Soham North and Isleham by-Election 2018

East Cambridgeshire District Council
Map of Soham Noth and Isleham Constituency
Polling Date:4th October 2018
Division:Soham North & Isleham
Candidates (by surname):Victoria CHARLESWORTH (Liberal Democrat)
Mark Brannan GOLDSACK (Conservative Party)
Lee Jinks (Labour Party)
Geoffrey Ladbrooke WOOLARD (Independent)

Questions for Candidates

Question 1

People living in rural areas often complain about the lack of public transport, which makes it difficult for people to get to work unless they have access to a car. Even those with a car are forced to waste hours in congestion, while contributing unhealthy air and to climate change. To resolve this there are calls to speed up the reopening of Soham Station and for the Mayor to use his powers to improve bus services. What are your thoughts on this?

Victoria CHARLESWORTH (Liberal democrat)I wholeheartedly support the reopening of Soham Station. However, the laissez-faire approach of the Mayor, who has no concrete funding in place, will not secure this vital infrastructure for the people of Soham in good time. The conservatives have been in power here for a considerable length of time and very little progress has been made. The recent 1.5m commitment is miniscule compared to the overall cost of the investment. There have been no assurances that the station will definitely go ahead. We also need to reopen the Newmarket chord so that there are direct trains from Soham to Cambridge not just Ely. Bus services, like many other services in our area, have been heavily cut by the council. It can take an hour to get from Soham to Ely on the bus, at a cost of just under a fiver! We need more buses and better routes to give a sufficient service to local people. I am one of those, sat in the queue most mornings, who is still waiting for the Ely bypass to open. I really dislike the fumes and worry about their effect on our health but I am also worried about the inevitable increase in traffic that the new bypass will bring. The government should be offering more incentives for people to switch to electric cars. Diesel vehicles need to come off our roads sooner than 2040. Something schools can do to improve air quality for children, which has had a lot of success in large cities, is to grow climbing plants up the sides of the buildings. The plants absorb much of the pollution and improve our urban spaces. Vegetated components take up and store carbon. Free standing green walls do this very effectively and also insulate as they create an air gap between the two walls.
Mark Brannan GOLDSACK (Conservative)The station will make a huge difference especially for post 16 school travel. Many will go to Cambridge or Ely and from the initial opening the station will allow easy access from Soham and surrounding villages to the 6th form centres in Ely and  Cambridge. There are also plans to develop cycle ways and cycle parking for ease of access to the station throughout Soham and particularly from the planned new developments. I support these ideas and have encouraged development in the Town to take this into consideration. Bus transportation for Isleham is almost non-existent causing issues with road traffic journeys for many that would use a bus. To a lesser but still significant level Soham is under served with suitable buses meaning that it is extremely difficult to commute to central Cambridge from Soham to make a 9am start. I have already held conversations with Stagecoach about improvements to and from both centres and will be encouraging the Mayor to do the same. It was Conservatives that led East Cambs to be designated as the pilot area for this service by the County Council - 4 mini-buses, available to all residents, running Monday to Friday 7.00am to 7.00pm bookable up to 12.00pm the day before the day of travel which will take you anywhere you want to go, door to door in East Cambs. 
Lee JINKS (Labour)
Geoffrey Ladbrooke WOOLLARD (Independent)I was recently asked if I supported the idea of a new railway station for Soham (the old one having been destroyed in 1944). I said, 'Yes.' But I also said what I have said on many previous occasions, namely, that I would prefer it to be sited on the edge of the town, more specifically in the general vicinity of Cherry Tree Lane. Such a site would have the benefit of being more easily accessible for many Soham residents and also a serviceable assistance for residents and potential train travellers from Fordham and Isleham, both of which used to have fully-fledged stations, as well as for those from Wicken. The trouble with the old station site is that it has just four principal accesses - Clay Street, Fountain Lane, Mereside and Station Road itself - and all are congested 24/7. Further, I was in Station Road - an access road for the planned replacement railway station (the clue is in the road's name) - for part of my time and realised yet again how unsuitable such an access road would be. It and the original station were built in the days when people walked, biked or went by horse and buggy. People are devoted to their cars now and I can foresee car chaos on Station Road, WHICH IS BUT FIFTEEN FEET WIDE IN PLACES. We must review the situation and think it out again.

Question 2

Walking and cycling are good for health, and also important ways to reduce carbon emissions. What measures would you like to see introduced by the Council to encourage the uptake of walking and cycling in the area?

