Friday, May 21, 2010

Kieran Quinn and the power of political double-think

The new leader of Tameside MBC, Kieran Quinn, is making his mark already, giving an interview to the local press (otherwise known as issuing a press release). He's setting his stall out for his priorities.

Now pause there for a moment. Hands up who thought the end if the Oldham regime would signal some real changes? Did we think that Bypass 2.0 (aka Oldham Way) was only Roy's pet project and obsession? If you did, then look at what's second on Kieran's list:
"His priorities will include cutting the borough’s carbon footprint, pushing through the Mottram bypass..."
And then look at the first - cutting carbon footprints. One would have thought them mutually exclusive, but he wouldn't be the first politician to attempt to hold two contradictory views.

But is it any surprise? Quinn lives in Droylsden, at the address illustrated on Google Street view below (his are the evergreens in the garden). Have a pan around to see what his vision for Longdendale is (hint - the Snipe Retail Park and Ashton Moss are not too far to the East).

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Tesco planning application due in June for Mottram & Hattersley site

Long-standing readers of this blog will know that we've been following the story of a planned Tesco development in Mottram & Hattersley for over 2 years (previous articles can be read here and here). But in the intervening period between writing our two articles, there's been very little news, and the site alongside the A560 Stockport Road has remained undeveloped since then, with virtually no signs of activity.

So it was with a little surprise this week that we learned the plans are moving forward. It seems that Tesco have begun one of their classic 'softening up' exercises by holding 'exhibitions' about their plans in certain parts of the affected locality. As is too often the case with these exhibitions, a press release about it is published in the local papers on the day it takes place, with the hours of the exhibition excluding most people anyway (8.30 a.m. to 9.30 a.m and 3.00 p.m. to 4.30 p.m.). Then there's the question of how they find out - it seems that NMB contacts on the Eastern side of Mottram have not had any kind of notification. Since the latest exhibition appears to have been held at Arundale Primary School, one wonders if the only people who do know are the parents whose children attend that school.

The press release tells us that a planning application will now follow in June, hoping for a decision in October. The artist's impression tells us straight away that this will be a massive store - Tesco Extra stores are much bigger than a standard sized supermarket. It is bound to generate massive amounts of traffic, all adding to the calls for a bypass.

We will post links to the plans as soon as we find out more information.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Tameside Council dumps Roy Oldham - Kieran Quinn is now leader

The breaking news is that Tameside Council has dumped Roy Oldham from his leadership post and selected Kieran Quinn. Does this mean all bets on Bypass 2.0 are now off?

Friday, May 07, 2010

Jonathan 'Jonny' Reynolds wins in Stalybridge & Hyde - lock up your virgin daughters...

No surprises here - Jonathan 'Jonny' Reynolds wins in Stalybridge & Hyde. We've heard that James Purnell didn't even stick around to congratulate his successor and is already hanging out in London, but the son of Dracula now holds his safe seat after all kinds of dubious shenanigans to get him there and attempts on his political life from pipsqueaks in the same Party, albeit with a vastly reduced majority (hardly a massive endorsement).

Andrew 'Tweedledumber' Bingham wins in High Peak

High Peak Councillor (and blogger) Anthony McKeown broke the news of the High Peak election result first on Twitter - and the winner is the Tory Andrew Bingham. It's High Peak Labour Party's own fault - they failed miserably by not taking swift and decisive action over the expenses fiddles of the crook Tom Levitt.

We're sure some very odd people would like to extend their congratulations to Bingham, 'Tweedledumber' in our parlance due to his non-difference from Tom Levitt regarding the Bypass, but the choice on this issue between all the three main candidates was a non-choice for us. Nevertheless, this writer regards Bingham as the natural enemy and we intend to be ruthless.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Oldham in desperate "I'll deliver Bypass 2.0" pledge - the Old Goat has shot his bolt

Predictably, Roy Oldham is using his secret weapon in a last ditch move to shore up any wavering voters in Longdendale. The best bit about the leaflet is that Oldham is saying that Bypass 2.0 will follow public consultation, almost like night follows day. Now we think this seems to be a case of him prejudging the issue, which could have serious consequences for him. We understand both Longdendale Siege and Longdendale Labour have chosen this moment to pounce because the Tory candidate Peter Hayes has been making it quite clear that he can't make any promises regarding Bypass 2.0

Meanwhile, the man who made all the promises for years on end and didn't deliver is making more of them. The Old Goat has shot his bolt.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Labour, Conservative & Liberal Democrat High Peak candidates declare war on their constituency

Well, we did promise to examine last week's High Peak Radio hustings in more detail, so we're returning to dissect the words of the three main candidates that featured in that debate (the audio is once again at the bottom on the post) - Labour's Caitlin Bisknell, the Liberal Democrat Alistair Stevens and the Tory Andrew Bingham.

