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Friday, January 30, 2009

Public Inquiry update - "you're fired"(?)

The big news on the Public Inquiry front today is that the Programme Officer Chris Banks has been 'replaced' by a Brenda Taplin according to today's entry on the News section of the PI website.

Now then, is this the first sign that all is not well, or is it just something rather more mundane? One thing is clear from our contacts with objectors to the Public Inquiry is that Chris Banks did an excellent job. Chris, if you're reading us out there, get in touch and let us know what happened.

In the meantime, we did comment before that the Inspector John Watson resembled a clean-shaven Alan Sugar, so could it be that the resemblance is more than physical?

Tom Levitt, Geoff Hoon and the logic of capitalism



As you'll see in the above extract from the House of Commons debate on Heathrow this Wednesday, Tom Levitt did his duty and supported Geoff Who?, as he had done previously in the local press. We'll regurgitate Hansard below in case you'd prefer to see the words spoken:

Levitt: Does my right hon. Friend agree that perhaps the most polluting and wasteful practice by Heathrow is stacking, in which aeroplanes have to wait to come into land? That is because the runways are used at 99 per cent. capacity, which causes problems with the reliability of services. Is it not the case that the first impact of a third runway would be to reduce carbon emissions through the reduction and even abolition of stacking?

Hoon: My hon. Friend makes an excellent point and one that was completely ignored by the hon. Lady. At any given time, there can be as many as four stacks of aircraft waiting to land. The average delay at Heathrow—caused by the capacity problems—is some 19 minutes, and some aircraft are delayed for far longer. Therefore it is necessary to address the question of capacity, in carbon terms as much as for any other reason.

The logic used is the same as used by the proponents of the Longdendale Bypass, which of course includes Levitt. That congestion - be it in the air or on the roads - causes pollution (in this case CO2 emissions) and the best way to treat this is by increasing capacity. The perverse and contradictory logic on display is their worldview turned on its head. They support capitalism, and support the infinite growth it seeks. But in this case, they seek to cloak that logic in the clothes of environmentalism. The truth is that expanding capacity will simply serve to increase demand - more planes in the air (or cars on the road) equals more pollution. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The North West can't afford a bypass...

At various points over the last few months, we've been harping on about how money (or more specifically the lack of it) may play a part in ending the proposals for the Bypass and Glossop Spur. Some campaigners believe that moment may now have arrived. 4NW (part of the North West Regional Development Agency) are consulting on the Regional Funding Allocation - i.e. how the money assigned to transport schemes in the North West will be allocated for the next few years. The consultation ends on 30th January (this Friday).

In their recent  report, 4NW admit the Regional Funding Allocation is now 35% over budget in terms of the schemes it wants to progress. The Government allows a 20% overspend (how ironic given the current state of the economy), but clearly the process is 15% over budget. Guess how much of the budget the Longdendale Bypass represents over the next 10 yearly spending periods? You guessed it, 15% (£242m of £1.5bn). And why not? After all, of late the government loves throwing public money at hopeless causes...

Furthermore, the report also tells us that 3 trunk road schemes represent 70% of the over-allocation. Their priorities are clear. Quelle surprise.

So is there any way they can be influenced to change their minds and throw it all at public transport? Some believe they can, and the CAMPAIGN group Save Swallows Wood have set up an online lobbying contraption that will allow you to ask 4NW to use their money for some other purpose. If you're more inclined to use snail mail, then they also provide a PDF pro-forma for you to do that. Fuller details of the whole shebang can be found on their special webpage (not special fried rice). Go on then, be off with you.

We'll be interested to see if hope triumphs over experience.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Tom Levitt - Shite man speak with forked tongue


You may remember an article we published in July last year about how Tom Levitt was attaching himself to the Torrs Hydro Energy scheme in New Mills, hoping that some of it's apparent Green-ness would rub off onto him.

His first column in the Glossop Chronicle for 2009 is entitled 'Tackling Climate Change' - ahem - and with a completely straight face, goes on to say "reducing carbon emissions quite literally saves the planet"* and pays tribute again to the Torrs Hydro project. The irony that the Torrs Hydro project has cut a deal to provide energy for a local supermarket is completely lost on Levitt, as it probably will be on most people. 

But nonetheless, just re-read Levitt's words in the light of last week's announcement from Geoff Who?/Hoon about Heathrow - on the same day it appears in the local newspaper, Who? craps great blobs of Carbon all over Tom's lovely Greenwashed masterpiece.We wonder what went through Tom's mind? I wonder if he's forgotten that he also supports the Longdendale Bypass and the nigh on 15,500 extra tons of CO2 it will belch into the atmosphere? 

