Gorse Hill Labour

A regular blog and updates from Mike Cordingley, Councillor for Gorse Hill Ward in Trafford – Gtr Manchester.

Blog

Can Covid be in the past whilst rates soar?

Answer: Possibly not, but it’s not our biggest problem right now

For a long time I have been keeping a close watch of hospital admissions in the north west and also deaths. Those figures have been gently coming down for a few months. So, I must admit I hadn’t for quite a while been following the number of cases in Trafford until a week or so ago, and it was quite a shock that they’d deteriorated so quickly.

I was participating in the Covid-19 public engagement board this morning. It’s a forum for getting out key messages to support controlling the pandemic in Trafford. The Chair had some strong words in his opening that Trafford was currently suffering its highest incidence of Covid cases and was sat at the top of Greater Manchester rankings with the situation worsening. He felt that the Government were treating the pandemic as over when clearly the figures said the opposite. That’s a dilemma for me as I would argue the emphasis now should switch to repairing the damage.

Covid rates Trafford to October 2021

Clearly the figures are striking and I can understand the consternation caused when generally we’ve never been worse than mid-table in our performance in combatting covid. That said, whilst the overall Trafford figure is high, what we appear to be seeing is a suburban surge throughout Greater Manchester particularly in the south of the conurbation. And we’re almost getting a doughnut effect. So what’s going on?

The current surge is very much focused on the age cohorts between 5 and 19 and secondly, the typical age cohort of those children’s parents. It’s those schools in the middle that have the greatest travelling around, which perhaps explains the doughnut ring effect. So lot’s of mixing, travelling and socialising.

This is not to diminish the impact of covid on these young people but we have good vaccination rates. At the same time I’m seeing so many indications of far more detrimental aspects of the 18 months of lockdown than the endemic nature of covid. This is why I’d switch the emphasis.

You might disagree with me but right now I’m more concerned with the levels of absenteeism in secondary schools across the country. That’s just one indicator but there’s many more and it’ll take years to understand the true costs of the decisions we’ve taken to combat covid but school attendance has certainly been affected.

Samuel Freedman is a educational analyst

I worry too about future levels of loneliness. That short period of adolescence into (wom)manhood between 14-18 is incredibly formative and vital and we’ve locked those young people up for long periods of lockdown, forbidden them from mixing.

People complain about the levels of anti-social behaviour but it’s remarkable to me that we’ve not seen more and worse. I worry that we’re storing up problems for years particularly when combined with damaged education delivery.

So it’s a difficult position we’re in. I do not want the Government to do more in respect of direct Covid support than they are doing. I think our job is to make the vaccine easily available. We never quite managed that in the north of the borough and there’s no longer going to be a huge return on giving easy access, but there’s booster delivery to focus on. We need to continue to provide support to care homes and those isolating. The Government should focus on providing financial more support to those who are ill or isolating but no more talk of lockdowns unless a future variant really turns this badly around.

The real thrust of our response should now be on supporting young people. We owe them restitution to enable them to build rewarding lives.

I just want to make this point. Covid has given rise to lots of wartime comparisons. My parents would have been adolescents at the start of the war. They went through a lot and lost friends and family but they came out of it proud and feeling enhanced by what they went through. This is not the same for the kids who have been through Covid. There is no wartime comparison.

My worry is that actually we’ve diminished the generations under 40, at times we’ve even blamed them, which I find incredible. I don’t expect them to ever look on lockdowns fondly or with any pride.

Lastly, I say this. Given the damage that Covid and the measures we’ve been forced into, if you’ve not been vaxxed and there’s no medical or age reason stopping you, then shame on you. I don’t particularly have a view on vaccine passports but be assured of this, any scepticism is purely practical and should in no way be interpreted as sympathy for those who choose not to be vaxxed. Jurgen Klopp is right that it should be viewed with the same contempt as drink driving.

A slight change to the Labour rulebook

Warning: this is really an issue internal to the Labour Party. I try to keep my comments on these things to a minimum but this has been such an irritation for so long I’m sure you’ll forgive my indulgence.

I know rule changes can be boring but this one from conference is big. It’s the only change coming from the membership that was passed and it’s something that has long been infuriating to members. It’s come from Momentum, so praise where praise is due; and I’m not normally a supporter of them.

Perhaps the Hartlepool by-election finally got us over the line on this one. Our candidate in the by-election, Paul Williams an arch remainer and only recently defeated in Stockton South, was chosen by the local party in Hartlepool from a shortlist of one. In a seat like Hartlepool it really couldn’t have been a worse choice. It was unfair to constituency and it was actually unfair to the candidate. The shortlist was drawn up by the NEC with no ‘official’ input from the local party and it was a disaster.

It was quite extreme for the party to only give the members one choice but manipulation by the national party and leadership is nothing new. They’ve always tried to control by-elections. Sitting MPs have also sometimes contrived to leave their departure before a General Election to the last minute, in order to ease in the successor of their choice. It’s been going on for years, not always with bad outcomes but invariably leaving resentment on the ground from good local candidates that were denied access to the shortlist.

