Accounting for Rhubarb Bridge Decision

I have asked people why the council hadn’t gone all out to fund a replacement bridge as soon as it realised Rhubarb Bridge was suffering an unusual degree of decay. This would have made sense, especially since there are national funding pots for sustainable travel infrastructure, and this bridge might well have qualified.

I wrote a post about the stakeholder event, at which my question did not receive an answer.

Since then I have I received one really useful reply. My interlocutor pointed out to me that the money for repairs and maintenance comes out of the Revenue pot at the council. Revenue is for running costs, costs which recur year after year. The money for the an surface roundabout or for a replacement bridge would come out of the Capital pot. Capital is for one off costs, for buying or building assets such as buildings and infrastructure.

This made me think. Pressure on the Revenue pot is extreme. And it might be this extreme funding pressure which is leading to a decision not to maintain. If it replaces an an annual maintenance bill with a one off capital bill (with arguably a smaller ongoing maintenance cost), it will be relieving pressure on the funds which are needed to look after people in extreme need.

Funding pressures on local government affect their Revenue funding primarily. Pressure on capital funding is not as bad. Revenue funds are used to fund social care, road repairs and waste disposal. It is this funding stream which is under impossible strains as central government imposes its Austerity measures and renders all our services less and less able to cope. So all local authorities have to balance roads and waste against social care. It is quite clearly insane, but until we sack the government as we are entitled to do at each general election, there is no sign of a change in this wicked situation. And local authority roads get a small fraction of the maintenance money which Highways England gets to maintain trunk roads. Unfortunately Rhubarb Bridge does not belong to Highways England. It belongs to the council.

This leaves a number of items which haven’t been accounted for: lets call them uncounted elephants in the room:

  • The likely cost of accidents at an at surface crossing. It is clear that this has not been factored in. There is clearly an increased risk of impacts on emergency, hospital and care services budgets.
  • The impact of being at ground level at an air pollution hot spot on all pedestrian and cyclists using the route. The higher you are the less likely you are to be inhaling high concentrates of particulates. The closer you are the more certain it is. In pushchairs children are face to face with exhaust pipes and this is just one reason (of many) why parents pop them in what seems to be the safer environment of a car.
  • The at surface crossing will result in cyclists taking to the road, rather than wait.
  • The at surface crossing will result in people getting into a car in preference to walking with a pram or pushchair.

And it leaves my original question standing: why the council hasn’t tried to get hold of (let us add “capital”) funding to rebuild the bridge – if it is beyond economic repair?

Rhubarb Bridge Stakeholder Event

An event for councillors and stakeholders was held last week in the Town Hall. A similar public event is scheduled to be held next week. I would recommend people living near the bridge or using it regularly go if they possibly can.

I am a member of Peterborough Cycling Forum (PCF) (one of the council’s stakeholders), which has put the council’s event on facebook. Quite a few PCF members turned up and three or four councillors also popped in while I was there.


Which bridge? Rhubarb Bridge is the popular (but strictly incorrect) name of a cycle and pedestrian up and over bridge at the junction of the A15 (Lincoln Road – Bourges Boulevard) with the A47. The name is taken from a bridge which has long since gone. It went over a railway and had rhubarb growing on its embankment. The council calls it J18.

The council had claimed that the bridge needed to be demolished because it was no longer viable to continue to repair and maintain it: it had reached the end of its life. My overriding concern was to establish whether or not this was fair: I’d not spotted problems with the structure, so I was sceptical. The council’s structural engineer attended.

The bridge is a complex structure with four ways up onto a wider part of the bridge, which dips down a little into a tunnel under the A47. So it is both a bridge over Bourges Boulevard but also a tunnel under the A47. The council thinks of it as six bridges, two, the wider bits extending out from the tunnel, and the four, each of the four “legs” down.

At the event we were shown photographs of the bridge showing its condition. These will be published online on Wednesday 9th along with all the other planning documents we saw. These were a map, a description of the problems presented by the bridge and how the council proposes to deal with them, and the photographs. There is also a movement model, showing how traffic will be held at crossings and how it will flow once there are four lanes leading into some of the stop points. Extra lanes will be added to the A47 slip road from the east, and to the junction with the Lincoln Road coming from the north, so four lanes of traffic will queue at each of these two sets of traffic lights.

