Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Review of 2008

In many respects, it only seems a short time since we published our review of 2007 post for this blog - in other ways, it seems an age. It's much like life itself. 

So to our second annual review. We hope you enjoy it - it has taken us a fair while to compile and write this. We'd like to say 'here's to another year of the blog', although as we've said before it can only logically exist for as long as the plans for a bypass through Longdendale do, that isn't strictly true - more like 'here's to the end of this blog, and plans for the bypass alike'. Hear, hear!

January started with our predictions for the coming year - a separate post about how far we were right and wrong along with our predictions for 2009 will appear here shortly.

We opened the year with revelations about the plans of Tameside MBC to bring Tesco to Mottram & Hattersley. Our sources told us that the machinations surrounding this planned venture were the reasons why the Public Inquiry (PI) has been halted - we were told that an application for planning permission would only be forthcoming once the PI had re-started, and this was because traffic flows created by the store had to be factored-in. Though it's somewhat ironic that Roy Oldham was in the press this month decrying the PI delays saying they were 'holding back business' - no doubt alluding to the Tesco at Mottram. Twelve months later, the PI has been suspended again - more than once - and there's still no planning application. 

This was also the month that Tom Levitt MP tried to make predictions for 2008, and in amongst them was that the PI would conclude in favour of the damned road. Someone should tell Levitt that this road is as doomed as his career will be after the next election, along with his utterly crap predictions. Not doubt he'll parrot the same bilge again in a few days time.

January also saw excellent Freedom of Information  releases about the cost of the Bypass so far£13,782,505.24 back then (a figure which has increased by more than £2 million over the space of the following 12 months), and we also covered leading Objector John Hall's route to procuring this information a few days later. To mark the revelations, we hoisted our counter which has been steadily counting up the cost ever since. Though it was based on the workings of the cost accruals to date, it has shot ahead of later cost revelations, but we have decided not to re-set it until more fuller information is released about costs.

And we also had a quick look at High Peak Councillor Ivan Bell's comments on the blog, as well his views about the hated Rossington Park.

This month also saw the closure of the Longdendale Siege Committee's public petition on with a wholly unconvincing 198 signatures.

Near the end of the month, we reported on Stephen Greenhalgh's dismissal from heading the Bypass project, whilst an article by John Hall sought to enlighten us as to the extent of connection between government departments, local authorities and private companies - all advancing private and personal agendas to build the road.

We rounded off January with an article about the severe flooding at Woolley Bridge, where the Glossop Spur roundabout to the A57 is planned.

February brought a slip of the tongue from the MEN, unless they have secret knowledge about Doozers starting construction of the Bypass - if it's the latter, progress is slow down at Fraggle Rock.

We also reported that the (now departed) Transport Secretary of State Ruth Kelly was reviewing the viability of road schemes given 'cost escalation' - we're still unaware about the outcome of this review to date, but the longer the delays continue, the more likely it may be that the Bypass scheme could be nixed.

Sinking without trace was a plan to open a Travelodge near to the A57 in Hadfield - this was a plan which fully indicated the clandestine long-term strategic plans for the area, these hotels only being found near to Motorways.

And after Stephen Greenhalgh's departure, we were keen to welcome the newly appointed  Highways Agency Bypass Project chief Alex Bywaters - a spot of detective work confirmed he was the leader of a Morris Dancing troupe that paid homage to Luddites - the irony could not have been more apposite.

Mid-month we reported on James Purnell's sacking of one of his staff for writing to the local newspapers and not admitting who he was and giving a false address - our slant was that other staff members Barbara Charlesworth and John Bibby had also taken it upon themselves to write in to papers supporting the bypass. The blog post went on to draw a significant amount of Internet traffic after Iain Dale's blog latched on to it.

And costs were again an issue this month - this time those accrued by the Glossop Spur - a rather suspect £800,000 (a figure that had been projected to be reached by February 2007).