In one fell swoop the party conference has killed this procedure. From now on where time constraints mean the normal selection can’t take place emergency panel will be set up, with an inbuilt-majority of CLP members to draw up the shortlist.

While you can’t rule out those CLP members being led by the national party to choose a contrived shortlist favouring a particular candidate, I think the chances are better of being presented with a proper choice and reflecting the locality.

I’m surprised how little attention this rule change has attracted and I’m sure the leadership will come back trying to change it but in many ways it’s seismic.

I don’t know how Stretford and Urmston delegates voted. I hope they voted for the change. I can see from the votes it was by no means unanimous (62% to 38%) with the NEC recommending it be voted down.

Addressing the broken housing market

I chaired a good meeting last night looking at social housing within Trafford. It was a meeting I was quite keen to have. I think a lot of us had picked up on a perfect storm affecting people hoping to set up home in Trafford. Inflated house prices, a dysfunctional private rented sector and a social housing sector growing ever more distant from their tenants and the greater community of Trafford are creating real hardships. We’re all too aware of how difficult it is to get good quality accommodation with a landlord committed to ensuring their properties remain decent places to live. High rents mean it’s very difficult to save sufficient deposits. No-fault evictions mean tenants are forced to leave properties at the whim of their landlord in order to put up rents or to sell at inflated prices. The cost of moving at such short notice further erodes any chances to save. It is a broken housing market.

I wanted the meeting to look at the extent the Council can intervene. Frustratingly, the obvious solution of delivering old-fashioned council houses seems bedevilled with insurmountable obstacles. In order to provide council houses, the Council would have to borrow with the expectation of generating income from rent or sale. Right-to-buy automatic discounts of up to £85,000 make it impossible to recoup the investment. Trafford currently is such a high demand area, we’d never be able to build up sufficient stock to make it viable.

We know Thatcher aspired to a home-owning democracy. However, inflated house prices partly generated by the private rented sector those over-generous discounts have crushed that aspiration and we have got huge disparities between the ages. We have a problem with few tools at our disposal to alleviate the impact.

I think there’s a sense in Trafford that nationally, Labour can’t ignore this problem any longer. Labour is the only party that can hope to reset the housing market and it’s blindingly obvious that council housing has to be part of the mix. We need to shout about it more than we are doing. Economically it has a hugely detrimental effect on our cities.

Meanwhile, we need to call out Housing Associations. They need to deliver on those core values that provide their charitable status. Clearly, the Mayor’s focus to now has been on planning where development can take place. It’s now time to shift the focus onto tenure and tackling exploitative rents.

A good little meeting (40 mins) but with a real focus on tackling the inequities of housing. We haven’t got all the tools we need but at least we’ve brought it back to the fore of thinking.

Embracing our shops

I’ve been looking at and talking to others about our local shopping parades. I don’t think Gorse Hill is particularly exceptional in this regard but we’ve got a lot of them both serving us from within the ward and from just outside.

  • Lostock Circle
  • Winchester Road
  • Lostock (Barton Road)
  • Derbyshire Lane West (Sevenways)
  • Park Road (Fiveways)
  • Third Ave (Trafford Park)
  • Moss Road
  • Davyhulme Road East
  • Gorse Hill Chester Road
  • Red Chippy Village / Bishop Blaize

Whilst there’s a lot of takeaways there’s also supermarkets, chemists, doctor’s surgeries, restaurants and independent specialist stores. Given we’ve also got Tescos and Lidl, not to mention that a lot us consider the Trafford Centre as within walking distance, it’s amazing that our local parades are still such a thriving sector here.

Our local shops have been crucial during covid and it’s incredible that they’ve kept open and stocked throughout. They’ve been on the frontline in terms of facing people, often unmasked and of unknown health risk. Let’s be honest, they’ve been heroes during the crisis and deserving of our thanks.

So it’s a good time to be looking at the general economic vitality of our parades and to begin a process of looking at what the council can do to support. We’ve seen their impact in a crisis but working together, can we get more positive value from these parades?

I think the conversation starts with the parades themselves and I’ve been talking to a small stretch of shops in Gorse Hill. Whilst I have managed to get the council to release a small sum of of £5000 to match fund improvement, it’s more to start the conversation than anything.

At this point, it’s really about understand the individual needs of shops and try to identify some common themes.

  • Quicker turnaround needed in processing changing terms of opening times, license etc.
  • Car access to forecourts, a lot of issues on this not necessarily a consensus but current situation of bollards at one end of row (outside doctors) and open at the other end near pub is not working. Three point turns are churning the forecourt surface creating trip hazards. Parking density (particularly matchday) is deterring customers on foot and reducing trade at peak.
  • Lighting and general amenity
  • Policing particularly with regard to drugs/alcohol abuse

It’s a conversation to continue and I would love to see the council / public health getting involved. These parades often define the neighbourhood, yet in terms of local authority involvement, it’s often a policing role, for example, not letting takeaways open at times they’d interact with school children. Perhaps approaching issues in a more collaborative mode would achieve more positive change.

