How will councillors help Cambridge and surrounding areas to thrive?

Cambridge Doughnut logo

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. 

Get Involved

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 cambridgedoughnut@gmail.com.

Foudil Rerizani

We were saddened to learn today – Wednesday 21st April 2021 – of the passing of popular Mill Road restaurateur, Foudil Rerizani.

Foudil had been living with cancer for some while, but his health declined rapidly over the last few weeks.

Foudil, photo courtesy of Bedouin restaurant.

Cambridge University educated Foudil established the much loved, ever-popular Al Casbah restaurant, at 62 Mill Road, in 1997 as one of the first Charcoal grill restaurants in East Anglia, specialising in marinated grilled meats and fish, with the grill – and leaping flames – eye-catchingly positioned by the front window. The quirky charm of the establishment led to it being described in a Les Routiers review as “un per decentré”.

Al Casbah has since been passed down from father to sons – Karim, Samir, Yacine, Nacer and Djamel – who continue the family tradition of serving fresh North African cuisine.

Foudil and sons, photo courtesy of Al Casbah restaurant

While the boys were growing up, Foudil provided the boys with their own games hall ‘hangout’, open to all, at 98–100 Mill Road, which kept them out of trouble. Since 2011 the premises have been home to Bedouin, the family’s other Mill Road restaurant, replete with a real Bedouin tent and wall rugs from the Sahara, serving traditional tagines and couscous dishes from across the Maghreb.

As well as being a successful restaurateur, Foudil was a good friend of Mill Road especially other café, restaurant and catering proprietors in the area, to whom he lent his expertise. Our thoughts are with his family and many friends. He will be sadly missed and fondly remembered.

Local Election Hustings

Petersfield Hustings took place on Sunday 25th & Monday 26th April 2021

Did you miss the Petersfield Hustings? Fear not. You can catch up, view the recordings and read all the answers which candidates gave to local residents’ questions.

Graphic of ballot box with voting slip about to be inserted

The Hustings Team hopes that the questions and answers will all help inform voters of the views of the Petersfield candidates, before casting their postal ballots – or voting in person.

There have been two zoom-based Petersfield Hustings:


For full information on the four elections in the fifth month on the sixth day see Elections 4-5-6…

The government has confirmed that all EU citizens who are registered to vote in the UK will be able to vote and stand for election at these polls. For further details see Elections in 2021 on the Cambridge City Council website here.


All Petersfield candidates were sent these six questions:

  1. Please provide a 200-word maximum personal statement on why you are standing in these City Council elections plus a photo.
  2. In which part of Cambridge do you live?
  3. Whether or not you are resident here, please briefly describe your connection(s) with Petersfield.
  4. What  are the three issues most needing Council attention in Petersfield?
  5. What are your own three practical goals for serving Petersfield, if elected?
  6. Local government is about service delivery; if elected, on which issue(s) would you most prefer to co-operate with Councillors of other Parties?

Answers were received from three of the four County candidates and from 10 of 12 City Candidates. You can read the candidates’ responses here.

Those who live, work, volunteer or study in Petersfield were invited to submit questions for the Hustings – a stunning total of 73 questions were received, both via email and via Chat during the Hustings.

Similar questions on important topics of key local interest were amalgamated to generate five questions posed to participants at the County Hustings and four questions posed to participants at the City Hustings.

Then hustings were attended by 150+ participants, from both within Cambridge and beyond (see ‘locations of participants’ listed on the recordings page).

The 25 ‘extra’ County Questions &  16 ‘extra’ City Questions from the Petersfield Community have been sent to all Candidates for each election – including those candidates who did not take part in the live events – candidates have been encouraged to also respond to as many as they wish, for uploading to our website. Responses to the ‘extra’ questions received by midnight on May 5th 2021 will be uploaded. Read the responses here.

The Petersfield Hustings website provides:


Not sure if you live in Petersfield? It’s complicated. The Petersfield County Division and the City Council Ward are not coterminous. They are mainly the same, but differ around the edges. The map shown here originally, was for the City Council (only) up to the date of the election. This has since been corrected with the two maps below.

Click on the map to visit the City Council’s Ward Boundary Review page, and map.
Click on the map to visit the County Council’s My Cambridgeshire page

In order to generate the map, you will need to select the My Maps tab, then open the ‘Council and Democracy’ menu in the sidebar.


