Is the Mill Road community an undifferentiated block, who agree on everything? Far from it. That’s why we adopted (borrowed) the phrase Community of Communities. Gather half-a-dozen Mill Roaders in a meeting and you’ll generate a score of differing opinions.
We are pleased to see the establishment of a new website and group trying to create a positive vision for the future of Mill Road.
Mill Road – A Street for People is a group of Cambridge residents working on a non-partisan basis to seek consensus to get the best Mill Road for everyone.
Note Mill Road – A Street for People is not controlled by, nor aligned to Mill Road Bridges. We exist to foster debate about Mill Road and will draw attention to all websites, protests, opinion surveys and events concerning Mill Road which come to our attention, on whatever ‘side’ of any ‘argument’ they stand.
It is a site which hosts a variety of (sometimes overlapping, sometimes conflicting) ideas.
There are endless discussions on Nextdoor, Facebook and Twitter, but not everyone has (or wants) an account on those social media. This site is open to all, as is Mill Road – A Street for People.
And what of the future?
Since June 2020 there have been restrictions on what traffic can lawfully use Mill Road Bridge – see Wider footways, barriers and bridge restrictions. Some claim that the restrictions are ‘killing’ Mill Road. Others point to the new businesses starting up in Mill Road as signs of change and growth. These include the Harvest Organic Supermarket, and the Eclipse Bakery on Romsey Broadway; whilst, on the Petersfield (city) side, Finn Boys Fish Butchery restaurant, a new Co-op, The Lads Piri-Piri, and another restaurant – Fancett’s – at 96A (Fabio’s former premises) have recently opened or are about to open.
Some want all restrictions on bridge traffic removed, to bring ‘passing trade’ back to Mill Road. Others insist that passing motor-traffic is just that. Passing. Not stopping. Not shopping. Would the return of the previous traffic congestion, air pollution and road traffic accidents be worth it for the alleged benefits to traders?
Access for Blue Badge holders? Difficult as the Blue Badge is a parking permit, linked to an individual (driver or passenger) not a vehicle. But could a means be found?
Delivery vehicles to traders? Which ones? What times?
Some blame any drop in trade to the current restrictions on Mill Road Bridge, while others point out that Covid-related restrictions on shopping, eating out, and socialising have hit businesses across the city and the country.
Cambridge Doughnut asked candidates ahead of May 6th elections
Cambridge Doughnut envisions a new way of rebuilding the Cambridge economy following the pandemic to better meet the challenges of the 21st century, so asked candidates what issues they would prioritise in the aim to create a fairer, more sustainable city for all.
Cambridge Doughnut, a Cambridge-based community group working to support the regeneration of the Cambridge economy based on Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics principles, organised a digital “hustings” for political candidates contesting in the May 6th elections. Our questions covered issues that mattered to the residents of Cambridge while also considering the reality of the climate emergency we now live in.
Cambridge Doughnut strives to foster an economy that supports the needs of all people while helping sustain the planet for future generations, using Raworth’s approach to build a society which is both socially just and sustainable. Launched in September 2020 Cambridge Doughnut have grown to over a hundred members in a little over six months. By asking candidates how they would help achieve the dual goals of social justice and environmental protection, the hope is to educate them in the principles of Doughnut Economics and its potential to transform administrative planning.
Candidates from all key political parties standing for the Cambridge City elections replied to our call and their signed responses can be found in full here: Questions to Candidates
Cambridge Doughnut also wrote to candidates standing for the Cambridgeshire County Council and neighbouring district council elections; received a response from the Green Party Candidate for Cambridgeshire County Council in Abbey, and a collective response from South Cambs Greens at the time of writing.
The following were the questions posed to candidates:
Ambitious growth plans for this most unequal of cities usually focuses on high-tech, bio and pharma industries – boosting opportunities for incomers, the already advantaged and the highly qualified.
1. How will you ensure the new Local Plan alongside council initiatives improves the living standards of the less privileged and those for whom ‘affordable housing’ is not affordable?
2. How will you seek to ensure the city as a whole delivers what’s needed to address the climate and ecological emergency (climate emergency was declared by the city council and Parliament in 2019)?
3. Will you work for (and how?) passage of the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill?
For the 100-and-growing residents from Cambridge and surrounding areas who are part of Cambridge Doughnut, the motivation to run a digital “hustings” was two-fold: firstly, to receive a public commitment from candidates on where they stand on the above issues, and secondly, to encourage them to adopt principles from Doughnut Economics in planning, following the path taken by other cities around the world, including Amsterdam and Brussels. Closer to home, Cornwall Council identified the Doughnut model as a useful framework to assess the impact of policies.
