Cast Iron Lighting Columns still to go – but now a recognition of our case to retain character

Letter to residents

You will be aware that we have been campaigning for much of the last 3 years to keep the few remaining cast iron lighting columns. They help to maintain the historic character of the Kite and while they are still working adequately, there seemed no reason to take them away. Apart, that is, from the Conservatives’ PFI contract with Balfour Beatty to reduce the number of street lights and replace them with bland ‘one size fits all’ models!

Our campaign has seen plenty of reverses, including Balfour Beatty prematurely ripping one of the columns out of the ground without any consultation at all! But In the last few weeks we have a glimmer of good news. The City Council has now agreed to set aside £16,500 “to improve street lighting design in a limited number of streets in the Kite”.

From the start there has been a resolute refusal to let us keep the cast iron columns or provide anything other than standard replacements. We had no choice but to focus on a solution involving more appropriate replacements.

But after further appeals, last year we got the City and County Councils to agree to fund more sensitive treatment in the “historic core” of the city. This will now allow the listed “Richardson Candles” in Trumpington Street and elsewhere to be adapted and retained, and other streets (including New Square and Portugal Place) to have modern “heritage style” columns as replacements: similar to those recently installed on Jesus Green and Parkers Piece.

But this still left Clarendon, Victoria, Earl, Fair and Christchurch Streets in the Kite, where more isolated examples of much-loved cast iron columns had received no recognition at all!

As late as this January County and City Councillors threw out our last ditch appeal to fund replacements of these columns too with the same modern “heritage style” as New Square. With Balfour Beatty now about to start their replacement programme in our area, the 11th hour £16,500 rethink by the councillors who had originally opposed this is very promising news indeed.

At the time of writing it is not clear how £16,500 was arrived at, whether it’s enough to replace all the remaining cast iron columns and the one prematurely removed in Victoria Street, or if it isn’t, how the sites for fewer of them would be chosen. You can be assured that we will be watching over this very carefully, stretching this money as far as it will go and arguing for fair treatment.

We are the first to agree this isn’t perfect. We would certainly not have chosen to start with the Conservatives’ PFI contract as a ‘fait accompli’. But persistence looks like helping us achieve the best of a bad job in relation to the cast iron columns and enabling some sense of the historic local character to be retained. We will keep the pressure up and give you more news when we have it.

Cambridge Central Library to Close CAFÉ and Turn 3rd Floor over to ‘Enterprise Centre’

Earlier this week, County councillors voted to convert the top floor of Cambridge Central Library into an enterprise centre run by an outside company (Kora), and to close the café.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Susan van de Ven moved an amendment to the motion calling for a deferral pending a presentation from KORA, which Cllr Amanda Taylor seconded. Unfortunately they were outvoted on the amendment and the original recommendation went through.

Cllr van de Ven said:

“The matter came to councillors’ attention through papers for the March 17 Highways and Community Infrastructure Committee, of which a key set are marked ‘confidential’. The committee was asked to approve plans to go forward with Kora, though Kora was not present to answer questions, and the public was excluded from the meeting when the committee asked questions about confidential papers. There has been no public consultation or examination of a venture that carries significant unknowns and risks, and which perversely involves public expenditure at a time of deep cuts on the relinquishment of public space for private gain.

“With too little information, Lib Dem councillors, supported by Labour, proposed an amendment to postpone the decision subject to more information and a chance to question Kora directly. This was voted down by the Conservative, UKIP and Independent councillors, who went on to vote the Kora proposal through. The matter has now been ‘called-in’ for review by the council’s General Purposes Committee on the basis of lack of due process in decision-making.”

For a copy of the report to councillors, see here:

38 Degrees is running a petition called ‘Don’t Privatise the Third Floor of Cambridge Central Library’. The petition is here.

The Cambridge News covered this story here.

No to Parkside Bus Station

Residents don’t want a permanent bus stop at Parkside, and I support residents who are actively opposing the plans.

One resident has put up a website with a history of the issue and other useful information. Check out:

This will be an up-hill battle, and the odds are stacked against us, but I will do my best to represent the residents in this.

– Andrea Reiner

Cllr Andrea Reiner speaks out on University Arms Hotel

Cllr Andrea Reiner has spoken out about a City Council proposal to let developers use part of Parker’s Piece during a period of construction at the University Arms Hotel.

She said:

“I am not at all convinced City Council should grant this licence for use of Parker’s Piece. I think the developers could do the job without using Parker’s Piece at all.”

“However, if the Executive Councillor does decide to grant this licence, City Council should negotiate a much better deal than is currently being proposed.”

“Right now the proposal is for the developer to pay £200,000 to City Council. This does not even come close to compensating the residents for the long term cost of losing this precious green space, nor does it correspond to the high value of this space to the hotel and the developer.”

“City Council is considering giving away this part of Parker’s Piece for a song. The Council should work to get a much better bargain and not settle for peanuts from the developer.”