Penny Ferry – June 2008

Friday, June 20th, 2008. 7:15pm

Cllr Liddle,

In your absence (reported as being due to a collapsed ceiling in your front room) at yesterday’s North Area Committee you were appointed as to “champion” the environmental improvement scheme for the car park, hailing way and green area at Penny Ferry, Chesterton.

Penny Ferry Before Improvements

I think this scheme has enormous potential to rejuvenate this area of Chesterton to ensure that this area of the city benefits from the improvements made further upstream, there is also an opportunity make the area safer for cyclists. I encourage you to take the responsibility and opportunity you have been given here seriously.

At the September 2007 North Area Committee meeting an amendment sheet to the Environmental Improvements program was distributed (this was omitted from the papers produced for yesterday’s June meeting) the total cost of the scheme in September was £35 650. In advance of the June meeting this had, without explanation, been reduced to £20 000. As there is now likely to be plenty of money in available now the committee are thinking again about spending taxpayer’s money improving private property such as the forecourts of shops on Milton road I would encourage you to try and work towards the original higher figure.

The information given in the agenda and papers for the June Area committee does not provide the full background to the proposal and how it has been dealt with previously by the North Area Committee.
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. “

ie. the committee rejected the officer recommendation to proceed with the scheme in September 2007, and decided to ask for more consultation instead. The grounds were a lack of detail on the scheme, no justification for the costs (the point made by councillors that it was odd to have a cost down to the nearest £50 without any detail on the scheme). The committee then wasted a lot of time on an inane discussion on if the bollards (which are there to protect trees from being run into by cars) need to be retained to prevent cars falling in the river, when they clearly don’t fulfill that function.

We also learnt at that meeting that to describe this improvement as an improvement to the hailing-way is misleading – the area involved is the car park, and the area about 20m or so downstream, including I presume the triangle of grass downstream of the car park. There is a need for a plan showing the exact extent of the proposed improvements.

A key question this raised was if this consultation which the committee requested in September 2007 had taken place. When asked this at the North Area Committee Yesterday I was shouted down by Cllr Blair, she did not appear to understand that what she had done in September was request a consultation before the project was decided by the committee. She answered my point by saying that there would be a consultation after the committee had seen the plans and approved them.
My view is that there ought be no need for a consultation, councillors should just get on and make the decisions; however equally I do not think it is acceptable that the decision of the committee in September has been ignored, I think you should ask the council’s consultation officer to explain why the ordered consultation has not been run.

I would like to suggest that you place a site notice at the Car Park informing all users of the proposed work and how we can influence what is done; both now, and in advance of the next North Area Committee, as well as during the consultation. I posted flyers to the immediate neighbors in advance of the September 2007 area committee, it might be useful to repeat this if it was to be raised there again.

I would like to suggest any consultation is a public one, and not limited to interest groups such as the cycling campaign and rowers.

In terms of my suggestions themselves:

*This work needs to be co-ordinated with an improvement of the signage of the cycleways on the roads/pavements in the immediate area. Currently it is difficult to distinguish cycleway from pavement, both under the trees on the downstream end of the carpark, and by the road next to the public house, and I can’t tell is there is a cycle way on the pavement from the car park to the on road cycle way a few hundred meters away upstream? I think clear cycleways, with markings and dropped curbs, need to follow the cyclists’ path of least resistance – for the primary route which is that taken by those following the river.

*Could this scheme be co-ordinated with the new bridge and riverside promenade scheme – giving the whole stretch of the river some kind of consistent look. Connecting with the upstream improvements could ensure the effects of the regeneration of the riverside nearer the city centre extend into Chesterton. By “connecting” I mean using a similar style of railings, bollards (though I think the new bollards on Riverside itsself are not substantial enough) , street furniture, signage, lighting and quality of work.

*I think parking should remain essentially unregulated on the grounds there isn’t currently a problem.

*I support making the triangle of grass downstream of the car park, between the carpark and the first house, more open and encouraging its better use – it is currently scrubby and unused.

*What about some short term (hours, not days or even a whole day) public visitor mooring, with signs pointing those visiting by boat to the local shops.

*It would be good to get some new substantial trees in such as an oak or a horse chestnut. I think the scrubby plants between the trees, and the nettles could be removed.

*I think the tourist information sign giving information about the bumps could be kept, or even refreshed, perhaps the Stourbridge fair could be similarly covered?

I am looking forward to some rapid progress here, it is incredible such simple things take so long in this city, even after the primary decision to do something has essentially been taken.

