Wednesday 15 November 2017

Greater Cambridge and the County - Local Government at their Worst.

The trouble with Greater Cambridge is that it is, in effect, a wing of Cambridgeshire County Council, a more than typically car-obsessed local council you'll encounter and also one of the most officiously obstructive organisation you'll ever encounter. Their entire customer service ethos is one of messing the public around to a point where it takes an Herculean act of sheer will to get anywhere rather than be sidetracked into complaining about how they're not handling your query. its a 'the customer isn't always wrong but if we bugger about enough they'll go away' that has been so taken to heart by Greater Cambridge that it could be their motto. 

So I've made my complaint regarding Arbury Road (see here, links therein, and then here, and here - or just search the blog for Arbury Road) formal with the County Council now. I asked (again) to talk to their Chief Exec on the 3rd, received no response, so I phoned them again last Thursday. They still hadn't responded so I phoned yesterday, and again today started getting a bit more direct. They've agreed to treat the complaint formally, but I've not the slightest confidence that they'll do the slightest thing about this - why would they, they've no need to. Oh, they're also telling me to maybe (but not definitely) expect a response within 10 working days - not from when I complained, not from when I hassled for the complaint to be treated formally, but from when I repeatedly badgered them to take it seriously. Its like they couldn't put off dealing with it any more so they're putting the start day back as far as they can in the hope I go away.

I talked to the chap who's in charge of the scheme again, and he's still, in my view, recalcitrant. In my opinion we should be past accepting second best - an improvement on Arbury Road or anywhere else in Cambridge that is not to a gold-standard facility is not good enough, and campaigners should not stop demanding better. As for the hedging, I still maintain that many of the plants are the wrong species, planted after a woefully in adequate ecological survey, at the wrong time of year, with no plan in place to restore the habitat. They still think they're going to hand weed the bindweed in winter. They aren't, because its just root by the middle of November, they won't find it and it will therefore be choking the whole site again by next Summer - they've missed their window of opportunity. So re-planting with plug plants of native species is (even if they can get them now, which at this stage of the year is unlikely) probably going to fail. They've put this off so long, I think, because they don't want to do anything restorative - I think they've intentionally delayed until they can present the cost of doing the work as higher than it would have been otherwise.

At this stage I'd be happy for the whole of City Deal to fail. We're getting a succession of poor cycle lanes (really, look at this thread here), ill considered road re-designs that offer neither a boost for cycling nor the wider environment. From their perspective cycling isn't a real form of transport so they don't even include us in their modelling while, perplexingly, claiming that they're delivering 'cross city cycling' (they aren't). While the facilities they make for cyclists are usually inherently flawed (even absurdly favouring parking over cyclist safety) they cave every time to the first bit of pressure from motorists. 

When it comes down to it, Greater Cambridge is a shady, secretive body with no effective public oversight, in a rush to spend a vast sum of money to secure more central government funding to continue with more of the same. They'll continue wrecking whatever they need to so they can spread cash thick on facilities that least upset motorists - their expenditure will not betray the car-sick nature of the County Council at any time. It isn't a sensible agency seeking to make improvements, its a self-serving gang of rogue council officers looking to make a career by spending as fast as they can on the wrong facilities, in whichever way causes the least fuss. And as it's car dependent ancient NIMBY's make most fuss, we can expect ample more sub-standard cycle facilities delivered in environmentally destructive ways wherever they think can get away with it.

I think perhaps the next thing to consider is steps towards active resistance. How can we scupper the whole thing, and if we can't, how do we tie them up so much on each poor scheme that they finally think providing better ones is easier?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this informative post and so sorry to hear about the problem you faced. Hope they do stop the city deal, looking forward to hear more about this from you soon, keep posting.