Thursday, December 31, 2009

Review of 2009

Contrary to what we said last year, it DOES seem rather a long time since we last compiled our review of the year. Perhaps that's because we've not been blogging much, but it means that this will be a rather truncated review. So here goes.


As has been customary, January started with our predictions for the coming year, and we'll be doing a little follow up on that in about 24 hours or so. We also took a little look at Tom Levitt's predictions too, or 'Mystic Lev' as we christened him.

We looked at Persona Associates a couple of times this month: first to muse on why their portfolio of Public Inquiries seemed rather slim, and second to wonder why the Programme Officer Chris Banks had moved on. At the time, it seemed more of a conspiracy than it does now.

Our old nemesis Sean Parker-Perry popped up in this month too. He'd been complaining about the introduction of fortnightly bin collections in Tameside, and we used to opportunity to take a look at the real motives behind the move towards this trend.

This month also saw a decision about Heathrow's third runway, and we took a swipe at Geoff Who?/Hoon, who at the time was the Secretary of State for Transport. We also criticised Tom Levitt who used the Heathrow decision as an opportunity to demonstrate his contradictory views about the environment - this time, he hailed the decision to discharge even greater volumes of CO2 into the atmosphere as having entirely the opposite effect.

It was in January that dark clouds started to appear on the horizon for bypass supporters. 4NW were running a consultation on spending priorities for transport, and they had handily pointed out that they were currently 35% over-budget. We worked out the Longdendale Bypass represented that 15% of the total budget, a fact which could expose it to being axed in future.


This month could be divided in roughly two ways - politicians and money.

Regarding money, the big news was a leak from the blog of Jim Dixon, Chief Executive of the Peak District National Park Authority, revealing that 4NW had decided not to fund the Longdendale Bypass in their budget to 2015. A week later, the media was beginning to pick it up.

Regarding politicians, we first stopped to look at the curious moves of Derbyshire County Councillors Wilkinson & Wilcox, who called for the Public Inquiry to be stopped early in the month. We also looked at Denton MP Andrew Gwynne's trip to Svalbard to have a look at the effects of climate change, clearly trying to get away from the M60 at Denton, which is a big contributor to it. Lastly, we focused on another politician who loves such contradictions, Tom Levitt MP, who decried 4NW's decision to drop the bypass funding.

Along the way we also had items on TMBC's latest bit of greenwash and an article from John Hall about how the local press prevents criticism of politicians.


March was about death and resurrection. It appeared this month that the Bypass was dying, and a mortal wound was inflicted when the Highways Agency decided to withdraw from the Public Inquiry. It looked increasingly like euthanasia too, with the emergence of the full 4NW report labelling the road as having the 'weakest' strategic justification, although it would be an expensive funeral, with the quango reserving over £1 million to preserve the corpse for the time being.

We also decided to call it a day, given the news about the Highways Agency, but we spoke too soon, and decided on a resurrection 3 days later after AGMA announced their plans for what we were the first to dub 'Bypass 2.0'. Also resurrected were the crusty old zombies of Longdendale Siege, on the warpath after the double-whammy of 4NW and Highways Agency decisions. Perhaps our blog taking the piss out of Mike Flynn had reverberations beyond the grave?

Prior to the news about the Highways Agency, earlier in the month, we'd spent some time looking at the politricks taking place at the Department for Transport, with the revelation that the then Minister Lord Adonis was the decision maker about the road. What we think was our best 'lolprats' photo accompanied the blog.

And the month would be incomplete without pointing out yet more contradictions in the public utterances of Tom 'Shiteman' Levitt MP.


Early in the month, we looked at the ridiculous bureaucracy which meant that the Public Inquiry was still rumbling on, despite the promoter or the scheme stating their intention to withdraw from it weeks beforehand. We also had our hands on a Freedom of Information request obtained by John Hall in which the Chief Executive of the Planning Inspectorate seemed to criticise the way the Inquiry had been run. Later in the month, we once again noted that the Highways Agency were still dragging their feet in formally withdrawing, and that the Inspector was reluctant to get tough. We also noted how accountants Price Waterhouse Coopers had landed on the blog after searching Google for the Inquiry and mused that a thorough audit wouldn't go amiss.

April also brought more news about Bypass 2.0. There were more detailed discussions about it at TMBC's 'Executive Cabinet' (sounds so vainglorious, doesn't it?), and we'd mused about possible routes for the new road prior to these developments. We also noted that something seemed wrong with the sequencing of the traffic lights through Mottram, which may not be entirely coincidental.

We also took a little time to look at the Tory Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (and likely next High Peak MP), Andrew 'Tweedledumber' Bingham and his essential non-difference from Tom Levitt regarding the Longdendale Bypass.


Only 3 stories this month, and a sign that the days of blogging every few days was over, as well as having something to write about.

There were more revelations about the cost of the (now failed) Bypass - £1,176,000 between November 2008 and April 2009, which worked out at more than £7,000 per day. The costs accrual didn't seem to affect the sloth-like approach of the Highways Agency, and John Hall sent us copies of emails between Persona Associates and HA project leader Alex Bywaters which illustrated this.

Finally, we reported on a more-or-less secret meeting between the various bodies promoting the bypass to progress to 'phase 2' of the Bypass project, following AGMA's announcement about transport funding priorities.


This month we had more or less come to the conclusion that the blog should remain on hiatus for the foreseeable future, unless there were any major developments worth reporting.


We obviously couldn't ignore the big news this month, and it formed our only blog for this month - the news that the Highways Agency had brought the Public Inquiry to an end, 3 months after their announcement that they were withdrawing. The PI had sat for only 15 days out of the 757 that it had been officially running. We mused at the time on the likely costs of the whole farce, but there have been no revelations about this since we wrote.


We popped back very briefly this month to inform the world about TMBC issuing a tender for the new name for Bypass 2.0 - 'Longdendale Integrated Transport System'.

And that wrapped it up for the year.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Bypass 2.0 - is work in progress?

Now we were hoping to get another detailed post together about the whole 'Longdendale Integrated Transport Strategy' currently being hyped by Roy Oldham and Tameside MBC here there and everywhere, but we'll put that to one side to bring you some breaking - but linked - news instead.

It seems that TMBC are seeking interest for a tender in the construction of Bypass 2.0, and the evidence can be seen here on the website.

Note the details - the deadline is the end of September 2009, and the sum under the contract is £90 million.