So this is what we now know (things we don’t know are in bold)

The bridge was constructed in 1975.

At PCF’s last meeting we were told that there is nothing structurally wrong with the tunnel under the A47. This is very important, because it means it could be incorporated into a new design. We were told that once the bridge structures are demolished, the tunnel will be closed off and filled with foam. You can see pictures of the tunnel under the A47 here. You can see that the tunnel is neglected decoratively, so it is good to know that at least it is structurally sound.

The bridge structure requires repair and maintenance costing £60,000 a year to keep it safe for use.

I asked why since so many of the city’s bridges have been capable of repair, this particular one isn’t. The answer I was given is that the structure is more delicate than most of Peterborough’s repaired and mostly road over road bridges, meaning that any internal problems will be closer to the surface and integrity is less likely in the absence of sheer size and bulk. Relatively speaking, it is an elegant structure.

The bridge is made of a number of elements formed of reinforced concrete with tensioned steel at their heart. Some of these support the weight of a span and some of them are the spans.

If for example you need to repair or even replace a stanchion (a supporting pillar), you might not be able to lift the span resting on it without first repairing the span itself. This is complicated and the council argues more expensive than can be justified.

I’m not going to comment on the state of the bridge, except to say that I am no longer confident that it is structurally sound. My impression is that there were some basic concrete mixing failures when it was originally constructed. It is a huge shame, because it is a nice bridge. The pictures are worrying, although they don’t give a complete picture of the state of the whole bridge and you’d need to be a bridge expert to quantify the risk.

The problem areas have been repaired and wrapped in Kevlar, so those pictured here will not be visible. I asked what would happen if you unwrapped the Kevlar and was told the concrete might very well come off too.

However we have not seen itemised maintenance and repair expenditure on the bridge to date or estimated future costs for this.

The council argues that if it was to proceed and maintain this bridge at high cost, a route through for cyclists and pedestrians would have to be provided while works were underway.

The route through at ground level is essentially what the council’s proposal is and what is proposed could stay there while work was undertaken on the bridge, whether the bridge was repaired, or the bridge was replaced.

The proposal includes a route which goes all the way round the central island which holds up the A47. This means that during future bridge works, people could be diverted away from whichever section was being worked on by simply being sent the other way round the centre.

This central ring is partly shared use & 3wide which means cyclists don’t have to dismount and a smaller part, on the eastern side which is much narrower, which will require dismounting (designing in conflict, in other words).

If the bridge could be repaired, it could be kept much as it is. The existing bridge is marked, though faintly, on the plan.

If the bridge was replaced with a new bridge, then it would have to meet current standards and specifically its ramps would have to be a lot shallower and therefore longer than they now are. So a ramp which meets the ground now, might have to go an awful lot further in a new design and there might be a road junction just where it is almost at ground level…..

Skanska has prepared a number of options for a replacement bridge, but these were not presented at the event.

The council’s £30M replacement figure has been arrived at by an accounting formula. It is not based on the Skanska designs, which may not have been costed.

What we don’t know is:

The significance and heritage value of this structure. It has been described as a very early “Dutch roundabout”. Peterborough doesn’t sing the praises of the development corporation which put much of its road infrastructure on the map. The mini roundabout was born in Peterborough. We demolished that. At grade separation of cyclists and pedestrians was pioneered here and this bridge is part of that revolution in road design. Now we are changing the original plan and working to lower speeds on the very roads whose high speeds were once seen as their selling points. This roundabout is where old meets new. One thing is certain: cyclists (and I am guessing pedestrians also) don’t want to be at ground level at this particular point in the city! Is Peterborough going to let the Dutch get all the glory for cycling infrastructure or will it assert the value and interest of having once tried to get things right for cyclists?

Why the council has not planned in a replacement bridge and applied for funding for it, possibly as part of its sustainable travel spend. I’d missed it, but apparently this bridge was on the list of things which needed tackling two – or maybe more – years ago.

How long the bridge could stay in place as is (i.e. what leeway there is to postpone demolition).

