Gorse Hill Labour

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

A councillor’s update from behind the lockdown

Lockdown Blues

I’ve been remiss in not blogging since virus arrived. I wanted to avoid getting in the way of the advice coming from the authorities whether Government, NHS or Council.

There’s been an incredible effort by local people to beat this threat and we all acknowledge the commitment of workers in essential services. As well as health and care workers, I pay particular tribute to our shop workers, our street cleaners, refuse collectors, bus drivers, delivery drivers, those that keep our drains and sewage systems working. In fact I pay tribute to everyone who has worked or volunteered during this period.

Lockdown commenced on 23rd March. Almost everyone agreed we should reduce the transmission of the virus through a massive reduction in social interaction. The UK threw in the towel as far as tracing and containment was concerned and opted for a lesser version of the lockdowns introduced in Spain and Italy.

There’s talk of lockdown now being eased but it’s difficult to see it happening quickly. The death toll in hospital across the three days to Saturday 25th April was over 1,900. This about the level we had at the beginning of April. So we’re nowhere near the levels we had when lockdown started (less than 150 – 3 day rolling). Hopefully we can see the trend of reduced deaths continue. We’re only at the start of this.

So what’s going on during lockdown?

Planning continues – The biggest planning application we’ve been dealing with recently is the nine storey hotel at Lostock Circle. This should have been heard at the April meeting but it’s been deferred to allow an impact assessment on the hotel market locally (known as the sequential test).

Gorse Hill Pub is up for sale. Obviously we’ll keep an eye on this but with lockdown in operation there’s a worry about the whole sector.

Council meetings are suspended. We’ve had a couple of online video conferences but essentially normal democratic scrutiny is unavoidably suspended. We try to do our best by email but it is difficult.

Council Finances – Trafford relies heavily on council tax and business rates. We anticipate the impact this year will be well over £30m. This is stark. It affects all councils and really worries me. I don’t trust the government and I don’t trust their solutions. They invariably make hedge fund holders and asset strippers richer, whilst the rest of us struggle.

Stretford Mutual Aid

Stretford Mutual Aid has been established at Stretford Public Hall as hub to support various local support groups in delivering to individual needs such things as:

  • Food shopping
  • Getting fuel (if you’re on a pre-paid meter)
  • Getting essential medication
  • Looking after pets
  • Someone to talk to

If you live alone, are struggling to make ends meet, are self-isolating or generally in need of advice or support please contact 0300 330 9073 (8.30am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday).

Select option 4 for Trafford and then ignore the options for ‘goods and services’ or ‘pensions’ – just hold the line and they will signpost you to Stretford Mutual Aid.

Gorgeous Gorse Hill, Lostock Community Partnership, Love Gorse Hill and especially Gorse Hill Studios are all supporting and part of this initiative. It’s no surprise to me that local people initiated this response almost immediately that lockdown was called.

Labour has a new leader

For the first time in years I think, I voted for the leader, deputy leader and NEC candidates who all won. I must be growing ‘on message’ for the first time in my life.

It was always going to be difficult at this time for whoever won the leadership. The challenge is to establish credibility as a potential party of Government. I wish Sir Kier well.

Labour’s leaked dossier

For those not following Labour’s in-house troubles, the dossier reveals a party HQ in which individuals modelled themselves on characters from the Thick of It satire, who were more interested in undermining Jeremy Corbyn’s 2017 General Election campaign and used their position to trip up and embarrass the leadership.

None of this is a shock – to be honest, Labour Party’s HQ had been riven with cliques long before Jeremy Corbyn was chosen as our leader. However, those who were in positions at the top of the bureaucracy, whose wages were being paid by ordinary members, who chose to work against their employers and are still benefiting from the patronage of the party should have the ties with the party removed. We’ve got to put an end to this in-fighting and we can’t have these people like Lord Iain McNicoll still involved in any way.

We need a reform of the party bureaucracy. I would advocate strengthening the regional democracy. They should hold HQ to account rather than the other way round.

We still have to deal with antisemitism within the party and it was reassuring that the introduction made clear that it continues to be a blight that has to be dealt with.

It will be a test of both Kier Starmer and Angela Rayner. If they get this right, then the whole party can move forward together. I worry that they may simply try to consign it to a different time and leave a festering wound that will come back to hurt them.

Casework Review

Assisted bin collections have been the one area of the refuse service that has troubled me during lockdown. I have had a couple of cases that could have been handled much better.

This doesn’t detract from the praise I bestowed at top of this page. I do think our refuse collectors have done a fantastic job. The green bin collections are something I really didn’t expect to resume before normality returned so it’s been a real bonus.


Business Relief – called in on a small number of cases to try to help resolve. The teams support these have been working round the clock and they’ve been tremendous in getting info back to businesses.


Hospital Visiting for serious cases. Sadly this is one those really awful aspects of social distancing. There’s no easy answer. With such a contagious disease amongst us, hospitals have had to impose really hard restrictions on visits even where the patient’s illness is not covid-19. Patient Liaison have been incredibly understanding and have tried to facilitate electronic communication etc but it’s incredibly hard on the family. One reason we really need to beat this virus.


