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Steve Parish

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Everything posted by Steve Parish

  1. No. Except in areas where congestion and/or lack of city centre parking discourages car use (e.g. London, Edinburgh), all bus companies rely on (and therefore have to serve) those who themselves rely on the bus (who don't have access to a car). Many are "discretionary" travellers - i.e, they don't have to use public transport for work, so will travel less often if fares are high. For those who do need public transport to get to work, high fares are of course a disincentive to bus use - so people look for work closer to home (or get the bike out). But in economics terms, bus pricing is still inelastic so fare rises usually end up with increased revenue - or (coming from the other direction) a fare cut of 25% would need an increase in custom of 33% to break even. After sustaining passenger numbers when they were falling elsewhere, in Warrington (for various reasons, some known, some we can only guess at * ) the slump happened belatedly (and before the recent fare rises). But it's happening all over: http://www.expressandstar.com/news/2015/10/03/numbers-using-the-bus-in-west-midlands-hits-30-year-low/ * Why did pensioners suddenly stop using their bus passes? Had the novelty worn off? Some of it's down to the government delaying when people get the bus pass (it's still at 60 in Scotland and Wales) but that can't explain why national bus use by pass holders dropped off. (Was it lack of money meant pensioners didn't see any point in going to town if they couldn't afford to spend when in town?) I've gone beyond the simple "no" to get past the usual stuff of "bad management" and the simplistic solution of cut fares and they will come.
  2. I think Obs has in mind that he opposed Tesco and the stadium as it went against policy on edge-of-town shopping. For what it's worth, the National Policy on building in the flood plain boils down to: ● it must be demonstrated that the development provides wider sustainability benefits to the community that outweigh flood risk, informed by a Strategic Flood Risk Assessment where one has been prepared; and ● a site-specific flood risk assessment must demonstrate that the development will be safe for its lifetime taking account of the vulnerability of its users, without increasing flood risk elsewhere, and, where possible, will reduce flood risk overall.
  3. Well, I do tend to defend people who are unfairly attacked (and "coward" from someone hiding behind a pseudonym is a bit odd). As to matters of fact rather than caustic opinion, I'd like to see your car ownership statistics. In the 2011 census, Warrington ranked lower than those towns on "households with no car" and higher on "households with one/two/three/four cars" (search table KS404EW on www.ons.gov.uk) - that's one for statisticians, but a simpler format is at http://www.racfoundation.org/assets/rac_foundation/content/downloadables/car%20ownership%20rates%20by%20local%20authority%20-%20december%202012.pdf
  4. We are accountable - we publish accounts. Unless the town is gridlocked, the bus turns up, usually on time. As the Traffic Commissioner says reliability and punctuality are what bus passengers want, we have to design timetables that allow for congestion - then try to make sure buses don't run early when there is no congestion. There's a cost to that, as if journey times are longer, we need more buses and drivers - or reduce frequency. But if journey times are longer, then (despite the Commissioner's mantra) some will choose other modes of transport. Transport patterns are changing - we tried the innovation of a route across the north of town to link residential areas with the new employment sites (Birchwood Business Park, Gemini, Omega etc) but there's no substantial "core" of regular passengers, and we've obviously lost office-workers commuting to town because there are not as many offices in town. Comparing other towns isn't that simple either - Warrington has higher car ownership than other towns in the North-West, many residents work in Liverpool or Manchester and buses can't compete for that traffic with the train, etc etc.
  5. Council members get no remuneration as directors of a municipal bus company. The law requires a minimum of 3 executive directors and a maximum of 7 non-exec directors.
  6. I'm really not going to do the fine-tooth comb on stuff that's been past exec board, audit committee and in some cases scrutiny committee too. All capital spending needs long term savings or some other return on the investment to justify it. No doubt some will go wrong - I'm not sure the pavilion in Bank Park will recoup the cost but sometimes you have to be bold and accept some risk on trying (in that case) to revitalise bits of the town. The Youthzone plan has perhaps had the greatest scrutiny as the returns on the investment would be hard to quantify, as reduced anti-social behaviour isn't easy to attribute to one scheme (based on experience in other towns). As for Bridge St I don't think you can both blame the Council for the demise of the "high street" and for the (costly) attempt to revitalise the area. It does (on topic) provide a new use that retains the facade of Boots (which ultimately would otherwise be "at risk"). But in terms of revenue spending there will be pain. It's been much quoted but this is the Tory leader of Lincolnshire county council: Councillor Hill said: “Councils across England are facing the deepest cuts in the history of local government. “Imagine if every council in England stopped filling in potholes, turned off every street light, and closed all parks, children’s centres, libraries, museums and leisure centres. “Even that would still not save enough to plug the financial black hole we’re facing by 2020. “At this council, having already reduced our budget by £129 million over the last four years, we’re faced with at least the same massive cut again."
