At Cambridge’s East Area Committee on the 28th of January 2016 local resident Tony Eva used the public speaking slot to reveal a previously secret consultation with residents about the future of Riverside in Cambridge.
I think debates and decisions about changes to public space in Cambridge should be public and shouldn’t involve just immediate local residents. Riverside, the area in question, is used by, as one ward councillor put it, an “astronomical” number of pedestrians and cyclists.
There are currently no notices about the plans in the area, and nothing is mentioned on the County Council’s consultations webpage.
When responding to the public speaker the ward’s county councillor Cllr Whitehead (Labour) said there were plans to consult residents in the immediate area, but didn’t mention any plans to consult the wider public.
During the meeting the chair indicated he was not prepared to accept contributions from members of the public who had not prepared their questions in advance. I tweeted one of the committee’s more communicative councillors, Cllr Walsh:
— Richard Taylor (@RTaylorUK) January 28, 2016
— Ashley Walsh (@Ashley_Walsh) January 28, 2016
Taking up Cllr Walsh’s suggestion I spoke to Cllr Whitehead during a break in the meeting. I suggested holding a wider consultation and I asked Cllr Whitehead why she was supporting putting the interests of a few residents who wanted parking spaces ahead of those of others. Cllr Whitehead wasn’t able to explain her position and swore at me (see the linked video, and transcript below).
I intend to use the public speaking slot at the East Area Committee on the 7th of April 2016 to:
- Let councillors know I was surprised to learn of proposals affecting Riverside not from official channels, but from public speaker Tony Eva, at the January East Area Committee meeting.
- Express my concern about the secret nature of the Riverside consultations to-date, and my concern at holding consultations involving only immediate local residents and not the astronomical number of those who live elsewhere who use the area.
- Suggest councillors ensure consultations on the future of Riverside are well publicised across the city, at the location itself, and online.
- Ask Cllr Whitehead to explain why, on balance, when coming to her view on the scheme, she appears to have put the interests of a tiny handful of residents over the interests of the wider city.
I have transcribed the exchanges which took place at the 28th of January meeting relating to Riverside:
Chairman Blencowe (Labour): You have a second question and as you’ve got the microphone I’ll let you keep hold of it and
Resident Tony Eva: Thanks, my second question is regarding the Riverside promenade and Cambridge City Council has long had a vision for the Riverside promenade which would stretch between Midsummer and Stourbridge commons and phase one of this project was completed in 2011. The stretch of Riverside between the Riverside bridge and Stourbridge Common is a popular walking and recreational space along the river side of the road. Many people make use of this proximity to the river despite the lack of a footpath on the river side of the road and the numerous parked cars which impede access and also impede clear vision of other road users.
Cambridgeshire County Council is currently reviewing parking near to the Riverside entrance to Stourbridge Common. Incredibly they are recommending that parking spaces be maintained between the junction with Stanley Road and the entrance to Stourbridge Common. So this evening I would like to propose the following resolution: “The East Area Committee note the plans put forward by Cambridgeshire County Council in their email from John Richards to residents and councillors dated 22nd of January 2016. The East Area Committee reaffirms its long term vision of a Riverside promenade between Midsummer and Stourbridge Commons as such it abhors the proposal for parking bays adjacent to the river on Riverside and calls for the introduction of double yellow lines adjacent to the river along Riverside between the riverside bridge and Stourbridge Common.”
Chairman Blencowe (Labour): OK probably err.. allow the Abbey representatives to answer this question. Councillor Whitehead.
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): Yeah there is a scheme which John Richards has drawn up and we hope will be going out to consultation of the residents there and obviously in light of what the residents say we will look at how they think about the scheme. I don’t think its the job of this committee to pre-empt the discussion of the plan before residents have had a chance to comment on that plan and hopefully we have got after two years of struggle hopefully we will have a plan that will come out to consultation in the very near future. There are two separate issues, one is the parking which at the moment is pretty terrible people are camping there and various things like that and the second is the cycle and pedestrian access to Stourbridge Common and we’ve got money for both of those schemes and they have been put together and as I say it is I think more or less ready to go out for residents consultation. So I don’t really feel its the role of this committee to pre-empt that consultation process with residents.
