Jesus Green Cambridge – Lottery Bid

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008. 7:13pm

Cambridge City Council are currently asking for comments on their plans for Jesus Green. The council are proposing making a bid to the National Lottery’s Parks for People fund and the BIG lottery fund.

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 are areas of stagnant water in the ditch by Jesus College, and [potential new] flood defenses which could be considered during the works.
  • There ought be better lighting of the paths; particularly the paths between the Jesus Lock Bridge and the City Centre. These paths are used by those working in the City Centre returning home on dark winters nights and are currently poorly lit. I understand overlooking residents would not want bright floodlights on all night; but in the winter in the evening I think floodlighting would be appropriate on the well used paths.
  • I would like to suggest the bridge be predominantly horizontal, and should not impede navigation of the river any more than the existing bridge. I would like to see detailed public consultations on the design of the bridge and consequent alterations to Chesterton Road if the bid is successful.

I have been participating in discussions about the plans for major work on Jesus green since their inception. The consultation with stakeholders, residents and young people held in 2007 from which these plans of arisen was slated for its non-inclusive nature – neighboring residents were consulted, but not those elsewhere in the City. The public meeting (the west/central area committee) at which plans were discussed in 2007 was not advertised and consequently poorly attended. The young people consulted were paid for attending a “focus group” to discuss Jesus green, and concerns were raised by city residents that their views were being given too much prominence and the fact they were being paid by the council may have biased their views. The council have defended this policy of paying young people for their opinions, but have made no mention of it in the current consultation documents.

No information on councillors’ role in the formulating, and acceptance, of these plans is given in the consultation materials; I would have liked to see details of the council meetings to which reports based on the consultation responses will be taken included. Knowing about councillors’ involvement would let people know which councillors to lobby and when, as well as enable members of the public to make use of their opportunity to speak at council meetings.

Previous grant applications have been in the region of £40K, I have heard this one is likely to be in the region of £3-4 Million; the amount though is another omission from the council’s current consultation.

(January 2009 – Many people are visiting this page from Facebook and missing some of my more recent articles on Jesus Green. I’d be interested in knowing which Facebook group is sending people my way if someone could tell me :-) )

26 comments/updates on “Jesus Green Cambridge – Lottery Bid

  1. Richard Article author

    I wrote to Sarah Tovell, the officer responsible at the council with some of my comments.

    She responded to say their estimation of the bid value is around £2 million.

    In response to my question on if the plans will be put before councillors prior to the bid being submitted the answer appears to be no, with the officer stating:

    Councillor’s [sic] regularly attend the Jesus Green Association meetings and are very aware of the project. All Councillors have been invited to attend two work shops [sic] one last year when initial consultation work was completed and fed back, and also last week when the proposed plan of the park was presented, and of course if they were unable to attend these two meetings have the opportunity to come and view the plans when they wish, as some already have.

    This lack of democratic oversight just isn’t good enough. And 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.

  2. Richard Article author

    I wrote to suggest this lottery bid be placed on the Agenda for September’s West/Central Area Committee:

    Cllr Knightley,

    I am writing to you as chair of the West/Central Area Committee.

    I would like to suggest that your next West/Central Area Committee meeting in September includes an agenda item on the the lottery grant bid which will by then be about to be submitted for works on Jesus Green. The proposals include a new cycle bridge (or at least 1/2 a bridge) across the river near Jesus Lock.

    While I am aware any subject can be brought up in the Open Forum I am suggesting an agenda item so that appropriate papers can be included with the agenda and relevant officers can be invited to attend.

    I wrote to the council officer Sarah Tovell having attended the exhibition on the green asking if the plans and consultation responses will be put before councillors prior to the bid being submitted, her reply indicated they would not be. This concerned me, particularly as she implied a main route for councillor involvement was via the Jesus Green Association, which is not an open, democratic and representative organisation. I believe councillors ought to consider the proposals at a council/committee meeting.

    If you did decide to add the agenda item soon you could advertise the meeting alongside the ongoing consultation.

