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Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Parliamentary Update

I've just received the following from our regional office:
Unfortunately your application has not been successful on this occasion, however we thank you for your interest in Macclesfield and send every good wish for your future political career.

Obviously the CV I sent wasn't good enough. Shame.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Gas Leak

It's all a bit late, as I've been away, and I guess you've been tolerating the traffic since last week:

Unfortunately, there is a gas escape on Park Lane, Macclesfield which requires emergency attention. It is not in one of the mains that has been replaced as part of the ongoing renewal works. This has meant that two-way traffic signals have had to be installed on Park Lane this morning close to the junction with Oxford Road (Flowerpot junction). Gas engineers are currently working to find the source of the escape and repair the main. The signals will need to remain in place until the repair has been carried out but until the source has been located it is not possible to say whether the temporary signals will be in place for hours or days. I will update as soon as I have any further information.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

I'm back...

I've been on holiday for the last two weeks. The posts over the period were all written before I went away, so I'm sorry if they seemed a bit bland or non-topical. It's a bit tricky trying to write that much all in one go.

I'm back feeling refreshed and raring to go. It's going to be a very interesting Autumn for me and for Macclesfield. I have no idea how things are going to work out, but I know that the next twenty days are likely to provide some tough times. I made the decision to apply for a Parliamentary seat with my eyes open, but that doesn't mean that it's not going to be heavy going whatever the outcome.

I'm not exactly sure on the timetable from here. Although I'm one of the people that run the local association I have been excluded from all meetings recently because I am a potential candidate, which means that I only know what I've read in the papers.

Speaking of which...I normally turn to the letters page of the Macclesfield Express wondering what charge has been levelled at me or my colleagues this week. However last week it seems that there was a very interesting letter from Brendan Murphy which, unless I'm reading it through rose tinted specs, seems to be an endorsement.

Thanks Brendan.

Friday, 18 September 2009

HS2 - What does it really mean for us?

A lot of people have been getting quite excited about the news of "HS2" - a new high speed railway line to link the North and the South.

It seems like one of the preferred routes will be London - B'ham - Manchester - Glasgow. This has lead to speculation about journey times, which are suggested to be just over an hour to Manchester.

All seems great so far, but what about if you don't live in Manchester?

The line will probably come through some part of Macclesfield, because we're in the way. If it does it'll mean compulsory purchase orders and unpopular decisions about which part of our beautiful landscape it carves up. Irrespective of the route, it won't be stopping here. I expect it'll have to be a non-stop service, otherwise you wouldn't be able to manage those journey times.

So the great concern to me is how this effects our current rail service. At present, we have a very good service to Manchester and London. This is essentially because we are part of the UK's leading rail line and Virgin are constantly pushing to offer an improved service. Hence the Pendolinos and the recent track improvements that give us all those replacement buses on a Sunday.

But what happens when our line is no longer the cutting edge? Will there be the incentive to offer quicker times, nicer trains and more capacity?

Will the west coast mainline become the new slow line, stopping at every station and getting us to London in 4 hours?

Transport is crucially important to building a strong economy in Macclesfield. We suffer from being so far away from the Motorway, and we can't change that. But we can fight for a better rail service.

And I will.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Parking...yet again.

I'm aware the cabinet will have to do something about the Lib Dem motion for free parking on Saturday. Strange thing is that I'm told it's not coming before Cabinet until October, which seems like quite a long time to delay something that you're going to throw out.

But I'm sure it will go out, which is fine with me because none of the traders want it on a Saturday anyway. They would certainly be interested in something at lunchtimes or after 3pm. The feedback that I'm getting is that it's smaller, incidental trade that's far more important to them.

I've been doing a fair amount of work with local businesses, and the most wacky idea that they've come up with is that exit parking would be much better than pay and display. The more you consider this the more sense it makes. One of the traders said that she feels that her customers don't mind paying to park, but they don't like the hassle of having to have the correct change, and then they hate being criminalised for staying 5 minutes longer than they meant to. This is what brings the resentment that the council are at the wrong end of.

This is a fair point - can you imagine any other service where you get fined for using more than you expected to, without a chance to pay the extra?

I appreciate that there would be significant capital cost to convert car parks, but I genuinely think it's worth thinking about. We could probably save a couple of wardens, as I would expect they spend most of their time trawling round the car parks. You won't need them. You would need support for the barriers / machines etc but on the whole this can be managed remotely. They seem to manage it this way at the airport.

It takes the hassle away from shoppers because they won't have to rush back. They could then pay by card also, which makes life a lot easier for everyone involved.

