Monday, December 31, 2007
Even though this blog hasn't actually been publishing material for all of 2007, we thought it was worth taking time to have a look back at the year and the articles on the blog, even if only to keep the sentimental(ist) types happy.
We kicked thing off at the end of March, right at the close of the objection period (which now seems so long ago), and followed that up with an attack on one Andrew Byford, a local nutter who was calling for a Glossop Bypass - & we've thankfully heard nothing from him since then.
April was a time to get serious, and although there was no all fools day blog, there were plenty of fools featured throughout the month. We published our take on the various (pointless) petitions that fly around, both pro and anti-bypass, and tried (and failed) to establish a dialog with Gamesley Councillor Anthony McKeown. We also thanked the Peak District National Park Authority for coming out against the bypass.
April was the month that saw the initial information about the Public Inquiry (PI) published, and there was much mirth to be had in the choice of the Inspector as one John Watson.
We published an analysis on the uneasy bedfellows that are the Glossop Spur and Longdendale Bypass, along with articles on Rossington Park.
We also published our first pops at politicians, national & local - in this case, James Purnell and the one and only Roy Oldham. The latter article - about Oldham's very public support for the campaign to keep the Woodhead line open in 1980 - seems especially apposite now given a new local campaign.
Amongst all the April Fools we blogged about, one still reigns supreme. Longdendale Councillor Sean Parker-Perry was still then masquerading as the blogger 'Roadmunkey', and had begun to shadow our blog with a series of ridiculous posts. At the time, despite accumulating evidence, we decided to keep this under wraps (only to have our thunder stolen later). But the blogs that followed were a good example of how to silence annoying little twerps, be they mere mortals or fuckwit councillors.
This was also the month to look back at a true hero, Benny Rothman, and the Ramblers who took part in the Kinder Mass Trespass of 1932 whose 75th anniversary was being celebrated. We focused on the fact that amongst the celebrants were those whose views would be an anathema to Benny and his comrades. In the 1990s, Benny had made common cause with anti-road protesters, and had joined a trespass walk at Twyford Down in 1994. No-one else made the connections.
May 1st was the date of the Pre-Inquiry Meeting, and our content this month reflected that, with the first of our video news features (ripped off, or liberated according to your POV).
We also looked at Glossop Councillor Ivan Bell and his attempts to keep everyone happy by opposing Rossington Park and wanting a bypass and the fate of Tintwistle Councillor Joyce Brocklehurst for doing the same thing. Bell lives on the margins of the issue in Old Glossop, whilst Brocklehurst lives on the frontline, and was a huge casualty for the pro-bypass cause.
We also pointed out how, unsurprisingly, we weren't (and still aren't) featured on the PI links page.
...was the month the Public Inquiry properly opened, and most of our content this month reflected that.
We also presented more evidence that Roadmunkey was Councillor Parker-Perry, and he duly vanished later in the month. The most damning evidence was not presented - we believe in keeping our powder dry - but what we had done was enough to shut him up.
As the PI continued, so did our reports, with a fair few this month devoted to the farce that was the evidence presented by members of the Longdendale Siege Committee, along with partner-in-crime Joyce Brocklehurst.
We also had time for a Beatrix Potter pastiche regarding planning decisions made by Mr Adrian Fisher of High Peak Borough Council's PLanning Dept.
Our biggest scoop this month was our revelation that the Bronze Plaque of Mottram-in-Longdendale erected by TMBC contained a homage to Roy Oldham, a scoop that was soon to become taken up by all kinds of media.
And we also asked the question 'who owns Roy's house'? It's still unanswered, but it's one of those things that may someday be revealed. But not online, because the Land Registry have since removed the online search facility from their website.
And whilst we regard many campaigning against the Congestion Charge in Manchester as Clarkson-esque cretins, some of us made it clear that we have reservations that it's not the 'white knight' it is being presented as in pseudo-environmental circles.
August saw us doing one of the things we do best - talking shit about Longdendale Siege, though let's face it, they make it easy. This time it was Brian (Darth) Butler's turn.
We also reported on a nature walk at Swallows Wood, attended by an ecologist who gave his view of the importance of the wood.
We also attended Climate Camp, where we led a discussion abut roads policy and made many important contacts.
And our final post this month featured a former soap star turned journalist, Nigel Pivaro, who is now ingratiating himself with the local mafia ahem council nicely.
We opened this month with a post about the fact that the champions of the bypass have not appeared at the PI to defend their pet project, and will not now be doing so.