    I live in Arbury but do venture into the West/Cental area, particularly Jesus Green, daily.

    I copied councillors Hipkin and Rosenstiel in the hope they might support my suggestion, or let me know why its not appropriate if for example I’ve been wrongly informed by the officer and the proposals are being taken to another meeting.

    Many thanks,

    Richard Taylor

  3. Richard Article author

    The Cambridge Evening News ran an article on the proposed improvements on Jesus Green this evening.
    I wrote to the article’s author to comment on an apparent inaccuracy:

    Mr Grove,

    I am writing to comment on your article on the Jesus Green Proposals in this evening’s paper. It’s a good article and publicising the plans is fantastic. Getting a council officer to condemn the council run public toilets as “disgusting” is also quite a coup.

    You wrote:

    “Sarah Tovell, the council’s green space officer, is overseeing the plans, which are open to public consultation before being submitted for lottery approval on September 9.”(1)

    However the council’s website states:

    “Our application to the Heritage Lottery Parks for Peoples fund stage one, will be submitted on 30 September.” (2)

    I suspect your article is the one that has the submission date wrong.

    That there are three weeks between the end of the consultation and the submission of the bid is quite crucial; I am trying to lobby for councillors to review the plans and consultation responses during that time at a council meeting rather than rely on the Jesus Green Association as the primary forum for discussion. Particularly on the question of lighting local residents have quite different views to those using the area. I believe many people “commute” across a very poorly lit Jesus Green in the Winter months as a result of local residents having a disproportionate say in what happens on Jesus Green.

    If the bid was to be submitted the day after the consultation ended as your article suggests that would be very worrying, it would imply the consultation was a sham and the outcome of it irrelevant to the final content of the bid.

    I was surprised the current rather bizarre plan for a quarter-circle bridge leading from Jesus Green to half way along the existing (grade II listed) iron foot bridge didn’t get a mention in your article.


    I wrote similarly to the council officer Sarah Tovell, whose auto reply incredibly informed me she was not at work for a whole week during the consultation process she is supposedly overseeing:

    I am out of the office now until Tuesday 26th August

  4. Richard Article author

    Sarah Tovell replied on the question of the submission date:
    Thank you for drawing my attention to this, I will pursue with the Cambridge news as the date for submission of the application to the lottery on 30th September. The date for last submission for comments on the plan is the 8th September.

  5. Richard Article author

    Cllr Hipkin has written to me to say:

    Dear Richard

    Thanks for dropping off your thoughts on the decision-making process surrounding the proposed ‘improvements’ to Jesus Green.

    I would like, briefly, I’m afraid, to make two points: first, I am greatly in favour of more subsidiarity. I would like the Histon Road rec, for example, to be managed and maintained by local users rather than the city council, who frankly do not care for it as they should and insofar as they do spend far too much money employing staff from half a dozen different departments to do their individual bits. For projects of the Jesus Green kind where users come from far afield and the amenity serves the whole city and its many visitors there is a case for widening the consultation and decision-making processes. Second, if I have understood the proposals right (eg. a new bridge) then the scheme would need planning approval and councillors would at that stage be in a position to approve or refuse the scheme. There is also a case for saying that when a project does not entail council expenditure it might proceed on a different basis from projects that do.

    Please come to the September WCAC meeting and have your say. I for one would like to hear more of what you have to say.

    Best wishes

    John Hipkin


    I replied to Mr Hipkin on a few points:

    Mr Hipkin,

    Many thanks for your reply,

    >There is also a case for saying that when a
    >project does not entail
    >council expenditure it might proceed on a
    >different basis from projects that

    • The Jesus Green project is to be 3/4 funded by the lottery and 1/4 funded by tax payers via the City Council, the total project cost is around £2 million(1). I think five hundred thousand pounds is a significant enough chunk of money to warrant councillors’ involvement. In addition to the direct costs the council is institutionally supporting the project.
    • This isn’t just about the money. It is about protecting, preserving, managing and modernising one of the City’s greatest assets – Jesus Green.

