Thursday, February 28, 2008

Village Green Preservation Society

There has been a lot of coverage in the press recently regarding the issue of housing in High Peak for younger persons from the locality who cannot get a foot on the housing ladder. MP Tom Levitt has added his voice to the debate, and put the boot in for good measure to the concept of Village Greens, which according to our MP have allowed a few selfish individuals to stop developments and sports halls in Buxton.

At first sight Mr Levitt’s indignation with such selfish individuals seems wholly in the right, but sometimes - or perhaps quite often in his case - it is worth looking that little bit further, and this seems one of those instances.

It is worth noting that there are many houses in High Peak, which are not in the complete sense of the word “homes” because they are wholly or mainly unoccupied. These are second homes or houses bought as investments. It is not unusual in fact to find a worryingly high percentage of the housing stock on many local streets out of effective circulation for one reason or another, predominantly due to absentee or landlord ownership.

This might not seem a relevant concern for Mr Levitt and the government when they advocate more local housing supply for local people. However it should be, as the policy described below indicates something of a contradiction in their position. Whilst bemoaning the lack of supply the government will from this April start increasing subsidy to such unused stock by cutting the capital gains tax on 2nd homes. This practice that can only inflate prices and reduce the availability for local people , so it does not sit well with Mr Levitt's complaint.

MSN Money reports, and we quote in case the the link seems dead -

Good news for landlords

This is great news for landlords and owners of a second non-residential property. Investors pay CGT on the difference between the price they paid for the asset and the price they sell it for. As it stands, the tax rate is 40% for the first three years of property ownership, falling by 2% a year to a minimum rate of 24% after 10 years of ownership. The new system means that the length of time a property has been owned will be irrelevant; someone who has owned a second home for one year will be taxed at the same rate as someone who has owned theirs for 20 years. The capital gains annual exemption will continue to apply which (in 2008/09) will mean the first £9,200 of the gain is exempt from the tax charge. As far as the buy-to-let market is concerned, landlords will certainly emerge as the winners of the situation, as they will see a significant reduction in tax should they decide to sell a property.

In fact the selfishness which Mr Levitt deplores in one case – assuming it is selfish to care about precious green open spaces and voluntarily make unpaid efforts to protect them– is being actively encouraged by fiscal measures promoted by his government to enable people to have more homes than they actually need, either as capital investment or for personal use.
It is a somewhat weak position to adopt really, trying to expand the new build on the back of the needs of local people yet at the same time allowing, in fact encouraging, the removal of large amounts of housing stock from the same local supply.

We believe Mr Levitt adopts such a cockeyed or contradictory approach towards housing supply - i.e. abetting private ownership yet seeking more social supply - because there is a subtext behind his utterances which we would spell out as follows

The subtext of Mr Levitt’s approach is to support the construction industry and developers at all costs, and use the plight of local people to do so. Also throw in a swipe at environmentalists if possible and try to undermine their legitimate use of village green legislation that developers see as obstructing invasion of rural areas for profits. Who suffers from this cockeyed thinking? Well above all the environment, which is generally overlooked by the politician, leaving it to allegedly selfish people to use their own time and unpaid labour to try and find ways to keep the area somewhere that people actually do want to live in. How very selfish of them!

And this really is the crux of the issue, because assuming that new build is given a free rein on village greens and the green belt, and the current attitude towards housing as capital rather than a home is continued, it begs an interesting question.

14,000 homes on down the line - and that is the plan for High Peak in the coming years - will anyone, local or otherwise, very much want to live in High Peak Borough anymore. There is after all a distinct lack of buyer enthusiasm for over housed places like Droylsden or Dukinfield. Sadly such a sorry outcome can be the only outcome of Mr Levitt’s position, which is why it must be resisted. Despite the many shots of beauty on the MP’s web site these are simply gratuitous in this case, and the vital remit to protect the environment remains the remit of unselfish volunteers, who deserve our full thanks

With regard to Village Greens, they require our utter support and it is very important that they are assisted and this legislation safeguarded. It is meanwhile it is time locally and nationally that a coherent and environmentally responsible policy in the field of housing is developed, where local people can enjoy a local home without being forced to sign up to environmental destruction to get it. If we can’t have a reasonably buoyant economy without environmental destruction then there is something seriously amiss.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

TMBC, Longdendale Siege & David Moore: the truth

Hands up who believes the propaganda of Tameside MBC & Longdendale Siege Committee that the Longdendale Bypass is meant to relieve the three villages of congestion? If there are any that read this weblog, then this post may make you think again. For those who already suspect it is lies, here is the evidence that seems to have lain buried, until now.

