Monday, 30 September 2013

The Black Death In Medieval Cambridgeshire: Halloween Supper Club

Another slant on Cambridgeshire - hope you might be able to come along to what should be a fascinating evening.

HALLOWEEN SUPPER CLUB SPECIAL

The Black Death in Medieval Cambridgeshire: Saturday 26 October, 7PM, Foxton Village Hall.  Tickets £12.50, including home-made supper, desert, licensed bar and raffle.

Tickets from susanvandeven@yahoo.co.uk, tim@whittlesford.plus.com or jose@josehales.me.uk.

Please mention the "Focus on Bar Hill" blog when contacting them!

Swavesey Pub Confirmed As Community Asset

The last remaining pub in Swavesey has been added to a list of ‘assets’ to make sure local community groups have a realistic chance of buying it if it is put up for sale in the future.

The White Horse Inn on Market Street has been listed as an ‘Asset of Community Value’ on South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Community Right to Bid register after Swavesey Parish Council put forward the nomination.

The pub is currently trading and not up for sale, but if this happened in the future the Council must be notified so local groups can be given the option to put forward a bid.

Local groups would then be given six weeks to give notice of their intention to make a bid and they then have six months to get together finances to compete for the purchase.

A sale to a non-community group cannot be made until the six month period has passed.

Following the six month period the owner does not have to sell to the community group who must compete on the open market but by listing the asset they have time to have a realistic chance of being successful.

Buildings such as pubs and community halls, as well as areas of a village that residents have access to such as recreation grounds, can be nominated by a parish council, local community group or charity. Privately owned land that cannot be accessed by the public or services such a playgroups cannot be listed.

Swavesey has around 2,500 residents and the Grade II listed pub serves drink and food, has a garden and a children’s play area, a function room to the back of the pub which is used for private parties, village club events and community functions.

The freehold owners of the pub are Enterprise Inns PLC and it is leased and managed by a landlord.

Details of the Right to Bid process and assets listed on the register in South Cambridgeshire can be found by visiting www.scambs.gov.uk/content/community-right-bid

Cllr Pippa Corney, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s cabinet member for planning policy and localism, said: “Buildings where communities can get together are the heart and soul of villages and this register is aimed at giving local groups the time needed for the business plan and financing to be organised to support a community bid. We are always happy to discuss possible nominations with local parish councils and community groups but it is important to remember that services provided in buildings or private pieces of land that the public have no access to can not be put forward.”

Cllr Sue Ellington, local member for Swavesey on South Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “We have seen the number of pubs in the village dwindle over the years and this nomination could help safeguard the White Horse’s future. We need to ensure the survival of our community assets as this is places where people can meet and have a drink in good company"

Erdogan Makes Modest Progress On Democracy In Turkey

The 'democratisation package' of Prime Minister Erdogan, announced today, is welcome as far as it goes - although it is not the major leap forward that European Union and Turkish liberals were hoping for.

Andrew Duff MEP has just returned from a four day fact-finding visit to Turkey, including to the mainly Kurdish provinces in the East. Reacting to Mr Erdogan's statement, he says:-

'Greatest importance in Turkey will be attached to the relaxation of the Kemalist rules on the wearing of headscarves.

'For the Kurds, it is welcome that private schools may teach courses in the mother tongue, but as long as the Article 42 remains in Turkey's constitution, the effects will be limited. The return of three letters of the Kurdish alphabet (q, w and x) and the re-naming of Kurdish towns will be welcome.

'More information is needed about the government's intentions on lowering the electoral threshold. Movement on this matter will meet a long-standing request of the European Commission and Parliament.

'Some relaxation of the laws on the right of assembly is welcome, as well as the promise of tougher laws against hate crime. So is the transfer to civilian control of the Jandarma.

'However, it is a pity that Mr Erdogan again misses the opportunity to reform the anti-terror law, and that no amnesty is offered to political prisoners, many of them journalists.

'There is nothing for the Alevis except changing the name of a university: the emancipation of the Alevis in Turkey remains unfinished business.

'The Syriac Church will rejoice at regaining the property rights of the Mor Gabriel monastery. But the Greek Church has still to wait for the return of the Halki seminary.'

ends

Lib Dems Prioritise Vulnerable Children In Play Service Changes

Cambridge City Council’s children and young people’s play service (ChYpPS) is proposed to be restructured under plans to be considered by the council’s Community Services Scrutiny Committee in October.

Under the proposals, ChYpPS will be based at Brownsfield Youth and Community Centre, giving the centre a greater focus on youth activities. The City Council will increase the amount of work it does with partners, such as schools, to deliver play activities and work with vulnerable children. This will allow the service to continue working with young people at less cost to the council.
In addition, ChYpPS will have an important role as a hub to help voluntary and community groups deliver activities for young people. Community groups could be helped to secure temporary street closures for play activities, for example.

Commenting on the proposals, Lib Dem councillor Sarah Brown, portfolio holder for the ChYpPS service said, “while councils run by Labour and the Tories up and down the country are responding to challenging conditions by slashing services across the board, the Lib Dem council in Cambridge is finding ways to continue delivering the services that residents value by innovative ways of working and partnering with other organisations.

These proposals will equip ChYpPS to thrive in a challenging financial environment, and will confirm Cambridge City Council’s position in setting the gold standard for young people’s services.”

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Cash Boost For Villages In South Cambs To Improve Bus Services

Residents in South Cambridgeshire are being given the chance to improve bus stops and other facilities in their village.

Cambridgeshire County Council is setting aside £40,000 of the £1.7m pot of funding it has received from the Government for better bus services. It is now asking for ideas from the 90 parish councils in South Cambridgeshire on how they would like to see it spent.

But they will need to move quickly, as suggestions will need to be submitted by Monday, 4 November.

Successful bidders will be given the opportunity to develop their plans and establish project costs so that work can be implemented by the Government's deadline of 31 March 2014. Ideas could include new bus shelters, bicycle parking and real-time displays.

Funding has been provided by the Department for Transport under its Better Bus Area Fund and is being administered by the County Council. The criteria for use of this funding means that it can only be used in South Cambridgeshire.

Councillor Ian Bates, Cabinet Member for Growth and Planning, said: "This is a great opportunity for villages in South Cambridgeshire to see real improvements to their bus facilities. This could include new weatherproof shelters, more places to lock up bikes and keep them secure, and real time journey displays which have proved to be very popular in other parts of the county.

"It's a tight deadline so I would urge people in South Cambridgeshire to get in touch with their parish councillors with any good ideas as soon as possible. Don't miss out!"

For more information and/or to find out how to submit an expression of interest, please contact Cambridgeshire County Council Transport Delivery Team via email transport.delivery@cambridgeshire.gov.uk or telephone 01223 699906.

Funding has been provided by the Department for Transport under its Better Bus Area Fund and is being administered by the County Council. The criteria for use of this funding means that it can only be used in South Cambridgeshire and that priority may be given to areas along the busiest transport routes to Cambridge.

Improvements can include:
  • Bus Shelters - Providing a bus shelters can make bus travel considerably more comfortable and can encourage new users.
  • Real time information displays - Allow passengers to know precisely when the next bus will arrive. Cambridgeshire County Council is investing significantly in the technology that provides this real time information, so that the most accurate and reliable information is displayed at bus stops.
  • Cycle parking - Good cycle parking facilities can encourage people from further afield to use local bus services. Cycle racks and hard surfacing if not in an existing footway are minimum requirements, but covered cycle parking may be an option.

Friday, 27 September 2013

eCops: Burglaries in Bar Hill 27/09/2013

On Thursday 26th September 3 burglaries have taken place in Bar Hill. Please see below. 

2 x burglaries have taken place in Foxhollow. 

1 X burglary took place in Fairway. 

It is unknown at this time what items have been taken. 

Please be extra vigilant and report any suspicious activity you might come across in your village. 

Kind Regards  

PCSO 7009 Alpo Mani 

Histon Neighbourhood Policing Team 

Cambridge City: Parker's Piece Lighting

Cambridge City Council is calling for the installation of six lighting columns on Parker’s Piece as a response to a four week public consultation undertaken with park users and other stakeholders early in 2013. Over 1,000 members of the public commented on trials of different lighting styles, completing questionnaires relating to use patterns and feelings of safety on the Piece. The results indicated a 76% level of public support in favour of lighting of some kind on Parker’s Piece. Of all respondents 62% described themselves as ‘local residents’.

‘The consultation process has been fundamental in developing this scheme’ said Executive Councillor for Public Places Andrea Reiner. ‘We are responding to a desire for additional lighting on Parker's Piece which will help reduce the perceived or actual danger people can face on the park at night time.’

Six high quality ‘heritage style’ columns have been proposed that would be sympathetic to the historic character of the Piece, minimising ‘competition’ with the central listed lighting column known as ‘Reality Checkpoint. The columns would act as wayfinder or ‘beacon’ lighting, and use the minimal amount of columns required to allow for some illumination on the main paths.

Councillor Reiner also stated, “Parker's Piece has a distinctive character, so we have been sensitive to this as we have developed this design. We hope the additional lighting on Parker's Piece will ensure that this beloved green space remains an integral and enjoyable part of the City for years to come.”

The scheme, with an estimated cost of £ 60,000, will be scrutinised by elected members at the Environment Scrutiny Committee on the 8th of October, with a four week period of consultation to follow. If approved, works would commence in January of 2014.

More information about the project can be found on the Council website, where project details will be made available for public viewing.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Liberal Democrats Deliver Billions Of EU Research Funding For Small Businesses

Fiona Hall, Leader of the UK Liberal Democrat MEPs and European industry spokesperson, commented:

"This is an exciting time for the research community and for businesses up and down the country. Liberal Democrats have ensured that over £2.3bn will be allocated to small, innovative businesses, which provide the key to creating new skilled jobs and rebalancing the economy. We also pushed for simpler rules to reduce administrative costs and make it easier for smaller firms to apply for funding."

"Our world-beating universities and research centres take part in more EU-funded research projects than any other country in Europe. This £60bn package will ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of developing the technologies of the future, from discovering cures to deadly diseases to pioneering new forms of low-cost, sustainable transport and energy."

Dr Julian Huppert, Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge, added:

"Britain's future economy depends on innovation happening now. We are great beneficiaries from European research funding, which helps everything from blue skies research to translation.

"This decision will benefit us now and into the future, another great example of our gains from being in the EU. I am particularly pleased that small businesses will benefit - they are the dynamic powerhouses of our economy."

