A blog on how to make Soham the best it can be by Sam Mathieson
I’ve lived in Soham with my family for five years and we love it here. I’ve got lots of ideas about how to make Soham be the best it can be and how to be sure we look out for the future.
There’s a lot of truth in the adage: to fail to plan is to plan to fail. I’ve worked in mission-critical environments. There’s no way any of those would even start without a clear plan built to a clear set of principles.
As far as I am concerned, planning our town for all our futures, our children and our grandchildren is as mission-critical as they come. Yet it seems that much development here happens in a haphazard fashion where the focus is on profit not residents or environment. It’s clear our planning system is broken. But there’s hope. Much of the power to fix it lies in our hands.
My three point strategy for better town planning
1.Transparency and real involvement by the community in planning
I want to see officers engaging with residents as much as they do with developers when plans are drawn up. We need to do much more than stick a few notices on lampposts. The community knows best and should have an equal say.
2. Councillors thinking independently and using their powers appropriately
Councillors can decide whether to give permission to a development, or not. I want to see infrastructure keeping pace with homes. Think about the impact on policing, schools, GPs, council services, transport links and leisure centres.
Councils have the power to attach conditions to planning permission including requiring a percentage to be affordable homes, compensating for loss of open space, mitigating a development’s impact with new infrastructure. These must be used to the fullest extent and completed in a timely manner!
3. Joined up planning between towns and between councils
If we just focus on one town at a time, we’ll end up with lots of jigsaw pieces that don’t make a big picture! I was honoured to meet the Mayor for Cambridgeshire recently and we talked a lot about co-operation between all local groups to get the best out of our limited resources. For this we need the will to deliver co-operation and communication.