Fulbridge Road Cycle & Pedestrian Bridge

I attended an event last Thursday which was about Rhubarb Bridge, but before I post anything about that, this is just a little news about the next bridge over the A47 going east (towards Wisbech). This bridge is on Highways England’s list of repairs and should be getting some much needed attention very soon. I hope it isn’t closed for long. It is certainly not planned for demolition. It is a useful bridge enabling cyclists and pedestrians to shortcircuit (North /South) one of Peterborough’s oddest and most confusing roundabouts over and onto the A47 (as it goes East/West).

I call on Cllr John Holdich, Leader of Peterborough City Council, to suspend Cllr Andy Coles

Email sent to Cllr Holdich

Please Suspend Cllr Andy Coles!

Please suspend Cllr Andy Coles. It is reasonable that he is suspended. 

It is not decent, fair or reasonable that he stays in post while Jessica’s allegations of dreadful behaviour, (amounting to state sanctioned rape) remain unresolved. 

I believe that the Conservative Party is the only body able to suspend a Conservative Councillor who won’t resign.

Please let me know if I have been incorrectly advised.

Why I believe you have no choice: In other words: If Coles stays, where does this position Peterborough City Council?

In failing to suspend Coles, you as the Leader of Peterborough City Council are placing yourself, our council, the Mayor (himself an ex policeman, Cllr John Fox) all our elected councillors (including those who are not members of the Conservative Party) and your entire party and its national membership in the same place as and appearing to collude with whoever (maybe also members of his party) authorised the #Spycops behaviour in the first place (whether the long list of people I have listed like it or not, and without a single one of them getting a vote on the matter).

Why suspending him is critical for the reputation of the city:

If whoever has power to suspend him from the Conservative Party, did so promptly, pending resolution of whatever processes are or have to take place, then the Leader of Peterborough City Council, our council, our Mayor, all the elected councillors and his entire party could achieve distance from contamination with the behaviours of a group of people who have been able to abuse state power, in fact were paid to do so, with impunity and (unfortunately now) your stated personal approval (I think you may have done this in some ignorance of the gravity of what has been alleged – I know you are a very busy man).

The council is contaminated by association until that is achieved. The council does not need this. Peterborough does not need this. I do not believe this to be in anyone’s best interests: not even Cllr Coles’.

Background & Why I Think What I Think

Resign Cllr Andy Coles!

I called for Andy Coles to resign as soon as I heard about and read up on the allegations made against him by “Jessica” (not her real name). The Channel 4 programme was viewable for a day or two, but was taken down very promptly (I think). This programme alone was sufficient to convince me that he would have his hands full dealing with the allegations, whether he was innocent or guilty and that either way he had to resign.

Since I thought I knew Andy Coles, liked him and above all, found him relatively easy to talk to (which is unusual in my experience of Peterborough Conservative Party members in Peterborough) my very first response to Jessica’s story was disbelief. I’d seen him do what looked like useful work in the creative arena in the city, in West Town (not my patch) but also in the campaign to Save The Green Backyard #SaveGBY a major environmental project which had been under threat, but which had been saved (that means granted a 12 year lease) with a lot of help from elected councillors from various political parties. I first learned about him at the Green Back Yard while he was still a top bar bee keeper and at that time he was trying to help a woman who has since died to parish West Town, which I would very strongly support.

But none of my prejudice in his favour affected my call on him to resign. Calling on him to resign wasn’t about the truth or otherwise of the allegations. This was solely about his ability to cope with what was alleged and being in elected position at the same time.

Could a troubled teenager go to him as her councillor for help? Not in my opinion.

That would be simply impossible until the facts were established in some sort of due process and he’d cleared his name. His family’s ability too. My heart went out to his family. Then I realised I’d never met any of them and suddenly I had one of those lurches deep in the gut. I’d had a similar experience before: tiny tiny bells ring so small you simply don’t hear them until suddenly the floor vanishes from under your feet. I gasped as a new reality – a new set of possibilities – a new narrative entirely – opened up beneath me. My memory raced back as little doubts were sown. As you fall like Alice you grab the things on the wall of the hole. What did and didn’t I know about Andy? Everything I knew about him was suddenly capable of meaning something entirely different. From that moment of doubt until now, there have been for me two Andys. Jessica’s Andy and the one I thought I knew right up to the moment I read her story. I could place one little cut out character (let’s face it, I don’t really really know a lot about either Andy) on top of the other with no trouble at all. They slotted together perfectly. The things Jessica said fitted into the life of the person I knew. All he’d had to do was leave little things out when talking to me. Everybody does that: it is nothing remarkable. That is surely exactly how nobody notices how things are done both covertly and in plain sight. For anyone who has read the exposure story, he is not the same man. If he remains the same to them, they haven’t really read it.

