Friday 14 July 2017

Correspondence with Chief Exec of City Deal

Chief Exec of City Deal sent me a response. It isn't labelled as confidential so I'm going to share it, removing names of people other than the Chief Exec of the County Council.

I refer to your recent correspondence to the Chief Executive of Cambridgeshire County Council, Gillian Beasley, and your recent telephone discussions with (w), Interim Director of Transportation for the Greater Cambridge Partnership (formerly City Deal).
As I understand it, you remain unhappy with the actions we have taken in response to the concerns you have raised, and I have therefore reviewed our approach. Obviously we have also spoken previously when you raised some earlier concerns regarding the planting of the hedge and I believe the actions (x)  took, following a meeting with you on site, did go some way to alleviate some, if not all, of your concerns.
I understand you have recently had some additional concerns which you have raised with a number of colleagues and (w) has attempted to resolve these with you. This primarily concerned the access for hedgehogs through the fence and following discussion between you and Chris, I understand that he agreed to re-look at this with a view to providing the necessary access.
You also raised the question of undercover and the mulching that has taken place. In this case our view remains the same: that it is more important, at this stage, to get the hedge established by ensuring there is a plentiful supply of water and that the moisture is retained with the aid of the mulch. We will ensure that any invasive weed growth that could affect the establishment of the hedge is dealt with on a regular basis.

Whilst I understand your continuing concerns, I trust this addresses the points you have raised.  If, however, you are not satisfied with my reply, you may escalate your complaint further under the Council’s complaints procedure, which can be found at
Yours sincerely

So its evident that she hasn't got it.

The habitat we had has been wrecked, this was a great opportunity to do better, and that opportunity is being missed due to sheer bloody mindedness. We can't now fix all the damage but showing some willing to make it better would give some confidence that we can work with City Deal. They just aren't interested though - a hedge is a green thing you drive past to them, and any other local ecological concerns are irrelevant to them. Going forward this means residents groups and individuals can and will oppose them ever more on their ecological record - it would be entirely reasonable to object to any program on this basis. I've sent my reply thus:

Dear Ms. Stopard,

It does appear to me that you haven't grasped any part of my complaint.

I did meet with (x) and while I thought he showed some willing, the ecological situation on the ground is close to catastrophic. We have lost dozens of species, there is a fence in place which is actively hostile to wildlife, and by cutting hedgehog habitat in two risked starving the animals and which is, right now, killing parts of the newly planted hedge by providing support for bindweed to shade out the shrubs. The hedge itself was planted at the wrong time of year (despite saying it would be done in autumn it was done at the end of March), consists of many species that are both culturally and ecologically inappropriate in hedging in Cambridge - (the hedge will be 'gappy' once the wrong shrubs start dying back. i.e. when you stop watering them), and there must surely be serious questions asked about planting bushes producing toxic berries at the gates to a primary school.

Regarding the undergrowth - you have it already but, again, its the wrong kind. The tough, ineradicable roots of bindweed and cow parsley are already taking over and causing precisely the problem (competing for water) you're describing. They're plants with deep energy supplies in the roots and they've no problem coming up through the mulch, which they've done. You have not, by mulching, achieved your goal of suppressing competitive weeds, you've only managed to achieve a huge loss of biodiversity - the site will therefore be less interesting to look at as well as supporting fewer species of plant, invertebrate and bird. 

My biggest concern is that your colleagues have not shown any willing to engage on local ecology - it simply must not be a fight (as it was) to get them to acknowledge that a fence in hedge that hedgehogs can't get through is a mistake. Likewise, when looking at the undergrowth, the real biodiversity of the site ,it shouldn't be a battle. I cannot stress enough that in this scheme I can find no evidence of anything suggested to your team, by anyone outside, has been enacted at all.

Going forward there are bigger battles than this for City Deal - are you really wanting to leave this as an ecological mess? 

All thats needed is to acknowledge that local hedging culture and ecology are important to understand for future projects, and to look in to ordering plug-plants of native species that were in the hedge but which will struggle to re-seed on their own, for plating in autumn. This will probably only cost a couple of hundred quid, its not a big cost but it has a big ecological payback. 

Frankly, I don't understand either the recalcitrance or the sheer bloody minded, confrontational way your staff have approached this. Is this how you want City Deal to work with the public?

Can you please reconsider how you're handling this, and can we talk about re-planting some of the valuable species lost?


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