Monday, December 01, 2014

Bypass, lol

Bypass, lol. After nearly 4 years away from this site (never mind the whole issue of the bypass), and seeing the news today, that's all I can muster. Politicians - of any stripe - should be wary about making grand proclamations about road-building programs ('the biggest road building program since the Romans', anyone?). The only response they deserve that I can summon was on twitter, using the customary vernacular:

What has been a surprise is that the other two, main websites opposing the bypass seem to have disappeared. So consequently, this site now ranks quite highly on google in searches for the bypass. The old offer still stands, to contributors old & new: if you have something to say which is reasonably articulate about the issue (or even just 'lol'), then drop us a line, and we may well publish it. Until then, here's to making the proposed, apparently fully-funded and Public Inquiry-proof Bypass Redux go the way of Sean Parker-Perry's political career.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

Bingham secures Adjournment Debate on the Bypass

Thanks once again to NMB contributor Kirtle Green for another blog, which can be read below.

Andrew Bingham, Enemy of the Peak District, has secured an imminent pre-Christmas Adjournment Debate on the Bypass, which will take place tomorrow in the House of Commons. An Adjournment Debate traditionally takes place as we understand it not before the Full House, but “in camera” as it were with any interested parties present, and a Ministerial representative from the Dept of Transport.

Incidentally, we don’t feel the MP has done much homework on the Bypass, so it will be interesting to know which version he turns up supporting, dependent perhaps on how he has been briefed (by whoever is lobbying him on all of this.) After all, there are plentiful versions of the road out there. Which one he is talking about – something he has never troubled himself to elaborate on up till now - may at last become clear. Mind you we wouldn’t bet on it! Over the past 12 months, Bingham has variously called the scheme the 'Glossop Bypass', 'Tintwistle Bypass' and now the 'Mottram-Tintwistle Bypass'. Little details like “where a particular road is to go” or the probable impacts on his constituents don’t really seem to matter in the remote and somewhat un-thought-out governmental world of Andrew Bingham MP.

At the outset we called the MP an “Enemy” because nobody who is not in some way adverse to iconic countryside would want to touch one blade of grass or animal habitat of the fragile Peak District, let alone plan to drive a road and urban sprawl through it. Its future seems far from secure whilst this guy is touting his trade.

Ironically, Bingham said in his maiden speech that he felt he represented the most “beautiful constituency” in the UK. We would not quite agree with that superlative but it is certainly one of the finest – I moved here 27 years ago and as it stands in a bypass-less state, I have never found anywhere better to live. Go out in the snowy wilderness now and who could be failed by such icy splendour.

I therefore marvel at his eagerness to undermine its status and make it mundane, suburban or desolate like so many of the urban areas it sits between. There is no accounting for MPs really - except perhaps expenses accounting - as it wasn’t any different with the late great Tom Levitt . They seem to talk up the beauty of their constituency and then lay plans for its demise.

Mr Bingham of course with his gracious lady companion, the MEP Emma McClarkin, did a foot tour of the constituency in his opposition days. Those wilderness years were very considerable, so Mr Bingham being a bit of a one trick pony, this may be one one reason why he seeks to placate the road lobby to prolong his sinecure. No doubt in his travels he came across some very scenic and ecologically important scenes which he marked down then with a note “come back and destroy in the future”.

He probably identified all kinds of spectacular areas. Take my word for it, some of the proposed bypass routes under any sane constitution would have years ago been placed under conservation orders or put in the National Park. This should still be the case now, but our elected officials have quite other thoughts in mind. One could perhaps perceive Mr Bingham on his travels keeping his beady bespectacled eye open for particularly important landscapes such as these for some deforestation, or bulldozer work for a road. Now his time has come as MP, and seemingly nowhere is safe in the Peak District as he has pledged “not to let this issue rest”.