David Stoughton, a member of Cambridge Doughnut, said, “While there is some good intent when it comes to narrowing the wealth divide or tackling climate change, urgent demands and party politics tend to override better motivations. Without an unambiguous statement of belief and intent it is impossible for voters to hold our representatives to account, and this is what we hope to achieve.”
Acknowledging the limited influence councillors have in changing national-level policies, fellow member and long-time resident Geraint Davies adds, “We are interested to hear the links candidates make between the big picture and the local Cambridge system. Are they referring to national political stances or do they have aspirations for local change? Are they making system-level connections between local issues? Are they connecting environmental protection with societal change? The responses indicate to some extent candidates’ alignment with the principles of Doughnut Economics. If you are interested in these principles and believe they are important in creating a fairer and more sustainable society, you can use the responses to steer your votes.”
At Cambridge Doughnut, the intention is to make Doughnut Economics a more central theme in the political dialogue, and we want to continue to work with councils and the successful candidates to promote a better understanding of Doughnut Economics and of ways to implement it locally.
What is Doughnut Economics?
In her 2017 book Doughnut Economics, Oxford economist Kate Raworth laid out a new way of looking at economics based on the priorities set out by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The Doughnut’s social foundation (the centre of the Doughnut) sets out the minimum standard of living for all covering basic rights like food, water and access to healthcare. The Doughnut’s ecological ceiling (the outside edge) comprises the planetary boundaries within which we must live to preserve our world – a stable climate, fertile soils, healthy oceans, a protective ozone layer, ample freshwater and biodiversity.
Cambridge Doughnut are inviting residents and local organisations to join their efforts to help make the city of Cambridge and surrounding areas a thriving place for all. To find out more click here or email email@example.com.
Local artist Naomi Davies offered a print of her Dinky Doors painting as a reward for information leading to the safe return of the Mill Road PhotoDinkyMat.
It seems, however, that all is not quite so simple…
Wreckage of the former booth has since been found on the pavement. When our web-editor visited today, he found a crime scene, where Dinky Constabulary’s DI Wallace and his colleague DDC* Gromit (both on secondment from Aardman Constabulary) were investigating. * (Dog Detective Constable)
DI Wallace and DDC Gromit refused to comment on speculation that the photo-booth had succumbed to alien attack. “We are keeping an open mind, and examining all of the evidence,” said DI Wallace, “however we regard the Melt-o 3000 as highly significant.”
Three teenagers who go by the collective name of ‘The Dolly Darlings’ were “shocked” to see the damage. “We were hoping to to get a set of photos for our PASS proof-of-age cards for when the pubs reopen, just in time for our 18th birthdays,” said Joanna Darling.
Note: since posting this in March 2021, Piero has managed to save the stonework and obtain planning permission for erecting it in the front garden of Ditchburn Place. Click on the image below to visit Piero d’Angelico’s dedicated website.
Former Bharat Bhavan Temple carvings in old Mill Road Library “to be taken down and skipped”
Piero d’Angelico, Mill Road Traders Association Ambassador, writes…
I am launching an appeal to save this beautiful carved stone being skipped.
These pictures are from the former Bharat Bhavan Temple located in the Old Library on Mill Road.
Since the County Council got it back in its possession, there has been work set in progress to restore the fabric of the building, unfortunately all this carved stone is destined to be taken down to be skipped. I feel that this a completely sacrilegious act to destroy such beautiful work.
I believe it is worth at least £80,000 as it took thousands of hours of work from many sculptors from India and was shipped all the way to Cambridge.
I am appealing to Cambridge City Council and Cambridgeshire County Council to use those carved stones in a memorial, I already have in mind three locations in Mill Road where it could be placed as a memorial.
We must protect diversity and cultural identities in Mill Road. We haven’t got much time as work begins on Monday 29th March.
The cost for it to be taken down professionally and stored is only £3,000. Mill Road Traders Association can contribute part of the cost but we’d like the community to encourage the authorities to support this project. Mill Road Traders’ Association have also set up a crowdfunding page Save Bharat Bhavan carvings on Mill Road on GoFundMe with a target of £3,250.
UPDATE 1 (Sunday 4th April 2021) We have reached the target – thank you! Every additional £ we receive now will go towards the important task of re-homing this piece of Cambridge heritage and not just safely dismantling and storing them.