Very little time usually goes by without Roy Oldham opening his mouth and spewing venom, and this month was no exception - he attacked an MEN journalist at February's Full Council meeting, accusing Brian Lashley of bias regarding the Bypass and suggesting he would seek to interfere with the press to shut him up.

Near the end of the month, we had the pleasure of revealing to the world the semi-secret project that Tameside MBC had sponsored - the North European Trade Axis (NETA) - a plan to connect businesses across Europe via a Trans-European transport network,and how the project was headed by a particularly vocal Hollingworth resident, David Moore. Mysteriously, the website is no longer accessible, but facsimiles still reside in the Internet Archive, and the domain is still registered to Tameside MBC.

The penultimate day of the month saw a long article in support of Town & Village Green applications, the use of which had proved to be a lifesaver for many green spaces under threat from developers, and all because Tom Levitt MP in collusion with High Peak Borough Council had chosen to campaign to change the law as to their use.

We kicked off March with a short article about Longdendale's quiet Councillor Jonathan 'Jonny' Reynolds who - like his fellow Councillors - is content to write to the newspapers supporting the bypass, but not to stand up at the PI and stand up to scrutiny. John Hall later wrote an article for us about the duplicity of Politicians in this project.

The Public Inquiry was set back again - this time to October 2008. Later in the month, the Inspector John Watson had to remind the Highways Agency that they'd missed a deadline he set for them to outline how they planned to proceed.

And Longdendale Siege updated their website again with some rather dodgy figures about pollution locally - which contradicted evidence given at the Inquiry and did not provide any sources or evidence for their claims. And they're clearly not willing to produce this information at the PI. 

Later in the month, we reported on how Tameside MBC have made much of an application by the Trail Rider's Fellowship to use a local byway as a 'Byway Open to All Traffic' (BOAT) for motorcycles - but that their own incompetence had led to this scenario.

At the last day of March saw a report on developments surrounding Active Longdendale - the once 'Eco Clean-Up' volunteer brainchild of Councillor Sean Parker-Perry, now morphing into a Tool-Hire Business

We started April with an April Fool, played upon the Longdendale Siege Committee. They took it badly, and the Glossop Chronicle made a meal out of it, as did we.

During this month, we carried a series of posts about the duplicitous Longdendale Councillor Sean Parker-Perry. Our 'April is for Fools' series exposed his rather dodgy organisation Active Longdendale, plus his meddling with the Internet, as well as how his (now ex) employer, James Purnell MP was distancing himself from Sean. 

We also wrote a feature on the Government's response to the result of an anti-Longdendale Bypass petition on, which appeared to dash hopes for the re-use of the Woodhead Tunnel for rail. We also carried John Hall's response to this news, arguing that the promoters of the scheme are manipulating pollution data for Denton and Longdendale in order to get what they want. John Hall also wrote an article a couple of days later about his email to the Public Inquiry Inspector about the implications of the Government's response for the Public Inquiry itself.

April also saw a post about 'local demagogue' Ivan Bell and made a plea for 'clear analysis' rather than 'plain speaking' in relation to his calls for 'local development by local people'.

This month also saw revelations emerge about Bypass contractor Carillion's collusion to artificially inflate public sector contracts. John Hall posted his own thoughts, pointing the finger of suspicion firmly at Tameside Council leader Roy Oldham, and in another post 'joined the dots' between the individuals and firms involved in the scandal

At the end of the month, we looked at how the Highways Agency was dealing with people who had proposed alternatives to their Scheme through the Inquiry process. The case we highlighted can only be described as 'shabby', and this was someone who had advocated a similarly ambitious pro-road scheme.

Polticians were definitely the theme this month. We looked at our old friend Councillor Sean Parker-Perry's re-election, concluding that the best that he could say about the bypass was that 17% of people in Longdendale might be in favour of it. And we also looked at how Sean used the Reporter/Chronicle to respond to our concerns about Active Longdendale - without specifically mentioning who we were.