South Cambridgeshire District Council/ Parish Council Liaison Meeting (1st October 2013) Agenda

The agenda is available here, via Google Drive and I've copied most of it below.

If you have something you'd like to see raised then please let me know as I'll be attending on behalf of Bar Hill Parish Council.

South Cambridgeshire District Council and Parish Councils Liaison Meeting
6.45pm-8pm, Tuesday 01 October 2013
Council Chamber, South Cambridgeshire Hall, Cambourne Business Park, Cambourne, Cambridge, CB23 6EA

AGENDA
1. Welcome by Councillor Ray Manning, Leader of the Council
2. Parish Precept
3. Housing Delivery
4. Enforcement
5. Parish Questions – Open Forum

Programme for 2013/4:
1 October 2013 – Parish/Cabinet Liaison Meeting
3 December – Parish Planning Forum
12 March 2014 – Parish/Cabinet Liaison Meeting

Todays Questions From South Cambridgeshire District Council - Full Council Meeting

Here are the questions Councillors raised during today's Full Council meeting in Cambourne, The full agenda (with reports) is available here (on South Cambs DC website);

15a From Councillor Charles Nightingale
“Could the Leader please inform this Council of any planning applications or licences that have been applied for to carry out Fracking in South Cambridgeshire?

Could he also tell us if this Council will ever support any possible future applications for Fracking or Hydraulic Fracturing in South Cambridgeshire?”

15b From Councillor Ben Shelton
“Would the Portfolio Holder please update Members on any recent property purchases made by the Council?”

15c From Councillor Tumi Hawkins
“Several residents have noted that the marketing information being put out to the public by the Council in relation to the on-going local development plan consultation, is worded in such a way as to imply that the selection of the new settlements, in particular, Bourn Airfield, is a done deal.

As such a lot of them felt that there was no point in giving their response or an opinion as it would not make any difference.

Will the Leader or Planning Policy Portfolio Holder please tell us if this indeed was the intention of the council to mislead the general public about the sites selected and the local plan process, and what the council will do before the consultation ends, to correct this ‘misinformation’?”

Minutes for South Cambs DC Full Council Meeting 25-JUL-2013

The minutes from the 25th July Meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council were agreed and approved at today's meeting - the document is available, with the text extracted, here (via Google Drive).

The answers to the questions asked at the previous meeting are included;

33 (a) From Councillor Tumi Hawkins
Councillor Tumi Hawkins asked the Portfolio Holder for Planning Policy and Localism the following question: -
“The Cambridgeshire Future Transport project was supposed to be working with communities to come up with alternatives to replace subsidised buses in the district. Unfortunately, that work came to a screeching halt in May, and is currently in limbo because the County Council officer leading the project left and has not been replaced. During the months before it stopped, a lot of effort had been put in by our officer working in partnership with the County Council lead officer, to use the Demand Responsive Transport scheme proposed by this authority, as a basis for alternative solutions. That work, particularly in Area C, is now in jeopardy and residents are in despair due to the uncertainty of the situation. What is this authority doing to encourage its “partner” the County Council to restart the project and what help is being offered to our officer to keep the project alive?”
Councillor Pippa Corney, Portfolio Holder for Planning Policy and Localism, informed Members that the County Council had lost key staff with regard to this project at the same time as the elections in May 2013, which, she reminded Members, had brought significant changes to the political makeup of the authority. Councillor Corney was much more confident, however, that this piece of work would pick up the pace over the coming months following a meeting she had recently attended and emphasised that things had not stopped from the District Council’s perspective. She reported that the new County Council officer should be in post by September 2013 and that the County Council’s team had been invited to use officers from South Cambridgeshire District Council and Huntingdonshire District Council in the interim period to keep the projects moving.
As a supplementary question, Councillor Hawkins asked: -
“Given that the project is now behind schedule for completion by September 2014, can I get an assurance that the project will be finished by that date?”
Councillor Corney was not in a position to give that assurance, but stated that she had heard nothing to suggest that the original completion date would not be achieved. She added that the project was making progress and had been able to deliver successful programmes already.

33 (b) From Councillor Hazel Smith
Councillor Hazel Smith asked the Leader of the Council the following question: -
“I note that the capital estimate for the Environmental Health portfolio shows a reduction of £139,000 between 2012-13 and 2013-14, so reductions in service are inevitable. While regretting the loss of a council service that is very important in this rural area - Pest Control - can the Leader tell us how the council will ensure that council properties that need this service will be treated as quickly and cost-effectively by private contractors, and how are we fulfilling the specific duty to the public under The Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 to deal with rats and mice?”
Councillor Mick Martin, Portfolio Holder for Environmental Services, answered the question on behalf of the Leader of the Council and clarified that the £139,000 was nothing to do with stopping the Pest Control service. When the Council started charging for its Pest Control service, which it was entitled to do, people tended to prefer using private providers instead of the Council’s service. There was a capital cost to take into consideration when subsidised against commercial competition and this was the main reason why a notice to cease the service had recently been issued.

Councillor Martin stated that the Council had a responsibility to survey any buildings or land that it owned and ensure adequate pest control measures were applied when necessary, which it would continue to do. He added that the Council’s Environmental Services section had undergone a significant re-structure, saving the Council £150,000 per annum, resulting in more effective and efficient service delivery and invited any Member of the Council to visit teams within the service should they need any convincing.

As a supplementary question, Councillor Smith asked: -
“Is the Council on track to make its required reductions or are there further cuts in the pipeline?”
Councillor Martin said that no specific solutions had been identified within his Portfolio at this stage and that this was a corporate-wide issue.

33 (c) From Councillor Susan van de Ven
Councillor Susan van de Ven asked the Portfolio Holder for Housing the following question: -
“Can the Portfolio Holder for Housing please clarify the council's policy on self-build housing, as a potentially useful tool in the quest to bring more affordable housing to residents of all South Cambridgeshire villages, and including eco homes which may or may not comply with traditionally accepted standards of appearance?”
Councillor Nick Wright, Portfolio Holder for Planning and Economic Development, answered the question on behalf of the Portfolio Holder for Housing and stated that the Council was very supportive of self-build housing in the district, which was referred to in the draft Local Plan currently out for public consultation. Proposals for eco homes were also welcomed and the first three had already come forward. He informed Members that a project was currently on-going for 40 self-build properties at Orchard Park and the Council was also exploring the prospect of including some as part of the Northstowe development.

As a supplementary question, Councillor van de Ven recommended the encouragement of take-up by including an article in the Council’s magazine and asked: -
“What can we all do to bring this forward, not just in terms of new development sites but for everyone?”
Councillor Wright, whilst agreeing with the need for encouragement, reminded Members that delivery was not always as straightforward as it seemed and cited Peterborough as an example where plots were still empty after ten years. In closing he referred to the fact that Ministers were promoting self-build development, which also had Government support, and that the Council would take it forward through its Local Plan.

33 (d) From Councillor Aidan Van De Weyer
Councillor Aidan Van De Weyer asked the Portfolio Holder for Housing the following question: -
“Can you provide a detailed presentation of the data that you hold on complaints to this Council and to Mears relating to repairs and maintenance of council houses, including numbers of complaints, the nature and severity of the issue, outcomes whether positive or unresolved, the time between complaint and resolution, and who handled the complaint?”
Councillor Mark Howell, Portfolio Holder for Housing, reported that 40 complaints had been forwarded to Mears in the first 12 months of its contract with the Council, with 39 being resolved and one currently with Mears’ insurers which involved a minor injury. He reported that these complaints had all been investigated and resolved within the ten day limit for stage one complaints and confirmed that complaints were handled by Mears and by the Council’s housing staff.

As a supplementary question, Councillor Van De Weyer asked: -
“Are there particular measures in place to encourage complaints or feedback?”
Councillor Howell said that feedback was encouraged, with operatives provided with feedback forms which tenants were asked to complete either in writing, online or via the telephone. The information from these forms, together with any complaints submitted, were very well received by Mears and the Council’s Housing team.

Changes On Rules For Filming Council Meetings Confirmed

Councillors in South Cambridgeshire have confirmed changes to the rules on filming council meetings following new guidance being issued by the Government.

At a meeting of Full Council today (Thursday 26 September), councillors at South Cambridgeshire District Council agreed for the constitution to be updated so bloggers, journalists and anyone attending a public meeting can film, photo or record events.

The Council had previously asked anyone wanting to film at meetings to make contact in advance but generally always allowed filming to go ahead.

Filming will not be allowed where the public have been excluded during the consideration of exempt or confidential items. Anyone recording a meeting will also be asked to stop if it is being done in a way that is disruptive or distracting to the meeting.

The updated guidance from Government was issued by Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Local Government, also encouraged councils to allow blogging and tweeting from council meetings which the District Council already encouraged due to its growing popularity.

The changes to the Council’s constitution followed recommendations made by councillors on the Civic Affairs Committee who met earlier this month and will be reviewed in 12 months to help make sure residents have good access to information and the Council remains as open and transparent as possible.

Councillors also agreed for the corporate and customer services portfolio holder to look into the possibility of streaming public meetings to give even more people access to the debates held in the Council chamber.

Cllr David Whiteman-Downes, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s cabinet member for corporate and customer services, said: “We constantly review our constitution as trends change and we are very keen to make sure residents have easy access to information. Technology is important to us in doing that and we have always welcomed filming whenever we have been asked. This change makes things clearer for everyone and removes unnecessary red tape and we will continue to look at ways of improving access to information within the resources available.”

Council Meeting Agrees Budget To Give Travellers' Site A New Lease Of Life

Plans to purchase an existing and run down Travellers’ site in Fen Road Chesterton have taken a step forward today (Thursday 26 September) as councillors approved a budget for the project.

At a meeting of Full Council at South Cambridgeshire District Council, cross party backing was given to plans that would see an under utilised privately owned site which is in poor condition on Grassy Corner purchased and brought back into full use.

The Council wants to build nine high-quality pitches for rent at affordable rates and has already secured £500,000 of Government funding only available for investment in Travellers’ pitches following a joint bid with Cambridge City Council.

The decision today will see the District Council submit a business case to the Homes and Communities Agency to bid for further national grants of around £300,000 so any outlay by the District Council could be made on a business case basis with rents collected from tenants at the site repaying the initial investment.

At the meeting councillors also agreed to make a budget available to purchase two other existing Travellers’ sites that are managed by the District Council on behalf of Cambridgeshire County Council.