Readers of local newspapers may be familiar with one David Moore. A person of that name used to regularly write in to advocate pro bypass views, as well as launch vitriolic attacks on anti-bypass campaigners (to be fair, we could be said to be the 'anti David Moore' in that respect, as it's our style too). Some examples are here and here (notice the classic Chronicle/Daily Mail/Fascist headline for the latter - 'Minority views are not valid'). We're not sure whether or not he had any direct affiliation with the Longdendale Siege Committee, but given his views and willingness to write to the newspapers (and regularly get published) we'd be surprised if he didn't. The fact that he lives in Hollingworth makes it seem highly unlikely that he is a stranger to them.

But what can be revealed with certainty is that someone called David Moore (with the fizzog displayed above) used to work for Tameside MBC. His contact details are on this page of this website. Go on, take some time to read what the website is about.

Yes, he was the Project Manager for the North European Trade Axis (NETA), an organisation seemingly run by TMBC from their offices. He also clearly has affiliations with the North West Regional Assembly, given the alternate email address on the contact page.

So what is NETA about? Lots of things, full of awful public language, the new bourgeois coded speech. But looking at the website and the conference reports, there talk of Transpennine Corridors, and 'management of M62 traffic flows'. But next to David Moore's face on the 'welcome' page is this more intelligible blurb:

"The NETA project seeks to develop and promote a West-East Eurocorridor extending from Northern and Southern Ireland across the Irish Sea to the Transpennine Corridor of Northern England and thence via the Humber ports and North Sea to the Netherlands, North Germany, Poland and beyond"

Given that TMBC are the facilitators of this project, we can now clearly link them with a project to develop their leg of a 'braided' (their terminology) trans-european transport network: in this context 'management of M62 traffic flows' can only mean one thing - diversion of key (trade) traffic elsewhere. Clearly, leaving the M1 to avoid the M62 and thereby accessing the M60 to head to the Western ports for Ireland and vice versa: the Longdendale Bypass.

Because the website was last updated in 2005, it looks like the project isn't exactly thriving, and we're not sure why this is. We wonder if the project is on hold, given the delays of the Public Inquiry.

We feel that this post is not the end of this issue, and we hope to return to it again in future.

In the meantime, if you really do believe the Longdendale Bypass is meant to relieve the three villages of congestion, ask Tameside and David Moore for explanations as to what NETA is all about. And come and tell us what they said. Food for throught.

NB: since we originally posted this article, the NETA website has mysteriously disappeared! We have changed the links to point to the pages captured by the internet archive.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Free Speech for the Dumb or 'If you don't like bad news, don't shoot the messenger'

Our spies have reported that Longdendale's biggest mouth, Roy Oldham (after his brother-in-law Mike Flynn) has been throwing his weight around again.

At the last full Council meeting on 14th February, Roy Oldham poured scorn on the recent Manchester Evening News article about TMBC's costs for the Glossop Spur. He reportedly said that the MEN journalist Brian Lashley was 'biased' and that he should 'reconsider his job' and also said that he would be 'speaking to the editor'.

The MEN get a lot of shit from both sides for their bypass coverage - including us, for differing reasons. But just who does Oldham think he is? He's so brazen that he thinks he can call for the resignation of a journalist on a regional newspaper for merely reporting how much TMBC have spent on their pet scheme.

But we're not going to call for Oldham to resign or even shut up. Because these bully-boy tactics can only further tarnish his already shitty reputation as an intimidating gobshite ... and help us and our cause.