The other politician we looked at is the High Peak Borough Councillor Ivan Bell, and allegations about 'misconduct'. We concluded this due of posts by wondering if he might be more immune from such allegations if he became an MP, as he seems to be planning.

We broke more news about further increasing costs of the bypass (now at £15 million - money spent so far).

And we posted a trio of features about High Peak Borough Council's seeming love affair with Corporate Supermarket Giants in the Glossop area, with features on Tesco, Sainsburys and two about a possible (now actual) Lidl application (here and here).

Lastly, we looked at the strange withdrawal of some objections, as well as pressure that may be being applied to other to do so, given the abeyance in the Public Inquiry.

We started June by looking at the (hopefully) ill-fated Howard Town Mill development in Glossop, part and parcel of High Peak Borough Council's plans to 'transform' the area through 'regeneration', a plan that - if unchecked - will inevitably lead to more demand for road building. Later in the month, we returned to look at HPBC's contradictory behaviour with regard to other types of business.

We also wrote three posts this month about the game of chess that is the Public Inquiry - firstly about an increasingly pathetic looking John Watson having to remind the Highways Agency of a deadline he imposed, secondly their evasive reply, and thirdly the media's reaction

We also published an email from a pro-bypass reader - who had said we'd 'never publish it'. Although we did respond to the issues he raised, he never gave us the courtesy of a reply (a shame, this could have been a new series).

And at the end of the month, we revealed the proposed new home of Mottram Show - not in Longdendale & with no view of it's former home. 

The main theme of July was money. We featured no less than 3 posts on Bypass/Spur projected cost increases - 54% for the Glossop Spur and up to 70% for the bypass. At the end of the month, the media caught up and we wrote about the coverage.

We also contrasted Tom Levitt's backing for the Green (but insignificant) Hydro Electric Power scheme at the Torrs in New Mills and his backing for a dirty polluting bypass through the heart of Longdendale. 

During this month, we looked at the response of the State to activists both local and national: locally, the treatment at the hands of the police by the blogger Tameside Eye, and nationally, the police's action to virtually lockdown Climate Camp.

We also reported on the cancellation of Mottram Show, and the documentation of TMBC's website which shows how much has been paid for alternative site, and who the owners are.

One positive development in August was that against development - in this case, people in Stalybridge mobilising against Tesco's plans for expansion in the town.

This month also brought news from the Highways Agency about when they'd be ready to resume the Public Inquiry - May 2009, 2 years after it started. 

And in the last post of the month, we looked at how the press had reported the story, with the Tameside Advertiser both refusing to acknowedge their source (us) and deciding to use absurd and misleading images to go with the story.

We opened September with a post about further revelations about Public Inquiry delays, as revealed by the Glossop Chronicle. We questioned how it could be possible for the Highways Agency to hold further public exhibitions and consultations when the road scheme is already at a Public Inquiry. 

This was also another month which featured much about our favourite Councillor, Sean Parker-Perry. We noted how the deadline for the spending of a Lottery Grant for his Active Longdendale project had passed, yet the organisation seemed to be almost underground in terms of its public profile. We later broke news that he had been sacked by his employer James Purnell, and revealed that the catalyst for this may have been because he spoke out against the Congestion Charge at the Labour Party Conference.

Sean's was not the only political ruction this month - the Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly decided to resign this month. Our call for Crash Gordon to replace her with James Purnell didn't work - we're not that influential yet.

Not entirely unconnected was the news that the blogger, Tameside Eye, had had all charges laid against him by the police dropped this month.

And we also reported on Tameside MBC's plans to remove roadside memorials. Without a trace of taste, let alone irony, their mouthpiece for the press release was Councillor Peter Robinson, a former funeral director.

Our opening gambit this month was our response to Councillor Sean Parker-Perry's explanation for his 'leaving' his job with James Purnell - he wanted to learn sign language. It just gets better and better...

