In advance of the August 2008 North Area Committee Meeting

Thursday, August 14th, 2008. 3:03pm

I sent the below email to my local councillors in advance of Cambridge City Council’s August 2008 North Area Committee meeting.

Councillors Mike Todd-Jones, Alan Levy, Tim Ward and Rupert Moss-Eccardt,

I am making some suggestions in advance of this evening’s North Area Committee meeting on the subjects of:

  1. Policing
  2. Jesus Green Works and New Bridge
  3. Penny Ferry


*I would suggest prioritising burglary (and violent crime).
The explanation given by councillors at the previous two meetings that this his has not been done because burglary has become a city wide priority does not stand up, as ASB is also a city wide priority yet councillors are happy to set ASB related priorities. By setting a local priority there is an opportunity to hold the police to account for their performance.

When burglary was a local priority the police were doing the kinds of things I thing the police ought to be doing such as driving round the area at night when they weren’t called to specific incidents. This has been lost now it is only a city wide priority.

Burglary causes enormous distress and upheaval for its victims, much more so than the ASB and cycle crime which you are being asked to prioritise by the police.

*At the last meeting at which the police were present in April, the police announced a trial abolition of the stop and account form in the area. I have since found out this was a trial which started on the 1st of April and ran for three months. During this trial the police decided to ignore the requirements of PACE code A with respect to stop and account. There are three police forces in the country running a formal trial abolition of the stop and account form, Cambridgeshire is not one of them. I am quite frightened by my local police ignoring the PACE codes which ought to act as a safeguard to ensure they follow the law when they deal with the public. The PACE codes lay down the procedures which the police must follow during various interactions with the public, for example stop and account, stop and search, searching of premises, and when detaining and questioning people. Failure to follow these procedures will in my view damage the relationship between the police and the public which will reduce the police’s effectiveness in fighting crime as well as creating an unpleasant country in which to live where the police are not under democratic control.

Timely questions now include :
-Now the three month (unofficial) trial is over have the stop and account forms returned to use in Cambridge? If not, on what basis is the continued abolition of the form justified?
-When/how will the results of the trial be reported to the public, councillors, parliament etc.

The PACE codes are approved by both houses of parliament; a Cambridgeshire police officer decided to ignore them.

*You are not prioritising dealing with problems underlying local crime. For example many of those the police deal with in North Cambridge have been expelled from school and have no full time, educational, training or employment opportunities. You could invite the relevant officers from the Office of Children and Young People at the County Council to a future Area Committee. You could invite a representative of the magistrates to explain why our local police have to repeatedly arrest the same youths many times before effective action is taken by the courts – Sgt. Wragg said to the Arbury ward police meeting on the 15th of July that Cambridge magistrates are: “notoriously lenient with juveniles”.

*You are being asked to deprioritise ASB in Molewood Close and Hazelwood Close, when the police describing the current situation state: “there remains a core group of young people who continue to cause problems for local residents” and ” The Hazelwood Close/Molewood Close estate remains a problem area for ASB. “. I would suggest the police could be praised for the improvements they have obtained in the area; with residents attending the ward based meeting describing the area now recently as “very quiet” but complete removal of this area as a priority would be inappropriate.

*The new police team in East Chesterton was praised at the Arbury ward police consultative meeting. PS Wragg told the meeting that one of the new PC – PC Carol Lewis had made three times as many arrests in 12 months as his(her?) predecessor had. Without any further information on quality it is hard to judge if that is necessarily a good thing, though I was impressed by Sgt. Wragg’s defence of the changes in personnel and approach which have taken place in East Chesterton, which have been criticized. I hope the police can be pressed for more information on the changes, if the arrest rate has gone up threefold with no change in convictions that would be very worrying.

*You are being asked to prioritise cycle crime. This is far too vague. I would support a crackdown on organised cycle thefts, and on dangerous cycling without lights on the main roads of the area.
I would not support a return to the “stop checks” which accompanied operation cyclone last year where people were stopped and asked to prove the bike they were riding belonged to them, and bikes were subjected to a roadworthiness check. I am concerned you are being asked to give a democratic mandate to similar heavy handed behavior the police are planning for the future. I urge you to request proportionality from the police in this area, and to clarify this priority. If you are being asked to support a city wide scheme, I urge you to consider if the signage in the city centre is good enough to enable the police to hand out fixed penalty tickets for going the wrong way down the city centre streets etc. or if this kind of action by the police against the easy targets of new students in September/October is desirable bearing in mind police-public relations. Currently I believe it is almost essential to consult the official map of cycle routes to understand what is allowed and what is not, that is not an acceptable state of affairs, especially if the police were to be asked to enforce the laws more vigorously.

Just to remind you of what happened last year:

“The action, part of Operation Cyclone, is being backed up with stop-checks in the city to offer tips on how to avoid giving bike thieves an easy ride, and to check if the bikes being ridden are stolen.”

Cambridge Evening News – 27th April 2007-10-03

And PCSO at an Arbury meeting last year said:

“If someone doesn’t look right on a bike, men on a woman’s bike etc. we’ll stop them”.

