Gorse Hill Labour

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

Stretford Library move gets approval from Trafford’s leadership

In what seems to have been a very rushed process, the council’s Executive voted tonight for Stretford Library to vacate its home for the past 80 years to allow Trafford Music Service to take over the building. It’s just over a week since the report was first published to almost no fanfare.

Whilst the speed of the decision has taken the breath away, it has to be acknowledged that there has been a lot of public support expressed into a succession of Stretford Town Centre consultations for the library to form part of the eventual town centre revival. I think a lot of us saw the transfer as being into a bespoke hub, rather than a unit in the mall. However, importantly, and I think this accounts for much of the haste, the addition of the Music Service to the town centre has to be welcomed.

It’s the space allocated in the Mall that is most troubling. The units 37-38 that used to house Bonmarché just don’t provide sufficient space to provide the popular internet service, book shelves and children’s play area that make up a modern library, not to mention the Access Trafford service that’s so important in these difficult times. I raised this at the Executive meeting. I think the choice of Bonmarché has been simplified as the old Tesco’s units are too big, therefore it has to be a Bonmarché sized unit and that seems to have become the settled position.

My problem with this choice is that being in the Mall is likely to improve footfall – a good thing, but the computers will (hopefully) be more popular than the unit can cope with, and the library as a place to read will be overwhelmed. I argued that it may be necessary to separate functions over more than shop unit.

I’m certainly not won over by the argument that this is a temporary solution. The current time-frame is 2-5 years and I don’t believe children should lose out on Rhyme Time (edit I’ve been assured that Rhyme time will continue) and that vital nurtured skill of choosing books. We’re going to need more space. I hope the Executive were listening to me. We’ll see.

Further edit: Response from the Executive Member, Liz Patel

Can’t pretend I’m happy to leave this at this point but not likely to get any further in my remaining 6 weeks as councillor.

Good Strategy, Implementation when? Ever?

We’ve had two very different reports this week in Trafford. Both the “Streets for All Strategy” from Andy Burnham’s team and the replacement of pop-up cycle lanes consultation got approval. Whilst the overall strategy seems clear, and there ought to be a greater focus on helping us use healthier travel options when appropriate, implementation appears elusive and the possibility of turning the clock back looks to be on the cards for Trafford.

Streets For All Strategy

Link to Decision

Link to Strategy

The 10 Greater Manchester Authorities are adopting this strategy. It’s been adopted by Trafford this week. The vision is:

We will ensure that our streets are welcoming, green, and safe spaces for all people, enabling more travel by walking, cycling and using public transport while creating thriving places that support local communities and businesses.

Streets for All Vision

Valuing our streets as community assets

Streets for All recognises the value of our local places, something which Covid-19 has shone a light on. We want streets that feel part of the community, not just a route for cars to travel along. In my view it’s belatedly recognising that towns so focused and dependent on car use are neither going to be attractive nor prosper. My goodness, it’s taken Stretford a long time to appreciate that.

Green Places

The strategy acknowledges that since road transport generates nearly a third of all carbon emissions, we are going to need to see significant changes in the ways people travel. This will require radical change in how people, goods and
services move into and around our city-region.

Expected Standards

Vitally, expected standards on the different road types are set out. The key is delivering these and it’s not all about huge infrastructure projects. So for instance, on our strategic and connector roads network such as the A56 and Park/Barton Roads, crossings should be provided where people need them that allow them to cross quickly and safely.

We aren’t delivering to the standard now. There’s work to be done: the Park Road/Derbyshire Lane junction is a nightmare for pedestrians and should be a priority, and equally, there still isn’t a crossing on the A56 to Gorse Hill Park main entrance where it is very much needed. Nevertheless, the strategy does at least set out priorities and expectations. And it’s down to us hold the decision makers to account as to whether they’re adhering to it.

Consultation for Temporary Pop-up Cycle Lanes

Link to Decision

Link to Report

In an entirely different report Trafford’s Executive Member for Environmental and Regulatory Services (Cllr Stephen Adshead) approved a proposal to consult with the public on the three options for the future of the popup cycle lanes along the A56:

  • to replace it with a shared bus/cycle lane;
  • to replace it with a protected cycle only lane; or
  • to remove it entirely and revert to pre-COVID-19 status.

