I am really pleased that Andy Western – leader of Trafford Council has made the comments I’m sharing below.
It’s something I’ve been uncomfortable with since the outset of the first lockdown. I was never happy that schools were shut down. With hindsight, I can see we needed a pause to get on top of the virus. However, I was very supportive of Kate Green’s stance that children needed to be back at school at the earliest date. She took flack for that position.
It’s never been the loss of examinations that’s been my prime concern. With the right provision of lifelong learning, this can be addressed; and maybe even improved upon, as we’ve never been good at it. Now it’s imperative, perhaps at last we can dream of the universal provision we dreamt about when Labour created the ‘Open University’.
I agree with Andy that it’s the loss of socialisation skills and friendship forming that’s the real worry. We’re seeing an increased prevalence of mental health problems and worsening anti-social behaviour. I sense there’s a stronger element of pure anger contained within the motivations for that behaviour than I have seen before. I get that anger. I get angry at those who pontificate at parents for the reaction their children are demonstrating.
It’s something that we’re going to have to address and there’s an urgent need for the conversation to really get started. That conversation has primarily to be driven by the young people and we need to find new ways of getting the voice of those most at risk from problems we’ve created. The catchup plan needs to be owned by those children and it needs to continue to be owned by them as they move through their life. We owe it to them.
A few predictions for this time of year seems to be the tradition. I’m optimistic.
I think we’re going to have a difficult few weeks with covid but spring is going to look so much better for those who keep up their vaccination. It will never go away but we’ll find it far more manageable with minimal impact on daily lives. Just to reiterate though, January/February will be horrible.
As covid normalises, trade unions will take a hard look at the equality of health provision. In 2023 it will not be defensible for the lowest rates of vaccination to be amongst ethnic minorities and manual trades.
(Trade Unions generally will be playing a bigger direct role in 2023 – and we’ll all be better for it)
Big wish – That we see a new health facility in the Gorse Hill/Firswood Area
I suspect the focus will shift to the Canalside area. We’ve only had one or two artist impressions of people relaxing on the side of the canal. We need to see how this area can be brought to life and importantly, how it relates to and complements the work on the Mall.
Man U will be putting some meat on the bones of their plans to modernise and enlarge the stadium. I really hope Trafford’s leadership is not bought off with promises of ‘jam tomorrow’. Residents around the stadium have seen it all before. There needs to be a paradigm shift in how Man U connects with its neighbours both here and greater Old Trafford; and Salford too. There’s a real opportunity to place residents to the front of negotiations before officers agree to the bulk of Man U’s demands.
Big wish: That Manchester United places itself hand in hand in collaboration with residents and local businesses to develop a masterplan that puts Man U as a catalyst for a neighbourhood enhanced by them rather than impaired.
I’m biased, but I believe that it was a huge error removing Kate Green from Labour’s education portfolio. Strategic thinking on how we address the twin challenges of Brexit and Covid is vital; and far more important than parliamentary bluster. Personally, I think this is an area that Andy Burnham needs to seize. We vitally need a skilled up work force that can compete internationally. Covid has been hugely damaging to a generation and yet it’s the aspect of levelling up that gets the least attention. The impact on children in Lostock and Gorse Hill has been far greater than Hale and Timperley and it needs addressing.
Big Wish 1- that we start publicising 11+ pass rates of schools. We’ve always been too polite and discreet about this but it allows certain schools to push the boundary of coaching. You will only see progress if you expose how inherently unfair it is to certain schools and their pupils.
Big Wish 2 – that we make an irresistible demand for a huge investment in Further Education. It’s never been more important to make lifelong learning routinely available to all.
Active Travel is going to continue to be controversial but it’s also going to edge forwards. We can’t have Stretford’s motorway restored to how it was; and a bus lane doesn’t help Stretford, or buses particularly there. We’ve got to make crossing our roads much easier and less stressful.
Nevertheless we are expecting work to start this year on the Greatstone Road/Talbot Road junction. Much needed as it’s been far too grim for pedestrians trying to cross Greatstone Road without a phase for them to cross safely.
I have quite a few on my wish list in this area but it’s worth pointing out that they’re all predominately for pedestrians. We really should have prioritised walking before cycling and I say that as a cyclist. No one cycles before they can walk and we’ve made it so difficult to get around on foot, it’s no wonder we use cars for ridiculously short journeys.
Big wish 1: That Trafford takes a strategic decision to make all crossings provide improved priority to pedestrians. Too many force the pedestrian to stand at the kerb, getting sprayed by cars for too long.
Big wish 2: A Chester Road crossing close to Gorse Hill Park. It’s awful having to cross there without any infrastructure but parents and children have to do it daily. Long overdue.
Big wish 3: Pedestrian phase for Park Road / Derbyshire Lane – I think it’s now on the list but needs pressure from Trafford to maintain its place.
Big wish 4: Safe pedestrian crossing for Raglan Road to Davyhulme Road at Fiveways. Clearly, I live on Raglan Road so I haven’t prioritised this one. However, since I’m going and daily have to chance my life against traffic from all directions, I’m going to include it in this my last wish list as councillor.