47 seconds in, the debate turns to the housing targets imposed by the Government of the East Midlands upon High Peak Borough Council. All three candidates turn this into a call for affordable housing, but readers need to be aware that this is coded language and does not necessarily mean the same thing as Social Housing (which is actually being slowly dismantled), with affordable housing actually meaning affordable to those on an average wage, something which those in most need of housing can only dream about. It also increasingly means that these homes are 'shared ownership' (i.e. mixed mortgage/rent), a sector which is currently somewhat problematic given the complete lack of mortgages available to anyone on a low income (something which is likely to continue long into the future). In addition, readers should know that the housing targets specify that only a small proportion of the planned units must be 'affordable'.

Thus what we're seeing here is an attempt to justify large scale development on Greenbelt land for a 'projected need', and not necessarily current need, which could arguably be accommodated by the occupation of existing empty homes and the use of recognisably brownfield sites.

The contributions can be summarised thus: Bisknell calls for building on the Green Belt (contrary to local development plans), Stevens thinks the targets aren't high enough (but then he's an estate agent!) and calls for a political united front.

At 2:28, the issue of Cowdale Quarry is raised. In essence, this is a crackpot scheme which, on the surface, seeks to turn a long disused Quarry (over 62 years) into a bottled water plant, but is actually an asset-stripping environmental outrage. Both Bingham and Bisknell decline to comment on the basis that a planning decision has yet to be made, and if they are not elected as the High Peak candidate, as members of the Council they have to make a decision about it.

Which is interesting. Because keen readers will also know that the planning permission awarded by HPBC for the High Peak end of the Glossop Spur has now expired and, if Roy Oldham and Co. are serious, will need to be renewed again in future. Since later in the debate, they both declared enthusiasm for Bypass 2.0, we can only assume they have prejudiced this application.

At 3:39, we get a long rant from all three candidates about the need for Bypass 2.0. Bisknell's support seems not exactly unequivocal, but she goes on to mention the need for a Bypass for Fairfield near Buxton, which is a new one on us ('No Fairfield Bypass' anyone?). Bingham refers to Bypass 2.0 as the 'Glossopdale Bypass', and speaks in favour of it, but makes no promises about funding, saying he will 'fight very hard' for it if elected - Game On then Tweedledumber! The Estate Agent agrees.

The final section is the one we mentioned in our last post - yes, it's our question which we emailed in (though High Peak Radio chose not to mention that, or the blog), and it went as follows:
The 3 main candidates go on and on about reducing Carbon emissions, yet they all support the construction of a Bypass, along the lines of the discredited Longdendale Bypass, but now through Mottram and down into Glossop. The old plan would have seen Carbon emissions increase in this area by 15,000 tons each year. Doesn't this make a nonsense of their claims to be 'environmentally friendly'? Surely the best way to be green is not to pollute the area with more traffic and CO2?
And of course we then had Alistair Stevens telling us to 'get real' because the road would be used for 'green cars' (apparently powered by wind turbines). He must know about these things, after all he's an Estate Agent...

That just about wraps up our little contribution to the 2010 General Election. Just remember: whoever you vote for, the government always gets in. Voting for any of this lot ensures business as usual, which also means a war on the local environment, and that's a war that will not go unanswered in the years to come.

Ruth Bergan & the Tameside Green Party position on Bypass 2.0

If you haven't been following the comments on a recent blog post, you'll know that we've been having what Mrs Merton would call a 'mass debate' (all four of us) about the position of Tameside Green Party and the Stalybridge & Hyde candidate Ruth Bergan regarding Bypass 2.0.

