Wednesday, July 21, 2010

How much did Tameside spend on their 'virtual' bypass?

It's a question that needs answering, especially in the light of the revelations today (which are now reaching a national audience) about how Tameside MBC spent £36,000 to create a 'virtual council' on the online game Second Life.

It's hard to fathom exactly what they thought they were doing by throwing money down an online drain, but in reality Tameside spent much much more on their own 'virtual bypass', the Glossop Spur, to much less complaint in the media. The last we heard, the costs were £7 million.

Perhaps they should have planned to build a virtual bypass in their Second Life zone? Having spent a small amount of time mooching around their zone in SL ourselves before it was shut down, we could find no trace of it.  Which is a shame, because it would be the perfect place for an avatar of the late Roy Oldham to hang out: he could cast his gaze over his bypass forever and ever - he could find the success for his project in his Second Life that he failed to find in reality.

Well, to a certain extent, the powers that be did create a virtual bypass. They employed a company to construct a virtual bypass (though not a Glossop Spur - you can see a screen grab from the virtual map above, showing the plans they had for Swallows Wood). If, like us, you are curious person(s), you will find a way to download the file that contains this map, and viewing software from the site.

On the map, there's a little car that permanently traverses the route - whizzing by every now and then. How misleading: the Highways Agency knew full well their new Bypass would be chock-a-block from day one. Tameside's virtual bypass was a lot like their zone in Second Life: no-one used it. It was an expensive waste of time, money and effort.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

What is the closing date for objections to the Mottram Tesco?

Visitors to the TMBC webpage for the Mottram Tesco application will be under the impression that the official closing date for objections is 15th July. This is also the case for those who saw the advert in the local newspapers.

But if you visit the potential building site for the store, the notices posted on lamp posts around the site make it clear that the closing date is 26th July. We think Tameside need to make clear to the public the relevant date. Given that the public notices mention the 26th July, we're pretty sure you are safe leaving it until this date to object if you cannot do this sooner. 

Friday, July 09, 2010

Bypass 2.0 now placed on hold - coup de grace please?!

With the Greater Manchester Transport Fund hitting the buffers, the good news today is that Bypass 2.0 has been named as one of the first schemes as part of that project to be placed on hold, according to the MEN.

We now all have to wait until the government's spending review in the autumn to discover if the axe is truly to fall. But it's interesting to contrast this news today with our blog three days ago that the old Bypass scheme still seems to be accruing more costs at an unprecedented rate.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Longdendale Labour Party member breaks ranks on Mottram Tesco

Today's Tameside Reporter contains a letter from a Mr S Naz, voicing concerns about the proposed new Mottram Tesco store. We'll reproduce the letter in full below:

It'll cause chaos
Disgrace! That is the opinion of 99 per cent of people I have spoken to in regard to the plans that have been put forward for a new Tesco Extra on Stockport Road, Hattersley (at Mottram roundabout opposite the Macdonalds). 
How, after decades of campaigning for a bypass due to severe traffic congestion in our area, can we allow this to happen?
This is one of the THE traffic hotspots in the UK. To build this store in this location would make the traffic situation much worse, leading to misery for thousands of commuters every day.
For the promise of around 200 jobs for local people? How can you balance that equation?
The other thing to consider is that there are small retailers in the Longdendale villages of Hollingworth, Mottram, Broadbottom and Hattersley whose livelihoods will be under severe threat from this development, some of whom will close forever.
Tesco will not hold out the hand of friendship to those local people and offer them compensation for the loss of their income and the goodwill of their businesses. These small business owners have invested their life savings, redundancy money and taken out huge loans to buy their businesses. 
How many people working in these businesses will become unemployed?
Balance that against the number of jobs on offer! When the 80 per cent of local residents in Hattersley said 'yes' to the superstore, were they made aware of the repercussions?
How man residents in Hattersley attended the meetings in Hattersley? And why were the residents of all Longdendale not made fully aware of these meetings and why were they not held at times when a larger representation of residents could attend?
It makes me wonder; how about you?

