Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Purnell - scouring the Shire with his trusty 'staff'

We're way behind with things here. But we're slowly catching up on visitors, and going back a couple of weeks, we had a most intriguing visit.

It seems someone from Trader Media Ltd (an arm of the Guardian Media Group) had landed on our site after searching google with the phrase "Purnell's staff". Whatever could they mean?

Do they mean the mighty staff with which he is about to smite the most vulnerable sections of society (Nu Labour translation: "raising skills", "credible ladders of opportunity", "Arbeit Macht Frei" etc, ad nauseum)? Perhaps. Or were they looking for a pipsqueak (a now completely silent one at that). More likely.

The rest is a mystery to us. But watch this space.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Woolley Bridge Floods

This week's floods in the Glossop area have again been big news, with articles in both the Advertiser & Chronicle.

But the only hint of a wider view of this problem came in the Advertiser, with a quote from a resident of Woolley Lane:

"We told the council when a new house was built next door two years ago that this area was a flood plain"

Indeed. There's a new housing development being built not far from the flooded area, as well as a Hotel/Travelodge as we reported previously (and whose previously blocked planning proposal is being resurrected - a report will come soon).

So it'll be really interesting to see what happens if the Glossop Spur is built, because the river Etherow tends to burst its banks all along the area where the roundabout from the A57 will be. The picture above gives a projected view of what the possible road signs will need to indicate, because this is the third time major flooding has occurred here this century...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Exit Kojak, sorry Stephen Greenhalgh...

News has reached us that the Highways Agency's North Team, in charge of the Longdendale Bypass, has a new leader.

Correspondence sent out to certain objectors today is signed off by one Alex Bywaters, as Project Leader MP North Team M2 Manchester - Stephen Greenhalgh's old job.

So did he fall or was he pushed? Unlike his doppelganger Kojak, he didn't exactly exude confidence at the Public Inquiry. He came across as a rather clammy, insecure individual lacking in confidence. He's clearly had to fall on his sword for what could be a number of reasons - perhaps to satiate Roy Oldham's impatience, clearing the decks for a different approach when the PI resumes? Perhaps to create the impression that the delays are to do with incompetence, rather than other 'grand designs', as we've suggested recently.

Maybe if he'd stuck a lollipop in his mouth and drawled 'who loves ya baby' at John Watson things might have been different?

The Longdendale jigsaw puzzle

The Bypass Jigsaw is looking quite interesting, as the pieces and associations click together.

Here we have Carillion PLC - preparation costs for the Public Inquiry - £4,944,274

Now Carillion PLC bought Mowlem PLC (a previous contractor for the bypass) and their preparation costs for the PI are £4,577,105 - give or take a few pence.

But hang on, who supports the Bypass? Well, the North West Development Agency for a start. And who figures at the top of that Agency? Well, that's a stroke of luck - it's Vanda Murray. Vanda happens to be at the top of Carillion PLC who have already made for Carillion/Mowlem & Associates £9,571,379 for a load of flawed paperwork issued to the Public Inquiry.

Now back to the North West Development Agency and their declared "Key Objectives" for the region:

(a) Improve journey time reliability and tackle congestion (except on the M67/M60 as yet) on "the Regions Principal North-South-and East West Transport Corridors" (perhaps call it the M62 Mk2 Longendale Route?)

(b) Develop effective integrated transport networks within, to, and between City Regions. (something like Yorkshire North and South Cities straight through the Longendale Valley to Manchester)

(c) Underpin the Gateway Functions of the Region's main Airports and Ports, (quick dash from all of Yorkshire to Ringway - Manchester - Airport methinks)

(d) Develop Intergrated Transport Networks in rural areas based on HUBS at Key Service Centres, (why don't they speak English? The Bypass will need HUBS/Service Centres Hotels/Supermarkets/Regeneration Areas and everything "including the kitchen sink".