  7. Office block £22m. Savings from closing 5 offices New Town House Quattro St Werbergh's old school Customer Contact Centre Rylands Street All in the report to Exec Board last April.
  8. I had in mind voting nationally for parties offering to cut tax (though the tax take seems to go up anyway) rather than local taxation. I really didn't think there was much secret about the council tax being below the threshold for a referendum (which would itself cost money). It just alleviates the damage caused by the cuts in government grant. A few pence a week to help stave off cuts to services. If you object, that is the problem (as with that Bill Bryson observation that the country is a lot richer than it was when he first came to Britain, yet we're scrabbling to keep basic public services going.)
  9. I hope it was one of GHA's. Depending on time of day, the outbound bus might have been very well loaded. Having cut one of our busiest routes (despite the competition) from every 6 minutes a few years ago to every 15, we'll not be looking to cut it further.
  10. That's perhaps exemplified by the government's comment on "performance" from the Bus Service Operators Grant - "Lower subsidy per passenger journey will indicate better value for the public purse" but "reductions in rural bus services are a possible negative impact of an ‘improvement’ in this indicator"! BSOG originated with the Wilson government in 1965 rebating all of fuel duty to bus service operators. It was renamed the Bus Service Operators Grant in 2000. The coalition government reduced it in 2012 and we feared it might be reduced further in the spending review but it wasn't. That's a small subsidy out of national funding. Councils can still make some de minimis payments (e.g. to pay a bus company to run a bus in a gap in services when otherwise they wouldn't do it as a profit-making service), otherwise non-commercial services have to be tendered (and with the cuts some councils have simply withdrawn all funding for that) - rural services in particular have disappeared, which may have "improved" the value to the public purse but it's left a lot of Tory rural seats with no buses... Not much to do with heritage - except if you won't pay more tax, then choices have to made between (e.g.) heritage grants and subsidising bus fares.
  11. No, Thatcher stopped that. Bromley Council took Ken Livingstone and the GLC to court over the subsidies out of the rates (which the law clearly allowed but the judges decided they were not "reasonable" - especially as the tube didn't reach Bromley). So the tube and bus fares went back up, congestion got worse, and at the first opportunity Thatcher made it illegal everywhere to subsidise fares out of the rates. So we spend more on road schemes to address the consequent congestion.
  12. The Ship wasn't listed. Go to the police if you think it was "almost certainly illegally demolished", as the police ordered the demolition. What is wrong with allowing access to development land (Arpley Meadows)? Despite what Osborne and Mowat said before the election, there's no money yet for the high-level bridge (and part of the argument for getting the money is that it will allow for more development on the route, not just help the traffic - that's how these things justify the return on expenditure).
  13. I thought sarcasm was marginally better than just saying that some people were spouting nonsense. It's nothing to do with the dodgy dossier from the RSA. The proposals for the museum were part of the background to the Cultural Strategy Framework consultation which well predates the RSA's "report". http://www.warrington.gov.uk/info/200925/past_consultations/1886/cultural_strategy_framework_consultation You obviously don't know the routine work done to protecting listed buildings, e.g. stopping installation of uPVC windows, inappropriate extensions. Really, have you not followed the Kings Head saga? As for the council's "inaction about the illegal demolition of listed buildings by developers" - the only illegal demolition I can think of is the Bay Horse, and the Council prosecuted. We can agree that there are obviously issues about losses of unlisted heritage assets (the old grammar school particularly) but the protection of "non-designated" assets is fairly limited: "The effect of an application on the significance of a non-designated heritage asset should be taken into account in determining the application. In weighing applications that affect directly or indirectly non designated heritage assets, a balanced judgement will be required having regard to the scale of any harm or loss and the significance of the heritage asset." (NPPF 135) Immediately any developer will say it's not that significant because it's not designated (listed) and old does not necessarily mean significant. Other than the Garnett site, I'm aware of only one pre-20th century building in my ward (including all the town centre) that is under immediate threat (it's not on the local list, and it has major subsidence problems), and much as I'd like to save it, the advice was that refusing demolition consent would risk losing at appeal and paying costs - and having too many unsuccessful appeals, apart from the costs, leads to this government saying the Council is not doing enough to allow development. Remember this government's dictum on development - the default answer is yes.