Now many of the points of concern is Mr Naz's letter are things that we've been pointing out for some time. But what makes this more interesting is Mr Naz's political affiliations: we are reliably informed that he is a member of Longdendale Labour Party. Not only that, he is a delegate to the Constituency Labour Party. Now we can't assume that everyone within Longdendale Labour Party is in favour of the Tesco development, but we can assume that Roy Oldham is, since it was under his administration that the deal was done to bring this Hypermarket to the area, in return for the regeneration that is linked to it. No doubt Roy losing power has made members more confident to speak their minds. Has Mr Naz put his head on the chopping block, or will others now speak out?

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Jonathan Reynolds snubbed by Transport Minister over Bypass plea

Actually, that's the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, Norman Baker. Stalybridge & Hyde MP, Jonathan Reynolds, submitted a written question to him recently:
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will visit the villages of Hollingworth and Mottram-in-Longdendale in Stalybridge and Hyde constituency to observe traffic congestion on the A59 (sic).
Norman Baker's reply yesterday was just about the biggest snub it was possible to deliver:
I understand Tameside metropolitan borough council is currently looking at options to address congestion in the villages of Hollingworth and Mottram-in-Longdendale in the constituency of Stalybridge and Hyde. I do not think it would be appropriate for me or the Secretary of State for Transport to visit the area to observe traffic congestion whilst this work is ongoing.
This is in stark contrast with the likes of Alistair Darling who visited the area to show support for the Bypass when he was Secretary of State for Transport . Putting aside Norman Baker's record in the past over environmental concerns (he turned up at at least one Climate Camp in the past few years), the signals are clear - the axemen at the DfT are not ruling anything out for the cuts, and to turn up to essentially show support for a possible road to then later on 'down the road' cut future funding for it would be a huge own goal.

Now all of this suits the likes of 'Jonny' Reynolds, who's been very busy since he was elected desperately trying to look like he's doing something about the bypass. So if a Con-Dem government nix it, then he's able to blame it on his political rivals and 'Con-Dem' them...

Politricks, politricks, politricks.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

New cost estimate for 'withdrawn' Mottram Bypass - £19.6 million

Our old friend John Hall has been doing some digging. He recently requested from the Highways Agency information about the total cost of the original Bypass scheme to date in a Freedom of Information request.

Now you may remember that we have covered pretty much every twist and turn of the issue of costs over the past 3 years. The last time we reported was in May last year, when the accumulated cost was £17,176,000, this figure having leapt up by £1,176,000 in less than 6 months.

In this context, the reply to John Hall's Freedom of Information request in somewhat staggering - the cost now stands at £19.6 million (or £19,600,000 in longhand), meaning that £2.4 million has been added to the costs in just over 12 months. Whether this is as a result of a re-audit of the accounts, or that the abandoned scheme is still accruing costs is unclear, but you may remember that in March 2009, 4NW allowed the Highways Agency £1.1 million over the next seven years towards 'ongoing administrative costs'. For 2009-2010, the HA were apportioned £100,000 for this.

So one way or the other, the costs the scheme seems to have accrued have already swallowed up more than double the next seven years money in 12 months.

Now think about this: the media and politicians keep telling us that there's no money left, and that we must all face cuts to jobs, wages, services etc. At the same time, executive pay is up, banks are still paying bonuses, there's loads of money for useless wars - and the Highways Agency are still swallowing horrendous amounts of money for an 'abandoned' road scheme. You couldn't make it up.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Mottram Tesco poll results

The results of our poll regarding the proposed Tesco Extra store at Mottram are in with 48 votes having been cast. We asked 'How do you feel about the possible new Tesco at Mottram?', and our respondents voted as follows:

Good idea - 3 (6%)
Bad idea - 35 (72%)
Don't care - 2 (4%)
Good idea, but worried about traffic - 8 (18%)

So not exactly a ringing endorsement. Now our poll is not exactly scientific, and you might not think it has much credibility, but then Tesco themselves also carried out a survey on Mottram and Hattersley, holding two 9-hour exhibitions, several static displays over a week, and delivering leaflets to 2,700 households, alongside posters and articles in local community newspapers. After all that money and effort, only 92 comment forms were received by them - and we received more than half that. You can read more details of the Tesco survey in this document they have submitted to the planning department at TMBC.

We'd like to receive your comments about the Tesco plan - please feel free to comment on this post, or contact us if you live locally and are concerned enough to want to do something about it.