So far, in many people's minds, it's been a little hard to take all of the pronouncements about Bypass 2.0 seriously, but this development is a big 'heads up' to all involved...

Monday, July 27, 2009

As one farce ends...

Yes, we're back! But before NMB addicts get rather too excited, it's only because there's something worth reporting. We're now as thoroughly accustomed to not blogging as we were previously to constantly blogging. So we're sure readers will appreciate how hard it has been to write the latest post with the usual wit and humour that they may have become accustomed to (not to mention the artwork).

And it has to be said that the news won't surprise those with their fingers on the pulse.

So the first non-surprise is that the Highways Agency have finally got around to ending the farce that is the Public Inquiry. Advertisements appeared in the press last Thursday 23rd July and on the Public Inquiry website later in the day.

Of immediate interest is the power relationship inherent in the notice: note here that the respective Secretaries of State have cancelled the Inquiry. No doubt at some point the Inspector John Watson will process the formalities, but it's not his decision to make, as has been very little in this whole charade.

But the main issue here is one of costs, as we've noted all along. Exactly 4 months elapsed between the Highways Agency announcing on 23rd March of this year that they intended to withdraw and their fulfilment of that intention last week. We've already commented upon the supposed reasons for this delay (legal wranglings), but in a time of financial hardship and cut-backs we have the spectacle of a government department dragging their feet and doubtless accruing huge costs.

How much? We'll take the last cost estimate as our guide - you'll remember we blogged about it at the time. Since the costs accrued between November 13th 2008 and April 30th 2009 equated to a daily rate of £7,041.92, at that rate of reckoning, the 122 days that have elapsed since the Highways Agency's announcement of their intention to withdraw and their taking action to do so have seen the accrual in costs of a further £859,114.24 of our money.

Perhaps at some point in the near future, we'll become aware of exactly how much how this PI has cost, of how much John Watson was paid for his 15 days of sitting (out of 757 days the PI was open). But that's for another time.

Finally, there is a delicious irony in the costs of this PI. It's frankly fucking hilarious, but you'll have to take our word for it until we report back next time with our second piece of news. Ta ta for now...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Our hiatus

Regular readers will have noticed that for the past month, No Mottram Bypass has been very quiet. Whilst we're not going to offer a fulsome explanation for our absence, suffice it to say that the blog has become a bit of an albatross around the necks of the editorial team. 

We fully aware that there's no shortage of potential blog posts: the latest news (or lack of news) about Bypass 2.0, the resignation of both Geoff Who? and the slimy James Purnell from the government, a possible split in the pro-bypass lobby, the fact there's still no end in sight for the Public Inquiry. We could go on.

We have said before that the blog should not be an end in itself, and that informs our decision now to suspend No Mottram Bypass for the foreseeable future. To continue would be self-indulgent. We would rather this website reflects not just the news about the progress of the scheme, but also a concerted campaign against it. The latter is lacking in our view, and self-gratification does not motivate us.

We do and always have welcomed contributions from anyone who thinks they have something to say about the issues surrounding the bypass, so perhaps that's where we'll leave it for now. If you want to write a blog, or a series, or even a regular feature (as well as make a film, or contribute some art work), then all reasonable offers will be considered. But we're also sure that if, like us, you'll continue to oppose the road, that you'd much rather be in the trenches, getting your hands dirty. 

Until then, la lutta continua...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Revealed - the cosy meeting to progress 'Bypass 2.0'

This week has seen the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities publish a document (opens PDF) outlining which major transport schemes will be prioritised in the region and how they will be funded. The story has hit the headlines and is in today's Manchester Evening News.

If you don't know much about the background to this report, then you'd assume the numerous references to a 'Mottram Bypass' would be shorthand for the Mottram/Hollingworth/Tintwistle Bypass, even though the latter scheme is referred to only once in the document (on page 4). Look more closely at some of the tables illustrating costs, and you'll find the 'Mottram Bypass' is described as now only costing £100 million - and you may be wondering 'what happened to the other £200 million'?

But if you take this in the context of the previous AGMA press release issued at the end of March and also the TMBC Executive meeting last month, then you'll quickly start to understand something new is on the table.

And now, we can shed more light upon exactly who has been up to what in terms of progressing this new 'Bypass 2.0' scheme. Well, almost.

First we must set down some context. On 19th March 2009, representatives from various agencies met at the Highways Agency's offices at City Tower in Manchester. The date is neatly sandwiched between the announcement of the deferral of funding for the original bypass scheme by 4NW on 12th March and the announcement by the Highways Agency that they were withdrawing from the PI on 24th March.

The purpose of the meeting was to salvage something from the 4NW decision, and the (redacted) minutes of the meeting - obtained by John Hall - can be read here.

Upon reading the minutes, it quickly becomes clear that all of the major players in the Bypass have no intention of simply dropping the plan for a road through Longdendale, whatever their public position may be. Whilst this is unsurprising for the likes of Tameside MBC, you do start to wonder what is going on when the Highways Agency play a major part, and as you read further into the minutes, you realise it is they that are playing a strange game.

The key section of the minutes lies in section 5 'Existing scheme', with paragraph 7 showing duplicity is at work with regard to the Public Inquiry (emphasis added):

"(redacted) explained that the Public Inquiry had been adjourned but was still live. A discussion took place about the potential for a Phased Inquiry based on any revised option, and it was agreed that there may be some value in exploring this, dependent on the shape of any emerging proposals"

Presumably, this anticipates that the last two years (and as yet undisclosed £X million) have been 'phase 1' which is now adjourned, and that another scheme can be drawn up and emerge in 'phase 2' when it is ready.

Looking back to March 24th, when the Highways Agency announced their withdrawal from the PI, one has to look at the wording of their statement which we emphasised at the time (again, our emphasis added):

The Highways Agency is withdrawing from the current Mottram-Tintwistle bypass Public Inquiry

We feel that these minutes are an important part of the puzzle falling into place: they demonstrate that the statements made by Alex Bywaters - the head of the Bypass project - in his email to the PI programme officer are wilfully misleading, and also that the HA have clearly not formally withdrawn from the PI yet because it doesn't suit the plans that this little crowd have for our Valley and the wider area. After all, the idea for a 'phased Inquiry' that they float means that there must be a period of transition: closing the current PI would simply be the end, and getting another PI running at a later date would clearly be much harder. It wouldn't be 'phase 2', it would simply be a second Inquiry.

