Sunday, 15 November 2009

Monday, 2 November 2009

Bonfires and barbecues on Jesus Green

The JGA has put up a notice about barbecues on the green in the summer - it is illegal but many people don't know this or simply know that no action will taken against them

Just to clarify it is against the bylaws that were constituted when the green was made a common in 1985.

Anyway a meeting regarding Midsummer Common in April touched upon these issues

Here is a quick synopsis:

The main focus was the problem of illegal fires on Midsummer Common where this is clearly a major problem (people pinch pallets and other rubbish from building sites to
build large bonfires) but damage to grass on Jesus Green by instant
barbecues was also mentioned.

It is in fact illegal to light a fire of any sort on common land and that includes the instant barbecues of the sort sold by the supermarkets and widely used on Jesus Green. The police appear to be unaware of the law and have been telling people who ask that they may light fires. (see List of Tasks one of which is to educate the police!)

Cllrs Julie Smith and Tim Bick both raised the very sensible question of
whether it might be possible to find way for people to continue to have
barbecues on Jesus Green without damaging the grass (and without falling
foul of the law).

Pleas made for larger and more rubbish bins on Jesus Green.

JGA response to proposed parks strategy

Response to draft Parks & Open Spaces Strategy 2009-2013 from Jesus Green Association

The deadline for comments during the summer ‘recess’ leaves little time to canvas the views of our members, so this is being copied to them in case they wish to add their own comments or take issue with this response on their behalf. However, in this response we have done our best to represent the wide range of users of Jesus Green.

Overall this is an aspirational document containing many laudable objectives only some of which will be achievable in the short to medium term. Some may not be achievable at all, for example "natural spaces have to be in the right places-within five minutes walking distance of the home" this will not always be achievable in an already built environment. The acid test will therefore be the manner in which this strategic document is translated into a short, medium and long term action plan.
It would be helpful if firm assurances were given to stakeholders that similar detailed consultations will be carried out before any specific aspects of the strategy are implemented.

Although we have certain criticisms of the wording of the draft (see section 2 below) we warmly welcome the inclusion of such statements as the intention to address local concerns about maintenance and to encourage more involvement of groups like the JGA.

Our detailed response follows your suggested format:


We have already commented above on the accessibility within five minutes walking distance. Such a provision could be seriously wasteful of resources and spread the costs of maintenance, provision of services and security far too thinly.

Whilst growth and investment provision through section 106 monies is essential, there is also the maintenance, conservation and preservation of the historic green assets of Cambridge which should share in this 106 funding. Whilst we disagree with encouraging car access to central green spaces, enhanced public transport will give effective access to many more local families.

The key issues on page 8 cover all the essential aspects and we are pleased to see mention of "enhancement" of the parks and commons being achieved through the use of conservation and management plans. We are opposed to the spoiling of these spaces by the partitioning of selected areas for specialist purposes and the erection of buildings etc.
One large omission is the regulation of these open spaces by local government. Although local by-laws covering littering etc are available there is little or no indication that this is either pointed out or put into practice on the greens parks and commons, as far as behaviour, littering and good conduct are concerned.


4.3 Assessing quantity.
Does natural and semi natural space include allotments and would more allotments satisfy the shortfall in parks and open spaces? If so, would allotments and privately owned sites secured for community use fill the gap. The strategy document is not clear.

4.4 Assessing quality.
It is difficult to comment without seeing the "further text". No doubt this will be sent.

4.5 Assessing value.
This section seems to meet all requirements in Cambridge but we await the promised completion of conclusions.

4.6 Assessing accessibility.
We have commented on car access above. Strategy should focus on public transport facilities for wider access. This section also awaits completion of conclusions.


5.4 It is very satisfying to see that Jesus Green has risen strongly as peoples preferred park. It is therefore even more urgent to increase regular and effective maintenance and support conservation and preservation in this area and other historic open spaces.

The KEY ISSUES are fundamentally sound and it is appropriate that where external funds are sought then the need has been identified. However please add AND AGREED to the final key issue.


6.4 It is good to see that the strategy includes Friends Groups and volunteers. This will help the whole community to show individual and group responsibility.

The first KEY ISSUE is fine but the second one needs a note of caution added to the effect that the general use of open spaces for the use of the people should not be compromised by the needs of events which reduce usable space for significant periods and that income from these events should include a "maintenance and refurbishment" contribution.


All stated are relevant although there is a certain amount of repetition and overlap.(see detailed notes in section 2 of this response)
Among the most important issues are: a) b) e) h) n) o) and q)
The five most important being:
a) b)e) n) and q)

Section 2
Specific comments on text

Page 8 section 3 end (and issue (m) in the summary of emerging issues):

"The need to raise the profile, understanding and value of parks and open
spaces in Cambridge". Is the intention to say:

"The need to increase public awareness and appreciation of parks and open

P10 Section 4.2, Standards of provision, assessment of quantity of open
spaces is based on the populations estimates in Table 1 on page 7 which
includes an estimate for the city's population of 113,900 for 2006. It is
not clear whether this figure includes:

(a) undergraduate and graduate students of Cambridge University most of
whom also have access to extensive university and college sports

(b) undergraduate and graduate students of Anglia Ruskin University who
may not have access to such facilities.

The combined student bodies of these universities are a significant
proportion of the city's population (perhaps 20-25%) and the strategy
needs to recognise this and to state whether or not their needs are
recognised and addressed.

Of considerable concern is the weight attached in Section 5 to
the data derived from " . . . three surveys (two by post, one by 'phone
with limited sample size) in which users of parks were asked questions to
explore aspects of the way they use parks."

