The Next Big Thing?

The Next Big Thing?

The Wisbech 2020 Summit today was very slick.  It was well attended.  But I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t much of the Wisbech 2020 stuff left.

Now to be fair, quite a lot of the issues people raised, years ago, when we first started doing Wisbech 2020, have been dealt with.  Flood defences improved.  Constantine House renovated.  £1.9Million pound for Town Centre rejuvenation.  More jobs, less unemployment.  Better community cohesion.  These things have broadly all happened.

But the body of today’s meeting was about the Wisbech Garden Town proposals.  In fact, Wisbech 2020 has apparently been completely hijacked by the Garden Town proposals.  That’s fine – the garden town would certainly be a game changer if it went ahead, so perhaps it being brought under the 2020 umbrella makes perfect sense?

What has worried me from the start and continues to worry me is the attitude of some people that a development of 12,000 new houses – 22,000 more people – is automatically a ‘good thing’.  Some people seem to think we should be cheering and saying “bring it on” to this proposal alone.  I don’t believe that argument stacks up.

First of all, all but doubling the size of the town is a big decision by anybody’s standards.  While a population of 50,000 people would certain bring with it some benefits, it would also bring with it some negatives.  I would suggest that without any knowledge of who will be buying those homes, we can at best say that this policy is neutral.

Now the proposals come with a lot of new “infrastructure”; schools, medical; some new roads – but that’s not a bonus either.  That is what the additional 22,000 people would require for their own use.  It doesn’t bring anything new to the table for the Town as a whole, it simply keeps the playing field even.

A huge new country park with lakes and water features sounds nice, and would certainly bring an appeal to the Town that it presently lacks.  But a park like that comes with costs attached also, and eats up a lot of land that is presently being used for other things.  It’s not cost neutral.

The big selling point, the thing which makes the whole plan hang together as potentially economically viable – is the new Wisbech Train Link. Without a train link, it all breaks down.  The connection to Cambridge to allow the two areas to support one another’s weaknesses with one another’s strengths is gone.  The “diverse mix of new residents” becomes much more of a challenge without a quick commuter route.

Let’s tell it like it is.  This “Wisbech Garden Town” is not a gift to us.  It is a large housing development the Government would like to see happen in order to help them keep their house-building plans on track.  It’s a development nobody else in the County particularly wants.  Wisbech is not an “easy touch” and should not be treated as one.  It MAY be (may, not will) that the residents of our Town would accept a huge change like this if it came with the necessary infrastructure to allow us to really make a go of it.  It may be that this is the way to return Wisbech to its former heights of prosperity and to bring in investment, businesses and thereby more jobs.  But if the Powers That Be think that the people of Wisbech will accept this huge development without the jewel in the crown – the rail link – alongside a raft of other infrastructure investments – I think they are sorely mistaken.

Steve Barclay MP said so too.  When question time came and I made the point that I did not feel we could even begin to sell this to Wisbech residents without the Rail Link as a given, he was in total agreement.  In fact he instructed the planners to take any idea of a “Plan B” off the table entirely.  Which was a strong and helpful position.

The speakers today all felt that the Garden Town idea had public support and very little opposition.  I think that was a very optimistic view.  It’s early days, after all.  If the Powers That Be think they will face no opposition, they should wait until the residents of the villages and areas that will be the recipient of thousands of new houses get wind of how much it will change their home environment.  I suspect they will find there is rather more opposition than they expect.  What they need is a gathering point, a selling point around which supporters can rally.

The Rail Link is the key.  I’m not saying that the Rail Link makes it a certainty.  You can’t utterly change the face of a Town without getting at least a broad agreement from its residents.  Or you should not, anyway.  A change this big needs a real consultation, a genuinely open ear and open mind.  Not one of these sham: “We ask you some leading questions that all result in you saying what we want to hear” type deals.

We are not the beggars here, we are in a strong position.  We should stand, polite but firm, and make clear what we need for this to even make the starting line.  There should be none of this “how about a tram” or “what about if we did a bendy guided bus” nonsense.  Government’s bluff should be called.  Network Rail should be pressured by senior politicians to take a different view.

We should be prepared to think about doing this, in a sensible and well-planned way, in keeping with the excellent plans put forward by the design team.  But not without first getting the consent of the people.  And not without a Rail Link, the agreement for that etched in stone, Government seal stamped clearly upon it.

What They Really Think

What They Really Think

I don’t know if anybody remembers that Labour bloke who wanted to be Police & Crime Commissioner? Dave Baigent. You know, the one who did the crash-and-burn hustings where he kept talking about “cities” and telling us how important we were to him – after everywhere else.

Well I think we had a lucky escape. Here is he back in his job as a Cambridge Councillor, telling Cambridge City Council how racist we apparently all are.

He is then followed by a couple of others, including Peter Roberts who was once a candidate for Parliament here. Mostly they continue the condescending statements about Fenland and its residents.

it’s not until Independent Councillor John Hipkin speaks that we get a different sort of view. He says: “75% of Fenland folk voted to leave? is that because they are stupid? There is a slight tendency, amongst Cambridge folk to pat themselves on the back for being so clever…” Ya think? :)

Thank Goodness the people of Fenland didn’t elect them. Now we can see what they really think of us, once they are safely back in Cambridge and expressing their views while not begging for our votes.

