Leisure and climate change absent from Cambs economic review


On some worrying absences in the interim report from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Review.

The interim report is at the little white and orange icon at the bottom right.

The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Review (CPIER) gets its remit from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, This was created by the then Department for Communities and Local Government – now the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. Their Plain English guide to the combined authority is here.

“Who are the commissioners?”

They are listed here.

“Why are they asking for our views?”

See here – the deadline is 08 June 2018.

“Why Cambridgeshire and Peterborough?”

It’s slightly out of scope, but they put this map into the document.


Now, the LEP is pretty much defunct after an investigation by the National Audit Office over how public money was being spent. I’m still not clear what this means for the areas outside of Cambridge given the smaller boundaries of the Combined Authority. Now, past historical studies on Cambridgeshire’s economy have been done *using different county boundaries*.

This is why consultant writing such documents really need to look through the history books.

Cambridgeshire’s administrative county boundaries are not set in stone (these differ from the ceremonial boundaries here). Over the past 150 years in particular, they have ebbed and flowed depending on the political circumstances of the age. 1889 is an important year because it was the foundation of the modern county councils. The thing is, Cambridgeshire as an administrative county did not include Huntingdonshire until the mid-1970s.

Cambridgeshire 1945

The above, from the Cambridge History of Local Government 1834-1958 was a proposal for reform of local government in 1944. Note how small some of the district councils were. There were several attempts to make Cambridge what we would call a ‘unitary authority’ over the past 100 years – starting in the run up to the First World War. The main reason why this didn’t happen was because politicians outside of the city feared that this would impoverish rural areas. Given recent votes on Cambridgeshire County Council, the fear from councillors inside Cambridge City is that the rural votes are impoverishing everyone with repeated votes for cuts to services inside Cambridge City despite city residents repeatedly returning candidates calling for council tax rises in every single city division. Hence why in late 2017 I stated that Cambridgeshire County Council should be abolished.

Cambridge and the Isle of Ely Council

Just before the last reorganisation of local council boundaries and responsibilities, this interesting document was published. The following images are from the Cambridgeshire Collection.IMG_7064


What makes this interesting – and links it through to today, are their assessments on all things leisure.


In the CPIER interim report, Leisure, Sport and Recreation is pretty much absent – surprising given how large a part of our economy it is, and how essential it is to the living, wellbeing and health of people.


The above is also an interesting map given the increasing demands on water, and also because of the plans submitted for both the North-of-Cambridge Rowing Lake here, and also more locally to me, the opening up of the East Cambridge lakes.

The above used to be a major cement works in Cambridge until the late 1980s.


It’s all very well having the economic growth, but where can people get away from the incessant noise of multiple internal combustion engines and electric motors?

“Why should the lack of content on climate change (in an urban context) and leisure be a concern?”

On climate change, because we risk building houses and industry that are not fit for purpose in the face of a changing climate – one where we already have water stresses, in particular in the north of the county.

Looking at the images firms use to ‘sell Cambridge’ to the world, open green spaces feature prominently. Ironically many of those open green spaces are off limits as they belong to one college or another. Given the very high land prices, there is a huge incentive on developers to build on every single blade of grass. Hence in my view the invention of the term ‘pocket park’ – things that I despise as they are too small to really enjoy – being in too close proximity to buildings to relax and having no space for games.

Pocket parks versus Cambridge’s parks from previous generations.

Let’s list some of them in South Cambridge:

  • Cherry Hinton Rec
  • Nightingale Avenue Rec
  • Coleridge Rec
  • Romsey Rec

All of these were 20th Century creations with civically-minded politicians, locals and businesspeople who made these happen. The earliest of these, Romsey Rec, was in part the result of the work by a very prominent businessman, Arthur Negus. This by local historian Allan Brigham explains. What was the industry that Mr Negus was involved in? That’s right, he was deeply involved in the building trade. Yet despite the pressure to build on the land in East Romsey – and you can see just how closely built together the terraced houses were, he and others managed to secure a large piece of land for a park – as at Coleridge, Nightingale and Cherry Hinton.

