Wednesday, January 02, 2008
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)