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.