Friday, September 28, 2007

'Fake Purnell' on the loose in Tameside

The media are all over the Stalybridge & Hyde MP James Purnell. It seems that the MP has been 'photoshopped' into a photo-opportunity at Tameside Hospital for this week's press that he didn't actually attend (dutifully carried by the Glossop Chronicle/Tameside Reporter).

And as we've been noting over the past few months, Purnell's staff love to mess with the internet. We chronicled how a member of Purnell's staff, Longdendale Councillor Sean Parker-Perry, had been behind the now dormant 'roadmunkey' weblog and was extremely active in altering wikipedia articles about his boss, as well as other articles like the Longdendale Bypass (some bright spark has begun to chronicle these edits here).

We wonder has this will all turn out for Purnell and his minions? We'll add more when time allows...

**10.30 p.m. update - the story's set to run, with Purnell employing the 'broken record' approach with Gordon Burns on tonight's North West Tonight (video below) - very reminiscent of Michael Howard vs Jeremy Paxman! Contradictions abound and Purnell is on the ropes. But will the media latch on to the equally dodgy meddlings of his underlings?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Cutting off your nose to spite your face

A new report released yesterday revealed that 71% of workers in the UK travel by car. What's more, the report's authors urged both the government & employers to encourage people to use their cars less.

The report was compiled using data from DEFRA and the DfT and revealed that 1 in 10 workers spend more than 2 hours in their cars to travel an average commute of 8.7 miles (that's a speed of less than 5 miles per hour - it's almost quicker to walk).

What's more, the North West of England was found to be the most hazardous region to travel in terms of collision rates, travel times and levels of CO2.

The report's authors? Those well known tree-huggers the RAC.

It comes to something when an organisation that exists to capitalise from the motor industry (and not 'motorists' who are fictional constituency) is calling for alternatives.

Yesterday's North West Tonight devoted a fair slice of their programme to this report, and contrasted it with the daily experience of rail commuters in the region who are precariously packed like sardines into trains each morning and evening (see below). This truly ridiculous state of affairs could indicate that either demand for the railways is growing fast, or that the network is seriously underfunded and neglected - or both.

And all of this relates perfectly to the Longdendale Bypass. If the conundrums and contradictions that capitalism produces never cease to amaze you, then you'll love the fact that the National Grid want to use the Woodhead Tunnels to store cables, a plan which will jeopardise the use of the tunnels for the purpose for which they were built - train travel. That's the same National Grid that have objected to the bypass (you can their objections here and here) on the grounds that it will harm their assets and infrastructure. The cynical bastards want to have their cake and eat it.

But if you want even more cynical bastards you can take your pick. As we've reported before, High Peak Borough Council are against the plans for Woodhead Tunnel, but for the bypass. Tom Levitt is silent, but this lick-spittle is only reflecting the silence of his masters - Ruth 'Cilice' Kelly has remained silent about the issue. And you would have thought that Roy Oldham would have been up in arms about it - he was energised enough in 1980 about the closure of the Woodhead Line to appear at the Public Inquiry to protest.

The conspiracy of silence over this potential act of desecration only fools those who look to these people for leadership. We are facing a future where the car is clearly going nowhere, both metaphorically and literally in years to come. We need another way, and those campaigning for roads have misread the signs leading only to oblivion.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Pull the other one...

It won't have escaped anyone's notice, but last week the Public Inquiry was adjourned unexpectedly for the second time. The Inquiry will briefly reconvene on November 6th, giving the Highways Agency time to re-work some of their evidence, and then again on December 18th to deal with the rest of it. The Objectors will now have to wait until 2008 to present their evidence again.

At this stage, it would seem to naive to believe anything other than that this is a tactical charade by the Highways Agency. By the time their case is over, they will have had nearly 2 years to formulate their case to bring before the public - so one questions if that is really the problem. Unlike the State, the Objectors do not have bottomless pockets to fund their part in this charade, and individual objectors can get fed up with the constant delays. The Highways Agency want to turn everyone off with their slow, grinding misery of an approach.

And, of course, the Inspector lets them carry on with it. At the Inquiry, he has been largely subservient to their whims. Faced with complaints, he can only offer Objectors a bit more time to change their evidence, and makes vague references that Objectors can point out how they have been disadvantaged by the actions of the HA, and that he will take a view when writing his report. This is cold comfort.

In a Court of Law, the actions of the Highways Agency may well by now have been regarded as 'abuse of process', and their case may have been dismissed. But not here.

And it seems that both sides are in agreement that this thing needs to be wrapped up. Channel M dutifully reported on matters once more (see above), and that's the impression one gets from their report. But it does have some anomalies.

