- There is a current planning application to give the SkatePark permanent planning permission; it currently only has temporary permission,. It is unclear if the council’s proposals to expand the park would need a further application.
- Councillors have been dissuaded from tarmacing over more of the green to create a “hammerhead turning area” at the main gate from Victoria Avenue, they are now considering strengthening the grass.
- A Lottery Grant Bid, focused on drainage, and not involving the loss of green space, is being considered and looking likely. I’d certainly like to see it happen and the drainage problems need improving.
- I have encouraged councillors to get on and fix the paths, Cllr Smith, the executive councillor responsible, has promised the paths will be repaired and the council won’t, delay again, awaiting for a further lottery bid.
- Long drawn out processes, an interminable delays appear to surround all the proposals for improvements to Jesus Green.
At Cambridge City Council’s Community Services Scrutiny Committee on the 14th of January 2010 I asked a public question about the councils current plans for Jesus Green. An update had been prepared for councillors at the meeting but I felt there were key elements missing.
- I asked how the general public had been consulted about the council’s plans for Jesus Green, particularly with respect to the skate park and playground. I said that while the council had been in touch with interest groups they hadn’t done anything to make others aware of their plans and have an opportunity to comment on them. I pointed out the consultation document on the website had been the one aimed at young people, others had been directed to the Jesus Green Association. I noted that while the Jesus Green Association had, commendably, held a open public meeting but this had been held after the consultations with select groups had closed and a number of those interested in commenting on the councils proposals had missed their chance. I noted the West/Central Area committee had not been used and the councils proposals had not been discussed there (other than when I and other members of the public raise them in the open forum; but then they don’t get a proper debate among councillors).
- I reminded Cllr Smith that when I asked at the West/Central Area committee if she would repeat the commitment, reportedly made in the closed “Jesus Green Working Group”, to provide temporary play equipment for younger children if the playground is not to be refurbished until 2011.
- I asked for an update on the threats to Jesus Green which had not been mentioned in the report:
- The Multi-Use Games Area
- Highwire Play
- Tennis courts – (I asked if proposals were limited to the area of the existing courts; or if there was possibility of new hard surfaced courts being built on areas of the green which are currently open grass.)
- EDF Electricity Compound
- I noted that the update on Jesus Green report didn’t mention paths, though elsewhere in the committee agenda a proposal to fund improvements to the paths with money from developers of new homes in the city was present. I asked if the council was planning to get on with work on the paths and not wait to put that money into a new lottery bid application (Lottery grants generally only fund a fraction of money, so to release that money the council has to find the remainder to release the funds).
- I asked why not even Cllr Julie Smith had turned up to the “Tree Strategy Meeting” intended to be the first step in agreeing long term planting plans for Jesus Green and asked why it appeared that everything had stopped due to the absence of a single member of staff.
- There is a claim that public consultation on the proposal to make the permission for the skate-park permanent has been carried out via the “Friends of Jesus Green Association” and a Scrutiny Committee meeting on the 30th of March 2006 (That latter meeting received the review of skate provision in the city, and the committee and Executive councillor decided then to keep and improve the Jesus Green Skate Park).
- There is a section which notes: “Litter bins have been provided as part of previous planning conditions”. On separate collection of recyclables it states: “Streetscene currently do not allow for this type of collection in this area”.
- The application states the skate park is not within 20m of a river or other watercourse.
- The application states there are “rubber grass mats were installed in the apron of the park to reduce wear and tear on the grass”. I’ve not noticed those before, but I’ll have a closer look next time I’m there.
Cllr Julie Smith replied
Starting by addressing the play area she said the first time she had heard of the proposal for temporary play equipment was my public question at the West / Central Area committee. She said temporary equipment could not be provided on the grounds the “nature of the surface isn’t sufficiently safe”. She said the delays surrounding the refurbishment of the playground were not the city council dragging its feet but were down to “consultation and planning”. (Both of course are under the control of the City Council). Cllr Smith said the “Purdah” arrangements, intended to regulate the activities of public bodies during election time, would prevent consultation taking place during that time and was part of the reason for the delay. I think the council has had huge amounts of time in 2009, and there’s plenty of 2010 outside the election to run consultations; had earlier work been done better there wouldn’t need to be further delays. I can’t believe the suggestion is that a planning application by the council (on which comments would be invited) could not be considered during the election.