The County Council owned sites at Whaddon and Blackwell – a site off the A14 near Milton – could also be purchased on a business case basis at no overall cost to the local council taxpayer.

National funding has already been secured from the Homes and Communities Agency to upgrade facilities and add two extra pitches at Whaddon.

Without investment in the sites at Fen Road and Whaddon to upgrade facilities, both sites could become unusable in the future and additional pitches elsewhere in the district would be needed to meet the Council’s legal duties.

Once further national funding is secured, and an agreement to purchase can be reached, planning applications will be needed for upgraded facilities and pitches at the sites.

At the Council meeting housing portfolio holder, Cllr Mark Howell, said that continuing to work with local communities to make sure plans are right for people nearby and residents who could live there in the future.

He said he was committed to involving everyone in the planning consultation for Fen Road, which would include residents and councillors in nearby wards in Cambridge City.

Investment in the sites will help the Council continue to meet its legal duty to provide sufficient Gypsy and Traveller pitches for families living in the district and it is hoped it will also reduce the number of reports of illegal encampments.

Cambridge City Council would be given the option to use one of the pitches at the Fen Road site as agreed as part of the joint bid for national grant funding.

Cllr Mark Howell, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s cabinet member for housing, said: “We have already been speaking to the local community about these plans with some very positive feedback from residents from both the travelling and settled communities. It is important to remember this is an early stage and we are very committed to continuing to work with everyone nearby to make sure the plans are right. In due course a planning application will be needed for Fen road and we will make sure we give people as much chance as possible to have their say on the proposed improvements.

“We have a legal duty to provide pitches to meet the needs of growing families currently living in the district and investment in Grassy Corner would transform it for the benefit of everyone living nearby and in the long run could be at no cost to the local council taxpayer. Without investment replacement pitches would be needed elsewhere in the district.

Cllr Hazel Smith, South Cambridgeshire District Council local member for Milton, said: “When I visited Fen Road to talk to people living there about this plan most people have been okay with the idea. A number of local Traveller families told me they are looking for pitches to rent, and I think that these proposed affordable rental pitches could help improve the area for everyone. It will be important to give all the local communities a good opportunity to comment on the plans if we get to a planning stage and I look forward to ensuring it delivers the greatest possible benefits.”

Don't Let Fire Ruin Your Freshers

Students in Cambridgeshire are being urged to stay fire safe as they move into digs, meet new people and start a new term at university.

The student lifestyle - which can involve partying, drinking and smoking - can increase the chances of a late night visit from firefighters.

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS) want students to take a few minutes to make sure they are not putting themselves or their housemates in danger.

Jim Meikle, Cambridge Community Safety Officer at CFRS, said: "For new students there is so much going on it is easy to put fire safety on the back burner, but there are a few easy things you can do to reduce the risk, whether you are living in halls or shared accommodation."

Top fire safety tips for students:
  • Unattended cooking can easily start a fire and it is easy to become distracted or fall asleep when cooking, especially if you are drunk or tired. If you fancy some food after a night out, reach for the takeaway menu, not the frying pan. 
  • Careless use of electrical items also start fires: hair straighteners, portable heaters, laptops and even phone chargers can start a fire if you don't unplug them when they are not in use. Also, be sure not to overload plug sockets. 
  • Candles are naked flames that easily set fire to other items nearby. They are not allowed in halls of residence and students should think twice before using them in shared accommodation. If they are used, they should be in a proper holder, away from anything flammable and extinguished when you leave the room. 
  • Kitchens in student accommodation are equipped with first aid and fire fighting equipment. Familiarise yourself with this equipment and don't use it for fun, or you may find it's not there when someone really needs it. 
  • If you smoke, make sure you always use a proper ashtray and never smoke in bed or if you are tired or drunk.
  • If there is a fire in your home a smoke alarm may save your life. Never take the batteries out of a smoke alarm and never cover it or tamper with it to stop it from going off.

M11 Closed Northbound **TONIGHT** (Until 1st)

Just a quick reminder that from tonight until the 24th the M11 Northbound will be closed from 8pm to 6am.

A copy of the letter sent to local residents is to the right, the main article (with a copy of the letter) is available via the link below;

http://focusonbarhill.blogspot.com/2013/09/m11-road-closures-road-repairs-works.html

From the letter; "the diversion route will be via via the A11 northbound to join the A14 eastbound to junction 37. Traffic
will be directed on the A14 westbound to re-join the M11 at junction 14."

If you have any questions the contact details for CarillionWSP are 01767 684633 during the hours of 9am and 5pm or the Customer Care department at customercare@carillionwsp.com, or alternatively the Highways Agency Information Line on 0300 123 5000 when out of the above times.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Labour Should Rid Itself Of “Stench Of Corruption”

Tim Farron MP and Local Parish Councillor Andy Pellew
The call came as one of six recommendations from Liberal Democrat President Tim Farron. He was responding to the public consultation instigated on Thursday 19 September by Ray Collins as part of his interim report into Labour's links with the unions.

The six recommendations are that Labour should:

  • Institute some real democracy into their policy-making process, following the lead of Liberal Democrat members at our Glasgow conference
  • Put principle ahead of playing politics and support real reform of the political process
  • Back Liberal Democrats in Government to address the cost of living and create more jobs
  • Institute a policy of one-member-one-vote to banish the union block vote from placing favoured candidates into party leadership
  • Stop taking the electorate for granted. Follow the example set by Liberal Democrats: campaign all year round, every year
  • Hold a clear, comprehensive and transparent audit of every Labour selection so far

Labour Risk The Lights Going Out

"Everyone wants to help with the cost of rising bills, which is why Liberal Democrats have cut income tax by £700 for working people. But Labour's plan is a promise that won't work.

"When they tried to fix prices in California it resulted in an electricity crisis and widespread blackouts. We can't risk the lights going out here too.

"Fixing prices in this way risks blackouts, jeopardises jobs and puts investment in clean, green technology in doubt."

Monday, 23 September 2013

Benefit Fraudster Caught

A resident of Cambridge was sentenced for benefit fraud at Cambridge Magistrates Court on Thursday 19th September 2013; after she continued to claim Housing Benefit for an address she had left a year earlier.

Miss Rosie Tunnicliffe, aged 36, of Malvern Road, Cambridge, took more than £3,800 in welfare benefits, which she was not entitled to. She pleaded guilty to one charge of benefit fraud.

Details of her previous criminal convictions were put before the court and she was sentenced to a Community Order requiring her to undergo 6 months Supervision and pay £100 towards costs and a £60 victim surcharge. She will also be required to repay in full the taxpayers money she illegally claimed.

Naomi Armstrong, Benefits Manager for Cambridge City Council, said, "Anyone who commits benefit fraud is stealing valuable resources from our community. I would encourage anyone who believes that benefit fraud is occurring to report it for free and in strictest confidence on 0800 328 0572.

Julie Smith, Executive Councillor for Cambridge City Council said, "Cambridge City Council takes benefit fraud very seriously and will prosecute those perpetrating fraud. Benefits are provided for the most vulnerable in society. If people are in financial difficulty they should seek advice from the Council and we will do what we can to help people access benefits to which they are entitled."

Friday, 20 September 2013

New Foodbank Collection Point Launched In Cambourne

A new foodbank collection was launched in Cambourne today to help those people in the district who are struggling to afford basic food items.

Based in the reception area of South Cambridgeshire District Council’s offices, the collection point was declared open by portfolio holder for housing, Cllr Mark Howell. Thanks to the generosity of local people, businesses and Council staff, many non-perishable food items such as soup, pasta, rice, and tinned meat and fruit have already been donated.

Contributions will be split between Cambridge Foodbank and Huntingdon’s Charity Foodbank in Sawston who then bag the food up to provide a nutritionally balanced three-day supply to families and individuals in need.

The idea for the foodbank came from the Council’s housing policy officer, Emma George, who has witnessed the affect the rising cost of living has had on some residents and who, with colleagues, often makes referrals to local foodbank charities to get vital food to people that are struggling to make ends meet.

In 2012-13 foodbanks fed 346,992 people across the UK. Of those helped, 126,889 were children.

Cllr Mark Howell, said: “A sudden job loss, unexpected bill, illness, accident or separation cannot be planned for and can often lead to crisis.

“Foodbank charities provide an important service to people for whom finding the next meal can become a desperate problem. We are fortunate that Council staff, local people and businesses have great community spirit with donations already coming in thick and fast. We will however, need a constant supply and are asking local people to think about those less fortunate when they do their weekly shop and pop an extra item in their trolley for our collection.”

The Council invites non perishable dried and tinned food that is in date and undamaged. Currently both charities are specifically seeking:

  • Tinned rice pudding
  • Tinned sponge pudding
  • Tinned meat, e.g. mince, stewed steak, chicken and pies
  • Tinned fish,
  • Tinned soup
  • Snacks
  • Treats, e.g. small bars of chocolate, packs of sweets
  • Jam
  • Instant coffee (small jars)

Exemplar Rural Living Eco Home Unveiled

The grand unveiling of an exemplar rural living eco home took place in Weston Colville this week to demonstrate what life could be like in a home that has been transformed with some of the latest energy saving technologies.

As part of an investigation into the practicalities of installing energy efficiency upgrades to older and more rural Council properties, South Cambridgeshire District Council undertook a retrofit project on a property at 2 The Green, Weston Colville. After five months of work, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Chairman, Cllr David Bard, officially unveiled the property on Wednesday.

The house has been extensively refurbished to incorporate an air source heat pump, under floor heating, solar thermal tubes and a woodburner among other other energy reducing initiatives, together with modern monitoring equipment to measure the energy performance. Collectively, the work has improved the energy rating for the house from a D to a B and will reduce energy bills for the tenant by around 32 per cent.

During the project the Council gained experience in the practical, technical and procedural aspects of low-energy retrofitting. The house demonstrates that it is possible to achieve significant environmental improvements even in an old property with conservation constraints.

The work forms part of a £6 million investment programme – funded by rents collected from Council tenants - to install energy efficient insulation and heating systems in 670 Council houses by 2015. Improvements will be targeted to solid wall properties in villages where fuel bills are highest because no mains gas supply is available.

A number of pilot projects carried out in the district over the last year have already seen the installation of over 2,000 solar PV panels, 150 heat source pumps and the development of a seven year programme to fit external wall insulations on Council homes. Tenants who have benefited from these measures to date have seen their fuel costs drop significantly.