UPDATE 2 (Saturday 10th April) We have had so many emails and phone calls from people who want to help and we are very thankful to you all!
The funding goal has been raised to £6000 to reflect the installation costs of the carvings, which may also include a heritage plaque telling their story, as well as lighting which changes colour for specific events such as Diwali or the Mill Road Winter Fair. You have all made this happen, with people in Mill Road, Cambridgeshire, and across the country pitching in to help – but please keep passing on our message as every £ helps!
(It is possible that this number may rise again, but every £ donated helps us do more to save, preserve, and respect this piece of Cambridge heritage.)
Note: as of Friday 23rd April 2021 at 17:30 the money raised stood at £5,260
Cambridge Independent, Friday 23rd April 2021, by Alex Spencer
Beautiful carvings from a former temple that were sold to a Cambridge hairdresser by the county council for £1 could be worth as much as £500,000. Read the full article, here.
Our Web Editor adds… For those wishing to learn more about the background to the library, the temple and its repossession by Cambridgeshire County Council please read on and explore the links below.
The library was built by Cambridge City Council, but passed to the ‘new’ Cambridgeshire County Council under the two-tier reorganisation brought in by The Local Government Act 1972 on April Fool’s Day 1974.
For a brief history of Mill Road Library, click the image above.
For how the reasons behind the County Council’s repossession and the current work, see Debbie Luxon’s report and Frank Gawthrop’s comments.
The Indian community organisation that took over the library were granted a 25 year full repairing lease on a peppercorn rent in exchange for maintaining the building fabric. This building which is grade 2, listed was considered a financial liability to the County so this was seen as a zero cost way of maintaining the structure.
Unfortunately the lessees did not spend any money on external maintenance in 10 years allowing water to enter the building and cause extensive damage. The City Council which is responsible in law to ensure listed buildings do not fall into disrepair served notice on the County Council about the deteriorating state and the County sent in surveyors who have estimated the repairs to be in the region of £300,000.
The community association having had free rent declined to pay so the County obtained a court order to regain possession. They may have spent a lot of money on carved statues but they have left local council tax payers with a huge bill.
The lease was held by a company limited by guarantee. This is a fairly usual way that community groups take on financial obligations as it protects the members from any personal claims.
Having cost local tax payers in the region of £300,000 I, for one, think enough public money has been spent already on this failed project. If private individuals want to contribute that is fine and appropriate. If these carvings are valuable they are the property of the company limited by guarantee which leased the building. What are the directors doing about this?
On Wednesday 24 March 2021, 10.00 am, deep in cyberspace, Super Matt the super squirrel defeated The Thing From Outer Space!
More prosaically Cambridge City Council’s planning committee held a virtual meeting, in which the application to build a block of student flats on St Matthew’s Piece by developers Federated Hermes was considered.
Of course Super Matt had help from all of the community and Friends of St Matthew’s Piece had massive support for their objection to these plans.
A shoutout to Val Neal who gave a good presentation at the online meeting!
Agnès Aubert, Sleaford Street, on Nextdoor
Would you be able to display Friends of St Matthew’s Piece’s new ‘Refused’ poster in your window?
If yes, please email Email Friends.firstname.lastname@example.org to request a copy of the poster to print out. Or just smile and celebrate every time you pass one in the area! Thank you all for your crucial efforts to protect our park.
Of course, any further attempts from these (or any other) developers may emerge. The community would then choose its response.
Everyone’s support and active contributions to preserving, celebrating and protecting St Matthew’s Piece would be very welcome!
Val Neal, North Petersfield, on Nextdoor
As others have posted out, the developers could appeal or submit a modified proposal, so local residents will have to keep being vigilant.
What happens next?
The applicant now has a right of appeal to the Planning Inspectorate against our decision to refuse this application. The appeal must be lodged within 6 months of the date of this decision. In the event of an appeal being lodged, and if you have previously commented, we will notify you and forward any comments you may have made to the Planning Inspectorate.
The applicant also has the right to re-submit an amended scheme which may seek to overcome our reasons for refusal. We will notify you again if such an application is submitted.
Notification from Greater Cambridge Joint Planning to people who commented on the application
However, the redoubtable Roy Stamp strikes a positive note…
In Romsey Terrace, we found that fighting an appeal made residents more determined: the residents won in the end!
Roy Stamp, Romsey, on Nextdoor
It is difficult to second guess what this multi-national investment fund will do next.
