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Question 5 - we asked:

Our volunteers spend a lot of time scrutinising planning applications for failures such as lack of secure cycle parking, poor access, failure to fund nearby improvements to make the roads safer, and so on. Many of these things get let through by officers and Councillors in clear contravention of the Local Plan. The lack of a full-time cycling officer makes this situation even worse. What are your main concerns about the planning system, and how would you seek to make improvements?

We asked this question in all 14 wards, namely: Abbey, Arbury, Castle, Cherry Hinton, Coleridge, East Chesterton, King's Hedges, Market, Newnham, Petersfield, Queen Edith's, Romsey, Trumpington, West Chesterton.

56 of the 61 candidates (92%) who were asked this question responded as below.

Those candidate(s) which were elected are highlighted.

(Conservative Party)

Inadequate provision for car parking is a major source of conflict and better consideration of the competing interests of all road users should be taken into account

Manas DEB
(Conservative Party)

Volunteers of Camcycle are doing a fantastic job and I believe all new developments in Cambridge going forward should submit a plan to highlight provisions for cycle parking, good access and cycle storage before planning permission is approved. If elected as City Councillor, I am happy to work on this issue with other Councillors to implement necessary changes in planning permission.

(Conservative Party)

I can't comment on: "Many of these things get let through by officers and Councillors in clear contravention of the Local Plan"; and would be interested to know of specific instances.
We desperately need more housing in Southern Cambridgeshire and, while we must have a good planning system and well thought out local plans, anything that delays or frustrates new housing will have an effect on the lives of people who live, or wish to come and live, in the area. A full time cycling officer would no doubt be a good thing but there are many other claims on limited resources. Meanwhile, I commend the Campaign on the great job that they do on influencing development in the area.

(Conservative Party)

I understand what you say but any planning must take account of all interested parties. To have a separate cycle planning officer would not help you. You already are lobbying well as are others. It is important to have good Councillors and officers to make good judgements. Unfortunately the quality of all these is often lacking.

(Conservative Party)

Planning needs to be more human. Too often committe designs are remote and bear no relation to community concerns. I would champion local voices and make sure new resources are placed where they are most needed and will be most appreciated. As someone who doesn’t drive and relies on cycling to get about these concerns will be at the forefront of my mind.

(Conservative Party)

The planning system is not fit for purpose. It's a very complicated problem that can only really be solved by Parliament, but the last few decades have presented numerous legislative opportunities to all the major parties, and the Liberal Democrats.

Conservative councillors such as Chris Howell were vocal in opposing the Station Square catastrophe. We are less likely to take an indulgent attitude to the officers, and we need to get back on the city council to resume this spirited opposition.

Simon LEE
(Conservative Party)

I’m sure our councillors are well intentioned, but often don't have a grasp on reality and make a lot of silly decisions. If Cambridge is to keep growing, we need the correct infrastructure to cope. I think we need more than one full cycling officer. It’s a problem that affects us all and therefore should be addressed accordingly and taken seriously.

(Conservative Party)

I can not comment on specific instances regarding specific planning applications, but there is a definite need to follow the local plan. We also desperately need more housing in Cambridge and Cambridgeshire generally, which should be the number one priority. However, pressure groups such as Camcycle do a very good job to make sure that the interests of cyclists, and the benefit that this mode of transport provides is considered in the planning process.

(Conservative Party)

Quite simply, the high number of cyclists using Cambridge roads means that we cannot ignore cyclists needs in the planning process. I will be extremely critical of any planning approvals that do not fully commit to ensuring road safety and ample security against bike theft.

(Conservative Party)

Vote Conservative for a Councillor who will do what residents want and will respect the Local plan!

(Conservative Party)

I am afraid I have little experience of planning. I am not certain that an officer dedicated to cycling is the best way forward. I would prefer to have an officer who has responsibility for all types of road user including cyclists equally.

(Green Party)

I personally find the online planning application system to be thoroughly confusing. The online system will email you when aspects of an application has changed but will not tell you what was changed, meaning that you have to trawl through and try to guess what is new and what is not. I would change this system so that it was easier to track changes to applications.