Cllr David Bard, Chairman for South Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “Energy consumption and fuel poverty are real issues for many people, especially those on low incomes, but by taking an innovative approach we can address these issues and make sure our homes are as environmentally friendly as possible.

“The project presents a real opportunity to find out how much energy can be saved adapting older homes. Coupled with our biggest building programme of new Council-owned homes in over two generations, this is an exciting time for the Council.”

Affordable Housing by Liz Heazell

Liz Heazell with Lib Dem District Council Group
Leader, Sebastian Kindersley
When I became councillor in charge of Housing at South Cambs District council, I was appalled to discover how many people were waiting for permanent housing, particularly for rented dwellings. Many more council houses have been sold under the Right to Buy since then and are no longer available. Only recently have councils been able etc borrow money to build any more.

Working with parish councils, local landowners and housing associations, the district council has acted as an effective housing enabler, providing the rented and equity shared housing which allows families to have a settled existence, sometimes in villages with which occupants have strong familial links

Rising prices for market homes means that the need for affordable homes in our generally prosperous area is as great as ever. Sadly, the scheme favoured by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to help people buy homes up to £600,000 is not going to do much here. The association of lenders said recently that it calculated that house values will rise by 11% solely because of that scheme’s existence. What of the future? What can we do to help our young people? ~Whilst I expect much of the District council, I cannot speak highly enough of these local landowners who make land available at lower than market value to enable local people to have a lifetime home in their own community.

Parish councillors can hugely help in the search. Generally, small schemes which reflect local input give a community a great sense of achievement in that they have had a part in helping their own, and also have ensured their village has an increased number of younger people. Rewards in the shape of increased or improved amenities also accrue to a village.

Re-provisioning of old style estates (e.g. The Swifts at Fulbourn which I instigated) is the province of the council, - under the localism legislation, far more of a part can be played by village organisations.

If anyone wants to discuss the topic, please phone me on 870289 or email me on liz.heazell@btinternet.com.

Liz Heazell
(District Councillor for Haslingfield for 17 years and Housing Cabinet member for 5 years)

Thursday, 19 September 2013

More A14 Consultation Information

Here's the link to the Consultation on the Highways Agency website;

http://www.highways.gov.uk/roads/road-projects/a14-cambridge-to-huntingdon-improvement-scheme/

There is also a PDF with details of the consultation that is available here.

As PDF's aren't always the easiest things to read (or especially to search!) I've extracted the text and selected images from the documents below.

Introduction

The Highways Agency (the Agency) is proposing a £1.5bn scheme to improve the A14 trunk road between Huntingdon and Cambridge, over approximately 25 miles.

The scheme will relieve congestion on one of the busiest stretches of the strategic road network between the West Midlands and the east coast ports. It will also enable local businesses to operate more effectively, allow a number of major residential developments to proceed and reduce congestion.

In 2011/12, the Department for Transport carried out a detailed study of options for improving the section of the A14 between Ellington (near Huntingdon) and the Cambridge Northern Bypass. The Highways Agency has carried out a further assessment of these options and has developed proposals for a scheme that it believes will meet strategic and local needs in the best way.

A public consultation exercise is being held between Monday 9 September and Sunday 13 October 2013 in order to gain your views on the proposed scheme, the tolling arrangements, and the other options considered.

Based on the consultation outcome, it is anticipated that a ‘preferred route’ announcement will be made in late 2013, allowing the Agency to protect the route against other forms of development while further design work is undertaken.

The project is classified by the Planning Act 2008 as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP), which means that the Agency is required to apply for a Development Consent Order (DCO). The Agency will make this application in late 2014, but before doing so willl conduct further consultation on the preferred route. The Planning Inspectorate will then seek the views of the public before carrying out a detailed examination of the application and advising the Government on whether or not the scheme should proceed.

The cost of developing the proposed scheme will be met from a number of sources. The largest proportion of funding will come from Central Government, but the local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnership in Greater Cambridge have pledged a total of £100m towards the costs of construction. In addition, it is proposed that a toll will be introduced on part of the route so that road users will make a contribution towards its costs.

Scheme Proposals

The proposed scheme starts at Ellington, on the existing A14 to the west of Huntingdon, before proceeding south and east to provide a new southern bypass to the town. The A1 trunk road will be widened between Brampton and Alconbury to cope with additional traffic flows.

The existing A14 through Huntingdon will no longer be needed as a strategic through-route and will be de-trunked once the new scheme is completed. The bridge over the mainline railway, close to Huntingdon Station, will be demolished.

The proposed scheme rejoins the existing A14 near the village of Swavesey, and continues east as far as the M11 junction at Girton, along the line of the existing route, which will be widened to provide extra traffic capacity over this length. The Girton junction, which connects the A14, the M11, the A428 and an arterial route into Cambridge, will be modified to reduce congestion and improve safety.

The proposed scheme will continue east along the Cambridge Northern Bypass. Junctions at Histon and Milton will be improved and the dual carriageway will be widened to provide extra capacity.

Tolling

Use of tolls to finance major highway infrastructure projects is not new in Britain and is the means by which the Queen Elizabeth Bridge at Dartford, the M6 Toll, and the Second Severn Crossing have all been funded. Not every new road project needs to be funded in this way but, because of the scale and cost of the A14 scheme, the Government believes it is fair that road users should make a direct contribution towards the cost of improvement. Toll revenue is therefore an essential component in the business case for this road scheme.

In this consultation exercise the Highways Agency is seeking the views of the public on the best, and most convenient, way that tolls could be applied and also on the lengths of road over which tolls would be charged.

The tolling strategy developed by the Agency has looked at the impact of different tolling options on overall scheme economics and has estimated the number of vehicles that are likely to divert onto other routes to avoid paying the tolls. The optimum tolling solution is one in which revenue from tolls makes a meaningful contribution to scheme costs, offers value for money to the user, and minimises traffic resulting from vehicles diverting onto alternative un-tolled routes.

The Agency has considered a wide range of tolling options, including different start and end points for the tolled section and a variety of charging arrangements. Each was tested against the benefits and income that it generated and the traffic levels that resulted on both the toll road and the un-tolled alternatives.

The proposed solution involves tolling the section of the new road between the Ellington and Swavesey junctions but not the A14 to the east of Swavesey or any part of the A1.

Other options that were considered included tolled sections from Ellington to Girton and Ellington to Milton, as well as tolling the existing route through Huntingdon, but these were discounted as they offered neither the strategic benefits nor the potential revenue of the proposed solution.

Tariffs have yet to be agreed but could be between £1.00 and £1.50 (current prices) for cars and other light vehicles, and around double this amount for heavy goods vehicles. It is proposed that charges would apply between the hours of 0600 and 2200 seven days a week.


Vehicles using the tolled section of road during charging hours would be identified using automatic number plate recognition cameras, which is an approach already used for the London congestion- charging scheme. As a result there would be no need for toll plazas and drivers would not need to queue in order to pay.

The Agency wants the payment of tolls to be a quick, simple and reliable process and would provide road users with a number of online, on-account, or physical payment options. There would be a limited number of exemptions from tolls, including emergency service vehicles. Foreign- registered vehicles would not be exempt from tolls.

Most through-traffic is expected to use the toll road, as this will provide the fastest and most economical route. However, there exists a number of alternative routes that are likely to be used by local traffic and a small proportion of through-traffic.

Light vehicles would be able to use the de-trunked route of the former A14 through Huntingdon and a short length of Brampton Road.

Heavy traffic would have two non-tolled alternatives: either via the A1 and the A428 from St Neots to Cambridge; or via the county A-roads through St Ives and the northern outskirts of Huntingdon.

Need for scheme

The existing A14 trunk road between Huntingdon and Cambridge is well known for congestion, delays and incidents. Built more than three decades ago, the predominantly two-lane dual carriageway is unable to cope with the daily volume of traffic that now uses it, and is in need of improvement. 

Around 85,000 vehicles use this stretch of the A14 every day. This is significantly beyond the level of traffic that was expected when the road was built. In addition, around a quarter of this traffic comprises heavy goods vehicles - above the national average (of 10 per cent) for a road of this type. 

The improvements to the A14 will combat congestion and unlock growth in the region by supporting business and allowing new areas to be developed. The importance of the A14 trunk road as a link between Britain and continental Europe is set to grow as the east coast Haven ports at Ipswich, Harwich and Felixstowe expand, bringing further growth to the region. 

The scheme will improve connections between people and communities and create a safer road network. It will also provide a positive legacy for the region. 

The Cambridge sub-region is one of the fastest growing areas of the United Kingdom in terms of population and economy. Between now and 2031, its population is expected to grow by 23 per cent, driving a 22 per cent increase in jobs. However, congestion is regularly cited by business as a constraint on growth. The Cambridgeshire Local Transport Plan 2011 notes that delivery of the joint development strategy for Cambridgeshire is threatened by congestion on the A14. Major developments, such as the new 10,000- home village at Northstowe, the Alconbury Enterprise Zone, and expansion on the northern and eastern fringes of Cambridge, all depend on an improved A14. 

Traffic demand in the East of England region was predicted to increase by 26 per cent between 2010 and 2025* as a result of national growth in private car travel, increasing volumes of strategic freight traffic and localised population growth. Congestion on the roads will worsen as this additional traffic is introduced onto the network, and there will be longer daily commutes into, and out of, the area for the region’s growing workforce. 

* East of England region 

Impact of scheme

The proposed scheme provides a number of benefits to road users, businesses and the community, which include: 
  • relief of traffic congestion on a critical link in the national transport network, providing more reliable journey times and making life easier and safer for businesses and commuters 
  • unlocking local economic growth potential by improving access to commercial districts, making it easier to travel to work and to do business in Cambridgeshire 
  • enhancing national economic growth potential by increasing the capacity and resilience of a critical part of the Trans-European Network and by improving links to, and from, the east coast ports 
  • connecting communities by keeping heavy through-traffic out of villages, by reducing community severance, and by de-trunking the former A14 through Huntingdon to prioritise local needs 
  • improving safety and reducing driver stress by keeping the right traffic on the right roads and providing safe local access for pedestrians and other non-motorised road users 
  • improving the environment by de-trunking the existing route through Huntingdon, which will improve air quality and reduce road traffic noise 
  • creating a positive legacy that enhances the reputation and attractiveness of Cambridgeshire and which establishes a distinctive gateway to a region known for excellence in science and learning. 
The Agency acknowledges that not all the impacts of the scheme will be positive and will be undertaking a more detailed environmental impact assessment at the next stage of the project. This will consider: 
  • landscape character in the floodplain of the River Ouse and across the open agricultural land along the route of the Huntingdon Southern Bypass, where it is recognised there will be significant impacts 
  • light pollution in rural areas caused by road lighting, and how this can be minimised, including limiting its use to trunk-road junctions where possible 
  • air quality impacts including a potential deterioration in air quality resulting from higher traffic levels along the corridor 
  • road traffic noise increases along sections of the scheme where traffic will increase and along the Huntingdon Southern Bypass, where screening and fencing will be necessary to mitigate the effects of noise 
  • construction impacts including noise, dust and air quality issues together with the disruption caused by construction vehicles and traffic management arrangements 
The Agency is seeking the views of the public on the positive and negative impacts of the scheme on the community and environment, and welcomes suggestions on how these might be considered further as the scheme proposals are developed. 