One also has to note that 'alternative proposals' as described in the minutes means a road drawn up by the agencies, and not those presented to the Public Inquiry so far. The minutes go further in a section entitled 'Alternative proposals', which is clearly concerned with TMBC's 'Bypass 2.0', and makes clear the background behind AGMA's announcement in the press yesterday.

What we would be interested to learn is whether or not those individuals that had taken time and effort to propose 'alternatives' to the bypass or were due to do so at the PI (i.e. the Translink scheme for reopening Woodhead) have been invited to be present at these discussions? And if not, why not?

There's much more to these minutes than can be commented upon by us at this time (particularly the role of GMPTE, Faber Maunsell and Sir Howard Bernstein who the minutes suggest are joined at the hip), and one interesting point to note is that some of those present were due to meet the following day to progress 'Bypass 2.0'. We wonder what went on there?

Finally, there's the issue of the redacted names. There seems to be a spurious reason given for not releasing these names, so we're inviting readers to posit exactly who these people are. If this all looks plausible, at a later date, we'll amend the minutes to show who we think was there. So let's have your ideas.

This one will run and run...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Public Inquiry - Bywaters leaps into action!

We have proof positive that the Highways Agency simply haven't been paying attention to a word the Public Inquiry Inspector says.

For the past couple of weeks, stalwart objector John Hall has been emailing Persona Associates reminding them of the wishes of the Inspector regarding the closure of the Public Inquiry (you'll remember our blog about it the other week).

Last week, the programme officer Brenda Taplin was forced to email the Highways Agency Bypass chief Alex Bywaters to get some movement. Brenda very handily passed the email, along with Bywater's reply, on to John Hall, and it's available to view here (opens PDF).

For those who don't want to open the PDF, Brenda reminds Bywaters of the Inspector's request, and stresses the urgency in a very 'scolding' manner.

Bywaters replies, portraying himself as piggy in the middle: he says that, from his end, the respective legal departments of the Treasury and the Department for Transport are 'debating' something. He then asks Brenda if the Planning Inspectorate know what's going on!

The immediate question is - does this mean that neither the people in charge of the Bypass project nor the programme officer for the PI know what's going on? On first impressions, it would seem not*.

The other observation we can make is that Bywaters has failed to update the programme officer about the reasons for the delay. She has to email him, and then only after being mithered by an objector. Bywater's closing line "I want and end to this as much as the Inspector!" is ridiculous given that Taplin has had to remind him of the Inspector's request. It would seem to us that neither of them are motivated unless prodded by someone else.

Given that this charade is currently costing more than £7,000 a day, you wonder what it will take to get someone somewhere to do something to end this farce...

*As for what the DfT and Treasury are debating - well, we'll blog about our own views on what that is in the days to come.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

New bypass cost figures - going off the rails on a gravy train

Remember when we told you back in March that the deferral of the bypass funding would still entail costs of £1.1 million over the next 7 years?

Well the Highways Agency have now topped that. Yesterday saw a reply in Parliament to this question placed by the Shadow Transport Minister, Robert Goodwill MP:

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport with reference to the answer of 13 November 2008, Official Report, columns 1286-87W, on the Longdendale bypass, what costs have been incurred in connection with the A57/A628 Mottram to Tintwistle bypass since 13 November 2008.

Now you'll remember that 13th November 2008 was the last time Goodwill made enquiries about the cost of the scheme, which then stood at £16 million. The reply, forthcoming from Paul Clark MP, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, is gobsmacking:

For the period of 13 November 2008 to 30 April 2009, the A57/A628 Mottram to Tintwistle bypass scheme has incurred costs of approximately £1,176,000.

Working it out, that's 167 days (just under 6 months) - so the costs incurred since then have been £7,041.92 per day. And in the second part of his answer, Clark reveals what this has been spent on:

The costs include general project management, preparation for closure of the Public Inquiry, responding to general inquiries, project governance, staff costs, costs associated with the contract and finalising documents for the postponement of the project.

It seems to us that the phrase 'preparation for the closure of the Public Inquiry' is a bit of an abstract concept. After all, the Inspector has made it look like he has tried his best to bring the things to a close, and the Highways Agency have ignored it. Clearly the Gravy Train has no brakes, and the Government is in no mood to derail it. 

When one considers the announcements made in the Budget two weeks ago, and all the speculation regarding possible cuts to all kinds of budgets, it beggars belief that this road to nowhere is still trundling along, costing you and I nearly £300 for each hour that passes.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What's the delay?

You may remember back in the dark distant past - 31st March actually - the Public Inquiry Inspector issuing document X21 to the Inquiry. In the document (entitled "Possible Closure of the Inquiry"), John Watson politely requested that the Highways Agency withdraw the draft Orders, and other such legal niceties, and confirm for him the date when they planned to formally withdraw from the Inquiry. He further requested that they do so by 15th April, unless it was their intention to provide such notice "within 4 weeks of the date of this note".

Well, we heard nothing from the Highways Agency by the 15th April and 4 weeks later, no such notice is forthcoming. Once again, the Highways Agency are prepared to waste money by prolonging matters to the utter limit, a limit which the Inspector is wholly reluctant to enforce. 

Could it be that something else is going on? We'll leave you to speculate.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


We had a very interesting & suitably ironic visit today - budget day - which we'd like to tell you about.

It was a fleeting visit from renowned accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC). They'd been searching the internet for the "public enquiry (sic) mottram" and landed on a blog item about the Public Inquiry.

Now this could be just a bored employee idling away some time at work, but then again, maybe someone has called the auditors in? One way or another, we'd love to find out exactly how much the Public Inquiry has cost, and how much our dear friend John Watson the Inspector has been paid for 15 days work

Watch this space.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

More info on "Bypass 2.0" - Tameside's sleight of hand

Snippets of info are starting to emerge about Tameside MBC's plans for a bypass on the cheap.

Last week saw a press release about the possible scheme being published in Local Transport Today (our screen grab of the article can be viewed here). More information is amongst the agenda items for TMBC's Executive 'Cabinet' that met on 1st April (seriously!), and these can be read here (opens PDF). Regarding the bypass, this is all the info we get:

A bypass of Mottram passing to the north of the village crossing and linking to Roe Cross Road and Mottram Moor and from there along the line of the Glossop Spur to Woolly Bridge (sic)

So our prediction in a previous blog post about likely routes appears to be wrong. Instead, the route under consideration appears to be akin to the 'Grey Route', which was put forward for public consultation back in 1993, alongside the Brown Route which ended up in the shit as it were. We'd like to remind everyone why the Grey Route was rejected at that time (from the Highways Agency's history of the scheme published on the Public Inquiry website - opens PDF):

(The Grey Route) had an adverse impact on the built environment, cultural heritage, townscape and construction because it traversed most of the 'difficult' areas of poor ground conditions

Whilst not mentioning where the road will go after reaching Woolley Bridge, the maps showing all the historical routes makes clear the plan will be to forge through what is now Rossington Park en route towards Tintwistle. The plan seems to be to capitalise on opposition to Rossington Park, but how Tameside MBC, or High Peak BC for that matter, will justify subjecting the Nothern portion of Hadfield to a proto-motorway is another matter. Rossington Park is by no means a success, and there's nothing to say it will be there in years to come, unlike any new road that is constructed. 

