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Why Bother?

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The agenda and supporting documents for this month's parish council meeting make depressing reading for me as an ex-member of that council.

First the planning application for the land fill site. The land fill site was originally created as a side effect of the creation of the A14 (then called the A45). They dug out the soil to use to construct the embankments which conveniently left a hole to be turned into a land fill.

The original planning permission for the site has long expired and new applications have been put through both extending the size of the mound beyond the original hole and extending the life of the site. The last time this came up, some years ago when I was still on the council, they were looking to extend the life of the site until about 2012. We were fed all sorts of baloney at the time about all the benefits we were going to get and it went through despite our protests. Among other things they proposed to create a liaison committee with the council to resolve issues. I refused to sit on it as I thought it was just window dressing. They also faithfully promised that this would be the last extension to the life of the site.

And then this year they came back with a proposal to extend the life of the site until 2020.

I can't imagine any of the councillors who were there last time around were surprised.

Our chairman went to the planning committee (at County) who were to decide the application. She was given just three minutes and they then completely ignored her points and accepted the application.

Second is the boundary review. A decade ago when I first joined the council I tried to get something done about Milton Parish, which includes both the Science Park and Chesterton Fen. It was the latter which concerned me and I thought it should either be put into the City or we should split the parish. It never happened even though the Boundary Commission were supportive of the idea.

My feeling has always been that SCDC would never accept either of these areas becoming part of the City: the Science Park is too prestigious ("look at us, we're not just a rural district council, we've got high tech too") and Chesterton Fen neatly lets them claim to have lots of traveller pitches in SCDC even through they're almost all effectively in Cambridge (as the only vehicular access to Chesterton Fen is through the City, even though it's in Milton Parish).

So now boundaries are being reviewed again and our parish council has put a lot of work into this and recommended the A14 as the natural boundary for the City and SCDC.

Again the chairman attended meetings, this time at SCDC, and their Electoral Arrangements Committee asked parish councils to consult with residents on suggested boundaries. This consultation was done with leaflets delivered by parish councillors personally to both Chesterton Fen and the Science Park.

In July the results of their consultation were communicated to the committee, in essence that overall the parish council had support for their suggested A14 boundary.

SCDC have now rejected this. This is what they said:

Process Guidance
In conducting a review, the Boundary Committee must have regard to: 'The need to secure effective and convenient local government; and the need to reflect the identities and interests of local communities.'

The SCDC Electoral Arrangements Committee received papers that brought in these arguments which do not reflect the above Boundary Committee statement:-

  1. Cambridge Science Park is world-renowned and there is benefit to the District in retaining this within its boundary given the positive associations. In any event the basis for review is consideration of the best local governance arrangements for residential communities rather than the commercial sector.
  2. By using the A14 as the boundary line this may set a precedent for amending other areas of the proposals map. The focus of the review is community governance and not necessarily simply following man-made or natural boundary features at the exclusion of other considerations.
  3. In the event that business rates revert to local authority control in the future the loss of this commercial area would be detrimental to the District Council.
  4. Officers cannot recommend a proposal which would result in the loss of a valuable area to which travellers resort and which the Council has spent many years working with the traveller community to provide.

The Committee decided to recommend their original suggested boundaries which left the science park and Chesterton Fen in Milton.

To be honest I'm not surprised, but I never thought they would so bluntly admit that my suspicions were correct (I'm not sure what in particular they're pointing to in (ii) but I had posited (iii) in the past too).

As the supporting documents for the parish council meeting say:

[the chairman] was concerned that the Parish Council were asked to consult but it would appear that even if we had 100% support for the A14 boundary the council had no intention of listening to this argument (see paras i - iv above) and had therefore wasted parish council time and money on a consultation.

Yup.

I wonder why they bother sometimes. Two kicks in the stomach in one go seems like a little much to bear.

Tags: local politics, Milton Written 28/08/08

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