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To deal with Oral Questions

Meeting: 02/03/2023 - Council (Item 11)

To deal with oral questions


Question 1: Councillor Copley (moved by Councillor Bennett) to the Executive Councillor for Planning Policy and Infrastructure.


      i.         The Government has announced “the environmental improvement plan” and in this that every household will be within a 15-minute walk of a green space or water.  What will Council do to assess if we are meeting this for existing and new communities, and to ensure we deliver this access to green space if there are any residents denied this?


Executive Councillor response:


      i.         Enhancing and developing Biodiversity and Green Spaces was one of the big themes for the Greater Cambridge Local Plan and set out in the First Proposals how policies would be developed seeking to increase and improve the network of habitats for wildlife, and green spaces for people, ensuring that development left the natural environment better than it was before.

    ii.         It was vital to measure how well the Council was doing In terms of assessing those areas which had been identified if the needs were being met.

   iii.         The First Proposals was accompanied by the Green Infrastructure Opportunities mapping project, which used information gathered to identify priority areas. The report was available on the Greater Cambridge Planning website.

  iv.         A further study had been commissioned to inform the draft Local Plan looking at open space standards and how new spaces should be delivered, including being informed by Natural England’s new Green Infrastructure Framework.

    v.         Officers were updating evidence looking at more formal open space types, such as updating the Council’s playing pitch and courts strategies. The Council should therefore have a comprehensive set of information available to help plan to meet the needs of our communities, ensuring that any gaps would be filled.


Question 2: Councillor Bick to the Executive Councillor for Recovery, Employment and Community Safety.


As national planning controls have been relaxed, and patterns of retail behaviour and demands for space change, what can the council do to ensure that those retail stores that continue to constitute important local amenity remain at the centre of local communities?


Executive Councillor response:


      i.         Our District, local, and neighbourhood centres are important to our communities, and help ensure services are available locally to where people live.

    ii.         The adopted Cambridge Local Plan includes a policy that seeks to maintain thriving centres by controlling changes of use. As referenced in the question, these controls have been impacted by the new national land use class E which provides greater flexibility for certain changes to take place without planning permission.

   iii.         Retail habits were changing, not just in the city centre, but across the city. The Council commissioned evidence to explore this and would be considering what new retail and centres policies were needed in the emerging Greater Cambridge Local Plan so the Council could continue to support our centres through the planning decisions that were made.

  iv.         Beyond planning, work was being undertaken to determine how to support local and small-scale businesses impacted by factors such as the cost-of-living crisis and the pandemic, with several grants available.


Question 3: Councillor Carling to Executive Councillor for Recovery, Employment and Community Safety.


With Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week earlier in the month, please can you update on work that’s going on to support and protect victims of sexual violence and abuse.


Executive Councillor response:

      i.         The Council’s work to support and protect victims of sexual violence and abuse was extremely important.

    ii.         Work takes place on a continuous basis through partnership working, such as Cambridge BID, various charities, students, and police, on several areas, such as working to eliminate the sexual violence in the city centre.  

   iii.         Cambridge night-time economy was of a purple flag standard, ensuring that the City was safe place at night. The Council was part of the purple flag group providing taxi marshals through grant funding, running vulnerability and welfare training to night-time staff such as bouncers, bar staff or porters in the colleges.

  iv.         The Council was also working to accredit licenced businesses and pubs to endorse establishments that had good practices.

    v.         The Council also run an annual domestic violence conference which members of the public were invited to attend.   


Question 4: Councillor McPherson to the Leader.


In the leader’s role as board member for the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, can she comment on why it was necessary to have a mayoral precept?


The Executive Councillor’s response:

      i.         The mayoral precept allowed an additional charge to council tax.

    ii.         It was a huge responsibility to exercise the mayoral precept for the first time.

   iii.         Public transport for the east of England continued to be chronically underfunded, the Government was spending £16 per head, half of what similar areas were receiving. The precept would fill some of the gap.

  iv.         The addition of the mayoral precept would mean a further £1 a month on a band D home.

    v.         The additional £3.5 million would be spent on public bus services which would allow the Combined Authority to support for a year eighteen full and five partial routes that had been cut by Stagecoach. These routes covered the whole of the Combined Authority area and included routes in and out of the city. 


Question 5: Councillor Divkovic to Executive Councillor for Open Spaces, Food Justice and Community Development.


With the herbicide free trial in Arbury and Newnham approaching an end, can the Executive Councillor give an update on any findings from the trial and next steps?


The Executive Councillor response:

      i.         A report on the matter was due to be presented at the next Environment and Community Scrutiny Committee towards the end of the March.

    ii.         The report would provide an update on the work that had been undertaken since the trial had begun in January 2022. This included an evaluation of the two trial wards, an appraisal of the happy bee street scheme and recommendations on further reduction or a complete stop of the use herbicides in the city.

   iii.         There had been two ward walkabouts with local councillors highlighting areas of interest; remained concerned about accessibility issues that could arise (not yet occurred).

  iv.         Early indications showed the trial had been positive, learning from collaborations from residents, councillors, and community groups.

    v.         Looked forward to being able to go into further detail at the next Environment and Community Scrutiny Committee meeting.