Well done Andrew Bingham, statesman and orator, what a great spectacle you are!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Tesco Values: the role of the Highways Agency in the Hattersley Tesco

Many thanks to NMB reader and occasional contributor kirtlegreen for this analysis of the role of the Highways Agency in relation to the Hattersley Tesco:

The Highways Agency are the Statutory Authority for trunk roads in the UK, so where a retail application might impact upon the national network, it is incumbent upon them to form and take a position as a key Statutory Consultee. In this role the Highways Agency duly placed a holding Objection on the Hattersley Tesco Extra application around May of last year, with the proposed store being adjacent to the highly congested M67 roundabout. This hold was pending closer examination of the matter and could, I believe, have been maintained indefinitely until the Agency were fully satisfied that the proposal would have no adverse impact on the trunk route East and West of the location (M67/A57/A628).

Had the Highways Agency Holding Objection been maintained, firstly, it would have been hard for Tameside to even hear the application let alone legally pass it. It would certainly have established the matter as one of national importance for the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government, Eric Pickles. Whilst accepting there are numerous other issues with this store, I would venture to suggest therefore that their powers made the Highways Agency the “key or decisive witness” and their actions as a public body particularly worthy of scrutiny.

The Highways Agency in their role as statutory consultee employed Halcrow as consultants to review the evidence supplied by Waterman Boreham on behalf of the applicant, CTP (for Tesco). The evidence Halcrow looked at was based on work commissioned by Tameside Council (a retail study by White Young & Green) with projections employed - rather than facts - by Waterman Boreham to make traffic behaviour assumptions. In this rather circular way (considering the multiple involvement of Tameside Council) all the various transport consultants involved - Waterman Boreham, Halcrow and ultimately the Agency - reached the same very surprising conclusion.

Far from being the obvious traffic nightmare there would be a net reduction in trips at the M67 corridor as a result of the application for a Tesco at Hattersley! The more than dubious case, made on the basis of some hypotheses, was that reduction of outward journeys from Hattersley would offset any increase of inward traffic resulting in a benign outcome for the M67 corridor. A particular test of the M67 roundabout in this scenario was, as I have read it, thus considered an unnecessary further step.

This happens to be completely the opposite of what everyone could possibly expect to be the case, as witnessed by letters in the press and objections sent to the Planning Authority and the Secretary of State, who all see things in a far less favourable light. The general consensus in this area is that these findings simply cannot be right and a very sizeable consensus it is too, with over 2,500 people. Everyone apart from these traffic agencies/consultants seem to prefer the evidence of their own eyes, rather than guesswork and extrapolations within a retail study. They seem to think that a store with over 525 parking places in a road system operating at full capacity does not make any sense in planning or any other terms you care to think of. They appear to feel - with it must be said some considerable logic - that they will suffer adversely in many ways, with respect to falling property values, and a very considerable deterioration of quality of life, due to continual slow moving traffic in the area, i.e. gridlock. This is to the extent that people are talking about upping sticks and moving away. However once the Highways Agency, as representative of the Secretary of State, adopted the position given by Halcrow, the traffic implications of the Hattersley Tesco were suddenly going to be virtually impossible to challenge; the influence of the Highways Agency, whether contrary to obvious sense or not, being decisive in these considerations.

The issue therefore seems to be whether the Highways Agency are expected to follow some safe pattern of assessment, and whether that assessment is fully independent, complete and cannot be connected with the applicant in any way and is thus shown to be fundamentally sound - or not. Also, if the Agency has skimped the job -  for whatever reason - by not conducting their own survey, or in view of the congestion have conducted only a low level study, then how are the interests of the public within their remit protected?

Either we live in a despotic state, where the the public fund a planning process which is simply a facade, or the Highways Agency as Statutory Consultee to the process for its transport element should be able and willing to indicate adherence to a clear and satisfactory set of assessment guidelines, which are not ad hoc but firmly applicable in all cases. It would seem extraordinary if such guidelines do not exist for them and that in this case it cannot be demonstrated minutely, with full documentation, to show how they have been followed. The public, through representatives or themselves, would seem to have a clear right to scrutinise and test this process to satisfy themselves, particularly where such doubt exists as to the conclusions - as in this case.

There therefore remain questions to be answered, of perhaps both local and national importance here, regarding the transparency of the Highways Agency as a public body. Perhaps answering those questions will help in this particular matter?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Second Siege crossing protest a failure - as their own video demonstrates!

