Friday, June 27, 2008

Showdown at the Showground - the end of 'Mottram' Show

The above photo shows the magnificent view of the Longdendale Valley from the Mottram Showground, home of the Mottram Show, during a show in 2002. The bypass route goes right through the Showground (photo credit:

You may remember our post from a couple of weeks ago about the behind-the-scenes horse-trading going on during the Public Inquiry Recess. We mentioned that the Mottram Show Committee is split, not least because Roy Oldham has made it clear that were the Committee to object to the bypass, they could kiss goodbye to a new venue for their show. Access to the Supporter/Objector list shows that amongst the 6 Committee members listed on this page, there are 2 objectors and 1 supporter (J Swann, Supporter No. 866). The other people named have not taken a formal view. Whatever happened to people standing up with their consciences displayed? What power does Oldham have that he can buy their silence?

Well there are now rumours circulating around Longdendale that the deal has been done - and that the new home of the Mottram Show will be - Gee Cross. Or at least a patch of land alongside Stockport Road. This is clearly in Hyde, but the physical Geography of the location suggests that the Mottram Show will no longer belong to neither Mottram nor Longdendale. Along Stockport Road, it's possible to view the hills that form the valley, but not the valley itself - significantly, it also won't be possible to see the bypass. We've created a custom map, which is at the foot of this post which illustrates the Geograhical dislocation of this tradition from the whole area.

So the Mottram Show is cut off from its rightful home, and it's not even possible to view where it was from its new location. The brutal psychology at work in this deal should not be underestimated. The fact that the A560, fastest road in the area at 50 mph, runs through the land here is also highly ironic, as is the fact that the construction of the Bypass will entail a 15% increase in traffic along this road by 2015, and a 25% increase by 2030. Maybe by then, even the Gee Cross show - as it's sure to become known - will still not be safe from calls for a new road. But those on the Mottram Show Committee who have chosen to keep silent may well be pushing up daisies by then, along with the architect of the destruction of the Mottram Show and the Longdendale Valley, Roy Oldham.

View Larger Map

Since we published this post, we have learned the actual venue for the Show, as well as further interesting details. Read here for more details.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

(This place, is comin' like a ) Ghost Town

A few weeks ago I blogged about the Glossop Vision situation, which appears to mean huge, burnt out or mothballed mill regeneration schemes in the main. I qualified this criticism by pointing out the more acceptable facelifts in terms of pavements and station surround improvements, though the general consensus has been that these were implemented in a way designed to seriously inconvenience the local population and hit the local retail industry particularly hard. It is only reasonable to say that the town continues to look “like a ghost town” as the Howard Town mill project currently has the authentic air of the “Marie Celeste”, as if abandoned suddenly with all hands on deck.

Anyway, Glossop Vision are unrepentant, flagging up the next phase of their projects, and seeking new members to help Glossop submit to the latest dose of “regeneration”. There appears to be only Woods Mill left in terms of the usual approach but no doubt there are plenty of opportunities there for similar “white elephants”. Many will be wondering what is coming next.

Of course there is a disused railway line – currently a trail in an area that is not exactly spoilt for choice in terms of countryside facilities – but would that be the kind of thing that Glossop Vision is interested in? . Would it be a money spinner (quite possibly actually!)? But it does look old economy and that is always a problem with the “vision” people, who usually want “business as usual” 1990s style. As a colleague recently wrote, the “Vision” seems to favour enterprise that takes money out of the town into large corporate concerns.

Fortunately for the Council there seems to be no shortage of hapless individuals in the firing line recently to deflect public attention, so they can happily pursue their Vision line without embarrassment. Stories like those of the Dainty Deli repeatedly inspected by the Health and Safety Inspectorate, and ultimately closed with damning verdict by a Crown Court Judge make the Council look good, as a protector of public standards or safety without damaging any major interests.

The previous week it was Councillor Ivan Bell, labelled a “bully” by the Standards Committee amidst a deluge of expensive explanatory paperwork but strangely having to stand trial without the plaintiff being present. That seemed a little disrespectful of the process somehow, or even disrespectful of Councillor Bell whose reputation was after all at stake. The irony was that the accusation of “disrespect” was the very one levelled at Councillor Bell, and in fact one he had the courage to own up to.

And following that, bid farewell to the Dainty Deli - the latest casualty of Glossop’s High Street West. Whilst not being a patron of the store, it is worth saying that this appeared to be a quite a pleasant, busy, old-fashioned little business, in keeping with the town’s character, and likely to blend well with the tourist trade. Sometimes businesses like these struggle to comply with the new demands of health and safety regulations and need a lot of support to maintain their business in the current retail climate.

