Vie Residents Highlight Poor Planning

Vie Residents Association Cambridge.

Residents of the Vie development in Cambridge are highlighting problems which councillors ought to have addressed during the planning process.

In September 2008 Ian Manning used mySociety’s Pledgebank website to help start a residents association for those living in the Vie development in Chesterton.

Mr Manning is currently chair of the association; he emailed a series of questions for the open forum of the North Area Committee on the 7th of January 2010.

How was it possible for planning permission to be given for a development the size of Vie (~200 homes) with no visitor parking provision?

Liberal Democrat Cllr Blair answered to say that this was a result of her party’s policy to try and stop people using cars. She said that Vie was close to the city centre and so public transport was a practical alternative. Blair pointed out that the Liberal Democrats had only a maximum number of car-parking places given in the planning policies – pointing out that far from thinking the parking provision at Vie is insufficient the Liberal Democrats would have been happy with much less. Cllr Blair said the position was as a result of her party’s commitment to sustainable travel; she then blamed residents of Vie for having too many cars, adopting a lecturing tone she said that if the people living there reduced their number of cars there would be no demand for visitor parking. Cllr Blair proudly declared that the state of affairs at Vie is an example of what she considers: “Sustainable Development”.

Parking, particularly for visitors (including health services and tradesmen), has been made difficult throughout Cambridge by the Liberal Democrats, many of whom are even more vehemently anti-car (and anti-practical living) than Cllr Blair.

Member of the public, Mr Francis, said that he had pointed out the lack of visitor parking during the planning process. He said that some of the councillors sitting in front of him at the North Area Committee were the same councillors who had, in his words: “pushed the planning application through”.

What’s happened to the Section 106 Money Paid by the Vie Developer for Work on Church Street / Chapel Street?

Cllr Blair again answered. She said that the city council was chasing the money – £42,000 – which she said was almost due to be given back to the developers. The time limit expires in ten months time, but given the dead-slow pace at which the public sector works that is considered very soon.

Cllr Blair expressed her opposition to using the money for removing double yellow lines saying there was a risk of the area being used for commuter parking, with people walking into the City Centre over the new bridge. Mr Bond, a member of the public, pointed out to councillors that they could restrict parking in such a way to prevent commuter parking but allow residents, and users of the recreation ground and church, to park on Church Street. (Say a four hour limit?)

Mr Bond called both councils failure to spend S106 money a disgrace and asked for a list of all S106 money generated in Chesterton which remained unspent. Cllrs agreed to produce a breakdown for him (notably they did not commit to publish it, though once produced it will be possible to obtain it via a Freedom of Information Request).

County Councillor Wilkins said that the consideration of the Orchard Park / Riverside cycle route was due at the Traffic Area Joint Committee to be held in the Guildhall on the 25th of January 2010; while Mr Wilkins clearly has the agenda it is not yet available online on the meeting’s webpage.

Shared Recycling at Vie

Mr Manning, on behalf of Vie residents, appeared to have been again asking how councillors failed to address communal recycling properly during the planning process and were encouraging councillors to do better in the future. Cllr Blair said the council would in future add planning conditions making clear that managing agents had responsibility for communal recycling. She said the agents were already responsible for clearing up rubbish fly-tipped in the bin areas.

Cycle Parking

“There are cycle sheds you can’t put a bike in, that’s a fact” said Cllr Blair.

At the previous North Area Committee I observed councillors reject a planning application, in part, on the grounds that cycle storage would have been inaccessible (via a 60cm wide passage at the side of a house) so it does appear that perhaps the experiences of those who’ve ended up living in some of the less practical places which Cambridge’s councillors have given developers permission to build have resulted in some effective feedback already.

Drop Curbs

Mr Manning had asked about drop curbs; neither councillors nor the members of the public present could determine what it was Mr Manning was asking about. Cllr Blair said there were no drop curbs on the as the roads are a “shared space”. Cllr Blair staid that the roads on the development would at some point be adopted by the County Council under a special scheme.

My View

I think its crucial that new housing developments are practical places to live. It is excellent that those living in the Vie development are making councillors aware of the mistakes which they have made so some can hopefully be addressed in future developments. This is particularly important given the scale of new housing developments proposed around the edge of the city. I think many Liberal Democrats take their anti-car views too far and they don’t appreciate that for many people cars are a necessity.

15 responses to “Vie Residents Highlight Poor Planning”

  1. Other items related to the immediate area around the Vie development included:

    *The City Council are going to moor their play-boat on land adjacent to the Cantabs Boat House. They’re also going to have a new river access for canoeists etc. there too. This is the third location they’ve announced for this.

