On Tuesday the 20th of March 2012 at 6pm in the Shirley School on Nuffield Road another public meeting is to be held to discuss the problems associated with Fen Road in East Chesterton. The meeting has not been well advertised and is omitted from the council’s meeting calendar.
The March meeting was arranged because the only thing Cambridgeshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Growth and Planning Councillor Ian Bates (Conservative, The Hemingfords and Fenstanton) could think of doing in response to calls for action at the previous public meeting, on the 26th of January, was calling for another public meeting.
Cllr Bates was jeered and heckled when he made the suggestion by members of the public saying: “Well what’s this?” “This is a public meeting?”. The chair of the North Area Committee, Cllr Ian Nimmo-Smtih sought to calm the situation by assuring the hundred or so people who’d attended the first meeting they didn’t have to repeat everything again and their points would be “taken forward”. The second meeting has now been termed a “steering group” but is open to all. It appears that 45 out of the ~100 people who attended the first meeting signed up for notification of the date of the second where it is hoped that Cllr Bates will, after two months of reflection, be ready to substantively respond to what he heard.
26 January 2012 North Area Committee
On the 26th of January 2012 the North Area Committee held a special meeting to discuss the problems associated with Fen Road, and in particular to discuss a proposal from Clare Blair and Cllr Ian Manning to push for a new access road between Fen Road and Milton Road involving a new bridge over the railway in the vicinity of the planned Chesterton Station.
The problems on Fen Road relate to the use of the road both by heavy commercial vehicles and dangerous and inconsiderate driving by those living on the travellers site.
I know from my own personal experience that the road is lawless. It’s rare to be in the area and not see obviously unroadworthy vehicles and dangerous driving. Local residents at the public meeting talked of white van drivers stopping in the road to speak to each other, not caring about blocking other traffic, and of speeding vehicles mounting the pavements.
The view of those at the meeting was that they were very keen on the provision of a new access road, allowing access to the travellers’ site and industrial units on Fen Road without driving through the residential streets of East Chesterton.
My view is that while a new bridge would be beneficial, especially if it was to carry an extension of the guided bus, and Chisolm Trail, following the line of the railway over Stourbridge Common as well as improving access to Fen Road we ought be able to deal more robustly with the lawlessness now.
It appeared to me that the members of the public who attended the meeting had little confidence in police action being able to address the problems and were therefore calling for the multi-million pound civil engineering project. Many also wanted to see smaller, cheaper, quicker, improvements including a better cycleway between the hailingway and Water Street. This is something I called for when councillors were throwing vast sums at the Penny Ferry car park.
I tweeted the following live from the meeting:
- Chesterton Railway station offers opportunity to address Fen Rd. problems Cllr Nimmo-Smith tells North Area Ctte #live
- If DoT approval given for Chesterton Station it could be built in 2014 North Area Ctte #live told.
- Cllrs from @SouthCambs and @cambscc here at North Area Ctte #live as problem area is responsibility of multiple councils. #localgov
- Cheer as member of public reports white van drivers stop to chat to each other Fen Rd to North Area Ctte #live
- Members of public reporting Taxi companies refuse to serve Fen Road residents. North Area Ctte #live
- Allegations of planning breaches at traveller site North Area Ctte #live
- Traveller saying Taxis refusing to serve travellers, but other residents on Fen Rd say they are refused service too. North Area Ctte #live
- Member of public complaining about lack of leadership from cllrs.. too much “what do you think” Re: Fen Rd. North Area Ctte #live
- Members of the public getting fustrated at Cllr Nimmo-Smith’s chairing .. clamour to hear about possible solutions. North Area Ctte #live
- Lots of support for new road Milton Rd ->Fen Rd. Could form part of Chisolm Trail cycle route from Sci Park. North Area Ctte #live #camcyle
- Lots of support for two way cycle lane on riverside of Water St narrowing road to slow traffic. North Area Ctte #live #camcyle
- Officer Mr Preston from @CambsCC getting heckled as he is saying “more evidence needed” to show problems on Fen Road. North Area Ctte #live
- Officer Mr Preston from @CambsCC confirms there is ¬£2m + in the North Area Transport Corridor Fund. Area Ctte #live
- Cabinet member Ian Bates of @CambsCC addressing North Area Cte #live His suggestion of a further meeting baffling residents:we’re at a mtng!
- RT @brianlj: North Area Ctte #live It looks as though we need more evidence before anything is done. Bureuacratic nonsense.
- Chair protecting @CambsCC officer … not letting public find out what evidence they require. North Area Ctte #live
- There is a council contracted stenographer taking down every word here to help a man who has difficulty hearing. FOI? North Area Ctte #live
- Cllr Nimmo-Smith promises Fen Road notes will be on @camcitco website tomorrow morning. North Area Ctte #live
The County Council officer explained the County Council’s policy of spending money on highways improvements where people had been killed or seriously injured. He then went on to say more evidence would be needed before the County Council would support any work on Fen Road. He appeared to be only a whisker away from saying that it will take someone to be killed to prompt action.
