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City Deal answers questions raised regarding West Fields conflict of interest

By Ben Comber

Leader of the Council at Cambridge City Council and City Deal Chairman Councillor Lewis Herbert. Picture: Keith Heppell
Leader of the Council at Cambridge City Council and City Deal Chairman Councillor Lewis Herbert. Picture: Keith Heppell

The Board highlight the University of Cambridge representative’s contribution in the wider community’s interest.

The City Deal Board have responded fully to questions raised by campaigners about the proposed second busway from Cambourne to Cambridge, and has invited campiagn group Save the West Fields to meet to discuss any concerns further.

In the response the board clarified, with regard to the University of Cambridge’s declared conflict of interest, that Professor Slater’s decision to step down from the City Deal Board is a consequence of his decision to leave his current University post to pursue academic research.

He is leaving the role of Pro-Vice Chancellor for Enterprise & Regional Affairs, which involves a seat on the City Deal Board as it did for his predecessor.

The letter to Save the West Fields, by chair Cllr Lewis Herbert and signed by the voting members of the City Deal Board, said: “I would also record that Professor Slater has made a significant and principled contribution during his Board membership, evidencing his wider community interest in his contributions as a Board member.

“On Board membership, as with any partnership, changes in personnel occur over the years of City Deal meetings, turnover is perfectly normal and the organisational representation continues regardless. What is important is that the health and progress and continuity of the City Deal partnership remains strong.”

The letter also addressed the conflict of interest and the process relating to how it had been handled in the run up to the Board Meeting in October for which the University representative was absent.

The letter said: “Board members also consult our professional officers before and at meetings and were advised for instance in relation to the June 2015 Board meeting that, while the University had interests and needed to declare an overall interest, it was not at that early stage considered to be a prejudicial one given the wide range of ‘north, south or central’ options then being proposed for public consultation.

“The officer advice that was followed at that stage, when the then Board were considering a wide range of catchment options, was that the University interest was declarable but not at that time prejudicial.

“Any option for a scheme of this scale is going to have impacts, all community views are given careful assessment, but in the end decisions need to be made and it is unlikely that proposed route catchments or options will be universally popular.

“The fact that the University has land holding interests in the area of the A428 scheme has in my and our view been properly managed and disclosed in a way that is appropriate to the stage and nature of the decisions.

“Following the Board decisions on 13 October 2016, the Board instructed officers to spen the next six months carrying out detailed assessment to assess and identify feasible and recommended route alternate alignments, within the catchment area, which will meet the project objectives and minimise avoidable impact, whilst also exploring environmental mitigation appropriate to the options being assessed.

“A Local Liaison Forum (LLF) has been established to ensure regular dialogue between the project team and members of the local community during the life-time of the project, ensuring interested parties are kept informed and can continue to have their say outside of formal consultation processes.

“The LLF has specific status in the process and its resolutions and wider conclusions are developed with care by them, and then considered in detail by the Assembly and Board and City Deal officers.

“We will continue to liaise with community groups including Save the West Fields, and are also happy to discuss scheme options as we develop plans to support the growth of Cambridge over the coming years.”

The full response can be found online.


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