Questions for the County Hustings focussed on these public services:

  • adoption & fostering
  • care for  the vulnerable & elderly
  • education
  • libraries
  • policing matters
  • parking issues
  • pavements & potholes
  • roads and traffic management
  • large-scale strategic planning
  • street lighting

Questions for the City Hustings focussed on these public services:

  • benefits
  • bins/recycling
  • City centre & Market Square
  • community centres/events
  • graffiti & litter
  • homelessness & housing
  • parks & open spaces
  • local planning
  • public toilets
  • refugee/asylum
  • rivers/mooring
  • tree services

The Petersfield Hustings were supported by:

And arranged by:

  • Piete Brooks (Hustings Technical Host)
  • Valerie Neal (Hustings Co-Host)
  • Helen Weinstein (Hustings Chair)

Accolades received

To all involved in Petersfield Hustings, Would just like to say, for the record, how brilliant the 2 ‘husting’ evenings have been and how illuminating I personally have found them. Have really made me think hard, as a ‘floating’ voter, and I am so grateful for all the efforts of all involved. Long may they continue into the future! Now I have a real dilemma to sort out before the 6th May! ….Very best wishes to you all

Sue Cox (Trustee, Petersfield Area Community Trust)

Huge thanks for organising the hustings. A really helpful event…. Very grateful to you for your hard work.

Chair of a Petersfield Residents Association

Congratulations….I thought it all went very well and your entire team performed flawlessly. Altogether a success.

Vice Chair of another Petersfield Residents Association

Thanks for a really well organised event.  I’m looking forward to tomorrow evening too.

Petersfield resident

Excellent question!!

Petersfield resident, in Chatstream during Live City Hustings

Excellent set of questions chosen.

Petersfield resident, in Chatstream during Live City Hustings

What you have put on is really important for local democracy

City Council candidate

Thank you for (co-)organising the Hustings and for all the flexibilities around the participation. This is a great initiative!

City Council candidate

Thanks, for creating this site and uploading all information! It looks really professional and it is a real model for local democracy.

City Council candidate

Thank you for everything. It is perfect. 

County Council candidate

Thank you for this comprehensive summary of the hustings. It looks as if it will be a fantastic event.

Campaign Organiser for one of the Cambridge parties

FotoDinkyMat Zapped by Aliens?

Following our earlier excitement at the mini photo-booth on Mill Road bridge and the community’s disappointment at reports that the photo-booth had been stolen, the community has rallied round. The Cambridge Independent asked for information…

… and Tara produced a poster.

Poster –Stolen: FotoDinkyMat
If found contact Cambridge Independent
Tara’s poster

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.

Photo of Naomi Davies’ painting of Cambridge’s Dinky Doors
And Maurizio Dining offered free pizza

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)

DDC Gromit (left) and DI Wallace at the crime scene
The same scene viewed from the Dinky Constabulary drone

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.”

A close-up view of the Melt-o 3000

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.

The Dolly Darlings. Left to right: Virginia, Veronica and Joanna

There are further reports on this mystery by Alya Zayed Senior reporter on the Cambridge News – New Dinky Door ‘crime scene’ appears in Cambridge after artwork stolen – and – By Alex Spencer of Cambridge Independent – Dinky Doors: the FotoDinkyMat has returned.

Investigations by Dinky Constabulary continue. Whilst there is a way to contribute financially to the work of Dinky Doors, here.

FotoDinkyMat comes to Mill Road Bridge

A mysterious new Dinky Door has arrived in Cambridge – a photo booth for tiny people. Read more on the Cambridge Independent website.

Mill Road bridge’s dinky door under investigation by K9
Three photos for 3p… if you’re small enough!
Photoshop processing department. Penny Plain: Tuppence Coloured
Essential maintenance: Wallace gives the booth a wipe down…
… whilst Gromit investigates the technical department.
Wallace prepares for his passport photo
Dinky Doors artwork stolen after just four days from Mill Road bridge in Cambridge

By Alex Spencer, in the Cambridge Independent, Friday 2nd April 2021 

Since the last update of this post, doubts have arisen about what really happened to the DinkyFotoMat. Read more: FotoDinkyMat Zapped by Aliens?

Beautiful Indian stonework under threat

Former Bharat Bhavan Temple carvings in old Mill Road Library “to be taken down and skipped”

Piero, 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.