It is possible that when they bought the site from Chard Robinson they were told, based on the previous scheme that was consulted on but was never actually submitted, that there was development potential.
At the planning committee their agent Bidwells claimed that pre application advice given by the planners at that time was positive, but this has little status as it is not binding on the Council. It is a very weak argument and I was surprised it was even mentioned.
The main problem, if they appeal, is the fairly new National Planning Policy Framework introduced by the LibDem Tory coalition government in 2012. This planning directive considerably weakened the power of local councils’ decision-making powers and introduced an overarching presumption in favour of development. It also gave more power to planning inspectors to award the applicants appeal costs adainst local councils.
This happened five years ago in Station Road where the City turned down plans for a massive office block. BrookGate won the appeal and the Council was forced to pay them £175,000. The reasons for refusal in this case by Cambridge City Council are, however, very robust and are taken from the approved local plan so we are in a strong position.
If Federated Hermes are realistic they will give up as, given the strength of feeling, the local Councillors will undoubtably put considerable funds into the defence of the Councils position at any appeal hearing.
Local activist and fount of knowledge on planning, Frank Gawthrop, South Petersfield, on Nextdoor
Helen Weinstein, as Community Historian for IronWorks (former Mill Road Depôt) showcases sources from Sturton Town in Cambridge telling stories of working class residents from the Victorian Era onwards.
In this illustrated talk Helen Weinstein, Public Historian & Director of HistoryWorks, will be introducing a wide range of local history sources and their stories from the Area known as ‘Sturton Town’ in Victorian times which is located just off Mill Road in Cambridge covering Gwydir, Kingston, Sturton, Sleaford, Hooper & Ainsworth Streets.
Based on her recent research Helen will be sharing the stories of Resident occupations from the census in Victorian times and revealing sources in the Archives & material objects in the Museum of Cambridge.
Helen will show participants how to find out about properties and the environment of Victorian Cambridge using well known sources like the 1891 census and the trade directories, sharing examples of the range of stories in newspaper and photography archives at the Cambridgeshire Collection.
Helen also has considerable experience of maps and manuscript sources, and will show histories revealed when you dig deeper into the Cambridgeshire Archives with fascinating stories about the allotments, commons and parks, public health and sanitation, pub and brewery licensing, workhouse and charitable committees to illuminate the hidden histories of individual Victorian streets and their residents.
Bring your questions to the zoom event if you wish. The talk will be hosted by Lucy Walker, Chair of Trustees at the Museum of Cambridge; and Helen & Lucy invite you to ask questions in response to the talk, as well as to share photos, objects or paperwork you’ve found associated with your own house history!
Local history film
If you wish to view an introductory film with a tour of the local history of Sturton Town, presented and produced by Helen Weinstein, click here or on the image above.
The Museum of Cambridge is in need of your help. This event is free to attend, but we’d be so grateful if you can offer a donation of any size to support us to secure our future. Once you have secured your ticket via Eventbrite, you can donate to the museum here.
SIGN-UP NOW TO RECEIVE AN EMAIL LINK INVITE TO THIS FREE ZOOM TALK:
To renew the installation of a temporary real-ice ice rink with viewing platform and back-of-house/plant area; a family entertainment area with children’s rides & food concessions; and a christmas market with stalls & concessions, to one quadrangle of Parkers Piece.
Whilst the planning portal lists the ‘Neighbour Consultation Expiry Date’ as Wednesday 24th February 2021, the portal appears to remain open for comments at the date of posting, with the latest comments dated 15th March 2021. The Cambridge City Council Planning meeting at which this application will be considered is scheduled for Wednesday 24th March 2021 at 10.00 am.
What do Mill Road people think?
One local resident emailed us saying:
The Fair and Ice rink will run from 1st November to 31st January. That’s three months of repetitive loud Christmas music and high-pitched screams.
For local residents, hotel guests and students it’s extremely annoying especially for those now working from home. It will also be bigger this time (see application plan online). The organisers also pay a fraction of the rent which Mill Road’s traders pay. They have a Christmas market and food outlets that takes business away from local shops and cafés.
It also badly damages the grass: 14 months after the last North Pole nearly a fifth of Parker’s Piece still hasn’t recovered and that’s despite the council treating the area with new soil and grass seed last summer. It would obviously be a lot worse if the event had gone ahead at Christmas 2020. The area is not fit for its intended purpose – football, social gatherings, boot camps, etc – and looks and feels like scrubland.