Route options

In 2001, the Government commissioned the Cambridge to Huntingdon Multi-Modal Study (CHUMMS). The study examined a range of options to address transport problems in the area and recommended improvements in public transport – including the development of a guided bus-way – together with a series of measures to constrain traffic movements in Cambridge city centre and in some of the surrounding villages. These recommendations have now all been implemented. 

The study also recommended improvements to the A14 trunk road to provide additional capacity and to relieve traffic congestion. 

Proposals were drawn up for an extensive improvement scheme, extending from Ellington (to the west of Huntingdon) to Fen Ditton (to the east of Cambridge), but these were subsequently dropped in 2010 following the Government’s spending review. 

However, the need for improvement on the A14 remained and the Department for Transport commissioned a 12-month study in 2011 to examine other options, including rail-freight and public transport improvements. 

Six viable highway packages also emerged from the study and these were evaluated against traffic, economic, environmental and social criteria. 

The A14 study concluded, in 2012, that options three and five offered the best overall solutions and provided the best value for money. Option three offered the best route around Huntingdon and enabled the A14 to be de-trunked through the town. Option five included the most effective solution for dealing with local traffic between Huntingdon and Cambridge. 

The final stage in the A14 study was to consider the suitability of these highway packages for tolling and how elements of the various options could be combined in different ways to provide the optimum solution. 

The six highway packages are illustrated on the following pages and your views are sought on the benefits and impacts of these to travellers, to the community, and to local businesses. 


Here are the various options;

Option 1

  • Description: Improvement of Cambridge Northern Bypass, enhancement of Girton junction, and the provision of local access roads between Girton and Trinity Foot. Retention of the existing A14 trunk road between Trinity Foot and Ellington.
  • Findings: This option was not taken forward because it offered lower journey time savings than others, did not resolve many of the transport problems in the A14 corridor, did not achieve environmental benefits in Huntingdon and did not support plans for development on the western side of Huntingdon.

Option 2

  • Description: No improvement of Cambridge Northern Bypass, limited enhancement of Girton junction, online widening and new junctions between Trinity Foot and Girton. Construction of a D3AP Huntingdon Southern Bypass between Trinity Foot and Ellington with an A1 junction at Brampton. De-trunking of bypassed sections of A14 and removal of the A14 viaduct across the East Coast Mainline.
  • Findings: This option was not taken forward because it did not resolve congestion and safety issues on the Cambridge Northern Bypass, did not provide adequate resilience in the event of accidents and breakdowns, did not support development on the northern and eastern fringes of Cambridge and offered lower value for money than other options.

Option 3

  • Description: Improvement of the Cambridge Northern Bypass, limited enhancement of Girton junction, online widening and new junctions between Trinity Foot and Girton. Construction of a D3AP Huntingdon Southern Bypass between Trinity Foot and Ellington with an A1 junction at Brampton. De-trunking of bypassed sections of A14 and removal of the the A14 viaduct across the East Coast Mainline.
  • Findings: This option had some merit and had elements that warranted further consideration. But the option maintained existing side-road and property accesses onto the A14, with resulting safety and congestion impacts. It resulted in higher vehicle emissions than options with local access roads and did not provide resilience in case of accidents and breakdowns.

Option 4

  • Description: Improvement of the Cambridge Northern Bypass, limited enhancement of Girton junction, online widening and new junctions between Trinity Foot and Girton. Construction of a D2AP Huntingdon Southern Bypass between Trinity Foot and Ellington (no junction with the A1). Existing A14 past Huntingdon retained.
  • Findings: This option was not taken forward because it retained accesses onto the A14, with resulting impacts on safety and congestion. It did not achieve the benefits of removing the A14 viaduct over the mainline railway in Huntingdon and did not support aspirations for development on the western side of Huntingdon.

Option 5

  • Description: Improvement of Cambridge Northern Bypass, full enhancement of Girton junction, online widening and new junctions between Trinity Foot and Girton, together with new local access road. Construction of D2AP Huntingdon Southern Bypass between Trinity Foot and Ellington (no junction with A1). Existing A14 past Huntingdon retained.
  • Findings: This option had some merit and had elements that warranted further consideration. But the option did not achieve the local benefits of removing the A14 viaduct over the mainline railway and did not support aspirations for development on the western side of Huntingdon.

Option 6

  • Description: Improvement of the Cambridge Northern Bypass, enhancement of Girton junction to enable free flow to A428. A428 widening to D4AP between Girton and Caxton Gibbet. A1198 widened to a D3AP north of Caxton Gibbet to the intersection with a D2AP Huntingdon Southern Bypass which continues west to Ellington with a junction onto A1 at Brampton. Existing A14 de-trunked between Girton and A1/A1(M).
  • Findings: This option was not taken forward because it offered lower journey time savings than most other options and would not resolve many of the transport problems in the A14 corridor. It generated the highest levels of vehicle emissions of all the options and offered the lowest value for money.
Proposed option
The Highways Agency has carried out further assessment of the six highway packages to develop a single scheme, which combines elements of options three and five in what it considers to be the most effective way. 

The assessment has been carried out as four elements to identify the best solution for: 
  • Element 1 – the Huntingdon Southern Bypass, from Ellington to Swavesey, and the A1 trunk road between Brampton and Alconbury 
  • Element 2 – the on-line section of the existing A14 between Swavesey and Girton, together with a new parallel route for local traffic 
  • Element 3 – the link between the A14, M11 motorway, the A428 and Huntingdon Road at Girton 
  • Element 4 – the Cambridge Northern Bypass between Girton and Milton 
This has involved a value-engineering exercise, which has helped the Highways Agency to identify technical solutions that can provide a similar level of benefits at a lower capital cost. 

The result of this assessment process is described in more detail on the following pages of this leaflet. The Highways Agency is seeking the views of the public and other stakeholders on these proposals – and on the other six highway packages described previously – before a decision can be made on a ‘preferred route’ for the scheme. 

Element 1: Huntingdon Southern Bypass


The Highways Agency is proposing a new dual-carriageway southern bypass around Huntingdon, extending from the A14 at Ellington to a new junction at Swavesey. Limited movement junctions would be provided at Brampton and Godmanchester. Between Ellington and Brampton a dual carriageway with two lanes in each direction is proposed; from Brampton to Swavesey this increases to three lanes in each direction. The carriageway widths have been determined by looking at predicted traffic volumes more than a decade after opening. 

It is proposed that tolls will be introduced on this section of road and will apply to vehicles travelling on any part of the route between Ellington and Swavesey. 

The Highways Agency is also proposing to widen the A1 to three lanes in each direction between Alconbury and a new junction to the south west of Brampton in order to provide extra capacity for traffic moving between the A1 and the new Huntingdon Southern Bypass. There will be no tolls on the A1 trunk road. 

The existing A14 will be de-trunked through Huntingdon and the road viaduct over the mainline railway will be demolished. An existing through-route for local traffic will be maintained via Brampton Road. This allows a number of environmental improvements to be made in Huntingdon and will result in a significant improvement in air quality close to the old A14 route. 

The local authorities in Huntingdon are keen to exploit the wider social and economic benefits of de-trunking the A14 through the town. 

Alternative route 

Consideration was given to the possibility of retaining the existing A14 route through Huntingdon – as described in highway package option five – together with the construction of a dual two-lane Huntingdon Southern Bypass. However, this offers limited environmental benefits in Huntingdon, has broadly the same environmental disadvantages along the route of the southern bypass, and cannot achieve an acceptable level of tolling revenue as much of the through-traffic would be likely to use the un-tolled existing dual carriageway. 

It is felt that this alternative route does not meet the strategic objectives for the scheme as well as the proposed route and provides less opportunity for local economic development and community benefits. 

Element 2: A14 online improvement


The solution proposed between Swavesey junction and Girton involves widening the existing A14 to dual three-lane carriageway as far east as Bar Hill and then increasing to dual four-lane carriageway from Bar Hill to Girton. 

New, improved junctions will be constructed at Swavesey and Bar Hill to maintain access to, and from, the A14 and to link with a new single-carriageway local access road, which will run alongside the A14 from Fen Drayton to Girton. 

Existing access to the A14 at Dry Drayton would no longer be needed and would be closed. 

The Agency considered options for tolling the whole length between Fen Drayton and Girton and for constructing a dual-carriageway local access road alongside the A14, but these were not taken forward because they were considered too expensive and because tolling would result in high traffic levels on the local access road. 

Element 3: Girton Junction


Girton junction is a complex and heavily-trafficked intersection between a motorway, two A-roads, and an arterial route into Cambridge. Over a dozen alternative schemes were considered for improving this junction, aiming to maximise the flow of traffic between the roads while addressing issues of affordability, safety, environmental impact, and traffic demand in the chosen solution. 

The proposed solution maintains all the principal traffic movements through the junction and in particular improves traffic flows from east to west on the A14. It also improves merges between major roads to reduce queuing and delays and to improve safety. 

Local traffic into, and out, of Cambridge will continue to use Huntingdon Road, which will connect to the new local access road and westwards to Bar Hill. 

Element 4: Cambridge Northern Bypass


The proposed scheme involves widening the section of the Cambridge Northern Bypass between Histon and Milton to dual three-lane carriageway, together with the improvement of Histon and Milton junctions to provide improved capacity and to reduce queuing back onto the bypass. 

A separate Highways Agency scheme, to widen Cambridge Northern Bypass to dual three-lane carriageway between Girton and Histon has already been approved for construction and is expected to start in early 2014. 

Consideration will be given to schemes for improving the A14 east of Milton junction as part of the Highways Agency’s ongoing route-based strategy studies that include the A14. 