“Which businessmen and businesswomen are going to make the case for large open spaces for free public parks?”

Or do we risk building the slums of the future with all of this growth?

Cambridge hero Eglantyne Jebb (who founded Save The Children) told us of the impacts of poorly planned and designed housing in her ground-breaking study of social issues in Cambridge.

EglantyneJebb in MahoodLinda

Hero: Eglantyne Jebb who wrote the first social scientific study of poverty and multiple deprivation in Cambridge’s history – followed up with a progress check two years later. We got improved quality housing in Cambridge because of her.

It wasn’t just Eglantyne either – it was these women as well. I’m looking around Cambridge and beyond to see where the next generation of women are who will transform city and county for the better – and for the many, not the few. Because the shutting out of social housing from the Eddington development by Cambridge University is a slap in the face by Cambridge University dons to the people of our great city. This is why it is essential that governance and civic essentials are not forgotten in the push for growth.

Questions for further consultation

They are on P27 of the document

CPIER Qs.jpeg

Looking at the questions above, a few things stand out:

  • On 2) Does the target of doubling ‘Gross Value Added’ have any civic legitimacy?
  • On 3) How will the north of the county avoid the risk of unharvested crops rotting in the fields due to a shortage of seasonal workers? What investments will they have to make to improve wages and living conditions to attract more people, and what impact will this have on food prices?
  • On 4) My anecdotal experience of The Grafton Centre was that it was Stagecoach’s removal of the bus routes down East Road that killed it. Because of poor signage and having to cross a busy road, the bus routes from South Cambridge to The Grafton are much less visible. 20 years ago, it was ‘the place to be’.
  • On 4) continued, long term sustainable, reliable and affordable transport are essential for existing and new leisure facilities. Bus transport will make or break the Cambridge Ice Rink due to open at the end of 2018. Who has leverage on buses in Cambridge to ensure that they properly serve leisure facilities – including country parks?
  • On 5) One easily missed area is the retraining of adults who are switching careers. The review needs to cover this group of people (of which I am one) whose skills refreshers may need to involve far more than a specific job, but adapting to a world that has moved on in leaps and bounds since they/we left school.
  • On 7) Again leisure seems to have been missed out. Is it better for firms to club together to pay for and subsidise leisure facilities that are open to all, or for each office block to have its own private gym? Does membership that is not open to all create resentment in local communities? (For example the Frank Lee Centre at Addenbrooke’s that, as a child I used to go to due to parents working at the NHS, but today I am no longer eligible).
  • On 8) Lack of available premises – and affordable premises is a huge problem for small scale community enterprises. Take one of the finest women’s sports clubs in Cambridge – the Rollerbillies – who need a large indoor space to train in. The old warehouse space they used to have access to has since been demolished. As a result, they have to fight to book the over-subscribed large hall at the Kelsey Kerridge – the result of another builder who became a councillor.
  • On 9) The wealthy have to get involved in community events and campaigns just as Florence Ada Keynes, Mayor of Cambridge and the Mother of John Maynard Keynes did. Florence got our guildhall built after 80 years of failure by the men on the council, while her son Maynard was building the Cambridge Arts Theatre. When will we see more civic-minded actions from those making their fortunes from brand Cambridge re-investing some of their wealth into the civic heart of the city just as John Maynard Keynes did? It wasn’t just an act of charity either – their works provided employment for many too.
  • On 10) see Smarter Cambridge Transport, Cambridge Connect Light Rail, and the Cambridge Cycling Campaign. Short-medium term gains are from segregated cycle routes and electric buses. Also, consultations with young people going to college on increasing service provision is essential. Ditto consulting those who don’t use buses but who could be persuaded. What are the barriers? Information? Reliability? Safety? Affordability?
  • On 13) all of the powers are with the Treasury, and due to Brexit there is not nearly enough policy capacity or political imagination to devolve funding and tax-raising powers to a competent municipal council the likes of which we see across the EU & North America. Do visiting politicians and dignitaries think the ceremonial mayor has far more power than s/he actually has?

That’s enough for now, but I may come back to some things before the deadline.


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