But the second part of Tameside's plans are the most interesting: 

- A package of sustainable travel initiatives linked to the existing School Travel Plans.

- A package of public transport (bus) improvements on the bypassed/relieved roads

- Cycling and pedestrian improvements on the bypassed/relieved roads.

- A package of traffic calming/road safety and environmental street improvements on the bypassed/relieved roads,

- Selected rail station improvements

- A lorry ban for through traffic on the A628/A616 (Woodhead Pass) and the A57 (Snake Pass) which would probably require the de-trunking of the A628/A616. Possible extension of the lorry ban to the other trans-Pennine routes passing through the Peak District National Park.

- The re-opening of the Woodhead rail route for trans-Pennine freight and passenger traffic

What looks like a sweetener for a road project, may be just that. But anti-bypass activists must ignore this at their peril - it's an attempt to 'divide and rule'. By stealing the positive agenda of more than one local campaign, plus making overtures to the disaffected Peak District National Park Authority, Tameside MBC hope that everyone will forget the plan is still to build another road. And one that follows the route of the likely Eastwards extension of the M67 30-odd years ago.

Of course, there's still the issue of how this will be paid for, and this is also covered in the same minutes. But that's for another time... 

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Are Tameside MBC manipulating the Mottram traffic lights?

We've heard reports - and experienced ourselves - delays caused by very noticeable changes in the traffic light sequence at Mottram over the past few days. Last week saw some extremely short sequences at the traffic lights between Market Street and Stalybridge Road, leading to long delays along the A57 in either direction - one contact reported that it took 2 hours to get from Denton into Glossopdale at rush hour evening one day last week.

This week has seen the sequences reversed, with long delays for local traffic between Broadbottom and Mottram.

We've reported on this seemingly deliberate manipulation of the traffic lights once before, but it does appear to be rather extreme of late, just as the prospects of the bypass begin to look shaky, and Tameside want to build their own version.

We welcome any insight that NMB readers can provide - if you have insider insight into these matters and have evidence that it is deliberate, let us know.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Andrew Bingham - Tweedledumber

Last week's Glossop Advertiser saw a number of all-too-familiar letters from pro-bypass fuckwits decrying the Highways Agency's decision to withdraw from the Public Inquiry. But amongst them was nestled this letter from High Peak Borough Councillor Andrew Bingham, the Tories Parliamentary Candidate for the area.

In it, Bingham paints a picture all too familiar because it's the same one painted by Tom Levitt, the man whose job he's after: the Bypass as the key to capitalist prosperity for the High Peak, representing an alleviation of all the traffic problems in the area, supported by almost everyone (none of whom can actually be bothered to officially do so). 

In our view, these non-differences between Labour and Conservative represent all that the political and economic system can offer here or anywhere else. They demonstrate the hollowness of both parties claims to an environmentally sound future where the infinite growth of markets is both necessary and desirable. Neither of them have anything to offer to anyone who believes in anything different.

You won't be surprised to learn that Bingham is as big a fan of the New Mills Torrs Hydro as is Levitt.  For us, this speaks volumes about his credibility, but we won't labour the point lest it appear to be our hobby-horse. 

Our sincere hope is that the legitimacy of the world of Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber, as represented by Bingham and Levitt, is on it's way out. Since it would appear to be high likely that Bingham will replace Levitt at the next General Election, we'll be keeping our eyes on him over the coming months.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Possible "new" bypass 2.0 routes

Despite all the fuss and brouhaha raised over the cancellation and vague "reinstatement" of plans for a bypass recently (bypass 2.0 as we'll now call it), firm details of any alternative plan for a road through Longdendale are thin on the ground

But as far as we're concerned, there's no harm in speculating about what any eventual plan may look like. After locating details of alternative routes considered in past years, we can now reveal the most likely locations for any new road. And wherever it goes, it's bound to stir up new dissent, perhaps even amongst those who so far have been all for it.

Leading up to 1993, a total of 7 possible routes had been considered by the Highways Agency as possible schemes. You can view a plan of them all here. This document* has a written description of each route, plus reasons for rejection, along with a potted history (opens PDF, see pages 27-30). The route that was eventually chosen after consultation was the eventually ill-fated (but aptly named) 'Brown Route', shortlisted alongside but winning out over the 'Grey Route'.

We feel pretty safe in speculating that any 'new' route for a bypass will utilise plans already drawn up in order to keep down costs, and the 7 routes identified in past years presumably represent all the viable options open to roadbuilders. So the question is, which one is now the most likely?

A good place to start is what has already been said in public, and in private as far as we know. As we've already pointed out, back in November 2008, local MPs and Roy Oldham met with Geoff Hoon, and the possibility of alternative alignments which "hugged the conurbations more closely" was discussed. James Purnell was said to have commented that "such a route would be popular with neither residents nor environmentalists".

However, one has to consider that the MPs wanted movement on the Bypass proposals and the PI that existed back at the end of last year: like the heady days of Globalised Capitalism, that situation no longer exists. Being left with a new situation, we imagine the MPs and local councillors are now starting to think about what costs less in terms of money, if not any supposed public support. 

The only point of detail that has emerged since then has been this article written by two MEN journalists which says that the new route will be "shorter". Looking again at the route plans, to our eyes there is only really one candidate which can be considered shorter than any of the other routes - that of the 'Blue route'. The bad news for the people of Tintwistle is that this route cuts around the South side of their village, leaving them surrounded by both the existing A628 to the North and the 'new' bypass to the South. It also comes a lot closer to Hollingworth than the 'Brown route' ever threatened. 

We can only surmise that Longdendale Siege members like Mike Flynn and David Moore in Hollingworth and Pat Jenner in Tintwistle will be extremely unpopular with their fellow villagers should this be the case. Rest assured, we and others will be doing our utmost to make clear to local people the implications of these plans for the area when more clarity can be obtained. 

