Burwell Liberal Democrats

Edited by Hazel Williams, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Burwell. Learn more


by Gareth Wilson on 30 April, 2015


East Cambridgeshire District Council is small, but has some very big plans. Under twelve years of Conservative control, the council has come up with a number of large and very expensive projects, many of which they have been promising for years but none of which have yet come to reality.
Meanwhile the council has become a soft touch for housing developers. They cut back on homes that are affordable, and abandon developments before they are finished, leaving roads unfinished and paths not even started.
The council is so inept that it had to hand back £500,000 to Sainsbury’s – money that should have been spent on measures to deal with traffic problems.
This manifesto has many proposals that would help make East Cambridgeshire an even better place to live and promote the well-being of everyone who lives here. We hope that you, the residents and citizens of this area, like what we say here; it has been shaped and influenced by the thousands of conversations that local Liberal Democrat councillors and supporters have had with residents over the past four years.
We believe that the council is here to serve you, not large corporate housing developers and the road haulage industry.
A Liberal Democrat-run East Cambridgeshire District Council will:
Stand up to housing developers and insist that more homes are affordable, pavements and paths are built early, rather than not at all, and houses are built to higher environmental standards.
Promote better facilities for pedestrians and cyclists throughout the district.
Work towards a better recycling service that recycles more and is responsive to residents’ needs.
Spend the proceeds from housing developments fairly across the district, not on expensive, prestige schemes.
End the policies that damage the viability of shops in Ely city centre.
Prioritise help for those on low incomes.
Not increase the council tax this year or next and in future years keep any increases in council tax to a minimum.
Doing the basics better
East Cambridgeshire District Council has spent more than a decade promising residents high profile projects, while neglecting the basics of good local government. Liberal Democrats want to start putting things right. We want a council that
Puts the interests of residents ahead of those of developers both when new housing is planned and then when it is built.
Has a responsive, helpful waste collection service rather than the inflexible one provided by Veolia.
Ensures that the law is enforced on illegal parking, speeding and development so that residents’ lives are improved and protected against law-breakers.
Encourages residents to take part in decision-making rather than one that is secretive and where questions are dodged by elected politicians and given to officials to answer.
Liberal Democrats will:
Ensure that the council employs enough planning enforcement officers to ensure that developers meet their legal duties and fulfil the legal promises they have made.
Review the waste collection service provided by Veolia so that, when the existing contract ends, the service that succeeds it proves more popular with residents.
Increase the public’s right to ask questions and bring petitions to council meetings.
Extend opportunities for citizens to take part in decision-making in their own communities, not just in the council offices in Ely.
Better housing – for the benefit of people, not developers
There has been massive development across East Cambridgeshire over the last 25 years and it is set to continue. Liberal Democrats want the new housing to mean better, more affordable housing where people want to live. We want communities that have the infrastructure and resources to thrive and for their residents to have a high quality of life. And we want development that is environmentally sustainable for the long-term well-being of the people of East Cambridgeshire without harming the future of people elsewhere.
Liberal Democrats completely reject the Conservative dogma that new housing is best delivered by removing the council’s role and letting developers do what they like. We have seen the effects of such civic vandalism across parts of East Cambridgeshire where new housing has been held up as a national example of what not to do.
We are appalled at the Conservatives’ extreme disregard for people on low and average earnings who cannot afford an expensive home. That only 8% of new housing is affordable is a scandal in its own right. That other councils aim for 40% affordable housing highlights East Cambridgeshire Conservatives’ recklessness.
We were astounded when East Cambridgeshire District Council showed itself to be so incompetent that it handed back £500,000 to Sainsbury’s without a murmur; money that should have been spent reducing the problems caused by increased traffic.
Liberal Democrats will:
Demand 40% affordable housing in new developments in the south of our district and a minimum of 30% in other areas; if developers think they cannot make a profit with that level of affordability then they should not be allowed to develop their scheme.
Insist on higher building and environmental standards for new homes so that residents’ energy bills will be cut and carbon emissions reduced. Other councils can do it, so East Cambridgeshire should;
Demand that the County Council provides more school places than the inadequate number currently planned.
Support Community Land Trusts and their extension across the district.
Try to ensure that developments are built with proper sustainable drainage to prevent flooding.
Ensure that existing regulations and planning agreements are enforced by the employment of sufficient planning enforcement officers to carry out this role.
Integrate community facilities including shopping, health and education properly into new developments, so that new residents can access the services that they need locally rather than having to travel unnecessarily far to shop or visit the doctor.
Prioritise the building of paths for pedestrians and cyclists so that they are finished before residents move in, rather than being still unfinished ten years later;
Safeguard the future of Ely Market Place and ensure that new development there is to the highest standards, recognising the importance of the location.
Getting about more easily
Travelling around East Cambridgeshire is far too difficult without a car. Liberal Democrats want to make it easier for people to walk, cycle and use public transport to get about, to try to avoid increases in traffic congestion.
East Cambridgeshire, being relatively flat, ought to be ideal for easy walking and cycling: but it is amazingly difficult to cycle safely between small villages such as Stetchworth and Woodditton, and cycling provision in the new developments of Ely is far poorer than it ought to be.
The bus service is poor across East Cambridgeshire, and in some places does not exist at all. The service had not been good and then the Conservatives running Cambridgeshire County Council imposed the most severe bus cuts in England.