But we seem to have forgotten Mott MacDonald's fees for their Public Inquiry preparation and dodgy paperwork, costing approximately £3,741,500, and a warm welcome from Mr Stephen Greenhalgh of the Highways Agency, who has administered the campaign for theBypass as Project Leader. But hang about, wasn't he previously an employee of Mott MacDonald, as is his shadow at the Public Inquiry Mr. Brian Witten?

Now our Council Leader is very influential with the NWDA and its members, which probably includes Vanda Murray, a NWDA Executive "and" Carillion PLC Executive, the Company deeply involved in the almost £200 million Bypass project.

But wait a moment, the folks in Tintwistle/Hollingworth/Mottram know nowt about the M62 Mk2 connecting Cities in Yorkshire with Manchester, and the North West Development Agency keep referring to improving the Region's Principal North-South-East-West Transport Corridors, because that would be a perfect solution to an alternative M62 route through the Longendale Valley methinks.

Now there's another funny piece of the jigsaw emerging: that of Councillor Roy Oldham switching his latest rhetoric away from the folk in the 3 villages. His main concern seems for the business interests of his financial friends both now, and certainly in the future, with his big regeneration plans for the Longendale Region.

So what a lousy sight emerges out of this jigsaw - the utter destruction of the Longendale Valley for the M62 Mk2, and it's financial interests to businesses, a shed load of extra vehicles down this City-to-City Bypass route, and images of numerous people taking their places at the financial trough.

So yes, I want relief for those experiencing slow-moving, single-lane traffic in the area, but has it not been noticed that TMBC/HA have done "nowt" through the years for the village folks. They've resisted calls for a trial HGV ban to establish its effectiveness, and also stopped route restraint measures on the A628, because it would have undermined their main objective over the years, that of an alternative road route to the M62 bang through the Longendale Valley. But wait a mo if, like everywhere else in the UK, the Bypass tunnel is blocked by a vehicle accident, or perhaps a collision on the route itself, where the hell is the traffic going to go? Yes, you've guessed back on the rat runs already utilised in the area.

Now I DO WANT REAL SOLUTIONS, but more importantly, I want the "real truth" of the DFT/HA/TMBC objectives and looking at the jigsaw puzzle, it appears to be similar to a game of monopoly with lashings of dosh swilling around.

One thing finally: whilst Roy Oldham agonises about the financial interests now being affected, he fails to tell you that he has so far spent almost £1 million of "your" Council Tax Payments from "your" pockets and purses, to prop up the Tameside Council's costs of the Public Inquiry. But just wait for the real bills from the Builders/Developers/Consultants/Legal-Eagles: if divided between the families of Longendale it would be like a sudden windfall for everyone, except those staring into the trough at present.

My regards

John Hall

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Roy Oldham's money shot

Trench warfare continues. Roy Oldham is clearly worried that he'll be pushing up daisies by the time work starts on the bypass.

So today, he has launched an offensive in the Manchester Evening News with the publication of this article.

If you don't want to read this crap, the gist of it is that the delays in the Public Inquiry (PI) are 'holding back business' (heaven forfend!).

In a world where the most important of all considerations is economic, the mask has slipped for Oldham: he loves money, as do his cronies. Those who live in the area - and who don't easily have the wool pulled over their eyes - are experiencing the 'economic prosperity' this bypass will bring, but not in an economic way. Go to Tintwistle and look across to Hadfield - straight at those awful grey sheds - Rossington Park and Bridge Mills. Go into Glossop and take a look at all the 'same as everywhere else' chain stores. The economic prosperity they bring (and who they bring it to) is debateable - what is sure is that they bring spiritual and environmental poverty to the people who have to live there.

The message of the filthy lucre-crew is clear - tell the government to wind up the PI, or to ignore it. We need a bypass to extend the M67 and bring more lorries through, and to build more warehouses in, the area.

What the hell has this got to do with 'relieving 3 villages of traffic'?