* - as we write, this document is still available on the Public Inquiry website, but we will host the file when/if the PI website is taken offline

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Inspector in his castle & the Inquiry that never was...

More interesting developments at the Public Inquiry. A new document has appeared at the Persona Website (can be found here - opens PDF) in which the Inspector, John Watson, virtually pleads with the Highways Agency & TMBC to withdraw the Draft Orders, which he considers will be the end of the Public Inquiry. What's amazing is that he's given them a 2 week deadline to get back to him. If they delay this long, that means the Inquiry will have rumbled on for 3 weeks after the HA stated their intention to withdraw. It's so much fun spending other people's money.

Watson comes across as so weak and subservient - he's not actually telling them to end the PI, instead he asks them to notify him of what they want to do. This reveals almost all you need to know about Public Inquiries. They are granted by the good grace of the State, and the State decides when they end, and even if it gives the PI a chance to conclude, it can (and frequently does) choose to ignore the 'recommendations'. 

So contrast Watson's pleadings with comments today in a letter to stalwart objector John Hall from the Chief Executive of the Planning Inspectorate, Katrine Sporle (which you can read here in a PDF - the redacting and highlighting is ours). It is a response to a Freedom of Information request, but we feel the letter is more interesting than the information they refuse to release. 

Sporle says that the five-times adjourned Inquiry is "exceptional", and she goes further:

Indeed, I am not aware of this having occurred on any other case in recent years.

So much so that they are considering "issuing new guidance" to ensure that "all parties are fully prepared when they come to the Inquiry". She goes on to say that adjournments are necessary to ensure "natural justice" and that the Inspectorate does its best to avoid adjournments. 

Does anyone believe this crap? Individuals have had nearly two years of their lives caught up in this charade, whilst an Agency of the State has sat back and laughed. That the Highways Agency would have suffered any "injustice" had the Inspector been much more firm with them, is a joke. Sporle continues:

We will however be reviewing the handling of the inquiry to see if there are any lessons to be learned from the process and, where appropriate, we will be sharing these with the Highways Agency and others.

Hmmn, yes I imagine that will take all of 5 minutes given that the new Planning Act that we warned about last year is now the law of the land.

On a more confusing note, Sporle says that the HA have "withdrawn from the Inquiry" today. Does she know something that Watson doesn't? Or is she confusing Watson's plea to the HA with the response everyone else wants?

We know of 2 objectors who have been challenging the Inspector over the previous past months as to the legality of the Inquiry. It's noticeable that no criticism has been levelled at Watson by supporters of the Bypass. They have tended to voice their 'frustration' in general terms, not even necessarily attacking the Highways Agency too vociferously for the supposed 'errors' that have produced the delays (although it now seems open season following their withdrawal). 

It's possible to speculate about the reasons why Watson has not come in for criticism. It may because he's seen as impartial. But as far as we're concerned, his handling of this Inquiry has been entirely partial from the start. We've written at length about this, but what concerns us lately is how Watson has essentially pulled up the drawbridge and silenced dissent of his running of the Inquiry, or at least prevented the outside world from seeing that dissent exists. 

John Watson made moves to essentially hide dissenting correspondence from public view. Late last year, a series of conditions were added to the website clarifying what kind of correspondence would be uploaded to it, and we quote:

The scope of the website is as follows:

1 Evidence submitted to the Inquiry that is relevant to the proposals and Orders that are before the Inquiry;
2 Transcripts;
3 Questions of clarification of evidence that are put in writing;
4 Legal submissions that are put to the Inquiry;
5 Documents issued by the Inspector;
6 Inquiry news and programme, and links to related websites; and,
7 It is also useful, so as to keep parties informed during the current adjournment, for the website to carry information from the Promoters regarding their current reviews of their cases (if such information is presented by them in the form of an Inquiry document). 

We can therefore see that, short of a legal challenge to the legitimacy of the Inquiry (which was beyond the means of most Objectors, and seemingly beyond the will if not the means of the larger statutory objectors), dissent as to the process itself was not be allowed to be displayed to the public. Watson created a fortress to buttress the complete sham that is his Public Inquiry. The walls are still standing, and he's still behind them.

The sham will seemingly continue until the Highways Agency decides it has had enough. Did anyone really expect anything else?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Longdendale Siege are back on the march...

With immaculate timing, and at long last, the Longdendale Siege Committee have updated their website. It seems that nothing spurs them into action like the threat of the collapse of their beloved road.

Linked to from numerous points on the homepage is a three page newsletter, which can be viewed here (opens PDF), which Mike Flynn was seen distributing at weekend. Now we could spend all day taking this document apart, not least because of it's shocking grammar, but we'd rather highlight one or two issues that crop up in it that have been covered here on the blog in the past.

Firstly, you have the reference to the fact that the Smithy Surgery at Hollingworth wrote in to the Public Inquiry to support the bypass. We covered this in August 2007, and pointed out that the Highways Agency's own evidence shows that pollution levels will increase, and that far being from a detailed and reasoned analysis, the GPs preferred to merely state opinions (that they 'were told') rather than facts on an A5-sized compliment slip.

Secondly, the document regurgitates unreferenced & unsourced pollution statistics. We covered this in depth as well back in March 2008, by again outlining in detail how pollution would worsen with the bypass. We also noted that Longdendale Siege were not willing to present this data to the Public Inquiry so it could be subject to scrutiny.

The most laughable part of this document is the threat that direct action will be taken to obtain the road! How we'd love to see that - surely nothing would endear Siege less to their only constituency, the inpatient motorist.

But the most interesting part of the PDF is who's written it. If you go the file properties, it tells you the author is a David Moore. Remember him? Yes, we wrote a long article about this character back in February 2008. Moore is well known to anti-bypass objectors, at one time he frequently wrote in to local papers in support of the road, but what was less well known was that he was project manager for the Tameside MBC sponsored North European Trade Axis (NETA). This was a project to promote a 'trans-European transport network', linking the Humber ports with the Irish Sea ports, bringing HGV traffic from Europe, via Longdendale (& the bypass) to Ireland and back again. The website has since been taken down (how mysterious!), but the links to the pages we provided still work in the Internet Archive - you can view here David's lovely face and his contact details for the NETA project.

Siege are threatening to lobby 4NW - so that tells you who still holds the purse strings in this whole affair. But in the meantime, why not welcome them back by dropping them a line at their new email address - - or give them a call on 07913 034896. Tell them we sent you and blow them a kiss...

