Monday, March 31, 2008

Roadmunkey's Rail Conversion

Whilst doing a search for new local blogs I discovered that Longdendale Councillor and pro-bypass fanatic Sean Parker-Perry (nee Sean Perry) a.k.a. Roadmunkey, has a new web presence.

No, I'm not talking about the resurrected Roadmunkey blog, or even the blog of all Sean's Wikipedia edits, this is something entirely different. The road lobbyist-cum-fake environmentalist appears to have a new hobby horse which is the hiring out of tools to the local community. The website can be found here in exactly the same style and design as the old Roadmunkey blog!

Ironically, in his first and only post to date, there is no mention of his beloved bypass ('will fight to the end') but rather a picture of a railway arch in Broadbottom which is to be the home of Active Longdendale (AL), its 'community toolshed depot' so to speak. Indeed, Sean himself has sought and unsurprisingly achieved planning permission for the project himself (documents here).

So who's a good, public spirited, altruistic, community loving little boy then? Who indeed!

Cue new local blog number two: Yes, it's the same URL as Sean's but without the hyphen. The author(s) of the blog could be some of Sean's own customers for (s)he/they have been doing a spot of digging themselves and appear to have an handle on AL's activity.

The blog has clearly been set up to parody, shadow, imitate and mickey take. It is also scrutinising the motives behind AL's creation. It's opening shots note a political thread running through the organisation and muses over the usefulness of the small business enterprise/voluntary organisation/charity/co-operative when a full time Ranger service already exists supported by a small army of Volunteer Rangers!

So it's versus

With Roadmunkey (sorry, that should be Sean) coming up for re-election this May I shall be keeping a close eye on both these blogs and trust our readers will have their bookmarks at the ready. Let battle commence.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Trying to hide the facts

Even after disposing of the Project Leader for the Mottram Bypass scheme Stephen Greenhalgh and appointing Alex Bywaters from Yorkshire to take over his mantle, the Highways Agency is still trying everything in the book to stop you knowing the facts. This latest example should appal everyone throughout Tameside and Longendale.

Because a Bypass will now cost YOU far more than the £200 million anticipated, plus of course the absolutely disastrous failure to back up the road scheme with factual evidence (which cost TMBC Council Tax payers around the £1 million mark for absolutely nothing), then of course the £16 million plus which YOU have paid for the absolute trash presented by the Highways Agency as evidence, I wanted to know who are the members of the Highways Tender Selection Panel and their specific backgrounds. Who are the people who are determining how and to whom YOUR MONEY is being allocated?

Back came the reply that we have been unable to offer the details as yet because we are considering the ramifications that such information may not be in the Public Interest. But they promised to correspond further later on in April.

What absolute bloody arrogance and contempt to now try and stop the facts being given because the details may well be "NOT IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST".

Well, as a member of the Public who is contributing to the Department of Transport/Highways Agency/TMBC road scheme already found to have cost £17 million for absolutely nothing, I bloody well want to know who these Panel Selection Members are!

Could this Panel consist of Councillors, plus maybe Highways Agency Staff who previously were employed by large road building Contractors?

Are you prepared to permit these nameless and faceless quango members to spend such huge amounts out of your purses, wallets, pockets etc, and then turn around to you and say we need to be anonymous because "we believe" its not in our interest to allow the people who are paying these numerous millions to know who we are?

Now, who the hell do you trust in this absolute and contrived dictatorial regime we have in the UK (NOT ONE AS FAR AS I AM CONCERNED)?

Watch this space for the final response from the DfT/Highways Agency in April...

We are one today

We're one year old today. Hasn't the time flown?

I'm not surprised we're still here - after all, unlike the opposition, we always expected the Public Inquiry to drag on (although it's now even surpassing our own expectations). Plus, we are in this for the long haul. The politicians may look forward to 2012/2013 (the planned date of construction of the bypass), but even if all goes the way of the destroyers of the earth A LOT can (and will) happen to try to knock this project off the rails. There is a war, this is a weapon.

One thing can be sure, if you want to know what's going on, you will read it here first.

Last year, we set out to fill gap that existed in the coverage of the debate about this road. This blog fully intended to become the only regularly updated website which tackles the core and broader issues of the bypass. 12 months later, it remains so. It's not that we want to hog the limelight, but given the glacial progress of this scheme, the devil often makes work for idle hands. Having said that, if the blog becomes an end in itself, then it will be time to end the blog. The contributors are all activists, but our activity must come before our contributions.