Question 6: Councillor Flaubert to the Executive Councillor for Open Spaces, Food Justice and Community Development.


Could the Executive Councillor please confirm progress on installing electricity to Hobson's Square in Trumpington?


The Executive Councillor’s response:

      i.         Since Hobson Square had been transferred to the Council, the Council has supported the use of trading, managed by the streets and open spaces team using the application of hire process.

    ii.         There were a range of businesses operating in the permanent retail units around the Square. Now these businesses were paying rates and rent the original position that the square could be used for intermittent trading opportunities needed to be re-evaluated.

   iii.         Many of the units offered food which if trading was allowed from the Square itself could have an impact on those businesses and this currently was not permitted.

  iv.         The original design brief and the intended use was for community-based activities, and this should not be changed unless there was an impact to those permanent business units.

    v.         The post transfer of power issues to the lamp columns in the square had been resolved. This could allow the potential to explore further provision of electric supply points to support events. An update would be provided to Council in the very near future. 


Question 7:  Councillor Sweeny (asked by Councillor Dryden) to the Leader.


With reference to item 11a, what are the leader’s reflections on her first 3 months on the board and the value that the CPCA has for Cambridge city.


The Executive Councillor’s response:

      i.         The last three months had been a positive experience on underlining the work of the Combined Authority. Recent projects that they had supported were as follows:

·      The chalk stream project

·      Waterbeach solar farm

·      Cambridge south station

·      City Council’s retro fit programme

·      Money to support inclusive economy projects across the city

·      500 Cambridge City council homes across the city due the original devolution deal.

    ii.         The Combined Authority brought a collective voice on a range of issues.

   iii.         As acting Mayor, had been invited to attend Parliament to address ministers on the needs to the region (including Cambridge).

  iv.         Worked with other metro mayors to lobby on issues vital to communities across the country such as putting pressure on supermarkets to address the cost-of-living crisis.

    v.         Struck by the words of Councillor Herbert (former Leader of the Council) ‘Cambridge can’t go it alone’ when debating the introduction of a Combined Authority.

  vi.         Cambridge was a city that attracted a lot of investment, and that investment should be shared with residents, not just a privileged few.

 vii.         Huge benefit in working together better to address issues in Cambridge and the surrounding area. 


Question 8: Councillor Todd-Jones to the Executive Councillor for Environment, Climate Change and Biodiversity


How is the council using its leadership role in the city to achieve our ambition of Cambridge to become a net zero carbon city.


The Executive Councillor’s response:

      i.         The Council was providing leadership on tackling the climate crisis, not just in the City but through the county.

    ii.         In 2020/21 the Council launched Cambridge carbon training for council staff and councillors.

   iii.         The Council were in partnership with Cambridge Carbon Footprint working on a project to offer Cambridge carbon literacy training to residents.

  iv.         The retro fit guide had been launched in Autumn 2022.

    v.         In the summer the new Green Business Programme would be launched in partnership with South Cambridgeshire District Council and Huntingdonshire District Council.

  vi.         The new trusted contract framework would help push retro fit to homeowners and landlords. 

 vii.         The district heat project was also running,

viii.         The Council was part of the Climate Leaders conference, the next conference would be hosted by Cambridge University. The target was to create solutions to address the barriers of decarbonisation.

  ix.         Funding had been obtained to explore the financial barriers of decarbonisation on several different work streams working with external partners.

    x.         There was also the Cambridge Climate Forum bringing together all the environmental groups in the city. 


Question 9: Councillor S Smith to the Executive Councillor for Planning Policy and Infrastructure.


The Cambridge Water Resources Management Plan (WRMP) is delayed.  How does this affect our emerging Local Plan schedule?


The Executive Councillor response:


      i.         The draft Cambridge Water WRMP was published on 24th February. This was considerably later than anticipated.

    ii.         Officers would now be looking into what it means for the plan, as discussed in the reports to the January Planning and Transport Scrutiny committee.

   iii.         In terms of the overall programme for the local plan work continued with the preparation of draft plan to be reported to members later this year.



Question 10:  Councillor Lee (moved by Councillor Bick) to the Executive Councillor for Planning Policy and Transport.


Could the Leader of the Council advise us whether the Voi scooter scheme is going to be extended? While the scheme is not entirely without hiccups, it’s been a benefit to many across the city especially those who can’t drive and don’t know how to cycle and so some clarity on the future of the scheme would be wonderful for them


The Executive Councillor response:

      i.         The scheme had been extended until 31 May 2024 as managed by CPCA under new provisions from the Department of Transport.

    ii.         These provisions were introduced to allow more time to monitor and appraise the effectiveness of the existing national trials (including Cambridge).

   iii.         The extensions would allow time to bring forward new legislation of a new vehicle category covering the use of low speed zero admissions vehicles including e-scooters on public roads.

  iv.         This would be the third extension by the Department of Transport.

    v.         The extension would allow a valuable addition to the urban transport scene and encourage the move away from polluting alternatives and the scheme offers affordable transport for those without other transport choices.

  vi.         Currently there were 900 e scooters and 150 e bikes, Voi had asked for an increase to 1400, officers felt this would be too many but ultimately it would be the Combined Authority’s decision.