Thursday, November 18, 2010

Campaign for Better Transport can't see the wood for the trees

In his latest blog over at the Campaign for Better Transport website, Roads and Climate Change campaigner Richard George makes a convincing case for why Tameside MBC should just give up the fight for any kind of Bypass through the Longdendale Valley. Tameside's silence over recent weeks was this week exposed as not the result of being stunned by the government's cutting of the scheme, but because they are seeking money from elsewhere to fund the road.

But he's missing the point, and big time. Perhaps it's because he's detached from the situation on the ground, but the reason the campaign for a Bypass now has new impetus is because of the issue that won't go away: the issue that has been tracked by this blog for nearly 3 years now, and the issue that most anti-Bypass campaigners are hiding from - Tesco, and their now government approved megastore at Hattersley.

So it's hardly surprising that Tameside carry on with their zombie Bypass - the facts on the ground are changing the discourse. We're aware that it's probably not the remit of the CFBT to campaign against Tesco, but unless a serious challenge is posed to the government's decision to allow Tesco to build this store - and soon - any words against this Bypass will start to ring more and more hollow and lack credibility.

Rant over.

UPDATE: Richard George has replied to this blog, along with other contributors - please see the comments.


Richard George said...

Hi there,

Not quite sure what you wanted us to say really... we've been solidly against the bypass for years. As you note, it's not really our job to criticise Tesco's - we're a transport charity after all, and I've only got so many hours in the day to fight road schemes.

Of course having a new Tesco's would increase the case for a bypass. But does that invalidate my argument that neither of the revenue pots from which Tameside is trying to extract funding is going to fund Bypass 2.0, and that Tameside needs to drop the damned thing and look at sustainable options?

Right, back to work.

naturelle said...

People at CFBT do a great job, no question,

but yes it is your job to criticise Tescos if you are serious about your remit.

They are putting more and more cars on the roads, as are their competititors. More so.

Our limp response to this proposal will cost us big time.

Thanks for all your great work and helpufl blogging, but have a rethink about this.

You have to widen your brief to consider housing and retail, they are brother and sister to transport.

Richard George said...

I don't want to get drawn into an argument on a blog, but we do exactly what you're asking.

Look at our 'Car Dependency Scorecard', which outlined a number of ways in which planning, spatial strategies, etc., impact on people's ability to get about without a car.

Or our Masterplanning Checklist, which outlines planning measures to support sustainable development.

We spend a huge amount of time talking about how planning and urban design encourage or prohibit sustainable transport. But we do so at a national level, because there are simply too many bad local planning issues for us to get involved in.

Otherwise we'd spend all our time challenging local planning matters, when we should be working to our strengths.

naturelle said...

I will look at what you say Richard. I know you are proactive, and I accept your activity has mainly to be at zoomed out level. How to fight Tescos though!! They virtually own this part of Manchester lock stock and barrel, 4 stores within 5 miles if you count an extra and this one that now has p/p. And that is only the tip of the iceberg. In an economy starved of cash they have more than they know what to do with, so their power is effectively absolute. And they are about one thing and one thing only, and that is "4 wheels good, 2 legs bad."

I also accept you dont want or rather cant afford to get drawn into detailed discussions with evey grass roots campaigner. It is always a matter of zoom, and zoom in and zoom out both have their place in my book.

However what is utterly disillusioning in this case is that the Highways Agency have given credence to a traffic analysis which EVERYONE, even ordinary Joes in the street KNOWS TO BE UTTER BOLLOCKS and they have been somehow able to get away with it. And there appears absolutely no way to challenge it and no interest in challenging it from our usually proactive local supports.

If we cant challenge that, and there is no means or medium to do so, I tend to think there is nothing that can be done, and that my campaigning trajectory has come to a bitter dead end.

The roads round here are saturated
as indeed they are in most of Manchester, most of the outskirts are at complete gridlock, but its complete nonsense that a new hyper store effectively with significant parking provision on the very edge of the built up area is going to have no impact on traffic levels. There will be utter chaos and everyoe knows this, distraught residents with no previous interest in transport campaigning, are ringing radio stations and saying they will have to move from the area. And yet nothing is done to stop it. Its like the worst dream imaginable yet it shows no end of coming to an end.

And we are letting them get away with it. Incidentally this conversation shouldnt be in public, no way! but nobody apart from the owner of this blog has shown any wish to arrange any kind of forum, let alone a private one. Another disgrace I am afraid!

I see no future for cammpaigning round here or in the UK on the basis of this experience, and I have been at it since 1992.

anyway good luck with your campaigning.

Anonymous said...

This point about the traffic report is spot-on. The report was commissioned by Tesco's own agents and proudly claims that its purpose "is to prove there won't be a traffic problem" (I've slightly paraphrased as I don't have the report to hand, but that is the spirit).

There has been no independent look at the traffic, and as the above commentator says, every local 'man in the street' could explain why the site will create chaos. There are real flaws in the planning system. The local community, with no expertise, have tried hard but appear beaten (even though they are right).

naturelle said...

Naturelle here

Singing off the same hymn sheet here Anon but allow me to clarify one point.

Yes Tescos commissioned a traffic report which glossed over the imminent traffic nightmare. You would expect them to. As you say you wouldnt expect it to be "Independent". Tescos turkeys dont vote for Xmas etc.

However the Highways Agency have a duty to keep the trunk road operative, and bearing in mind the gridlock at the end of the M67 at Stockport Road junction is legendary, they put a "holding objection" on the application pending an Independent survey, which "holding objection" coming from the National Statutory Roads Authority if it had been maintained would presumably have scuppered the application or certainly made it far harder to pass esp for the SOS for LGov. This was therefore the HAgency acting as a Statutory consultee and a critical one to the Application.

They then claim to have employed independent consultants to model the traffic impact of a 564 parking place store on a saturated road network and said consultants advised that there would be no detrimental effect on the trunk road network. As if!

That WAS an "independent study" at taxpayers expense and this is what should be looked at. I would have thought that this ought to be an issue of concern for CFBT, as the Highways Agency have quite a key role nationally in many such deliberations, so they really need to be accountable for national reasons, which currently seems not to be the case. As Anon says here there is something wrong with the planning system if they can simply rubber stamp applications irrespective of the evidence. I would suggest it would actually be a best use of CFBT time and expertise to put this particular report under the microscope. It really needs doing because if everyone knows this independent report is rubbish, serious questions need to be asked and fast, and people at ground level dont have the equipment to do this.

That Clean Bill of Trunk Road Health was imo presumably exactly what the HAgency had paid consultants them to find.
So game over - thanks to HAgency - speculate as you want as to their motives = this application has been impossible to fight, MPs have been able to evade being called to account (key part of a MP job description of course as we all know) The application has been passed on what Everybody thinks to be an untruth but nevertheless it WAS passed on an "independent traffic report" - which is the basic import of my post here.

The Highways Agency are responsible here, but not apparently accountable!

I will try and look out for the record who the "consultants" were who the Highways Agency claimed did an independent study for them and screwed this area of the Peak District good and proper for the future.

Children of Lewin said...

Richard - thanks for taking some time in your lunchbreak to join us down in the trenches here in Longdendale.

What I'd like you to do is issue a press release which highlights the absurdity of the whole situation surrounding this Tesco store. 2250 people - all of whom have concerns about traffic and transport - begged Eric Pickles to call this in. The Highways Agency placed a holding objection and then withdrew it following some bullshit advice from a supposed independent consultant. The local politicians are *full of shit* over the whole issue, and pro-bypass pinheads are having a field-day.

The bloody alarm is ringing, we need help, do us a favour and put something out *please*