We've yet to write a proper feature on the second pedestrian crossing protest by the Longdendale Siege Committee, although one is in the works along with a video, but in the meantime we thought we'd reverse-engineer their own propaganda. The above video is from the MEN's YouTube page, and is linked to from Siege's website. The only problem is, it clearly illustrates the failure of their protest: traffic is not even queuing back from the lights at the junction of the A628 & A57 in the near-distance for any significant length of time...

'Medieval Dramatists' Longdendale Siege appear on Andy Crane's Radio show - bring back Edd the Duck

Now we're sure there are some readers out there that have fond memories of the BBC's Andy Crane in his days in the BBC's broom cupboard with his sidekick hand puppet Edd the Duck. But after last Monday's lunchtime show, we really wished he was still presenting the junction slots on Children's BBC.

A large part of his show was dedicated to discussing that morning's protest by Longdendale Siege, and Brian Butler from Siege was awarded a slot to call for the bypass. Along the way, we also had a contribution from someone called Pat who lives in Broadbottom, who pointed out that Siege have nothing to say about the Hattersley Tesco and pointed out the lack of local consultation about the plans for the store. Whilst Pat intimated she supported the Bypass, it's clear that her main concern, like everyone who lives in and around the area, is traffic - and she doesn't see how the construction of the Tesco is going to help.

Andy Crane himself revealed his clear bias on this issue by wittering on and on about how bad the traffic was, although it was interesting how he couldn't get the BBC traffic expert to agree that it was one of the worst places in Greater Manchester for traffic hold ups. We're informed that Crane lives in Charlesworth.

Unlike with other audio presentations on this blog, we just cannot be bothered transcribing the key bits - an mp3 of the 'highlights' appears below.

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.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Unelected and unrepresentative Lord Pendry speaks out on the bypass cut

Despite Jonathan Reynolds' intervention the other day on the Bypass issue, there has been little noise from Tameside's politicians about the cutting of government funding for the Bypass. The motives for this remain a matter of conjecture, but we're betting that if there is a chance to use other government funding streams to bring about Bypass 2.0, then they don't particularly want to put the government's nose out of joint.

So in the meantime we have Lord Pendry, the former Stalybridge and Hyde MP, being wheeled out to moan and groan. How convenient - someone whose political stature cannot be affected by the whole affair, since he is unelected and can't be toppled.

Pendry gave an interview to the Glossop Chronic's pro-bypass journalist David Jones this week, and a little potted history of his failure to get government ministers of all stripes to build a road over the years.

It's also an example of some of the most contrarian and idiotic reasoning you'll find anywhere. Pendry describes the visit of Fred Mulley, the Labour Minister of Transport between 1974-75, someone who apparently doubted the attractiveness of Longdendale, but agreed with Pendry having stayed there for the weekend after Pendry invited him. Pendry finds it so attractive that he wanted to build another road through it.

Mulley apparently wouldn't be seen driving a car during his tenure as Transport Minister, perhaps to counter any accusations he favoured the road lobby. Perhaps the reason the Longdendale Bypass was never granted during his tenure was because he realised how 'attractive' it was. Nevertheless, he did end up having a road named after him.

We then get another example of Pendry's failure to convince a Minister with the example of Glenda Jackson being almost flattened by a lorry crossing Manchester Road in Tinsle during her tenure as Transport Minister. This is perhaps why the pedestrian crossing later appeared on said road!

But surely the best line here is Pendry's quote about Tesco: “Traffic has increased and it will get even worse in this area when Tesco open their supermarket in Hattersley.” So there we are, there is at least one politician who's prepared to admit Tesco will make things a whole lot worse.

Read the full Pendry interview after the read more link below.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Jonathan Reynolds speaks about Tesco - at last - and calls traffic concerns a 'Red Herring'

As part of all the mewling and puking from the roads lobby last week surrounding the government decision to cut the Mottram Bypass, the Stalybridge and Hyde MP, Jonathan Reynolds, saw an opportunity to burnish his pro-bypass credentials with his disillusioned electorate. He issued a press release and appeared on BBC Radio Manchester's 'Beswick at Breakfast' show last Thursday.

Now we've been lambasting Reynolds over his failure to address the concerns of his electorate regarding the Hattersley Tesco Extra for a while now. For months now, there has been a perfect silence about the issue from him, even through the General Election campaign. But his appearance on Alan Beswick's show left him vulnerable to being asked any question, and the astute Beswick took the opportunity to corner him on Tesco.