This historic City park deserves better care.
Elsa, local resident
Elsa illustrated her objection with photographs. There are shown in the slideshow below.
Whereas a local trader wrote to us in support:
I am always cheered when I see the funfair there in the depths of winter. Seeing and hearing young people having fun is wonderful.
No-one would be using that bit of park in the depths of winter and, in any case, there is still loads more space to use. Presumably the larger and longer the attraction, the more money that goes into the council’s coffers.
I am in favour of the winter attraction in its larger, longer state.
Eileen, local trader
Here are a flavour of the comments on the planning portal.
The North Pole is not in keeping with the area and the direction in which the area is set to develop in, nor does it truly add to any Christmas spirit. In fact it is quite an eyesore.
There are other opportunities that could generate revenue for the council in a way, that is not as damaging to the environment and disruptive to the public, and would also be adding value to the city and community and liven up the park during the festive period.
St Pauls Walk resident
The ice rink on Parker’s piece is a very good thing for all of Cambridge. Children and young people deserve to be able to have some fun. It was sadly missed 2020 so it will be great to have it back 2021/22.
Mill Road resident
I object to this proposal because it is a poor use of what is normally a lovely open space. The noise it generates is awful – endless generators, music from the rides etc etc. Now more than ever, we need a peaceful environment in which to live and work – I can’t begin to imagine how awful it must be to live closer than we do.
It also totally destroys the grass, year after year. It never really recovers (the space where it was 2 years ago is now still mainly weeds). Local residents so value the ability to walk over the park, but it’s awful when it’s all mud, as it is for months after (& during – gets so muddy around the installation).
Nothing should be allowed to remain on the site for more than a few days (normal fairs/ concerts/ gigs are great – an excellent use of the space! ) but this lasts for months on end. It’s too long. People need to use the grass for sport and recreation and this Ice Rink prevents a good deal of that.
Please don’t allow this planning permission to be accepted.
Lyndewode Road resident
This application is for 3 months of the year. There are other various events which may amount to another couple of months making ~ 5 all told. Parker’s Piece needs be left clear and open. That was its reason for existence.
Equally, there is no doubt a reason for its creeping closure – profit. No doubt Star Radio and the Council coffers do not have to bear the consequences such as increased parking pressure in the area as people try to avoid paying car park charges, increased noise and occasionally an increase in local law-breaking. I suggest the creeping closure of Parker’s Piece be halted. Use other venues (e.g. Newmarket Road for a rink?)
Guest Road resident
It used to be relatively charming – a small ice rink where you could go with the children for a pre-Christmas skate to get into the spirit of Christmas & perhaps get a cup of coffee afterwards. However, over the past couple of years it has been allowed to expand physically, as well as in terms of time, and is now enormous and totally ruins the atmosphere of Parkers Piece for the majority of us, attracting light pollution, noise, litter and antisocial behaviour.
It is allowed to run for weeks and weeks and Parkers Piece and its residents/visitors have to bear the scars for many months afterwards. It totally ruins the enjoyment of what is supposed to be a haven in the middle of an already very busy, congested city.
Out-of-city (Withersfield) resident
To to view all comments – and add your own, for or against – visit the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning portal and enter 20/03552/FUL in the search box. (The portal’s reCAPTCHA setting prevents direct access to individual applications.)
You are welcome to leave comments at the foot of this post, but nothing published on this website will be taken into consideration at the Cambridge City Council Planning meeting at which this application will be considered, on Wednesday 24th March 2021 at 10.00 am.
Cam Valley Forum has a tentative proposal to designate formally a stretch of the River Cam in Cambridge as a ‘bathing water’.
However, not everyone is in agreement, that this is the best route to cleaning the Cam…
At this initial informal consultation stage, Cam Valley Forum are inviting comments from local interests directly concerned with the River in the City. The proposal cannot proceed without the benefit of widespread support and agreement.
In the Victorian era, all rubbish and waste of every kind was disposed of directly into the river Cam, or into King’s Ditch, right near Market Square.
According to legend, Queen Victoria herself came to visit Cambridge early in her reign. While she was here, she looked at the river, and found it so filthy that she couldn’t even identify all the kinds of rubbish that were floating in the water. She asked, “What are those pieces of paper floating in the river?” Rather than saying they were book and newspaper pages used as toilet paper, the tactful answer was, “Those Ma’am are notices that bathing is forbidden!”.