(Green Party)

I think that recent changes to planning law and financial pressure on councils have made it harder for councils to negotiate with developers and meant that the financial commitment that the council can get from a development in the form of s106 development or community infrastructure levy is stretched even more thinly. We have seen a practical example of this with the underwhelming Station area development.

I think that it would be good to turn Section 9 of the local plan which deals with cycling into a template or checklist that developers, planning officers and councillors could all use so that it's easier to assess whether a proposed development makes the grade . Use of the checklist could be encouraged by permitting the developer to display a "cycle friendly" badge of approval or score on the marketing material for the development.

(Green Party)

My main concern about the planning system in general is the weakness of powers to turn down applications on grounds that have to do with the local community e.g. social or aesthetic grounds. Like you I would support devoting more resource to detailed consideration of cycling issues.

(Green Party)

Funding. As far as I can tell, there are not enough staff and it would be excellent to have planning submissions viewed by a full-time cycling officer. But also a lack of vision in which sustainability generally is taken account of. The Green Party is in the best position to shift this fundamental problem - so the improvements need to be in resource and leadership.

(Green Party)

I think funding for cycle officers should be considered as a priority as an increase in cycling will reduce congestion, air pollution and promote health benefits and safety. However to do this policies need to be put in place to increase the understanding for instance of the effects of cost of cycling to low income families.

Given the current cuts to local government cuts we need to look at priorities in local funding so we use public finance for policies that bring about real change and supporting cycling better will do this, as well as a change of government to make this take place.

(Green Party)

I agree, secure cycle parking, road safety and so forth should not be allowed to slip. This needs continuous representation wherever possible to ensure it can't be overlooked so easily.

(Green Party)

Most of the problems seem to emmanate from the people submitting the applications. They seem unable to comprehend that members of their own family might be need to access their own developments on 2 wheels. I guess this is a nationwide problem requiring presentations to architects, developers?

(Green Party)

Reinstate full-time cycling officer.

Planning system opaque and biased in favour of applicants. Needs better and clearer publicity about planning applications at the site they are being made for. The existing system - a boring small A4 cryptic sheet with small print, attached obscurely near site - seems designed to avoid notice.

(Green Party)

Working in the social housing sector with housing developers, I am well aware of the disregard that new planning developments can have for the local environment. The generally rushed nature of developers does not allow for much consultation by the public and, frequently, proposals that should be scrutinized thoroughly get waved through. I think that it is the duty of the local councillors to alert their ward to such changes and campaign that new developments should not create any obstructions to existing cycle routes and should instead enhance the cycling situation in any way possible. New guidelines on bicycle parking should be adhered to: perhaps by introducing and publishing an "official" advised amount of bicycle parking places per building if this doesn't already exist.

(Green Party)

I am very frustrated by the way many significant developments in Cambridge have taken place without due regard for promoting our ability to cycle around the city safely or use public transport. In particular the train station 'piazza' redevelopment is awful in this regard. Too often developers are not held to account for these failings.

I would scrutinise these applications closely and work with community and voluntary groups to try and suggest and implement improvements. I would be very happy to work cross-party on this.

(Green Party)

It concerns me that plans are passed that contravene the Local Plan, and I would seek to be available to those with worries about planning applications, and where I agree that the plans don’t agree with the Local Plan I would act to alert those on the planning committee and attempt to correct this.

(Green Party)

My main concerns about the planning system is that it doesn't place the interests of citizens first, how to solve this would require some brainstorming.

(Green Party)

My main concern is that the planning system does not seem to reflect local concerns. Often plans are presented as a fait accompli. I went to one ‘public consultation’ in order to ask questions about road closures and the session was started by telling the public that they did not want to hear opposition to the plan but where to improve it. So the decision had already been made. Thankfully, there was enough public backlash to see that plan shelved.

To improve the system, I would listen. If approached and told that something was in contravention to the Local Plan, I would listen to the case and then, assuming it was a contravention, I would contact the relevant officers, committees and other councillors and push to find a suitable alternative. As a political party with no whip, I would not feel bound to vote in favour of something I did not agree with.