Ruth has sent us a copy of the latest Green Party leaflet (you can view a larger version of the leaflet by clicking on the image on the left) which states that Tameside Green Party members have been involved in fighting to stop the destruction of Swallows Wood by the old Bypass plans. We can't necessarily begrudge anyone taking credit for that victory, least of the thousands that took time to formally object, amongst whom are some of the members of Tameside Green Party (just to remind Longdendale Siege and any pro-bypass folk out there, objections outnumbered supporters by a ratio of 2:1).

And to underline her and her Party's opposition to Bypass 2.0, Ruth said the following in her last comment on this site (emphasis added):

"To make our position clear, Tameside Green Party is opposed to the builiding of any bypass. We believe it is a scandal that the Labour council are so hell-bent on destroying our natural heritage. Traffic levels will grow to fill the road space, reducing air quality and increasing CO2 emissions. A bypass is not the answer..."

This is what we'd wanted to hear. Let's hope that we now hear that continuously (& loudly) echoed by the party - in public -  for as long as TMBC choose to pursue the plan. If we were cheeky, we'd ask for a link to this blog too.

Well, we're glad that's settled...

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Pure propaganda - Roy Oldham "aware of the beautiful countryside on his doorstep"

One of our contacts has passed us Roy Oldham's latest election leaflet for the local Council Elections, and it's a gem.

You can see the full leaflet here and here. Note that the only line about the Bypass is a solitary sentence - "In Longdendale, the Bypass is going through its procedures", which makes it sound like it's some kind of independent sentient being. We're willing to bet that behind closed doors, Roy carries on conversations with the Bypass - for all we know, he may even believe he sleeps with it, which perhaps may go some way to explaining his dogged persistent devotion to the "idea" over the years.

Equally bizarre though is the small series of vignettes which illustrate how Roy is 'working for you', and in particular the one on the left. Apparently, Roy is very aware of the "beautiful countryside on his doorstep". The problem is that Roy wants to introduce his jealous lover Bypass to the beautiful countryside -  it's one of Roy's sick, twisted fantasies - and we know how it's going to end folks don't we? Yes, the perverted Bypass will have his wicked way with 'beautiful countryside', making her tired, ugly and degraded - a shadow of her former self.

Now you would have thought that a perfect backdrop to illustrate Roy's love for the countryside would be - the countryside of Longdendale! The only problem with that is that many of the views you could pick would be spoiled forever by the Bypass. So Roy's played it safe and posed against the park at the junction of the A57 and A628 in Hollingworth.

We think this is no small accident: for politicians like Oldham, the mitigation for projects that entail environmental degradation and the destruction of open spaces in the countryside is the provision of dead, paved, ecological deserts such as the park in the photograph. We know which we prefer.

We hear that Roy's facing a showdown with Kieran Quinn on May 16th, only 9 days after the results of the Council Elections. He may have plenty of time to spend in his park after that.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Ruth Bergan - don't mention the Bypass(?)

Now in this post we're not going to do any transcribing of the interview Saddleworth News has made with the Green Party candidate for Stalybridge & Hyde, Ruth Bergan. The reason being is that there's no mention of the Bypass.

We're not entirely sure why this is, but we'll posit some possibilities:

  1. The interviewer didn't ask. So, far, the only other candidate who has not been asked about it is the Nazi David Jones, but you would have thought it was the ideal question to ask a Green candidate. But it's a strong possibility.
  2. The interviewer did ask, but Ruth refused to answer and/or asked to have her words deleted from the interview. Seems highly unlikely, but a possibility.
  3. Ruth thought it was best not to mention it. Although there were chances to raise the issue herself, in relation to transport for example, Ruth thought better of it for fear of 'losing votes'. This is also a strong possibility.
  4. Ruth thinks it's irrelevant - she simply doesn't think it's an issue in Stalybridge and Hyde. Inconceivable.

Historically, Green candidates in Tameside - and even Tameside Green Party itself - have been fainthearts in relation to this issue: it's simply not been an issue that they have taken up at a political level in the area. Indeed, at the Public Inquiry, a representative from Friends of the Earth in Stockport was the only person from a mainstream Green organisation to be combative about the issue and subject the promoters to scrutiny. In her local election address in this week's local papers, the prospective Green Party Council candidate for Longdendale - Melanie Roberts - makes absolutely no reference whatsoever to Bypass 2.0.

Politicians of all stripes are usually more than keen to tell us both what they are for and what they are against. You would have thought that the issue of a road scarring the beautiful landscape of Longdendale & Glossopdale, promoting more traffic and attendant pollution would be something a Green candidate would have something to say about. But not in the case of Ruth Bergan and Tameside Green Party.

