Periodic Electoral Review of the City of Cambridge

Comments on the draft proposals to the Local Government Commission by the Cambridge Liberal Democrats

  1. General
  2. We strongly support the Commissionís decision to accept the great bulk of the local proposals submitted by the City council. In particular we welcome the acceptance of elements agreed by all four parties (Conservative, Green, Labour and Liberal Democrat) involved in the local deliberations that the City should retain three member wards with councillors retiring in rotation three years out of four so that elections should be held every year. Our comments below, if seen as critical, must therefore be seen in the context of strong general support for the Commission. They are limited to points of detail and comment on alternative proposals that have been put forward at this stage.

    It is much to be regretted that supporters of the 12-ward option did not give more detailed consideration to the 14-ward options at an earlier stage. A number of points have been raised now at too late a stage for proper consideration and, more importantly, for public consultation. This must reduce their potential for acceptance dramatically.

  3. Detailed comments on the draft proposals
    1. Castle and Arbury wards
    2. We strongly support the City Councilís objection to this change to the proposal in the Councilís submission. Only 18 electors are affected, all resident in Castle Street itself. Their neighbours are across the road in Castle Street and not at the back of the Castle Mound. The ward name also looks pretty silly if it doesnít include the ancient Castle.

    3. Market ward
    4. We were somewhat baffled by the Commissionís draft proposals as published because it was never intended to extend Market ward across the river to include part of Magdalene College. The Councilís intention was that all the main college domus, which is located on both sides of Magdalene Street, should be united in one ward, Castle. Another apparent oversight was to appear to overlook the inhabited range of 2-18 Lensfield Road that was proposed by the City Council for inclusion in Trumpington ward. We understand these matters have been accepted as errors.

    5. Coleridge and Cherry Hinton wards
    6. It appears to have been an oversight on the City Councilís part to have included some houses in Birdwood Road on the area proposed for inclusion in Cherry Hinton ward. This was never intended by those considering the proposals and appears to have been a map-drawing error. Fortunately the Commission spotted the mistake.

      A separate matter here is the technically unsatisfactory boundary suggested by the Commission in the vicinity of the Spinney School and the lakes. We have studied the situation further on the ground and believe the aerial photographs are slightly misleading. The clearest boundary would appear to be one between the two lakes. There is a fence nearest the brook and a single row of trees that also help to delineate a line. If the Commission is determined to place the boundary in an area subject to development proposals there is a fence closer to the waterís edge than that in the draft proposals that could be used for a boundary.

    7. Arbury and West Chesterton wards
    8. Our first reaction to the proposed boundary between Stretten Avenue and Bateson Road was highly sceptical. It appeared to divide a long-established community to a much greater extent than the alternative proposal made by the City Council for getting the right balance of electorates between these two wards. Investigation of alternative boundaries looked distinctly unpromising.

      However, the City Council agreed to consult residents about the acceptability of the proposed boundary and received clear support for the Commissionís proposals in this area. The 12% response to a postal survey is highly respectable (with as far as we are aware no intervention by any of the political parties) so we have no hesitation in endorsing the Commissionís proposals in this area despite our earlier doubts.

    9. Kingís Hedges, East and West Chesterton wards
    10. While we agree that the proposed boundary here is not entirely ideal, it has proved impossible to come up with any better solution. We therefore endorse the draft proposals.

    11. Abbey and Petersfield wards
    12. Before the City Council made its submission we had a preference for the boundary mainly to follow the middle of New Street (between the older houses, numbers 130-172, and the allotments). City officers preferred to place the houses in Abbey ward and we didnít press the point before the City Councilís submission was finalised, though we did mention it in our submission. One of the local ward councillors (Labour) has raised the same point during discussions and, given evidence of concern by local residents, we would support such a change.

    13. Coleridge and Queen Edithís wards
    14. Since we commented in our submission on the desirability of including the garage site on the corner of Cherry Hinton and Hills Roads in Coleridge ward the site, with the adjacent petrol filling station site, has been acquired by Marshall of Cambridge. It appears to be likely to be redeveloped at some time. This is unlikely to affect electorate number projections but if residential development does take place on this site it would clearly be better if it was in the same ward as most of its neighbours. We therefore support the City Councilís proposal to make the change here, slightly different from that we suggested earlier.

    15. Castle and Newnham wards
    16. A standard clause in Electoral Changes orders states “Where a boundary is shown on the map as running along a road, railway line, footway, watercourse or similar geographical feature, it shall be treated as running along the centre line of the feature”. We are at a loss why this should not be so in the River Cam adjacent to Clare College.

  4. Alternative proposals advanced by others during City Council discussions
  5. The Labour Party made a number of new suggestions in response to the draft proposals that were not accepted by the City Council working party discussing them. The comments here assume that they will be put forward to the Commission directly and should be ignored if that does not happen.

    1. Coleridge, Cherry Hinton and Queen Edithís Wards
    2. Recognisable boundaries

      The Commission is plainly happy for a clearer Cherry Hinton/Coleridge boundary by the Cherry Hinton Road garage to outweigh a definitely negative effect on equality of electorates. We agree that this would promote convenient and effective local government.

      Labour proposes a new boundary in Birdwood Road significantly less clear than that originally proposed for Cherry Hinton Road. We would regard that as running contrary to the Commissionís stated preference for clear boundaries.

      Labour also raise the question of satisfactory polling district arrangements for the Walpole Road area. The area along Cherry Hinton Road away from Cherry Hinton Village has long suffered from the same problem of being a bit remote from its polling station. A polling station at Cherry Hinton Hall, for example, could serve both areas and form a viable polling district with an electorate of over 1500.

      Homerton Street Triangle

      We find the Labour argument most odd here. There is no community there because it hasnít yet been built! The non-residential Hills Road Sixth Form College site divides it from other residential land to the South. In addition a little new housing is planned for the Cattle Market site. The college accommodation to be included in the Triangle site isnít expected to be linked to Homerton College, as we understand it.

      The proposals would also divide a much better established community between Rathmore Road and Hartington Grove.

      One of the themes of this review is that while major roads form clear boundaries in general, we should avoid drawing the lines down the middle of them. The roads themselves usually form clear smaller communities. We suggest this is true of Cherry Hinton Road.