Friday, February 26, 2010

Housing Targets to Be Scrapped

The main driver behind the County Council officers' congestion charge demand is the government's housing target for the county... just to remind them, their nominal masters and ordinary voters of this point:

Tories to scrap central housing targets
The Conservatives will scrap centrally set housebuilding targets in favour of greater local decision-making if they win the next election. In a planning green paper... the Tories called for a system of incentives to encourage building projects led by local communities. Any community building new properties would receive a government grant to match pound-for-pound the extra money the community received through increased council tax for six years. Neighbourhoods would also be able to keep some of the money given to councils by developers when planning approval is granted." Partnerships News

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Double Counting Planning Gains?

The County Council’s transport officers reassure us in The News that some £23.5 million from the developers of Northstowe will help to cover the costs of the Guided Bus. This would be done by making up the difference between the government subsidy of £92.5 million and the final £116 million price tag.

The same officers tell us that planning gains from new homes will help to make up the county’s compulsory 10% contribution towards a congestion charge/TIF bid – where central government is demanding some £40-47 million of locally found money out of a total bid of £517 million.

Can we have an assurance that there is no double-counting going on? Is there a map showing the zones where the developers’ revenue is being taken from to back up the assurances?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Four Horsemen of Perne Road


We’ve got to get rid of the Latin house guests.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Point of Weather Forecasts

...Is to check what's coming up next. OK, quite often our Met Office gets it wrong, especially when doing the medium to long term forecasts. As they say, our weather is changeable but our climate is pretty constant.

However, the snow was forecast by all and sundry and the those organising the repairs on the railways should have known better. Thankfully the Cambridge commuter always has a plan B route to London and so the King's Cross folk piled onto the Liverpool Street trains affording them the opportunity to admire Stansted Mountfitchet. One day I will get off there to have look round.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Perne Road's House of Hindu Rao

Thank you to everyone for sending their best wishes. We hope we are through the worst of the 'flu here, with all eyes now on the little chap's temperature following another visit to Camdoc. As for how we feel, this well-fought over home from the Indian Mutiny about sums it up!

Saturday, February 20, 2010


The Yellow Jack, a signal flag for a ship in quarantine, is flying from the house this weekend. Having made use of the out of hours Camdoc service, along with several other concerned parents that night, we are flying a quarantine flag until everyone in our house is better.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Thank You 209

Sad news about the station's demise.

Ruskin’s Wrestle with Government

The clash between Anglia Ruskin and HMG about a £655,000 fine for taking too many students is a tough one to call.

I want to support the university and blame the new cap on admissions numbers for the fine, given for taking on too many students last September. However, with a drop-out rate of nearly a quarter it’s clear that there is something wrong with either the institution or the system it is playing.

Access to Higher Education should be based on ability and ambition. If students lack either of those qualities then the only thing going to university can do is land them in debt.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Let Them Travel in First…

No. not really.

When MPs say something as silly as Nicholas Winterton did about their need to travel in first class on the trains, you may yearn for the sound of tumbrels but should settle for seeing the back of them at the next election.

As a regular commuter to London in standard class I think first class travel is something that should be purchased and not handed out with the Westminster rations at taxpayers' expense. As for Sir Nicholas, he has done no favours to those of his colleagues whose age brings experience to the House of Commons and whose departure would be a real loss to Parliament.

Also, have you noticed how the ticket collectors (or whatever they’ve been called this year) stand by the First Class carriage on the Liverpool Street to Cambridge/King’s Lynn peak-time services until just before departure time? Of course they could be watching for rogue elements in the cycling community...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Agreeing with Labour?

It does happen.

The Lib Dems have finally noticed that shops outside of the Grand Arcade/Grafton Centre loop are not doing well. There are questions to be asked about why the City Council’s own promotions, via Love Cambridge etc, have been focussed on this golden patch and not on other deserving areas like King Street, or even getting a better deal for the market traders.


Daniel Zeichner, Labour's parliamentary candidate, said: "The Lib Dems always blame everybody else. They have been running the city for the last decade and they need to take responsibility for what is happening in Cambridge."

Yes, jolly good point Dan.

And Labour have been running the whole country for more than a decade.

Time for you to take responsibility too?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Too Close to Fiction

Skynet may refer to:

Skynet (satellites), a UK military communications system

Skynet (Terminator), the fictional computer network in the Terminator series of films

Monday, February 15, 2010

Jarndyce (LD, Cambridge) VS Jarndyce (LD, Cambridge)

Cambridge City Council’s planning woes continue with this novel approach – and I will give them that – to dealing with messed up applications.

The News gives the background:

Planning officers approved a list of amendments which they considered to be "non-material", but their bosses now say the changes should have been put before councillors.