Shared Bus/Cycle Lane

There’s no getting away from it that this is something of a confused and contradictory report. Whilst a bus/cycle lane is presented as an option (perhaps even a preferred option), there seems to have been very little evaluation, no mention of working with the bus companies or identification of services. There are in fact no bus services on the A56 Bridgewater Way, so either they are prepared to mix and match (something the report explicitly rules out) or they could end up with a bus lane with no buses on a significant portion of the route.

I’m not entirely comfortable with the premise that cycle lanes and bus lanes are interchangeable and have similar characteristics. How a bus lane deals with left turns is usually to simply end and allow all vehicles into the lane. That’s really hazardous for people riding bicycles. Nevertheless there are good reasons to have bus lanes and they could make a difference in places where installing a continuous cycle lane proved difficult, for instance in Gorse Hill and Sale. However, these places seem outside the scope of the report. It’s a missed opportunity.

Bus Lanes need enforcement as there’s no physical separation. Fines are the normal enforcement means. This doesn’t get a mention but will be a controversial element of any bus lane implementation.

It would have been sensible to have included consultation drafts with the report. So far bus lanes have not been mentioned in the council’s press releases with regard to the consultation. Nevertheless they form a major option in the report so, I guess we will have to wait to see the consultation material to be able to judge whether this is serious or just cover for getting rid of the pop-up lanes.

Replace with a protected cycle only lane

Again we’ll have to see. The bike lanes have not been a problem everywhere and in Stretford town centre perhaps the greatest benefit has been moving the traffic back a lane allowing bars to flourish and pedestrians to breathe.

The Bridgewater Way section has no pavement and whilst a shared-use path seems the obvious solution, the options available seem to rule it out. This would be a huge missed opportunity, the cones have made it so much safer for fans travelling to the stadium.

Remove A56 pop-up cycle lanes entirely and revert to pre-COVID-19 status

Cycle lanes have proved problematic in places particularly on Edge Lane and at Stretford Tip. In other places I would argue that they’ve regulated traffic flow; the A56 varies along its length, in places three lanes and sometimes one lane. Sometimes the lanes are generous widths other times (at Stretford Sports Centre for instance) very narrow. I’m sure some drivers would welcome the entire removal whether or not it improved their travel times but I think most accept that the main thing is to keep the traffic flowing.

I suspect overall total removal will be the popular option. Whilst the report goes out of its way to say the consultation is not a referendum, the current hostility to the cones suggests we’re unlikely to get a nuanced response.

I don’t know where it leaves the A56/Talbot Road junction improvement project as initial plans put protected cycling at the core of the new junction. There’s an argument that Trafford will be excluded from further funding as a consequence of abandoning improvements that had previously been granted so the project might be dead in the water if we take out the cycle lanes now.

Edge Lane

Treated differently, in fact the decision now taken allows modifications to take place prior to a road safety audit.

We’ll have to see the extent to which it is included in the consultation. I would hope that they can make modifications almost straightaway as it’s causing misery to so many people and it’s regrettable it’s not been addressed more quickly. Personally, I think it’s sensible and urgent to do it in any event.

Conclusion

We’ll have to see where this leaves us. If we are going down the bus lanes option, it seems clear to me that we’re going to have to bring in the right skills. It’s not just a continuous white line, we ought to be thinking about bus-stops and junctions. I still don’t see sufficient adherence to the Streets for All Strategy, in fact we’re setting one set of road users against others when we don’t need to and it still delivers nothing to pedestrians who supposedly are at the top of the hierarchy.

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

Alleyway Blues

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.

April 2020

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.

May 2020

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.

November 2020

ONS figures show the loss covid has had on our areas

The good news is that Gorse Hill Ward has fared slightly better than the places around us according to official statistics. We don’t have within the ward those elderly peoples homes that have suffered so much. This probably improves our figures. Nevertheless, it is good news that our adherence to the lockdown is paying off. We’re coming out of this in a lot better state than we might have done.