You can listen to the segment of the show and read a full transcript of the interview after the 'read more' link below. But what interests us are Reynolds' comments about Tesco, and these need to be highlighted here.

Firstly, Reynolds admits that the store "will have an impact on traffic". But later, he seeks to dilute this admission, by saying that "there won't be that different a change to the traffic flows ... in the area". It seems to us that he can't have it both ways. As Beswick implies, Tesco have chosen this site because of the proximity to the motorway and trunk road network, in order to maximise access and thereby profit. As we've always stated, the plan for the store anticipated the Bypass, but with the Bypass now on hold for an indeterminate length of time, it will now seek to precipitate it. All Reynolds can do is to state that the traffic problems of the A628/A57/M67 exist in a bubble, and that development in Tameside cannot make any difference. Isn't it funny that Roy Oldham's refrain was always that 'development in Glossop and High Peak' was responsible for increased traffic on this road? Not Tameside though, just Glossop and High Peak.

Secondly, Reynolds seeks to differentiate the store from the Bypass by stating that the Tesco is part of the 'regeneration' of Hattersley. 'Regeneration' in this context is code for the furtherance of the goals of sectors of private capital over social considerations. So the maintenance of existing housing can only be brought about by awarding massive concessions to a private company. We've seen another example of this today with the revelation that Tesco are secretly funding public infrastructure in Salford in return for being given the go-ahead on massive planning projects.

Thirdly, Reynolds seeks to downplay the scale of the Tesco store. The 525 car parking spaces go unmentioned, and Reynolds says, ridiculously, "There's a lot of controversy as to whether it would be described as a Tesco Extra - the size of the site is not comparable to some of the Tesco Extras we have seen in other parts of the country". There is no controversy - the artists impression of the store shows quite plainly the Tesco Extra logo emblazoned upon it! In addition, the Tesco Extra is the largest type of store that Tesco construct - at 95,000 square feet, the Hattersley store will be only 15% smaller than the store at Portwood in Stockport.

But Reynolds can afford to be blase - because Tesco seem to have won. With that twat Eric Pickles ignoring this issue, it seems the group set up to oppose the store plan have surrendered (at least if the disappearance of their website is anything to go by). With Siege upping their profile again, it seems that the future belongs to Tesco, if not the responsibility for the traffic, and Tameside MBC's silence regarding the road funding announcement is ominous: perhaps Tesco have thrown some money at reviving Bypass 2.0 behind the scenes?

Have the pro-bypass lobby snatched victory from the jaws of defeat? Unfortunately, it now seems that only time will tell.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

STOP PRESS: Government approves Hattersley Tesco

According to a press release issued by Tameside MBC today, the Government Office of the North West have 'no objection' to the plan for a Tesco Extra at Hattersley. To say that this announcement eclipses the quiet death of the Bypass scheme the other day would be something of an understatement.

We'll have more news and opinion as it becomes available.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The last rites for Bypass & Bypass 2.0 - it's over (for now)

Here's a link to the Department for Transport announcement made late yesterday afternoon about the future funding of road schemes.

There's no mention of both the original Bypass scheme, nor Bypass 2.0. Since the statement contains details of all the schemes and projects being considered, that means that both the Bypass 1.0 and Bypass 2.0 projects have finally faded from history. It's all over.

Curiously, there were no questions and comments from the local MPs that have made all the hue and cry over the past few years - neither Jonathan Reynolds, Andrew Bingham, nor Andrew Gwynne made a murmur. Gwynne's silence was particularly interesting, since he's now a shadow transport minister, but not even his twitter carried a mention of the Bypass schemes being given the last rites.

In the title of this blog, we've said that it's over 'for now' - that's because we're still awaiting a decision from the DCLG about 'calling-in' the Hattersley Tesco application. Failure to do so guarantees traffic hell, at least without a widespread and radical plan to halt Tesco, which will doubtless ensure calls for a bypass from certain quarters.

The days are now counting down to that decision. Apart from anything else, if it goes the right way, we get to pack up and go home at last....