We have drawn some criticism for having anonymous contributors, largely from two sources. The first was High Peak Councillor Anthony McKeown, someone who clearly likes to keep his blog free from comments, so much so that you're only permitted to comment if you attach a name. How he knows any name that is provided represents the posters' real identity, we will never know but of course for Anthony having a 'real' identity is a condition for your freedom of speech. It's indicative of how far in a right-wing direction the Labour Party have travelled of late.

The other critic was the pro-bypass blog 'Support the Hollingworth Bypass' which we have evidence was written by the Longdendale Councillor Sean Parker-Perry briefly last year before being taken down lest he got the sack. This is ironic given that the blog was in itself anonymous. The blog has recently been resurrected by us (with a slightly different URL) so anyone can read what he had to say. Watch this space for more about him soon.

Over the last year, we have added more features to the site, including videos and selected brief insights into who is reading us (obviously focusing on the opposition). We've become technically more savvy, so that we now have a lovely counter that tells us how much the bypass is costing (25 pence per second - an educated guess, but we look forward to seeing how accurate it is). And we feel we now a have a broad range of (much valued) contributors.

We always welcome new readers, so if you haven't already done so please tell your friends, neighbours and colleagues of our existence

To all our contributors - your input is essential and valued. For all our readers - whatever your views - you know you need the fix this blog provides, so keep on reading and spreading the word. Here's to another 12 months.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Climate Change and the Decisions that Matter

The Acid Test - Government Policy Decisions on Climate Change

Before proceeding with this article it is best to state at the outset that the issues are qualified to some extent by prevailing uncertainty regarding Climate Change being man made/anthropocentric. Dripping glaciers and collapsing ice floes make the national and indeed global headlines with alarming - perhaps to some tedious - regularity. Two very recent examples were headline news recently, where the increased rate of melting glaciers was “bettered” by a gloomy prognosis on the decrease of even stable ice continents, that are not supposed to be so susceptible to fluctuations in temperature.

Seemingly, there is also little doubt that the consequences of climate change could be considerable in political, economic and ultimately human terms, hence the urgent need felt by many to “do something” to avert this crisis – i.e. promote the Nuclear Industry. Hence also the globe trotting Al Gore - hopefully not contributing too significantly to aviation emissions - and the Stern report, which being economic in its consequences tends to be treated seriously.

Climate Change a Natural Cycle or Man Made?

However one impediment to “doing anything” is the argument that the crisis is not of our making, and the author feels this viewpoint needs to be acknowledged. It is a minority viewpoint, apparently the scientific majority of around 80% see a significant correlation between human activity and the crisis, but it is a view that is held in some parts. Indeed nature columnists in certain local newspapers, who rub shoulders with such luminaries as David Attenborough and might be considered as having some influence, have quite recently expressed the view that climate change is simply part of a natural cycle. A natural cycle unfortunate perhaps in its consequences, but for which the blame should not be laid at our door, and seemingly one we can do nothing about.

Until such time as columnists adduce some evidence to support such views however, this article will follow the scientific consensus, in assuming that the scientific majority are right, though we append a useful link on the topic below. Overall also we will make the assumption that not all such scientists blaming mankind are likely to have been hired by vested interests to play a particular tune. It is possible of course, but the opposite influence of traditional vested interests, such as the aviation and automobile industries seems more likely, and the wish to continue enjoying such transport will drive such views.

Key Government Policy Decisions on Climate Change

Moving on to the central topic we wish to briefly examine the substance of government actions with regard to climate change and local and influential decision making.

The concerning fact is that whilst we have a large national budget being targeted towards the area, and we seek to promote the UK global trailblazers in the diminishing emissions, the actual behaviour on the ground is different. Two recent decisions by the government, both made by theSecretary of State for Communities & Local Government, Hazel Blears, alert us to this worrying discrepancy.

The Thames Gateway Bridge Public Inquiry took Global Warming very seriously. On this occasion the Inspector even recommended that the Gateway proposal should, on this very count of adverse climactic impact, be refused. However, despite the Thames areas being particularly susceptible to heavy flood damage, the Secretary of State thought otherwise, and ordered a review of the decision.