And the best bit is this - I think we could then offer free parking for 30 minutes, and would still end up with higher parking revenue. This is because I think shoppers who previously would have got an hour ticket and rushed back when the time was nearly out would stay and have a coffee - knowing that all it'll cost them is an extra 40p. Similarly, shoppers would pop in to take advantage of the free half hour and would overstay. With any other system they'd get a fine for this, but with exit parking they've just pay the next rate.

I've written to David Brickhill about this and started some dialogue with the officers. They've not come up with a way of saying no yet, but I'm sure it'll come.

Monday, 14 September 2009


Got myself into a bit of a position that was unavoidable, (unless I wanted a divorce, or something to occur that I thought was wrong).

I was one of the signatories on a "call in" - which is where we ask a cabinet decision to be looked at by a scrutiny panel. The decision was to allocate land on the Hurdsfield industrial estate to be used for a waste transfer station. I can't quite remember the full list, but I seem to recall that it's a few Lib Dems, with Martin and myself.

I called it in because I believe that AZ are of significant importance to the economy of Macclesfield. Whilst they wouldn't shut up shop if we put a waste transfer station next door to them, it's not going to make Macclesfield an obvious choice next time they're or some other high tech industry is thinking of putting a new building somewhere.

Although the transport links at Hurdsfield may be the best in Macc, I think there are better locations for the station.

However, the scrutiny meeting is today, and I can't attend because I'm on holiday with my wife. It's generally the done thing to turn up when you've called something in, and this I can't do.

So I've written to the Chairman to apologise. I hope he'll forgive me, and I hope the other members who called the decision in will be able to make my points for me.

Friday, 11 September 2009

LAP - priorities

For whatever reason not even Councillors were getting sent agendas and minutes for the infamous LAP's. I have managed to get hold of a copy, and whilst all of the meetings so far have been closed to people other than those invited (of which I am not one), at least we can see what went on.

I must admit that I'm a little knocked off balance by the idea of a body, which isn't wholly elected, meeting in private to discuss important issues such as these. I thought that was why we elected a council.

My view is that if all the LAP's did was focus on anti-social behaviour then they'd be worth their weight in gold, but I'm told that there priorities are far more wide reaching (and yet strangely narrow when it comes to ASB):

* West Park anti social behaviour
* Crime in rural areas
* Facilities and support for young people
(external to education)
* Initiative to promote civic pride
* Killed and seriously injured statistics
* Macclesfield Town Centre redevelopment
* Engagement with businesses
* Worklessness

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Council irritations no. 98

I get an email everytime a planning application is registered in my ward. Good news so far.

It has a lovely letter attached, which contains no useful information about the application except a reference number. Slight irritation.

However this doesn't return a document on the planning system straight away, telling me that the reference doesn't exist. It takes a few days until the documents are available to me.


Monday, 7 September 2009

Highways v2

Following my post last week about the highways alterations I just wanted to highlight something.

Utilities companies have pretty much free reign to dig up the road and pop their cables down. In many circumstances, the highways department will try to change where and when this happens, but it will happen at the end of the day.

There are guidelines as to how deep these cables should be placed in the road or pavement, with the specification being less exacting for the footpath as it has to handle less weight of traffic. Specifically, the cables can be placed shallower.

So it's logical that if we want to turn the said footpath into a road, as I'd like to do at the Flowerpot, the cables will need to be sunk lower.

But it seems that the Council have to foot the bill for that. Which seems incredibly unfair, considering it was our footpath before BT came along. I don't mind them putting them there, but surely they should take the risk that we might want the bit of earth they've used back?

Might be time to take legal advice again.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Residents Parking

As you will no doubt be aware, Cheshire East have been running a consultation on whether residents parking schemes are desired in certain streets.

I have received the results of the consultation, with some rather baffling interpretation from the highways department.

Overall, 375 people returned questionnaires. Considering the tens of thousands of people who live in Macclesfield this is seen as somewhat of a disappointment. Which I think is odd - we're a bit loopy if we believe that a large number of people were going to partake in the survey. If you don't live in one of the affected streets then you're not going to reply. And even if you do live in one, there's a fair chance that you don't drive and therefore don't care about parking. Or even you can't get to the exhibition.

The street with the most respondents was Coare street*. Of 65 residences, 14 responded, which makes 22%. All of these were in favour, which according to highways means 22% of respondents were in favour of a residents parking scheme on Coare street.

Except in my book it means that 100% were in favour of residents parking in Coare street.

The story from Highways is that this isn't enough to do anything. Personally, I think it's more than enough. Overall, 86% of respondents wanted residents schemes, and 10% didn't with the remainder unsure. That seems enough to me to suggest that in streets where there are real problems, the public believes that residents parking is the best solution.