If you would be interested in supporting us or have any questions or concerns please email millroadtraders@gmail.com.
Or phone/text/WhatsApp 07909 611 776.

Piero d’Angelico

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. 

Piero d’Angelico

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.)

Piero d’Angelico

Note: as of Friday 23rd April 2021 at 17:30 the money raised stood at £5,260 


And now, this stunning development…

Mill Road temple carvings sold for £1 ‘worth half a million’

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.

Piero D’Angelico with the carvings Picture: Keith Heppell, on the Cambridge Independent website

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.

Mill Road Library, from the Capturing Cambridge website

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 5000-strong Cambridge community fighting against eviction by Debbie Luxon, Community Reporter, Cambridge News, 12th October 2019.

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?

Frank Gawthrop, on Nextdoor.

Victory for Friends of St Matthew’s Piece

Image of planning proposal, with word refused superimposed
Celebratory poster. Email Friends.of.st.matthews.piece@gmail.com to request a copy of the poster to print out.

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.

Planning Officers recommended refusal of the application, although there were certain aspects of the local plan and of planning considerations which the development would have satisfied. You can read/download the full officer report (PDF 3.3MB) here (pp187-240).

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.of.st.matthews.piece@gmail.com 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

Elections 4-5-6…

Four elections in the fifth month on the siXth day…

image of ballot box bearing the word 'vote'

Cambridge will next go to the polls on Thursday 6th May 2021, to vote in four different elections.

The government has confirmed that all EU citizens who are registered to vote in the UK will be able to vote and stand for election at these polls. For further details see Elections in 2021 on the Cambridge City Council website here.

Deadlines for May 2021 elections
  • Friday 9 April: Candidates announced
  • Monday 19 April, 11.59pm: Deadline to register to vote
  • Tuesday 20 April, 5pm: Deadline to apply for a postal vote
  • Tuesday 27 April, 5pm: Deadline to apply for a proxy vote
Are you registered to vote?

If you’re not yet registered to vote, it’s time to rectify that, especially if you’re a local resident who frequently debates some of the hot topics of local concern, in comments on this website, or on social media. And why not check that your neighbours, family and friends are also registered to vote?

Has someone new moved into your street? Why not pop round and let them know when bin days are and how to get residents’ and visitors’ parking permits, and, check they know how to register to vote, online?

Will it be safe to go to the polling station?

Cambridge City Council are working to make sure that polling stations will be Covid-secure for polling day, with measures in place to ensure you and the polling staff remain safe. (Read more.)

Could postal voting be more convenient?

You can vote from the comfort and safety of your own home. Postal votes are available for anyone who would prefer to vote that way. Full details can be found on the Electoral Commission website. And don’t forget to send your vote in early! If you’re concerned about the risks of voting in person at a polling station this could be the solution for you. You can also apply for a proxy vote, where you ask somebody else to vote for you.

Does your friend or neighbour work irregular hours, which might make voting in person difficult? Could your cousin, who delivers goods all across the country, be stuck all day at customs in Stranraer, or in lorry-park in Kent? Encourage them to register for a postal vote.

And, don’t forget, every resident who doesn’t vote, hands greater influence to those people who always vote.
And their preferred candidates might not be yours…

What elections are happening?
  1. Cambridge City Council elections
  2. Cambridgeshire County Council elections
  3. Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner election
  4. Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority Mayor election
And what do these all do?
  1. The city council are responsible for planning, building more council homes for rent, for emptying the bins, cleaning the streets, helping homeless people off the street, and much more.

    The whole city council must be re-elected. (It’s usually only one-third of the council each year, but some ward boundaries have changed.) Each ward has three councillors. You have three votes which can all be for the same party or split according to which candidates you think will do the best job. You cannot list them as 1st, 2nd 3rd choice.

    The current city council has a Labour majority, with a sizeable Liberal Democrat opposition. For many years there has not been a single Conservative elected to the city council.
  2. The county council is responsible for fixing the roads, filling the potholes, schools, libraries, children’s services, adult social care, the fire service (through the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire Authority) and much more. The county council have responsibility for the current restrictions on Mill Road bridge. They also have (currently unused) powers to introduce penalties for drivers who block the pavements outside of Mill Road’s shops.

    The whole of the county council is re-elected every four years. Each division has one councillor. You can vote for one candidate. You cannot list a 2nd choice.

