Labour Councillors have lodged an application with the County Council to preserve the Shire Hall monument site as a town green.
County Councillors Claire Richards and Jocelynne Scutt, both founding members of the Friends of Castle Mound, lodged the application this week together with Katie Thornburrow, the current Cambridge City Executive Councillor for Planning and Open Spaces.
With no clear statement from the County Council that there will be free and open public access to the area in perpetuity, the group have taken this step to protect it as a site of national historical significance and an important green space for Cambridge city and the wider county. Councillors are paying solicitors’ fees incurred during the case from their allowances, which were raised by the County Council last year.
Cllr Richards said, ”Cambridge Labour has been fighting from the outset to keep Shire Hall and the surrounding site in public hands. We are the only party taking this important stand and trying make sure the site is officially recognised as a town green.
“As the local councillor for Shire Hall, I am determined to stand up for the interests of our community in Castle, Cambridge and beyond. This is a place where residents walk their dogs, celebrate their marriages, civil ceremonies and citizenship ceremonies. It is a place where communities and families come together and where individuals can take a break from the workaday world.
“The County Council created a Community Champion role and I cannot think of a better way of championing the community than using my allowance to help protect local residents’ rights to access the space.”
Cllr Scutt added, “We have to protect the community’s right of access in perpetuity.
Since I came to Girton College as a student in the 1970s, I have been aware of the historical importance of the heritage-listed mound, the Civil War works and the prison foundations underneath Shire Hall’s grassed forecourt.
“Now, living almost next door, I regularly see children and young people playing on the grass, residents and tourists climbing Castle Mound and dozens of churchgoers, shoppers, students, and visitors passing through its grounds. The space is rarely empty during the day, at weekends – or on long summer evenings. Even in the early morning people can be seen out there walking their dogs.
“How ironic that, at its May Full Council the County unanimously acknowledged a ‘climate emergency’ yet all parties except Labour are quite happy to see the city lose such an important green space – and leave the site to the mercy of the developers.”
Isabel Lambourne, Secretary of Friends of Castle Mound, who started the initial petition to save Castle Mound and has been working closely with councillors, echoed their comments;
“It would mean so much to people in the area if we can manage to keep the public access. It has such potential as a council-run public asset. Leasing the land to a private developer will only make the community poorer, and we will carry on fighting to stop that happening.”
If you would like to add your voice to the campaign to keep the site open to the public, then get in touch with the Friends of Castle Mound or sign their petition at https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/halt-leasing-of-whole-shire-hall-site-and-keep-council-run-as-social-amenity-history-and-arts?fbclid=IwAR1uPbt_5wehrHE7OXAI_HNFN47X1VmZ6Qqp_Xiw_axgzLrFig6DA5Lc0jk