At Lancaster, the Heysham M6 Link Road Bypass scored very badly on Global Warming, and again the Inspector Mr Tipping (Cantab) had little choice but to record this fact. The Secretary of State agreed with the Inspector that the increase in greenhouse gases resulting from the scheme, including an increase in CO2 emissions, would be a significant adverse impact of the road scheme IR8.3.37” (Para 31 of Inspectors Report). However, significantly she claimed that there were no alternatives, something that opponents of the scheme hotly dispute as they assiduously compiled a package of alternatives. The Inspector did not allow the CO2 consideration to get in the way of rubber stamping another “business as usual” road scheme. Would it have mattered if he had? Perhaps not greatly, we might at best have expected another review of the decision, but in fact the relevant Secretary of State was only too pleased to endorse his decision.

What does this tell us?

Whilstl it is tempting to allow the reader to draw their own conclusion, without spelling it out, what seems clear is that the UK policy on global warming and climate change is one thing, but practice is another. Where policy can be hidden behind small print budget mechanisms it allows for giving the “impression of doing something”. In fact it may only be serving to add to government coffers, a fact which is often seized on by the cynical road lobby. The real decisions, that is to say those which are not simply obscure pricing mechanisms, but exist in the tangible world of results and action, tell another story.

When it comes to stark decisions, that will have to be taken if the challenge is going to be even remotely met , the record so far begins to look a little indefensible. The story so far seems to be “business as usual” and no change.

As long as climactic human calamity is far off, as with Bangladesh awash in melting the Himalayan glaciers, this will probably remain the likely course of events, perhaps until it is too late. Despite the many warnings, sadly it may require things to come home to roost even more clearly than the recent floods in the Midlands, to usher in the cold, if necessary, wind of change.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Tameside - bailing out the BOAT

In 2005, the Trail Rider's Fellowship (TRF) - an organisation set up to open up the countryside to motorcycles - applied to make Coach Road, Stoney Road and Rabbit Lane in Longdendale a BOAT ('Byway Open to All Traffic'). Although Tameside MBC have consistently objected to this, the TRF have so far succeeded in their plans.

In our view, Tameside's tactics and the way they have handled this matter have led to this outcome - they screwed up big time!

First of all they failed to advertise the issue so that people couldn’t object. When challenged over this by one of our readers, Tameside merely stated that there was "no provision in schedule 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 for giving public notice" - they didn't have to, so they decided not to bother. Great.

Secondly, they submitted evidence that the lanes in question were ancient highways. Now, because of that and as a direct result of the Council incompetence, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs has decided in favour of the TRF that these lanes should be open to all traffic! The clincher is on page 14 (paragraph 43) of this document (opens PDF), and we quote (emphasis added):

Copies of some of the maps referred to in this appeal have been provided but not all. The two earliest maps, the 1777 Burdett map and the un-named map of 1831, were inspected by the Council but have not been supplied. However the details contained in the Council’s report [24] are not disputed by the appellant; in fact it tends to support his case.

We can only conclude extreme incompetence or deliberate tactics to allow traffic onto these country lanes in order to further the case for a bypass. Either of these conclusions seem feasible when buffoons such as Sean Parker-Perry ( the District Assembly Member given responsibility for dealing with this) and Bill Johnson (he of Longdendale Hertitage Trust fame and another pro-bypass 'green') are involved. Indeed, we feel that the hue and cry that Tameside have thrown up in the press since the New Year about this matter serve to cover up their own cack-handed way of dealing with it.

If we lose round two (which seems inevitable now), drivers would have legal permission to short cut Mottram Moor by heading up Coach Road, turning left or right onto Rabbit Lane and then heading off towards Ashton or the M67. Of course this would be difficult at the moment unless you own a 4x4, quad bike or motorcycle, but we are strongly against the use of these country lanes by all motorised traffic. If the route is used enough, over time it may have to be converted to a more general purpose road.

We believe it is vital to prevent these lanes from becoming BOATs. Please object ASAP to the following name/address:

Keith Davy
Tameside MBC
Council Offices
Wellington Road

Quote reference ETL/AKD/24860/1. The deadline is 21st April 2008, and the grounds upon which you object must be stated.

Monday, March 17, 2008

John Watson's lonely hearts club

We did promise more about the further postponement of the Public Inquiry and today we have the sad tale of the lonely figure that is the Inspector, John Watson.

What prompted the Highways Agency's latest announcement was in fact a letter from John Watson published the week before. He makes it clear that he has not heard from the Highways Agency by their promised date of February 2008 and published a series of questions, to wit:

Does the Highways Agency still intend to submit revised evidence to the Inquiry?

If the Highways Agency still intends to submit revised evidence to the Inquiry, when does it intend to do so?