  14. That's all very helpful, Sha. Can you quote the relevant legislation so I can pass these tips to the Council's experts? It's very complicated, and I don't pretend to know all the wrinkles, but none of the buildings is listed so under the Building Act the owner can elect to demolish rather than repair; an Urgent Works Notice under the Listed Buildings legislation would need the Secretary of State to agree to its use. Now I'm not sure what precedents there are, but as the Secretary of State has declined to list the tower, the Council would be asking him to apply the law on repairing listed buildings to a building he has already declined to list. I'm also not sure if there is more recent guidance from the government than this: "the use of Urgent Works Notices should be restricted to emergency repairs to keep a building wind and weatherproof and safe from collapse, or action to prevent vandalism or theft. The steps taken should be the minimum consistent with achieving this objective, and should not involve an owner in great expense." PTS have tried to prevent access, but it's not easy to secure access via roofs and other areas that no sensible person would now try and reach to make them secure. There is nothing to be done that would not mean great expense. If the Council owns it, that means at your expense, unless you seriously think the tower could ever be a "profitable asset to the town". The tower has a steel tank with steel stanchions rusting into the masonry. The stairs are shot. If you have a simple method statement to deal with that, let us know.
  15. The quote did of course reflect the collective view of the Committee rather than my personal opinion - I might not have used the qualifier "far". But "structurally sound" suggests there was nothing wrong with it - there were some worrying cracks, and you could pull pieces of rust off the ironwork in the basement. The Garnett works is still owned by PTS. There's been talk of a CPO but that would leave the Council owning buildings with massive costs attached. If the Council went to court to order repairs on safety grounds, the court could say it's too dangerous and order demolition (with no other process). It's lovely to be able to help constituents. Sometimes I have to tell constituents that I can't help (it's beyond my remit, there isn't the money, it's against Council policy). Sometimes I would have to say that I will not help because I disagree with what's proposed, but will always explain the processes. I'm not sure I've put obstacles in your way - I thought I was being helpful by suggesting you don't waste time trying to get it listed when HE are well aware that it's at risk and haven't listed it. In any case, the tower is treated as if it was listed as it's described as significant for the skyscape within the conservation area - though I think there's an argument that its significance is double-edged. (I suspect there were people in 1906 who opposed it on the grounds that it would dominate and detract from the "skyscape" and ruin the view of the town clock.) Anyway, let me be as helpful as possible, and quote the NPPF. 138. "Not all elements of a World Heritage Site or Conservation Area will necessarily contribute to its significance. Loss of a building (or other element) which makes a positive contribution to the significance of the Conservation Area or World Heritage Site should be treated either as substantial harm under paragraph 133 or less than substantial harm under paragraph 134, as appropriate, taking into account the relative significance of the element affected and its contribution to the significance of the Conservation Area or World Heritage Site as a whole." (The last bit means asking the question, "How important is this building to the designation of the Conservation Area?" To which the answer would be that there are far more important elements to why this CA was designated.) Under 133, to allow demolition (or other "substantial harm") you have to demonstrate ALL these blobs: ● the nature of the heritage asset prevents all reasonable uses of the site; and ● no viable use of the heritage asset itself can be found in the medium term through appropriate marketing that will enable its conservation; and ● conservation by grant-funding or some form of charitable or public ownership is demonstrably not possible; and ● the harm or loss is outweighed by the benefit of bringing the site back into use. OR "harm or loss is necessary to achieve substantial public benefits that outweigh that harm or loss". (Having had an interest in a nearby Grade II* listed building, I was quite clear that the risk of a fire spreading to more important heritage buildings was in itself a substantial benefit from demolition - let alone the economic cost of closing the town centre while the fire service let it collapse - they wouldn't be going in to get to the seat of a fire, anymore than the Police would go in to chase vandals. When even the urban explorers call it a "death trap" you know the building is in trouble.)