Since the meeting Liberal Democrat Cllr Ian Manning has sought publicity for the new bollards saying progress needed to be shown following the January 2012 public meeting. My view on the bollard replacement is firstly I’m shocked the area is so lawless they were repeatedly destroyed in the first place, and secondly while the replacement is “something” I don’t think it addresses any of the points raised at the public meeting.
At the previous police priority setting session of the North Area committee in September 2011 councillors had asked the police to tackle Fen Road and 222 Victoria Road. The police had apparently ignored this and turned up to the meeting, which had a special focus on Fen Road, with nothing on the subject in their report.
Councillors failed to hold the police to account for this omission which passed largely without comment.
Policing – PCSOs
I proposed setting a priority of using police constables rather than PCSOs to patrol the North Area, and in particular Fen Road, so that the traffic offences could be more effectively dealt with. The meeting’s chair Cllr Ian Nimmo-Smith declined to shortlist this proposal and did not allow it to be put to a vote.
While introducing it I pointed out my proposal would also address the issue of the patroling of North Cambridge being concentrated in working hours, during weekdays, as a result of the extensive fraction of proportion of patrolling carried out by PCSOs.
I reminded the committee I’d previously asked about this subject to be told by the local Sergent, Sgt Wragg that “PCSOs work on all shifts”. I reported that I’d been tipped off by member of police staff Mr Fuller (who attends area committee meetings) that this response was accurate but misleading as the only reason Sgt Wragg was able to give that response was that very occasionally PCSOs work till midnight, putting them into the night shift. I pointed to the Freedom of Information request I made asking for the hours worked which shows most PCSOs in North Cambridge working 8am-6pm with some doing 2pm to 10pm; and the vast majority of those working Monday to Friday. I questioned if working hours on weekdays was when North Cambridge most needed policing. Sgt. Wragg responded to claim PCSOs were evenly deployed on day and night shifts in direct contradiction of Cambridgeshire Police’s response to my FOI request.
I asked Cllr Nimmo-Smith about his decision to dismiss my suggestion after the meeting and discussed the role of PCSOs with him. It emerged that Cllr Nimmo-Smith was unaware that PCSOs held a paid role, he thought they were unpaid volunteers and said we should be grateful for the work they put in and shouldn’t ask them to work anti-social hours (I wasn’t making that suggestion). Cllr Nimmo-Smith appeared to be confusing Special Constables and PCSOs, something which I find is one of a number of common misconceptions about how the police are run. When I explained the role of a PCSO to Cllr Nimmo-Smith he backtracked and said what he meant was people voluntarily applied for the role of a PCSO expecting a certain pattern of working hours.
Cllr Nimmo-Smith said he would have expected Inspector Poppet (Cambridge’s new neighbourhood policing Inspector) who was sitting in on the meeting to have intervened had Sgt. Wragg misled the meeting.
Cllr Nimmo-Smith’s ignorance is particularly alarming as when he was leader of the council he had significant policing related responsibilities and on a number of occasions approved giving extra powers to PCSOs in Cambridge.
Sgt. Wragg also misled the meeting when he told it the police’s lamppost mounted speed monitoring devices record average speeds of vehicles and not the speeds of individual vehicles. See also: Police Claim 20mph Average Speed on Water Street / Fen Road in Chesterton.
I published the following policing related tweets live from the police priorities section of the meeting:
- Sgt. Wragg says it’s excellent to be at a public meeting with the public present. ~50 people staying for police item. North Area Ctte #live
- No deliberately set fires on the last month North Area Ctte #live told. Could just be the weather though.
- Sgt Wragg contradicted the stats provided by @cambscops on PCSO working hours. He insists they are evenly depolyed on day and night shifts.
- Sgt. Wragg tells North Area Ctte #live he has no idea what to expect in terms of TASER being issued to non-firearms officers.
- Sgt. Wragg saying even he doesn’t understand where you can and can’t cycle in central Cambridge due to bad signage. North Area Ctte #live
- Chair Cllr Nimmo-Smith refuses to shortlist my suggestions for @cambscops priorities at North Area Ctte #live
- #libdem Clr Znajek is useless.He tells me he supports my suggestion of PCs not PCSOs to tackle driving offences but won’t say it to ctte.
- Democratic police priority setting isn’t as effective as it could be if better councillors were elected and not wet #libdems
- Only pre-submittted open forum questions taken. Details of how this will be run shld be given in advance. North Area Ctte #live
- Insp Poppet of @CambsCops was at North Area Ctte #live he didn’t introduce himself though. Chair told me he was there afterwards.