Much more of this crap and we'll be mounting a campaign to defend Brian Lashley.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Mottram Tesco - update

You may remember our exclusive article back last month about TMBC's plans to bring Tesco to Mottram.

Well now the press has caught hold of the story since the issue was raised at last week's Longdendale & Hattersley District Assembly. And quite rightly, concerns are being raised about the increased traffic it will bring to the area. And it seems Tameside will have a fight on their hands if residents like Jane Whyte have anything to do with it:

"If I have to walk round every house on this estate and Broadbottom and Mottram and get a petition, I will do that rather than see these children hurt."

Jane wants an entrance/exit to the store either on Mottram Road or Stockport Road, rather than Ashworth Lane. But that will clearly really mess with traffic projections - if they aren't already hugely affected by this development. And we revealed last month that this is the reason for the delays in the Public Inquiry into the bypass, as the existing traffic models will be severely compromised.

The clincher is this quote in the article:

"Although no planning application has yet been received, the council as a promoter of the regeneration of Hattersley supports its development."

Indeed, no application has been received because they have been told to wait until after April by Tameside - when the Public Inquiry will have resumed.

This is going to be very, very interesting indeed...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Glossop Spur costs & Tory opportunism

Today's Manchester Evening News has a story which is well-known in anti-bypass circles, but perhaps less so more widely: namely, that Tameside Council's costs for the Glossop Spur have reached £800,000. There are two aspects of this we would like to concentrate on in this post.

Firstly, that this is in fact old news, to us at least. Indeed, our fellow campaigner John Hall submitted a Freedom of Information nearly 2 years ago and received a response indicating that the projected costs to March 2007 would be approximately £836,000. Given the hiccups with the Public Inquiry, the costs must surely be far more by now.

Perhaps it's time we rigged up another cost-counter for the Glossop Spur?

The second aspect is the fact that this article is effectively a press release for Tameside Tories. All you need to know about this lot is summed up by these words in the article:

"Councillor Bell said while the Tory group supports the proposal..."

We'd have to assume they do because there's been no opposition from them. It's hard to imagine what points they are trying to score here. Would they have done anything differently from the Labour Party? If they are committed to it, then surely that means they support it to the end - there's no implication that they would pull the scheme because of costs. This is simply a party political matter for this lot.

And who can be surprised? The 1990s Tory road policy got a bloody good hiding from environmental direct action campaigners, to the extent that most of the schemes were shelved by Labour upon coming to power in 1997. That's how unpopular they were, and still are. Why should anyone think this lot would be any different from Labour, should they come to power?

Time for a quote from Thatcher in 1990:

"We are not going to do away with the great car economy."

Any argument that advocates 'changed priorities' as a way to transport and ecological salvation really does not understand the central relationship of the car industry to modern capitalism. The answer lies without politics and capitalism, not within.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Carillion's big visit

Around the time of the visits to the blog about James Purnell last week, we had one particular visit that really stood out. Carillion - contractors for the bypass (and not an 80s prog-rock group) - spent a lot of time on this blog, checking all the contributors out (to no avail) and also trawling through our archive. Yes, they spent nearly 90 minutes here.

If only they knew the time (and money) we spent trying to get the correct matching typeface to d├ętourne their logo (info for font nerds: ITC Giovanni).

Incident on the Snake Pass...

Perhaps not what you were expecting, but to celebrate the re-opening of the Snake Pass, here's a little helping of the wonderful John Shuttleworth (aka Jilted John) with his song 'Incident on the the Snake Pass':

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Lots & lots of visitors...

Well well well. It seems we've attracted a lot of attention today from lots of different quarters, and mostly all landing on the same post. Guess which one?

It seems that lots of interesting visitors are into the story about Purnell, Parker-Perry & Co. What's helped is being linked to from a very popular weblog. But the devil is in the details, so let's press on.

Firstly, 3 visits from the Houses of Parliament. Here, here and here. Friends coming to mourn, or foes gathering for the feast?

