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Friends of the Cam deliver postcards to council asking them to save river





Postcards objecting to the over-abstraction of the River Cam were handed in at the Guildhall last week.

The quality of the river Cam is affected by over-abstraction and the horrific dumping of sewage by Anglian Water. Picture: Friends of the Cam
The quality of the river Cam is affected by over-abstraction and the horrific dumping of sewage by Anglian Water. Picture: Friends of the Cam

The series of over 50 hand-painted postcards were designed to draw attention to the deteriorating health of the river Cam were submitted to the city council. The cards were painted by children and adult participants at a Rights of the River event on June 21 coordinated by Friends of the Cam, a non-politically aligned campaign group, which took place on Jesus Green.

The pictorial protest was the idea of Julie Kavanagh, a Cambridge artist and environmental campaigner.

“We want to see a shift in policy to really protect the river,” said Ms Kavanagh. “We are asking the council for an open and honest approach to this problem, and to acknowledge the threat to the integrity of the chalk streams even with low levels of development and to commit to saving the river and its environment from further damage.”

She added: “Since this requires a curb on development, we call on the city council to publicly support a campaign to reduce building targets in the draft local plan.”

Friends of the Cam hand over postcards outside the Guildhall with, from left, Tony Booth, Susan Buckingham, chair of planning committee Simon Smith, Julie Kavanagh, Jean Glasberg and Terry Macalister. Picture: Keith Heppell
Friends of the Cam hand over postcards outside the Guildhall with, from left, Tony Booth, Susan Buckingham, chair of planning committee Simon Smith, Julie Kavanagh, Jean Glasberg and Terry Macalister. Picture: Keith Heppell

The artist gave the cards at the Guildhall to Cllr Simon Smith, chair of the planning and transport scrutiny committee, and added that she wanted to see Cambridge City Council put a brake on building developments in the area which were set to put further strains on an already depleted water system.

A spokesperson for Friends of the Cam said it was time policymakers both inside and outside of Cambridge recognised the crucial importance of safeguarding the chalk aquifers that fed the Cam and the wider river system.

“Many local waterways have dried up completely and flow levels in the Cam are being kept up only by pumping ground water into the river,” the spokesperson said.

Friends of the Cam postcard handed in to the council to raise awareness of the dangers presented by over-development in and around Cambridge. Picture: Friends of the Cam
Friends of the Cam postcard handed in to the council to raise awareness of the dangers presented by over-development in and around Cambridge. Picture: Friends of the Cam

“Politicians seem to find it easier to raise concerns about the destruction of Amazon rain forests than the also biodiversity-rich chalk streams that are literally under their feet.

“Everyone talks about ‘doubling nature’ and ‘sustainability’ around here yet we seem to continue to take decisions on building tens of thousands of more homes without regard to further over-abstracting these special aquifers.”

The second Rights of the River Midsummer Day event – the first, also by Jesus Lock, was held last year – attracted the attention of Cambridge don and nature writer Robert Macfarlane who gave a talk on “Is a river alive?” as an inaugural Reynolds Lecture at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, on June 7.

The campaigns to stop over-abstraction and sewage dumping in the Cam is now gaining national attention.

One of the Friends of the Cam postcards handed in at Guildhall. Picture: Friends of the Cam
One of the Friends of the Cam postcards handed in at Guildhall. Picture: Friends of the Cam

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb, a member of the Green Party who sits in the House of Lords, has asked Friends of the Cam for a site visit to see the problems for herself on Saturday (July 16).

The depletion of the local water system has also been highlighted in a legal challenge through a judicial review of the Northstowe housing development mounted by another local environmental group, Fews Lane Consortium.

The issue has been raised by high profile figures such as former pop star and now keen trout fisherman, Feargal Sharkey who gave a talk to local groups which started Friends of the Cam in the winter of 2020.



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