(Labour Party)

I frequently challenge planning applications
I have worked with Cambridge Cycling Campaign including meeting them to look at issues - this has applied when trying to implement change or stop current applications. This is an ongoing process and I will continue to support and meet with the Cycling Campaign.

(Labour Party)

I think Camcycle do a lot of excellent work addressing specific planning matters (the recent paper on the Mill Pond proposals being a very good example) and I think this might be better publicised. I think the starting point should be in establishing the place of cycling in the city as part of the Local Plan.

(Labour Party)

Thank you Camcycle for the work you do for all of us. We are at an exciting time with the development of the new local plan. I want to see better provision made for cycling as a minimum standard for planning applications as each development has a knock on traffic implication for Cambridge’s streets. With this in mind I will campaign to see a suitable local plan which takes into serious consideration all types of cycling and that treats cycling as one of the main methods to improve transport in our city.

(Labour Party)

I think Planning Officers are a lot better than they were, and most and even some applicants know what good secure cycle parking and arrangements look like incl how much space is needed, but there is still a long way to go. The county full time cycling officer continues to assist the city council on a wide range of projects and a further detailed guidance document on cycling provision for new development for both planning officers and Councillors would assist.

Clare KING
(Labour Party)

I think City and County officers need to work closely together on planning applications and have more joined up thinking across, in particular, the County Council Highways, especially on major schemes. CL1 springs to mind where better solutions have to be retro engineered.

(Labour Party)

The lack of a Local Plan is a significant challenge at the moment. We are still waiting for the Inspector to pass the Emerging Local Plan and when that happens we can get on with a better system of high quality policy driven analysis of developer applications. Officers and Councillors make a judgement on any particular application on the basis of the policy environment into which it is to be delivered. If there is a lack of policy in any particular area, or if on balance there are mitigating factors to be weighed against any perceived lack delivery, then they are duty bound to make that judgement. I would like to more attention paid to the use of larger bicycles for carrying children and shopping and also those suitable for disabled people in relation to movement routes to, from and through application sites, and also for parking of those bicycles on site in designated cycle parking.

(Labour Party)

I would not make comment of the planning system in general here; but yes, I do have concerns that we as Cllrs are not always able to make the changes we would like to in line with what might be best for our wards - and I would like us to have more meaningfull input on Road Safety issues - roads being a county council issue also makes it a bit more difficult; I would agree that in the 'cycle capital' of the UK - we would have a cycling officer - if it were within my gift - that would be a great improvment.

(Labour Party)

Great initiative’s from Camcycle, I believe better education more resources like outspoken visiting schools and regular inclusive courses for all could help a great deal. I believe Councillors do their best to support all members of our community and we should use the local plan for a more inclusive community.

(Labour Party)

There is much good work done by Camcycle volunteers to support the planning system and that is much appreciated. With regard to planning, we are all looking forward to the new Local Plan being passed by the inspector. When that is done we can put policies in place that will ensure that provision for cycling is of good quality. One thing I’m particularly keen to see is for the Council to require accommodation for larger cycles and cargo bikes to be provided in any cycle parking provided as part of any application coming forward.

(Labour Party)

I support the Local Plan, and would do my best to enforce the proper provisions for cyclists (adults and children).

Patrick SHEIL
(Labour Party)

My main concern about the planning system, and the first thing i would change if i could, is the absence of a forum via which members of the public can make representations on specific applications to County Highways ahead of their statutory consultation reports to the City. Failing this, there should at least be scope for Highways to revise their initial conclusions in the event of new information coming to light.

The City works in partnership with the very good County Cycling Team and together they are producing excellent results as more cycling infrastructure is delivered both in Cambridge and it’s environs.

(Labour Party)

Wherever possible, developments should include the points you raise – though, not having been a member of the planning committee, I’m not sure whether or not the funding of nearby road improvements could be part of a planning commitment. The council has a Lead Councillor for Cycling to whom poor practice should be flagged up.