The author of para 5.2 states that " . . . The answers are not necessarily
comparable in pure statistical terms because of different methodologies and
slightly different wordings . . ." but then goes on in sections 5.2 to 5.7
inclusive to use percentages derived from the responses in the surveys to
identify trends in the use of parks and open spaces. Without sight of the
data it is hard to comment but it would seem wise to treat the trends and
inferences in these sections with extreme caution.

Page 21: The second sentence of the second para in Section 7.5 at the top:

"There is therefore a tension between the need to conserve the historic
open spaces in the city centre and the need to improve and enhance spaces
in the residential suburban neighbourhoods."

It does not seem appropriate to use the word ‘tension’ here. The sentence quoted above can be made more relevant by deleting the words
'tension between the'.

Further editing work needs to be done to the 22 emerging issues. As drafted they contain repetition and are a mixture of what might be described as broad aims such as:
(m) "The need to raise the profile, understanding and value of parks and
open spaces in Cambridge" which, as stated in 6 above, we think would be
better stated as "The need to increase public awareness and appreciation of
parks and open spaces".

and measurable objectives such as

(a) "Address local concerns about standards of provision and maintenance".

It would be better to separate these broad aims from the objectives. It
would also be helpful to subdivide both under headings such as:

Management issues (e.g. range of provision, standards of provision,
standards of maintenance)

Finance (funding of maintenance, funding of additions/improvements to green

Engagement with citizens.

There is much repetition - the same thing being said in different ways. For
example, (a), (b), (c), (d), (j), and (n), all involve engagement of some
sort with citizens.

Another example is provided by (e) "Revise conservation and management plans of key parks and open spaces" and (r) "Develop conservation, habitat and management plans for parks and open spaces".

Once the strategy document has been finalised, the JGA looks forward to playing a full part in helping to formulate the action plan to follow.

Submitted on behalf of the Jesus Green Association 13/8/09
Peter Constable Chair
Martin Thompson Vice-Chair
Richard Price Treasurer

Skateboard competition

A skateboard competition took place at the Jesus Green skatepark on Saturday, September 26.

This was organised by Chypps, the young people's play activities team at Cambridge City Council.

This is exactly what the way the green should be used and a very good way to engage young people. It also follows a fantastic programme of events over the summer by this team, which kept thousands of children occupied and delighted during the holidays.

Children, parents and child care workers who used the scheme it was fantastic and let's hope they get the recognition they so richly deserve for their efforts.

DIsquiet over consultation process

Committee members of the JGA have written to the city council as we are concerned
about the current consultation over the new Jesus Green plans

The council is consulting a whole range of different organisations and groups, but the
JGA (set up as an independent voice to represent those with an interest in JG) has not been included in the list of those to be consulted.

The only mention of the JGA in the document is under 'Report' is where we learn that a report of the findings will be distributed to JGA (among others).

This only reinforces our suspicion that the council is trying to sideline the Association while driving an agenda that we might not want to support.

The play area questionnaire seems to cover the key questions but we are concerned about the following question in the extremely brief skateboard area questionnaire:
> "Would you like to see some equipment aimed at teenagers on Jesus Green?"
> Yes/No "If yes, what kind of equipment would you like to see?"

It seems pretty obvious that the answer will be "Yes" and that this will provide the council with the 'evidence' it needs to justify the creation of the 'adventure pay area' that keeps cropping up - in the lottery bid, the priorities list etc.

We have always expressed concern about this because details of what the council has in mind have never been forthcoming and we have doubts about whether such a thing is appropriate for the Green. The question of whether or not Jesus Green is the right place for something like this has never been raised by the council or discussed.

Although the framework is headed: "Consultation with children, young people and parents/carers re Jesus Green Play Park and Skate ramp" the very loaded question about equipment aimed at teenagers makes it clear that the council's thinking extends well beyond these two areas.

It would be worth reminding ourselves of the strongly supported views expressed at the JGA's two recent and well attended public meetings - our AGM on Tuesday 2 December last year and our extraordinary general meeting on Tuesday 17 March. The minutes of the AGM include this statement

" . . . there was much desire for maintenance and improvement of what
exists, but great dislike of novelty . . ."

A document opposing development of the Green, including an adventure play area, but supporting conservation, preservation and regular effective maintenance (incl skate board and children's play areas) was unanimously adopted at our EGM

Our next AGM will be on Thursday 3 December at which it would be good to express gratitude and support for things that the Association has been pressing for. However, we shall not hesitate to offer our members the chance to discuss issues that are of concern such as any plans to 'develop' the Green.

Good news on path

It appears the JGA's pleas for maintenance on the green have finally been listened to.

Plans to repair the plane tree avenue path have been adopted by the city council for possible section 106 cash. In terms of city-wide priorities, this path is second on the list behind the refurbishment of the Kelsey Kerridge climbing wall (surely something of a niche activity).

That means Jesus Green could be in line for some planning gain money for next year - a better scenario than the previous situation where Jesus Green was denied any money at all because of the distant promise of millions (for a scheme we didn't want)

Well done to Tim Bick for speaking at the West/Central committee in support of Jesus Green.

Interesting how well the Newnham ward does well under the West Central area priorities. Six out of the seven area spending commitments are for Lammas Land (including improved kiosk, benches, river access shelter, shelter and paddling pool). Saying that their tennis court doesn't get a look in and it's just as bad as ours.

Jesus Green AGM

The 2009 Jesus Green annual general meeting will take place in the Octagon Room of Wesley Church, in King Street, Cambridge, will take place on Thursday, December 3 at 7.30pm.

Please inform all JGA members and anyone else who is interested in the green or who wishes to become a JGA member.

An agenda for the meeting will be published on this site shortly