I began to confront the plausibility of Jessica’s story.

I thought back. We’d had a long conversation in town over coffee. Cllr Andy Coles was recently elected and had just taken charge of Children’s Services from Cllr Sheila Scott. I said “Good: that job needs someone with a brain.” There had been no doubt in my mind at all that he was as bright as a button. This guy had a degree in what seemed a relevant subject and right or wrong, the plight of Childrens’ Services at the time was being laid firmly at the stodgy, uninformed ineducable and totally immoveable Scott’s door (I accept I might be right or wrong about her, but she is typical of a type of councillor who I keep being forced to conclude is literally impermeable). I saw a background in policing as hugely beneficial to the role: he’d have a perspective and a brilliant training: with skills such as investigation, scepticism, analysis to hand. He asked me about my family: kids, husband. I thought these questions were downright impertinent on a first acquaintance so he got public domain basics: not the specifics he was cheekily after.

Since the allegations sank into my consciousness I have defriended him on facebook, where he has made friends with a huge number of my facebook friends. I’ve defriended some of his (for all I know perfectly nice and decent) political friends. I have to. Facebook is a political network as well as a social network and I’m not sure how the facebook network has been used, whether or how my friendships with real people have been used in real life and for what. Most of my facebook friends see no harm in him at all. I can’t do that.

Thinking back to that over inquisitive conversation. That friendly bright face, those honest eyes. Had he been miked up? What else did I say? He told me his family had been in shoe manufacturing when he was little. I told him I love design. I used to love shoes: that I’d once considered studying at the Cordwainers. Did I tell him how I got into design? About the putti I sculpted in the garden that very hot summer? I think I did. He told me that his family business failed along with most of the English shoe making industry and that that was the moment when he decided to join the Metropolitan Police.

OMG The Met and maybe MI5 knows that I totally adore Kinky Boots!

Did I share that with him? Almost certainly, since the only reason we were talking was that Peterborough was trying to rise from the ashes of its industrial past and face the total horror of continuing Austerity by sparking the creative sector it had so far suppressed pretty effectively. Regeneration, niche markets: that was why we were talking. Campaigning to do good things, like save The Green Backyard, which we both knew was an incubator for sustainable projects, for good green things. I felt that as if he’d taken a crucial piece of clothing off me and I hadn’t even noticed. I felt exposed. I understand power and how uneven it is. I’ve been stamped on (though never ever like Jessica). I think most women have had a moment. But we think we grow. We develop out and beyond those naive moments. We wouldn’t put ourselves through that again, would we? But that conversation can never be again what it was at the time. Sharing requires trust. I can no longer trust Andy Coles.

Did he walk all over me?



I require him to be totally and unconditionally exonerated

before I can have a normal conversation with him again. Some of my friends are struggling to believe that he could be what Jessica claims. They are lovely people and they see the nice guy. I’m not quarrelling with them. I’m not a judge and I am perfectly well aware that every person is entitled to a hearing and due process in the face of an allegation. Frankly I am concerned that he won’t get due process.

The people of Peterborough, if they only knew, would require the same

Not every voter follows what councillors get up to, let alone what is alleged about them. Very few people even knew we had a General Election.

Women, if only they knew, would deserve and require the same

But I also understand power and I understand where women are in relation to men. The salary differentials. Pension inequality. The horrendous abuses. Women in Peterborough experience terrible oppressions. I’ve met women who are walked over, trodden on, beaten down. Who have nowhere to go. I’ve campaigned for women in prison. I’ve seen despair. I know women who’ve lost their children here. Our society has been like that. We fight like cats to make it better, but we shouldn’t have to. I see disparities, unevennesses everywhere I go. I know what it feels like to be looked at as if you are a piece of shit. That happened to me only LAST SUNDAY afternoon, outside Peterborough Prison, where I joined a noisy memorial for Charlie Noakes, who died there and still has not been given the decency of an inquest. The vulnerabilities and innocences of being young and not even knowing what power is. Being exposed. Being in the wrong place. Everywoman has been there. We’d prevent it if we could. We do what we can. But we know the places are there. The wrong places.