Martin SMART
(Labour Party)

This is good work by Camcycle and largely unknown by the general public. Perhaps something to publicise more. Council officers do the best they can but you are right to allude to the lack of resource. However, I believe it is the quality of advice rather than the quantity that makes the difference and with the emerging Local Plan we have the opportunity to put in place policies to regularise the inclusion of good quality cycle provision in applications coming forward.

(Labour Party)

My biggest concern about planning in Cambridge is that funding cuts and re-organisation have put enormous pressure on planning officers. Councillors are volunteers and often lack experience and expertise. I am heartened to see that there has been funding allocated for a third planning enforcement officer. I would like to see a number of steps to ensure the quality of the built environment across Cambridge: greater availability of training for officers and members; a consideration of pedestrian and cycle safety in the design and construction of new buildings and estates (i.e. incorporating all road users in a proposed development's travel management plan); and greater resources devoted to safeguarding vulnerable road users of all kinds.

(Labour Party)

Camcycle should effectively make awareness to local people about the work they have done. I believe sending more newsletters across the city residents may make a difference.

(Liberal Democrat)

As a very dedicated cyclist and enthusiastic environmentalist, I would certainly look out for cycling matters and concerns in planning applications and developments. I would be eager to speak with organisations looking to build locally, and remind them of their obligations to respect the local culture and transportation needs. I would be eager to hear from Cambridge Cycling Campaign about how a cycling officer would help, and what their suggestions are for implementing such a role.

(Liberal Democrat)

Developers have little incentive to provide the cycling infrastructure the city deserves, as the government's approach to planning results in district councils being cowed in the planning process on the basis that their decisions will be overruled and they will be required to pay costs to the developer that they can't afford.

I believe it's important not only to resist the pressure to let substandard infrastructure through at a local level, but also to work closely with parliamentarians to address the problems in the planning process that allows this "trench warfare" approach to planning to be a worthwhile strategy for developers to follow.

(Liberal Democrat)

I share these concerns, particularly on large applications (i have seen this on the West Cambridge Master Plan - transport plan - where the provision for cyclists at the key junctions on to Madingley Road (particularly linking into Eddington site) and along Madingley Road is very poor.

I fear that further cuts in the funding of the planning department as a result of the proposed merger with South Cambs will make this position worse. I oppose any further cuts in staffing in the planning department and believe that additional investment in staff needs to be made - particularly the creation of a full time cycle officer.

(Liberal Democrat)

As a liberal, I think a key issue in planning is the over-centralisation of these decisions which reduces accountability and engagement. I would be keen to see more planning decisions brought back to Area Committees so that local communities would have greater leverage on decisions and would also have more motivation to attend these key meetings. I think this would significantly improve outcomes.

At the same time, planning decisions still need a robust legal basis and I would be keen to work with local officers to ensure that we have a solid foundation from which to reject unacceptable proposals whilst minimising the risk of expensive legal battles.

As noted, the issues around cycling provision have not been helped since the cycling officer left. I was in correspondence with them regarding a number of pinch points in the Cambridge North Area cycle network. Since they left without being fully replaced, there has been delays in resolving those issues (such as dreaded ‘pram arms’ blocking marked cycle routes). I am very keen to see a full-time role recruited.

(Liberal Democrat)

My main concern is that the risk of a planning applicant appealing a refusal of permission means that officers and councillors are very nervous of refusing planning permission. I would work with officers and legal experts to develop more legally robust reasons for opposing developments that do not work adequately for cyclists and pedestrians. A full-time cycling officer would help with this. Such a person should be an experienced cyclist themselves and should work closely with Camcycle.

Daniele GIBNEY
(Liberal Democrat)

As I’m not currently ‘on the inside’ I don’t have full insight into the system. However, I do share your concerns about cycle facilities not being catered for appropriately, or indeed being watered down as plans are implemented. The CB1 development is a case in point. I’d want to understand better how these issues arise and where controls can be strengthened. I’m sure the Cambridge Cycling Campaign would be able to suggest some recent examples that would be worth looking into.