Surrender of rented property on death of tenant – clearly lockdown creates special problems when surrendering a home and I have had clarification that account will be taken of these difficulties. Definitely get in touch with a councillor or citizens advice if a landlord is making demands to remove belongings etc.


Foster Care Support during Covid – Lockdown is difficult for us all but for the council’s foster parents it brings extra burdens. With schools closed and at the same time having to manage social distancing there’s clearly a need to support foster parents and it’s something that’s been raised locally.


Social Distancing whilst mobile and not in a car – I am particularly engaged in this issue and it’s one that’s deserving of it’s own piece, but the second class status we give to pedestrians and cyclists is one that’s giving problems when it comes to social distancing. Anyone who’s walked, cycled or ran will have found themselves in the middle of the road when passing with the 2m margin.

Public Transport will be an issue too when lockdown eventually eases.


Gorse Hill – Behind the Takeaways – There’s a build up of commercial waste bins and the drains are blocked with congealed gluck. Seriously, what sort of an advert do they think this makes for their produce?

I’m hoping Environmental Enforcement can take action and perhaps even involve Food Standards. I want to support businesses, but not if they fail to look after their premises and surroundings.

I do want to hear your views

Please leave a comment below or join the debate on Facebook if that’s where you find this post.

Lastly…

We will get through this. Stretford is a wonderful town and it’s a place where we look after each other. So don’t suffer alone, do get in touch and don’t don’t forget the Stretford Mutual Aid number 0300 330 9073.

Stay classy.

Elinor Ostrom

This interests me. I’ve never come across Nobel prize winning economist, Elinor Ostrom. I’m going to learn more because this coincides with much that inspires me.

Scale matters. For Ostrom, localism is the only real model of democracy. The current – minimal – view of democracy – where we occasionally vote for a representative at one or another tier of government, maybe pick an option in an occasional referendum – is fine for what it is. But there are deeper kinds of legitimacy when decisions are made closer to home – giving people meaningful control over the institutions, services, and assets that have the biggest impact on our own neighbourhoods.

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.

Stormy February

A big thank you to all our services who worked through Storm Ciara. We shouldn’t underestimate the task of getting things back to normal after something like this.

Lostock High

My workload has been particularly focused on Lostock High School and continuity within the school as the head moves on to new challenges. We want to see the changes that have already taken place become embedded. I am still so thrilled at the standards set by pupils as at the previous week’s Holocaust memorial and that’s exactly where we want the school.

Circle Court Hotel

It’s nine storeys and 197 rooms so it’s bigger than I would like, and it’s creating the need for residents’ parking to be displaced. The main focus is on making sure the residents don’t lose out, that they gain from employment opportunities both within the construction and longer term operation of the hotel.

Labour Party Nomination – Lisa gets 12 points from Stretford and Urmston

I voted to nominate Lisa Nandy for leader and Angela Rayner as her deputy. I think for the first time, my choices coincided with the majority of members in Stretford and Urmston Labour Party. So it’s quite nice that I’m mainstream for once. I think Lisa is the one that’s showing the most insight into the reasons we lost and how we go about regaining trust.

Living Streets

Living Streets is the charity promoting Everyday Walking. Essentially normal urban walking to nip down to the shops or get the kids to school. A small group of us has decided to get a Local Living Streets Group set up for Stretford. We know there’s a lot going on to get Bee Networks developed and we’re keen to see that happen, but we’re also keen to put pressure on to improve existing crossings as a matter of urgency through timings etc. and it’s something we want to pursue. We’ve got the seal of approval from Living Streets HQ, so you should be seeing us spring to life in the coming weeks.

Stretford Memorial Hospital and the lack of Health Infrastructure for Stretford/Old Trafford

I noticed Stretford Memorial Hospital came up on the agenda at Health Scrutiny the previous week. There was no report attached so I ran through the YouTube video to see what it was about.

It’s presence on the agenda was triggered by my colleague Councillor Judith Lloyd. Judith quite rightly wanted to know what was happening following the closure Stretford Memorial. She was making the point that there was a dearth of decent quality health resources in the north of the borough. It’s a point I too have been making. The Conservatives steered everything to Altrincham, we now need to make sure that we get some decent facilities here.

Trafford Park Hotel Resurrection

We were privileged to be invited inside the Trafford Park Hotel yesterday. A real treat for me. It’s been heartbreaking to see the neglect over the years as it’s laid empty.

Despite the water damage, a lot of it still remains intact. It’s got wonderful tiling and the brick work seems of good quality. The hotel was one of the first buildings built on the Trafford Park Industrial Estate so it predates most of Trafford Park Village and the wider area.

It’s a fabulous building and an absolutely crucial part of Trafford Park’s heritage.

Councilors Laurence Walsh, Mike Cordingley and David Acton on the roof of Trafford Park Hotel

Why we were there

The current owners are keen to bring the hotel back into use. It’s their intention to use the hotel as part of a larger complex, the adjacent car park being used for a second larger hotel building. The Trafford Park Hotel would be the heart of this concept providing the restaurant, kitchens.

3D impression

This is an exciting project. The planning application is not yet registered but definitely one to watch.

