In response to the suggestions put forward by the ‘City Deal’ Board, and consequent public meeting to make provisions for Local Liaison Groups, a local resident has written to express their deep misgivings:
I write to express how deeply concerned and disappointed I am with the Local Liaison Forum process for the Histon Road City Deal.
The Cambridgeshire County Council website describing Local Liaison Forums says they “provide for regular dialogue between the project team and members of the local community during the course of any major transport project, ensuring interested parties are kept informed and can continue to have their say outside of formal consultation processes”. The Presentation available on the same website says that the Histon Road LLF will “act as a conduit for local community involvement”.
At the initial meeting to establish the LLF for Histon Road last night, we were informed in no uncertain terms by Richard Preston and Councillor Mike Todd-Jones that not only will the LFF not have any decision-making authority, its remit is only to provide feedback on the design of the proposal in its current form. It was made very clear that the LLF was not a forum to provide input into the overall strategy or to give feedback, from the perspective of local residents, on how the plans might affect their quality of life. The proposed remit for the LLF reflected these constraints.
The drastically narrowed remit from that which has been publicised and originally promised is extremely disappointing. At the North Area Committee meeting in the winter, Councillor Herbert promised residents that their views would be considered and, along with the other local councillors in attendance, urged local residents to submit their concerns about the proposal in writing. Many, many local residents and residents associations on their behalf, made these submissions. I have been overwhelmed by the detailed, articulate, and impassioned responses available for review on the County Council’s website, from residents who know these streets better than anyone. Not one was mentioned in the plans published in May. To now say that the window of consultation has closed is extraordinarily deceptive and misleading.
It was also apparent last night that the plans on which the LLF’s are being asked to “advise” are not even final yet. The modelling on Union Lane off Milton Road and on the closure of the Victoria Road junctions on Histon Road, to give just two examples, are not yet complete. Asking residents to input into plans that are not yet formed is very clear further evidence that residents’ views aren’t really given much weight at all.
Of the twelve councillors who serve on the Histon Road LLF, only two attended last night’s meeting. Only two others gave apologies. Putting to one side the procedural uncertainty over whether the actions taken at the meeting are even valid in light of the failure to attain a quorum, the lack of commitment of local government official to engage with local residents on the Histon Road proposals–and in turn to afford local residents a fair consultation–was painfully obvious. I ask that the councillor members on the Histon Road LLF be actively encouraged to engage with the implications of the City Deal in their constituencies going forward.
The LLF process cannot be a fair way of engaging local residents and soliciting their feedback not only because overarching substantive concerns about the plans have been taken off the table, but for the additional reason that the forums come in the wrong place in the overall process. It became apparent last night that the feedback that local residents provide in the LLF’s can be overridden by a further public consultation in the autumn. It is either that, or the further public consultation later this year is only window dressing, a token attempt to satisfy the legal requirement to consult.
A fair consultation is a legal requirement but it is also a commitment that the County Council and the City Council have made to their constituent tax payers. The County Council’s Listening and Involving Strategy 2013 and the City Council’s Code of Best Practice on Consultation and Engagement have at their heart openness, inclusivity, and transparency. The Histon Road LLF process falls far below the standards these bodies have set for themselves. I would also argue that they far below the standard required by law. I urge you to expand the remit of the LLF’s to allow residents to voice concerns with the overall plans and to agree to engage with these concerns and take them on board as the plans are revised for further consultation in the autumn.’