Eglantyne Jebb was a campaigner for improved living conditions. She wrote an important policy report advocating proper piping from toilets to sewage pipes, and a sewage treatment facility. Her work resulted in the pumping station built on Riverside in 1894, now the Cambridge Museum of Technology.
The Cam has been used for bathing for over four centuries. Traditionally men and boys from the town swam from the banks of Sheep’s Green, whereas those from the University swam a little further upstream. By the early nineteenth century, at least, both sites had become official bathing places known as the Town Sheds and the University Sheds. In the nineteenth century and for much of the twentieth, swimming in the river was immensely popular, and both sites had steps into the river, spring-boards, slides and diving platforms.
The Town Sheds were more lavishly equipped. They were managed by a custodian who, amongst other duties, taught boys to swim in Snobs’ Stream (the Millstream that branches from the Cam just south of Hodson’s Folly to serve Newnham Mill). The Town Sheds were a male preserve until, in 1896, the corporation opened the Ladies’ Bathing Place at the southern tip of Sheep’s Green where Snobs’ Stream leaves the river. In 1962 the Ladies’ Bathing Place was closed and mixed bathing was allowed at the Town Sheds.
In the 1970s, concerns about the health risks of polluted river water led to the closure of the Town Sheds and, by 1980, the site had become the base for the Cambridge Canoe Club. In the following decades swimming in rivers was discouraged and the Cam Conservancy, whose remit as the navigation authority includes the upper river, forbade swimming in daylight hours except at designated bathing places. By the beginning of this century there were no such designated places.
However, people continued to swim from the area of the Town Sheds. Jumping off the bridge remained popular. The secluded site of the University Sheds, by then renamed the Newnham Riverbank Club, provides simple wild swimming facilities for paying members. In recent years, people have increasingly enjoyed swimming from Sheep’s Green and Grantchester Meadows, and membership of the Newnham Riverbank Club is over-subscribed. Now, the Cam Conservancy allows swimming in the whole upper river from Byron’s Pool, above Grantchester, down to the King’s Mill Weir in Cambridge.
You may send any comments to Cam Valley Forum at email@example.com. If you would like to have a meeting to discuss the proposals, please mention this in your email. You may also leave (polite) comments on this website, below.
Johnny Palmer was so determined to tackle water quality at an island beauty spot near Bath that he bought the land. He now hopes to make Warleigh Weir the first area of river in the UK to be given bathing water status to spearhead a national campaign to clean up inland waterways.
Palmer, a property investor who has swum with his family at Warleigh Weir for many years, was shocked to find out that Wessex Water is allowed to discharge untreated sewage into the River Avon around the beauty spot.
“When I was told, I was like, ‘Woah, hold on. Back up a second. Seriously?’ I didn’t realise storm water mixed with untreated sewage flowed into our river.”
Perhaps the most persistent campaigners have been Becky Malby and her fellow advocates from the Ilkley Clean River Group.
Here is a flavour of the unfolding unfolding story…
Local people in a Yorkshire town are pressing for their river to become the first in the UK to be designated as a bathing area to force the authorities to clean up the water they say is being used as an open sewer.
In the spa town of Ilkley a grassroots campaign has uncovered the regular and routine dumping of untreated sewage by Yorkshire Water – with the approval of the Environment Agency – into the River Wharfe.
Growing pressure to clean up Britain’s rivers to meet bathing water quality is a “game changer” that will require more government funding as the public embrace the outdoors, the head of the Environment Agency has said.
A growing number of river users are calling for action to tackle the routine and legal discharge of untreated sewage into Britain’s waterways, which they say amounts to treating them like an open sewer.
The Environment Agency says nothing will be done to stem the flow of sewage into a Yorkshire river popular with swimmers and families until at least 2030.
Despite acknowledging that the level of sewage discharges into the River Wharfe at Ilkley – which have been admitted by Yorkshire Water – should trigger an investigation, the EA told campaigners nothing will happen for 10 years.
Campaigners seeking to make a river in Yorkshire the UK’s first to be designated a bathing area have accused environment ministers of blocking their application.
In the spa town of Ilkley, river users and residents submitted a 65-page application to turn part of the River Wharfe in the town into a bathing water area last October.
Ilkley’s three Bradford district councillors have expressed concern that the ongoing campaign to get the Wharfe designated for ‘safe swimming’ fails to acknowledge the river’s poor safety record.
Part of the River Wharfe in Ilkley, which is a popular swimming and paddling spot, is to be added to the list of bathing waters next year, after months of campaigning.
