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.

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.

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.

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

More New Homes for Trafford Wharf?

It’s reported that Hilti, are moving their UK headquarters from Trafford Wharf Road into central Manchester. The site they’re vacating is a large one and it’s being marketed as suitable for residential.

It could be that this site together with the twin towers of No1 Old Trafford, next door is providing up to 800 new homes (given this is a slightly larger site).

I’ve asked for updates from the council officers. It’s early days but it’s not out of the question that yet more could follow. Up to now that area has largely been focused on offices. The market has changed and we’ll want to keep an eye on developments. It’s an area with excellent transport links with investment in walkability and cycling on the Salford side. I can see a lot going for it, but we’ve got to make sure that services like GPs, Dentists and Schools can meet demand.

A levels and Alleyways

Councillor Update

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.

Sign the petition on Change Org

Covid 19

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.

Council Work

Local Plan

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.

Greatstone Hotel

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

Casework

  • 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.