Whilst realising the Food Hygiene Officers repeatedly advised them of the need to radically improve and that they failed, seeing another local business with High Street frontage go down does not warm the heart. While in the formal sense the owners apparently missed their chance to improve, whether the Hygiene Officers did everything possible to keep the business afloat is not made clear from the newspaper reports. One would have liked to feel that a small local business got the same repeated second, third and fourth chances handed out to the regeneration projects.

Similar censure of the ill-fated Regeneration Policy is not to be heard and the questions regarding this seem hidden under press coverage of matters of ultimately less importance - under in fact what could be something of a fine web of spin?

No doubt the further excellence awards for our visionary council are not going to be handed out just yet but it is probably just a matter of time. Meanwhile one wonders just how much more Vision Glossop can take?

(Editors note: One retail chain has recommenced trade from the ground floor at Wrens Nest)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Passing the buck?

It seems that the local media has only just noticed the correspondence from the Public Inquiry that we broke last week, and today there are a couple of articles in the press about the delays to the PI, with some putting the possible resumption back to this time next year. The best bit is surely Brian Lashley's revelation that Roy Oldham's much mooted meeting with Tom Harris, the under Secretary of State for Transport, has still not taken place. It seems Roy doesn't find the favour he once did.

The Manchester Evening News also features a couple of 'outraged' quotes from both pro and anti bypass folk, but there is another side to this that everyone is missing. Clearly, the Government does not want to make a decision about this road, and that may well be because they don't want to be the ones to quash it. With an increasingly hostile political climate for the Labour Party, the last thing they'd want to do is nix a scheme that is the pet project of a strong Labour Local Authority, and one in the constituencies of 2 Labour MPs, one being a Secretary of State. It's much better to leave the decision to a future Conservative government, and to let them take the flak - locally and nationally - if they decide against it.

But that's a big 'if'. We should all remember that this scheme survived Labour's cull of Tory road schemes upon their coming to power in 1997. It could well do so again.

Our call for John Watson to go was certainly tongue in cheek. In fact, in reality we're happy for this charade to go on as long as possible - the chances are that the delays and increased costs will really stuff things up for the whole scheme. We'll drink to that.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

John Watson - resign, do it Monday!

The Highways Agency have taken all of the 7 days John Watson gave them this time last week to to respond to the questions he posed to them last week. Below are the questions posed by Watson (bold), and the answers provided by the HA (italics):

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

It is still the Highways Agency’s current intention to submit revised evidence to the

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

Our current developing programme still indicates that revised evidence will be

available in October 2008.

The Highways Agency have ignored the pre-amble to Watson's original questions which are the most revealing thing here, to wit:

(In March 2008) ... it was the Highways Agency's intention to submit revised evidence to the Inquiry, to produce revised traffic forecast for the Bypass and the Spur by the end of May 2008 and to make available at the end of May 2008 a firm programme for the submission of revised evidence to the Inquiry...

But why should they respond to this? After all, it is Watson's fault for not making this part of his question. To the less than casual observer, it is quite clear from the Highways Agency's answer that the timetable has slipped massively - again. Whereas in March they undertook to produce traffic forecasts and have a timetable for the submission of revised evidence by May, their answers today show that they now will only commit to submitting revised evidence by October 2008. In the meantime, we have to assume John Watson won't have to remind them again and live without a timetable.

As far as we're concerned, we're now changing tack - we've been easy on Watson up until now, but it is time for him to go. It's for his own good - this charade is surely holding back his career - and his professional integrity looks a bit suspect too. After all, the Highways Agency are blatantly 'driving' this Inquiry in a most flagrant manner.

It's no good - he has to go.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Reader's letters #1: should we all go back to the iron age?

We do get emails from time to time, and as far as I'm concerned, whatever mail is received is between you and us unless you state otherwise (and unless you're a particularly juicy specimen of our opponents). So when we were challenged to publish an email we received the other day, it has to be fair game to do so. A gentleman by the name of David Bridge sent this email, so below we'll outline the questions asked (bold) with my response (italics):

You appear to be against everything that Glossop wants to progress in modern society

No one knows what 'Glossop wants' because, as far as we are aware, no one has asked the people of Glossop. Or at least asked in a way that elicits a truthful and considered answer. What Glossop wants, is not the same thing as what High Peak Borough Council wants, nor what David Jones at the Glossop Chronic wants, nor anything that comes out of the mouths of the local bourgeoisie. If progression means the slow strangulation of the High Street and the construction of ugly, offensive Corporate warehouses that bring nothing to the area and take all of the profit from it, then I am are clearly against 'progress' as you label it. I suspect a lot of residents feel the same way. I don't want to live on Ashton Moss, or in a look-alike suburb of Manchester. If you do, then move there.