Chairman Blencowe (Labour): Any other ward councillors wish to make a comment on the question?
Cllr Peter Roberts (Labour, Abbey): Hi Tony, I think you know my views on this because we went to a residents meeting together and also we’ve been in contact about this several times. I agree with what Joan was saying I think lets see what comes back from that consultation. What I would add is that I think in terms of if I can speak on behalf of Abbey councillors I think that we recognise that there should be a Riverside vision and very much so that it seems a bit rum that one end of Riverside mainly from I think previous section one O six from the Tesco there that was incredibly beautiful and clean and nice whereas the other end which is near the Tesco obviously has a bit more of a rough deal. If it were down to me I would have a cycle path all along the railings stroke footpath because I just think it is a beautiful walk we’ve done things recently as you know we got the fence repainted, new bins, new dog bins, new litter bins, we did a ward walk the other day to look at some of the actual social issues, the litter related cleaning issues which I cover at the council and I know that Richard and Joan have been working closely with the county on the gate. One think I was quite keen to do from our previous correspondence was to make sure because it’s the team’s we have at the council which come under my portfolio at the council which use the gate hence why the gate has to have access for cars for council vehicles. I would you know we put an awful lot of pressure talking to officers and I’m glad from seeing the initial email exchanges which have been going on that it now looks like we’ll be using the Oyster Row entrance enabling to make it even more accessible in terms of for cyclists by having a potentially two way entrance on Riverside but also on top of that to make the likelihood I would feel that should parking potentially be removed, not necessarily now but in the future, that the fence is ready, one of the most expensive bits of the whole project erm apart from that I mean uggg as I say its we have an awful lot of issues in Streets and Open Spaces to do with Riverside and a whole range of its a complicated array of issues, CCTV at that end if you remember last year now the County are telling us we can’t put up the CCTV any more because the lamp posts can’t support it and all these sort of ridiculousness that we’ve had to deal with and I think we’ve come an awful long way in a relatively short space of time that at least my party have been in control of the council and I just hope that we can get that final push because I do know that the figures I haven’t seen the exact figures but from what John Richard’s has mentioned the figures of cyclists and pedestrians going through that gate on Stourbridge Common is astronomical and with the new bridge which this committee has supported as well and also put money into at the initial stage that’s only going to get higher and we feel that there are number of issues that we are tintering we are teetering on the edge of just getting to where we want to be but we’re stil not quite there so I think we shouldn’t rest on a laurels but we should definitely push towards the Riverside vision that does have that promenade all the way down so I’ve always been in favour of it as you know so I don’t know if Richard wants to say anything.
Cllr Richard Johnson (Labour, Abbey): No.
Chairman Blencowe (Labour): Yeah I’ll make a comment on the first part of the question from the East Area point of view and I’ll I think Cllr Whitehead has sort of answered the second part in that there is a consultation either forthcoming or currently and obviously views will be expressed and decisions at the end of that will be made but in terms of the long term and this is yeah how long is the long term I think erm we clearly supported both the principle and in financial terms the first part of this promenade vision and I’m trying to remember how many years ago it will be now probably six, seven, years ago at least. But it was clearly understood that the extra one point probably two million pounds to complete it because we did a third of it for six hundred and fifty thousand and probably the rest will be certainly of the same sort of financial sort of sum, if we had the resources to do it we would be inclined to complete the whole promenade and see the vision come to fruition but as things stand at the moment we haven’t got that money therefore in the shorter term other practical sort of issues are being looked at and obviously that’s sort of part of the consultation that you clearly have a strong view on and we’ll let the consultation and ward councillors particularly sort of try and make sense of that but certainly as an East Area we do still support the long term vision, I’m sure we all do in terms of what we would like to do for that riverside promenade if it ever came through before we all depart this planet it would be great for us all to see. But we haven’t got the money at this present time. That’s the basic facts of it I think. Do you want to come back. I will let you come back of course.