In it, Mike Flynn of the Longdendale Siege Comittee puts in an appearance again. Standing but a stroll away from his house on Wedneshough Green in Hollingworth, he laments the time it is all taking. Notice how he's nowhere near the Inquiry. As we've pointed out before, he's prepared to mouth platitudes for Television and his best mates at the Reporter Group Newspapers, but he hasn't the bottle to stand up at the Inquiry and tell us all why he wants this road. What a Weasel...

The second problem is that the video shows Brookfield near Hadfield when talking about 'diverting traffic away from the villages of Mottram, Tintwistle and Hollingworth'. What's more, it's traffic heading into Glossop, and away from the area. Pull the other one, it's got bells on...

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Glossop Critical Mass - on video

As promised, video-pixies have finished their work on the video of the first Glossop Critical Mass, and the world premiere is here!

One thing to note - this week's Glossop Chronicle has tried to play down the Critical Mass by saying there were 'less than a dozen' present. Not so, there were 14 taking part (including one very small non-cycling passenger) which is in our opinion is a pretty damn good start, garnering a lot of attention. We're sure there will be far more next time.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Critical Mass - success!

Last Friday saw a dozen people attend for the inaugural Glossop Critical Mass. Glossop had seen nothing like it - all kinds of cyclists, including a mobile sound system, with people coming from as far afield as Manchester and Trafford (cycling all the way to Glossop and back from it!) to attend. Plus some friends from Glossop Kinder Velo.

We certainly attracted a lot of attention - along with a van load of police and a motorcycle policeman. We're clearly doing something right.

And the press attention has followed in its wake - today's Manchester Evening News gave away a half page article and photo, along with a page on their website. The latter is attracting a fair amount of debate (with predictable comments from petrolheads), so please feel free to join in.

The organisers, Road Alert Glossop, are keen to repeat the event in the not too distant future, although next month's clock changes mean Friday evenings will be out until 2008.

We are told that video-pixies were present to film some of the proceedings, and that a film will follow soon...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Critical Mass - Glossop to Swallows Wood: this Friday 14th September

A reminder that this Friday, 14th September sees the inaugural Critical Mass for the area, organised by fellow campaigners Road Alert Glossop .

The Critical Mass has already received local press coverage, and the group have a thriving myspace page which is attracting a lot of support. Here's their press release:

We're staging a Critical Mass bike ride on 14th September 2007, to celebrate Car Free Day and to demonstrate that bikes and people should be catered for on our roads, not just cars and traffic.

We'll be setting off from Glossop train station at 5.30 pm and will be riding out to Swallow's Wood near Tintwistle where we'll stop at a local pub. The wood is threatened by a new bypass they are planning to build between Mottram and Tintwistle.

The route is fairly flat and about 4 miles in total. It's suitable for riders of all types. Please bring a bike and wear high vis clothing.

Our aim is not to stop traffic but to make the presence of bikes on the roads more visible so please be aware of other traffic and road users.

Please make some time to support this great development in the campaign against the bypass.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9/11 - for the Highways Agency & TMBC - exclusive

You can read it here before you'll read it anywhere else, but today brings news that the Highways Agency have chosen today (of all days) to announce at the Public Inquiry that they had done their sums seriously wrong. Again.

Stephen Greenhalgh, the leader of the Highways Agency team, took his place to explain how their figures regarding traffic were incorrect, and that this meant that a whole slew of their other evidence would have to be reviewed alongside this, as well as Tameside's for the Spur. His words:

"I consider it to be a fundamental issue"

And so do we. It's clear that they've been rumbled (they admitted that the evidence of an objector had made them think again) - their 'back of fag packet' sums are a sure sign that they want this road and to hell with the science, ecology, pollution, the whole lot: "just do anything to get this road through". There's little doubt that's been said by someone, somewhere.

The Inquiry has now been adjourned to next Wednesday 19th September, when they will explain how much of their evidence has been 'written off'.

So this sham which they have been spinning for months now takes another twist - and it will certainly not be over in 2007. Their credibility is fatally flawed, and if this road is legally allowed to go ahead who the hell will believe it is a 'just decision', whatever that means.

They may as well start work now for all the difference it will make...

***update, 12/09/2007: the MEN are carrying the story today, and others are trumpeting the story as an 'MEN exclusive' - ppffft!!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Traffic congestion: Tameside leads the way (& wants yet more)

A delicious irony appeared in national and regional press today. The Campaign for Better Transport (aka Transport 2000 - yes, they realised the millennium was 7 years ago) issued a press release about their research into government stats which illustrate some shocking facts about the ever-ongoing growth of congestion and car culture.