In another post, we looked at the writings of the former Transport Minister Tom Harris, who listed his hobbies to include hill walking, even though his department wanted to destroy one of ours. 

And as the latest global crisis of capitalism started to well and truly unfold, we asked how long could plans to spend £315 million on the Bypass survive in the current climate. Like local Tintwistle Parish Councillor Bill Clarke, we called for a lorry ban as a much cheaper alternative.

We also looked at the lack of care Tameside MBC take in maintaining their roads, which has resulted in at least one death person, and the casual brutality of Roy Oldham's remarks positing potholes as a 'traffic calming measure'.

Two of our posts this month focused on woodlands - one highlighted the work of the Woodland Trust who had reported that 50% of Ancient Woodland had been lost in the past century. Our other post looked at the war of words over Etherow Lodge Park in Longdendale between Bill Johnson and Councillor Sean Parker-Perry - both pseudo-environmentalists who are very concerned about this wood, but less vocal about Swallows Wood, which faces destruction from the Bypass.

Finally, in what would become a long running feature over the rest of the year, we posted about the traffic disaster engineered by Derbyshire County Council and Tameside MBC in allowing two sets of roadworks along the A57. 

In November, we turned our focus upon the fact that the Longdendale Bypass Inquiry is now the longest-running Public Inquiry into a road scheme ever, with a series of articles about the Inquiry.

First off was the trials and tribulations experienced by John Hall in trying to obtain the minutes of a meeting between the Highways Agency and Statutory Objectors which we dubbed 'Watsongate'. 

We also looked closely at the progress of the Planning Reform Bill, a piece of legislation which seeks to remove any remaining semblence of openness and accountability for the planning process, and how this may relate to our Public Inquiry.

November also brought an update about the latest accrued costs of the Bypass - £16 million, or more than £1 million for each sitting day. The story was subsequently taken up by most of the regional newspapers. 

This month also found us writing a letter to - and getting published in - the Glossop Chronicle regarding the roadwork hell we had commented on the previous month. 

Finally, we looked at a meeting between the new Transport Secretary of State Geoff Hoon (or Geoff Who?) and various local politicians - an attempt to subvert and sideline the Public Inquiry which would feature heavily over the coming weeks under the title 'Hoongate'. 

One theme dominated December: posts about the 'Hoongate' meeting the previous month. Our first article compiled information from different sources about the meeting, with a second article looking at the 'official notes' which emerged later. Another post looked at TMBC's travel expenses, which a more humourous post introduced (hopefully) the first in a series of 'lolprats' (loosely modelled upon the lolcats of 

Long in the writing was a critical post about the Manchester Congestion Charge and TiF bid, appearing more or less 24 hours before the polls officially closed, we had no idea which way the vote would go, but this post was the view of one of us on why they considered it a white elephant.

We also continued with our traditional Oldham-bashing in a post about the blinkered and outmoded approach to traffic problems and transport policy espoused by this cretin. 

And we also contrasted Tameside MBC's contradictory espousal of mass tree planting when they plan to destroy the Ancient Semi-Natural Woodland of Swallow's Wood. 

December 18th saw the first anniversary of the last sitting day of the Public Inquiry, with the Inspector John Watson setting out his stall for the way he enivsaged things proceeding.

And the last month of the year also saw a (public) return to Direct Action as a response to road schemes - this time at the site of the Weymouth Relief Road in Dorset, where the County Council set about clearing Ancient Woodland. Protestors took to the trees and we carried a call for help.

Last but not least, we reminded people in the High Peak of Tom Levitt's wish for a 'Green Christmas'. The man has clearly had his irony removed.

And that's it for another year. We'd like to extend our thanks to John Hall and Tameside Eye for their help and inspiration this year, along with all the other persons unknown who contribute in their own way to making this blog what it is.  Thanks also go to Virtual Glossop for recognising the value of this blog to the political and cultural climate in Glossopdale and Longdendale by featuring us on their homepage from time to time. 

See you in 2009 - sometime tomorrow.

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