UPDATE 5th May 2010: Ruth Bergan has responded personally to this blog post, and you can follow the discussion by going to the comments. We have offered her an opportunity to make clear her opposition to Bypass 2.0, and she has now taken us up on the offer - you can read the blog post about it here.

John Cooke's Truck Driver Divorce

Who cares what UKIP think about the bypass? Or anything else for that matter? Well, you can't accuse Saddleworth News of being inconsistent (although there's no mention of the bypass in the interview with the Tameside BNP F├╝hrer and Gollum soundalike David Jones), so he asks Tameside's UKIP afterbirth John Cooke (aka "Rubber Duck") what he thinks. So let's be even handed and give the bloke five minutes shall we?

Well, it's a very short interview and the bit about the bypass is even shorter.  So short we'll simply quote in full rather than leave it to the end. C'mon Rubber Duck:
Erm, I'm 100% in favour of the Mottram Bypass, erm, I used to run a transport company. It's possible for a lorry to get across to Sheffield in 45 minutes, erm, except for the traffic jams. The traffic jams need to be got rid of, it's doing nobody's health any good having thousands of vehicles sat ticking over, belching fumes into the air, so I would like to see the Mottram Bypass completed as quickly as possible.
Appropriately, Cooke's interview appears to have been conducted in the street, and the sound of traffic is constant. Anyway, at this point, there's precious little else to write about, so here's some lyrics from Frank Zappa's Truck Driver Divorce which seem apt:
Truck driver divorce!
It's very sad
(Steel guitars Usually weepall over it)
The bold & intelligent MASTERS OF THE ROAD,
With their Secret Language,

Rob Adlard's "rural feeling"

Another candidate for Stalybridge and Hyde interviewed by Saddleworth News is the Tory Rob Adlard. As you'd expect, our interest lies with what he has to say about the Bypass, and once again, we've produced an mp3 from the edited interview and have also transcribed it - both of these appear below.

As with Jonny Reynolds, there appears to be precious little comment from Adlard about the Bypass in other media. Even his own website's transport policy section has no specific mention of the Bypass. So Saddleworth News has done a good job of dragging what little these politicians have to say about the issue out of them.

And what does he say? Well, he's definitely for a bypass, although most of the time is spent attacking Roy Oldham's failure to deliver the road, which is in tune with the approach taken by Longdendale Conservatives. But his words about the 'majority' wanting a bypass concur with the perorations of other politicians - i.e. uninformed and without presenting any empirical evidence to support this assertion.

Adlard's record on the matter also speaks for itself: he did not write to the Public Inquiry to support the Bypass, nor schedule an appearance to speak in favour at said enquiry. You could say he's shown absolutely no interest in the matter, other than to play political football with it at election time: the same could be said of the Tory candidate for Longdendale Peter Hayes (whose fence-sitting blather about the bypass can be read here) - another one who thought the issue was so crucial to the people in the area that he decided not to register an opinion at the Public Inquiry. It's called having your cake and eating it.

Still, in a constituency that's been Labour since 1945 it's unlikely Adlard and Co. will ever get to the main course.

Now one other erm issue that's important locally is erm the issue of the Bypass which is one that's erm rumbled on for a long time? Where do you stand on that?
It's an interesting and enormous issue, I mean, erm, you know it's something that's been going on for 30 years and it certainly divides the community here, erm - the majority of people want to have some kind of bypass. Erm, the village just up the road from me, Mottram, is absolutely split in two, er, by the problem with the roads right now and they're very upset about it - the majority of people up there want it, apart from the people who live on the outskirts, on the more sort of - erm - rural feeling, areas and they're very much more against it, er, and to be honest there are good arguments on either side.
When I started, erm, having a role to play in politics in this area, started to research, er, again the beginnings of the bypass and all the things that had gone on, we started by having a campaign to trying to get, erm, Roy Oldham the Council leader here to be more open and we were calling for more honesty erm on the issue, and use that as a starting point, and it was interesting when we began to do that, and we found that y'know there was a sort of spike in activity and promises about the bypass at election times. Recently he's just been holding -erm - consultations across all the villages in Longdendale, erm, y'know it's very very close to an election time er after the scheme fell through and he claims that it was because the Highways Agency, you know, withdrew the money and it was all their fault, and all the rest of it, and it was to do with the environmental campaigners, and it's not: I mean he never really had an argument to satisfy the environmental campaigners and just, you know, treated them as if they didn't have a point to make, and they clearly did have a point to make because, er, a lot of people were upset about that and it did cause ructions, but actually, that wasn't what stopped it. What stopped it was that the Highways Agency said it had the least strategic fit, it was the least suitable plan, the least well thought out plan, and the money went elsewhere, to other road schemes.
So, we need to start again, I think we need to look at it, erm, again from scratch - the scheme that Roy Oldham's proposing right now, we just shift the problem a little bit further down the road, away from his house in Mottram, and down into Hollingworth.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Jonny Reynolds interviewed about Bypass 2.0