The railway service is a public transport lifeline but huge demand for commuter services to Cambridge and London is outstripping the capacity of existing services.
There is too much speeding in Ely and Soham and through all our villages. We want to see measures to reduce speeding to make our roads safer for pedestrians and car users. We will help get safer crossings for pedestrians.
We will work with local communities and the County Council to try to reduce the number of heavy commercial vehicles which cut through our villages instead of using the major routes.
Evidence shows that building more roads creates more traffic and merely moves congestion to the next bottleneck. We are very concerned that the massive road building already planned will create significant extra problems as a result of increased traffic on the A10 and A142 in particular.
We will not introduce car parking charges in Ely City Centre unless required to by central government through the introduction of civil parking enforcement.
Liberal Democrats will:
Prioritise better facilities for pedestrians and cyclists across the district.
Provide funds for more pedestrian crossings and other road safety projects around the district.
Seek to improve lighting on existing and new pavements and cycle routes, subject to the limitations of the disastrous street-lighting contract imposed by the Conservative County Council.
Insist that new paths are finished early on when new housing is built.
Insist that strategic, dedicated cycle routes in new developments are properly segregated from pavements for pedestrians.
Work with the County Council to improve safe cycle routes to and from the villages of East Cambridgeshire.
Reintroduce joint decision-making with the County Council on the implementation of transport matters.
Seek the introduction and enforcement of appropriate parking restrictions in residential streets so that residents’ lives are made easier and obstructive parking is tackled.
Continue our long-standing support for the re-opening of Soham station and the rebuilding of the Newmarket curve necessary for direct services to Newmarket and Cambridge.
Support studies into the feasibility of long-term plans for a new railway station in north Ely.
Consider how to amend plans to improve the gateway between Ely’s existing railway station and the city centre and riverside, recognising that Tesco will not be moving in the near future.
Prioritise the development of a better bus service connecting new developments in Ely to the centre and railway station.
Support community transport, currently provided by Ely & Soham Association for Community Transport (ESACT), with dependable grant funding and help.
End the Conservatives’ ideological opposition to subsidy of socially useful rural bus services, although we recognise that a small district council has very little money with which to improve services directly.
Continue to press for improvements where the A10 and A142 briefly merge and which is otherwise likely to become a nightmare when the bypass opens.
Leisure, recreation and shopping
Liberal Democrats believe that people’s well-being is improved by good access to sports and leisure facilities.
We recognise the need for better provision in East Cambridgeshire but also recognise that East Cambridgeshire cannot and should not try to provide the range of facilities that Cambridge, Peterborough and London can offer.
We want to see improved cinema facilities in Ely but are worried that the Conservative council is dropping plans for the site to be served by public transport.
We believe that many of the leisure facilities in the district need updating, but we need to ensure that this is done in a way that is financially viable, benefits the whole district, and enables local facilities to thrive.
We are alarmed that the council continues to propose more edge-of-town shopping facilities, pursuing a strategy that even the Conservative government of the 1990s recognised as being harmful to city centres twenty years ago.
Liberal Democrats will:
Insist that any new leisure and recreation facilities are properly served by public transport and connect well to the rest of Ely for pedestrians and cyclists.
Continue with plans for a Littleport leisure centre.
Work with parents and young people to improve the facilities for children and young people across the district.
Reinstate the ‘Loo of the Year’ awards subscription to help improve the quality of our public toilets.
Work with Ely City Council to ensure that it has the capacity to run the Maltings properly, without it causing a financial catastrophe for taxpayers.
Reconsider plans for edge-of-town retail around Ely so as to minimise damage to trade in Ely city centre.
Tackling poverty, isolation and poor health
A small district council has few powers or resources to directly improve the financial circumstances of disadvantaged people. Nonetheless, many elements of this Liberal Democrat programme would, very deliberately, help people on low incomes.
Better facilities will encourage more walking and cycling boosting people’s physical and mental health while better public transport will reduce the stresses of commuting and help people’s well-being and work-life balance.
Our policies on new developments would make it easier for people to do their food shopping locally (ie within walking distance) and cheaply. Our support for Ely market could help people eat more cheaply and more healthily.
Our determination to improve the environmental standards to which new homes are built will help cut people’s energy bills.
Our policies on housing would make thousands more homes affordable for local people on ordinary salaries.
We will promote the distribution of good food that would otherwise have been thrown away by supermarkets to charities that feed the disadvantaged.
We will also lobby hard to ensure that there is adequate health provision as soon as people start to move in to new housing developments so that there is no period during which existing services, if they exist at all, are overwhelmed.
Sharing resources fairly
Many people in the south of the district feel that far too much of the council’s money is being spent in Ely. Yet in Ely, people can increasingly see that the Conservatives’ grand projects threaten huge financial problems. The list is an alarming one:
A station gateway proposal torpedoed by Tesco’s decision not to move.
£1 million to fund the A14 expansion that will add to, rather than reduce, local traffic problems.
The return of over £500,000 to Sainsbury’s that was intended to be used for solving traffic issues.
Failure to fund A10/A142 junction improvements without which the new bypass will cause chaos.
The Liberal Democrats will:
Seek to ensure that investment is shared fairly around the district.
Not increase the council tax this year or next and in future years keep any increases in council tax to a minimum.

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