    *There are negotiations with the Environment Agency about what, if any, recreation facilities can be placed on various elements of the flood plain either side of the ramp to the new bridge. The EA are opposing anything hard – so no tennis courts or Multi-Use Games areas.

    *The Old Chesterton Residents Association complained about a lack of consultation about plans for the nature reserves / green areas / pitches etc. They complained that what consultation there had been had focused on adjoining neighbours and excluded those living slightly further away who still had a substantial interest in the area. (Cambridge City Council appears not to like to draw much attention to its consultations, though I thought OCRA was one group it appeared to be very close to – with councillors regularly attending OCRA meetings).

  2. The city council’s planning policies which limit car parking space on developments are perfectly sensible. In a city like Cambridge, which is increasingly limited for space, allocating more space for parking is a wasteful and inefficient use of land.

    Ultimately, more car parking space on developments results in higher costs, because fewer dwellings can go in the same amount of space (unless underground provision is implemented, though that also increases costs). And people have free choice in the market place not to spend potentially tens of thousands extra in order to have more parking.

    If the new residents of the Vie development do not have enough parking for their needs, the option is surely open to them to buy land and pay for it at the commercial value it would cost them. Either that, or due diligence should have been performed when considering moving there.

    I suggest that there is demand around the city for car-free and low-car developments, which would result in cheaper and more attractive housing. Many streets in Petersfield, for instance, must have only 50% car ownership, because parking is only on one side (and the width of a house is the same as the length of a car). This is a good demonstration of how people *do* base their choice of where to live based on how much parking they need.

    I don’t see why public space (which is not free) should be taken up for yet more parking of private property.

  3. I attended Cambridge’s joint City/County Council Traffic Area Joint Committee on Monday the 25th of January 2010. An item proposing changes to roads between Arbury/Orchard Park to Riverside, intended to make the route more attractive to cyclists, was on the agenda. During this item Cllr Blair raised questions about the £42,000 which the city council had required the Vie developers to pay for improvements to streets surrounding the development.

    As Church Street Chesterton is on the cycle route the question was just about relevant; though officers working on the cycle scheme had not been made aware of the pot of money related to the Vie development until very recently. Cllr Blair, apparently responding to the Vie residents’ lobbying for visitor parking, asked for changes to permit more parking on Church Street to be considered as part of the cycle route scheme. County Council transport officers were unanimously highly critical of the appropriateness of Cllr Blair’s suggestion; they politely pointed out that increasing the amount of cars parked on a street is not generally seen something which improves safety of cyclists.

    Cllr Blair was very careful to try and protect the integrity of the Liberal Democrat anti-car planning policies by claiming that her request to allow parking on Church Street was not for the benefit of Vie residents. Cllr Blair suggested that those driving to use the recycling bins, recreation ground and old people’s homes in the area were those who would benefit from increased parking on Church Street. Councillors appeared in agreement that any parking regulations which would enable commuter parking on the street would be undesirable.

    Kevin Wilkins, who was chairing the Traffic AJC, is a Chesterton Councillor. I believe this explains why he allowed extensive debate about parking in Chesterton despite it being only tangentially related to an agenda item. Councillor Rosenstiel addressed the meeting saying that he would usually leave such matters as parking restrictions to ward councillors but felt he had something to add given he had once worked in the area and had in the past commuted by cycle though it regularly. Cllr Rosenstiel’s speech stated that the double yellow lines on Church Street were anachronistic regulations left over from an era where St. Andrew’s Road was an industrial and large vehicles used Church Street regularly. He said he was in favour of reviewing the situation and allowing some parking.

    Councillor Clare Blair also asked for some of the £42,000 to be spent on the turning from St. Andrew’s Road, Chesterton onto the cycle path to the new Riverside Bridge. Cllr Blair said that while she had no depth perception in her vision and it might be just her, she thought the turning needed remodeling to allow a smoother trajectory. I thought she was rather hamming it up when she dramatically claimed she gets off her bike and walks it from St. Andrew’s Road onto the cycle path as the junction has been too badly designed for her to cope with cycling through.

    Councillors at the Traffic AJC meeting were cautioned by officers against trying to find projects for the £42,000 if there was nothing they really wanted to do; officers suggested giving the money to back to the developers might be the best course of action if there were no projects which clearly needed it.

    Councillors pointed to an item on their project list for introducing “waiting restrictions” to the “Logans Way, St Andrew’s Road, Longworth Ave-Mariner’s Way area” which is currently marked “No source of funding currently identified” and suggested some of the £42,000 be put towards that.

    Committee members and councillors couldn’t agree on the exact sum of developer’s funds in question. The money had been transferred from the City Council to the County as it was to be spend on highways; the county appeared to think it might amount to £45,000 plus interest.