And we looked at how Tameside leads the way in terms of the country's traffic congestion and is in the middle ages in terms of how it intends to 'solve' the problem.
We also had the scoop about the PI being cancelled on two occasions this month (the first here, and the second here).
And we carried news of Glossop and Longdendale's first Critical Mass, the subject of a lot of press attention this month. We also carried the video report.
And in the later days of the month, we carried very early reports about James Purnell's fake photo scandal and the possible links to good old Sean Parker-Perry.
This month, we carried on milking the Purnell story, with some humorous 'Photoshops' of our own, and looked at the thorny issue of development in Glossop. There were other things too, but this was a pretty quiet month.
Early in the month, we encouraged people to give a 'toot and wave' when venturing past Roy Oldham's house. We've absolutely no idea how successful this has been, and don't really care that much, but we hope he's wondered why people have been so friendly this past few weeks.
We also looked at the Government's new transport policy and revisited our post on development in Glossop, as well as kicking off our focus on local businessman Trevor Mooney, who seemingly has plans to 'develop' the Dinting area of Glossopdale.
We also looked at the trials and tribulations of the PI process, now descending into farce (after the 'tragedy' of the first cancellation, uncle Karl Marx is right in his dictum that history can only repeat itself thus from now on).
We also lent a certain amount of focus on the developing threat to the Woodhead Tunnel, something we'd looked at briefly over the months prior to November.
Following on from November, we devoted a fair amount of space to the Woodhead campaign, which formally launched later in the month. At this stage, National Grid were content to announce their plans semi-publicly to parish councils and the Glossop Chronicle was carrying reports of these meetings. But then midway through the month, MPs were getting on board, with Tom Levitt - going through his political death throes - eager to look like he was leading it. He can only wish...
We focused on the quiet role of United Utilities, and how this silent partner in the campaign for the bypass may really be a key accomplice after all.
It was hard to resist another pop at Trevor Mooney - and let's face it, he makes it so easy - with his campaign for a Golf driving range on Dinting. This time he painted himself in Greenwash by making out he was saving us all from dreaded knotweed, and that a load Argyle-clad bourgeois tossers would be preferable. Fore!(koff).
And of course, there was more delays with the PI, and we had a couple of posts about that (here and here). We think we now know what the delays are about, and we will have a huge scoop about that next month.
We also devoted a few posts to a lightning-fast local campaign to save a green space in Broadbottom - Temperance Green - was hugely successful. It would have been a good note to end the year on, but small fry when one considers the environmental disaster that High Peak Borough Council has promised the residents of Hadfield & Tintwistle by allowing SCC to throw up more unwanted warehouses near to Rossington Park.
And that's it for now. So, until next year (i.e. sometime this week), thanks for reading. Here's to another year of muck raking and shit-talking...
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
The worst news this past week has been that SCC seem to have won this round of their fight to erect yet more buildings at Bridge Mills, near to Rossington Park. These will be two huge buildings, between 37 & 46 feet high and 48,000 & 41,000 square feet in area. The best they can offer is that they will be 'sympathetically coloured' to blend in with the environment: it seems they've listened to Ivan Bell if no-one else.
There's been a lot of activity by the Residents Association to oppose any new construction, and hundreds of local people have signed petitions against any new plans. But this has predictably been ignored by SCC and High Peak Borough Council. The familiar justifying cry of 'bringing jobs to the area' is irrelevant since High Peak has full employment.
Glossop Advertiser and the Glossop Chronicle have both had articles this week about the planning meeting where the decision was ratified. The latter seems to have had use of a Crystal Ball and is headed 'villagers lose fight', and the Chronicle has a fatalistic 'Watchman' column (always written by David Jones, natch). Well, we'll see won't we? Because it's now clear that the authorities do not pay attention to polite objections, and this is clearly the time for new tactics. Either that, or this situation can only get worse for the area.
We'll be interested to see what happens from now on.
Monday, December 24, 2007
We're pleased to report that the villagers of Broadbottom appear to have won their fight to keep Temperance Green from being tarmacked. At least for now.
Their blog reports that the Longdendale District Assembly has rejected the suggestions from their own planning officers, with that well known Eco-warrior Sean Parker-Perry taking it upon himself to write to residents.
This is something to celebrate. RAGE kicked off a swift campaign, utilising similar techniques to ours to get this issue out into the open. It's now nipped in the bud.
Our suggestion to them would be to go for formal Village Green status - if possible - to ensure TMBC can't change their mind again too soon.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Here we are again with Channel M news: to illustrate their news items, they love to use a traffic jam which is actually along the A57 going into Glossop at Brookfield, and in the opposite direction to the A628. They've done this before.