I still want to talk to more of the businesses but I hope this has given a flavour of what I’ve been doing

Covid is not done with us yet

Latest Covid figures are bleak

Purely, in terms of cases, we’re hitting a new peak. Locally, the number of Covid infections has gone through the roof compared to how it was just a few weeks ago. Your chance of coming into contact with the disease in Gorse Hill or Lostock is greater now than it’s ever been.

Whilst the numbers being admitted to hospital are low, they are growing and worryingly the northwest’s number of covid patients requiring mechanical ventilation has risen six-fold in the past 6 weeks. So these are stark figures.

Get your jab

Maddeningly, we know that the vaccine works to reduce hospitalisations. So this is a plea to you to get your jabs. The vaccine is available to everyone 18+. If you’re registered with a GP, you can book through the national booking service. For those that can’t use the booking service, there are vaccination drop-in sessions advertised on the Manchester City Council website. https://secure.manchester.gov.uk/info/500362/covid-19/8079/covid-19_vaccination_programme/5. You can just turn up and will usually get your jab.

Freedom Day

In less than two weeks most of the restrictions we have had imposed on us to combat Covid are lifted. I desperately want July 19 to be a success but you need to get your jabs if you’ve not already done so.

June Update (Planning) Surfing on its way

Cricket Ground – new Red Rose stand incorporating hotel

The Red Rose development at Lancashire Cricket Club was allowed at planning committee. Essentially this is reduced size hotel compared to a previous application. I’m not exactly bowled over by the plan. I’m quite proud of Old Trafford cricket ground and this does not seem up to their usual standard. Doesn’t seem to have attracted opposition from the cricket club’s membership, but I think they could have done better.

Warwick Road Development

Warwick Road Development Refused by the planning committee

The development on Warwick Road was refused at the May planning committee. The grounds for refusal are listed as primarily that its site coverage, height, scale and massing, would have a dominating and adverse impact on the streetscene, fail to integrate with and complement neighbouring development, fail to make the best of the
opportunity to improve the character and quality of the area.

Discussion at the planning committee centred on the development providing no parking whatsoever. This seems to be a growing phenomenon and we saw something similar in Sale town centre this week. The feeling expressed is that there should be ‘some’ parking even if it’s not a space per apartment. My view on that is that it’s better to provide none than ‘not enough’, otherwise you’re creating an inbuilt tension within the development and with existing residents. Having said that, I do think that the massing in particular was inappropriate to the street and support the refusal.

New application Surfing Centre on Barton Dock Road

Surfing Trafford

The proposed redevelopment seeks to transform a previously developed industrial site, now vacant, into a new regionally significant leisure and sports facility focused on providing surfing, skate, climbing and other associated activities including food & beverage.

The site has already been cleared of previous light-industrial employment buildings in 2014, leaving only concrete hard-standing. More recently the area has been used as storage for containers. The proposal will also utilise a 1.3 ha site on the east-side of Park Way (A5081) that is currently underused residual land from the former rail line through Trafford Park, linked to the main site via a tunnel under the road.

The proposal, known as ‘Modern Surf Manchester’, is centred around a large outdoor shallow lake known as the ‘Cove’ which creates artificial waves designed for optimum surfing conditions via a central mechanical ‘Pier’. The system is powered by technology provided and managed by ‘Wavegarden’ (WG), whose systems are widely regarded
as the most realistic artificial surf technology to have been developed globally to date.

The Modern Surf facility at TraffordCity will form part of a wider network of Wavegarden surf coves around the world, with four open presently and a further 30 planned including at least three in the UK.

I love this proposal and hope it progresses. The car parking is actually provided in Gorse Hill Ward using the container base sidings on our side of Parkway. I’ve been in touch with the developer to plea for them to look at the route through Lostock Park to improve the juncture with St Modwen’s Way as a planning gain. There seems on the face of it to be a good symbiosis with Lostock Park’s renowned skate board facilities and it would be beneficial to improve links.

New application: Newsagent to become a Takeaway

Newsagents opposite Gorse Hill Park on Talbot Road

There’s an application to convert the newsagents on Talbot Road to a Takeaway.

New Application Warwick Rd South

Current Site

This is an application for 126 apartments on the corner facing Old Trafford Metrolink spot. We’re waiting to see what they’re proposing with their contribution to affordable housing but as it stands it looks as though this is for private sale and rental.

It’s hard to see that this won’t be a highly saleable site. It’s a location calling for development for a long time and I’m pleased to see things beginning to move. I’ve actually been trying for a long time to have the Ayres Road corridor included in the Civic Quarter Masterplan and it’s a shame that we aren’t in a better place to determine shaping the plans and supporting placemaking. That said, the outline application already submitted looked attractive and they seem to be sticking with those aspects.