Friday, October 08, 2010

Shock horror: previously loyal Glossop Chronicle labels Siege protest a "failure"

We're pretty stunned with the report of the Siege protest in this week's Glossop Chronic. Despite using a similar excuse to the Advertiser that a "fire at the Peniston (sic) end" meant traffic wasn't as heavy as expected (so vehicles heading North on the M1 weren't re-routing via the A616 then?), the papers agrees that "traffic flowed normally through to Mottram and on into Tameside. There were no problems either in Glossop".

Even better, the usual Bypass cheerleader and exemplar of partial journalism David Jones deals a crippling blow to Siege's credibility with the opening paragraph "a demonstration designed to bring rush hour traffic to a standstill failed" (our emphasis).

Worse still, Mike Flynn is quoted as being disappointed that "only five members of the public turned out to support us at Tintwistle".

Well it's hardly surprising - as we pointed out yesterday, Bypass 2.0 offers absolutely nothing to those living in Tintwistle (& Hollingworth) that want a road solution.

But perhaps the real shock here is the complete contrast with the article in this week's Advertiser papers. They said "traffic came to a standstill", quoting Mike Flynn as saying "I think it was very successful and we were very pleased with how it came off" which is the complete opposite of his comment in the Chronic that "it's very disappointing". The Advertiser put the people taking part as "70". On the day, our contact counted around 6 people at Mottram, Flynn himself says five turned up at Tinsle, and the photo of protesters at Mottram in the Chronic has about 14 glum-looking individuals (is that Sean Parker-Perry at the back?), a total of around 25. Now we've always been the first to point out how the virtual TMBC house-journal that is the Advertiser purposefully distorts the news (as well as occasionally stealing our stories, without credit, natch), but the contrast between fantasy and reality can be well and truly appreciated in this little controlled experiment in the manufacture of consent.

We must leave you with a priceless quote from an unnamed Siege protester "we may be back on Monday when the traffic will hopefully be heavier" - from our point of view, if the traffic is too sparse to justify a protest to stop it, then it's clearly far too sparse to justify a bypass to 'solve' a non-existent problem.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Never mind Hattersley, there's already a Tesco in Hollingworth

Bet you didn't know that? It is entirely the case though, that Tesco already have a store in Longdendale. Yes, Tesco own the One-Stop chain of convenience stores, an example of which can be found on Market Street in Hollingworth.

An article in the Times earlier this year highlighted how One-Stop have prices that are often much higher (14%) than those in Tesco stores. These stores flout unfair competition laws, usually because they are often too small to come within the remit of the legislation, and tend to operate in areas where there is less local competition.

Not content with stores in Glossop, Stalybridge and Gee Cross, Tesco have an undercover store in Hollingworth - and are now planning a megastore at Hattersley. The area clearly belongs to Tesco.

Congratulations to Sean & Sian - just don't tell the wife!

Well, it's rare that one of the talked about turns up to talk to us, but it may well be that we have an exclusive. You may remember in a post last week we mentioned that Sean Parker-Perry's mistress - a certain Sian Dominey - has seemingly changed her name on facebook to Sian Parker-Perry (try not to laugh).

Well now the lady in question - or at least someone masquerading as her - left a comment on the post with the following news:

I will be Sian Parker-Perry as of next summer when we get married! Thanks

Of course, this is all very lovely: but there is the small inconvenience in the fact that Sean is still married to someone else - Baron (Tom) Pendry's daughter, Fiona. At this rate, Miss Dominey will be lucky not to be named as co-respondent in the no doubt impending divorce proceedings...

Longdendale Siege's dismal protest failure

Longdendale Siege Committee's protest on Wednesday morning was by all accounts a dismal failure (worthy of failblog, hence the picture). But you wouldn't know it if you'd read the new online article that has appeared on the Advertiser website. They put the apparent lack of westbound traffic in evidence yesterday at Tintwistle down to 'a fire near to Sheffield'. (Incidentally, we love the cretinous banner in the middle of the picture which says "The Best HGV Ban is a Bypass" - HGVs are not planned to be banned from the Bypass).