And they've got Mike Flynn to stand not far from his house again too. Our spies tell us there was no sign of him at the PI yesterday, as is usual. He's obviously not that outraged, or he'd be there telling the Inspector.
But the best bit is when he says "...it's like this all day, every day for 24 hours...". Yes Mike, that's because it's a main road. But it's simply not true to say the traffic is the same all the time "24 hours a day". It's at it's worst at Peak times, and significantly less during school holidays.
You can always get the other side of the story here.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Day 15 of the Public Inquiry (PI) - amazing isn't it? it's been running for more than 6 months, yet it's only just managed to have a fortnight of 'sitting days'.
The Highways Agency have managed to go one better than at the last hearing on November 6th. For now, they have managed to get the PI postponed indefinitely.
Stephen Greenhalgh (for the Highways Agency) was unable to say when their evidence would be sufficiently in order to present to the PI, but promised to return 'after Easter' to give an update. The Inspector, John Watson, wanted him to be more specific:
JW - There is an awful lot of time, I hope, after Easter 2008. How long after Easter 2008 do you have in mind?
SG - I don't know at this stage, sir.
For once, the Peak District National Park looked like they had some bite. Their Barrister, Mr Cannock, set out a perfectly reasonable possible order of events:
- The Highways Agency withdraw the Line Orders
- They produce new traffic forecasts
- They introduce a consultation on a Peak Park-wide HGV ban and how route restraints measures will be secured
- If the bypass still remains the optimum solution, their new evidence can be produced
Mr Cannock stressed that, as things stand at present, there is no valid evidence in support of the road proposal from either the Highways Agency or TMBC that is actually in existence. This left any future scheme approved by the Secretary of State under a real risk of a future legal challenge.
John Watson seemed to echo the latter point when he said even if he agreed that the proposals should go forward, he would have to explain to the Secretary of State why he had confidence in the 5th version of the HA's proposals (as things stand currently - it could be 6th soon!).
Predictably, Charles Calvert announced that the HA had no intention of withdrawing. So the show goes on.
John Watson insists that he is bound by the procedures - his beloved 'rules' that he referred to last time. He increasingly comes across as someone who wishes he could be put out of his misery. In our view - and probably his - the PI is being held hostage by the Highways Agency: they know that the rules mean this charade can go on and on.
It's in these circumstances that John Watson has decided to adjourn indefinitely or an 'unspecified date' as he put it. And to cap it all, objectors will only have 3 weeks notice of any future hearing when the HA has got it's act together.
So that's all for 2007. Who knows when we will meet again...
(Today's transcript can be read here - opens PDF)
Thursday, December 13, 2007
We've had some good news this week. A new group - Save the Woodhead Tunnel has emerged to oppose National Grid's plans to vandalise the Woodhead Tunnel. There's a website, and there's an inaugural meeting in Glossop next Tuesday to which anyone interested in opposing the effective destruction of this vital resource is invited to attend.
But they're not the only ones. The Campaign for Better Transport is highlighting the tunnel as part of a campaign to reinstate disused railways, and the Guardian were on the case earlier this week. The Save Woodhead site also points us to a petition to reopen the railway on pm.gov.uk.
Rather predictably riding on the coat-tails of this are politicians. Is anyone surprised that Tom Levitt has an article in this week's Glossop Advertiser pledging his support (a regurgitation of his press release)? There's a deliciously ironic quote in there:
"As transport and climate change issues grow in importance and priority, the chance of taking thousands of tons of freight off our roads and putting it on rail on this important transpennine route must be preserved"
This is the same MP that fully supports the Longdendale Bypass, and has stated in the past that use of the Woodhead Line would not come fast enough for his liking, and that was why he preferred the bypass. A scan of his column from the Glossop Chronicle of 7th December 2006 - 'Bypass plan will come before rail' - is here. The irony is that it looks increasingly unlikely that the Bypass will not be delivered inside the 10 years that Levitt said the Woodhead proposal should deliver by in order to receive his support.
Returning to his press release, what the government said 5 weeks ago with the release of their 'sustainable transport system' paper is the opposite of what we want and what his quote says he wants. Levitt knows that he cannot afford to be silent locally on this issue since it arouses such strong feelings, and it looks like this is his last tenure in office in High Peak. Of course, it is quite possible that he and other politicians may want to see a revival of Woodhead as well as a bypass, in order to massively increase freight capacity through the area. This may explain why the sponsor of an Early Day Motion condemning National Grid's plans for Woodhead, is none other than Graham Stringer, a former Chair of Manchester Airport, a company who would be all for anything that increases their business opportunities at any cost.