The enhancements to the Cambridge Northern Bypass will help to regulate traffic flow better and to eliminate existing congestion, making the road safer. Journey planning will be more reliable and predictable. These improvements will also serve the rapidly expanding residential and commercial development in the northern fringe of the city, helping to preserve the reputation that Cambridge has for innovation and growth. 

Next steps 

Preferred route 

This consultation exercise is your first opportunity to express your views on the current scheme proposals. 

A consultation report will be drawn up and published once the consultation has closed in October. This report will summarise the views and opinions of the public and other stakeholders expressed during the exercise and make recommendations for future stages of scheme development. 

Subject to the findings of the consultation, a ‘preferred route’ announcement will be made in late 2013 and the pre-application stage of the development consent process will begin. 

Development Consent Order Application 

The Development Consent Order (DCO) provides the Highways Agency with the powers needed to construct the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme. 

Further consultations will take place during the course of 2014 to obtain a further, more detailed understanding of the views and priorities of the public, the local authorities, specific interested parties, and other stakeholders. 

A community consultation exercise is a statutory requirement of the DCO process and will be explained in a Statement of Community Consultation, to be published in advance of the consultation exercise in late spring next year. 

It is anticipated that a DCO application will be submitted before the end of 2014. This will include a description of the scheme, together with a detailed summary of the consultation that has taken place. 

DCO examination and recommendation 

Once the Highways Agency has successfully submitted its DCO application, a pre-examination stage will begin, during which time individuals and interested groups will have a further opportunity to register representations. 

The Planning Inspectorate will then examine the DCO application together with representations made by the public and other interested parties. The examination normally takes up to six months and further evidence may be sought during this time. 

Following the examination, the Planning Inspectorate will produce a report and will recommend to Government whether or not the scheme should proceed. 

The Highways Agency anticipates that the Planning Inspectorate will be able to report to Government by the end of 2015 and that, subject to approval by the Secretary of State, it should be possible to begin construction by the end of 2016. 

Construction of the entire scheme, including associated de-trunking works, is expected to take between three and four years. 

Share your views

To share your views and comments on the proposed improvements, please complete the online questionnaire or pick up a printed copy of the questionnaire at one of our exhibitions. The website address for this scheme is: 
More information on the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme, this public consultation exercise, and the statutory framework for infrastructure planning is available from: 
  • the Highways Agency website, which provides all relevant consultation documents and details of exhibitions 
  • at public exhibitions to be held during September and October 2013 
  • The A14 Technical review of options, which is available on the Highways Agency website or in printed form from the Agency on request (this provides additional detail on the scheme proposals, the options considered, the arrangements for tolling, and the statutory process to be followed) 
  • the Government’s A14 challenge website pages: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/a14-challenge 
  • the Planning Inspectorate’s website for National Infrastructure Planning and Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects: http://infrastructure.planningportal.gov.uk/ 



Bar Hill Parish Council Meeting Agenda - 19th September 2013 ** TONIGHT **

Here's a reminder of the agenda for tonights Parish Council meeting. If you have anything you'd like me to raise (as your local Councillor) let me know.

The agenda has been circulated to Councillors and is included below. As always the "Open Forum" is an opportunity for anyone who wants to talk to the Council to come and have their say.

Open Forum
Visitors to Meeting
- Wiser Recycling Services – Paul Duggen
- Bar Hill First responder – David Bridgmen

1. To receive apologies for absence and any declaration of interest and to welcome Catherine Foley and Simon Munford as new Parish Councillors.

2. Approval of minutes
To approve minutes of Parish Council Meeting held on 18th July 2013. The draft minutes are available here (via Google Drive) - I'm not expecting significant changes but other Councillors views my vary!

3. Matters for discussion and decisions to be made from Previous Minutes
3.1 Midas Care Ltd – update
3.2 Farmhouse – update
3.3 Skate park - update

4. Clerks Financial Report
4.1 Approval of works by the Parish Council
4.2 Request for donation for Research for Pancreatic Cancer
4.3 Village Hall accounts (sent prior to meeting)
4.4 Approval of accounts and payment of cheques for July

5. General Correspondence Received
5.1 SCDC – Letter from Clerk asking for litter bins in Trafalgar Way
5.2 County Council – Winter Gritting Routes
5.3 County Council – Transport Strategy (sent to PC on 5.8.13)
5.4 SCDC – Planning Policy Monthly Update (sent to PC on 6.8.13)
5.5 Email from Jairo Marin – new lawn mower
5.6 Resident letter – Improvements to front of property
5.7 Tom Flanagan - £1000 donation from estate for tree planting
5.8 County Council – Connecting Cambridgeshire (faster broadband)
5.9 Ginn & Co (retirement of Madeleine Barham)
5.10 Viking Way – right of easement (confidential letter to Parish Council)
5.11 Residents Association – permission for use of village green for 2014 Village Fete
5.12 Village Hall Management Committee – possible installation of solar panels
5.13 SCDC – Publication of proposed submission – South Cambridgeshire Local Plan

6. Chairman’s Report
A14 Improvement – Public Exhibition

7. Committee Reports
a. Planning Committee  (MP)
b. Environment Committee (BW)

8. Other Reports
a. Cambridgeshire County Council (JR)
b. South Cambridgeshire District Council (BW/RH)
c. Any other reports

9. Items for Information

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Clegg: Free School Meals Boost Attainment, Improve Health And Ensure Every Child Has A Fair Chance

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg used his speech to Liberal Democrat conference to announce that all pupils at infant schools in England are to get free school lunches from September 2014, with equivalent funding for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In addition, disadvantaged students at sixth form colleges and further education colleges in England will also be eligible for free school meals also from next September. Money is also being provided for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but as education is a devolved issue, it will be up to those running schools there to decide whether to spend the money on free lunches.

Free school meals were one recommendation in The School Food Plan, commisioned by the Government and launched in July by Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent. They found that in pilots where all children had been given a free school dinner, students were academically months ahead of their peers.

Henry Dimbleby took to Twitter to describe the announcement as "Amazing ground breaking news."

Nick Clegg said:

"Teaching healthy habits young, and boosting attainment early, will bring the biggest benefits. Universal free school meals will help give every child the chance in life that they deserve, building a stronger economy and fairer society."

In closing the Liberal Democrat Conference in Glasgow, Lib Dem Leader Nick Clegg re-emphasised the impact the Liberal Democrats are having in Government. His speech in full said:


Three years ago - nearly three and a half - I walked into the Cabinet Office for my first day as Deputy Prime Minister.

Picture it: history in the making as a Liberal Democrat leader entered, finally, into the corridors of power, preparing to unshackle Britain after years of Labour and Conservative rule. Only to arrive and find an empty room and one shell-shocked civil servant promising me we'd get on with things shortly - but first he had to get us some desks.

You saw the calm bit in the rose garden. What you didn't see was the utter chaos indoors. To say the Coalition caught Whitehall off guard is a massive understatement. The Government machine had no idea how it was going to handle power sharing - and not just the furniture, this was going to need a complete overhaul of how decisions would be taken and departments would be run. And - while no one really wanted to admit it at the time - the truth is, no one was quite sure how it was all going to work.

Here we were, this anti-establishment liberal party - which hadn't been in power for 70 years - smack bang in the middle of Her Majesty's Government: a Government machine built to serve one party, with only one party leader at the centre, now suddenly having to answer to two parties and two party leaders. Alongside us were these Tories, who we had been at war with for the past month - well, actually, more like the last hundred years.

The country was deep in economic crisis, in desperate need of stable Government. And the whole thing was set to a soundtrack of pessimism and naysaying: the Liberal Democrats had signed their own death warrant. The Coalition would fall in a matter of months. Britain would be the next Greece.

So let's just stop and think about where we are now: The country's economy growing stronger by the day. Stable, successful coalition - something that seemed impossible now accepted as the norm. And the Liberal Democrats proving that we can be trusted with the biggest responsibility of all - fixing the economy.

I know how hard it has been getting here - facing down all the vitriol from our opponents. Trust me, there were days I thanked my lucky stars that my children were too young to understand some of the things that were written and said. But every insult we have had to endure since we entered Government, every snipe, every bad headline, every blow to our support: That was all worth it - because we are turning Britain around.

We haven't won over every critic; we'll be tested a million more times. But the big question mark that has always hung over the Liberal Democrats - could we handle Government, and handle it when the going got tough? - that question mark is now gone. This recovery wouldn't be happening without us.

We have made sure the deficit is being cut at the right pace. We were the ones who said you don't just get growth by cutting red tape - Government also needs to invest in things: infrastructure, apprenticeships, regional growth.

So I want you to feel proud today. Feel proud that the country's fortunes are turning. Feel proud that, when we were under pressure to buckle and change course, we held our nerve. Feel proud that we are right here, in the centre of Government and the centre of British politics, standing up for the millions of people in the middle.

I have talked to you before about our journey from the comforts of opposition to the realities of Government - but not anymore. Liberal Democrats - we are a party of Government now. And just think of what we have achieved in three short years.

For the first time ever, our schools get given money - our Pupil Premium - to stop children from the poorest families from falling behind - the first time ever. More than a million men and women have started training as apprentices - record numbers. Businesses across every region are being given billions to help them grow.

We've made the biggest investment in our railways since the Victorian times. We've created a bank devoted to clean, green industry - a world first. Elderly people will no longer have to sell their homes to pay for social care because we've capped the crippling costs. Mothers will no longer be worse off in retirement because our new simpler, fairer state pension recognises the value of raising a family.

Fathers will have the choice of staying at home once their children are born because we're transforming parental leave.

All parents will get free, extra childcare, paid for by the state, when their children turn three or two for the families who need it most. We stopped ID cards. We've taken innocent people off the DNA database. We've ended child detention in the immigration system. 0.7% of national wealth spent on aid for the world's poorest - our party's policy for years. Not to mention getting the banks in order and helping create over a million new jobs.

And, one last one: at a time when millions of people are feeling the squeeze, when every penny counts, we've cut income tax bills by £700 and taken almost three million people on low pay out of paying any income tax altogether.

The Tories like to claim credit for that one now, don't they? But do you remember the TV debates? David Cameron turned to me, in front of the whole country, and said: 'I would love to take everyone out of their first £10,000 of income tax Nick, but we cannot afford it'. Well, we can afford it. And we did it. A stronger economy and a fairer society too.

Actually, just one more, and my new favourite: just a few months ago, our Government - our Government - passed a law that will make Britain a place where we finally celebrate love and commitment equally between couples whether they are gay or straight: Equal Marriage. Three years. Three years. We're not even done yet.

