Thursday, 21 November 2013

Cllr Aidan Van de Weyer - District Councillor Reports - Barrington 2013-11

Cllr Aidan Van
de Weyer
For once, I am not going to write about Cemex and the quarry, although the transport issues that I am going to discuss do certainly affect what happens to the site.

There should shortly be an announcement from government about the creation (or not) of a City Deal for Greater Cambridge. The City Deals are agreements between local councils and government in which some powers are transferred from Whitehall to a local body. For Cambridge, this will be a new body set up by South Cambs, Cambridge City, the County Council, the University and the Local Enterprise Partnership. Its aim will be to improve the infrastructure around Cambridge so that the city can maintain its competitiveness as a location for high-tech businesses and university researchers. It will bring together the transport funding from the various councils, and add to it by some borrowing. Specifically, it will create and improve links between the areas of new housing (Cambourne, Northstowe, Waterbeach and the Cambridge outskirts) and the main locations for current and future employment (North Cambridge, Addenbrooke's, City Centre). Without these improvements, congestion will really start stifling economic growth. The particular point about Cambridge is that it not so much competing with other areas of UK but with other tech hubs around the world, like Boston and Shanghai. If the infrastructure of Cambridge gets much worse, it will start putting off businesses and employees.

The County Council and Network Rail are talking seriously again about removing the level crossing at Foxton and finding a new route for the A10. An initial feasibility study has recently been done by Network Rail that seems to show that this would be a worthwhile investment. Details are currently vague, but the two main options are a bridge over the railway or an underpass. The bridge would be cheapest, but would be quite an eyesore and the noise from the road would be carried even further across the valley. A new crossing would have many advantages. Capacity on the line to Cambridge would be greatly increased. The flow of traffic along the A10 would be better, although the problems might just be transferred to the Harston bottleneck. Access onto the A10 might actually become easier if there is a roundabout at this end of the bridge/underpass. Things should be improved for pedestrians and cyclists coming from all directions. If Network Rail and the County Council do decide that it is worth doing and all goes well, the changes should happen in 3 or 4 years. There will be opportunities to comment on many of the details.

The County Council is also looking again at reorganising the 75 bus service with the hope of cutting the amount of subsidy paid to the bus company. Previous attempts to do something seem to have become lost in the bureaucracy of the council, and they are effectively starting from scratch. At a meeting for affected villages in November, a plan was announced to do a survey now, start planning alternatives in the new year, agree a replacement in the spring and then start the new service in August 2014. We are trying to persuade them to take into account all the work that has been done over the last couple of years on this (by Sheila Potter and Julian Priddle, as well as by everyone who has filled in a survey). Also, we do not know at all what kind of service would be possible. There would have to be some sort of regular service first thing in the morning and in the early evening for sixth formers and people getting to work. At other times, there could be a 'Demand Responsive Transport' service (a small bus that does not have regular routes, but comes as and when requested). It any case, we have been assured that the current service will not be cut before a replacement has been agreed.

Lastly, you may have seen in the newspaper that South Cambs is to buy its councillors iPads. You will be very pleased to know that this is not the case at all, and the council managed to explain things rather badly. In reality, councillors will be able to use whatever computer or tablet they want for council work (known as 'bring your own device'), and will not have to use the now-outdated and clunky system provided by the council. Any councillor who does not have a computer can buy an iPad from the council at full price.

Aidan Van de Weyer