The government predicts that traffic will increase by 30% over the next 20 years, with 5.7 million extra vehicles being on the road by 2031. Is it any wonder then that Labour has done an abrupt volte-face since 1997 and is spawning a massive road-building programme?

And it seems that Greater Manchester is the worst area with - wait for it - Tameside showing the fastest growth over the past 10 years (38.6%). So what's Roy Oldham, got to say about it?:

"We have great amounts of cross-Pennine traffic as well as people making their way to the Peak District.

Over the past decade, thousands of people have bought homes in Derbyshire and the only way for them to get into Manchester is through Tameside - cars are nose to tail in the morning and evening.

The Peak District also has more than 21 million visitors a year, which further adds to congestion. We need better public transport systems with some regulation by the councils as well as park-and-ride systems which really work."

So it's the fault of the Peak District? It is surprising that Roy hasn't taken the opportunity to underline this is a reason why Longdendale needs a Bypass. But he's surely looking in the wrong direction, for the M60 and Ashton Moss provide part of the answer to this conundrum. And it's common sense to state that building extra road capacity generates extra traffic (though it's a fact hotly contested by the devious and thick-as-pigshit alike).

Need we also remind people that in 1980, Roy Oldham appeared at the Public Inquiry into the closure of the Woodhead railway line, lamenting that it would spell vast increases in traffic from across the pennines? We've blogged before about this before, but it's worth restating that this man now advocates a new road that will increase the traffic problems from that direction. Like his Party, he's also done a volte-face with regard to his position on transport.

What is at stake? Road transport is a key contributor to climate change through CO2 emissions: indeed, it's the only sector where the government predicts emissions will rise. Their response? To massively increase the road building programme. Roy Oldham and Tameside MBC clearly wholeheartedly agree.

But this cannot go on. Putting the discussion about solutions to one side, expansion of the road network cannot go on, neither can the increase in car ownership - or at least it cannot be allowed to. The way things stand is that Longdendale could turn out to be the crucible in which the battle over the future road transport policy is fought. Alongside our collective attitude to the environment. And alongside our attitudes to our collective green space (i.e. the National Parks). What else is at stake (and what underpins it all) will be discussed on this blog as time goes on...

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Look who came to dinner!

There are times when you know you're obviously having an effect due to the type of visitors you're getting.

And yesterday, we had a visit from one of the biggest villains in terms of roadbuilding - Balfour Beatty. To make it even sweeter, they weren't just browsing - they were looking for us (via Google). Our reputation is clearly spreading far and wide...

Monday, September 03, 2007

Do as I say, & not as I do...

Everyone in Tameside - and beyond - has reason to be disappointed with this Public Inquiry. Why?

Well, it seems that the biggest local advocates for this bypass - that is Roy Oldham and his brother-in-law Mike Flynn, Chairman of the Longdendale Siege Committee - will not be appearing to give evidence in support of it. This is clear because phase 2 of the PI is about to start, and the case for the Promoters and Supporters is over.

So when they mewl and puke in the press, as did Flynn in last week's Glossop Chronicle, about the weakness of Objector's evidence and the strength of theirs, it is all crap. Because if they are so sure of their case, why are they not prepared to go on public record to defend it?

What have they go to hide? Why are they so afraid?

After all, wasn't this their golden opportunity, their moment? Let's face it, they're both getting on in years - especially Oldham - & there won't be another opportunity. And for those who think this bypass is a good idea, it would give Oldham and Flynn huge cachet in their eyes were they to have the guts to defend it in public. Instead, it's not to be, and Flynn is urging 'supporters' to turn up and ask 'hard questions' of objectors (which is actually not possible now - he hasn't been paying attention, or attending for that matter). But he is not prepared to do so himself.

We know that Mike Flynn did not produce a statement of case or proof of evidence. Indeed, he did not even write in to support the bypass - what odd behaviour from a 'spokesperson'/chairperson.

And we know Oldham submitted a Statement of Case/Proof of Evidence - so why doesn't this appear on the PI website? His fellow Longdendale councillors have done so - has the programme officer overlooked Oldham's evidence, forgotten to scan it and upload it? It seems unlikely.

In the absence of any reasonable explanation, we can only infer that they are spineless, and don't believe their evidence will stand up. They prefer to leave it to the professionals such as the barristers who are as adept at using smoke and mirrors in the PI environment as Oldham and Flynn are in the press. We recognise them for what they are, and so should everyone else.