Secondly, our natural enemies - Sean Parker-Perry himself and good old Tameside. Are you afraid Sean? Time to build up that Olive Air Freshener business (a feature is coming along soon...).

Thirdly, the media. So far, Associated Newspapers & British Sky Broadcasting. Yum!

It also looks likes vultures are sniffing around. Two PR firms have turned up - Randall's Parliamentary Service and 'Good Relations'. Time to make the call James, good job you sold the house, you may need the cash...

Monday, February 11, 2008

Outraged of Tunbridge Wells (via Hyde)

As folk both locally and nationally will have noticed, it's not been a good few months for James Purnell, with this last week being no exception. Now you may think that this blog is just about the bypass, and other pressing environmental issues in Longdendale & Glossopdale, and you'd be right. But in for a penny, in for a pound...

So firstly, people with a short memories (and with a press cutting library less extensive than ours) may be surprised to learn that Mike Doherty is not the only one of Purnell's staff members to write into the press to support his boss, when it seems his constituents are less than supportive on an issue.

Just over 12 months ago (14th December 2006 to be precise), another member of Purnell's staff called Barbara Charlesworth (that's her with Sean & Mike above, presumably taken by James) wrote to support Purnell following a letter from an anti-bypass campaigner which criticised Purnell's contradictory stance on environmental issues and his support for the bypass.

Let's hope that Barbara hasn't decided to conceal her real address, like Doherty has - we'll let interested readers look into that one for us.

And a week earlier (7th December 2006), someone else wrote in too.

This time, it's John Bibby, son of the former Longdendale Councillor Peter, who we understand has also worked for Purnell. The latter comments of his about people "in the villages deciding what happens here" is presumably one of the reasons why Purnell has now decided to flog his London mansion and set up shop in Broadbottom (66 Mottram Road according to his 2005 Election nomination - whoops, there's Barbara again!). Well, one of several hundred thousand (if not million) reasons no doubt...

Regarding Purnell's tax dodge, there's been much talk of it being perfectly legal. That may be, but that doesn't make it right. But are we truly surprised by this man's latest actions? Really? This man's record increasingly speaks for itself - you only have to read his wikipedia entry (occasionally edited by his Girlfriend Lucy Walker and also his Parliamentary Political Operative/Gopher/Fluffer Sean Parker Perry), plus the talk pages of said entry to see what he is made of.

But perhaps the most vile fact about this yuppie twerp goes unmentioned in most places. In May 2006, he helped Cherie Blair to auction a copy of the Hutton report she had signed to raise money for the Labour Party. Yes, that's the report into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly. Need we say more? Truly vile...

(NB - the link to the 2005 General Election nomination page no longer works, but the archive has it here)

Friday, February 08, 2008

'Squire' Bywaters - meet Ned Ludd

Last week, the Glossop Chronicle covered another of our scoops. Yes, they had news that Stephen Greenhalgh has left the Highways Agency team in charge of the Bypass. and that Alex Bywaters has taken over.

The Chronicle has a most unlikely quote from a Highways Agency official, who states that Greenhalgh has been asked to take on other 'new schemes' in the Agency. We'll do our best to keep our eye on this, it should provide a laugh if nothing else.

But Bywaters has a pedigree. It seems he was leader of the 'North Team' which has presided over moves to widen the M1 motorway. This is a scheme that has met fierce resistance, with the police employing methods worthy of the Gestapo against those opposed to it. It's also been notorious as swallowing huge amounts of money - the Observer reported that the scheme was costing £21 million per mile last year (perhaps we need a new counter in the side column to illustrate how similarly expensive our bypass is?).