    >Second, if I have understood the proposals
    >right (eg. a new bridge) then the scheme would
    >need planning approval

    I realise that with large projects like this there are many routes/opportunities/times where both councillors and the public have an opportunity to influence the outcome. It is my experience that it is worth getting involved at an early stage as options tend to become restricted later on. In say a year’s time councillors might be presented with a funded proposal and told their choice is to approve the project as it stands, or reject it and lose the funding. [As Mr Hipkin said, above, a planning decision is essentially to approve or reject (although this can be conditional)]

    Many aspects of the scheme would I am sure need planning approval, and I would also expect more public consultation on things like alterations to Chesterton Road to accommodate the new bridge, and various other details of the wider project. I don’t think that negates the need for councillor’s involvement and approval at this stage.

    >I would like, briefly, I’m afraid, to make two
    >points: first, I am greatly
    >in favour of more subsidiarity.

    We don’t disagree too much, I am too, where it is appropriate.

    When councillors who represent the whole population decide to shirk their responsibilities and delegate decisions to residents groups who are not as democratic, inclusive and representative I think this often results in bad decisions which are in the interests of a few rather than the majority. I believe these groups should not be making decisions which affect many others who are not members of them and not able to influence their decision making.
    Richard Taylor.

  6. Richard Article author

    Mr Knightley has replied to say:

    … my initial reaction is to say that this is really for the Community Services Committee (which I also sit on).

    He promised a substantive reply once he has had a chance to consult with others.

  7. Richard Article author

    Council officer Sarah Tovell has written to clarify the current status of the plans for the bridge. It appears 1/2 a bridge is seriously being considered, albeit only at this very early stage and being thought unlikely to come into being :

    The plans are simply lines on a plan at the moment, nothing has been decided at this stage and certainly won’t be until all the consultation at this stage has been completed. We are simply asking people if, in principle do they agree or not with the suggestions.

    The cycle crossing / additional bridge is certainly proving a talking point which is good. I feel that if this aspect of the plan receives support and goes ahead, then it is much more likely to go directly across the river rather than joining up with the current bridge as depicted. Although Cam conservators have seen the plans we are still awaiting feed back from them, this will also influence final designs as well as getting planning permission and consideration needs to be given to this area as the bridge / lock are listed. So as you can appreciate we are at very early stages with all the designs /plans.

  8. Richard Article author


    Dear Mr Taylor,

    Firstly many thanks for your email

    I am happy to confirm that a specific agenda item on the proposed improvements to Jesus Green is already included on the Area Committee agenda for the 18th September.

    The full plans will be on display at the venue from 7pm and officers will be on had to speak to Councillors and members of the public. The officer will then speak to an agenda item in the meeting and outline the process, highlight any emerging consensus or issues and take questions.

    As Jesus Green is also of interest to North Area Committee, an invitation will be extended to those Councillors and residents groups that may normally attend NAC in order that they have opportunity to be similarly updated.

    The agenda will be published on our website on 10th September

    I look forward to seeing you at the meeting – but should you have any further questions please do hesitate to contact me

    Kind Regards

    Committee Manager

  9. Richard Article author

    I have now been told:

    A final display regarding the Jesus Green proposals for the Parks for People Lottery submission at the end of September will be in the foyer at the Guildhall from 4:30 on Thursday 11th September.

    The current plan will be available to view as well as a summary of comments (positive and negative) we received during our consultation period.

    Feedback forms will be available, and if you have any specific comments you wish to make please do so.

    Active Communities will be producing a report finalising the plans later in the month for which Executive Cllr Julie Smith will be asked to make an out of cycle decision regarding council support for the lottery bid.

  10. Richard Article author

    I wrote to the Council Officer having viewed the consultation responses at the Guildhall:

    Sarah Tovell,

    I attended the display on the Jesus Green Proposals at the Guildhall on the afternoon of Thursday 11th September.

    I was able to have an informative discussion with a council officer and have a couple of comments:

    *The summary of comments was only available on a display board, there was no version printed on paper or online which I am sure would be easier formats for councillors, members of the public, the press, Jesus Green Association and other groups to work with.