To suggest that it's insufficient response to proceed isn't quite right. I don't live in one of those streets, but I would feel cheated if I did - considering the level of response.

However, there is a glimmer of hope. There MAY be a second stage on consultation to see if they can get a response level that they deem appropriate. At least if there is more consultation it'll be good news for the Lib Dems - they can get some more leaflets delivered free of charge.

* The next two most popular streets were:
Great King Street 21% responders, 20% in favour.
Lord St 19% responders, 19% in favour.
Figures may be inaccurate. The text report I was sent didn't match the spreadsheet. Will confirm when I get correct figures.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Parliamentary Prospects

I've just got back from Canalside, where I was interviewed by Heidi Reid on her local matters show.

Being that my mother has always told me to tell the truth, I had no choice when asked about the the upcoming Parliamentary selection process in Macclesfield than to fully disclose what I've been up to.

This is that I have been through the rigorous vetting and assessment process which has got me onto the list of Conservative approved Parliamentary candidates. This means that I can apply for any seat in the Country that becomes available. I have chosen to apply for Macclesfield, for which the deadline was today, Thursday 3rd September.

People keep asking me who is applying for Macclesfield. I have to say that genuinely I have no idea. All I know is that there is now a pile of application forms in an office in London, all with Macclesfield written on the top. And one of them is mine.

There could be over 200, and they need to be shortlisted down to 6. I therefore seems that my chances are slim. It means there is a temptation to keep quiet about it, because I will be undoubtedly disappointed if I don't make it through. But that would mean lying if people asked if I'd applied, and I didn't think that was the right thing to do.

So I'm happy to tell the truth. I'm happy to pile public embarrassment onto the personal feeling of failure if I don't succeed.

Some will say I'm too young, but that's not true. I wouldn't be the youngest in Parliament and I'd actually be the same age as Sir Nick when he was first elected. Some will say I don't have enough experience, but then in fact I doubt those people actually know. They won't know where I've lived, worked, and what I've achieved - and I look forward to telling them all about.

Fundamentally those questions are answered by the Conservative Party. They have a very strict process designed to only allow candidates through who are mature and experienced enough to make good MP's. I passed that process, so I'm feeling pretty confident about those questions.

Over the next few weeks I'll be saying more about what I want to do for Macclesfield. I have been careful to keep this blog about Council work over the last 12 months and you may see that change a little. I hope you still find it as interesting.

Wish me luck,

Wednesday, 2 September 2009


We have been sent a new protocol for asking highways to make alterations to the roads, designed to ensure that all Councillors can have their say on what is important in the ward. It involves a bit of interaction with the Local Area Partnerships, which is worrying because I've not encountered a problem recently that the LAP's aren't going to fix, and will need final approval from the Cabinet member. But the point is that local ward members can request things.

Which is good. Because if there's one thing that causes confusion between the electorate and myself it's that they think I have the power to do things I don't.

For example, parking in the town centre. I personally can't change it. I can't waltz into the car parks and stick new prices up to encourage shoppers. All I can do is raise the issue, debate the issue, come up with better ideas and lobby the relevant cabinet members. And that I'm doing.

Take also Ivy Lane - this is an area in the ward where speeding motorists are of concern to the residents. I've discussed this with highways, I've discussed this with the police. I've got the Rozzers to turn up (but they forgot their speed gun) and got the three most senior people from CE to come and see the issue for themselves.

But as yet there is no solution. And a couple of the residents are convinced its all my fault now - perhaps that'll teach me to get involved.

So anyway, back to the point.

After meeting to discuss issues, the councillors for Macclesfield West have submitted the follow issues. I thought you would be interested to see them. Initial responses from the highways department are in red:

Ivy Lane - frequent and regular speeding

This is a site of constant concern, and has been the subject of a visit from Cllr Fitzgerald, John Nicholson and Erika Wenzel who discussed concerns with a sizable group of residents.

Concerns are over speed both up and down the road, especially since there is now an increase amount of pedestrian school traffic over the last couple of years since the closing of Henbury High and the full opening of the learning zone.

Community use of SIDS?

Possible solutions could be chicanes or mini roundabouts, both at the top and bottom of the hill (Sycamore Road, Valley Road junctions).

Mini roundabouts work only where there is a deflection from a straight line at neither junction does Ivy Lane deviate, false deflections often do not work as most drivers straight line the mini roundabout.

Chicanes would work well at slowing the traffic during peak times but are not so successful off peak and can lead to increase in accidents at such times. Would we want to slow / stop traffic at peak times on this route?

Flowerpot Junction

Whilst lines for turning have been painted on the Ivy Lane, Park Lane axis this persists as a problem. The Ivy Lane direction is worst where traffic does not get forward and right enough to prevent straight through traffic from being blocked.