What does it feel like to be someone with a story like Jessica’s to tell?

If I was Jessica’s mum, what would I do?

It took a moment from falling down that rabbit hole to putting myself in the position of Jessica’s dad. Or her mum. My imagination takes me onto some kitchen floor and in she walks and the story is told. It feels better to have my feet on the ground. I can imagine being either of them. Who would I believe: my daughter or the weird, strangely useful but disappearing hippy?

This isn’t about justice or due process. This is about putting yourself into other people’s shoes and imagining what if. Some people can’t do this with their imaginations. Imagination is one of those things which teachers notice you have when you are seven and encourage you to quietly dispose of before you go to secondary school. But I never did that: I can do that: I’ve always been able to do that and I have never understood what it must be like to be one of those people who doesn’t have this skill. I know they exist. They may even be a majority of people. I know it is unusual to be able to imagine and I know also that I’m very very good at that. And that – nothing to do with right or wrong, guilty or innocent, fair or unfair – is why he simply has to resign.

He has to resign because we all know that he was apparently not in that sort of relationship – an uneven, manipulative, power over youth – to the people who elected him: that is not how he was elected: that is not the basis on which he was elected. That was neither his image nor his reality. He was just a bright, rather nice ex copper as far as the electorate, his friends, colleagues and neighbours were concerned. Maybe even his family saw nothing more than that.

It is possible that even his party colleagues knew no more – but of course this is an awful lot less likely. There is the distinct possibility that they knew a lot more: surely this should have been revealed to two local constituency party’s election agents? Don’t they vet their candidates? What were they told? What did they ask? They have to ask, surely, because of the risks of not asking? He has stood and represented people as a councillor in two constituencies (South Bretton in the Peterborough constituency, then Fletton & Woodston in the North West Cambridgeshire constituency). Why was he moved from one to the other? Two officers of the Conservative Party will presumably have been charged with asking whether or not there is anything in his past which could bring the Conservative Party into disrepute.

Their voters might want to know.

But now that the story is out, those straightforward people cannot see him in the same way: well perhaps they can. But I can’t. Cllr Holdich can opt to be resolute and refuse to read what is put under his nose. That’s not how I operate. And it is not how a council leader should operate.

Allegations have to be confronted: they need facing up to

Holdich has failed to do this to date. Remarkably he has excused Coles anyway even in the event of his being found guilty. He finds what he has been accused of as admirable, necessary. He clearly hasn’t read what the Met concluded about these abuses (see below). Holdich needs to geek up very quickly and consider his position and what the position he is taking says about the position of his entire political party on the issue of #SpyCops, especially given the extraordinary news which broke yesterday (continue reading).

Coles needs to exonerate himself. He needs to be officially exonerated. An explanation is required. And that has so far not happened. He has markedly, signally NOT provided an explanation, a confession, a challenge in whole or in part or a rebuttal. Meanwhile nobody is fighting for or representing Jessica on the City Council, which is going along with the IPCC investigation narrative and tying itself up in confidential tape (which given the Tories allergy to red tape is presumably not red – what colour is it by the way?).

For some reason, quite beyond me, Coles believes he can hang on as a city councillor: do this job in the face of a political and media storm and his decision to hang on despite the allegations is what led to the extraordinary but highly effective protest last Wednesday.

Demo for Andy Coles’ Resignation, Peterborough – Campaign …

Andy Coles has resigned his post as Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner, and he must now step down from his post as Councillor as well. It is important that the Andy

Jessica calls for Andy Coles to resign his position on …

In her own words: “I welcome the news that Andy Coles has resigned from his post as Cambridgeshire’s Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner. I would like to know …

Coles did resign quickly and in terms of media coverage in a sudden and media-spectacular way from his post as Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner but he did this on the basis that the allegations were getting in the way of him performing the role, not on a point of principle or honour.  I noted on Monday 24th July that he had not yet updated his Register of Interests at Peterborough City Council to match that declaration, and I am not sure that the declaration was complete (this would require an audit). I have just submitted a question to full council to find out what exactly what happened when, just in case there is something curious underlying the discrepancy.

