What are the Area Committee Meetings for?

Those readers who follow this blog to keep an eye on any substantial planning issues which affect Queen Edith’s won’t be overexcited by the most recent meeting of the council’s South Area Committee, which I attended until the lure of watching Brazil proved too great. Perhaps the biggest Queen Edith’s news was the election of our own councillor Sue Birtles as chair of the committee for the next year.

However, one thing which did strike me during the evening, and which I’d like to comment on here, was the ambiguous nature of these meetings. Because they have a slot for members of the public to ask questions, they are understandably perceived as being public meetings, when in reality they are council meetings where the public is mainly there to observe. This is demonstrated graphically by the way in which council officers and the police pointedly address the councillors present, without really acknowledging the public.

I raise this point because I wonder if the council should either make this clearer, or change the format of the meetings to make them more public-focused.

As an example of what I mean, here’s what happened when one member of the public, describing himself as “an elderly cyclist” asked if more could be done about dangerous speeding by motorists on Friday and Saturday night on Cherry Hinton Road and Hills Road. He also asked if the speed cameras there actually work. Councillors were not able to give him an answer, but said the Police representative later in the evening might be able to do so. Members of the public present were looking forward to that response, and perhaps expected councillors to initiate a debate on the subject.

However, when later (after the main slot for the public to contribute was over), Cllr Birtles commendably remembered to put the question to the Police representative, he simply replied that the safety cameras are run by the Cambridgeshire Safety Camera Partnership and “they should all be working”. As far as councillors’ business was concerned, this was an adequate answer – speeding on Cherry Hinton Road and Hills Road was not an agenda item. But it was rather unsatisfactory for some of the members of the public present, who’d mistakenly hoped for a wider discussion.

There’s a slight disconnect here, I believe, between the actual function of these meetings and what the public may be led into believing they are. I’d like councillors to make it clear that although there’s an opportunity at these meetings for members of the public to make points to councillors in person, the meetings are not designed as an open forum where the public set the agenda as the meeting goes on. It would be nice if such an opportunity existed, but these meetings are not it, as far as I know. Councillors?

Get on down to the Busway

Another public question asked what has happened to the proposed pedestrian access to the Guided Busway from the Hills Road bridge and the Kaleidoscope development? This is something which has baffled me: I’m sure that we were told more than a year ago that this was happening, yet there’s been no sign of any building. In reply, councillors said there was a forthcoming meeting with the County Council where these matters would be discussed, and that money was available. The lesson is that in matters of council funded development, things tend to take a long, long time.

3 Replies to “What are the Area Committee Meetings for?”

  1. Hallo Chris
    Sorry it was not one of the liveliest meetings this evening.
    You are right that Mr Woodburn should have had a better response about the speeding on Cherry Hinton Road. Regardless of the speed cameras, the police should be enforcing the limit, and I’m surprised that the Inspector did not give a better response. It was unfortunate that the public were not invited to speak on police matters at the time of that item.

    Regarding access to the Busway from Hills Road Bridge, the County has finished the preliminary design but I believe there are legal land-related issues holding it up. We’ll learn more on Thursday, and the next area committee should get a proper report.

    I hope Brazil is compensating for a quiet meeting!

  2. I am patiently waiting for the promised double-yellow lines on the Babraham Road. The east verge is regularly used for free parking by people working at Addenbrookes’ Hospital, despite the fact that the new (and extremely ugly) multi-storey car park there is now open and in use.

  3. Chris. Agree with everything you and others say but, as you know, I’ve long been arguing that these meetings, as well as covering planning issues, should be an opportunity for local people to get together, debate and discuss social and community issues. For example the new library in Rock Rd is first class but is possibly looking for suggestions about the use of the community room and ‘hub thinking’ as practiced by some national libraries seems to me to be a way forward. Plus thinking about poverty, disadvantage and loneliness in our area, credit union/community banking which is now working in three counties including ours, Social and Community not-for-profit enterprises and there about twelve in the City, working with Sure-Start in Holbrook Road, etc, etc… Peter Durrant. 01223 415597.

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