A stretch of the River Wharfe in Ilkley will have its pollution levels monitored by the Environment Agency to ensure it is safe for swimming.
The move follows a campaign by local residents who said they had seen “human solid waste” on the river bank.
Becky Malby, from the Ilkley Clean River Group, said she was “absolutely over the moon” at the news.
Selected paragraphs from news reports on the Guardian, Yorkshire Post and BBC websites. Click on each to read more details.
Just as there were multiple issues over the Ilkley River Wharfe proposals, not all Cambridge people are sure that this is the best way forward…
This is the response from Newnham Croft Residents’ Association to Stephen Tomkins and Cam Valley Forum.
Dear Stephen and CVF
I am writing on behalf of Newnham Croft Residents Association in regard to your proposals for Sheeps Green.
The state of the river, as you show, is indeed shocking, and we all want to see water quality improved. However, we have concerns about designation of this small area as a bathing place for the following reasons:
There are major safety issues:
Scudamores now have many more punts, which come along this part of the river
There is now a canoe club on the site with 500 members situated next to the Learner pool, with canoes launching along the area in front of it. They are aware of the hazard this poses, and are suggesting that the bathing place should be at the former Ladies bathing place. This is adjacent to the Nature Reserve however, and increased noise and disturbance would be very detrimental to the wildlife there.
Even if lifeguards were provided, with so much activity in this part of the river it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for them to supervise swimming safely here, and there are real dangers – a child drowned here only a couple of years ago.
2. Environmental Impact
As your photos show, Sheeps Green used to be a popular bathing place with people from across the city, and many of us have very happy memories of swimming there in the 1970s. However, there was no car park then and although it was very busy on fine days, most of us walked or cycled.
There would now be serious issues of environmental capacity – Sheeps Green and Coe Fen are both protected green spaces, and Paradise, which was like a jungle in the 1970s is now a very popular city nature reserve.
The pressure on all these places and Lammas Land has grown enormously over the past year, and it seems that this will continue to increase as Cambridge expands and people are prepared to travel long distances by car to enjoy the places they have heard about on ‘what’s app’ and Facebook.There would need to be an environmental impact assessment as this proposal is likely to lead to a large increase in noise and disturbance that would be to be harmful to the wildlife and biodiversity, which should be given priority here.
The only access for cars is down the Driftway, which leads off a rather hazardous junction. It is a narrow lane shared with pedestrians and cycles, and the small car park is used by shoppers, visitors to Lammas Land, Sheeps Green and Paradise as well as members of the Canoe Club. It is usually completely full already in the summer, with people parking (illegally) along the lane as well.
The information given regarding the facilities available on site is rather misleading.
There are no changing facilities – the Canoe Club now occupies the site of the former bathing sheds and the couple of small rooms at the Learner Pool are only for children.
The 6 toilets at Lammas Land are not adequate for people using the park in the summer, let alone additional people coming to swim at a bathing place on the river.
There is no café, only a small kiosk serving drinks and ice- cream.
This is a small, environmentally sensitive area, and not suitable for building these facilities to meet the needs of visitors at a designated bathing place. We allwant to get the water quality in the Cam and its chalk streams improved, but a focus on this one small area could cause unintended harm.
As Stephen wrote to me, ‘Wearing my ecology/wildlife hat I am not so keen on expanding the use of that area for people in high summer, but it is unquestionably a gambit that will force the hand of Anglian Water to really make a much bigger effort to raise the water quality’
It should not be necessary to risk irreparable harm to a protected green space and nature reserve to get Anglian Water to improve water quality along the whole river, and I hope we will be able to work with you to achieve this .
We would be happy to attend a meeting to discuss it with you further.
Kind Regards Jean Glasberg Chair Newnham Croft Residents Association
Tony Booth started this petition – Save the Cam – on behalf of the Friends of the River Cam, are asking individuals and organisations to put pressure on local government, water companies and the Environment Agency in the Cambridge area to Save the River Cam and its tributaries by signing up to support the Cam River Charter.
Friends of the Cam letter to Cam Valley Forum
The Friends of the Cam have given consideration to the CVF proposal to apply for bathing quality status for the Cam at Sheep’s Green.
While we are eager to explore ways of restoring the health of the river, we are deeply concerned that choosing one small point on the river could, paradoxically, do more harm than good.