Meanwhile, according to blogger Richard Taylor, these SAME guys have just voted to INCREASE their Councillor’s Allowance by 25%. Yep. These poverty-busting anti-austerity Cambridge luvvie Labour guys voted to whack about quarter onto what they earn. Meanwhile, their opposition, the Lib Dems (remember them?) abstained. Didn’t vote against. Just abstained. Champions of the people, huh? You couldn’t make it up.

Wisbech Citizens’ Patrol Membership Drive

Wisbech Citizens’ Patrol Membership Drive

WCP is a community-run voluntary scheme which seeks to provide positive, supportive, non-confrontational and friendly patrols of our local neighbourhood to help people and make everybody feel safer.

The WCP Facebook Group is here

The WCP Guidelines and constitution are here

WCP presently has 36 volunteers, of which about 18 are “regular” and the others “occasional” in regards to going out on walks.

The group go out 3-4 times a week at all different times; Lunchtime, Teatime, Nighttime. If you are a volunteer there is no obligation to go on any walks, you just look at the schedule each week and let the organisers know which (if any) you would like to take part in.

WCP is supported by the local Police and Council and is insured. Volunteers are vetted by the Police and all new volunteers are always put with experienced walkers.

The scheme is entirely non-confrontational. WCP are not Police, don’t try to be Police and don’t claim to be Police. They are just local people trying to do nice things for other local people.

We would love to expand our operations further, do more walks, put out more patrols. For that we need more volunteers!

If you would like to volunteer please contact our Membership Officer Angie Winsor or myself. If you’d just like to come out on a trial walk to see if you enjoy it, let us know! If you’d like more information or want to ask any questions feel free!

WCP is fun, it provides some gentle exercise, it’s a great way to meet new people and it is something almost anybody can do to help their local community. Come and join us!


Be Careful What You Wish For

Be Careful What You Wish For

I suspect, over the next year or two, a lot of people who never thought they would are going to find they miss David Cameron.

Love him, hate him, it’s hard to deny that he looked and sounded like a Prime Minister.  He was a statesman who thought well on his feet and communicated effectively.

Things are going to change now.  We’ll find out how much when we see who is picked for the new Cabinet.  I predict a lot of familiar boring names, too many “Remainers”, a few people who had a good referendum by playing it safe.  Boris will get a nice job.  We’ll have a new Chancellor, somebody very dull with no economic position worth noting.  There’ll be a few “token” LEAVErs to look balanced, but they’ll be the very safe ones who aren’t likely to cause a headache.

Theresa May has said: “Brexit means Brexit” and that seems fairly unequivocal.  Anybody want to put a bet on this road still having a few unwelcome twists and turns to come?  I don’t think we can count a proper Brexit in the bag until the final line is crossed.  They’re going to cheat and wriggle in true “Cast Iron” style.  Watch and see.

Meanwhile, I find myself very nervous of what is to come.  As Conservatives go, Theresa May is one of the most predictably authoritarian.  If she surrounds herself with like minds, and let’s face it that’s what Leaders usually do, then the direction of travel is going to clear.

UKIP should have been finished by the referendum result and then Farage’s resignation.  They would have been.  But May’s unelected coronation has just breathed fresh air into their lungs.  If she doesn’t push hard enough and fast enough towards the EU Exit Door, UKIP will bounce right back.

Labour, in about as much disarray as a party can be in and still be surviving, may not be in a position to make the most of the commotion right now.  But you know what they say about a week being a long time in politics?  Who knows what tomorrow brings.

I’m not really angry about it all.  Just really, really tired.



Leadsom gone.  Stealing the memberships’ chance to vote against May with it.  It feels like a stitch-up, but its easy to get paranoid about these things.

Ah well. On the plus side, if you can be bought, badgered or bullied out of standing, you probably weren’t Prime Minister material after all.

On the down side, welcome to the V for Vendetta, the prequel.  May was being quoted on the radio this morning talking about Laws to prevent “high pay” and Laws to force companies to have “workers” on their “boards”.  Control, control, control.  No political compass.  Some folks will love it.

Nothing much left of the Conservative Party I remember, these days. Sad times.

I guess just focusing on helping local people is the way forwards. Let the grandees in Grand Hats do their thing and try not to get crushed underfoot.


Angela, Andrea and Suzanne

Angela, Andrea and Suzanne

As a Conservative, I should support Jeremy Corbyn’s continued leadership of Labour, because he is a gift to us. At a time when the Labour Party could have made sweeping gains, taking opportunity from my party’s internal divisions and Leadership battle, they are instead making most of the negative news instead.

But – it’s not good for the country to have a feeble opposition. It’s not good for Conservatives not to have a strong opposing voice to keep them on the straight and narrow. And it’s not good for young people to be drawn like the pied piper’s subjects to crazy hard left ideas.

So I’d like to wish Angela Eagle all the best. I hope we end up with Suzanne Evans for UKIP, Angela Eagle for Labour and Andrea Leadsom for the Conservatives. Now that would be a healthy political scene. And we’d see three strong woman leading all of our main parties – without needing any “help” or fiddling of the system for it to occur.

Fingers crossed.