Big wish 5: Humphrey Park Station Tunnel : Complicated ownership/responsibility but this is such a valuable and well used pedestrian route between Lostock and Humphrey Lane and yet it’s in disgraceful nick. It doesn’t have disabled access, it collects rain and muck and it’s poorly lit. It can’t be beyond the wit of Trafford and Northern Rail/Network Rail to come together and sort it.
Big wish 6: A Melville Crossing beg button that works when there’s moving traffic. Not much point in having a controlled crossing if it waits until there’s no traffic before working.
Big wish 7: And this one really irritates. I wish we could lock Highways Agency, Trafford Council and TfGM in a room with a PC operating Street View to check every route from Junction 7 on the M60 for road signage to enable HGVs to find a sensible route to Trafford Park. I am sick to the back teeth of 30 ton HGVs getting lost in residential streets because there’s no signs once they’re off main route from junction 9 Parkway. I wouldn’t let them out of the room until they’d sorted it.
I think I dealt with this in my previous blog post. I don’t think we’re going to get from the seven year review the community engagement that we really need and was promised at outset. I do think it’s the only meaningful way we’ll achieve the focused service we need. There has been some improvement on occasions. I like the way that Stretford Litter Pickers has been able to work with Amey. I think that’s largely because Stretford Litter Pickers are more determined than most and all credit to them.
Too many parks have lost their swings. It’s vital we get investment. I worry so much about what covid has done to a generation of kids. At least give them park equipment to play on. We’ve locked them up for too long.
Liar Johnson is leaving the building
He’s going isn’t he? No one can survive their reputation being shredded the way that his has been over parties, expenses and his own arbitrary rules that he doesn’t pretend to stand by. The local elections will see him off and Labour will be cock-a-hoop.
Labour needs to be careful though. Johnson is the main reason Labour’s polling has improved. I am not sure Starmer’s inner circle are taking the right messages from this improvement in polling. I’m not sure it’s helpful to know what type of car they think Starmer is.
Lastly (and I mean it)
It’s always useful to list priorities. You’ve always come back at me to add a few more. I’ve always enjoyed that.
The fact that some of these priorities would have been listed when I first became a councillor I think says more about the way Council operates in its own bubble. Unless you have access to officers, you’re rarely going to make headway and that access has never been more at a premium than it is now.
However, I’ve only got about 10 more weeks as a councillor. So these will be someone else to pick up or not and that’s right. Generally, I am optimistic.
One of the things I think has really improved is community strength and identity. In Gorse Hill we’ve had the lantern parade and it was great. Stretford has been doing its advent windows for a few years now. I saw this week that Wigan had an annual fancy dress on Boxing Day. These locally based quirks are great and are a real hope that we can have neighbourhoods that are different and flourishing.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I was contacted in June in respect of an infestation of rats at a property on Gorse Street. This was an exceptionally large and bold infestation that were moving openly on a lean-to roof of the property’s outbuilding.
Whilst the infestation of rats was the trigger for the contact, there were a lot of separate issues in connection with the alleyway.
The Chester Road businesses are generally keeping their commercial waste bins in the alley. Most are unlocked, but increasingly we’re seeing commercial bins locked shut. This is welcome, but has implications for the flats above shops. Bags of household waste are routinely thrown into open commercial bins.
An issue as recently as June was the blocking of the alley drain due to congealed oils and fats. There have been long periods of the drain being blocked and a large milky white sludge collecting as a large puddle in the alley. Responsibility was disputed between the council and United Utilities, but I understand that that is now clarified with the council taking on responsibility.
However, residents understandably are keen the takeaways undertake their business responsibly and it has not always been the case.
When a business ceases trading
At least one of the takeaway businesses ceased trading during the first lock-down and essentially shut-up shop, leaving their commercial waste uncollected and un-invoiced.
This was unresolved for months. The bin was left festering whilst accumulating even more black waste bags alongside it.
Eventually this bin was removed, presumably by the contractor; and the Council removed the bags (as fly-tipping) a week or so later.
As a minimum, I’m arguing that there needs to be clear indications as to which business a bin belongs to. If a business does ‘a runner’ and ceases trading it should be made relatively easy for a third party to contact the waste contractor. On this bin I couldn’t do that, all I could do was tell the waste contractor it was one of theirs and it was unlikely they’d get paid for removing it.
We should therefore expect it to be standard that all commercial bins in the alley should have an indication as to which business they are contracted to. We would hope that the council would make this a condition of keeping bins in the alley.
We would also expect that commercial bins in the alley should be locked so as to avoid accumulating fly-tipped waste and overflowing.
Flats above the shops with no bins
We’ve inherited a situation where it’s commonplace that no bins are attached to the flats above the shops there. Even if they had bins, it’s not clear where they could be kept.
Quite sensibly in many ways, the residents use plastic bags to take out and dispose of the waste. However, it’s not efficient and encourages pests; and it’s never been part of the waste contract whether Amey or their predecessors to collect waste in bags. We do not want to change that.