These are the words of a man kept hanging on. He has no role without his consort, and sounds rather lost and desperate. He is eager to please, but is really the Highways Agency's plaything. And they have decided not to play, at least for the time being.

The reason Roy Oldham and the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce are huffing and puffing and getting steamed up, and that the pathetic figure of Tom Levitt has to issue press releases reminding us that he still supports the bypass is because they are clearly not calling the shots. At a time of huge financial uncertainty, the government is prepared to put projects like the M1 widening on the back burner and move towards using the hard shoulder of motorways to 'take up the slack'. The Longdendale Bypass has become a 'wait and see' issue.

Those who are opposing the bypass must press on with the attack, to take the advantage. It's not time for a rest.

As for poor old John Watson, we hope he's making good use of his time, perhaps by writing another book?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Siege must be choking

After a long, long wait, the Longdendale Siege Committee have finally updated their website, and the most noticeable addition is a new page about Nitrogen Dioxide pollution in Hollingworth.

From an academic point of view, the data they provide is useless - in the sense that they do not provide sources for their data. If there are no points of reference for the information they provide, then it cannot be effectively verified or checked.

Now don't get us wrong: we are not saying that there is not pollution in Longdendale or Hollingworth, but we would like to be able to examine the validity and accuracy of the data they present. We feel that this is not unreasonable.

So in the absence of proper references, we can only turn to the information put before the Public Inquiry. The Highways Agency's Air Quality expert, Mr Bean (seriously), presented a lot of information about pollution. The accuracy of his data and the methodology deployed may be looked at in a future post here, but for the time being, we'll accept his figures as accurate.

That being the case, Longdendale Siege choose two particular areas to demonstrate their data - Green Lane & Market Street. In Mr Bean's supporting data, these sites are given the designation R8 & R30 respectively.

Regarding Green Lane, where Siege have provided a figure of 21 μg/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter) in the year 2000, whilst the Highways Agency say it is 31.4 μg/m3 in 2005 - a rise (page 51). But their own study goes on to show a drop to 24 μg/m3 by 2015 without the bypass, owing to anticipated improvements in Car Engines etc. Add the Bypass, and it only achieves a further drop of 1.2 μg/m3 by 2015 to 22.8 μg/m3.

Regarding Market Street, Siege provide a figure of 46 μg/m3 in 2000 and 85 μg/m3 in 2007. But the Highways Agencies info is much lower - 23.1 μg/m3 in 2005, with a drop to 18.8 μg/m3 with or without the bypass by 2015 (page 51). In this case, the building of the bypass makes no difference by 2015 to literally 'doing nothing'.

Two quotes from the article are highly significant (emphasis added):

"There would be a small increase in NO2 concentrations along all road links due to an increase in road traffic with the operation of the Scheme" (i.e. the bypass - page 42, paragraph

"The regional assessment indicates that the Scheme would result in an increase in all emissions compared to without the Scheme for both the Main and Air Quality Extended Study Areas" (page 47, paragraph 6.1.12)

So the Highways Agency's own expert says that the Bypass will entail an increase all forms of pollution in the area they have studied.

Returning to the Siege website, the key here is Siege's chosen year of 2007. This suggests they have access to data that not even the PI has before it. Either that, or it is a fabrication. Our contacts have emailed them to ask for more information., but have not had replies.

All of this leads us to two conclusions. Firstly, why are they publishing this data on their website and not at the PI? Is it because it will not stand up to scrutiny, or is there some other reason? Their submission to the PI does not mention pollution, or quote any data, although presumably it was as much of a problem then as it is now.

Secondly, if we accept that emissions from slow-moving vehicles causes pollution along the A628 and A57, then why not implement a HGV ban now? It's no use demanding a bypass that is at least 4-5 years away if you want to lessen pollution now - if it's bad enough now, advocate a trial HGV ban now.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

STOP PRESS! - Public Inquiry dead as a Dodo?

We've missed this one, but so has everyone else. On Monday, the Highways Agency informed the Inspector of the Public Inquiry, John Watson, that they will not be ready to present proper finalised evidence until OCTOBER 2008.

One wonders if the PI will ever reconvene. More soon...

Monday, March 10, 2008

John Watson's Worldwide Fanclub

Older readers of this blog may well remember the joke we had at the expense of the Inspector John Watson prior to the commencement of the Public Inquiry last year. We'd rumbled his textbook on road building and called for a book signing session on his behalf.

