Gorse Hill Labour

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

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.

Covid-19 Vaccination Progress

This has been a big issue for me. To be honest, I’ve ruffled a few feathers and got a ticking off at this month’s Labour group meeting, but hey-ho.

In the wealthy belt across the south of the borough the GPs seem to have worked through the cohorts at breakneck speed, way ahead of the Government’s schedule. It’s paying off. The rates of infection are now too low to measure across that area which hitherto has consistently had amongst the highest rates in Trafford. Trafford’s vaccination rate is very, very good in general except for the Stretford/Old Trafford area.

Seven–day rolling rate of new cases by specimen date ending on 17 Mar 2021

Vaccine rates in the north of the borough (the wards of Clifford, Longford, Gorse Hill and Stretford) continue to lag. We didn’t get off to a good start – the Delamere Centre is not a convenient location to serve the whole of the area and it took too long for Limelight to be brought alongside in Old Trafford to provide a second centre.

Nevertheless, we are where we are with centre locations. We still have a problem with vaccine take-up. Vaccine hesitancy in poorer areas, particularly amongst the BAME population is an issue across the country and it’s something we need to take seriously.

The Government is not paying it very much attention yet, but I think we should in Trafford. I logged on to a Local Government webinar last week on this issue; and it was clear the Government’s take was just to concentrate on the numbers, get through the willing as quickly as you can. I get that. The numbers matter. However, leaving less protected populations will matter too.

We see that covid is not affecting people equally. My concern with the vaccine is that the very people that have a right to be concerned about safety for historical; and to be honest, contemporary systemic reasons are the same group of people at greater risk of exposure and death from the disease. So, it is really worrying and highlights the importance of having these conversations; and going beyond just saying ‘trust us, it’s safe’ to really engaging and listening to people; and understanding where people come from and taking the time to address those concerns. Because otherwise, you have a further widening of the inequality you want to avoid, where the vaccine coverage also ends up being unequal with lower coverage in areas of black and minority ethnic groups which would be such a tragedy.

Dr Tollulah Oni – urban epidemiologist at the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge

The quote is from a video interview with Dr Oni published by the Voice newspaper and is well worth watching in full. https://youtu.be/2oE3IGOMXc4

There’s not enough acknowledgement that there are genuine issues. The video quoted above was released in December so it’s not as though we weren’t warned. We really need to listen to people, to be patient, to go the extra mile. It’s not simply a case of going through the Imams. I think there’s more we can do. I want to learn from places like Birmingham who have nearly 600 community covid champions – volunteers from within the community. We need to break through that lack of trust and it’s not going to be easy. The ‘hesitancy’ rate in the north of Trafford is at least double of any of the other areas.

However, I think we can do it and when you see the improved covid rates for Hale, you have to say we have every incentive to make this work.

Spring is the air – Councillor update

A focus on litter and having a natter

Days are getting longer and there’s a more upbeat feel to everything. We’ve had a couple of dry weekends and it’s great that so many are taking the opportunity to get outside. I’ve been out delivering party leaflets the last couple of Saturdays and I’ve made a resolution this year that I’ll only leaflet in company. We’ve led such solitary lives during lock-down, I’m just not prepared to waste the opportunity to chat to someone outside my bubble whilst I walk the streets. It may be less efficient but some things are more important and it’s a resolution I’m sticking to. It makes leafleting fun and I’ve found it thoroughly enjoyable.

Lots of litter picking going on in Stretford and other places in Trafford. Partington in particular has been especially noteworthy. But it’s Stretford that’s my focus, and isn’t it fabulous how the baton has been picked up by the Stretford Litter Pickers. Hannah and the team seem to have really caught the mood. If you’ve not yet joined their Facebook group, you really should.

This Saturday they’ll be working from Hawthorn Road on that strip of green-space below the Bridgewater Canal.

Casework Update

Continuing to work on the Gorse Street/Chester Road Alley. It’s regularly being fly-tipped by a takeway. Empty bulk containers of chicken are being put out in the alley with impunity. Pressing the council to take action. We’re on a promise for having restoration of lights which seem to have been switched off. The alley is very dark at night and it would improve things to have the council’s lights switched back on. We’ve also had some incidents of human defecation (the working assumption is late night delivery workers) and clearly lights would deter.

The good news is that the last of the abandoned commercial bins has gone and at the same time there’s greater engagement of residents on both sides of the alley.

Sadly, the bid for integrated community funding was unsuccessful. Disappointing as the work on the alley is a classic case of integration arising from common cause. An issue that brings people together is often a better vehicle for funding than existing groups looking for an issue.

HGVs getting lost in residential areas. Progress being made in reinforcing a message that HGVs should not use a route from M60 junction 7 (A56 Stretford/Sale). We really could do with some signage deterring this and I’m pursuing it.

Curzon Road parking issues. This revolves around the increased popularity of Lostock Park, particularly the skateboard section. Not making as much progress with this as I’d like. What we need is a proper audit/survey of parking rather than a catalogue listing of ‘H’ bar prices and dropped kerbs.

Meetings

School Governors Meetings – I’ve had so many this March – headteacher appraisal, governors update meetings on return to school, Core Group meeting, SEN teacher appointments, Headteacher appointment approval, School Financial Value Standard meetings.

Vaccine progress meeting – more on this in a separate post to follow

Planning meetings – too many applications for one meeting – had to adjourn to a continuation meeting

Children and Health Scrutiny – really recommend the latest Children’s meeting on school places. It’s available on youtube.

Labour Party AGM, Labour Group meeting – AGMs are always a bit turgid and it’s better when there’s contest. Slightly subdued this year.

Mayor’s Challenge Fund Tranche 2 preview meeting. One of the projects shown to us was the Talbot Road/Greatstone Road junction. I’m delighted to say that I’ve been shown a scheme that will withstand actually being implemented. Fingers crossed that this can be delivered without interference.