    *I believe one of the main comments made by the JGA has been to express concern about concreting or tarmacing over more of the green area. “£2 million buys an awful lot of concrete” being something I’ve heard the chair of the JGA say more than once. Save Our Green Spaces are another group who express this sentiment. I too personally submitted this comment. I was surprised to see this point of view did not make the summary of comments given significant groups have made it; when I pointed it out the officer with the display, who had manned the displays on Jesus Green said he was surprised too.

    *No modifications to the plans made or to be made as a result of the consultation were included in the display. (I realise it is only a couple of days since the consultation closed)

    The officer did let me know that it is looking as if the proposed cycle bridge might be ruled outside the scope of the current project.

    I also note that no summary of comments has been included with the papers for the West/Central Area Committee on the 18th of September.

    I would like to suggest:
    *The summary of consultation responses be made available online with the project consultation webpages and as additional papers for the West/Central Area committee.
    *Modifications to the plans made in light of consultation comments be presented online, and as additional papers for the West/Central Area committee.
    *Checking that there aren’t comments concerned about getting rid of lots of grass as a result of these proposals which have been overlooked in creating the summary.

    Richard Taylor

  11. Jim Smith

    A few points: Consultation with Jesus Green association is a poor substitute for actual consultation. Who are these people?
    They have a noticeboard on Jesus Green (with no contact details or committee details) and no website – what is their constitution.

    Why has the costs of this project gone up by £2 million given the bridge has been removed?

    Who exactly wants ornamental flower beds when Cambridge City COuncil struggles to look after its existing ones?

  12. Richard Article author

    I have been asking the council since the 30th of September to publish the bid document as submitted. This has not happened so as far as I am aware no one outside the council is yet aware what is in the current plans or how much they are proposed to cost.

    • On the 18th of September I spoke at the West/Central Area Committee asking for a the draft and final bid document to be available to the public, I was assured it would be made available to anyone who asked.
    • On the 30th of September I wrote to Sarah Tovell, the officer responsible, asking for a copy of the bid document, and suggesting it be published on the council’s website.
    • On the 9th of October I raised this point at the North Area Committee. A number of councillors on the committee said they would ensure I received a reply to my, as yet unfulfilled, request for a copy of the final lottery bid document for the proposed work on Jesus Green. I asked what representation Cllr Blair, who was representing the North Area in the final stages of the bid’s approval by the Executive councillor what representations she had made on behalf of residents in the North of the City and she refused to answer. I also asked for a brief summary of what was in and out of the bid, which she did not provide.
    • On the 14th of October I wrote to the Chair of the North Area Committee asking her to pass on my request for the publication of the final bid document to relevant officers given her committee had supported my request for it to be made available.
    • On the 10th of November I wrote to the City Council’s FOI officer drawing their attention to the council’s failure to disclose this information within the statutory time period of twenty working days as laid down in the Freedom of Information Act.

    As of the 10th of November the City Council’s webpages relating to the Jesus Green works have not been updated since the bid’s submission.

  13. Richard Article author

    In the printed, not the online edition, of the Cambridge Evening News on the 7th of November, Anne Garvey of Hertford Street is quoted as being a spokesperson for a new campaign the “Don’t make Jesus Green Less Green Campaign”. I do know know if they have obtained a copy of the bid, the supposed campaign has no hits on Google at the time of writing, I have seen no posters or flyers and no contact details are available.

  14. Richard Article author

    There have been a number of recent developments in the progress of the Jesus Green lottery bid.

    The total project costs are now given as £4,373,852. This figure has been stated in the formal report of the Executive Councillor’s decision to approve the bid. This decision will be up for “scrutiny” at the City Council’s Community Services Scrutiny Committee on Thursday the 13th of November 2008.

    This is a huge increase over the £2 million quoted by the council during the consultation prior to the bid’s submission. It is also huge increase over the £2 million of lottery money plus £500 000 of taxpayers’ money which you reported on Friday.