Victoria CHARLESWORTH (Liberal democrat)There is so much more that could be done in the area to encourage cycling. The piecemeal approach of the Conservatives shows a lack of priority given to this issue. The Council has not introduced cycle lanes on many of the busy roads, including the A142, where often cyclists take their lives into their own hands. The planned cycle lane between Stuntney and Ely is nowhere to be seen as the Conservatives have made a mess of the bypass. Further, the council continues to approve planning for housing too far from the centre of villages and towns, which makes it necessary for people to use their cars. Even the Conservatives’ Local Plan rejected building in these areas, yet they see fit to approve almost every unsuitable application when it is submitted. New housing should be more thoughtfully placed closer to amenities so that residents can walk and cycle into their town centres.
Mark Brannan GOLDSACK (Conservative)I have met with G's produce management, Barway, and there is an appetite to explore a cycle path along the river bank from Soham to Barway. In Barway it could connect to the existing Barway to Ely river side path that has proved so popular  I plan for further exploration of this with G's as I think this would aid local transport, leisure journeys and tourism to all points along the 6-7 mile route, whilst assisting a key local employer with recruitment of local staff.  It would also give cyclists an alternative, largely road avoiding, route from Soham To Ely. From Isleham to Fordham it would be hugely beneficial also for a path/cycle route linking the two villages. The road is a maximum speed length of open road and prone to cross winds meaning difficult cycling. If cyclists can access Fordham safely from Isleham then the Soham Station would be in safe reach from Fordham, with existing and new ideas for station accessing cycling routes. I support all such ideas but would need to understand usage and costs involved before stating that these would happen.
Lee JINKS (Labour)
Geoffrey Ladbrooke WOOLLARD (Independent)I walk every day and have already walked hundreds of miles in the By-election campaign. I’m in favour of encouraging more people to walk. There are many opportunities for walking in and around Soham and Isleham.

Question 3

It is anticipated that over 40,000 new homes will be built in our area in the next decade. It’s imperative that these are built to very high energy efficiency standards so as to reduce carbon emissions and the dangers of climate change, keep running costs down and to avoid overheating in summer. The Cambridge Sustainable Housing Design Guide has been adopted by several local councils but London and some other cities have gone further. What are your thoughts about what the local authority should do to ensure that these new homes are fit for the future, and that existing homes can be retrofitted to reduce their running costs?

Victoria CHARLESWORTH (Liberal democrat)When the Lib Dems ran the council in Cambridge they insisted on higher environmental standards for new house building. House building and any other form of construction should have as little impact on the environment as possible. It is much cheaper to build new houses to a high environmental standard than to refit existing homes so the council should take every opportunity to push higher standards for new buildings. Houses can be fitted with green roofs and walls, pervious paving, raingardens, rainwater harvesting and biofiltration. Houses should be designed so that the drainage is the same as before the houses were built. This can be achieved using Sustainable Drainage Systems, or SuDS. This approach uses vegetation and some hard engineering to mimic nature by encouraging the water to percolate into the ground, or the water can be stored in ponds and wetlands and then slowly conveyed to the receiving waterbody. New housing estates should include a SuDS Management Train whereby several individual devices are designed together to manage water from the whole area. This can include grassed ditches and slopes to slow the flow of water and encourage it to infiltrate into the ground. SuDS should provide an equal balance between water quality improvements, reduction of water quantity (which addresses issues with flooding), providing areas for biodiversity and also places for residents to enjoy amenity such as footpaths, views and other ecosystem services. Many of these devices can absorb carbon and store it, and so will address climate change to a certain extent. They will reduce the Urban Heat Island Effect by cooling the environment, and they can also make residents feel better, simply by greening and cooling. Devices such as green roofs and walls can also be designed to reduce energy use by insulating buildings, both from heat and cold, but also from noise. The Conservatives are about to cut incentives for fitting solar panels on homes. This is yet another woeful decision. Residents will no longer be paid for any extra energy their panels produce, so more residents will become even more reliant on the big six energy companies who continually hike prices.
Mark Brannan GOLDSACK (Conservative)ECDC as the planning authority for the ward do a great job working with developers on what is and isn't acceptable. Strong views on tandem parking, and Bund design for road side or nearby developments have led to some innovative ideas all aimed at producing the best living environment possible. These are to be encouraged and enforced moving forward, ensuring that alternative energy sources such a ground and air source heat pumps are maximised. In Isleham we are looking now at the possible future transfer from Gas to Ground Source heating for our wonderful, The Beeches community centre. This would drastically reduce the footprint and running costs to the centre. I chair the board of Trustees and am behind the initiative.
Lee JINKS (Labour)
Geoffrey Ladbrooke WOOLLARD (Independent)The premise of the question is shocking. 40,000 more new homes anticipated and many of them to be concentrated on Soham and Isleham. I want to see any new development(s) spread around proportionately.