It ain't over...

Rumours of our demise have been greatly exaggerated! Yes, we spoke far too soon. But even we were taken aback by the news today that the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) have decided to intervene in the Bypass funding problems by coming up with a scheme of their own, no doubt with Roy Oldham throwing his weight around, using all the various kinds of 'influence' he commands. The news was published today in the Manchester Evening News, and the story can be read here.

What's new is that there would seem to be a suggestion that there are advanced plans for what's described as an 'alternative alignment' - i.e. a different route that would be ready for submission 'within a few months'. Could it be the case that the Highways Agency have been helping to model this route for months, whilst telling everyone else they were working on the current plans before the Public Inquiry? 

You may remember that at the Hoongate meeting last November, Hoon himself had suggested detrunking the A628, and also finding a new alignment. According to the minutes, James Purnell was wary since an alternative route would "hug the conurbations" - code for bringing it very close to a lot of people's houses.

Under such a plan, it's possible that even pro-bypass folk would have far more cause for concern than at present. We're busily trying to locate details of the alternative routes put before the public way back in time, but this website has details of a possible extension of the M67 mooted a long time ago, and on another page a possible route that Purnell may have been alluding to that saw the road slice through Hadfield. 

'Detrunking' means the Highways Agency would no longer be responsible for the road, and therefore their costing models for construction won't apply in the drawing up of plans for a newer bypass. It seems clear that the pro-bypass local authorities are using this as a possible method for a bypass on the cheap.

But what puzzles us is the nature of this plan. The MEN story tells us that Sir Howard Bernstein announced it at the AGMA Executive meeting last Friday - but there are no details on the agenda, nor in the supporting documents for said meeting. Is it pie in the sky? Only time will tell, but it seems for now that the fight against the road is still on, the fat lady has not yet sung...

Friday, March 27, 2009

And now, after 2 years, it's goodbye from him...

2 years after the start of the blog and it looks like it's the end ("of our elaborate plans, the end"). Although there will doubtless be more bypass-related news (and views) to relate over the coming months, for the most part the battle looks won, and there will hopefully only now be the odd pile of bones to pick over. We always said that the blog should end rather than become an end in itself, and we intend to stick to that. Consequently, it's going to get A LOT quieter around here, starting from tomorrow.

But there's still a lot to be concerned about in Longdendale and Glossopdale, the 2 areas threatened with blight from the bypass, even if it won't necessarily be reflected on this particular corner of the Internet.

There's been no apparent progress with the planned Tesco supermarket development at Mottram, which we were led to believe was directly related to the progress of the bypass Public Inquiry. With the economic climate now very different from when the project started, will the plans change? And if the store does go ahead, it's bound to create further traffic problems and congestion, which will not exactly dampen calls from certain quarters for a bypass in the future, even if that is now much less likely.

There's also still a question mark over what will happen with Mottram Show. Regular readers will be familiar with our past coverage and also that Tameside MBC have already bought an alternative site that's nowhere near Mottram. Surely the show should now return to its rightful place, with the superb views of the now hopefully permanently bypass-free Longdendale Valley?

In High Peak, there's a Borough Council bent on concreting over the Green Belt - it is inevitable given their acceptance of the Housing targets imposed by the Government of the East Midlands. Though much of the past industrial and retail development in the area (such as hated Rossington Park) has been predicated on the construction of the bypass, and that may now be compromised given the combination of the end of the scheme and the recession, the potential construction of more housing will only add more traffic to the equation. Again, this is grist to the mill of Tom Levitt's calls for a bypass, presumably along with any successor of whatever political tendency that follows him once he's booted out at the next election.

There'll almost doubtless be an inquest into the amount of money spent on this scheme, which must surely now be pushing £20 million (we know our counter indicates even more, but we've been unable to update it as we've been waiting for 'hard data' about costs to emerge). That'll be one thing we're likely to return to look at in future months.

There are already (and hopefully will be) other groups and places to find out more information about these areas of concern. We will plug them where we feel promotion is needed, but in the meantime, it's worth having a look under 'local links' in the sidebar for more information and places to go.

Lastly, with the assistance of, we've spent a little time putting together a 'word cloud' which has the 100 most frequently-used words on this blog over the past 2 years arranged into an interesting shape, with the most frequently-used words appearing largest. It can be found for a short time below our logo-banner or here if you want to see it larger still. Statisticians may be interested to learn that we've written just over 100,000 words* during the past 2 years (almost a thousand words a week!), spread over 260-odd blog posts. Also, we've probably spent as much time on artwork and images as we have on words. In due course, we may rig up a gallery of them all along the same lines as we did 2008 last December.

We are profoundly grateful for all the direct contributions, large or small, to this blog, as well as all the negative and positive inspiration along the way. You know who you are - 'without whom' etc...

So, for the time being at least, it's goodbye from him (whoever he was...)

La Lutta Continua!

* - that's enough to fill over 200 sides of A4 paper using a 12 point typeface!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

"Scrapped" Bypass to cost £1.1 million over next 7 years...

...despite the fact it's been deferred. Yes, in their finalised funding advice (not the draft - opens PDF), 4NW has recommended that the Highways Agency should still be paid up until 2016, and we quote:

"The revised spend profile includes a nominal £100,000 per annum to cover ongoing Highways Agency administrative costs during the deferral period (page 14)"

That's £100,000 per annum between 2009/2010 - 2014/2015 and a final payment of £500,000 in 2015/2016 before the "deferred" funding comes on stream again (see the table on page 17). Even the most convinced pro-bypass individual must surely agree this is on a par with Fred Goodwin's pension arrangements in terms of an outrageous waste of money?

The scheme must be completely scrapped, and any further allocation of fund completely cancelled forthwith.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Councillors Wilcox, Wilkinson & 'Glossop Eastlands' - no thanks!

Although following yesterday's news we're hopefully now entering a different phase in the future of this blog, we have a few shots left to fire before we shut up shop.

You may remember our article a few weeks ago about how Derbyshire County Councillors Wilcox and Wilkinson had written to the Transport Secretary of State Geoff Who?/Hoon calling for the Public Inquiry to be halted and a new one reconvened. Now hold onto your immediate thoughts for one second and bear with us...