    The report to Thursday’s meeting reveals that some controversial elements of the plans such as the “raised tree walk, with aerial runways and other equipment attached” remain in the plans; though the proposed bridge, and new path have been removed.

    A large new area of tarmac/concrete has appeared on the plans to be presented to Thursday’s meeting; a new entrance and sculpture near the riverside boardwalk is now proposed, this was not present on the plans during the pre-bid consultation.

    Other questions raised by the report on the decision include – why did the council need to employ Phil Back, a research consultant from Tadcaster to report on the results of the consultation, when council officers already had the information and had presented it to councillors. In relation to the latest consultation the consultant appears to have been engaged in work which entirely duplicates that conducted in-house by the council. And finally, the Executive Councillor Julie Smith states: “The Chair and Spokesperson of Community Services Scrutiny Committee were consulted prior to the action being authorised.” In fact, at the West Central Area Committee on the 18th of September she promised much wider consultation in the final stages, including with representatives of the West Central and North Area Committees.

  15. John Lawton

    Phil Back organised the recent consultation of stakeholders. I was contacted in May as Chair of SOS Cambridge to take part in an ‘Audience Development Plan’, building on research h said was carried out last year. The findings were presented to the stakeholders at a meeting, and preliminary designs produced by a designer were also presented. These have now been modified after further public consultation. I don’t think that this is a duplication of research as you seem to, I am not aware that the Council already had researched this other than through Phil. I certainly share your frustration at not being able to access the bid document. This has probably only served to fuel fears among those who want to preserve the essential character of the common, witness the recent CEN articles. My other frustration with the Council is with their manifest long term neglect of Midsummer Common.

  16. Richard Article author

    I believe there has been duplication in collating and interpreting the results of the consultation held online and though the events on Jesus Green July-September 2008. I am not objecting to the Audience Development Plan, but the “Consultation and Feedback Supplement” appended to the record of the Executive Councillor’s decision.

    I was told that Sarah Tovell had herself prepared the presentation on the consultation results which was made on the 11th of September in the Guildhall and on the 18th of September at the West-Central Area Committee. I can see no additional value in the report produced by Phil Back over and above the presentation provided by Sarah Tovell.

    On both the 11th and the 18th I expressed my concern that there was no written summary of the consultation responses. Sarah Tovell had produced a display board and, along with colleagues gave a verbal report. Sarah Tovell clearly had the material which has now been published in Phil Back’s report. Perhaps had the council not been waiting for Mr Back’s report councillors could have had a paper copy of the consultation summary on the 11th and an updated version on the 18th.

    I am not suggesting there has been a duplication of effort in the consultation itsself here.

    I also note the council employs a consultations officer. I am astounded that this work has not been conducted in-house.

  17. Richard Article author

    The City Council’s FOI officer has written to me:

    Firstly my apologies for not responding to your FOI request within the time limit, this was an oversight on our part.

    I have spoken to Sarah Tovell and she has updated me on the progress of this request. Work is currently underway with the web team to get a copy of the bid document onto the website. It is estimated that this will be completed and the document will be available within 2 weeks. In the meantime we are able to make a copy of the document available for inspection should you want sight of it before this time. The document will be available for inspection at the Customer Service Centre at Mandela House, Regent Street. The Customer Service Centre is open from 8am – 6pm, Monday – Friday.

  18. Richard Article author

    The Jesus Green Association are holding an open meeting on the 2nd of December at 8.00pm in the Octagon room of Wesley Methodist Church which is by the roundabout at intersection of Short Street, Maid’s Causeway, Victoria Avenue and Jesus Lane.

    This is the first time the JGA have held an open meeting as far as I am aware. I think this is an excellent step forward for their organisation.