  16. No chance - it's gone beyond hard hat territory. Those are holes in the floor in those pictures (and steel ventilator caps that have fallen from the roof).
  17. It isn't. They'll want you to take photos inside and out and I doubt there's a building in Warrington that could be listed that isn't (i.e. that Historic England would list). Certainly not the Garnett buildings. HE want the tower saved but won't list it. And the average half a million pounds more to repair than end value wouldn't go near to making that site viable for redevelopment by converting the buildings.
  18. Sha, I see what you did there. There are not 60 buildings at risk. There are not 21 at risk in Bridge Street. There are over 50 listed buildings in the Conservation Areas, but "at risk" doesn't apply to every listed building in the CA. I'm not aware that any of the individual listed buildings in the Bridge Street CA are at risk; obviously the Garnett site is in a bad state but that's not listed. The reason why buildings get "at risk" isn't that hard to fathom - Historic England reckon that on average, it costs half a million pounds more to repair a building than its eventual end value (so in England that's £3bn more than the "at risk" buildings are worth - even after Heritage Lottery or other repair funding).
  19. Well, it impressed Mr Potterton my teacher. I was a bit confused; I presume you mean one can be literate without being able to write well, though some might think that pedantic. If that's not what you meant, you've obviously failed the first test of literary skill, clarity of meaning. Grey_man, O-levels were graded by numbers for some exam boards. I suppose "cover-up" has various grades too - if the person who makes the "mistake" doesn't tell anyone else, is that a cover-up? Is there even a "cover-up" until someone says, "Where are those planning records?" - if the culprits said "we don't know", that would be a cover-up. If someone senior then became complicit, that might be a cover-up. Dizzy - I've had a couple of issues where I wanted to know conditions attached to consents because of current on-street parking issues, so the problems do carry on. PJ - I don't know what this "struggle" is. I'm just defending the Council against the idea that councillors and officers don't care about heritage - or that it's easy to find an alternative use for every decrepit building (or that lottery funding for restoration is easy to get), or that Warrington has more than its fair share of fires in derelict buildings. I might have more "affinity" with the Burnage Odeon than the Warrington Odeon, but I'm not sure either was important enough to save if no viable alternative use emerged. I'm sure Trafford Council would love to find a use for the (listed) Essoldo cinema in Stretford but it's been empty 20 years. Or Manchester CC for the old fire station... - finally wrested out of the dead hand of Britannia Hotels (who, with the help of the law, resisted the Council's attempts at a CPO). Every town has its tales, good and bad, and Warrington's record with heritage is not that bad.
  20. Now that stings. Did you want the Latin plural? As I've made a goodly sum over the years from published articles (Guardian, Times, Times Ed, Independent, church press....).- and got Grade 1 English Language O-level - I'm quite happy with my literary skills. Oh, and that's not how you spell pretensions.
  21. Did you not know I lived in Stoke before coming to Warrington? It's nice for the Middleport Pottery, but not for what's left of Trentham Hall https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trentham_Estate#/media/File:Trentham_Gardens_2015_26.jpg http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2286587/Trentham-Hall-Final-remains-historic-hall-face-ruin-35m-restoration-price-tag.html http://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/historic-Stoke-Trent-building-8216-risk-8217/story-24534392-detail/story.html From the Historic England website I think Warrington has only 3 listed buildings "at risk" (plus Winwick church which is probably not at risk now having had nearly £2m spent on it). One is a barn in Culcheth, one's the transporter bridge, and one is the Drill Hall at the town hall - I'll find out what that needs doing - plus some unlisted buildings within conservation areas (Garnett works for one). The idea that Stoke is better than Warrington at saving its heritage would go down a riot in the Potteries.
  22. Sorry, I can't be bothered trying to rebut the same points over and over, but how can a development whose main buildings are offices, cinema and restaurants, possibly be described as a "retail park"? The only retail will be in the building which will house the market until Boots is converted as the new market. You can't complain Bridge Street is dead then object when the Council tries to do something about it (including saving the Boots facade). Well, yes you can object, but you need to have a proper reason for the moaning.
