I attended Cambridge City Council’s North Area Committee meeting on the 6th of March 2008. The official minutes won’t be published for many weeks and judging by past experience they’ll miss out the interesting bits. So here’s my recollection:
Councillor Nimmo-Smith updated the meeting on his discussions with Anglia Water, The Environment Agency, South Cambridgeshire District Council, and the Cam Conservators about sewage on Chesterton Fen. He was told by the Cam Conservators that it has been overflowing the towpath [or hailingway as those who've been in Cambridge too long call it]. I cycle that daily and have not seen a problem on the path. Anglia Water’s response was to send Cllr Nimmo-Smith an application form for a new sewage connection, which while amusing, was not exactly what he was after!
Members of the public were then allowed to speak in the “Public Forum”:
Parking problems blocking the road outside Chesterton High Street’s Tesco during deliveries were discussed. The road is often reduced to one lane or less when this occurs as very large lorries are used. Another problem was customers parking in the road, next to parked cars. Councillor Blair committed to approaching the store manager. Asking the police to do something was also mentioned but not actioned, I would have thought that alerting the police to the problem and asking them to deal with it ought to have been given higher priority. Councillor Nimmo-Smith said he had vision for a heavy lorry ban from the city of Cambridge.
During discussion of this problem the point was raised by a member of the public that as the council had allowed the loading bay of the Green End Road / Milton Road Co-Op to be given over to parking for the flats to be built on top of the shop they could have created a new similar potential problem there.
The Campkin Road carpark white lining was discussed and concern raised that the entry height limit arch was too low, as a result of the higher level of the re-surfaced carpark. Dog fouling on the streets of Chesterton was also raised leading to a discussion on the powers of the Dog Warden. A councillor jokingly suggested the creation of a national DNA database for dogs.
Parking on the verges of roads was discussed at length inconclusively. Councillors noted that sometimes parking on wide verges behind double yellow lines was not a problem, sometimes it was, but inequitous enforcement was not an option.
I resisted the chair’s attempt to prevent me from speaking about the police on the grounds that the police weren’t present, and asked why the priorities I had seen set at the previous meeting differed from those the police later publicised.
Councillors rapidly approved grants totalling almost £21000 to a range of local organisations, including approving £2750 to the Arbury Carnival against an officer recommendation of £2000 (In all other decisions the councillors did not deviate from the officers recommendations).
Councillors decided to shift the start time of the next meeting to 18.30, allowing them to deal with planning applications prior to Open Forum, and Policing section of the meeting starting at 19.30. I, followed by councillors, questioned if they were able to publicise that change effectively (members of the public are interested in planning applications too) and the meeting has already been advertised as starting at 19.30. They made this change just one meeting after they had agreed future meeting times and dates. Councillors requested better publicity of the next meeting, and specifically requested the police section be advertised. I support having fixed times for various elements of the meeting ensuring those wishing to attend one element don’t have to sit though hours of too often innane discussions they have no interest in.
Three planning applications were then dealt with. Councillor Downham left the meeting as she: “Doesn’t do planning” – I think councillors who pick and choose which bits of their role they are going to take on are failing to fulfil their role. Applications for Car Ports at 285, and 287 Chesterton Road were rejected (one applicant said he wanted to protect his car from pigeon poo), perhaps partly as a result of flaws in the process (I would have deferred the decision). A new house on Aylestone Road on the site of existing garages was approved with a condition added by councillors relating to the retention of an existing retaining wall in response to a neighbour’s representation. While the neighbour had only her three minute opportunity to speak she continued to communicate with councillors though effective exaggerated body language, sighs and smiles during their deliberations in a scene which I’m sure beats any comedy sketch I could have stayed in to watch on the television that evening.
The agenda for this meeting is available online at : http://www.cambridge.gov.uk/public/councillors/agenda/2008/0306arean/00.pdf
however the Community Development and Leisure grants 2007-08 and 2008-09, which I would regard one of the most important and interesting elements of the agenda were not made available online, and therefore not available to the public in advance of the meeting.