The three output areas that approximate to the make up of Gorse Hill Ward total 12 covid deaths since the start of the pandemic. Clearly this is absolutely tragic and my thoughts go out to the family and friends of those we have sadly lost. However, it could have been so much worse.

You can enter your postcode into the top left hand corner of the map to zoom into your area. Or you can go to the Office of National Statistics by clicking on the link below and accessing the data directly from their site.

Planning Committee

It was half term and so a quieter week than normal. However, it was dominated by a particularly heavy Planning and Development Meeting on Thursday.

Sometimes you just have to site-visit

Google Earth is a great resource for planning committee members but sometimes you’ve just got to get on your bike and go and see. So I took trips out to Altrincham and Partington.

Altrincham

Application for variation of Erection of detached dwelling, following demolition of existing garage block on eastern side of Greenbank House.

Greenbank is quite an impressive mansion on Altrincham’s Downs. It already had been converted to flats and the landowners had planning permission to build a separate single storey detached apartment in place of the garage block. Construction was well underway but it hadn’t been built to plan.

The planning officers recommended approval of the new plans. The temptation might be to refuse on the basis that they frankly had taken liberties in building something different. However, the changes weren’t radical, it wasn’t as though they’d built more storeys. You have to ask whether the plans now such that you would not have approved them had they come to planning committee in this form initially? In this instance I felt I would have voted to grant the application and so I was content to approve. The developer though takes a huge risk in not building to approved plans.

Partington

Cycling to Partington is not my favourite journey. The A6144 is a nasty piece of road; too narrow and too fast. The pavements have really high kerbs and you ride in fear of being taken out through too close a pass.

When I have used a bus to get to Partington, the service has been infrequent and in this weather I don’t suffer long waits at bus stops willingly, so I end up risking it on the bike.

The application was to convert a disused nursing home on the A6144 into a mini-housing estate, utilising the existing building and adding an extension to get four houses out of the site as well as a new separate bungalow at the back.

The issue was parking. Planning officers had recommended approval.

This is where planning rules get messy because the Local Highways Authority objected due to under provision of a single on-site parking space. This under provision against a maximum by one space. We don’t have a minimum provision but Local Highways officers can take a view as to the impact on the highways network. And we’re back to the A6144 being too fast and too narrow, so we don’t want overflow parking out on the main road.

Anywhere but Partington, I think I would have wanted to allow the application as it was presented. We really do need to provide decent public transit for Partington. I’d love to encourage more to use their bikes but that main road really is horrible. So we’re left with a place dreadfully reliant on the car. That’s not going to be sustainable as we close down our city to petrol and diesel over the next decade or so.

We deferred this particular application as we were advised it may be possible to get that extra space into the scheme but it’s not really the long term answer, is it?

Warburton

This is an application to build up to 400 (Four Hundred) dwellings on open land. The land which is situated beyond the southern edge of the built up area of Partington. The site extends to approximately 24.8 hectares and spans two parcels of land which are separated by the route of Warburton Lane (which divides the site on a north/south axis).

The developers Redrow Homes have appealed against non-determination by the council within the timeframe. It now goes to inquiry.

The applicant’s decision to submit a non-determination appeal came at a time when negotiations were continuing in an attempt to resolve outstanding issues; a process that it was understood both parties were committed to.

To grant planning permission on this ad hoc basis for up to 400 dwellings, and on greenfield in the absence of supporting infrastructure would be at odds with central planning principles in the NPPF of providing sustainable development.

The site of the 400 Dwelling Warburton Development just South of Partington

The planning committee determined that it would have opposed and that should be the council’s stance at the inquiry commencing 21st April 2020.

Other Applications

  • The Market Hall Urmston
  • Football pitches and supporting infrastructure adjacent to Soccer Dome, Trafford Park
  • Soccer Dome to become new location for Event City, Trafford Park

All approved.

Lastly,

I wasn’t allowed to determine this one because I was supporting it. Approval was granted for the Wine Bar on Davyhulme Road East next to Della Roma. I was pleased that the committee agreed with me that the hours of opening should be allowed until 11pm (12 at weekend) rather than the 10pm proposed by officers. I’m hoping the new wine bar will be a welcome enhancement to our street scene.