Levitt is perhaps one of the most perfectly formed examples of a walking contradiction we've come across. 

But it gets better. Just as we've been writing this, his column for this week's Chronicle has popped up on his website. And guess what it's about? Heathrow's third runway

Tom's keen to tell us he was so eager to support it that he signed a motion for it BEFORE Hoon declared war on the environment last week. We'll let you read this drivel yourself, but Levitt finishes it with a classic Orwellian doublespeak phrase "the greenest action is not always the obvious one" - he presumably thinks that the construction of a third runway at Heathrow and a proto-motorway here is somehow evened up by a Greenwash project that powers a supermarket.

Is that what he means by obvious? 

WILL SOMEONE TELL US EXACTLY WHAT HE MEANS?

*We think Tom means 'humanity's future' here - the planet will sort itself out, whatever we throw at it, but we may not be able to dodge what it throws at us.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sean Parker-Perry the rubbish rebel

Here's us thinking that Longdendale Councillor Sean Parker-Perry's career is virtually over and he sets himself firmly on the political centre stage in Tameside - at least for now. Not only that, but his 'green credentials' (such as they exist) are again at the centre of it all.

What are we talking about? Well Sean's decided to come over all rebellious regarding the recent conversion of Tameside MBC towards fortnightly bin collections. But as is usually the case with these things, you have to read between the lines. 

The Tameside Advertiser article makes it clear that Sean favours a weekly collection, but smaller bins which it says will 'force people to divide rubbish'. The current plan sees Tameside residents receiving a number of containers for different types of rubbish. Also, Sean says that recycling facilities in various parts of Tameside have disappeared.

And Sean seems to have hit a nerve - in the Reporter/Chronicle, there's a whole page devoted to the issue, with letters of support for Sean's stance. Or is there? The praise seems to have come from those who think the collections should stay weekly, rather than Sean's idea of smaller bins 'forcing' people to recycle. 

It might be easier if we get out own views on the subject out of the way first before we move onto the implications of this kerfuffle. 

Firstly, there's the issue of Public Services. The move to a less frequent collection is clearly an attack on a vital Public Service. There has been an increasing tendency over the past couple of years for Local Authorities to contract out their waste management services to private companies, with all the usual and predictable results, both for the public and employees in the public sector. Sean doesn't mention this, so presumably he's in favour of it. The idea that this is a clash of political ideologies is absurd - all the political parties agree with the continued privatisation of Public Services. 

Secondly, in this 'debate' there is a complete absence of analysis, both at the local and national level. Who is talking about the commodification of waste for example? 4 multinational corporations - whose turnover number in the billions of pounds - control three quarters of all refuse collection contracts (many of which are to last for 25 years). Rubbish is very big business. And whilst the contracts keep political responsibility for waste management with Local Authorities, they do not allow them to keep any direct operational control. That is determined by only multinational corporations in response to national regulations. 

Local Authorities simply have no power, and on a local level neither the Tories, Liberal Democrats or Labour can do anything about it. And last time I looked, none of them were arguing for returning waste management services to Local Authority control.

And this brings us on to you and I, and our 'responsibility' for recycling and waste management. We are continually told that 'we have to take more responsibility' for 'our' waste. That this is an individual problem, even a moral problem (i.e. it is we that are 'lazy' or 'wasteful'). But all of that misses the point completely and is in fact a smokescreen for what it actually happening. The fact of the matter is that 'we' have no control  - not only do we not produce the waste (excessive packaging, junk mail etc etc) but also it is actually the Local Authorities that have swallowed the government (Tory and then Labour) line on the commodification of waste and awarded lucrative and long-term contracts to private companies that can do exactly as they please.

Waste management policy wants to make rubbish into a profitable commodity. This is why the onus for sorting waste is being put onto us, and the collections are happening less frequently - so that capitalist enterprises don't have to employ as many workers to sort the rubbish and collect it on a regular basis. Which is in order for them to widen their profit margins. It has nothing to do with us becoming 'greener' or becoming more 'environmentally aware'. 

We don't see Sean Parker-Perry, or anyone else for that matter, talking about any of that.