Stalwart Objector John Hall promptly issued a Freedom of Information request to obtain said letter, and it can be viewed here. Key amongst the bleatings of Potato-Head Wilkinson and Media-Tart Wilcox was their pointing out to Hoon that the bypass is important in the "economic regeneration of East Manchester". Well oh dear, what a shame the bypass has hit the brakes then! I envisage that most people who live in the area would like it to remain completely unlike Manchester - neither East, West, North nor South - and we like it that way. As we've said before, one only has to look around Glossopdale to see what havoc has been wrought by the Borough Council trying to transform it into something it isn't, without a word of complaint from the area's County Councillors. These two chimps may have wet dreams about warehouses but we'd like to offer them a one way ticket to Beswick...

Now then, when you read the first paragraph you were probably marvelling at the precognitive powers of Wilkinson/Wilcox in calling for at least half of what actually happened yesterday all the way back in February. We're more cynical than that. Unlike most of the area's other politicians, they haven't staked their reputations (unwittingly or otherwise) too publicly on the Bypass. All the better for them then to take a new stance and outflank the Bypass mob, no doubt because they heard one or two things on the grapevine about the road's chances. Savvy & cynical bastards indeed.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: Highways Agency pull out of Public Inquiry

The Highways Agency today issued a press release announcing their withdrawal from the Public Inquiry into the Longdendale Bypass. The text is below (bold is our emphasis, you'll see why):

The Highways Agency is withdrawing from the current Mottram-Tintwistle bypass Public Inquiry, it was announced today.

The decision has been taken after the Regional Leaders Forum, 4NW, informed the Department for Transport that after assessing its priorities for funding from the Regional Funding Allocation it wants to delay the proposed start of the scheme by at least four years, until 2016/17.

The decision also comes in view of the extended period of time between the publication of the draft proposals for the scheme in 2007 and the earliest date at which the Inquiry might be reconvened. It is important that all parties to the Inquiry have a fair opportunity to understand and test the evidence base for the scheme given that the traffic model, environmental statement and cost estimate will have changed since 2007. The additional delay to the scheme will now require further amendments to be made to the traffic model, environmental statement and cost estimate.

Work on the scheme had initially been planned to start in 2012, subject to the completion of statutory processes.

Announcing the withdrawal from the current Public Inquiry, the Highways Agency's Major Projects Director, Nirmal Kotecha, said:

"We would like to thank all those who have taken the time to express an opinion about the A57/A628 bypass scheme.

"Draft proposals for the scheme were published in 2007. Since then a Public Inquiry has been started and adjourned and there have been changes to the traffic model and the environmental statement. After careful consideration we therefore feel it is appropriate to withdraw from the current adjourned Inquiry and re-start statutory processes, subject to further advice to Ministers by 4NW. It is important that all parties to the Inquiry have a fair opportunity to understand and test the evidence base for the scheme."

Notice the use of the word 'current' before Public Inquiry. The "Notes to editors" at the foot of the press release are also very important:

Notes to Editors

The A57/A628 Mottram - Tintwistle bypass is a proposal to bypass the villages of Mottram in Longdendale, Hollingworth and Tintwistle which currently suffer high volumes of traffic from the A628 trans-pennine trunk route between Sheffield and Manchester. A local authority scheme known as the Glossop Spur is being promoted by Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council at the same time.

The joint PI considering both schemes commenced in June 2007. Pending production of revised traffic forecasts incorporating new national traffic growth forecasts and the Environmental Statement, the Inquiry was adjourned in December 2007.

In July 2008, the Department published updated scheme costs estimates for the HA Major Roads Programme, including a new range estimate for Mottram-Tintwistle of £223m to £315m with a central estimate of £270m.

4NW is the Regional Leaders Forum for the north west of England. It has responsibility for housing, planning, transport and economic development. 4NW has a board of members including council leaders from each of the five sub-regions, Cumbria, Cheshire, Lancashire, Merseyside and Greater Manchester, along with seven representatives from the private, non-governmental sector such as Manchester Airport Group, North West Universities Association and the North West Trades Union Congress - people who are responsible for delivering the strategy proposals at local level in the north west.

4NW is due to submit further advice to Ministers in April on its latest priorities for funding from the Regional Funding Allocation.

If 4NW wants to progress the scheme, the Highways Agency will restart the statutory processes, including publication of Draft Orders and Environmental Statement.

It's possible to draw both positive and negative conclusions from this news, and were sure to have something to dissect as time goes by. In the meantime, the Manchester Evening News are carrying the story, as are the BBC.

UPDATE: James Purnell's office turned up for a look at the blog just before 1 p.m., presumably in search of the news (for an explanation into why we know this is JP's office, see this blog from last year).

You can listen to the report from BBC Radio Manchester on the mp3 player below:

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Longdendale Bypass - 'the weakest link'

Two weeks after their decision to defer funding for the Bypass, 4NW this week released the full text of their report presented to members to aid said decision being made. The document can be found here (opens PDF), and it makes troubling reading for those supporting the Bypass, both now and in the future.

Page 4 makes it clear that "there is a clear regional policy steer against sacrificing sustainable transport and essential maintenance schemes in favour of funding increased costs of major road schemes".  The current economic crisis only serves to underline that ever more strongly. 

On the same page, and onto page 5, the Bypass is described as "not a priority" for the Northern Way Growth Strategy". Ouch.

And the elephant in the room is highlighted further on, making it clear that the "scheme may conflict with ... the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 and Planning Policy Statement 7: Sustainable Development in Rural Areas". This further highlights why High Peak's MP, Tom Levitt, is potentially the biggest environmental vandal in the High Peak and a threat to the first National Park.

The killer line is on page 6. The report identifies that in terms of "strategic justification" the Bypass "is the weakest" - link, goodbye! 

Even better, we learn that 4NW are warning the members that "deferral will increase outturn costs due to inflation". They still voted to dump it though. Expect the costs to continue to climb ever on.

All of this must leave Mike Flynn and Longdendale Siege severely depressed. In last week's Glossop Chronicle, Flynn voiced his frustration at "various government people" that had let them down (join the queue!) . Like the bypass, he too is the weakest link. He's failed, and surely must resign his post if he has any dignity.

But he's right in his final comment in the article "the future of the bypass will be decided at the public inquiry". Indeed, where he's never taken the opportunity to stand up and speak in favour of the scheme. But he's right, that's where the focus moves now. We're sure there's much fun and games in store there...

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Hoongate: Who? is fooling Who - enter 'Bronze' Adonis...

The first document submitted by the Highways Agency to the Public Inquiry in nearly 6 months appeared in the last couple days on the Persona Website. 