We plan to release more and more info over the coming weeks that will fully demonstrate Roy Oldham's love of money, much of it you will not have heard of before.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Here are the results of the Longdendale Siege Committee...

Older readers will remember the many japes we've had teasing the Longdendale Siege Committee about their pathetic petition. Over the months, they've gone to all sorts of lengths to get signatures on it - their friend David Jones at the Glossop Chronicle even did his best to make sure everyone knew about it.

So what's the status of the petition? Well, it's now closed. And - wait for it - it has the fantastically convincing number of - oh, 198 signatures...

Time to rehash the bullshit about their 9,000 manual signature petition then. I suppose this is the last we'll hear from them about the electronic petition - though not if we've got anything to do with it.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Ivan Bell's right of reply

Hawk-eyed readers may have noticed that we had some comments from one of our subjects of ridicule over the past 12 months. Yes, Ivan Bell seems to have discovered this blog on New Year's day, and set about leaving comments on this post about SCC, and also on our 2007 round-up post.

On the SCC post, Bell is charitable enough to afford the (now quiet) protestors over Rossington Park some degree of success. He thinks that if they had not been active, even more sheds would now be present. And let's face it, he should know being a Councillor. We will discuss more about High Peak Borough Council's continuing environmental onslaught on this part of the High Peak in future posts, but for now, we'll agree with that statement.

The other comment is a mix of compliments, insults and absurd statements. The compliments are aimed at us for our 'interesting' views. Clearly, Bell didn't read our posts about him earlier in the year. The insult is where he says we should stand for election: if he'd read the blog closely enough, he'll know that our politics leave us with nothing but contempt for politicians of all kinds, along with the whole political and economic system of capitalism.

Absurd statements come in the form of his views of what should happen now about Rossington Park:

"our only chance is to try and get it more environmentally friendly"

We'd agree, but we're from the Jack Mansfield* school of views regarding eyesores: a stick of dynamite will do the job.

What Bell means - and it's the drum he's been banging for a long time - is that Rossington Park should be painted a different colour. He's been in the Glossop Chronicle with this familiar refrain only the other week. And we now agree - paint them Hi-Viz yellow. That way, the locals will sooner resort to the Jack Mansfield tactics these eyesores deserve. And the sooner someone calls him out for being the distraction from outrage that he is, the better.

But before we close this post, it's probably best to have a little tour of the skidmarks Ivan Bell has left on his travels around the internet. First stop is his lovely blogger user profile: he likes drinking 'real beer' (as opposed to false), and his favourite movie is 'Doctor Zivargo' (sic) and his favourite book is that well-known tome 'History Novels' (we'll be asking for that at the library next week).

Next is his lovely website. He promised to give us a link on here, and he has bless his heart. But wait, oh dear - his comments on the Peak District tourist logo:

"This is not the GAY site even if it is pink"

...except it's purple. Never mind Ivan, we're all as 'good as you'.

But have a look at his other links: "Soil Stabilization" (sic) ("Soil stabilization and erosion control and dust control products and services"). Hmmn, what about this - "Massage School" ("Best massage therapy school with latest techniques"), ahem...

We do so hope that Ivan stops by again. It's nice to be having a political debate, even if it's with a cretin who wears a hat too small for his head.

*Jack Mansfield was a lovely old Glossopian, very reminiscent of Compo, who publicly called for urban guerilla tactics to demolish the (still present) eyesore that is the Ferro Alloys chimney.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The case of the £13.7 million and the Freedom of Information request...

Part two of the post we promised over a week ago now follows (part one is here).

Anyone who has followed the Public Inquiry (PI) will know that one individual has been as tenacious as a terrier in his fight to uncover all of the sleaze, lies and obfuscation surrounding the bypass. John Hall gave us the lowdown on his attempts to get the figures from the Highways Agency in his own words:

1. I forwarded a FOI (Freedom of Information) request to the DfT (Department for Transport) on 7th November 2007.

2. After 10 days it was referred to the HA (Highways Agency) Manchester.

3. The HA tried to put me off by stating my request would cost too much and take up too much important time for them and asked me doctor my FOI to reduce its content.