Activists should be reminded that this campaign will only succeed in spite of politicians, not because of them. If predictions we have heard are true, then National Grid plan to move very soon, and an appropriately effective response should be considered, not one that dithers.
Meanwhile, we will watch developments with much interest...
Front page news in the local papers this week is the latest tactics in the raging battle being fought by the despoilers of Hadfield and the residents of Hadfield.
JD Williams, the mail order catalogue giant, seem to be running scared that local activists are kicking them where it hurts in acting against their crackpot scheme to make their unfeasibly ugly grey sheds even bigger. According to the Glossop Advertiser, the company is asking it's employees to write in to High Peak Borough Council's Planning Dept in support of their application whilst passing themselves off as residents. This all sounds like stories coming out of Russia during the recent election, where Vladimir Putin's party had made civil servants an offer they couldn't refuse: vote for us or get the sack.
It gets better - today, they landed on our site, searching Google with the words 'high-peak (sic) planning hadfield'. Even more ironic, they landed on our recent article about the local anti-Del Boy, Trevor Mooney.
The consultation date has already ended for this application, but the Committee date is 14th January 2008, and we hope that a charabanc will wend it's way to the Council Offices at Chinley to tell HPBC's grey shed-loving nutters where to stick it. There's a more recent opportunity for similar fun this coming Monday (17th December), when further applications for de(re)generation will be heard from Rossington Park and Bridge Mills.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
We've become aware of a new environmental campaign in Longdendale over the weekend: Residents Against Green Erosion (RAGE) have set up a weblog in their campaign to protect Temperance Green, a small patch of green land in Broadbottom.
TMBC seem to have plans to turn it into a car park. Our posts about the progress of Trevor Mooney's car park in Dinting should alert those who believe local authority planning departments have scruples about where to build, even a tiny bit of land in the middle of a small village like Broadbottom.
What makes this one interesting are several factors. One is that many of arguments espoused by RAGE are the same as we use in the fight against the bypass. Another is that it is really a microcosm of the bypass issue: if you allow roads to grow, you end up having arguments about the tiniest bits of green land left - nothing satiates the appetite of the road monster.
But best of all is that this is taking place in Broadbottom, and that RAGE have been talking to the bypass supporting councillors Jonathan Reynolds and Sean Parker-Perry. How likely is it that politicians such as these will be against a car park? I suppose we'll find out.
We'd like to add our support to this campaign and will be reserving a space in the sidebar for a link. In the meantime, RAGE have a video about their campaign on YouTube:
Thursday, December 06, 2007
You may remember our post some time back about local impresario Trevor Mooney's plan to build a golf driving range on Dinting. Well, he's been re-treading the boards with his 'Del Boy spurned by local authority' act once again, in both of last week's local papers (Glossop Chronicle & Glossop Advertiser).
In a bizarre change to High Peak Borough Council's usual policy of carving up the landscape through the area, his plan has been rejected by an officer. What is of interest is that both articles suggest that this is only because they'd want him to have floodlighting and buildings, and he makes it clear that - luckily - he isn't prepared to pay for that.
Another interesting point is Mooney's clear ignorance about what an understanding & care for the environment entails in this quote:
"They (HPBC) also say the area is a wildlife site and needs protecting yet the field next to us is mown every week. Our field is full of knotweed and we are prepared to eradicate that for the golf range"
In Mooney's world, a Golf Course is good because it's a green space. Anyone who knows more about the environment than this pleb is aware that they are entirely artificial and highly environmentally damaging. Since they consist largely of huge sections of turf they are ecological 'desert' requiring huge amounts of water to keep them alive.
Mooney also rather childishly seems to think that mowing grass will kill all the little insects and mice who live there, and that has to be bad for the environment.
In Mooney's world, there are good plants and bad plants. For him, the environment is something to be tamed and controlled (which may go someway to explaining his semi-conscious analogy of his being a stranger in the 'Wild West' that the Chronicle article suggests). Of course, this could well be because he's a keen gardener, a leisure activity originally promoted in the nineteenth century by a ruling class very keen on social control in a time of huge social upheavals and class conflict. The Bourgeoisie do so like their little boxes with labels where everything will fit neatly, and the world can simply be divided into good and bad, and knotweed is clearly bad (despite being an important food source for butterflies and moths).
So it's golf or moths. I know which I prefer.
But Mooney does ask an important question which requires an answer:
"if is open countryside and designated, then why did they let me turn the field right next to it into a car park?"