Media Coverage of Andy Coles’ Resignation from the PCC role is Substantial

A list is available below the video on this post.

Background Story is Credible, Though so far Untested in any Due Process

The revelations which led to his resignation can be found as footnotes here: Here they are:

A biography is provided here:

Where the Met stands: re: previous similar but proved cases

All councillors inclined to agree with keeping Coles on their body should read this:

So if Coles stays, where does this position Peterborough City Council?

In failing to suspend Coles, the Leader of Peterborough City Council is placing himself, our council, the Mayor (himself an ex policeman, Cllr John Fox) all our elected councillors and his entire party in the same place as whoever (maybe also members of his party) authorised the #Spycops behaviour in the first place (whether they like it or not, and without a vote). If whoever has power to suspend him from the Conservative Party, did so, pending resolution of whatever processes are or have to take place, then the Leader of Peterborough City Council, our council, our Mayor, all the elected councillors and his entire party could achieve distance from contamination with the behaviours of a group of people who it appear to have been able to abuse state power, in fact were paid to do so, with impunity. The council is contaminated by association until that is achieved. I do not believe this to be in anyone’s best interests.

Yesterday, those abuses widened substantially

This does not sit well with the proud assertions of our council about democracy diversity and inclusivity, values I believe are shared by city residents.

But tonight we learn the firm intention of our council is to exclude the public from its meeting. The local paper has noticed. The council plans to put the public into the Bourges Viersen room which has a fire door between it and the Council Chamber. It is my opinion that putting people behind a fire door (instead of in the Reception Room, which the Mayor clearly alluded to in his remarks on the night – see Cllr Fower’s video below) means that the council is trying to insulate itself from any sound from a Spectators Alternative Containment Room.

Please just suspend him. It is reasonable that he is suspended. It is not decent, fair or reasonable that he stays in post while these dreadful allegations remain unresolved.

Spectators Gallery sign in Peterborough Town Hall showing the way up four flights of stairs

Peterborough Green Party supports the continued use of the Spectators Gallery as what it says on this notice:

Spectators Gallery sign in Peterborough Town Hall showing the way up four flights of stairsand the door leading to it from Bridge Street. #OpenTheDoor (locked last Wednesday).

Press Coverage of Coles’ resignation from his PCC role

Cambridgeshire’s deputy police and crime commissioner…

A deputy police and crime commissioner has resigned following allegations that he deceived … Cambridgeshire’s deputy police and crime commissioner Andy Coles resigns.

Andy Coles, Cambridgeshire’s deputy crime … – BBC

The allegation relates to Andy Coles‘ work as an undercover police officer in the 1990s. … Cambridgeshire’s deputy PCC resigns over ‘sex deceit’ claim.

Cambridgeshire deputy police commissioner resigns over spy ……

A deputy police and crime commissioner has resigned after being accused of deceiving a woman into a sexual relationship while he was an undercover officer. Andy Coles

Breaking – Andy Coles resigns as Deputy Police …

Andy Coles has announced his resignation, effective immediately, following a weekend of press scrutiny over his past activities as an undercover police officer, in …

Deputy Police Commissioner resigns in face of sex …

Deputy Police Commissioner resigns in face of sex allegations. Claims have emerged that Andy Coles used his position as an undercover police officer to begin a sexual …

Update Breaking – Andy Coles resigns as Deputy Police Commissioner for Cambridgeshire, our blog, 15 May 2017. Rob Evans, Cambridgeshire deputy police commissioner …

Police deputy quits over undercover grooming claims | News ……

A deputy police and crime commissioner has resigned after claims that he deceived a woman … Andy Coles, 57, stepped… Our … Police deputy quits over undercover …

Deputy police and crime commissioner resigns from role ……resigns…to-former-career-1-5018240

Allegations regarding Andy Coles’ work for the Metropolitan Police came to light at the weekend and have led to him stepping down from the role he took up last year …