    Liberal Democrat Susannah Kerr briefly attended the meeting, and as a ward councillor was able to speak on the Church Street discussion. Cllr Kerr primarily complained about not being consulted as ward councillor; and got into an argument with the committee manager who insisted that she had been kept up-to-date with proposals. Cllr Kerr also attempted to argue against putting speed humps in Church Street; on the basis that the County Council had incompetently installed cushions on Fen Road which one can drive in-between. Cllr Blair also argued against speed-humps on Church Street, making the case that she believed there would be local opposition to them.

    After the meeting Cllr Blair spoke of her intent to hold a meeting with Vie residents and other constituents in St. Andrew’s hall in Chesterton she said she would invite council officers and others to attend. I am concerned that this will give Cllr Blair the opportunity to say one thing in secret direct to her constituents, away from the press and public, and another in public. It appears that Vie residents have been successful in persuading the Liberal Democrats running the City Council to take a more sensible approach to things like designing bike stores and allocating responsibility for waste and recycling areas in future developments. If Cllr Blair and her Lib Dem colleagues have, in fact, done some degree of a U-Turn on their anti-car policies here and are accepting a mistake has been made this could have consequences across the city, particularly for new developments.

    Cllr Blair appears to like to meet her constituents and council officers in secret meetings in her ward (she attends police consultative meetings along with police and council officers which, unlike elsewhere in the city, are not open to the public). I think it would be better if she tried to get county council transport officers to attend the North Area Committee; where they could be questioned by all the area’s councillors in an open, public meeting. If she could arrange for a North Area Committee to be held in Chesterton, and encourage more people from that part of the city to attend and contribute, that would be be excellent.

    Despite not having any idea how a cycle route might deal with the pinch-point at the Milton Road end of Arbury Road (with Cllr Pellew saying he doesn’t cycle down this stretch of road as he feels it’s too unsafe); councillors agreed to a public consultation on proposals to improve the cycleway; comments on Church Street can presumably be fed into this; but it wasn’t made clear who will be consulted and how the consultation will be run.

    During the debate Cllr Blencowe heckled Cllr Blair when she called Arbury Park, Orchard Park, ridiculing Cllr Blair’s attempt to change the locally meaningful name reflecting around two thousand years of history to a generic widely used one. Cllr Blencowe also on a number of occasions took it upon himself correct Cllr Blair who kept talking about “St Andrew’s Street” (which isn’t in her constituency) rather than “St. Andrew’s Road” (which is).

  4. Thanks for the summary – very useful to me as I was intending to attend, but misread my diary.

    If there’s nothing else people want to use the £42,000 for, fixing the potholes still around on Chesterton High Street might be an idea. I’ve been somewhat slow about reporting most of them – I’m a cyclist and therefore I only tend to notice the ones near the kerb – but a lot of the road surface is actually fairly heavily broken up.

    If you hear anything about when this meeting at St Andrews Hall might happen, please do tell us. I live in East Chesterton and I’d be very happy to report back to you on what was said.

  5. Cllr Blair has been brilliant at supporting us and chasing up this money – this was a big victory and I’m glad she was involved as she should take a large amount of the credit


  6. Martin, to answer your point:

    Yes, I agree an amount of due diligence is a good idea. But everyone has visitors, and they sometimes need somewhere to park – this isn’t about car ownership.

    Furthermore, the developer told everyone there was ample visitor parking on site – and when I rang the council before purchasing they confirmed this!


  7. One key question will be what parking restrictions will apply when the roads in the development are adopted by the county council.

    I think the surface will prove costly for the residents of the rest of the city to maintain and should not have been permitted. I think maintaining the roads is a core function of the state and new developments ought be built with a view to being rapidly adopted. I don’t think we should be building private “gated communities” in the city.

    Whenever I have visited the development the problem appears to be not the lack of parking; but the way the parking is managed. There are one or two apparantly fly-posted signs urging “no parking” in particular locations, and a handful of cars parked illegally (on Church Street) or “improperly” (on the development).

  8. I have written to Mr Manning, chair of the Vie residents association to say:

    I am wondering if there has been any discussion within your residents’ group about access to the development for those canvassing for the upcoming elections.

    I know this has been discussed a couple of times in previous years but I was wondering what the current position is.

    Do you have any plans to enable election related debate and discussion (involving candidates?) via your discussion forum?

  9. A clear illustration of both Liberal Democrat inconsistency, and petty bickering between the Liberal Democrats at the City Council and the Conservative County Council, is that while Cllr Blair is demanding the County Council add interest to S.106 money paid by the Vie Developers the City Council’s accounting procedures do not involve S.106 money they hold accruing interest (interest on the money is added to the “general fund” and not the specific S.106 pot). Cllr Blair is a member of the ruling Liberal Democrat group and a executive councillor on the City Council.

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