Skip back in time to this time last week, and Siege Chair Mike Flynn and his mouthpiece at the Glossop Chronicle, David Jones, was predicting gridlock in all directions, in particular from Hollingworth to Glossop via Woolley Lane. Yet pictures taken by a contact of ours show quite clearly, no congested traffic along the A57 at Brookfield at 9.14 a.m.

All in all, our contacts tell us that the road was no more congested than it usually is at this time on a weekday morning. The clear implication for the Longdendale Siege Committee is that if they need to set off pedestrian crossings to cause traffic jams then it suggests the jams are not there in the first place. So what exactly are they campaigning for? If the traffic jams do exist at 9.00 a.m. in the morning, then why the need to activate pedestrian crossings? What difference did it make? The evidence suggests none at all.

But what Siege must also explain, is why they are activating pedestrian crossings at Hollingworth and Tintwistle, when the new plans for Bypass 2.0 offer nothing to either of those villages - it is a Bypass of Mottram only.

Siege are threatening to protest again in a similar manner soon. Perhaps, if they have the courage of their convictions, they should stage a sit-down protest to properly stop the traffic - because the evidence suggests that pedestrian crossings being activated don't make that much difference when the traffic is relatively free-flowing anyway.

No Mottram Bypass would like to encourage all those who feel able to contribute to the documentation of Siege's future protests to send us any pictures, films and reports. We are sure there are some people with time on their hands who would be willing to make the effort!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Longdendale Siege plan 'pedestrian crossing' demonstration next week

Longdendale Siege's Mike Flynn gives the exclusive to this week's Glossop Chronic that he and his chums are planning a novel demonstration next Wednesday morning: they plan to stand at pedestrian crossings along the route of the A57 and A628 throughout Longdendale, constantly activating them in order to create massive tailbacks of traffic between 9.00 and 9.30 a.m. Siege realise that time is running out for Bypass 2.0, since the Comprehensive Spending Review that is due on 20th October may well cut this scheme, as well the original bypass program, which is currently shelved.

This is not a new idea: similar protests were reported in May in Dorset, where some people used the tactic to protest about HGV traffic going through small villages. Now Dorset is one of the few English Counties that has no motorways running through it, and it's not clear that the protestors in that case were calling for new roads to be built. But is must be remembered that Longdendale Siege have continually refused to back calls for a HGV ban along the road, which demonstrates their insincerity about seeking a solution to the problems with congestion.

Of course, the irony is that Longdendale Siege's main constituency has been a mythical one - 'the motorist'. But although we don't believe there is such a thing, from their perspective, it seems a bit daft to alienate those you most rely on for support. If they agree with the government that money is tight, and if they are so desperate, then why not call for a HGV ban? In the Chron article, Flynn mentions the Hattersley Tesco almost as an afterthought, no doubt hoping to attract some passing anger and link the two up.

In the Dorset case, the response to the protest from persons unknown was swift. The button that activated the pedestrian crossing was glued tight. Now there's an idea...

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Local Tesco ructions, Local Elections and Local morons

Regular readers may have noticed that some time has passed between the last post and this one. We can only apologise for that, but it’s obvious that posting to this blog has become occasional of late, so you know what to expect in future.

Well, there’s lots to catch up on. But rather than split all of this material up into different posts, and be pushed to provide a customarily apposite image for each one, we’ve decided to ramble on at length and weave it into one continuous thread. So here goes.

Since we last reported on the Hattersley & Mottram Tesco, we’ve been treated to one of the most hilarious official documents we’ve had the pleasure of witnessing since the days of the Public Inquiry into the Bypass 1.0. As part of their application, the developer for Tesco (CTP) published their mammoth transport assessment. We won’t bore you with an in-depth analysis, but suffice to say, they found that overall, constructing a 95,000 square foot supermarket with 525 car-parking spaces would actually reduce the traffic flowing through the area! Furthermore, they also decided that since the impact on traffic would be negligible, there was no need to conduct a pollution assessment. So there we are. Tameside’s Planning Committee duly ratified the plan three weeks ago.

Thankfully, that’s not the end of the matter. Because Tameside have effectively torn up their own Local Plan and therefore have to ask the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, for a decision. Will he ‘call in’ the application for a Public Inquiry? Or will he wave it through, like his decision this week to reverse a call-in and allow a Tesco Extra at Trafford (yet another one tied into other development, this time Lancashire County Cricket Ground)?