(Liberal Democrat)

Your work is very important. But I understand that, unfortunately, the transport authorities (County, Combined Authority) and the City Council as the planning authority do not coordinate well. With better leadership, and if Cambridge declared itself a “cycling city” as a starting point, improvements could be made in order to make the slogan a reality for everyone. I would suggest that an efficient approach, alongside working directly with Camcycle and other groups, would be to set up a related interactive map similar to “https://highwaysreporting.cambridgeshire.gov.uk” on which cyclists can post suggestions for improvements to particular areas. But I would also reiterate my suggestion of proactively planning a comprehensive network of safe cycle routes equal to that of our car-friendly roads: the creation of the cycleway alongside the Busway has shown that building a good route for cyclists can attract them in droves even though they may never have asked for it (it was originally designed as a maintenance track for the Busway.)

(Liberal Democrat)

I’m really grateful that your volunteers are able to help Cambridge in this way. I’d like to see more planning decisions taken locally rather than centrally which I think would encourage accountability.

(Liberal Democrat)

I am very worried that local people no longer feel confident that their concerns are heard when planning decisions are made. Under the Lib Dem administration, these decisions where made at Local Area Committee but this was centralised when Labour took control. Although Queen Edith’s councillors have regularly been members of the central planning committee, this inevitably rotates around the city and results in people quite remote from us making local decisions.

(Liberal Democrat)

The planning system should be open enough to permit effective lobbying in support of existing cycling "criteria", and political parties should support this. Planning officers need holding to account via well-briefed local councillors. I am sure that the Liberal Democrat Party would be amenable to any form co-operation with your organisation which would secure safer and more effective provision for cycling in Cambridgeshire ( including perhaps the appointment of a Cycling spokesman, although I am not aware that this has been officially suggested or discussed ).

Cheney PAYNE
(Liberal Democrat)

One of my concerns is that representatives of all main users of roads are not always included in planning decisions equally, and this leads to disconnected decision making. This is often to the detriment of cyclists, but pedestrians and motorists too whose needs and safety must also be considered. I think that experienced and knowledgeable representatives of the main users of roads should be included in the planning decisions.

I also think it is important to consider individual planning applications in the wider context of the ward and the overall city. Many of the roads in Castle ward are tributaries in and out of the Cambridge, so poor decision making here has a significant impact on the through flow of traffic around the city. I would ensure local liaison is a priority in any planning decision, where the needs of the surrounding area and all stakeholders are represented. The best place for this to take place is in the Area Committees, where representatives of the community can be heard.

Shahida RAHMAN
(Liberal Democrat)

The biggest issue isn't that lack of a full time cycling officer, it's the disconnect between the transport authorities (County and combined authority) and the City Council as the planning authority.
Larger than that the whole planning system needs an overall to legally give Councils and Councillors more leeway in rejecting planning applications without fear legal action.

(Liberal Democrat)

I have worked in the housing industry and I know that developers, on the whole, want to create safe and vibrant communities. In my opinion, more can be done to work with developers and community members earlier, to ensure that things like cycle access, parking and community provision are part of their plans for developments. Proper provision of cycle or community officers and a suitable number of planning officers is necessary to ensure that planning applications are processed efficiently and within the outlines of the Local Plan.

Lindsey TATE
(Liberal Democrat)

I think it is important that planning decision are taken locally and I object to and would seek to reverse the recent changes to make all planning decisions at a central meeting during the day. Planning decisions should be reviewed at a time and place that local Councillors working full-time have an opportunity to attend.

At that local level, a decision to reject an application should be robust and worthwhile, rather than being immediately overturned on appeal.

I am open to discussion of appointing a dedicated cycling officer again, although I think they should complement and not replace the contributions of your volunteers.

(Liberal Democrat)

This is a bureaucratic process question, so I'm afraid I am going, of necessity, to give a bureaucratic process answer. I could guess where improvements might be effective, but it's quite easy to guess this sort of thing wrong, so I'd take an "issues and options" approach. I would commission an investigation into the scope and scale of the problem, perhaps by the Internal Audit team, to identify the root causes of recent problems ("issues") and suggest remedial measures ("options"). These can then be evaluated and the most effective measures chosen for implementation.