It takes me 20 minutes extra to travel in my car during the week than it does at the weekend from Glossop to Mottram. What does that do to my carbon footprint!!!!

That's probably rush hour traffic. I'm not sure what your point is - surely setting off 20 minutes earlier would help? As for your CO2 'footprint', the Highways Agency have clearly stated that CO2 emissions will rise with the bypass from the static position they are at now (because the roads are at capacity). Creating extra roads will encourage further traffic, ensuring more CO2. That much is incontrovertible.

The traffic figures for the combined Bypass and Spur demonstrate that traffic congestion will subsequently increase in Glossopdale (by 21% along the A57 at Brookfield - your route out of Glossop presumably?). Did you notice that bit when you read their literature? Surely you must have read it if you are in favour of the Bypass/Spur, or couldn't you be bothered?

Yes, I do need a car for my work and yes I do take other people, so why are you totally against anyone trying to improve the infrastructure of Glossop.

Again, I'm not sure what your point is. I also currently need a car for work - but I'd like a viable alternative for getting to and fro, and building more roads will not bring this. All of the that grief and destruction is not worth 40 minutes of your or my time each day. So I'm against building new roads. You live in the Peak District by the way...

The infrastructure of Glossop is not being improved. It is being made totally unsustainable. Have you not seen Rossington Park?

May I ask where you as an organiser live?

Yes, you may ask...

Now you are against Sainsbury's moving in, why?

Read this bloody blog post, and this one! How will building another Supermarket improve anything about this area? Can you not conceive of the horrendous traffic congestion that will result? Do you want to make Glossop a 'clone town'? Or do you get a little thrill every time Jamie Oliver's ads appear on TV?

You are now againt Lidl coming to Glossop, Why?

Again, you need to actually read what's written here & here - or are these rhetorical questions?

Should we all go back to the iron age.

This sounds philosophical. Shouldn't that be 'forward to another Iron Age'? We may have to if we carry on along your preferred path: the Iron Age was a time of increasing class stratification of society brought about by climatic changes and entailed fierce competition for resources - along with a hefty amount of violence. Sounds familiar? We'll see what happens when Peak Oil is reached (most likely within both of our lifetimes)...

As an organisation to stop a bypass I could possibly understand where you were coming from but now you just seem to be a left wing group set against the state, basically the opposite of the BNP.

You flatter me. I can only speak for myself, and not necessarily other contributors, but the 'opposite of the BNP' is where I'm at - I'm not a paranoid, nationalist, racist, fascist bonehead. As for my view of the State, I'll point you in the direction of Comrade Kropotkin's 'The State: Its Historic Role'*.

I would argue that meaningful and utterly radical change of the social and economic conditions we currently tolerate is no longer merely an issue of fairness or justice - it is actually becoming a prerequisite for the survival of Homo Sapiens on large parts of this planet. 'Get busy livin', or get busy dying' indeed...

What's clear from your email is that you do not have any kind of considered and coherent argument faced with the evidence and dialectic we have constructed here. Unfortunately someone with similar attributes tried doing a pro-bypass blog last year, otherwise we'd suggest you try that yourself.



The one thing puzzling about this is why David just didn't leave a comment on a post? We accept anonymous comments, and they aren't moderated prior to publication. They appear verbatim as and when people post them.

*"Either the State for ever, crushing individual and local life, taking over in all fields of human activity, bringing with it its wars and its domestic struggles for power, its palace revolutions which only replace one tyrant by another, and inevitably at the end of this development there is ... death! Or the destruction of States, and new life starting again in thousands of centers on the principle of the lively initiative of the individual and groups and that of free agreement. The choice lies with you!"

Thursday, June 05, 2008

John Watson: "Get busy livin', or get busy dying"

John Watson sounds even more at the end of his tether now than he did back in March of this year. He issued another plea to the Highways Agency yesterday, asking them to tell him when they will be ready to re-start the Public Inquiry. That's right - when they will be ready. Clearly, if this had been an objector, the delays would not have been tolerated, and they would not have been indulged in this way.

He also sounds more and more desperate. Like a spurned lover, he's forced to leave more and more pathetic messages on the Highways Agency's answerphone "we used to be good together, we used to have fun - please get in touch".