Indeed, why did they?
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Remember our last post about the Public Inquiry? We'd predicted a war of attrition, and there's some news today which bears that out.
The PI website contains a new Highways Agency document (opens PDF) which sets out their timescale for the republication of their Proofs of Evidence, the Environmental Statement and other relevant documents. They don't expect to have these ready until after Easter 2008.
Nice to have the advance warning for the next scheduled PI day of December 18th. On that day, does anyone expect Inspector Watson to do anything other than allow them to carry on with this farce?
In the meantime, the Easter Bunny is bunkered down and ready for war...
Sunday, December 02, 2007
It seems the institutions that are for this road are really now stepping up their efforts to marginalise the public from the facts.
United Utilities (UU) have now brought themselves into the firing line. An article in this week's Advertiser - which is clearly a press release from UU - waxes lyrical about how the Longdendale Trail really is a wildlife haven. This is the same week that has seen an article in the Glossop Chronicle trying to demolish hope for any plans to reopen the Woodhead Tunnel to rail traffic. Is all of this press coverage a coincidence?
The position of United Utilities in this one is very curious indeed. Their links with TMBC are not that well know, but the most direct and undeniable one is the fact that they enrol their employees into the Greater Manchester Pension Fund, a fund that is administered by TMBC, with Roy Oldham as Chairman. We've heard mutterings about shady financial deals done between TMBC & UU over The Kingswater/Waterside Park development years ago, in which TMBC paid millions to UU via a front company, in order the buy their land, despite the fact that the project was subject to tens of thousands of objections from the public.
Why have UU been keeping silent about the implications for their assets that the bypass will bring? As one of the largest landowners in the area, acres of their assets will be detrimentally affected by this road. Isn't it strange that they have not objected? But by the same token, they haven't supported the proposal. Is that because they don't want to be asked tricky questions at the PI?
Interestingly, they have objected to the alternatives to the bypass. And this info is in the public domain.
If one looks at their objection, one is immediately struck by the fact it is in the language of a less than worldly or literate individual - the use of the word LOTS in block capitals is almost laughable. What's more, since alternative 1 envisages the construction of only a small bit of road from the Showground roundabout, we're at a loss to understand why this is more destructive than a dirty great dual carriageway across the North of Longdendale - i.e. the bypass. And we could go on about the fact that this objection amounts to 1 side of A4, but that's surely too obvious.
UU's website has a page for the Longdendale Trail, but not Swallow's Wood. Visitors to Swallow's Wood will know that the reserve is not exactly actively managed by UU. Has another deal taken place, whereby UU's silence has been bought? Has someone 'sweetened the deal' to make the compulsory purchase of thousands of acres of their land more palatable?
Keep that in mind while reading the article about the Longdendale Trail. Any 'neglected' area stands a good chance of 'returning to nature', but equally any plans to re-use an existing trackbed for trains are in no way as grievous as the plans to destroy Swallows Wood with a brand new road. UU's silence over the devastation of their asset, Swallows Wood, is both conspicuous and deafening. I for one smell a huge cagney-esque rat.
13 days after we posted this story, this week David Jones of the Glossop Chronicle has spilled the beans on the details of the vandalism proposed for the Woodhead Tunnel. National Grid have apparently been keeping Charlesworth Parish Council informed of their plans - and nobody else.
In the article, David Jones is eager to point out that the plans of National Grid will put beyond use any rail option, and especially that of Translink, an alternative to the bypass.
But the key here is the stated purpose of the Electricity lines:
The new power lines will connect Greater Manchester with Yorkshire to meet the rising demand for electricity from the conurbation from power stations.
Given this government's stated commitment to reducing CO2 emissions, fostering smaller-scale, local & sustainable power generation projects is the way forward, not a continued reliance on old-style projects. Despite Steven Knight-Gregson's comments that "we have to replace these cables - we can't switch the lights off in Manchester", National Grid's advocacy of dirty, unsustainable power will surely result in that outcome happening much sooner unless unrealistic expectations about energy consumption are discouraged and micro-generation is not developed much more widely.
We'd be interested to know if anyone can enlighten us whether or not the power stations David Jones mentions include Drax near Selby in Yorkshire, site of the 2006 Climate Camp - targeted because this power plant alone emits more CO2 than 103 small unindustrialised nations.
But the most absurd part of this article is reserved to the last. Knight-Gregson comments that any future railway could use the Victorian tunnels - that is rather than the purpose-built, relatively modern tunnel that they want to vandalise.