Can you imagine what we could do with five more? You should be able to -we've spent the last five days talking about it. This whole week has been about looking forward and one thing is very clear: the Liberal Democrats don't want to go back to the opposition benches, because we aren't done yet.

Because here's what's at stake at the next election: The country is finally emerging from the biggest economic crisis in living memory. The absolute worst thing to do would be to give the keys to Number 10 to a single party Government - Labour or the Conservatives.

All of the sacrifices made by the British people - the pay freezes, the spending cuts, the lost jobs, the daily grind of austerity - all of that would be for nothing. Labour would wreck the recovery. The Conservatives would give us the wrong kind of recovery. Only the Liberal Democrats can finish the job and finish it in a way that is fair.

In 2015 the clapped out politics of red, blue, blue red threatens everything we have achieved. But, back in Government - and next time that will mean back in coalition Government - the Liberal Democrats can keep the country on the right path.

Imagine the next round of leaders' debates everyone watching to see who agrees with whom this time. David Cameron will say to Ed Miliband: you're irresponsible, you are going to drive the economy to ruin. Ed Miliband will say to David Cameron: you can't be trusted to help everyone, your party only cares about the rich. For once, I will agree with them both. Because they're both right: left to their own devices, they'll both get it wrong.

But, Liberal Democrats, we have learned a lot since getting into Government, and one of the main things I have learnt is this: If we're asking people to put us back in the room next time round, if we want them to know why it's better to have us round the table when the big decisions are made, they need to be able to make a judgement about what we'll do there. And that's as much about values, character, background as anything else.

They need to know who we are. Who I am. Why I'm a Liberal Democrat and why I'm standing here today. So, let me start with this: I was part of a generation raised - in the 70s and 80s - on a constant diet of aggressive, us-and-them politics.

I have so many memories of my brothers, my sister and I watching television and asking our parents why everyone seemed so upset. Angry, shouty Labour politicians. Union leaders gesticulating furiously, next to pictures of rubbish piling up on the streets. And later: stand offs between crowds of miners and rows of riot police.

At school I was being taught all about the Cold War - the backdrop to all of this; I even remember a history teacher telling me and my petrified classmates that we probably wouldn't make it until Christmas because there was bound to be a Soviet strike. So the world I grew up in was all about stark, polarised choices. Us vs them; East vs West; Left vs Right.

An incompetent Labour Government had been replaced by a heartless Conservative Government. All anyone seemed to care about was whose side you were on. So I steered clear of party politics.

Then, one day, when I was 22 and studying in America, the phone rang and it was my mum. She had just heard on the News that the Berlin Wall was coming down. So my flatmate and I tuned in our radio, and we sat and listened for hours to reports of people coming out of their homes in the middle of the night and literally hammering away at this symbol of division and hate.

And I can remember so clearly the sense of optimism and hope. Anyone here who's my age will understand: it really felt as though the dark, drab days of angry politics and conflict could now give way to something better. But, in the weeks and months that followed, when I looked to the Government of my country, the British Government, to see if they were raising their sights to help shape this brave new world.

All I could see was a bunch of Tories too busy tearing strips off each other - embroiled, surprise surprise, in rows about European Treaties and widget directives. It was so totally dispiriting: everything I'd come to abhor about the politics with which I'd grown up: insular, petty, polarised.

And if that had been the end of the story, I doubt I would have entered politics at all. But it wasn't. Enter Paddy Ashdown. I met Paddy, for the first time, when he came into a dingy, grey, bureaucratic office I was working in in Strasbourg. It was the middle of a major trade dispute between America and Europe.

He marched in, everyone instinctively stood to attention, and in what seemed like the blink of an eye: he ordered a cup of coffee, instructed the room on how to solve the world's trade wars, issued a series of action points that should have been delivered yesterday, reassured us all it would be alright, and then swept out.

This was the first time I'd seen a British politician talking with passion and conviction and without defensiveness or fear about the challenges in the world and the leadership Britain needed to show. The Liberal Democrats seemed so outward looking and forward looking, compared to the tired, old, introverted politics of Labour and the Conservatives. For me, that was it. That's how I found our party.

So I know what it is like to look at the old parties and want more - to want a party that speaks for big, enduring values. And what the Liberal Democrats gave me 20 years ago. Showing me there was something better than the tired choice between Labour and the Conservatives is something I want us to give to people across Britain today.

What do you think Britain would look like today if the Tories had been alone in Whitehall for the last three years? What would have happened without Liberal Democrats in this Government? I haven't said enough about it.

It's a bit old fashioned, but I always thought it was better, in politics, to tell people about the things you've achieved not just the things you've stopped. But people do need to know how coalition operates and what we do day in day out inside Government.

Ultimately it's up to the Prime Minister and me to make this work; where there are disagreements, we try and seek compromise, and by doing that we've cracked problems that single party Governments have struggled with for decades: social care, pension reform, reducing reoffending, and so on.

But sometimes compromise and agreement isn't possible and you just have to say "no". Inheritance tax cuts for millionaires - no. Bringing back O' levels and a two-tier education system - no. Profit-making in schools - no. New childcare ratios - no. Firing workers at will, without any reasons given - no, absolutely not.

Regional pay penalising public sector workers in the north - no. Scrapping housing benefit for young people - no. No to ditching the Human Rights Act. No to weakening the protections in the Equalities Act. No to closing down the debate on Trident. Had they asked us, no to those 'go home' poster vans.

No to the boundary changes if you cannot deliver your side of the bargain on House of Lords reform. And if there's one area where we've had to put our foot down more than any other, have a guess. Yep, the environment.

It's an endless battle; we've had to fight tooth and nail; it was the same just this week with the decision to introduce a small levy to help Britain radically cut down on plastic bags.

They wanted to scrap Natural England, hold back green energy. They even wanted geography teachers to stop teaching children about how we can tackle climate change. No, no and no - the Liberal Democrats will keep this Government green.

I don't pretend it's always easy to say no. Sometimes I've had to wrestle with some genuinely difficult dilemmas - not just Tory party dogma.

With the Snoopers' Charter, I took months listening to Home Office officials, the IT experts, the security services and the police because, as much as I am in Government to protect civil liberties, I also have to go to sleep at night knowing I did my bit to keep people safe.

Government ministers, loud voices in the Labour party, the securocrats and Whitehall were all adamant I should say yes. But, when push came to shove, it became clear that the surveillance powers being proposed were disproportionate: they would have massively undermined people's privacy, but the security gain was neither proven nor clear. It was right for the establishment, but wrong for the people. So I said no.

Obviously, we haven't been in coalition with Labour. I could give you a hypothetical list of bad ideas the Liberal Democrats would have to stop - but that would involve Labour producing some actual policies. Who here knows Labours plan for our schools? Or welfare? What would they do for the NHS? For industry? To cut crime?

Well, Labour may not have an economic strategy, but fortunately we do. A bold plan for growth agreed by conference two days ago, built on sound public finances, with house-building, infrastructure and lending to business at its heart - Liberal Democrats turning Britain around.

The truth is, Labour haven't set out any kind of vision for Britain because they didn't think they needed to. They have spent the last three years lazily assuming austerity would drive voters into their laps. For them, 2015 is all about the coalition parties losing rather than Labour having to actually try and win. And that tells you everything about why they act the way they do: their deliberate decision to put tactical victories ahead of long-term reform.

Remember the AV referendum? Not a happy memory for the Liberal Democrats, I accept. But do you remember that AV was in fact in Labour's manifesto? Yet it was Labour figures who were most staunch in the defence of the status quo - just to score points against us. Lords reform - something they historically believe in. Yet when they had the chance to vote for it they found excuses not to - just to score points against us.

Even when we hear good news about the economy, they're miserable - they'd rather it be bad, just to score points against us. So I have a message for Labour today: you can't just duck responsibility for the past - refuse to spell out what you'd do in the future - and expect people to give you a blank cheque.

You can sit and wait for the British people to come back to you, but don't hold your breath. And if there is one area all of the parties need to put politics aside, it's Europe, and Britain's place in it. The Conservatives have this bizarre view that we can turn our back on Europe and still lead in the world.

As if we'll be taken seriously by the Americans, the Chinese, the Indians, all the big superpowers when we're isolated and irrelevant in our own backyard. But the truth is we stand tall in Washington, Beijing, Delhi when we stand tall in Brussels, Paris and Berlin.

I know it because I worked there; I have seen with my own eyes what can be achieved for Britain by engaging with our neighbours and building the world's largest borderless single market upon which millions of jobs in our country now depend.

Of course the European Union needs reform - no one is saying it doesn't. But we cannot allow the contorted confusion of the right, the outright isolationism of UKIP, to jeopardise millions of British jobs and diminish Britain's standing in the world.

Liberal Democrats, it falls to us to stand up for the national interest: we will be the party of In. I am an internationalist - pure and simple; first by birth, then by marriage, but above all by conviction. We may be an island nation, but there's no such thing as an economic island in an age of globalisation.

And Britain is always at its strongest and proudest when we are open to the world - generous-spirited and warm-hearted, working with our neighbours and a leader on the world stage. That's the message I will take to New York next week, when I represent the UK at the United Nations General Assembly.

There are some in the world who seek to present us as pulling up the drawbridge, following Parliament's decision not to consider a military intervention in Syria - but they will hear from me that they are wrong.

My views on Syria are well known: I believe the use of chemical weapons - a war crime under international, humanitarian law - should be stopped wherever possible.

But I understand why some people are wary of another entanglement in the Middle East - Iraq casts a long shadow - and we now have the opportunity to work with the UN, the Russians, the Americans, the French and others to put these heinous weapons beyond the reach of Assad's regime.

What matters now is that we are clear that this nation is not heading into retreat. It would be a double tragedy if the legacy of Iraq was a Britain turned away from the world.

Others look to our values and traditions for inspiration. Democracy, peaceful protest, equality before the law. That, in itself, confers a leadership role on us. Not as some military superpower. Not out of some nostalgic impulse after the loss of empire.

But because we believe in the virtues of law, peaceful dissent, political stability and human rights as enduring liberal values.
These are values that my own family - affected by the wars and conflicts of the past like so many other families - never took for granted.

And Miriam and I try to teach our sons that they shouldn't take these values for granted either. After Spain moved to democracy in the 1970s, Miriam's father was the first democratically elected Mayor in a small agricultural town in the middle of the countryside.

