Friday 7 July 2017

Arbury Road, Continued...

Quick version - consultation on reducing some of an old hedge for building a cycle lane (much needed). Cycle lane allegedly coming soon but actual plans showing whether it'll be crap or not still not produced. Instead of removing SOME of the old, very diverse, wildlife friendly hedge it was removed in its entirety at the tail end of the planting season, with the many of the wrong shrubs (unsuited to local conditions, poisonous next to primary school, and not part of local hedging culture) planted - very mature specimens at massive cost, at the wrong time of year necessitating very frequent watering. And then they bought the wrong fencing (this was confirmed to our County Councillor) and insisted on using it anyway, and mulched the hedge with wood-chips to make sure the very broad range of native species in the seed-stock could never grow back - its already being choked with spreading species like bind weed. And the fence they put in is has holes too small for hedgehogs to get through. The scheme is brutally insensitive to every ecological concern.

Still with me? 


I complained again, of course, that the barrier to hedgehogs getting through is unacceptable, and that I found one little fellow stuck in there - he'd have got out eventually I should think but there's no need for this. 

And got a response...

I refer to your email to (County Officer A) and (County Officer B) on the 4th July 2017 concerning the post and wire fence erected alongside the new mature hedging on Arbury Road and the comments you make relating to hedgehogs being trapped within the meshing.
I spoke to an ecologist that we have used on a number of schemes and their opinion was similar to mine ie this issue isn’t something which requires attention. In fact their main thought was that the fence would be of benefit in stopping hedgehogs from wandering out into Arbury Road and endangering themselves in that way.
Consequently it is my intention to take no further action on the fence, especially considering its temporary nature and I also have to be very mindful of budget constraints as the scheme progresses.
I would urge you to contact me as the Project Manager for the scheme if you have any other issues which I would be happy to resolve for you.
So they don't get it. The complaint is about habitat fragmentation - 'hogs currently cross the road from the gardens opposite (shady and leafy mostly) where they tend to rest up, and they forage on and around the green spaces in the housing estate. If you block that route they'll walk along the road for longer - they'll go up and down looking for a route, rather than straight across. This will put them at GREATER risk.

I should also point out that I've talked to this chap before and made absolutely clear that I didn't want to complain -to- him, I want to complain -about- how he and his team are handling it. This guy didn't believe he had any duty to consult on what to plant or how - he doesn't believe there is any responsibility to get landscaping or ecology of the site right. To him the hedge is green stuff you go past, and he has no other concerns. 

And the fence is temporary? Not really - its there until the hedge is bushy enough so people don't trample through it. Its wispy and weedy now, and it'll stay wispy and weedy for years because they've planted the wrong species. Species that have no history in hedging culture in this part of England because they don't thrive here. Yes, the alder-buckthorn is pretty much going to survive for a few years because its being intensively watered, but it'll slowly die off when that stops - until hawthorn and other species planted sucker up into that space (which as the hedge won't be 'laid' as such, it'll only be trimmed) will be how long? 5 years? 10? The spindle trees will do sort of ok, but they're not a 'bushy hedging plant in our conditions. Nor is the dogwood - and its a poor barrier to people walking through.

The tight-holed fence (rather than simple wires) is also a great place for bindweed, black bryony etc. to grow up and along - they're already starting to swamp parts of the hedge, and are shading out any other plants that dare put their noses up through the mulch (and endangering the planted shrubs - when it really gets going it can shade out and kill trees in their first year or two). The fence is actively hostile to restoration of the habitat destroyed.

I tried to escalate this again, right up to the Chief Exec of the County Council, but her PA is acting as a firewall and is insisting I speak to a 'Strategic Communications Manager'. Because presumably some comms person will be more adept at fobbing me off. What the hell has this got to do with 'communication' and how is that in practical terms any kind of escalation? Why would I want to talk to a 'communications manager' about a hedge?

My advice? Don't trust City Deal (or as they've rebranded themselves Greater Cambridge Partnership). They're not accountable, they're not following through with their own consultations, and they're brutally hostile to any and all concerns re. local ecology. Their delivery on cycle schemes so far is dreadful. And they've actually modeled cycling out of Milton Road. It is a shady, secretive, malicious, un-democratic, poorly accountable, waste of money. Will the cycle lane we get eventually be worth it? Probably not - it'll only go down half of the road, and where we most need it (a supposedly 20mph road but effectively a gauntlet of speeding cars pushing cyclists into tight packed parked cars on either end) its going to evaporate to nothing. 

It would be better had this bad joke of a scheme never started.

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