Richard Taylor

Update: Seven days on, having had no reply or acknowledgement I printed a copy of the above and posted it though Cllr Liddle’s door.  I noted that if the lack of response was due to her email address not yet functioning almost two months after the election, which I am aware is the case for Cllr Todd Jones then those councillors affected really ought to get the problem solved. I also noted that I do not believe emails should be given any less weight than hand written letters or other lobbying routes.

10 comments/updates on “Penny Ferry – June 2008

  1. Richard Article author

    Two months after sending this email, and following an email exchange on which she was copied Cllr Liddle replied:

    I couldn’t recall any emails from you on this subject, but looking back through my old mail I see that you did in fact send something to me.

    My apologies for overlooking it and not replying.

    Cllr Liddle essentially told me she was unable to understand my comments saying:

    I don’t understand which ‘adjacent cycle paths’ you’re talking about here.

    I really don’t understand what you mean by ‘tying the two areas together’. Or why you would want to.

    Then amazingly despite being uncontactable, not understanding the suggestions being put to her, and not speaking on the subject during the August North Area Committee meeting where the spending was agreed by the committee has the gall to say:

    Since I am the ‘lead councillor’ on this project, I would suggest that the best person to lobby would be myself.

    That last comment being in response to my shifting my focus to calling for the Chair of the North Area Committee Cllr Armstrong to use her “chairs action” powers to amend the plans.

  2. Richard Article author

    I was sent an electronic copy of the current plan. It is a ~4MB PDF file.

    My comments on this, which I have sent to Cllrs Liddle and Armstrong, as well as Mr Bond of the Old Chesterton Residents Association are:

    • There are no proposed painted symbols, lines or other signs to indicate the path of the cycleway.
    • The opportunity to integrate the cycle paths in this area with the adjacent cycle paths on the road/pavement is being missed.
    • The existing bollards to be retained are really in need of replacement or at least sprucing up (the ones with the broken reflectors on them).
    • It is unclear if the existing trees, which are to be removed, will be replaced by new trees which I think would be desirable, and has already been promised to residents.
    • The fate of the existing dropped curb is also not obvious.
    • It is not clear if the opportunity to use the same street furniture as has been used in the area around the new bridge upstream to bring some benefits of the regeneration nearer the City Centre to this area of Chesterton by tying the two areas together is being taken.
    • The opportunity to improve the lighting in the area has not been taken.
    • Given the state of the area at the moment, what are the chances the council is going to be able to maintain the proposed “planting beds”?
  3. Richard Article author

    I have been trying to find out when the Old Chesterton Residents Association are meeting to discuss the Penny Ferry Works. I asked the manager of St. Andrews Hall in Chesterton where they have been known to meet when their next meeting was planned. The manager referred my enquiry to Mr Bond who responded:

    Your enquiry to St Andrew’s Hall has been forwarded to me. The answer is that we have no public meetings scheduled at the moment.

    I replied:

    Mr Bond,

    While I have suggested that with your new role of having the final say on how public money is being spent in the area you ought to hold at least those elements of your meetings involving the spending of public money in an open/public format I did not expect you to have done this.

    I am seeking the details of the meeting at which you will discuss the penny ferry environmental improvements so that I can lobby more of your members beforehand. I would like to encourage them to either reject the role of final arbitrator which the council appear to me to have given OCRA. Alternatively I would seek to suggest they suggest alterations to the plans to ensure the money is well spent.

    Most importantly I think the current plans do not ensure an easy and clear route though the site for cyclists, the potential to improve the cycle routes in the area has not been taken. £45500 is a huge amount of money for a simple refurbishment. It is a massive waste of public money not to use this opportunity to substantively improve the area.

    Richard Taylor

    Mr Bond responded copying Clive Brown, a Conservator of the River Cam:

    Mr Taylor

    OCRA does not have the final say on anything other than its own affairs. We are one of several consultees on the Penny Ferry proposals and will be making our views known to the City Council once we have looked at the plans and talked to those who are closest to the site. It will be for the City Council to decide what weight to give to any representations we might make on behalf of residents.

    You have a view of the proposals that you are at liberty to make known to the City Council and you should do so.

    Michael Bond

    I replied with some further suggestions/corrections:

    Mr Bond,

    >We are one of several consultees on the Penny
    >Ferry proposals and will be making our views
    >known to the City Council once we have looked
    >at the plans and talked to those who are >closest to the site.

    OCRA is the only group which is being consulted following the production of the final plan for which the funding was approved by the August North Area Committee.