4. I played their game and stipulated I wanted ALL communications between the DfT and HA between February 2007 and October 2007.

5. I received a response from the HA dated 21st December with the breakdown of the costs of the preparation and promotion of the PI evidence they submitted.

6. The letter which accompanied the page of costs is not the one on the HA website or the Persona Associates website but although it has no name and address, it refers to another objector's (A) FOI request submitted on November 7th. This is not accurate because I know that objector (A) never sought this FOI request and knew nothing of it.

7. Another objector (B) says they submitted a similar FOI request in October, but received the same December 21st HA response to themselves with the same reference number as objector (B) and acknowledging 'their request of November 7th'. How this could happen is anyone's guess but something doesn't ring true.

8. My letter dated 21st December 2007 from the HA includes the costs data we now all know. HOWEVER the letter states that my request for all correspondence & emails between the DfT and HA is being considered as inappropriate and as 'not being in the Public Interest' and will be answered in late January 2008.

9. The FOI Commissioner has now received all documents, emails etc relating to my November 7th 2007 request because (a) my request was not actioned within the appropriate statutory time limit, (b) has still not been fully dealt with, and because (c) the full information I require, other than the costs already received, is vitally important evidence required for the Public Inquiry. Furthermore, it "is" of Public Interest and I believe that the info the DfT/HA are now attempting to hide would be instrumental in proving duplicity and manipulations of a Public Inquiry instigated by the DfT. I now await the outcome of Information Commissioner's investigation and deliberations, but I will be fighting this 100% to get this important evidence to present to the Inspector.

So there you have it. Both the Inquiry and the blog will hear a lot more from John over the coming months.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Channel M on the £13 million: Wot no Mike Flynn?

Channel M have another of their reports on the bypass. They've found Tintwistle this time, rather than Brookfield in Glossop. But it's strange they haven't talked to Mike Flynn, and there's no statements from him. Is he camera shy? or are they a bit fed up of the usual soundbites he provides? Come on Mike, send us an email, let us know.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The bypass is costing £660,000 per month, and counting...

Well, we've been pipped to the post with this one. After scanning the Highways Agency website, as well as the Public Inquiry website, we became aware of some Freedom of Information releases which talked about an increase in costs. But there are so many things to write about at the moment, that we put it on hold for another night.

So the MEN have the scoop for a change. Today's big news is the massively escalating costs of the bypass.

Quoting the £13,782,505.24* figure is one thing, but there are other ways of looking at numbers. The Freedom of Info releases are here, here and here (all open PDFs), but for those who would like us to extrapolate, here is the info they provided:

The figures show the differing amounts paid to those involved on working on the bypass, for specific time periods. I have added the time periods in months. When you produce an average of those periods to produce monthly figures, this is what you get:

August 2004-January 2006 - £408,861.43 per month
February 2006-February 2007 - £309,710.17 per month
February 2007-June 2007 - £489,048.06 per month
June 2007-October 2007 - £658,956.50 per month

So the latter period has been the most costly. The Bypass is now costing over £150,000 each week. Roy Oldham's annual salary as Council leader was reported to be more than £40,000 just over 2 years ago - so the bypass is costing us a Roy Oldham every other day. Surely that's food for thought even for the most craven pro-bypass supporter (unless you happen to be related and invited to all the junkets, eh Mike Flynn)?

And if you read the comments on the MEN website, it's all our fault. Well boo hoo - that's fine with me. Because driving up the costs - by fair means or foul - kills road schemes. It is a legitimate tactic as far as we're concerned. And it is working.

In part two of this feature, we will reveal how this Freedom of Information release came about.