So what is this argument really about? Roy Oldham's career is clearly in it's twilight months now. This could also be true of Sean - his credibility in the local Labour Party has nose dived in the past 12 months, what with his sacking from James Purnell's team, and the foundering of his relationship with the daughter of one of Tameside's most powerful political figures. It's do or die, and what better way to revive his fortunes - with a slanging match in the press with the leader of the Council over an issue neither of them have control over.

What a load of rubbish...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Cloth-eared 'Who?' declares war, again...

Is anyone actually surprised that Geoff Who? yesterday approved plans for a third runway at Heathrow? Particularly given that the Guardian reports that he regards climate change as "a load of tree-hugging hoolah" (a new slogan for our blog). And can anyone now doubt exactly what's in store for Longdendale, at least as long as this Government is in charge of Transport policy? 

Hoon wants a war: a war on the environment to match his ruthless decision to join in the slaughter in Iraq and Afghanistan. So let's give him one. We'll need old tactics, and also new ones. Let's have less of the ridiculous tactics of self-imposed imprisonment that were in evidence at Manchester Airport the other night. and may well be used at Heathrow tomorrow now that the details are public. Let's also drop the Liberal cant about non-violence - self-defence is always justifiable & in war there are always casualties. Individual tactics should not be adopted as wholesale strategy, unless we want to lose. Liberal hand-wringing about damage to property must be dismissed - this type of action is needed, and is a justifiable response when one considers the Government is going to demolish 700 homes and remove 10,000 people from Sipson and the surrounding area. Sipson is BAA's Lidice. We won't allow it.

Furthermore, every action in opposition to unnecessary infrastructure development now has a new reason to thrive. The government may have radicalised a whole section of society, allowing them to develop a more cogent and realistic analysis of the problems we face and develop suitable responses which do not echo the redundant reformist measures of old.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Are Persona non-grata?

If you pop over to Persona Associates homepage, you can view a list of all the Inquiries they have had a hand in recently. One thing that's immediately clear is that work seems to be a little thin on the ground at the moment. Indeed, other than our Public Inquiry for the Bypass, the only other ongoing Inquiry is the one for the Victoria Station Upgrade.

Further evidence that they seem to be falling on hard times can be evidenced here. Note that in 2008, they undertook 7 PIs, whereas in previous years they were extremely busy, with usually more than double this number in any one year.

What's the explanation? Is it the 'credit crunch' (isn't everything these days?), or is it the fact that Planning Law is due to change very shortly? Or could it be that the Longdendale Bypass PI has been a complete shambles, demonstrating Persona's complete subservience to the whims of the Highways Agency? We'd like to think it was the latter, but we know life is usually more complex than that.

Incidentally, we'd love to know whether or not the Chair and Managing Director of Persona Associates - a Graham Groom - is the same Graham Groom here: a one-time website designer and Doctor Who fan, who has a special interest in Page 3 models. If you know (Persona) Graham, drop us a line to confirm or deny.

(Readers may remember that we had an alternate take on the title of this post not long after the PI started when virtually everyone made Persona's link page - apart from us. It's still the case.)

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Ways to interact with us

In case you're the casual visitor who doesn't look down the left-hand sidebar too often, we thought we'd spend some time introducing you to the ways you can interact with us here at No Mottram Bypass. There is more to us than this blog!

Want to read our new posts without visiting the site? Then subscribe to receive an email containing our blogs whenever the site is updated - details are at the top and bottom of the sidebar. Or, if you know about and use an rss reader, subscribe to our rss feed here.

If you like to use social networking sites, there are a couple of ways to interact. We have a myspace here, and we also have a facebook page. Over at facebook, we also have a group which you can join to show support and receive mailings from time to time. 

We micro-blog now and again at Twitter, and our page is here. We plan to use this feature more in future - how and why will be revealed at the appropriate moment! (If you want stay up to date with our twitter feed but don't have or want a Twitter account, the rss feed is here)

Lastly, we have a very popular page over at YouTube (nearly 57,000 video views as I write!),  which hosts some of the videos we use on this website as well as others we have uploaded to track other campaigns. 

(There are vague plans to have an occasional dead tree/old school version of No Mottram Bypass at some point in the future. Again, more on this as the plans bear fruit) 

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Mystic Lev's 2009 Predictions

At this time of year, we're usually poking fun at Tom Levitt's predictions for the coming year. We'd like to remind you of Tom's words in previous years:

2007 - The summer will also bring the long awaited public enquiry into the Tintwistle Mottram bypass. I am confident it will give the plan the ‘green light’

2008 - We will find out the result of the Tintwistle Mottram bypass enquiry in 2008 and I am confident that, despite hiccups, the result will be in its favour

For two years on the run, this plonker has been plain wrong. We poured scorn on his words last year, when it should have been plainly obvious to, of all people, a politician that the statutory process made it unlikely the Inquiry would complete in 2008, and that was before all the hiccups that emerged through last year.