But it’s completely unacceptable to have the situation we had with the commercial bin in the photograph. Most of that waste is domestic ‘fly-tipped’ waste put into a commercial bin that was abandoned.
We’ve got to get to a proper scheme of waste disposal for these flats. They’re council tax payers and they’re entitled to a proper scheme. I don’t know whether that will be bin stores in the alley or some form of communal bins, but the current situation is not tenable. We need to work with the residents to come up with a solution.
Although we made massive strides since June, we’ve still got a way to go. I want to get to a situation where rats go hungry and move on by, that there’s not a ready supply in the alley.
Local people performing miracles. Getting on with it and sorting out their neighbourhood.
whilst in government
Every contract seems to go to the mates of Johnson or of his free-wheeling ministers. Everything the government touches seems to fall apart. It matters.
The lazy algorithm
The algorithm replicating the previous year’s results was inherently unfair. The calculation took no account of effort or attainment. It was a rotten method, and it would never stand up to the scrutiny of real-life circumstances. Leaving the retreat so late was incredibly frustrating. Given no exams, these results could have been released months ago. That would have given time for appeal and challenge before university places needed to be allocated.
Thankfully, the combined might of the pupils and schools, together with backing from our very own Kate Green in her role as Shadow Education Minister forced the Government to abandon it. I’m so grateful that the pupils won before it was applied to GCSEs.
It’s not all good. BTEC results are only just beginning to filter through after being pulled at the last moment.
Perhaps the hardest hit has been those students who were independently submitting themselves to resits to get the grades for their chosen University. They’re not getting any grade, and now the worry is that it’ll be much harder next year.
Please sign the petition for universities to honour the 2020 offer.
Local lockdown continues to apply in Trafford. Wigan and Stockport having their lockdown relaxed, it can’t be long before the measures are lifted here too.
I’m not sure the additional restrictions in themselves have had the substantial impact, but they reinforced the message that the disease continues in our community. My hesitation is that measures need to make sense within the context of what is going on in the local area. We should design our own measures. This should be Andy Burnham’s job with the support of the local councils and our superb Directors of Public Health.
We need the data. We need our Directors of Public Health to know who’s getting the disease and the places where they may have caught it. National tracing is not working. Another of Boris Johnson’s mates has the job of running track and trace. Local knowledge is a tremendous part of effective track and trace. We need full devolution of this to make it work properly.
Overall Death Rate
Trafford got through the peak Covid-19 in better shape than most metropolitan boroughs. Testing for coronavirus before discharging patients back to care homes had a significant impact. However, we are seeing a slightly more pronounced increase in deaths now compared to the five-year average. These are small numbers, but it’s worth monitoring as we move forward.
All councils set out a local plan for their area. It forms the basis of planning development decisions the council takes on applications that come before it. I’m a member of a consultative group on Trafford’s Local Plan as it has fallen out of date.
It’s a necessary, and sometimes boring document, but councils can be ambitious and visionary, if they choose. I am keen that the plan should bolster neighbourhoods and communities. I am attracted to the ethos of the 15 minute city. Trafford’s outdated plan encourages urban sprawl. It’s going to be an interesting debate.
Urban sprawl as a planning concept has lost its sheen, but it seems at least in Trafford to be the default model. You’re just not allowed to call it sprawl.
You can describe a development as a once in a lifetime opportunity to invest in an attractive urban extension with nearby access to town amenities and close to a renowned rural setting. These developments have no public transport links and no shops or community setting.
I hope we can produce a local plan that puts people at the heart of it.
Stretford Town Centre
Keep an eye out for the next update on Stretford’s Masterplan. We were hoping this weekend to reopen the continuing conversation on the town’s evolvement. We didn’t quite get everything ready, but it’s coming.
A planning application to demolish the Greatstone Hotel and build a 6 storey apartment block
101637/OUT/20 | Outline planning application for the demolition of existing hotel and erection of 69 residential apartments, including details on layout, access and scale, with all other matters reserved. | Greatstone Hotel 845 – 849 Chester Road Stretford Manchester M32 0RN
Motorbiking gang tensions on Chester Road
Nansen Park investment
Gorse Street Alleyways and Environs (issues of cleanliness and waste removal processes)
Parking issues connected to Lostock Park visitors.
Waste removal at Milton Court – serious breakdown in services
Sub-standard street restoration following tree removal in Lostock
Vibrations caused by structural issues on foundations on Barton Road
Housing issues – a number of residents unable to move from inappropriate accommodation. Covid-19 has effectively clogged up housing allocation.
Overgrown passageways and footpaths
Royal Mail Deliveries
Accommodating Active Travel (walking and cycling) v The needs of people in cars and vans
HGVs getting lost in residential areas trying to find Trafford Park, particularly Moss Road and Avondale Road.
Those Bowness/Derwent Alleyways
It’s always brilliant to help community clean-ups but the work of Dave on the Bowness / Derwent Estate has been of another level. It’s took us a few weeks but he’s achieved so much.