It's a letter from the Department for Transport to the Planning Inspectorate (opens PDF), ostensibly concerning a complaint from the stalwart Objector John Hall about Geoff Hoon's meeting with pro-Bypass politicians last November. Whilst this is a rather pedestrian and brief document, it does contain a very interesting new development. 

In a highly suspicious move, the letter reveals that the ultimate decision maker on the Bypass project will be the Transport Minister, Baron Andrew 'Bronze' Adonis rather than Who?/Hoon. There are several apparently significant implications in this chess move.

Firstly, that Hoon/Who? doesn't want to be tarnished with making a decision (whatever that may be), and also that he's been rattled by the criticism coming his way that he's usurped the Inquiry with the 'Hoongate' meeting. John Hall has touched a raw nerve here.

Secondly, who (Who?) better to make a decision than an unelected bureaucrat like Adonis? It can't ruin his career because he's not - and never has been - an elected politician. He climbed the greasy pole as one of Tony Blair's policy wonks, after repeatedly failing to become an MP (for the Liberal Democrats!).

Thirdly, Levitt, Purnell and Oldham must be feeling pretty bloody stupid and duped by Hoon's chess move here. They even posed for photos with him for Christ's sake!

Lastly, after the 4NW decision last week, will Adonis agree to meet with Levitt and Purnell? If Levitt went on his own, it'd look like a Gilbert and George convention, increasing the comedic possibilities. Perhaps the best we can hope for is that they'll pose for photos which will result in another in our 'lolprat' series.

More news as we get it.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Tom Levitt's latest greenwash

He's at it again. Tom Levitt's 'green' pronunciations are starting to become a regular occurrence, along with those about the recession, and his latest bit of news sees the two converging in the usual ironic manner of his ham-fisted but contradictory announcements.

Levitt's helping to promote the East Midlands Regional Climate Change Programme which "details how regional, local and individual action can be co-ordinated to help tackle climate change". This is the same individual that only last week was declaring how furious he was that 4NW had put back funding for the Longdendale Bypass, the single most environmentally damaging project in his constituency, if not the whole of the East Midlands and North West. 

To remind Tom, the same Programme of Action he is promoting commits (at 1.3) to "mitigating climate change" which means "reducing greenhouse gas emissions". Yet the Longdendale Bypass will increase CO2 emissions in the area by 15,480 tonnes per annum. Levitt is standing in the way of the progress that the document he is promoting wants to make!

But there's more irony in store. The same article shows him wittering on about the 'Moors for the Future' project which aims to restore the peat moorlands in the High Peak. Yet those same moorlands in Levitt's constituency are threatened by the increased CO2 emissions the bypass will bring. 

The article also quotes a Lynne Cardwell, apparently Labour's spokesperson in New Mills and clearly born yesterday:

"As we know from the huge popular support for the Torrs Hydropower scheme, awareness of green issues is very high in New Mills"

Regular readers will know our views about the Torrs Hydro Project - we think it's a greenwash project, which explains Levitt's enthusiasm for it. It encapsulates the contradictions this man constantly promotes. You wouldn't expect a member of the local Labour Party to call out Levitt on his Greenwash, and Lynne Cardwell doesn't disappoint them in this respect. The toadies and lickspittles that surround Levitt help him to promote two contradictory viewpoints and the bullshit continues to issue forth. When will it end?

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Bypass funding problems - latest media reports

The wider media is now catching hold of the 4NW funding decision.

Transport Xtra reports on the detail of the 4NW decision - that an option to delay 3 schemes was rejected in favour of rejecting the Bypass (the article is here for subscribers or you can view the page here courtesy of our cheeky free trial screengrab).

Meanwhile, the MEN are their offshoot Channel M have also been reporting. As usual, Channel M's reporters labour the 'misery' being experienced by those living next to a congested road - albeit a road with relatively light free-flowing traffic, stationary at one point because the vehicles  are at a red traffic light - but we're glad to see local Jenny Bostock talking some sense, alongside Emma from Save Swallows Wood. The same can't be said of Mike Flynn of Longdendale Siege - he and other road supporters have no arguments left, and his desire for a road and not transport solutions is more exposed than it has ever been (the video is embedded in this post - click here if you can't see it).

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tom Levitt - the bad egg is 'angry' and it's no yolk

Well, our exclusive from nearly 6 days ago has started to filter out to the wider world at last. First the Campaign for Better Transport proclaim "National Park saved from damaging road"*, and Tom Levitt, the Politician that wants to both celebrate and begin the destruction of said National Park, gets himself all steamed up in a new press release.

Firstly, to clarify what's happened, 4NW did indeed vote to drop the funding for the Bypass beyond the 2015/2016 funding period - but they decided to drop this scheme alone and not others. This scheme is clearly now recognised as a bad egg. Furthermore, a very expensive and unpopular bad egg

Much the same can be said of Tom Levitt, but his angry press release has meant that his mask has slipped, and it exposes the true reasons for this scheme plus the usual idiotic contradictions.

Firstly, the contradictions. At a time of economic crisis and recession turning into depression, Levitt chooses to berate the 4NW forum for not pushing the North West Region beyond the 35% they are already over budget. Or perhaps he feels that other schemes should suffer to enable the bypass? Does he think 4NW should have chosen to drop the Metrolink Renewals or Extensions? The Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramway upgrade? The Crewe Rail Gateway? Or Yellow School Buses? All public transport schemes a lot 'greener' than a proto-motorway which were also considered in the Regional Funding Allocation. 

But Levitt's press release also exposes the truth of what the Bypass actually represents; one key phrase - "It is a road of strategic importance which must be built". 

That's it there - never mind bollocks about relieving 3 villages of traffic congestion - it is of strategic importance. And the strategy is to enable goods and freight to travel more swiftly between the East and West ports along Trans-European routes and to Manchester Airport. Thanks for letting everyone finally know Tom!

The truth is that as well as being a bad egg, Levitt is a bad loser. 4NW weren't convinced by the arguments, or all the politicians throwing their weight around in the preceding months.

So what are Levitt & James Purnell to do now (the latter is so 'furious' about it that he hasn't even mentioned it on his website, unlike Tom)? Why, they're off the see the Transport Minister, huffing and puffing and throwing more weight around. Plus ça change...

*entry on 26th February

**UPDATE, 27/02/2009: The Buxton Advertiser has the first online copy, and yesterday's Glossop Chronicle has an extensive article which doesn't credit us with the scoop (quelle surprise!)