In the end it was a unanimous verdict – whilst all the Councillors at Thursday’s Scrutiny Committee were happy with the principle of a Cambridge City Farm, all raised their arm and finally put paid to any prospect of the Farm being in Cherry Hinton Hall.
Bob Daines, Friends of Cherry Hinton Hall, addressed the committee before the vote and spoke of the problems that accommodating a City Farm would bring, in particular not being able to deliver the master plan in its intended form, not having the propagation centre opened up to park use, and trying to fit the Folk Festival in somewhere too. We also thanked Council Officers for the work they had put in and consultant Phil Back for his second excellent report on Cherry Hinton Hall.
Bob said he was looking forward to seeing the master plan be delivered, and Alistair Wilson from the City Council replied, “The master plan will come back to the next Scrutiny Committee for a project appraisal. In the meantime we’ll do a grant application for Heritage Lottery funding. Some elements such as the purchase of new equipment can happen relatively quickly, including the new gate after the Folk Festival. Some larger elements are over the permitted financial threshold and we will have to draw up tender documents, so the larger works will be done in the summer of 2012.”
In suggesting confidence that the Friends will be involved with the master plan delivery, Executive Councillor Rod Cantrill summed up proceedings by stating “I realise the Friends of Cherry Hinton Hall are a committed group and I am keen for us to work in partnership with you to deliver this scheme.”
Meanwhile the search goes on elsewhere for the correct location for a City Farm, including possibly the large field adjacent to Coldham’s Common diagonally across the roundabout from Sainsbury. But at least the Friends now know where we stand. The City Farm has put the master plan back by a year but I think the exercise and debate was a good example of democracy at work. Meanwhile the delay provided an opportunity for the Friends to strengthen our relationship with the City Council and with Anthony French and Alistair Wilson in particular. This can only be beneficial.
Stuart Newbold, Secretary, Friends of Cherry Hinton Hall