So it's perhaps unsurprising that Levitt doesn't mention the Bypass in his 'predictions' column this year - as he says "Economic uncertainties continue to dominate the agenda". Despite the motivational guff put on show for his cadre in the 'Hoongate' newsletter, Levitt clearly does not wish to cast a clout about the success of the Bypass when he knows the money may go elsewhere. 

Is this a sign - does Mystic Lev know something that we don't?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Predictions for 2009

You may remember last year we made some predictions for the coming year, and we're going to try to do similar for 2009. Firstly, we'll look at how accurate our predictions were for the previous year.

Right

That the Public Inquiry wouldn't finish in 2008. Indeed, it hasn't even sat again since December 2007.

Trevor Mooney would find more uses for his car park. We haven't actually blogged about it for some time, partly because it becomes so tedious, but since we last wrote we've had the following suggestions: grazing land for horses (March 2008), an Alzheimer Unit (May 2008), a Crematorium (May 2008), Allotments (July 2008) and finally a Circus (December 2008).

Wrong

There was no General Election meaning we've endured Tom Levitt for at least a little bit longer. Because Gordon Brown's fortunes seem to have actually improved since the economic crisis came about, we're loath to write off Levitt's chances. But then again his majority is only 735 votes, and much will depend upon whether Gordon Brown decides to call an election soon, before the full weight of the recession-becoming-depression hits home.

That the planning permission for the Glossop Spur would be renewed. It now seems clear that this is wedded to the awaited traffic figures from the 'updated' Highways Agency data, hence the no-show.

This time last year, we found it hard to predict what would happen with the Congestion Charge - if we'd thought about the scale of the economic Crisis, we should have realised the incredibly bad timing and stupidity of AGMA in plumping for a referendum about increased taxation in the midst of an economic downturn.

"Widening tides of resistance to the closure of Woodhead". Hmmn, well, not quite. The campaign to prevent closure started 2008 really well, with a couple of effective demonstrations. Since then, if we're honest it has limped along. And although work at the Tunnel seems to have ground to a halt, this seems to be more to do with the economic crisis affecting National Grid than anything else.

Predictions for the coming year:

More Public Inquiry delays - almost inevitable. Will the Highways Agency act as they usually do and snub John Watson's timetable? If they do cooperate, it will be something new. But if they don't, will John Watson resign? And will the statutory objectors then pull out? We'd be surprised if the Inquiry was concluded by the end of 2009 anyway, since the information we already have suggests there's little chance of it resuming until the second half of 2009. 

Roy Oldham stands down - it's a possibility. There were rumours he would resign at the time of his Area Address in November, but we feel he was being briefed against by rivals. Since then, the Chief Executive has resigned, so you can probably have a reasonable guess who was amongst the rivals. But his health is an issue, and maybe his time will be up in 2009? If it is, will Tameside MBC drop their plans for a Glossop Spur? The possibilities could be endless once the Ancien RĂ©gime has gone. Until then, remember the Ides of March...

Geoff Hoon/Who? acts on the bypass - this colossal prick has distinguished himself before by making disastrous decisions (i.e. the Iraq War), so what's to say he won't interfere with the progress of the road? As our blog about the Hoongate meeting noted, he has suggested de-trunking the A57 and A628 as a solution and seems prepared to step in to move things forward. If this is the case, we'd like to predict such an escalation should be met with a suitable response. 

The economic situation will worsen (a no-brainer really) - with implications for the bypass, transport policy and any moves to act to mitigate climate change. This is almost a given, but Geoff Who? already seems to have handed the local politicians a way out with regards to escalating costs - unless that is, it's a trap given the lack of money in the regions to cover existing commitments. On the other hand, Labour may act to bring forward public works projects like Barack Obama has pledged to do in the USA - it already brought forward £700 million for roadschemes in the pre-budget report. Although perhaps an economic collapse will wipe the slate clean - even fine words will be junked if things get bad enough. And to be honest, there will then be fundamental issues which need to be tackled that should sideline the bypass issue for any serious activists. 

That's what we think - what do you think? Leave your thoughts as comments. It'll be interesting to see what has come to pass this time next year.