**Update, 14/01/2008. We've now rigged up a little counter to show the estimated costs so far. This little widget is based on the £13,782,505.24 figure being relevant from 31st October 2007 and that costs are accruing at the rate we calculated. It can be adjusted accordingly, but in the meantime will count down here for the forseeable future reminding people what a total rip-off this white elephant is!**

*if you were writing a cheque, you'd have to scribble "thirteen million, seven hundred and eighty-two thousand, five hundred and five pounds, twenty-four pence" onto the two lines they provide - see the above image for an idea

Monday, January 07, 2008

Levitt's 2008 predictions

In his column in last week's Glossop Chronicle (actually a regurgitation of his own New Year press release), Tom Levitt makes an astonishing prediction:

"We will find out the result of the Tintwistle Mottram bypass enquiry in 2008 and I am confident that, despite hiccups, the result will be in its favour"

One wonders how Levitt has arrived at this conclusion: looking back to the last sitting of the Public Inquiry (PI) on December 18th last year, The Highways Agency (HA) could only give a vague commitment about when they would be ready to tell the PI when they would be ready!

If one imagines this is going to be 'after Easter 2008', then that would mean after 23rd March. So if we're being optimistic, it may be possible that the HA would be able to tell John Watson they would be ready by May this year - the first anniversary of the commencement of the PI.

Of course, all of their information may then have to be republished, and it's possible that another consultation period will then follow if the revisions are extensive. But even if this isn't the case, it's unlikely the PI will restart until June this year. Does Tom Levitt really think the PI will be concluded before December 31st 2008 and further that John Watson will make his decision before then? Really? Has he been following events closely at all? Is he - a former PPS to two Government Ministers/Secretaries of State - really that ignorant of the length of time consumed by statutory procedures such as this?

Is this man a cretin, or just incredibly optimistic? Answers on a postcard to the usual address...

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Tesco comes to Mottram & Hattersley

Everyone has been puzzling about what motivation the Highways Agency have for the constant delays they have initiated in the Public Inquiry process.

But now, our sources in Tameside have new information which we believe helps us to provide an explanation.

You may remember the much-vaunted 'regeneration' of Hattersley from earlier last year - an injection of £250 million to transform (code word: 'gentrify') the area.

The details of the deal include the transfer of housing stock previously owned by Manchester City Council to the newly-created Peak Valley Housing Association. The terms of the deal ensured this was done at 'zero value'. Nevertheless, the new Housing Association still had to plug a £20 million hole to fund repairs and improvements to existing housing stock. TMBC's literature* makes it clear this was done by courting developers to the site.

Fostering this new (i.e. middle class) community has meant bourgeois totems have to be included. So as well as a police station and a new community centre (a 'sweetener' to buy off any potential dissent amongst local community activist/bureaucrats), Tameside's press releases & literature have coyly suggested that "options are also being explored for new retail development"** and "future development of the site will include a new retail food store"***. If the latter statement doesn't make it clear enough, then our sources tell us that the plan is for the construction of a new Tesco store on the site.

This is bolstered by the fact that CTP have been awarded the Retail contract, and they are the developers who brought the traffic disaster that is the Tesco store to Stalybridge. CTP list Tesco amongst their 'partners' in their online brochure (see also page 19).

The naive amongst you may well think this is justification enough. After all, don't they provide jobs and boost the local economy? The debate for the merits or otherwise of Tesco is clearly something we will have to save for future months, but the elephant in the living room in this case is of course the massive increases in traffic that will be entailed with the opening of this store. It will be much easier for Longdendale folk, as well as those from Hyde and even further afield (Gee Cross & Woodley) to access this store than travel to stores in other areas. Plus, if Tameside's plans for the Bypass succeed, then transpennine travellers who need to stock up on anything that takes their fancy will have massive supermarket a stones throw away from a major roundabout, as well as those who use the existing route in the meantime.

Oh yes - the traffic increases. Weren't they factored into the traffic flow data that the Highways Agency had collated for the Public Inquiry?

Of course not - the ink is still drying on this 'development' deal. Because TMBC are eager to attract capital to the area, it's possible that their greed had not anticipated this. So because the existing traffic figures will clearly not stand up to scrutiny, they clearly have to be factored in.