Whilst it may seem easy to blame this on the drivers, the uncomfortable truth is that there is not a large amount of space for them to move into, and the layout of the lines is slightly eccentric and unusual. When cars do get far enough right, this is startling for straight through head on traffic which has to swerve around them.

Solution would be to provide a proper turning lane by using the council owned land on the junction of Oxford Road and Ivy Lane to widen the junction. This will involve moving telecoms cabinets, CCTV and traffic lights.

The cost of the works within CEC control are manageable civil engineering £20k, CCTV £2k, Traffic signals £10k, the difficulty is the cost of BT moving cables and apparatus. The cost during the works at the junction was £76k and likely to be a similar amount. This additional cost and potential delay to the work prevented the widening being carried out during the recent contract.

As a cost benefit the scheme begins to look poor at £100k.

Fieldbank Road / Chester Road Junction

Traffic turning right into fieldbank road travelling out of town blocks vehicles wishing to go straight on. Needs additional lane which could be achieved by using the lay-bys in fieldbank road which are presently used for parking.

(Planning application due soon to modify this junction for a fourth spur, but it is not clear if a right turn lane will be provided at this time)

No right turn at present but negotiations are underway, the tree is a major problem for junction design as is the cost of moving the BT equipment priced by them at £120k in 2000 for the original junction works. There are four options for the TA access. Moving services is always very expensive.

Oxford Road - speed of traffic by school.
No desire for calming but possibly a speed indicator device.

No policy in place at the moment - device cost £5k assuming suitable power supply at location.

Gawsworth Road - additional parking

The top section of Gawsworth Road often has problems with parked cars. Would be possible to provide some better parking by utilising the grass verges.

It has never been part of the remit of a highway authority to provide parking, there is no absolute right to park on a highway only the right to pass and re-pass and it is our duty to uphold that right. If we accede to this deviation from policy there may well be a significant increase in requests for similar treatment for which the cost is substantial.

If we are to provide verge parking the verge will be excavated and the cross fall from the carriageway continued, a new kerb will have to be installed at the footway edge which may have to be re-set to match the new lower kerb height. New gullies will have to be installed. This is achievable though a fairly major scheme. The construction of the lay-by will be of the order £40/ sqm, each metre of kerb £16, each gully £600. Assuming a car needs 2.3m x 6m the cost will be £550 plus a gully. Footway cost will be £20/ sqm.

The unknown cost will be the resetting of all the services to the correct level to allow vehicular traffic, you will have noted the cost of the BT diversion at the Flower Pot and similar alteration costs may be expected for each service along the road.

Kendal Road - complaints about speed and traffic using as a cut through.

Matter compounded by Blind Bend. Traffic often held up by parked cars anyway - a permanent solution is unlikely to do better than this, but would be interest in costs and the thoughts of the highways department regardless.

Parked cars do offer a good traffic calming solution; there have been no injury accidents recorded on Kendal Road in the last 3 years. The carriageway is narrow and most drivers take things slowly and give and take round the cars. Community SIDs may offer some additional traffic calming.

Local Area Partnerships

You may have heard about Local Area Partnerships.

Perhaps you want to find out where the action's happening? I've just been sent the following info, and it looks like we're all invited:

Date: Tuesday 8th September
Time: 4.30pm – 6.30pm
Location: Broken Cross Community Primary School, Parkett Heyes Road, Macclesfield SK11 8UD

All Local Area Partnership meetings are now open meetings, therefore if you know of any key stakeholders or community groups who may be able to help the LAP in its future work, please pass this email on by way of an invitation.


Got a taxi home the other night, pre-paid by switch because they didn't trust me to be there when they arrived. Checked bank statement this morning and it's listed as:


Funny, that was just what I was thinking.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009


So I guess that means the summer's over? I mean, at any time through August you still think there's a chance we might get a nice hot couple of weeks. By the time we're into September you're just hoping for a dry, sunny, weekend or two - accepting it will never really be hot. Ho hum.

Unfortunately it means two other things this year.

It means that fuel duty has been increased by a couple of pence. I'm now paying £1.08 per litre - and with expected rises in crude coming over the forthcoming winter I think things look set to get worse. This is the third rise in duty over the last 9 months which seems unacceptable to me.

This is the price we pay for bailing out the banks.

It also means that it's illegal to manufacture or import 100 watt light bulbs in the UK. Some may think this is a great idea, as it forces us all to use energy efficient bulbs. Unfortunately for some these are very difficult to read by, and I'm having difficultly tracking down CFL's that are dimmable at a reasonable price. Without these I'll have to have the light switches in some of the rooms replaced when the current bulbs blow.

Viva the nanny state.