  23. And back to heritage... It was Mr R E Garnett who actually hinted that not everyone appreciated the tower: “Alluding to the tower which surmounted the works, Mr G said he considered it an ornament for the town. Although the building was for purely commercial purposes, they regretted if in its creation they had done anything that was not exactly in accord with their neighbours’ feelings. At the same time he thought they had not been unmindful of the possibilities of beauty”. Mrs Garnett hoped the time would come, as Kipling nearly said, "when no man would work for money or fame, but all for the joy of work" http://www.online-literature.com/kipling/918/ One of their elderly employees, W C Nicholson, said what a good firm they were to work for. Street Improvement Committee of 26 May 1903 approved Barbauld St widening and CPO of buildings to be demolished. "Corporation undertook to procure that the buildings standing upon a portion of the land 20 feet in width should be removed and that such space or so much thereof as was not then a public passage should be opened out as a public passage within 24 months thereof" (Agreement with Garnett Nov 7 1903) - Garnett paid for Barbauld St to be widened from 20 feet to 40 feet. There was talk of taking it through to Sankey St to offer an alternative parallel route to Bridge St - the properties adjacent to Trinity tower were demolished but new ones erected - though there was an abortive plan for the Corporation to acquire Trinity Church - I've not found out to what end. The local government board “do not consider the item of £37 5s, the costs incurred in negotiations (afterwards abandoned) for the acquisition of Trinity Church to be properly chargeable to a loan account". There were plenty of questions from councillors about the widening scheme (why and to whose benefit) and a big argument over the CPO. It makes our current council meetings seem quite civil, tame even. The new Victoria cabinet works (on Barbauld Street) is a 6-storeyed building 133’ long and 30’ wide. Floors range from 12’6” to 9’. Automatic extraction of all refuse from their machines and workmen’s benches direct to the boiler furnace - very sustainable! 7000 gallon tank (which provided a header for the sprinkler system). Power was provided by a gas engine – driving a dynamo for 450 lights. The architect was Edward Eccles (and his partner Woolfall), and the builder was Dolan. Oh, and just for the conspiracy theorists, the original cabinet works in Penketh burned down in 1901.....
  24. Unless we're talking about different inquiries, yes. I take it you mean the Ombudsman's report and that of the Independent barrister, but I don't know what you mean by "official reports" about the impact on policing. I think you mean that the planning department took the view that the policing issue was a neighbour dispute and not "a planning issue" - which rather missed the point that the destruction of records meant it was more difficult to know what plans had been agreed, and therefore what planning breaches could be subject to enforcement, exacerbating the problem. Having re-read the independent barrister's report, it seems there was a minute of a planning department meeting about the destruction of records - so while two officers were responsible, the then director might have known at some stage and maybe junior staff were involved in the work (not the decision). It's still a problem that however robust a whistleblowing policy is formed, it's never easy for junior staff to go against a manager's instructions. I think I'll leave the matter there, as there really is nothing to be gained by going over the ground (yet) again, and it's not exactly on-thread. No doubt some will accuse the independent barrister of a whitewash, but I've lifted a couple of his comments. I don't actually share the idea that councillors got "credit" from this affair, but it's certainly not "casual dismissal" of it. "I am equally satisfied that the assiduity and determination of Cllr Axcell and other elected councillors to get to the heart of what went wrong brings credit on them as councillors. The public has been well served by its elected representatives who in authorising this investigation have evinced a clear desire for transparency and accountability." "In addition there is absolutely no evidence of any determined 'cover –up' as suggested by some participants. The questions formulated by the participants and the evidence I have seen and heard leads me to conclude that those responsible have been identified in this report."
  25. I may respond to other stuff - and will find the stuff from the opening of the Garnett works - but this is a series of non sequiturs! Who said it was a mistake? What legal inquiry would be forced - on top of the Ombudsman's inquiry? So far as I know, only two people were involved in destroying records, and both resigned / retired. Mindful of defamation laws, who else knew and "covered it up"? I assume others had found out before it went to the Ombudsman, but would not then have commented before the inquiry.
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