A judicial review is thought to be the most effective way to officially cancel the deal but as the council cannot take legal action against itself, someone needs to take it to court.

So the leader of the council takes his own council to court.... another Lib Dem friendly fire incident. Let's hope this is not another Bleak House.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Renewing Vows

I am back from a Valentine’s weekend in Dover. We found a great castle and a very strange Italian restaurant – La Via Romana – that served tiramisu with pineapple and spaghetti in tinfoil (albeit shaped into a swan). The prosecco made it all see normal.

Others went to Fulbourn renew their marriage vows.

I hope all had a good weekend!

A photo, far better than mine, by Jake Keup

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Best Argument for Wind Farms

Peak Oil News – not my usual Telegraph source here – reports, “Plans to build thousands of wind farms in the UK are irrational and should be scrapped in favour of more gas plants, according to the deputy chairman of the Russian energy firm Gazprom.”

"If we do not want to see the authors of the 2020 strategy decapitated in a public square, I do not think they can forget about gas," he said.

So we can be dependent on the Kremlin for switching on our electric kettles?

More wind, now!

Duplicate Eye-Sore Deferred...

The BBC reports the, “plan for a six-storey 219-bed hotel, believed to be a Travelodge, in Newmarket Road was rejected due to concerns over the building's design.”

Travelodge turned down because of its design?

In Cambridge?

Designed a bit like the Lib Dem approved eye-sore at the Leisure Centre?

Maybe things can get better… but I’m not holding my breath. Of course, you have to ask why they approved the Communist-bloc monstrosity of a Leisure Centre in the first place.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mosquito Farming and Feral Camels

The ever-so eco-fashionable have set out to turn a large chunk of our county’s fens over to swamp and meadow. Tony Juniper, Cambridge’s Green Candidate, praises “the ambitious vision to return intensively farmed land back to native wetlands”.
This is romantic but it is also wrong.

Having lived in Cambridgeshire for my adult life, I am astonished that the blood and toil expended over the centuries in this county to provide food for our nation counts for nothing in the eyes of the Greens.

They lecture us on locally sourced food but want to deprive us of land from one of the major sources.

If they get their mosquito farm, they won’t allow the traditional fen food to be hunted – eels and water fowl were fair game when our predecessors were searching for sustenance.

Furthermore, the animals that they promise to put in are Highland cattle and Konik ponies. Er, neither Scottish cows nor Polish horses are native to the fens…. (While Scottish prisoners of war were forced to build fenland dykes, no Scottish cattle contributed to the digging or were harmed in the process).

If there were an over-riding and practical reason for scrapping the farmland, at the request of the Drainage Boards for example, then I would reconsider. However this looks like yet another urban attempt to dictate life and livelihoods in the countryside – I write as a Cambridge resident here, stirring with my own urban wooden spoon.

And if Mr Juniper wants to cut down on greenhouse gasses then I suggest he shoots a few feral camels in Australia. Culling the one million feral camels that currently roam the outback would be equivalent to taking 300,000 cars off the road.

Credit to
Maurice van Bruggen for the photo

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Farmland, not Mosquito World

Please sign the NEW SaveTheFarmland E-Petition!

A Message From Geoffrey Woollard, Chapel Farm, River Bank, Nr. Upware, Ely, Cambridgeshire. CB7 5YJ. Telephone 01223 - 861823:

Good news!

First, our SaveOurFens E-Petition to the Prime Minister attracted no less than 418 signatures before it closed on the 3rd of February. I am very grateful indeed to all of those who care about the future of our Fens who took the trouble to sign up. Many of the names are of people known to me personally and many live or have business in the area affected by the National Trust's ill-conceived so-called 'Wicken Vision.'

As that E-Petition has closed, I submitted another to 10 Downing Street (I don't know who the Prime Minister is to be after, say, May, but the E-Petition is non-political and is intended for the attention of either Gordon Brown or David Cameron). The 10 Downing Street E-Petition team notified me of its approval today.

The NEW E-Petition reads as follows:

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to save the best farmland of the United Kingdom for food growing. The Cambridgeshire Fens contain Grade 1 farmland. This grows almost any food that is required - and it was all required in the Second World War when enormous sums were expended on its further drainage and restoration. Our population is reported to be over 61 million. Our growing population needs feeding. There is a limit as to how much food can and should be brought from less fortunate areas of the world.

We deplore the loss of any of our best food-growing Fen farmland, for whatever worthy cause. The farmers and people of the ancient Fen-edge settlements of Wicken, Upware, Burwell, Reach, Swaffham Prior, Swaffham Bulbeck, Lode & Longmeadow, Bottisham, Stow cum Quy, Fen Ditton, Horningsea and Waterbeach feel threatened. Lift that threat, Prime Minister!"