Resident Tony Eva: Yeah thanks Chairman we recognise you don’t have the money to do this at the moment of course. It would be very useful I think if it could be minuted or resolved in some way that this committee does reaffirm its long term vision for the Riverside promenade between the two commons I think that would be very useful. From a personal point of view I don’t see how that sits at all with county then introducing six parallel parking bays.
Chairman Blencowe (Labour): Cllr Whitehead
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): Yeah there are residents who live down there and presumably they need somewhere to park their cars. [Pulls a funny face and looks to the ceiling]
Resident Tony Eva: There’s plenty of parking space available in front of my own apartment building which is used by commuters and coming in from who knows where parking their vehicles rather than using the park and ride taking out bikes from the back and riding on so there isn’t an issue with residents’ parking.
Chairman Blencowe (Labour): I think as an East Area Committee we still have a desire to see the long term vision of the Riverside Promenade and I think that’s the case, we had strong support for it previously, and I still think that’s the case. I don’t know if anyone wishes to say I’ve misjudged that then say now but I think we’re quite happy to reaffirm our commitment to the longer term vision but clearly there are practicalities to deal with in the interim and in the shorter term and that’s all we can.. and you obviously expressed your view and will continue to do so which is obviously your right to do.
Chairman Blencowe (Labour): Members happy for us to confirm our support for the principle of the longer term vision?
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): Can I just ask chair, we would agree that even though it may involve knocking down houses we’d be quite happy with that would we?
Chairman Blencowe (Labour): I don’t think any of us forseen knocking down houses Cllr Whitehead [looks quizzical] no. That wasn’t part of the vision. No. The vision was to make a you know a very attractive part of the promenade from Stourbridge Common up to Elizabeth Way roundabout, we’ve only completed a third of it. You can see the difference, you know and obviously residents see the difference every day and users see the difference every day but anyway so are we happy to minute that point with to confirm… excuse me can we have one conversation please, we are happy for the committee to reaffirm our support for that longer term vision yeah? OK thank you.
Richard Taylor Interviews Cllr Whitehead About Riverside Consultations
Richard Taylor: Cllr Whitehead, can ask you about the consultation on Riverside?
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): Yes.
Richard Taylor: Why is a consultation only with residents at the moment and not with people who cycle and walk along…
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): It isn’t a consultation yet, it will be.
Richard Taylor: The public speaker mentioned a consultation letter which had gone out to them and he gave the dates and ..
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): No. That’s not what I’m talking about.
Richard Taylor: Do you accept that the consultation exists that the resident talked about?
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): I don’t know what, what I am talking about is the scheme at the Riverside end near Stourbridge Common. We are currently [in discussions?] currently being refined and then it will go out to consultation.
Richard Taylor: With?
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): It’s not gone out yet.
Richard Taylor: Will that second consultation step be with the wider public or just with residents? You mentioned it was just for residents when you answered the question.
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): I don’t know.
Richard Taylor: Can it be a wider one? Can I ask you now to suggest that astonishing number as Cllr Roberts said I think of cyclists and people who walk down there be involved.
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): I mean we can certainly raise that, that’s what we did with the Midsummer Common end with signing the
Richard Taylor: Why are you so keen on giving these six residents their parking spaces, and putting them ahead of the large number of people who walk and cycle.
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): That is my personal view. I think residents are entitled.
Richard Taylor: Well I’m asking you why you’re holding that view?
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): I think that residents are entitled to park their cars. Sorry but I think residents are entitled to have a place to park their cars.
Richard Taylor: So
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): You do not agree with that but that’s my view.
Richard Taylor: Well I wanted to find out what your view is.
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): It is my view I think residents have a right to park their cars.
Richard Taylor: And you will sick with that view regardless of what the interest of the wider city are? Is that your view, the interests of these six residents will always outweigh the wider city, the wider economy?
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): We all have to share the space, cyclists and car owners and pedestrians have to share space so you have to take into account all of them. We are reducing the parking there significantly.
