From our Reporter at the Parish Council Meeting
IT WAS THE SAME OLD MIX ON THE AGENDA AND THE MEETING WENT ITS USUAL WAY - up to a point, Lord Copper. This time some fundamental issues arose which villagers may like to consider. But I'll get on to that later.
The preliminaries passed without incident, Paul Latchford was welcomed as a new representative. David Brown reported that the CCC/City will be applying for the new huge traffic improvement funds, that discussions on the Quy traffic calming continue, and that some improvement may be made at Lode cross road, and he revealed that the East Cambridgeshire Regional Assembly will no longer exist after next March. This led to a stunned and delighted silence as the PC had always objected to the secret nature of this quango - "who are they?" - "who elects them?" We look forward to more information from David.
Allen Alderson spoke about the new Ely masterplan for which a new southern link road was essential -if the money becomes available. Without a new link road he foresaw traffic chaos after the introduction of a new developed railway freight service. At present the Ely railway crossing gates are closed for 25 minutes in every hour. But once the freight levels increase it is projected the gates will be closed for 55 minutes in every hour. Horror! The tail back from lorries will block the roads both sides of the gates leading to almost a constant blockage.
The "Good Works" section of ECDC is at it again and is offering three separate opportunities for "Code of Conduct" training. No-one was keen though David Almond did suggest that Eric should go. Eric appeared not to be sure whether to feel pleased and flattered at being proposed.
Now to the trees in the churchyard. As many know a petition containing 39 names was made to the PC asking that the clock and tower be seen from the High Street. Geoffrey and Steve had always opposed the need to see the clock, and at this meeting they were joined by Paul Latchford forming, for want of a better phrase, a Gang of Three. At the October meeting and again at this November meeting the validity of the Petition was questioned - "how many people said no?" , "what percentage if the village is this?" , "how was the survey conducted?" Then, and subsequently, the Gang of Three appeared to be giving the thumbs down, or the other two digits sign, to all 39 signatories. The only way to shut them up was to challenge them to get 39 names saying they didn't want the clock to be seen from the High Street.
All this contrasts so sharply with the City of Cambridge. After the last round of May Balls there were complaints from 19 Cambridge residents -just a few more than the previous year. The Balls (not all on the same night) are staged from Jesus Green , through town, and quite a long way up the Huntingdon Road. Only 19 complaints from the whole of Cambridge City -not bad you might think. But, the City Council has taken it seriously and has issued an 80 page handbook setting out the rules, regulations and restrictions. What would have happened with a 39 name petition?
Mind you it was only the Gang of Three who disregarded the Petition because the rest of the PC treated it as a legitimate appeal. At the October meeting the PC agreed to raise the issue with the Tree Officer again. The then Gang of Two abstained. Remember that no-one has ever proposed that the Coppice Lime be cut down.
And now things went wrong -though no-one is to blame. The Tree Officer suddenly found she could be in Swaffham Prior at short notice and offered a time. Karen emailed the PC and copied me in. I was away and therefore not one of the other 38 people was able to attend. As usual the PC did brilliantly in getting out members as they often have to do with CCC, ECDC, Anglia Water representatives etc., so there is no complaint there. Five members turned up. The snag was that the Gang of Three was out in force together with the quieter Andrew Camps and the open-minded Peter Hart.
What joy it must have been for Cathy White to be met by the converted, who would have given little nods of approval to everything she said. It was like having three ardent Wicken Vision supporters, together with Andrew and Peter, representing the village when meeting with an engineer to discuss the acceptability of the proposed bridge over the Reach Lode. The engineer would have said that it was the best design and the best location and the majority of our representatives would have agreed. How Geoffrey would have yelped and leapt about and thumped the table if this had happened.
The result was that Cathy said she would not touch the lime tree. "Why?" "She said she would not touch it" That was it. As far as I understand she said the weedy cedar hid more of the clock and tower than the coppice lime and she was happy to cut this down. This is a little debateable. But cutting down the cedar would be right at the very end of a long queue, at least two years down the line, would cost £3-400, and she has 'Elf and Safety'(as they say in Lavenham) tree requirements to consider. Paul explained most of this and proclaimed that for his part he wouldn't spend a penny on the tree as all the money ought to go to 'Elf and Safety'. He also pronounced that, as it was an "expert" who had made the decision, so we must accept it. Of course it is "experts" who designed the Quy traffic calming -and the bridge over Reach Lode for that matter. And it is the experts who constantly play around with the curricula of schools. And do experts always agree? As all this was reported by the Gang of Three I detected a certain amount of glee, and who can deny them the triumph -they had routed the enemy -up to a point, Lord Copper.
On the recommendation of the Tree Officer other members proposed that the weedy Cedar be cut down. All voted for this apart from the Gang of Three who became tight lipped, stared straight ahead and abstained. So, there it is. Someone suggested fund raising to cut down the cedar. But later Steve revealed that we had £15,000 of our money in reserves. Maybe the PC could consider using some of this for the purpose though I can imagine all the squawks of indignation if this was proposed. This really would be something for the general public to witness.
Towards the end, in 'Parish Councillor's Reports', John Covill reviewed the recent correspondence following John Chalmers'report on the 'Bridge over Reach Lode'about which a NT employee, Chris Soans, questioned some of the facts. John Covill worked out that the correct length of 188 metres still came to about 600 feet or just over 200 yards which would make it nearly an eighth of a mile rather than the quarter of a mile reported by John. This is still a long way, especially if you try to run 200 yards. Whatever the details even Mr Soans would have to admit that it is going to look HUGE in that landscape. And there was also discussion about just how high the bridge is going to be, but I didn't catch the details. From the picture it looked pretty high -I hope it's safe to safe that. When John Chalmers reported, relatively cold to the details I suspect, he would have had to rely on the integrity of the comments made by the local "experts" . The reporter can only report and interpret what is said. Geoffrey joined in this discussion with John Covill because, as we all know, apart from not wanting people to see the church clock, his other bête noir is the Wicken Vision.
Ed's Note: For readers who (like me) had not come across the phrase "Up to a point, Lord Copper" before, it is from Evelyn Waugh's Scoop, and is what the lowly staff of the Daily Beast (modelled on the Daily Mail) had to reply to its proprietor when not even the wildest stretch of imagination might enable the required response of "Definitely, Lord Copper" .