Whilst it seems that any public pronouncements backing the Bypass in print from the Stalybridge and Hyde candidates are thin on the ground, the Saddleworth News website has been carrying interviews where it has been mentioned. Most interesting is their interview with Jonathan 'Jonny' Reynolds which appeared on their site recently.

Now the sound file for this interview is rather large, so we hope the editor of the site doesn't mind that we've altered it to save our readers/listeners the hassle of downloading it and wading through the other bilge to get to the relevant bit - the edited mp3 can be heard on the player below, along with our transcription of Reynolds' words.

But what's really fascinating about this interview is how much Reynolds gives away about the true reasons for this road. He makes a pitch aimed at the local electorate using the conventional justification about 'relieving locals of traffic' (although Bypass 2 is now only 'helping' Mottram), and wraps this around the true aim: that the bypass is part of a strategic route improvement, ultimately aimed at facilitating the motorway network, as part of a trans-European route (you may remember that we have written extensively in the past about the plans Tameside had for a North European Trade Axis).

Other interesting points are:
  • How Reynolds corrects himself when talking about opposition to the original bypass plan - changing it to the well-worn myth propogated by the local roads lobby that it was "opposition outside the area".
  • How Reynolds calls the new Bypass proposal 'Bypass 2' - a term first used on this website which now seems to have entered the official lexicon.
  • How thoroughly middle class Reynolds is (and likely to become ruling class by May 7th if he's elected).

Now one other erm issue that's been rumbling on here for er em really rather a long time is the issue of the Bypass, erm, where do you stand on that?
I used to live on Mottram Moor in Hollingworth, I'm the Longdendale Councillor, so you won't be surprised to know I'm very much in favour of the Bypass. You know I'm not someone who believes that building roads is always the answer to traffic problems but if you look at the unique situation that we have with two motorways pointing towards each other, everything that I've seen, you know, there's not an easy public transport solution to this, and some of the more sort of, erm, distinctive ideas like a roll-on roll-off railway don't seem to have been a starter at all, er, in order to solve the traffic problem.
What annoys me the most as a Longdendale Councillor is the way that, you know, the funding allocations have come about in such a way as to, you know, be assigned in a way at a regional level, and I understand why across the North West for certain transport projects that makes sense, but really this is, you know, an essential piece of road infrastructure on the edge of a region - it's a national project because it links two regions together and it's something which has come about really through the National motorway network, creating the unique problems that we've got in Longdendale, and I think the government - all governments - going back many, many years should have recognised this and given us the funding, and we've got the busiest A-road in the country and we've got levels of pollution in Hollingworth outside the primary school which are in excess of anything that's recommended by, you know, the medical experts.
So, the funding should be given - I appreciate the original Bypass plan caused a lot of opposition because of, sorry a lot of opposition outside the area, because of what was perceived to be some sort of damage to the Peak Park as it came through at the end, that was a small piece of the, er, wider bypass that was proposed. At the minute what we're looking at is really what's been called Bypass 2 or a smaller initial option that would just bypass Mottram and come back across and use the Glossop Spur back to Woolley Bridge from the M67. That's still going to require a solution for Hollingworth, and road calming and maybe an HGV ban can be part of that, but I need to know in terms of being both a local Councillor and, er, a possible MP for the area that Hollingworth's going to get a solution as well as Mottram, and I'm very much committed as someone who lives in the area as well to getting, er you know, a system in place which relieves the residents of the traffic because what they're being asked to put up with at the minute is not acceptable at all.