And he even commented upon our blog at the Pre-Inquiry Meeting:

I have written a textbook called Highway Construction and Maintenance which was last revised in 1994. You can still buy it, should you wish to. I will not be signing copies today because it is out of date, apart from anything else. (page 7, lines 9-12)

(Much to hoots of laughter & applause from the members of Siege Mentality who were present - not recorded in the transcript. The joke's on them anyway)

OK, it was a joke - but why not? After all, one or two visitors to the blog over the past few weeks have been seeking out this tarmac-junky-tome for far-flung shores. Here's one from Jakarta and another from Dubai.

Of perhaps John's on holiday and is looking himself up?

Saturday, March 08, 2008

John Hall on TMBC's 'smoking gun'

February 28th 2008 in the Glossop/Tameside Advertiser saw Councillor Jonathan Reynolds belting out the rhetoric again regarding the Mottram Bypass. Well, it's time the confirmed and accurate truth was given out regarding the serious deception that has been produced concerning the Longdendale Valley which MPs, Councillors etc have been aware of and have decided to keep hidden from the electorate of Tameside and Longendale. So here it is.

The Bypass planned for the Longdendale Valley form part of a transpennine route linking the Humberside ports and their facilities plus all the Yorkshire Regions to the Western ports. It will provide road links to airports linking Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic with Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield & Yorkshire and from Eastern ports to further afield: Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, the Balkans and other European Countries.

What is needed by the Government & TMBC is a Bypass to create an 'M62 mark 2' linking all these locations which include the M67/M60/M6/M5/M56 on what is called in Tameside Council's Documents the "West-East Eurocorridor" from Northern and Southern Ireland across the Irish Sea to the "Transpennine Corridor of Northen England" named NETA (North European Trade Axis) in Government and TMBC circles. TMBC are the actual NETA Secretariat for all interested parties in Europe such as business organisations and Regional Authorities. At the present time there are more than 50 partners from Germany, Holland, Ireland, Poland etc, and having met in Amsterdam, the scheme has been named the "North European Trade Axis" backed by Government money and TMBC as administrators.

So knowing the M62 is at saturation level and wanting more heavy traffic with links between ports, airports etc, the Longdendale Valley is the chosen local route to facilitate this multinational road route, hence the massive developments along the expected route for storage facilities (such as Rossington Park), truck stops, Motels plus service areas, and a host of other developments which will totally destroy thousands of acres of open rural spaces with beautiful views. So at last the truth is out, the politicians have deviously duped you, and have been deliberately deceptive, disguising the real objective as a Bypass to assist the 3 Villages. What they did was drip-feed so called concerned rhetoric to build up a head of steam up in the Longdendale Valley for a Bypass, because to simply state they wanted the Northern Way Route through the Longdendale Valley would have seen serious revolts against the scheme.

Because of these substantiated facts, which anyone can now source if willing, I have informed the Public Inquiry Inspector that he has been drawn into a scam: the PI was supposed to be totally related to the electorate of Longdendale and their concerns, whereas the absolute truth is that the PI is being held under deliberate and knowingly false pretences and the Bypass objectives have been kept hidden by TMBC Councillors and those within the administration, plus The Highways Agency, UK Government, and developers and speculators.

John Hall, Denton

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

What's in Action Man's pants?

Chronicle & Reporter readers had a rare treat last week from one of Longdendale's seemingly shyest councillors. 'Our friend from the North' Jonathan Reynolds - a trainee solicitor and seemingly a career politician in the making - clearly feels he has to do his bit to calm the troops in the pro-bypass lobby:

His use of the term "unanswerable case" demonstrates his contempt for those who dare to dissent - something he has in common with his fellow Councillors and the Labour Party in general.

He clearly feels so strongly about this that he feels no need to put his "unanswerable case" before the Public Inquiry. He feels there in no case against the road, so much so that he doesn't need to answer any difficult questions. Or rather, that he doesn't want to. It seems he's a slimy as his former boss, James Purnell. He's been trained well. You'd have thought that a trainee solicitor would relish the opportunity - but not this one, it seems he's yellow.

Pro-bypass people of Longdendale - your councillors sold you out. After years of preaching the case for their bypass, they do not have the courage of their convictions. They deserve your contempt and outrage.

It seems that Councillor Reynolds has much more in common with Action Man than simply his looks. Yes, he has the dead eyes and thug haircut, if not the scar (which we've added using Photoshop skills much better than Purnell's), but he also clearly has no balls.