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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 ├ža 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!)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

EXCLUSIVE - Longdendale Bypass funding cancelled - is this the end?

We have a massive exclusive for you here - according to the blog of Jim Dixon, Chief Executive of the Peak District National Park Authority, at a meeting of 4NW - presumably regarding the Regional Funding allocations we highlighted last month - the North West Local Authorities "agreed not to fund the Mottram, Hollingworth & Tintwistle Bypass in the regional budgets for 2012-2015".

This appears to be a massive blow to the plans for a bypass, and we'll be reporting in more depth as soon as more news emerges...

Monday, February 16, 2009

'No Comments' - courtesy of the Advertiser, by John Hall


Strange that local newspapers always enjoy printing the rhetoric which emerges from politicians,  but what if a politician decides to utter unsubstantiated comments which are then printed in a newspaper? Do you have the right to challenge such misinformed comments? That would surely be freedom of speech and at that a reply which may well be more informative, offering confirmed facts to the public which may otherwise be withheld?

So where do you challenge such misleading comments? Well that certainly is the problem, especially when dealing with local press editors in Tameside because their objective is to persist with press photographs of local politicians, especially when they are in power, and they ensure as many column inches as are needed are made available to promote those press-privileged politicians, thereby creating a partnership which may well be advantageous to them both - but indicates contempt for the public.

So the question is do local editorial staff and reporters have the right to exclude important substantiated facts by denying the public the right to respond to misleading comments made by close political partners of the Press - no they do NOT. But do they actually? YES they do!

Over a two year period, the Advertiser Group & Reporter Group newspapers in Tameside have indicated a bias towards the Mottram Bypass political cartel promoting the road scheme, and constantly feed the same picture into their reports of traffic hold-ups. The latest example is their publication of rhetoric from a Politician - Derbyshire County Councillor David Wilkinson - who does not even attend the Public Inquiry to consider the emerging facts. 

The latest example of editorial sabotage concerns my submitted online comments concerning said article and politician which was obviously binned in the Editorial Office.

My submission to the press contained conclusive and substantiated facts, not simply rhetoric, but the barricades went up because Editors prefer political rhetoric not facts, especially if it might disturb their political allegiances and contacts.

It is therefore unfortunate that the press are depriving essential details being made known to the 220,000 people in Tameside, and the only source of complaint they refer you to is the Press Complaints Commission.

So is it State Control? Stalinism? Fascism? Dictatorship? 1984? or  just deceptive administrations which surround us now in Tameside - and are the press completely under the influence and have they become simply sycophantic puppets?

It's for you to decide if the message gets to you or maybe you could find out for yourselves like I tried when I contacted the Editor as to why my comments were not included ... NO RESPONSE WAS RETURNED.

John Hall, Denton

Friday, February 13, 2009

Andrew Gwynne the Eco-Tourist

We've rarely considered political figures beyond Longdendale and High Peak, since they are often shouting the loudest in favour of the Longdendale Bypass. But some new revelations lead us to turn the spotlight tonight on Andrew Gwynne, the Labour MP for Denton and Reddish, another big supporter of the Bypass. 

The reason is that it came to light a couple of weeks ago that Gwynne took a trip last year to Svalbard, islands in the Arctic Ocean, and part of Norwegian territory. According to an article in the Tameside Advertiser, Gwynne and the party he journeyed with were invited by the Royal Norwegian Assembly to survey the damage being done to the island by climate change in April last year. The top of the article describes Gwynne as an 'Eco MP'. We'll demonstrate that he is actually at best an Eco-Tourist.

Now you may remember some time ago that one of David Cameron's first jaunts as leader of the Tory party was to go on a holiday - sorry! - fact-finding trip to Svalbard for similar purposes. So it's in vogue for the political class to go and look how bad things are somewhere else rather than looking closer to home. The fact of the matter is that Gwynne was so concerned about what he found in the Arctic that he didn't bother to report his trip at the time it took place and make the most of the publicity, only when he had to declare it to the Parliamentary authorities for the Register of Member's interests 7 months later. This was clearly more of a holiday/junket than anything else - if you type "Andrew Gwynne" and "Svalbard" into Google, all you'll find is the Advertiser article and articles about the entry in the Register of Member's Interests - there are no articles to be found in foreign press, tourist board websites, environmental journals and the like. 