Richard Taylor: Right.
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): Reducing it very very significantly making a small number of parking spaces for a small number of residents. So we are taking into account cyclists, we are taking into account pedestrians we are redesigning it to make it better for pedestrians and we are leaving a small number of parking spaces, removing most of them.
Richard Taylor: You’ve just told me we are keeping a small number of parking spaces.
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): Yes.
Richard Taylor: But you are also telling me there’s going to be a consultation, so don’t you think that’s a bit inconsistent, you’ve already come to a solution?
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): [Shouting] I’m saying my opinion is if the consultation says we residents don’t want to park our cars, it’s OK, we don’t want them then we will take account of that.
Richard Taylor: So what you’re telling me is your views won’t be changed by the consultation but the council’s more widely might be?
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): You asked for my personal view and I gave it to you. What the council do
Richard Taylor: If that’s going to remain when you’ve consulted the wider public…
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): I will not do the analysis that will be done by other people
Richard Taylor: But your view will not change when you have consulted the wider public is that correct?
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): Sorry, if the wider public want those parking spaces to go then they will go irrespective of what my view is. OK?
Richard Taylor: But your view will remain irrespective of what people like me say to you as someone who walks and cycles in that area you will always only take into account the views of residents?
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): I’m taking into account cyclists, pedestrians, and people who live there who want to park their cars.
Richard Taylor: So
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): I’m taking into account three people not just cyclists like you do.
Richard Taylor: Your view that these six residents’ spaces should remain is based on a balance then is it after considering cyclists?
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): It is. No, no no. We are trying…
Richard Taylor: Is it or not?
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): I got the money for this [swearword] thing, and what we are trying to do is take into account pedestrians, and cyclists, and a small amount of parking and the most .. do you know what it’s like.
Richard Taylor: Do you think it’s appropriate to swear in that manner?
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): Yes, I do sometimes yes.
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): Do you know, have you seen what it’s like, have you seen the mess that is there? Have you seen it at the moment.
Richard Taylor: Yes I use the area regularly.
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): We are going to be able to sort that mess out. But we have to take into account residents who need to park, cyclists, and pedestrians, not just one.
Richard Taylor: Why does that parking have to be on the Riverside, on the direct route between Stourbridge and Midsummer Common.
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): Because it’s where they live.
Richard Taylor: So people have to have a parking space directly outside their house is that what you’re saying?
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): They have to park, they have to park somewhere. It’s a small space by Stourbridge Common … who have cars and they have to put them somewhere. They have to put them somewhere.
Richard Taylor: Do you believe that everybody should be able to park outside their house around the city?
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): I think it’s one of the thing we have to consider and most people pay to do that. I pay to do that, to park my car. Most people do pay.
Richard Taylor: You don’t think we can change things then?
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): Are you saying we should get rid of cars and people, residents, should have no right to park their cars?
Richard Taylor: No I would take a balanced view.
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): Well I’m taking a balanced view, I don’t think yours is balanced at all. We’re trying to take into account three groups of people, you are not, you are only taking into account your own point of view and cyclists that’s all you’re interested in, you’re not interested in trying to say this space has got to be shared.
Richard Taylor: You’re a councillor, you get to take the decisions. Your point of view is not irrelevant. I wouldn’t be talking to you if you were not an elected councillor who is going to have a say in the decisions.
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): If the consultation from the residents and everybody says we don’t want these parking spaces…
Richard Taylor: The immediate local residents?
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): If everybody says…
Richard Taylor: Sorry, the consultation with the immediate local residents?
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): and the cyclists and the pedestrians and if everybody says we don’t want residents parking spaces..
Richard Taylor: What do you mean by everybody?
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): Well the people who answer the survey and who are consulted.
Richard Taylor: So you require unanimity in order to…
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): No, I’m trying to give you an example, if the majority have said these places should go then that’s probably what will happen and whether I agree with that or not is immaterial.
Richard Taylor: Would you like to apologise for the swearing?
Cllr Joan Whitehead (Labour, Abbey): No, not at all.