First week of a new year

Circle Court caps a busy week but shows in adversity the very best of Lostock.

Saturday 4th Jan

Marshalling the first corner at Wythenshawe Pk Run. First time I’ve marshalled, but I’ve now done 12 runs and that’s not a bad ratio. One morning volunteering for a dozen runs.

In the afternoon I cycled round Gorse Hill identifying the full set of streets that had missed bin collections as the council had arranged additional Sunday shifts of collections.

Sunday 5th Jan

Spent the morning trying to establish whether the promised bin teams had gone out and whether they doing Gorse Hill. Took until lunchtime to get confirmation. Frankly, being told that they’d be reporting the next day just infuriates. Don’t often lose my temper but came close over that. Anyway the word was the teams were out and were doing the streets I’d submitted. Not totally as it turned out, but most.

Receive an update on the Education portfolio. Can’t hide the fact that there’s some local schools giving concern. School finances, it seems to me, are more responsive to school numbers than they ever have been. This is a good thing if your school is attracting good numbers, but if, for whatever reason, you’re not getting the demand, it can quickly spiral. Going to need different approaches, but the bottom line is we can’t just stand by.

Monday 6th Jan

Fury on the emails about the bins. Flixton particularly angry. Make some progress on casework. Christmas has been particularly busy.

I’m also putting together the spending return for the election. These have to be submitted next week and it’s not the sort of thing you want to do during the festivities so I now need to get going with it.

Tuesday 7th Jan

Labour Group meeting. Started late and slowly ground to a halt. I think Christmas has frazzled us. I’d be tempted to avoid the first full week of the year for a Labour group meeting next year. Anyway City won the first leg at United, even if I missed the first half, and apparently we played quite well.

Wednesday 8th Jan

More work on the spending return. In the evening it’s to Stretford Mall for an officer meeting with architects, planners and Bruntwood over the next consultation event.

It’s not long since the last one and whilst that means actual tangible progress might still be a little way off, I think this was a useful meeting. I think the public drop in will also be useful too.

At November’s drop in there was a discreet minority who felt the best option was to knock the mall down. To be honest, that has been my view too. I think it’s fair to say that isn’t a view shared by the planners and architects. I quite like the fact that they saw positive strengths in parts of the Mall and really saw their role as trying to design and enhance those strengths. So whilst I seem to have lost one argument, I’m far more energised by their way of thinking. Don’t be expecting fleshed out designs, but I think their approach both to the mall and to the wider Stretford town centre neighbourhoods is measured and exciting.

Consultation Drop-in at the Mall – Saturday 25th January 8am until 6pm

You really need to attend this. It’s your Stretford. And the planners need to hear from you.


Completed the ‘Doing Buses Differently’ consultation on bus franchising. This is something I’ve actively supported for a long time. The free market simply doesn’t work for bus travel. It’s my contention that the bus companies should really embrace this. It’s the only way they will ensure a long term future for their business. It’s an incredibly positive proposal that will support the bus companies and build the bus transport sector.

Stagecoach Manchester at Piccadilly Gardens bus station, Manchester with the 14:46 to Flixton 15 service. Friday 25th July 2008

Thursday 9th Jan

Library Volunteering and in the evening yet more planning previews

I’m a member of the planning committee so I have to be circumspect over live planning applications, but we were previewing the new stand and hotel extension planned for Lancs Cricket Ground, as well as a tall hotel at the corner of Chester Road and Warwick Road.

Friday 10th Jan

Casework and a Labour Party Meeting reflecting on the Election Defeat
(oh, and I went for a five mile run!)

The Labour Party meeting was interesting, particularly the thoughts of ordinary members rather than MPs or Councillors.

I think the scale of the defeat is taking some adjusting to. There’s a rawness to the wounds that have been rendered. I don’t think anyone has the complete answer. I’m not going to spend a lot of time dissecting our manifesto or the likeability of Jeremy Corbyn. He is already in the past. There were a lot of textbook failings in our campaign that will have to be put right whether Labour chooses to tack to the left or right: the lack of a story that related to people’s lives, the diminution of shared values. We failed to connect

We were for the many, not the few, but came across as a party too often set apart from and contemptuous of the very people we wanted to vote for us. That is a charge that can be made against both wings of the party; and one particularly apposite with regard to Brexit.

Stretford and Urmston Labour Party

Saturday/Sunday – Serious Incident at Circle Court

Start the day away with the Labour Group but quickly learn of the Circle Court fire and flooding. Tell Dave Acton and we get over there. It was an everchanging set of circumstance throughout the weekend. The fire and initial water leakage were dealt with quickly but from then on there was loss of power, further floods and the affected area would enlarge, shrink and enlarge again. It would vary from almost no tenants needing rehousing to substantial decanting. The residents were superb and so were Trafford Housing Trust staff. When you go through something like this with people, you realise how stoical people are, how they deal with setbacks. I don’t think I’ve ever been so proud to represent this place.

I know things are not yet back to normal for quite a few residents and we’re continuing to monitor. I was really pleased to invite Kate Green over on the Sunday to see the recovery operation and to meet with staff and residents. I know she was impressed.