This is not the case for the other MPs taking the trip. Jamie Reed MP had an article on a local newspaper website within a month of the trip. Kerry McCarthy MP blogged about the trip within a week. Not be outdone, Jo Swinson MP did a podcast whilst she was there! (see entry 7th April). Only Tory Boy Greg Hands MP and Gwynne failed to mention it, demonstrating the depth of their sincerity/pathetic PR strategy (delete as appropriate)

Regarding his 'eco credentials', putting aside the bypass, we find that Gwynne is a strong supporter of Manchester Airport, and if one wants to know his position on Heathrow, visit his voting record page on publicwhip.org.uk and use your browser to search for 'Heathrow' - you'll find Gwynne, like Tom Levitt, is completely loyal to the Government's position in favour of expansion. And of course, we all know about his support for the Bypass. So how exactly can Gwynne be realistically described as an 'Eco MP'? At least Tom Levitt can bleat in support of a local Hydro Electric Power plant (however lacking in credibility said plant is) -  Gwynne presides over the Junction 24 M60 Roundabout at Denton, a site which has disastrous health implications for his constituents, yet he wants more of the same for the area - the construction of the Longdendale Bypass will massively expand road traffic congestion in this part of his constituency, as will any expansion of Manchester Airport for air traffic. 

If Gwynne was sincere about accepting his invitation from the Norwegian Government to see what Climate Change is doing to Svalbard, perhaps he should invite Norwegian officials to Denton to show them how sincere he is about making their situation much worse. Not to mention ours.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Roger Wilkinson - the potato-headed cuckoo in the Peak District's nest

The Buxton Advertiser has published what is presumably a press release for the Glossop South Derbyshire County Councillor Roger Wilkinson, who has written to Geoff Who? calling for the current Public Inquiry to be stopped, and a new one to commence following consultation

This is breaking new ground, as up until now, it has been Tameside politicians that have been content to urge the Highways Agency to 'hurry up'.  But Wilkinson and the notorious media-tart Councillor Dave Wilcox have now called for a new consultation, as well as a new Inquiry. Curiously, they are using the language of some of the opposition - that the facts on the ground have changed, and that means that if the plans have changed, then the whole process must start afresh. And they are clearly aware that the way the current PI process as been conducted will have legal implications too - "if an attempt is made to simply restart the old inquiry it is almost certain we will be in judicial review and further delay territory".

They've no doubt got their eye on the (now) Planning Reform Act, as we'd predicted in a blog late last year. No doubt they'd want the Bypass to be named as a 'National Infrastructure Project', meaning it would almost certainly be waved through without any kind of scrutiny at all. Wilkinson hints at this - "In the letter to Mr Hoon, a former Derbyshire Euro MP, the councillors have stressed the importance of the A628 bypass in regenerating East Manchester and Glossopdale" - this is coded language for their desire to see Glossopdale and Longdendale to become an enlarged retail strip and warehousing facility, as is already in evidence at Rossington Park in Hadfield. 

Of course, it's never been a secret that Derbyshire County Council are fully behind the bypass. But Wilkinson is a curiosity - he's a cuckoo in the nest of the Peak District National Park Authority -  as a body, they are opposed to the Bypass, but Wilkinson is a member. 

And perhaps some other kind of strange politics are in evidence here? The photo that accompanies the article shows Derbyshire County Councillor Wilkinson stood next to one of Longdendale Siege's 'Dick Turpin' roadsigns inTameside Lancashire, with a Manchester A-Z in his hands. Is he a stooge for Tameside, opening up a new front? Why should he care about regenerating East Manchester - Tameside's backyard? We think the answer is because Glossop's very own Mr Potato Head wants the type of regeneration pioneered by Tameside and Manchester City Council in the High Peak. I wonder what his 'ground swell of local opinion' - an abstract and unquantifiable concept if ever there was one - would think about that?

**UPDATE, 11th February 2009: both the Glossop and Tameside Advertiser are now running the article.

Tameside's Woodland Greenwash


Above is the latest edition of Tameside MBC's "60 second news" (actually 120 seconds long). The first item (at 30 seconds into the video) is truly the best wind-up we've heard from TMBC in some time. For those who'd rather see it in Black and White, we have a transcript below:

Countryside lovers can explore Tameside's 18 Woodlands secure in the knowledge they are also being safeguarded for future generations to enjoy. The Council has achieved the UK Woodland Assurance Standard which acknowledges its commitment to managing the woods sustainably while making them as accessible as possible for local people

Excuse us while we do a double take - this is the same Council that wants to blight Longdendale with a bypass and destroy Swallow's Wood. You may remember that we commented on the irony of Tameside's 'plant a tree' campaign last December, but this is one better (or worse) than that. The line 'safeguarded for future generations' particularly sticks in the craw.