Cllr Smith said that the Multi-use games area, high wire play and were “not viewed to be a priority at this stage”. With respect to the tennis courts she said all options were up for discussion during the consultation. Cllr Smith agreed with me that many of the previously discussed, and in some cases previously approved, projects had not been covered in the Jesus Green update presented to the meeting; she decided to order a report to the next Community Services Scrutiny including details of the status of all projects.
Cllr Smith said that she was sorry that I had found it hard to keep track of the councils plans for Jesus Green (I have been doing everything possible!). I’m not sure she understood my point on Consultation though – what she said she’d do was ensure that in future material on the website did not appear to be focused on particular groups such as the younger people. That’s not what I was asking for, and I don’t think that’s a good course of action. I thought the consultation run by the council’s “Children and Young People’s Participation Service” was done reasonably well; my comment was that while young people, parents, and other select groups had been consulted the general public had not.
The report to the meeting revealed the results of the consultations on the playground which closed in November 2009 will not be reported to councillors until March 2010; again this appears inexplicably slow to me.
Cllr Smith promised the paths would be repaired; she said there was no intention to hold off on the work to allow it to form part of a new Heritage Lottery Fund Bid.
Cllr Smith said the councils position was clear – a compound wouldn’t be permitted on Jesus Green; she didn’t say what alternative, if any, would be offered to the electricity company which needs to carry out work on its Thompsons Lane substation. (more).
Cllr Smith agreed the delays were undesirable but didn’t set out any plan for what is to happen and when some long term planning for new planting on the city’s green spaces will take place. While I was asking about the tree planting plans Cllr Smith shook her head and shrugged her shoulders – apparently in “despair” – as with other areas where there are delays she appears to be unable to get a grip – if she is frustrated with her officers – she needs to realise she’s in a position to sort the situation out.
SkatePark Planning Application
I visited the council’s planning office to view the current planning application (09-1128/FUL) for the SkatePark which is being advertised via notices on the green.
The current application is to change the current temporary permission for the SkatePark into permanent, full, planning permission. This is the only change; so any extensions, which are also proposed, may well have to be dealt with by a second, separate, planning application though I’m not sure about that.
From the application:
Missing from the current application is any indication that according to the report to the January 2010 Community Services Scrutiny Committee the council is proposing putting in a further planning application shortly for altering and potentially expanding the skatepark.
At this stage, and subject to clarification from the user forum, it is proposed to retain and improve the existing structure, with the possibility of a small surround extension. Full planning permission will be a required and subject to permission being granted, it is proposed that improvements are scheduled for spring 2010 and funded through S106
I have no idea what “permitted development” allowance might apply to a skate park and what, if any, “surround extension” and “improvements” would be possible without a further planning application. I am concerned the implication being given to the public is that expanding the skatepark would require a separate planning application but the report is unclear on this. I am aware that councillors dealing with planning applications have to deal with the application in front of them but I do think the councils future plans, so far as they’re known, ought be made available to councillors making the planning decision. I also think a potentially controversial planning decision like this ought be made by councillors, not officers.
Strengthening the Grass at the Rosenstiel Gate
I have been lobbing for some time for improvements to the area near the main access gate to Jesus Green; this area used to get quite muddy as a result of vehicles servicing events on the green and has recently been patched up with gravel. My (and perhaps others’) suggestion to use grass strengthening in this area, rather than a tarmac turning area which the council originally suggested, appears to be being adopted according to the update reported presented to the Community Services meeting:
A costed design has been commissioned to improve the entrance from Victoria Avenue to aid vehicle movement, particularly for events that require more significant infrastructure such as the ‘Cambridge Beer Festival’ and ‘Jesus Green Live’. Proposals will enable vehicles to turn on a reinforced grass-crete turning area, minimising the potential damage to grass. A design will be finalised and discussed with stakeholders before implementation. Improvements will be scheduled for spring 2010 and funded through existing resources
The position on drainage remains as it was at the Jesus Green Association 2009 AGM the plan is to make a new lottery bid, focused on big-ticket items such as drainage improvement. The Jesus Green Association expressed its support for such a new lottery bid as long as it was limited to drainage, path repairs and tree planting.