  19. Richard Article author

    I plan to attend Cambridge City Council’s Community Services Scrutiny Committee on the 13th of November to comment on the Jesus Green Lottery bid.

    i/ I want to comment on the fact the content of the bid document has not yet been made available despite assurances that it would be. My Freedom of Information Act request has not been fulfilled, and the council say it will take a further two weeks to get the document online. This is not acceptable and has resulted in many of those commenting on this bid doing so in relative ignorance.

    ii/ I want to question the input my local councillors have been able to have in the process of the final acceptance of the bid; specifically asking what representations the Executive Councillor received during the decision making process from the North and West/Central area committees. At the West/Central area committee she reeled off quite a list of councillors she planned to consult before agreeing the bid. I want to find out if these consultations happened, which other councillors actually saw the bid document before it was approved?

    iii/ I would like to draw attention to the fact a new area of grass to be lost appears to have been introduced which was not shown on the plans during the consultation period. This is the area surrounding the proposed statue and entrance near the riverside boardwalk.

    iv/ Question why the report to that meeting says the new bridge was removed from the bid in response to consultation comments, whereas the West Central Area Committee was told that the bridge always was outside the scope of funds which were being bid for. This appears to me to be a deliberate attempt to make the council look as though they are responding to people’s views as expressed during the consultation when in fact they’re not. The report is not clear on if the new bridge was in fact not supported by consultees. The summary says it was not supported, but the body of the report says respondents were equally split, and that’s not commenting on any bridge, but the specific ludicrous quarter circle, half bridge proposals.

    v/ I question how the total project cost has risen so dramatically in the days preceding the submission of the bid. £2 million sounded like a lot of concrete, £4.4 million sounds like even more concrete.

    vi/ I want to ask why there was a need for an outside consultant to provide the consultation summary? I suggest this has duplicated work conducted internally by the council and has detracted from the process by delaying the publication of a written summary of responses until well after the bid’s submission.

    I may finally question, if I have time, why it doesn’t appear that the views of those commenting on the loss of green space have been included in the consultation summary.

    Update – I did attend and the outcome is recorded here.

  20. Boni Sones

    Hi all,

    I believe these plans will destroy the historic character of Jesus Green and all it represents in terms of green spaces in the city environment. Having swum daily in Jesus Green over the summer months this year and in previous years, it is obvious that the Council has let this pool go into decay when in London and other cities the true origins of the spirit of Lido’s are being restablished with less expenditure and more authenticity. Why not heat the pool, keep it open all year round (see the Oasis in Camden as an example) and encourage more visitors to come. These Cambridge City Council plans will produce a “plastic ” environment turning a historic area into one that could be in any modern city. They will destroy the character of Jesus Green, cost an outrageous and destroy all that is good and special about Jesus Green.

    Boni Sones

  21. Richard Article author

    Boni Sones,

    It has been reported to a number of council meetings that the swimmers as a group vehemently oppose even a simple solar scheme to heat the pool. I have recently though discovered that while this is often presented as a unanimous opinion from the swimmers this is far from the true case. I have met a daily swimmer and also a member of the Friends of Jesus Green Pool both of whom would support some heating and who recognise the benefits which would arise from more people using the pool and an extended season.

    My most recent discussion with Council Officers regarding putting a pool heating proposal in this bid is reported in my notes from the 11th September Council meeting.

  22. Boni Sones (by email) Article author

    The London Lidos are thriving because they have adapted and changed, including heating all winter round, but staying true to the value of all.

  23. Sue Taylor [No relation]

    Please do not put any more hard paving onto Jesus Green .. it is lovely as it is and I would hate to see any less greenery than currently exists. There is far too much paving around Cambridge .. lets preserve something for the benefit of the wildlife and for future generations, please, please.

    I am a lifelong resident of Cambridge (or very close by), currently living in Histon.

  24. Hazel Guest

    There needs to be a ramp at one end of the pool so that the elderly and disabled can get out. Swimming is one of the best exercises for these groups of people.
    The Jesus Green footbridge needs to have the slope at a gentler angle. I cannot use it because I cannot control my tricycle on it when walking. The same probably applies to anyone pushing a wheelchair or pram.

  25. Richard Article author

    The case officer at the Heritage Lottery Fund has told me the decision on the bid has been made but it is embargoed.

    I wonder who knows and has agreed to keep it secret:

    Council Officers?
    The Cambridge News?

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