Regular readers know how much we love the contradictions that are often thrown up by the whole bypass issue. But here's one that relates specifically to Bywaters. We can reveal* that he is the 'squire' of a troupe of Morris Dancers called Slubbing Billys, based in West Yorkshire. The symbolism they use consciously references the huge social and economic upheavals brought about by the Industrial Revolution of the late 18th & early 19th centuries. The symbolism is that of the Luddites - too often portrayed as merely reactionary, anti-technologists. But enlightened radicals (and not necessarily those on the left) know they represented the militant wing of a popular struggle against early industrial capitalism. They - correctly - identified technology as having a far from 'neutral' role in industrial relations and the rise of capital. They were fighting to retain a degree of control over their living and working conditions, and by extension their lives - from relative autonomy to an utter dependence upon the mill owners (in such huge numbers that the British State employed more soldiers to fight them than Napoleon). Technology facilitated the capitalists' designs of comparative enslavement. Technology was not - and is not - neutral. And it remains a legitimate target.

So Bywaters belongs to a group that pay homage to Luddites, whilst working for the Highways Agency. The Car Industry is to modern capitalism what the spinning and weaving machines were to early industrial capitalism. No doubt that one has passed him by...

Our message to Bywaters is clear - now that Greenhalgh has gone, you're next. The folk of Lancashire will once again sing the achievements of General Ludd!

They said Ned Ludd was an idiot boy
That all he could do was wreck and destroy, and
He turned to his workmates and said: Death to Machines
They tread on our future and they stamp on our dreams...

* we have absolute verification of this fact, but you'll have to take our word for it for now...

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Travelodge/Submarine plan vanishes...(or sinks without trace)

We were going to write about this in depth (approximately 4 fathoms), especially after David Jones' gushing article in last week's Glossop Chronicle. But it seems that Cllr Anthony McKeown has told us that Shepherd Developments has withdrawn it's plan for a Submersible Travelodge in Hadfield, presumably now that the Environment Agency have objected once again.

So for now, we can only sit back and smile at David Jones' blurb saying that High Peak Borough Council is 'committed to promoting Glossop as a holiday destination' - yes, lots of people want to stay at a 'luxury' hotel that is slap bang next to a huge roundabout & main road (Glossop Spur) and not far from a load of ugly grey industrial development (Etherow & Rossington Park). Lots of business people needing a stop off a (soon to be) motorway on their way to somewhere else that is...

There's little doubt that Shepherd Developments will re-submit their application again - this project is pinned to hopes that the Glossop Spur planning application will be renewed by the end of this year. How that can happen with the increasing risk of regular floods - and the opposition that will be mustered by anti-bypass activists - remains to be seen.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Ruth Kelly is number crunching

Better Transport has news (on their 1st February blog) that Ruth Kelly and the Department for Transport are spending a lot of time pouring over the relative costs of various road schemes around the country. 'Cost Escalation' is now an issue, so here's a quote:

"Over the next couple of months I will be taking a firm view of what roads are being prioritised. It's absolutely the case there are tough choices to be made. We will have to look right across the roads programme to see what is desirable. What we need to do is have a rigorous look at the figures and be clear about what we can afford and what we cannot afford… I hope to be in a position in the next few months to make a definitive statement about where we are on cost and which roads we are committed to seeing delivered"

So it's not really a surprise when our spies report that Roy Oldham stated at the last full Council meeting of TMBC that he was seeking an urgent meeting with Kelly. Remember the news the other week that he was also seeking a meeting with Tom Harris? There's clearly going to be a lot of lobbying going on from TMBC and Purnell & Co to keep this scheme on track.

In the meantime, we'd like to point Oldham, Flynn etc towards our little device in the top left-hand corner of this blog that is tracking the 'cost escalation'. 25p per second Roy...

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Longdendale Bypass secretly opened?

We were quite shocked to discover this week that the Longdendale Bypass has secretly opened. Here we are, in the midst of fighting it with the opposition foaming at the mouth over the Public Inquiry delays, and it seems the Highways Agency's Doozers have been at work constructing it.

Not only that, but Tameside have renamed one of the villages.

The evidence? This article in the Manchester Evening News about bad weather contained this line:

A spokesman for Greater Manchester Police confirmed that the wind also caused the A57 Snake Pass, between Manchester and Sheffield, and the A628 Mottram-Tintwhistle bypass to be closed this morning.

MEN journalist John Scheerhout clearly has inside information, unless he talked to Mike Flynn who is now content to issue black propaganda. Nothing would surprise us anymore...