(Libertarian Party)

I am in favour of repeal of the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 and its replacement with a modified law of tort (in which government could not defend itself from actions against it for damages by arguing that its officers were doing their duty).

During the Second World War it was determined that to maximise the war effort all other considerations should be subordinate to war. To ensure that all competing ideas of virtue were subordinate command economics were deployed and everything was subject to planning and rationing. This wartime presumption was carried into the late 40s, and the sphere of land use in particular, by this Act which also expressed the Labour government of the day's enthusiasm for the Soviet Union and command economics in general. This enthusiasm was also connected to the war against Germany which the USSR was recognised to have made possible the winning of, but was based on a terrible ignorance of the brutality and cost of the Soviet Union's tightly planned war effort let alone the cost of the same within the UK. I mention this history in order to look at the wider picture of which this 1947 Act of parliament is a part. The place from which it came and why it was introduced. What I am referring to is the idea, the ideological belief, that a society is best when it is directed by commands (backed up necessarily by force), when it is planned, rather than when it is not directed at all but evolves instead by the collaborative joint ventures of free individuals and unhampered organisations lesser than the state. At https://aidanpowlesland.wordpress.com/category/communities-and-local-government/Attempted Murder in the South Suffolk Countryside I have proposed that along with repeal of the 1947 Act the Law of Tort be modified to allow land use clashes to be resolved in a more just and efficient way with government no longer being free to ride roughshod over individual rights or those of lesser organisations.

Command economics and planning are not only unfriendly to liberty. In practice they also work very badly.

As an advocate of repeal of the Planning Act it will not surprise you too read that I am opposed also to Local Plans.

What these effectively do is drive down to a lower level of social organisation the attempt to command the minutiae of land use (and many people's lives). Local plans are reflective of a certain idea of democracy, namely, that City councillors, or those activist willing to engage in the process of the creation of the plan, being closer to the people are better able to speak for them than Central government even though there is an element of fiction in this since much power does remain with the higher authority. But my point is this: democracy is not always a friend to liberty.

I do not believe the citizenry should have to bestir themselves to participate in the creation of a plan if they have better things to do and I in particular do not believe that their liberty should be reduced by those who have created the plan even if they do live within five miles.

To answer your question more directly I would oppose the creation of a full-time cycling officer on principle as I am opposed to the creation of any additional planning officers on principle and rather would prefer to see fewer of them by which I mean in fact none.

My main concern about the planning system is that it imposes the collective will on the right (as I believe it should be) of individuals or organisations smaller than and subordinate to government, organisations such as business, charities and churches, to dispose of their property as they see fit.

That I favour an individual's right to dispose of his own property is not because I care for things more than people. It because I care for the freedom of individuals against collective power which a person's property buttresses.

Freedom unchecked by duty is not, however, what I advocate. If the Law of Tort were duly reformed so that thoughtless land use which hurt or imposed on others were subject to civil action in court I believe a freer and more efficient system would evolve organically. In particular government would be checked in its more grandiose and unhelpful schemes.

To put it more humbly I would like to see people work these matters out among themselves collaboratively as far as possible without government power being deployed at all.

(UK Independence Party)

There are several graveyards in the city that could usefully be turned into cycle parks. Several measures carried through allegedly on behalf of cyclists have had severe adverse results for other road users who actually pay to use the roads. One example being the ridiculous change to the bus stop at the corner of Franks Lane where there is now a 12-foot wide footpath and pedestrians have to cross a cycle lane to get to the bus stop. Buses now stop in the road, blocking other road users whereas previously all road users could simply pass the bus stop unimpeded.

Camcycle is a non-partisan body. All candidates are given an equal opportunity to submit their views. Information published by Camcycle (Cambridge Cycling Campaign), The Bike Depot, 140 Cowley Road, Cambridge, CB4 0DL.