About

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fb-pic.png @SusanSouthCambs    twitter-pic.png @susanvandeven

A Life of achievement in public service

(You can read more about Susan, and what she will do for South Cambridgeshire in her election leaflet)

Background 

Susan was raised in Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, England, France and the United States. She has lived in South Cambridgeshire since 1988 and has served her area as a District or County Councillor since 2004.

Susan and her Dutch-born husband, Hans, who is a Professor of Modern Chinese History at the University of Cambridge, have three sons who have grown up locally, attending Thriplow Primary School, Melbourn Village College and Long Road and Hills Road Sixth Form Colleges. The family has spent several years in China and Taiwan and became British citizens in 2003.

Education

Susan studied Arabic and History at the American University in Cairo and Oberlin College in the USA.  At Harvard University, she received an MA in Middle Eastern Studies and a Doctorate in Education. 

Professional Work

Susan taught primary school at St. George’s School, Jerusalem, and Waterside School in Bishop’s Stortford, and has also worked at Cambridge University Press as a copy-editor for books in Arabic and Oriental Studies.

She is the author of a book, One Family’s Response to Terrorism: A Daughter’s Memoir, which explores the quest for legal justice in the aftermath of her father’s assassination in Lebanon in 1984, where he served as president of the American University of Beirut.

Voluntary Work

Susan coordinated an after-school creative writing programme at Thriplow Primary School for ten years, and is currently a Governor at Melbourn Village College.

Why the Lib Dems?

"The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity."

- Preamble to the Lib Dem constitution

 

Susan is a long-time, dedicated, community campaigner...

 

For rail services

Susan is a long-time campaigner for the protection and improvement of access to rail services at Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton rail stations.

In 2010, she established the Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Rail User Group which lobbies on train service issues. The RUG has sponsored the creation of railway gardens at all three stations, and these are maintained by local residents, businesses and schools.  In December 2011, First Capital Connect responded to the Rail User Group’s long-term campaign for a reduction in station car park charges and announced that from January 2012, charges would be dropped by 50% to £1.50 per day at Meldreth, and abolished completely at Shepreth.

Cambridgeshire County Council has supported the formation of a Community Rail Partnership as a means of enhancing collaborative working on strategic improvements to local rail service.

Extensive work lobbying for safety improvements at Foxton Level Crossing culminated in persuading Network Rail to commission and publish a feasibility study setting out a comprehensive redesign of the crossing including a bridge or underpass along a small bypass. Details can be found here.

In November 2012 Susan received Railfuture’s inaugural national award for ‘Most Outstanding Individual Campaigner’ and the Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Rail User Group was awarded the ‘Most Effective New Group’ and ‘Best Website’ honours.

For education transport

Susan’s identification of anomalies in post-16 student rail fares served as a catalyst for organizing a meeting between Cambridgeshire County Council and First Capital Connect in December 2009, where agreement was reached to cooperate on a student discount rail fare. Students from across Cambridgeshire are now entitled to access this fare which is 50% off the adult fare (as opposed to 33% off previously). In anticipation of the end of FCC’s franchise, Susan worked with the new train operating company, Govia Thameslink Railway, to ensure that the 50% student discount would be continued. This has been approved and endorsed by the Department for Transport as a revenue generating scheme that benefits all concerned. The scheme has been featured in The Guardian and the Campaign for Better Transport.

In Shepreth, Susan campaigned successfully for free Cambridgeshire County Council for Shepreth children attending Melbourn Village College, a provision that is to remain in place until a safe pedestrian crossing is provided at the A10/Frog End Shepreth junction.

In Melbourn she has been active in helping to recruit a new School Crossing Patrol Officer for the crossing in the High Street near The Moor and to protect the future of the post. 

At the County Council Susan proposed a scheme providing free transport for young people who are out of education, employment or training, inspired by First Capital Connect’s Job Seeker’s transport scheme. This was not adopted but sets out a template for further discussion.

For cycling

Susan launched the A10 Corridor Cycle Campaign in January 2013, with support from Sustrans, the Cambridge Cycling Campaign, and Cambridgeshire County Council. The purpose is to improve cycling conditions between Cambridge and Royston, and the villages in between. The Cambridge-Royston A10 Cycle Scheme was shortlisted in Tranche One City Deal, but not successful in the final cut. Instead, working with the A10 Corridor Campaign and County Council Cycling Team, efforts to secure Department for Transport ‘Cycling Ambition’ funding for much of the corridor were successful. Some segments of the scheme have now been completed while others are under construction. Efforts are now focused on completing the final segment of the overall scheme – a Melbourn to Royston path and bridge over the A505.

Through collaborative work with the District and County Councils, Susan supported the development of the Bike Bank pilot in Melbourn.  This involves the refurbishment of used bicycles by young people, who receive training and employable skills as well as a working bicycle.

Susan uses a bicycle to travel locally, and a folding bike with the train as her primary mode of transport to Cambridge.

For flood avoidance

Following serious household flooding in Meldreth in July 2006, Susan worked to instigate a Flood Avoidance parish council subcommittee, tasked with action on flooding hot spots and investigating the revitalization of a historic drainage system that once utilized the River Mel.  Focus on District and County Council drainage services, and their ability to cope with extreme weather events brought about by climate change, emerged through this project. A number of snags in the drainage network have been identified and corrected, and work is necessarily ongoing. A similar community group has now been set up in Shepreth and Susan is working to se up a new group for Melbourn.

For community groups

Susan has stood up for fair and equal treatment for minority groups in the district, and has participated in Council programmes that engage young people in democracy, supporting writing and debating competitions. 

She is a supporter of Polls Apart, a campaign for better disabled access to polling stations, and has worked with young campaigners from Meldreth’s Scope School community for disabled access to rail service.

She has worked alongside Camsight in a number of local awareness-raising campaigns around eye health, as well as practical support for people living with visual impairment.

Susan has helped kick-start a new mental health drop-in service provided by Mind in Cambridgeshire. This is a free monthly service for local people, who can self-refer. She also works alongside the school counselling service Allyance, which is established at Melbourn Village College and area primary schools.

Susan is a member of the Melbourn and District Villages Association, which works for the future viability of the Melbourn Library Access Point and she chairs Melbourn’s Practical Solutions Group, which brings village, council, police and youth work representatives together on a regular basis to support initiatives for positive community activities.  Susan helped set up Melbourn Area Youth Development, a cooperative effort by several parishes to provide a youth club and associated activities for young people in the area.

For local, affordable housing

At South Cambridgeshire District Council, Susan worked against officer recommendation to bring new affordable housing to Meldreth, with the 24-unit development at Burtons, opening in May 2007.   Susan was a member of the Scrutiny and Overview Committee, where she worked successfully to change council policy on planning appeals, bringing a higher standard of local participation in the appeals process. 

She was a founding member of the Council’s Climate Change Working Group, and in that role initiated a successful bid to the Local Strategic Partnership for funding for a climate change awareness pilot project at Melbourn Village College.  She challenged the Council on its bin charging policy for social rented housing and has supported improvements to recycling provisions for secondary schools.

 

Local press and communications

Susan writes a monthly community newsletter - please contact her to join the distribution list. She has been a regular contributor to BBC Radio Cambridgeshire’s Sunday Paper Review over the past several years.

 

 

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