    The current county council has a Conservative majority, with the Liberal Democrats forming the main opposition. For many years there has not been a single Conservative elected to the county council, from within the city’s boundaries.
  3. The Police and Crime Commissioner has responsibility for oversight of the Cambridgeshire Constabulary.

    You can vote for two candidates: your 1st choice and, if you wish, a 2nd choice. This means that you can vote for the candidate you really want, and use your 2nd choice to help block the candidate you really don’t want.
  4. The mayor of the Combined Authority, works with our local councils, the Business Board (Local Enterprise Partnership), local public services, Government departments and agencies, universities and businesses to grow the local and national economy. The Combined Authority has taken over from the county council as transport authority. The mayor has powers under the Bus Services Act 2017 to improve bus services.

    You can vote for two candidates: your 1st choice and, if you wish, a 2nd choice. This means that you can vote for the candidate you really want, and use your 2nd choice to help block the candidate you really don’t want.
Isn’t this all rather complicated? And what about the Greater Cambridge Partnership?

Yes it is complicated, even more than you might think. And you don’t get a direct vote to the Greater Cambridge Partnership, the local councillors who you elect appoint decide which of them will sit on the board.

Venn diagram showing overlapping local government responsibilities in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough

And, if you’re considering ignoring these elections as ‘unimportant’ or because ‘I don’t know enough about the’, let us reiterate…
Every resident who doesn’t vote, hands greater influence to those people who always vote.
And their preferred candidates might not be yours…


There have been a number of controversies concerning Cambridgeshire County Council, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, Greater Cambridge Partnership, the Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner in particular. These have been covered in local press, TV and radio reports, with some reaching the national press. As a non-aligned community group it is probably inappropriate for us to air these ourselves.

But this doesn’t apply to our readers and followers. Our comments section, below, is open to you. We will not, however, allow libellous allegations and, to protect yourself, you would be well advised to link to an on-line newspaper report.

Northpole Ice Rink and Fair

Planning application for 5-year extension

Photo of entrance to the Northpole site
Entrance [Photo credit thenorthpolecambridge.co.uk]

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.

Wording of planning application

You can see see the full details here on the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning portal.

Photo Skating on the rink
Skating on the rink [Photo credit thenorthpolecambridge.co.uk]

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.

Faraj’s Kitchen

Faraj’s story

Faraj Alnasser is a Syrian refugee who lives with a local family, off Cambridge’s Mill Road, who have taken care of him like a son. “Cambridge has become a home for me, because of this very kind family,” Faraj told us by email.

At just 14 years old, while Faraj’s family were refugees in Egypt, following an insurmountable family rift, Faraj left his family and made his way back to Syria, where he found his former family home bombed out. 

After spells in Iraq, in Syria (again) and Turkey (where Faraj learned Turkish) he took the bus to Sofia, Bulgaria, followed a circuitous route through Austria and Germany, finally reaching the Channel coast, where he escaped to the UK by hiding in a refrigerated lorry, in which he nearly died from hyperthermia.

Faraj has now been living in the UK for over 5 years.

In 2016, following a spell in a refugee holding centre, Faraj was offered accommodation by a local family, has learned English at a local language school, and developed his cookery skills.

Faraj’s kitchen
image with link to download Faraj's menu
Click the image to view/download the full menu

Faraj has been cooking at Honey and Co, after training at Ottolenghi in London. Thanks to lockdown – a very small silver lining – Faraj is now back in Cambridge and has started cooking his delicious Middle Eastern food for delivery to your house.

The menu includes some old favourites – after eating real Aleppo hummus you will never be satisfied by supermarket hummus again – and some less familiar dishes from his mother’s kitchen in Syria. All the dishes are from local ingredients and everything is vegetarian or vegan – and wonderful.

Bread – including challah and pittas – is freshly baked, and if you have never had pistachio challah, it is very highly recommended, for Shabbat or any day.

Click here to read/download Faraj’s winter menu.

We hope Mill Road’s Community of Communities will support Faraj. Email your order from Faraj’s Kitchen at cheffaraj95@gmail.com or phone 07523 832050 to order.

We welcome Faraj’s contribution to the abundance of worldwide authentic food to be found along Cambridge’s Mill Road. Why order from a mundane multiple? Mill Road can offer much better than their banal burgers and prosaic pizzas!