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The Girton Parish Council

This is the Annual Report for the year 2000/2001 on the Village by the Chairman to the Council.
 

Last year I pointed to the exciting developments under way during the year 2000, which promised to add significantly to publicly-shared amenities in the village. I also sounded a note of caution concerning the impact on Girton from pressure for growth in the Cambridge sub-region. These two themes have continued to dominate the Council’s thoughts since last May and I will try to outline where things stand a year on.
 

Looking Back


Whatever concerns we may have about the future, we have much to celebrate on looking back over 2000-1. The Parish Council has continued to be a dynamic and effective group of people, with many simultaneous activities and projects so that each councillor is involved and committed to working for the village’s future. 

We have been supported in this most ably by Penny Knight, our Parish Clerk. Penny has worked far beyond the call of duty during this year, and she done a huge amount to help everything happen smoothly and in a good spirit. Other people performing work for the Council, such as Norman Lewell and Chris Cook have also given sterling service during the year, and I am glad to take this opportunity to thank them for their dedicated contributions.

Equally gratifying is the way that so many clubs, organisations and societies have co-operated with the Council and with each other in positive and constructive ways. Huge amounts of effort have been put in by active people from these organisations. They have made things happen by pooling their skills and expertise, whether that relates to electrical installations, Health and Safety provisions, design and publicity, landscape work, or a dozen other skills. In the past year there has been a real atmosphere of commitment and co-operation that we should all cherish and continue. I felt that the ‘Grand Day Out’ to open the pavilion, blessed with blissful weather, crystallised this sense of community and once again I would like to record my warmest thanks to everyone who made that day such fun. 

The pavilion and sports facilities took off straight away with enthusiastic users. As well as the expected benefits for members of the existing clubs, it has been very gratifying to see new activities thriving (such the youngsters’ Judo, or line-dancing) in the pavilion’s activity room. It is also pleasing to satisfy the wider public need for facilities like the artificial games area. We are looking forward to developing further our relations with the youth clubs, schools and holiday clubs to make fullest use of the facilities. As we planned, there has been an expansion of sporting and recreational activity and we shall work to increase this further.

On a practical note, villagers will be glad to note that the project was completed just about on budget without major problems, apart from slow growth on the new grass pitches. The Council was supported extremely ably by CHS Architects of Oakington, who not only designed the facilities, but also managed the project. By working together with the building contractor, CHS ensured quality work within budget. (The specific financial details will be explained later in the meeting).

Girton Wood was another landmark project for 2000, and although the weather has by no means been kind, it was a fine and memorable day when villagers came along to meet Woodland Trust officers and begin the mass planting. As the trees mature, and as we steadily improve the signing, maintenance and furniture of the adjacent recreation areas, we shall acquire linked public open spaces for everyone to enjoy. We shall have to continue planning and adapting to ensure the best co-existence of children’s play equipment, sports activities, and open and wooded parkland. 

The Council has been engaged in a rather long-winded process of ensuring that the public open space, landscaping and play equipment at Weaver’s Field is properly established before the Council takes it over. We have now reached the stage of adoption and we hope that this has been worthwhile for new residents and other users.

This spring has been brightened (and hasn’t it needed it!) by the planting and maintenance of public areas organised partly by members of the Open Spaces Committee and also by the excellent project for young people to work gardening in the community. This, along with other activities for Youth, has been promoted in partnership between the Churches and the Council. Through these initiatives Girton has gained recognition as a progressive example to other communities. Again, we are fortunate to enjoy the fruits of such faith and commitment.

Recently, with the substantial funding for Safer Routes to School we have seen another great success for the Glebe School Governors, backed by the Council and especially by our representative governor. The work begins in May and we all hope that this will help children and their parents to move around the village more confidently and safely, resorting to motor vehicles much less often.
 

Looking Ahead


For too long now we have been promising facilities for young people for skating, skateboarding and BMX biking. If anyone doubts the need, just visit the rec car-park!
Very soon now we hope to commission the work and receive confirmation of grant support.
Progress with this has become a real safety issue, and we want to involve as many young people as we can.

Soon we shall be erecting clear and informative signs at the recreation ground to encourage use, but also to warn against improper behaviour such as substance abuse or dog fouling. The latter has become a significant problem.

Larger issues still confront us. The County’s structure plan has been out for consultation since February, and behind that we see planning studies which envisage very substantial housing and employment growth in the Cambridge sub-region over the next 15 years. Sites have be found for this growth and the suggested ranking of priority preference for development puts city development first (on previously–used land such as Chesterton sidings) followed by building in parts of the existing Green Belt, then in large new settlement, and finally in smaller existing communities. 

The potential impact on Girton could be extensive and damaging. One of the possible sites for a major new settlement is at Longstanton/Oakington. Cambridge City Council is pressing to search for Green Belt housing development at various sites around the city, including near Girton. Principles such as avoiding coalescence of villages (e.g. Girton and Histon) have not been abandoned, but we have be vigilant and continue work closely with South Cambridgeshire District Council to prevent the destruction of Girton’s character.

It is important to note that the development of Wellbrook Way (the Town Charity land) has long been part of the agreed Local Plan and forms part of current planned development before this additional growth has its impact. Progress on this matter will be reported later by the Chair of the trustees. Once this gets closer to fruition, the Council will lead discussions in the village concerning the best use of the land and monies for community benefit which will form part of the planning agreement.

Road congestion, especially on the A14, is a major issue for the village. Earlier this year some villagers were alarmed to realise that one of the four scenarios for changing the A14 route came right through the village across the golf course. As we set out in the Parish News, the Council met to consider the various options put forward for further development, and strongly rejected the northern route through Girton and other villages. We are still waiting to see what proposals come forward from the multi-modal transport study, but we hope and trust that the northerly route is a non-starter. We still have some concern that the development of the former St Ives railway line into a public transport corridor will provide an excuse for extensive housing development near Girton without adequate road provision. This, too, would have a severely detrimental effect on the village.

Finally, the pressure for other kinds of development continues. Cambridge University has proposed taking land out of the Green Belt between Madingley Road and Huntingdon Road in order to facilitate university growth (including housing) over the next 25 years. This is a highly speculative proposal, and the potential balance of harm and benefit for Girton remains to be seen.

During the coming year we should see firmer proposals coming forward for A14 and other transport plans, as well more indication of planned locations for housing. There will be more opportunities for the Council to make its position clear and we shall make every effort to do so, and to keep the village informed. As ever, we shall be vigilant.
 

Finance


The precept for 2001-2 has again been increased, but by a relatively modest amount, to £44,100 from £44,000. This equates to £28.56 per year for an average household, or 55p per week, much lower than comparable villages such as Histon or Milton. We have kept the increase low despite extensive increases in the assets and amenities of the village, since we calculate that only modest increases in costs will result. We must also set aside reserves for the regular maintenance and ultimate replacement of our various assets. In future years we must ensure that both current costs and necessary reserves continue to be sustained.

In conclusion, I feel very glad to have been one of the many people who have co-operated in the achievements of 2000-1 – it is a privilege to take part in a community like Girton. 
 

Chairman to the Council 

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Last updated: 24th April 2001