These facilities are currently either inadequate or would need to be provided, and this would have a hugely detrimental effect on this delicate nature reserve. Cambridge has doubled in size since Sheep’s Green was last a popular swimming location. 50 years ago locals would have travelled there by bike or walked. Today, however, official designation would draw people in from a much larger city, and from a further afield too, bringing traffic and related air pollution.
Sheep’s Green would become a huge draw, attracting far larger crowds than at any time in the past, to what is an environmentally sensitive water meadow, grazed by cows which, as Kim Wilkie pointed out in his talk to Friends of the Cam, have been a critical part of this finely balanced ecosystem for centuries. The cows kick up ground which allows wildflowers to seed, prevent larger plants from establishing and fertilise the soil. This ecology is also described here, in the Eastern Daily Press.
It is extremely likely that authorities would decide that the cows should be removed.
And the views of the Federation of Cambridge Residents’ Associations
Dear Cam Valley Forum,
Cam Valley Swimming Proposal
Lots of residents have contacted Federation of FeCRA committee members about the Forum’s application to make the area adjacent to the Canoe Club into a Designated Bathing Area. We are hearing citywide concern that this will endanger unique medieval green spaces, described by the landscape architect Tom Turner as equivalent to the best art in the Fitzwilliam Museum.
If the intention is to put pressure on Anglian Water residents wonder why Cam Valley Forum isn’t asking for a much bigger stretch of the river to be clean. Anglian Water’s track record on pollution is bad and yet despite that it is receiving substantial government funding from Homes England to relocate the sewage works.
We have previously flagged concerns [To the Cambridge City Council Strategy and Resources Scrutiny Committee. Click to read/download the PDF.] about what appears to be a well orchestrated lobby against cows grazing on the commons. There are concerns that a bathing place at Sheeps Green could lead to the loss of the cows which are an intrinsic part of the ecosystem there. This was raised again in our question to the Scrutiny Committee about the council’s support for plastic cows on the commons but not the real cows.
Cambridge commons losing their cows and, with that, their status as commons goes completely against all that the landscape architect Kim Wilkie said at the recent Friends of the Cam talk about a river landscape strategy and the role of grazed meadows in flood management.
Other concerns people have shared with us include the impact on biodiversity and on much loved city nature reserves and the big impact on local wildlife and nature large numbers of bathers, picknickers and sunbathers on the edge of Paradise Nature Reserve is likely to have.
Safety is another issue that has been raised. The punting route to Grantchester Meadows is very popular and the proximity of the very popular canoe club with a membership of 500, drawn from a wide catchment, makes this unsuitable for a designated swimming area. Wild swimming is also very popular and people are likely to come from miles. The car park is already full in the summer months, more people driving over for a swim would soon cause overflow.
Has there been any health and safety assessment about the likely number of users and congestion on the river ? Any traffic impact assessment ?
The recent report commissioned by the City Council and Cambridge Water included no impact assessment of river areas and/or river green spaces at risk or threatened by development.
Residents are asking if this bathing initiative relates to Natural Cambridgeshire’s plans for a Cam River Park corridor, the proposals for Accelerator Parks and the Wider Cambridge Visitors Project.
The lack of changing cabins and public toilets will require infrastructure which would not be acceptable to people in a protected green space. People have highlighted that Cambridge’s famously rus in urbe style of cows on the meadows is admired all over the world. This New York Times article was widely syndicated.
“Whichever way you approach Cambridge, you see grass, trees and lots of sky. The college gardens, parks and commons bring nature right into the town. Cows graze on Midsummer Common just five minutes’ walk from Marks & Spencer – and in the summer office workers and students eat their lunch beneath the willows trees that line the river at Coe Fen. At weekends Jesus Green becomes a giant playing field with games of every kind – from skateboarding to lacrosse. These spaces are vital to people’s wellbeing,”
“It’s easy to take Cambridge’s open spaces for granted. But … the protection of these spaces is, to my mind, just as important as the preservation of Cambridge’s iconic buildings.”
For all these reasons the FeCRA committee cannot support this application. As we have said before, it would be great if Cam Valley Forum can work with FeCRA and Friends of the River Cam so that together we can urge the City Council to use its powers and that of the Environment Agency to be much more ambitious, ensure that the green spaces of the Cam are protected, that water quality along the whole river is improved and that the river is safe for all users.
Best wishes, Wendy Blythe, Chair For the FeCRA Committee
What are your views on this tentative proposal? You may send any comments to Cam Valley Forum at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to have a meeting to discuss the proposals, please mention this in your email. You may also leave (polite) comments on this website, below.