I met an elderly woman struggling with her shopping out of the city who had had her bike taken from her by the police. I don’t think targeting innocent cyclists is good from a point of view of the public perception of the police. Even targeting illegal cycling is unpopular, there are regularly articles in the local press from people who have been stopped on their bikes complaining, for example the below from 2005:

“Robert Hodgkinson, 2nd year from Trinity Hall, received an official caution 10 days ago for riding the wrong way up Trinity Street. He now faces the prospect of further charges for a repeat offence, “It’s pretty ridiculous really – I’ve been criminalised for something everyone does and it’s a waste of police resources.””

Jesus Green

The plans for a £2 million lottery bid for work on Jesus Green are up for consultation at the moment.

This affects the North Area as the proposals include a new bridge from Chesterton Road into Jesus Green. One, particularly nutty, proposal is for half a new bridge – from half way accross the existing bridge – to sweep in a quarter circle onto the green.

I asked the officer running the consultation about councillors’ role in considering the consultation response and approving the plans before the bid is to be submitted at the end of next month. I was shocked by the reply I received, suggesting that the councillors were not intending to review the plans at a formal council meeting. The officer stated that as some councillors were members of the Jesus Green Association they were involved via that route, and also noted councillors could participate just like members of the public! This circumvention of councillors is not good enough. It is worth noting the Jesus Green Association meetings are not public/open meetings, and the JGA take pride in noting this on their posters advertising their AGM.

I support the JGA chariman’s primary concern over the proposals – “£2M is a lot of concrete”.

My Comments:

  • I would support a wider bridge, or a new cycle bridge over the river at Jesus Green; this would need to be integrated with an improved crossing for cyclists over Chesterton Road. The current plan for a quarter-circle bridge leading from Jesus Green to half way along the existing (grade II listed) iron foot bridge is completely bananas, literally and figuratively loopy, totally crazy.
  • I do not think Jesus Green is an appropriate location for the proposed: “raised tree walk, with aerial runways and other equipment attached.”
  • These plans involve concreting or tarmacing over more of the grass on Jesus Green, in many areas such as the widening of the riverside path, the creation of the “piazza”, and the creation of the new paths. I would prefer to minimize any loss of green space on Jesus Green.
  • I would like to see no trees cut down.
  • I support the planting of new plane trees, but think the chestnuts should be replaced with chestnuts, I would also like to see some oaks planted.
  • The public toilets are appalling and urgently need upgrading, so I am in favor of this element of the plans, though I think the City Council should get on with this, and we shouldn’t be relying on, or waiting for, lottery money for this basic element.
  • The plans do not consider the opportunity to improve drainage; there are many areas which become muddy and waterlogged regularly. Also there areas of stagnant water in the ditch by Jesus College, and flood defenses which could be considered during the works.

3. Penny Ferry

You will have seen that I requested the plans for the Penny Ferry environmental improvement in advance of this evening’s meeting but my request was denied by the council officer.

The minutes from the September 2007 North Area Committee state:

“Penny Ferry, the Haling Way (by 8 votes to 0) to consult the public, the Cambridge Cycling Campaign and the Conservators of the River Cam to pick up any additional suggestions before bringing a report back to the Committee.”

I am concerned the committee’s decision to consult which it made in September has been ignored by officers.

It appears that only the Conservators of the River Cam are to be consulted. I disagree that a public consultation has to be expensive and time consuming, putting the plans online, putting up a site notice, flyering adjacent residents, and emailing groups likely to have an interest would hardly cost anything, responses could be sent to the newly appointed lead councillor.

I am concerned that £45,500 is a lot of money for the resurfacing of such a small area and a small stretch of pavement. I have written to the County Council’s City Highways Team asking them both if they’ve been consulted about the scheme and what they make of the proposed costs but have not received a reply.

I also think an opportunity is being missed to improve the riverside cycle way in this area by not considering improving adjacent on-road (and on-pavement?) cycle lanes at the same time as the work on the car park.

Given the amount of money involved I am disappointed that “the proposals are a sprucing up of the area and not any major change”, I think there is an opportunity for more than a sprucing up – particularly with respect to the ease of use for cyclists following the halingway.

Further comments on the Penny Ferry proposals are available here.

Richard Taylor

One comment/update on “In advance of the August 2008 North Area Committee Meeting

  1. Richard Article author

    Cllr Ward replied to state:

    “I’m sorry but I am at work and won’t have time to read this before the meeting. Three or four days in advance would be good – I couldn’t have read it last night either, for example, because I was at a meeting in the Guildhall.

    Tim Ward”

    This email was merely a reminder, I did write to him on the 17th of June on the subject of police priorities, the reply I got then was along the same lines:

    I don’t have time to look it all up right now – I’m just off to catch a plane

    I replied to Cllr Ward saying:

    I am aware I was sending a bit of a last minute email, but on the subject of policing I was reminding you of points I have made to you well in advance:

    - I wrote [to you] on the 17th of July suggesting looking at the education/training opportunities for young people in the area, as an underlying cause of crime/ASB.

    - I spoke at the April and June North Area committees putting forward the case for burglary to be a priority.

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