We feel this is the reason for the delays with the Public Inquiry.

But we're saving the biggest bombshell until last. Have you wondered why the Mottram side of Hattersley has lain empty for months after such a hasty demolition? This may be because our sources in Tameside tell us that the developers have been instructed by both TMBC and the Highways Agency to delay applying for planning permission until 'after April 2008'. Which funnily enough is the period that the Highways Agency have said it will take before they have an indication about their traffic models.

We'll be very interested to see how long this little hand grenade remains undiscovered by the wider local & national press...

* - (opens PDF - see page 3)
** - (opens PDF - see page 4)
*** - (opens PDF - see page 8)

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Predictions for 2008

Crystal Balls are hard to come by, but I'm going to try to make some predictions about possible events and outcomes regarding the Bypass and other environmental issues in Glossopdale and Longdendale over the next 12 months...

Public Inquiry

We already know that this has been delayed indefinitely, with the Highways Agency (HA) only giving a vague commitment to return by Easter to tell Inspector John Watson how long they are going to take to finish their work.

We think it's unlikely to finish this year, given that it all effectively has to start from scratch. But will anyone boycott it? Last year saw a increasingly worrying tendency for objectors to play ball with the farce that it has become and one has to wonder how long it will be before someone (anyone!) stands up and refuses to co-operate with a process that has little credibility. Otherwise, it could be a case of being tainted by association with this whole mess.

We may also find out the reason why the HA have been delayed. But it may not come from them, but from elsewhere. We have our own info, which we will divulge very soon...


The end of 2007 has already seen defeats and victories over the ongoing issue of development in the area. In 2008, we will see new assaults on the environment in Longdendale and Glossopdale, 2 of which will be the subject of future blogs over the next few days. One can be assured that more defeats will only mean more applications for development.

And we'd like to think that these plans are increasingly resisted by residents, using a variety of (as yet unadopted) methods. But it's not clear that that will now happen.

From the perspective of High Peak Borough Council (HPBC), the increasing traffic assured through further development is grist to their mill in arguing more strongly for the Glossop Spur, whose planning permission has to be renewed in December 2008. The latter will be another cause for a showdown, the result of which will be highly significant.

Trevor Mooney

We can confidently predict that he will appear several times in the local papers, pointing out how his plans to make an honest living have been thwarted by HPBC.

Tom Levitt

Political Pundits think it's unlikely there'll be a General Election this year, but if there is, we're sure Tom Levitt will be out on his ear. But does anyone think it'll be anything other than 'business as usual' for his successor? We doubt it...

Congestion Charge

3 Greater Manchester local authorities are now opposed to AGMA's plans for a Manchester Congestion Charge. It will only take one other to change their mind for the plan to fail, and we wouldn't like to call the result of this one. A victory for AGMA will mean that (in our view) naive environmentalists will think this has something to do with preventing climate change whereas defeat should mean that serious campaigners argue for ultra-cheap, reliable and extensive public transport initiatives without the utterly pathetic (and locally financially crippling) strings attached to AGMA's bid.

However, what has underpinned this whole issue from a Green/Left perspective is complete ignorance of the central importance of the motor industry has to capitalism. A lack of rigorous analysis and advocacy of reformist politics on certain sections of the Green/Left axis is hampering progress.

Government Transport Policy

Following the publication of their discussion paper about future transport policy, the DfT has committed itself to start a consultation exercise by July 2008, and to publish a white paper by December. We don't believe in Damascene conversions, and it's certain that current transport policy and projects will meet resistance by effective activists. There will be another Climate Camp - which may focus on road projects - and (much needed) widespread Direct Action will take place.


National Grid will attempt to commence their vandalism of the Woodhead Tunnel - their schedule tells us this is days away. We predict they will meet a widening tide of resistance, and on different levels.

This time next year, it will be interesting to see what has come to pass from all of the above.