Question 4

The recent Royal Society report strongly recommended that, in addition to aggressively reducing our carbon emissions, to have a safe climate we need to use nature to put carbon safely back in the soil.  They point out that very effective ways of doing this are by planting new woodland, restoring peatland and rebuilding lost soils.  Our area is one of the least wooded in the country, while fenland soils and peat is eroding fast so this would seem an obvious opportunity.

However there are always pressures to use the land in other ways. What are your thoughts about how to reconcile these issues?

Victoria CHARLESWORTH (Liberal democrat)Due to the demands on our soil from industrial scale farming in the area, one of the best things we can do is to plant and maintain hedges around the edges of fields. This prevents soil erosion caused by wind, which is a big factor in the fens. However, trees should be a compulsory addition to new developments. Promoting greenery in new developments lowers peak summer temperatures and can reduce the effects of a heat wave while reducing particulates and CO2. Surely there should be a minimum quota of trees in new developments? For example, under Coventry City Council’s climate change strategy, 10,000 trees per year were planted during 2007-2008 and 2008-2009, and 7,500 in 2009-2010, to absorb and store carbon. It would be wonderful to have more trees in Soham both in terms of air quality and the visual impact on our local environment. Researchers recommend low maintenance trees such as the Horse Chestnut, London Plane and various oaks. Personally, we have planted a hedge and two trees at the front of our house. We will be planting a few more this winter, and will consider the best types of tree for carbon capture
Mark Brannan GOLDSACK (Conservative)ECDC are strong on open space development within a new development framework, including trees and water. I am pleased to see open water used as a feature encouraging wildlife and trees etc to grow and enhance the new living environments planned for the ward. Cambridgeshire is a low, if not the lowest tree covered county, but I think that is because historically it has and remains such a key place for agricultural excellence. I know many farmers that are looking at alternative energy sources for their businesses, and most are keen land supporters for wildlife, trees and hedgerows. I wholeheartedly encourage the use of planted trees in as many locations a can be found for the life enhancement of the residents and vicinity to new developments.Conservatives led the County Council to adopt a new Trees Policy - if any tree on or near the highway that is the repsonsibility of the County Council has to be cut down because of danger or disease it has to be replaced, in a suitable location with a suitable species.  Prior to this trees were just being felled all over the place and not replaced.  Also, the Trees Policy states that trees in new developments will be welcomed (developers pay a commuted sum).  This wasn't the reality for North Ely as CCC Highways officers have been seriously blocking efforts by developers to include trees, but we had CCC officers in to ECDC recently and held them to account, quoted their own Highways policy at them about welcoming new trees for a commuted sum and they came back with a positive change of heart!  I hope that a new attitude will now be seen amongst officers throughout the county. Also, we have just adopted a new Trees Strategy at ECDC at the Regulatory Services Committee this month, which clearly shows our commitment to trees and our understanding of their importance:
Lee JINKS (Labour)
Geoffrey Ladbrooke WOOLLARD (Independent)I am a retired farmer and everywhere that I have been – including where I live in retirement in Soham – I have planted trees. We must retain the best farm land for food production, however, for the country’s population continues to grow.

Question 5

Finally, do you know the size of your own Carbon Footprint?  Are you taking any measures to reduce it and if so what?

Victoria CHARLESWORTH (Liberal democrat)When I visit people in town I walk or cycle. My husband has always cycled to work so until this autumn, we have only ever had one car, and we have always prioritised efficiency. Recently we have had to increase to a two car family, and have purchased a 2nd hand petrol hybrid. We hope to replace the old diesel with an electric car when they become a bit more affordable. We took the train to France this summer, instead of flying, but my favourite holiday spot is actually North Norfolk, which I hope to visit every year! Solar panels are on our long list of renovations we are doing on our home. We have fitted extra insulation in the roof and are about to restore the worst of our windows. We will follow up with secondary glazing. Being environmentally friendly is also about sustainability. We grow our own vegetables in the garden, we recycle everything we can and as the Council do not provide a food waste bin, we made a composter out of old boards which is used on the garden
Mark Brannan GOLDSACK (Conservative)I am changing my vehicle from a old diesel to a newer Blue Motion variety to improve things whilst I do manage to walk and cycle to most destinations close by. We live in a world where the car is dominating year by year so I am pleased to see the growth of electric alternatives. Cost prohibitive to myself at this time it is something I am looking into for my business vehicle. As for my household, we are very efficient, with smart meter installed, and unable to use solar panels due to location and trees surrounding, for which we are very lucky. I believe I have been for a while a remain conscious of my family footprint and am always looking at improving matters. Being a new grand parent has really bought this to the forefront of my mind.
Lee JINKS (Labour)
Geoffrey Ladbrooke WOOLLARD (Independent)No, but I am working on it.