A bigger political game is at foot here. In reality, Watson is at best "going through the motions", and all of this serves to do is underline his powerlessness. Will he take the rope, like Brooks, or will he choose escape, like Red? We'll see.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Regeneration in Glossopdale? What Went Wrong?

Not too long ago, High Peak Borough Council, as I recall, attended a handsome awards ceremony in a posh hotel somewhere in the capital where they received an award for their regeneration of Wrens Nest Mill. Today despite reconstruction work having begun some time ago Wrens Nest stands a burnt out hulk, the casualty of an arson attack. It is natural to ask what went wrong?

Across the town the next jewel in the Borough Council's Crown, the Howard Town Mill Development stands desolate and empty, in part construction, following a reported dispute between the various parties involved, which include Hurstwood Construction and B&R Developments. Again it is natural to ask what went wrong?

The idea of regenerating old mill sites into swish modern living apartments and shopping emporia (maybe!) seems in principle not a bad one. From an architectural point of view Wrens Nest is a big improvement on the disused derelict building which was there before, and the reconstruction in the main seems to have been sensitively achieved with regard to the wider landscape features of the area. Yet it has not worked out, and while one could say to have one regeneration planning disaster is misfortune, two smacks of carelessness!. Or maybe something beyond carelessness, such as bad karma.

Concepts such as karma seem a little ill fitting for a hard bitten satirical review like this blog spot but I would ask readers to bear with me. By all accounts, and I have to ask you to refer to back issues of the Chronic for the exact Inquiry findings, not all the proper procedures were in place at Wrens Nest or had been followed when it had been opened up for occupancy. The fact of the fire is indisputably a human tragedy, but apparently it may have been one that could have been prevented.

Similarly with the Howard Town Mill development it would have seemed advisable before disturbing the livelihood of existing traders both on the main street, and in the Howard Town complex to be sure that the funds were in place to complete the development. This seems to be the problem or 'karma' element that I am talking about. The Council Planners and Regeneration department have seemed to ignore the human element, considering their projects as purely computer models, to perhaps promote their own careers, irrespective of the human cost elsewhere. Sometimes when you implement schemes it does not serve too badly to show you have a heart, but the Council has not seemed to have much of one. And maybe this is why the human element has come back to haunt them.

Many people found the descent of an army of people in yellow Hi-Viz jackets on the High Street before Christmas an unwarranted invasion. Again, the end product of repaved streets and station forecourt modernisation probably needed to happen, but not in this insensitive way. There have been business casualties as a result of the disruption on the high street, and businesses and local traders in Howard Town Mill are apparently facing serious customer access problems to which now there seems no end in sight or on site!

However safely ensconced in the "planning bunker", as other contributors to this blog have termed it, the Planners offer little contrition for the seeming disaster that has befallen the town as a result of their efforts. Not all of the 'Vision for Glossop' seems to have been a bad thing, but the somewhat callous route taken over over people's livelihoods and everyday lives seems to have backfired in a big way.

One has to wonder if the right people are in post to deliver what Glossopdale and High Peak needs? Are these local inhabitants who have the local interest at heart (with "heart" being the operative word)? Or get rich quick merchants, of the boom and bust economy type who will deliver ill-fated disaster projects and environmental destruction, somewhere they do not live themselves, and that nobody much wants?

Meanwhile something that really would be "good for Glossop" and would count as a sustainable development delivering those much talked about local jobs - Glossop is an area of almost full employment incidentally- would be revitalisation of the Woodhead line for freight and perhaps passengers. However - surprise! surprise! - this does not seem to be part of the Regeneration rubric.

This surely needs to change. Climate change is part of the Council's core strategy discussion in the Local Development Framework , and for the Council to ignore such a fantastic sustainable opportunity on their very doorstep just because it looks "old economy" and not about more cars , higher CO2 emissions and supermarkets, would appear to be just the wrong decision. Sustainable development is too often about putting a couple of eyesore and largely inefficient windfarms in open countryside, rather than a real practical project that would deliver real CO2 reduction benefits. Obviously one cannot lay all the burden of social problems and malfunction and its practical consequences at the door of High Peak Borough Council, but their "bunker" mentality, and indifference to public concerns seems symptomatic of that malaise, so there seems some justification perhaps in doing so.

Can the Council learn from what seem very obvious and serious mistakes in ignoring the human element and improve their karmic standing? More big bucks projects that fall apart are not what the area need, but sensitive regeneration of the area through an appropriate revival of a sustainable transport alternative would be a very welcome change of direction.

In the meantime maybe they could hand back their architectural awards, because they look a little misplaced in hindsight and it would indicate an appreciation that there are big lessons to be learnt. Don't hold your breath though!