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?