    I have been told by the council officer responsible that other groups, specifically the Cam Conservators and the Environment Agency were consulted prior to the production of the final plan and the approval of the spending.

    Councillors’ decision to consult the public and others which they made at the North Area Committee in September 2007 has been ignored by officers.

    > It will be for the City Council to decide what
    >weight to give to any representations we might
    >make on behalf of residents.
    The mechanism for enacting your recommendations
    will presumably be via Chair’s Action by Cllr Armstrong the Chair of the North Area Committee. However it was very clear to me at the North Area Committee meeting that councillors were approving the spending of the money on penny ferry blind, all accepted they had not seen the current plan at that stage. In response to your question asking if OCRA could see the plan and have a final say I believe the committee confirmed you could, this makes OCRA the only group able to comment having seen the final plans.

  4. Richard Article author

    I wrote to Cllr Blair:

    Cllr Blair,

    At the June 2008 North Area Committee I attempted to remind the committee of their decision they took in September:
    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.”

    You shouted me down while I was making this point and appeared not to understand that what you had done in September was request a consultation before the project was decided by the committee. You answered my point by saying that there would be a consultation after the committee had seen the plans and approved them.

    In your absence at the August North Area Committee councillors approved the spending of £45 500 on the Penny Ferry works despite none of the councillors, not even the lead councillor Cllr Liddle having seen the final plan which the councillors were agreeing.

    Mr Bond of the Old Chesterton Residents Association (OCRA) asked if his organisation could see the plans and have the opportunity to comment on any problems they could see and have them addressed before the work commenced, councillors agreed to this. Mr Bond’s OCRA association is the only group being consulted following the committees [blind] approval of the plans.

    I queried this approach to the consultation with council officer responsible, Dinah Foley-Norman, she has said: “in view of the fact that we are not fundamentally changing the area and are simply renovating it, a recommendation was put forward, and accepted, that wider public consultation was not required for the scheme.”

    £45500 is a huge amount for a simple renovation of a small carpark and a stretch of pavement. The opportunity for a substantive improvement is being missed. The fact it is expensive to make alterations to this area due to drainage challenges is a reason to get it right now we have the opportunity.

    You assured me there would be a public consultation; however it now appears councillors have shirked their duty and handed responsibility over to OCRA.

    Are you a member of the Old Chesterton Residents Association?

    [I listed my comments on the current plans]

  5. Richard Article author

    Cllr Blair didn’t respond to the substantive point of why/when/how the public consultation had been dropped despite her assurances but did reply to say:

    Dear Mr Taylor, Thank you for this email. I am aware that you have raised this project with Dinah Foley-Norman, with Michael Bond (for OCRA) and with Cllr Armstrong as Chair of North Area Committee, and that you have had responses from them.

    OCRA invites all ward councillors (city and county) to attend their meetings as an observer, as can and often do any Residents Association or Action Group (such as the East Chesterton Action Group).

    With regards,

    Cllr Blair

    I note the only “response” I have had from Cllr Armstrong is her asking the officer, Dinah Foley-Norman, to reply to me regarding the officer’s inconsistent stories about why the plans were not brought to the August 2008 North Area Committee meeting.

  6. Richard Article author

    I have been sent a copy of the latest plans as of 9th October 2008.
    The latest changes as far as I can see are:

    • The cobble strip by the river is now to be replaced with a new cobble strip, rather than granite blocks as previously proposed
    • The existing drop curb is now to be retained
    • High curbs are to be used around the car park to help prevent cars ending up in the river
    • The picket fence is now to be replaced with a new “post and rail” fence.
    • No new hedgerow is now going to be planted next to the fence.

    The cycling campaign are finally now being consulted.

    Dinah Foley-Norman, the council’s principle landscape architect has written to me to say:

    it is my intention to meet with a representative from the Cycling Campaign on site to talk through our proposals.

  7. Richard Article author

    The Cambridge Cycling Campaign have suggested the removal of the downstream-most car-parking space to enable cyclists to travel diagonally between the road and the hailingway.

    This was one of a range of options I put to the October North Area Committee.

    If the council do take up that suggestion I hope the obviously required associated road markings and drop curb will be installed.

    The Cycling Campaign are also requesting cycle parking be included in the works.

  8. Richard Article author

    The council, via Mr Isherwood have now said they plan to bring these plans, yet again to the North Area Committee. The Cambridge Cycling Campaign’s proposal for including a proper route for cyclists through the site will be considered.

    This will be the North Area Committee on 11th December,- Manor Community College, Arbury Road, 1930.

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