If you, dear reader, are eligible to sign it, please do so at -

Monday, February 8, 2010

B Bar Good / B Bar Bad

The first public debate with the final list of parliamentary candidates – ie not with me or David Howarth on the panel – will be on ‘the future of the city’, at B Bar, in Market Passage, on Wednesday starting at 6.30pm. Places at the event are limited and will be allocated on a first-come first-in basis.

The B Bar has a special place in my life as it was where I went to immediately after Nick Hillman was selected on that sunny Saturday in December. A group of us left the Guildhall in great cheer to celebrate the right person winning the Cambridge selection.

Now, if you look carefully at the entrance, which we did not, there is a notice saying everyone under the age of 21 is banned from entering the premises

So little Catherine, then aged 5 days and sleeping in the car seat we carried her in, was barred.
She had a milk in King Street. However, I am sure she will go to the B Bar for a drink one day.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Paper is Marooned on a New Labour Island

The Cambridge News counts as ‘news’ the island platform planned for Cambridge railway station, complete with quotes from a Labour councillor.


It’s been known for a long time. This looks like the News taking a New Labour re-launch press release at face value. As a colleague of mine noted,

The Cambridge News is the best local paper in the city. It is the only local paper.

Must do better…

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Local Tories Set Cracking Pace

At the risk of being deemed sycophantic, Councillor Howell and the Coleridge team are doing overtime on behalf of the city’s taxpayers. Nick Hilllman is also working hard to win the Parliamentary seat after the General Election.

The Coleridge blog has covered the enquiry into the Folk Festival’s financial fiasco, the Ashwells implosion with the CB1 Development, the consultation on open spaces and yet more planning issues in his ward. Andrew and Chris keep their website up-to-date, so does Nick (which more than some of the other political sites in the city, some of which I know better than others and some of which promised so much at the end of last year).

Friday, February 5, 2010

Not Topical but Out of Touch

The Parliament website has a Topical Issues section, with a link to a full page of topical issues.

The word expenses does not appear once: “Text Not Found”. There are no links to the documents like this one. We do have Digital Economy Bill: day six of Lords committee stage and Speaker of the House of Commons visits Cornwall.

How is that for out-of-touch?

Oh, and there is no word yet on whether the Lib Dems will repay the taxpayer sponsored PR for David Howarth.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Today's Commons Expenses Latest

From the House of Commons Banqueting Office Function List

Howarth MP, David - 22/06/2009 - Vodafone Private Dinner (12 people) Dining Room B

Vodafone? Must be a good reason… and still no sign yet of the party repaying the funds mispent on a press officer.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Obama’s Edwardian Moment.

The decision by the Pentagon that the US armed forces will no longer be expected to take on two simultaneous conventional wars is both a recognition of reality and an unwelcome step away from US military supremacy.

It is like the moment when the Admiralty had to drop its own guidelines. From 1909 the Edwardian Royal Navy could only maintain its Two Power Naval Standard, a fleet the size of the next two combined, by ignoring the American fleet. In a Blair-like evasion, Liberal politicians of the day side-stepped the issue by saying that the Naval Standard was really only meant for next two European fleets.

The good thing from our own glimpse of the dimming of British power was the understanding that war between the US and UK was unthinkable. Our nations were now too alike in outlook and interest to come to blows.

There is no glimmer of hope with the Pentagon's announcement. If you don’t like the world’s only superpower being the US, I wish you luck with China and let’s see where your personal freedoms get to under Peking’s Pinochet-style market-led but nationalistic dictatorship. The logic is that our European allies will step forward to help fill the breach, but bitter experience in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Iraq (both times) is that most of them are of precious little help when things go wrong. We can only hope that things get better...

Monday, February 1, 2010

Lib Dem’s “Homophobe” Friendly Fire

“…there are a small minority of people in the party who hold views that I think are unacceptable.”

Er, which party?

The Lib Dem candidate for Huntingdon, Martin Land, had earlier lashed out, “the Tories remain a coalition between the blatantly self-interested, closet racists, and homophobes (not necessarily mutually exclusive categories)…”

But what about his own party?

“Cambridgeshire [Lib Dem] county councillor Kilian Bourke created a group on social networking site Facebook littered with jokes about homosexuality.” … Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “With homophobic attitudes like these I don’t see how he can possibly represent his lesbian and gay constituents. These gratuitous anti-gay insults render him unfit for public office.”
No party has the monopoly on “virtue”. I try to judge parties on what the 90-95 per cent of the membership believe, not the odd five to ten per cent. Also let’s judge people on what they have done recently and not what they were doing at school or as students or what their friends have got up to.

So, Lib Dems… does Cllr Bourke stay or should he go?

Whatever the decision, only Liberal Democrats could be harmed in the course of Martin Land's next public statement.