot, attracts many birdwatchers and photographers, and is also used for educational school visits.  There is an active group of volunteers involved with maintenance and restoration activities, and who would help to prepare the required management plan.  Would the Council consider looking at the feasibility of designating Cherry Hinton Brook as an LNR, thus demonstrating the Council’s full commitment to the protection of this unique habitat?


Question 8

      i.         Given that the upper Cam is classed by the Environment Agency as being of 'poor' water quality, and that, as we have established for ourselves by professionally validated microbial testing, the principal source of polluting faecal bacteria are from upstream sewage treatment works can the Greater Cambridge Partnership not put a great deal more pressure on the Water Companies (particularly Anglian Water) to improve their performance so that our Cam valley rivers reach at least 'good' water quality status?


Question 9

      i.         I gather "up to 12 streets will be selected where local residents can volunteer to clear their street spaces to avoid herbicide use"


    ii.         It's an excellent initiative, and when I posted a message about it on our Belvoir Road WhatsApp group, I discovered there was lots of support and many willing volunteers.

   iii.         How do we go about getting Belvoir Road selected?


In response the Executive Councillor for Open Spaces, Sustainable Food and Community Wellbeing said the following:

      i.         To be selected you will need to register your interest using an online form and the council will then help you to consult other local residents and neighbours to reach a consensus of support and then if successful, the council will work with your street to become herbicide free.

    ii.         The Council has developed a range of web-based support material to help with community communications and build volunteer capacity.

   iii.         The 12 selected streets would be supported by the Council’s Streets and Open Spaces Community Engagement service, who would also make resources available, as required, such as tools, signs, gloves, etc.









Meeting: 24/02/2022 - Council (Item 3)

Public questions time


Public question time was deferred until the 3 March 2022 council meeting.