Last Sunday saw the start of a popular movement against Tesco, under the auspices of the newly-formed Longdendale Community Group, with a packed meeting in Mottram full of people venting their feelings. And whilst we wouldn’t support the paragraph in their standard ‘call-in’ letter that suggests locals want a bypass, the irony is that by fighting the Tesco, they are making a future bypass far less likely. One announcement at the meeting seems to suggest that a more notorious group – the Longdendale Siege Committee – have not fully realised this: although it’s not exactly a secret, they have not so far chosen to openly publicise that they are planning a protest march – ostensibly against the traffic the new Tesco will bring – from Hollingworth to the building site at Mottram on Wednesday 6th October, the date being chosen in order that it doesn’t upset their usual power base in the local Labour Party, and confirming rumours we’d heard before that some of them are very much disenchanted with Labour. You heard it here first - although, as we were writing this blog, a comment popped up from a Mrs Bradley announcing it! In that case, they announced it here first!

More irony comes in the fact that this whole kerfuffle has broken out towards the end of a local election campaign, for the vacant Council seat previously occupied by Roy Oldham (the candidates addresses can be seen here). The silence of the local Labour Party on the Tesco issue has been deafening, although the local MP, Jonathan Reynolds, brought Eric Pickles’ opposite number John Denham to look at the ‘regeneration’ of Hattersley, with much trumpeting of ‘government money unleashing private investment’, a veiled reference to Tesco getting exactly what they wanted for peanuts (it’s also untrue because no government money is being put directly into this - they simply underwrote the deal). Meanwhile, the local Tories have come out strongly against the Tesco, after testing the water with this leaflet: the responses they got seem to have convinced them that campaigning against it could work in their favour, although only a few weeks before, one of their Hattersley members expressed support for the Tesco proposal (the same individual has seemingly had a damascene conversion and set up the Tories’ anti-Tesco group on facebook). The latest leaflet goes for Labour's jugular on the issue, as they've clearly smelled blood here.

At the ‘not a cat-in-hell’s’ chance end of the candidates, we find the BNP and the Green Party. The Tameside BNP F├╝hrer, Anthony David Jones, wants to give people a local ‘plebiscite’ on the bypass (presumably because he thinks they are plebs). How this would resurrect a dead road scheme he doesn’t explain. Jones can regularly be found over at the Tameside Citizen blog, which serves as a village pump/water cooler for all the assorted right-wing pricks in the area. Jones fancies himself as a historian, and is a regular on the Nazi stormfront message board. If all else fails, Jones probably proposes to resurrect the Organisation Todt to and use ‘untermensch’ to build it by forced labour.

Melanie Roberts of the Green Party doesn’t mention any local issues – such as the Bypass or Tesco – at all in her election address, following the example of Ruth Bergan during the General Election campaign, giving no one a reason to vote for her.

Lastly, it wouldn’t be a decent NMB blog post if it didn’t mention our favourite Longdendale Councillor, Sean Parker-Perry. He now lives on Back Moor, perhaps hoping that some of Roy’s magic will rub off on him. But if the BNP had an arboreal wing, it seems he’d been a leading member. Those perusing the press of late may have noticed that he called for the felling of the much-loved Stockport Road Monkey puzzle tree on the grounds it was ‘an alien species’ from Chile. A war then erupted in the press in which Bill Johnson put him right about many other well-known ‘alien trees’ which are and have been part and parcel of our landscape and ecology for hundreds of years. Never mind, Sean has other things on his mind, specifically his latest girlfriend, who seems to have re-named herself Sian Parker-Perry (surely-shome-mistake?), despite the fact that he’s still married. Even better, Sean is planning a ‘Long Way Down’ style trip to Kenya on his motorbike, to raise money for Roy Oldham’s medical centre – and he’s created a lovely website which tracks the frankly appalling progress so far. It’s a laugh a minute. Why anyone would give Sean money given his past track record is beyond us, but stranger things have happened. He’ll need some ideas for a future career though, because we’ve heard on the grapevine that he won’t be selected as a Labour Party candidate next time he stands. Enjoy it while you can Sean!