He single handedly brought better schools, more jobs and better housing to his community. He was hugely proud of being the first Mayor to serve his community through the ballot box. He sadly died some years ago, and there's a small statue of him today outside the church in Miriam's village.

Our small boys see that statue every holiday and Miriam tells them of the wonderful things he did. And they always ask about why he was elected and no one before him. We teach them that democracy and freedom are a fragile and recent thing in many parts of the world.

We teach them - just as my parents taught me - that rights and values should never be taken for granted, and if you believe in them, you should stand up for them.

And that is the United Kingdom that I want my children - all children - to grow up in: a United Kingdom that defends and promotes its values - our liberal values - at home and abroad.

It is now a year to the day until the Scottish people decide whether or not to leave the UK. The independence referendum. I unambiguously, unequivocally want Scotland to remain in the United Kingdom. The nationalists don't have a monopoly on passion in this debate. I love the way the UK is made up of different peoples, different traditions, different histories.

I've sat in rugby grounds shouting my head off for England while the Scottish fans have shouted back just as loud - and it is a very special thing when good natured rivalry can flourish side by side with a feeling of affinity and closeness that comes from being a family of nations. And on every single level we are stronger together than we are apart.

We live in uncertain times, in an uncertain world - these are not days to build walls. They are days to bring them down. The decision in a year's time does not need to be between breaking the bond or keeping the status quo - that's a false choice.
'No' does not mean no change.

A Scottish decision to remain within the UK family can and must give way to a new settlement for this nation. The Liberal Democrats have always fought for more powers for Scotland - and Wales and Northern Ireland too. In Coalition we have overseen the biggest transfer of financial freedoms in 300 years. And, from Gladstone to Grimond to today, we continue to believe in home rule.

Ming Campbell has recently produced a superb report setting out how we think home rule will work in the future. Our vision is of a proud and strong Scotland, within the United Kingdom, in charge of its own fate but part of a family of nations too. This is a vision shared by many Scots and, increasingly, the other major political parties.

That is why - once the issue of Scotland's continued participation in the United Kingdom is hopefully settled next year - I want to see a new cross party approach to the next advance in Scottish devolution.

Willie Rennie has signalled his willingness to work with the Scottish Labour and Conservative leaders ahead of next year's vote - and I support him.

Delivering Home Rule is a tantalising prospect that is now closer than it has been for a generation.

So let's get out there to win the referendum in favour of keeping our nations together - and then work with others to deliver the future Scotland wants.

I had the pleasure of meeting one of Scotland's finest this summer - Andy Murray. It was at a reception in the Downing Street garden the day after his stunning Wimbledon victory. David Cameron, Ed Miliband and I were all kind of fluttering around him, trying to ask clever questions about the Djokovic match, when Andy Murray suddenly interrupted with: 'you all seem to get along now, why can't you always be like this?'

A good question that was met with an awkward silence and the three of us shuffling our feet. He was right, it's true: we can get on. We're never going to be mates, but I've got nothing against them personally - politically, yes, personally, no.

That's why the constant, breathless speculation about how different party leaders get on kind of misses the point. I'm endlessly asked who I feel more 'comfortable' with - David Cameron or Ed Miliband? Wouldn't our party be more comfortable with Labour? Aren't we more comfortable with our present coalition partners? But I don't look at Ed Miliband and David Cameron and ask myself who I'd be most comfortable with, as if I was buying a new sofa.

In an ideal world, I wouldn't have to work with either of them because I'd be Prime Minister on my own thank you very much - and I'd like to think I'd do a better job too. So the best thing would be to put all of the predictions and personalities to one side. Whether or not we have another coalition is determined by the British people - not me, not you, the people.

And if that happens, only their votes can tell us what combination of parties carries the greatest legitimacy. Our job is plain and simple: to get more Lib Dem MPs elected.

A liberal commitment to genuine pluralism - genuine democratic choice - starts and finishes with the wishes of the public, not the preferences of the political classes.

That's one of the reasons why I've never shared the view that the aim of our party should be to realign British politics by joining up with one of the other parties.

Roy Jenkins - someone I admired very much - believed that if we aligned with a modernising Labour party we could heal the divisions of the centre left. But, for me, joining forces for good with another party simply reduces democratic choice. The Liberal Democrats are not just some subset of the Labour or Tory parties - we're no one's little brother. We have our own values, our own liberal beliefs.

We're not trying to get back into Government to fold into one of the other parties - we want to be there to anchor them to the liberal centre ground, right in the centre, bang in the middle. We're not here to prop up the two party system: we're here to bring it down.

My upbringing was privileged: home counties; private school; Cambridge University. I had a lot of opportunities. But I also had two parents who were determined that my brothers, my sister and I knew how lucky we were. On both sides, their families had experienced huge upheavals.

My Dutch mother had spent much of her childhood in a prisoner of war camp. My dad's Russian mother had come to England after her family lost everything in the Russian Revolution. So our home was full of different languages, relatives with different backgrounds, people with different views, music and books from different places.

And my mother and father always told us that people's fortunes can turn quickly - that good fortune should never be assumed and misfortune can occur suddenly, without warning.

I think because of the traumas their parents had been through, while they wanted to give us everything, it was so important to them that we didn't take things for granted.

My brothers and sister and I were always taught to treat everyone the same, not to judge people by their background. We were raised to believe that everyone deserves a chance because everyone's fortunes can change, often through no fault of their own.

And now, as a father with three children at school, I have come to understand even more clearly than before that if we want to live in a society where everyone has a fair chance to live the life they want - and to bounce back from misfortune too - then education is the key.

The gifts we give our children - self-confidence, an enthusiasm to learn, an ability to empathise with others, a joy in forging new friendships - these are instilled at an extraordinarily young age.

That's why I made social mobility the social policy objective of this Government - and I will want it to be the same for any Government I'm in. It's why so much of my efforts over the last three years, and so much of the money available to us, has been invested in those crucial formative years:

The £2.5bn Pupil Premium that I first wrote about 10 years ago. The 15 hours of free pre-school help for all three and four year olds, and now two year olds from the homes who need it most. Shared parental leave; new rights to flexible working; tax free childcare. These are the measures I've spent more time on than anything else in this Coalition.

If you want to know what I really believe in you will find it in these policies. Using the muscle of the state to create a level playing field when it counts most - when boys and girls are still forming their views, their characters, their hopes and their fears.

That's why I'm delighted to tell you that we are now also going to provide free school meals for all children of infant school age.

From next September we'll give every child in Reception, and Years 1 and 2 a healthy lunch every day - saving families more than £400 per year, per child.

And, for the Liberal Democrats, this is a first step: my ambition is to provide free school meals for all primary school children. Another reason we want to get into Government again next time round.

The Conservatives, on the other hand, have made it clear that their priority is to help some families over others, with a tax break for married couples. A tax break for some, funded through the taxes of everybody else - that tells you everything you need to know about their values.

We, however, will help all families in these tough times, not just the kind we like best, by helping their young children get the best possible start in life - and that tells you everything about our values. Providing this kind of help, Liberal Democrats, is now, the most important thing we can do.

Aside from anything else, that is how we restore people's faith in our politics: by delivering for them in ways that are relevant and real. By talking to people about the things they care about, not what the political classes are talking about.

It's so easy to lose sight of those things when you're stuck in the Westminster bubble. And I want to be honest with you: keeping a balance between politics and normal life isn't straightforward.

Politics these days is a roller-coaster ride of 24 hour news, breathless headlines, lurid tweets, endless polls, constant gossip about who's up and who's down. And you have to be really disciplined with yourself about keeping one foot in the real world to keep things in balance.

Miriam and I chose not to live behind the Government battlements in Whitehall, so we live in the same home we've been in for some years. We try very hard to keep our family life normal and private - we keep our children away from the cameras. We don't pretend we're a model family - we are who we are. We try to make sure that Westminster doesn't take over our lives.

I know I won't be in politics forever. What I will be is a father, a husband, a son, an uncle to all those I love in my family for good - just like anyone else. So, the longer I spend in this job, the more and more I cherish the human, direct and unstuffy way we Liberal Democrats do politics.

Our zeal for knocking on doors, making ourselves available, speaking like human beings - we must never lose that. And, as much as I'm always telling you all to embrace Government, I'm forever looking for ways to try and get out of Whitehall myself.

Taking answers on the radio; fielding questions in village halls; trying to help my constituents out when they come to see me in my Sheffield surgery; going out on regional tours; or, when I can't get away, answering your questions online.

Doing things differently must always be part of our identity. I want us to stay in Government - but I also want us to show that it is possible to be a party of Government without behaving like an establishment party.

There was this wonderful moment on the day of the last vote on Equal Marriage. Some of us put pink carnations in our button holes and Alistair Carmichael and I were invited to go outside to meet some of the campaigners. Little did we know that they had set up an impromptu wedding ceremony - cake and dancing 'n' all - outside the Palace of Westminster.

And we found ourselves standing side by side - if not quite hand in hand - in front of the exuberant London Gay Men's Chorus, singing Abba's Dancing Queen for us at the top of their voices.

Meanwhile, inside the House of Lords, dinosaur opponents of the Bill were having a final go at killing it - declaring that gay marriage would be the end of civilisation as we know it. And, awkward though I think Alistair and I must have appeared as we lamely clapped along to Abba, at that moment we were exactly where we belonged: on the outside, welcoming in reform.

Liberal Democrats, three years ago I told you that we had an opportunity our predecessors would have given anything for. To govern. To turn our liberal principles into practice. Today I tell you that an even bigger opportunity awaits. The cycle of red, blue, blue, red has been interrupted.

Our place in this Government has prevented the pendulum swinging back from left to right. We are now where we always should have been: in power; in the liberal centre; in tune with the British people. And every day we are showing that we can govern and govern well. That pluralism works. And if we can do this again - in Government again in 2015 - we are a step closer to breaking the two party mould for good.

In the past, there were people who would only support us when the future of the country was not at stake. Now there are people who will support us precisely because the future of the country will be at stake.

In the past the Liberal Democrats would eke out an existence on the margins of British politics. Now we hold the liberal centre while our opponents head left and right. I have spent my entire life watching the other two mess it up.

We cannot stand idly by and let them do it all over again. We are the only party that can finish the job of economic recovery, but finish it fairly.

The only party able to build a stronger economy and a fairer society too.

Liberal Democrats take that message out to the country. Our mission is anchoring Britain to the centre ground. Our place is in Government again.