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Steve Parish

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Everything posted by Steve Parish

  1. I never signed up. On reflection, if I'd thought the occasion was going to be a mirror of the ridiculous stuff on this forum, I wouldn't have wanted to be there anyway. The grammar school building I don't know about, whether it was realistic to save it and convert it to housing. It wasn't listed. As for the Garnett works, I'm already on record as saying it should all be demolished; there's no viable alternative use (and that rather proves that it's nonsense that councillors don't care about heritage because so far the plans committee has refused consent for demolition of the tower). What I've not pinned down is how much people opposed the tower when it was proposed in 1906 (which seems obvious from the defensive note Mrs Garnett struck when opening it) - complete with all the council meetings about the propriety of the deal that allowed Garnetts to widen Barbauld Street (and - wow, would you believe it? - knocking down some of Warrington's old buildings to do it....)
  2. Can't win, can we? I was going to go till you all said it would be stuffed with councillors....
  3. The problem with the Council inquiry is that - unless there's evidence of complicity that the Ombudsman hadn't unearthed - it was just inquiring into the same stuff as covered by the Ombudsman, and the conclusion was the same. Your post itself gives the salient facts. And you have highlighted the problem: "All of this happening at the behest of the head of planning shortly before his retirement. Most remarkably there was no record of the destruction in memos, emails, notes or meeting minutes." "If it was all a terrible mistake by a 'rogue employee', why was there no record..." It's not remarkable really - if you know you're acting unlawfully, would you make a record of the fact?
  4. The "extremely well managed and narrow inquiry" about the planning records was by the Ombudsman who found the Council had been guilty of maladministration. No idea what Bob Barr said, but apart from a bit of politicking (it happened under the Lib Dem/Tory watch / the staff who did it had been appointed by Labour) the response from most councillors was contrition, as the Exec Member told the Council, "We do have to accept responsibility corporately as a council. We cannot say ‘it wasn’t me guv’. We have to be big enough to say it was wrong. As a council we apologised, the ombudsman told us to apologise.” As for Walton Hall, the hotel scheme was politically a disaster for the Lib Dem/Tory administration. Labour "called in" the decision for scrutiny, and in the picture I can see the Labour leader and three people who were elected Labour councillors in 2011. http://www.warringtonguardian.co.uk/news/8218952.Walton_Hall_campaigners_out_in_force_against_hotel_plan/ What would have happened if the developers hadn't pulled out of the scheme is arguable, but the original hotel scheme was certainly opposed, and some credit would be nice for what's happened at Walton Hall under Labour, with the glasshouses saved, an extension to improve its use as a venue, and ancillary buildings to get a new lease of life: http://www.warringtonguardian.co.uk/news/where_i_live/13835335.Funding_bid_boost_for_Walton_Hall_and_Gardens/ Perhaps it should be said that if Walton Gardens and Hall were offered to us today, we'd turn it down as we couldn't afford the maintenance. The reason is not hard to fathom, I quote Bill Bryson, 20 years after his "Notes from a Small Island", how he “really, really hates this age of austerity. This is the sixth richest country in the world. We can afford to have things. When I first came here this country was much poorer, but much better looked after. Roundabouts had flowerbeds in them and things like that. There is this mania that we can’t afford things, which is not true. If we could afford it then we can certainly afford it now and as a society we can afford to put some geraniums in a planter. And if government really can’t afford to meet its bills then it should tax us more. It shouldn’t be cutting all the time and diminishing the quality of life for everybody. Many people can afford to pay more in taxes or in fees and I would rather we spent more freely and taxed more freely.”
  5. Sorry, I'd forgotten (or never knew) that was known as Beech House. Now if you'd said 31A Winwick Street.... I did go in when it was derelict, and it was in a very poor state. That in itself is no reason to demolish, but I presume the risk was real. It faced south (no Central station when it was built), and (before town planners were around to stop it) other buildings were built side on to it. Looking at Harry Wells' site, Heath House was demolished for Midland Way; with the old British Legion building on St Austins Lane (not much left after a fire), are they the only listed buildings in Warrington where, since the 1970s, the Council has actually sought demolition (for other than H&S reasons)? The point is that the accusation that the Council routinely allows "inconvenient" listed buildings to be demolished is total nonsense.
  6. No - I'll try to generalise rather than be specific about Warrington. I can see this will provoke more questions, so I'll probably not respond in further detail. There might be hundreds of "potential" sites, but for various reasons - including too close to residential property - a lot would be unsuitable. If you published the short list (which still might have dozens of sites) you worry lots of people unnecessarily, and end up with communities just highlighting the advantages of other sites not near them. It might be "transparent" but might not help objective decision-making. This seems to be the usual way councils work on this issue. Plymouth did ask for suggestions for (permanent) sites, but - if I understand it right - didn't publicise the chosen sites until they were chosen. http://www.plymouth.gov.uk/gypsytraveller_consultation.pdf http://www.plymouth.gov.uk/gypsyandtravellerssitesfaq Likewise, W Sussex: http://www.chichester.co.uk/news/local/video-mixed-views-on-westhampnett-travellers-site-1-5871666 Interesting about sellers/buyers but then you might buy and suddenly find yourself with an unauthorised encampment right next door, which the transit site would address. I can't immediately trace the Council's argument but this is Suffolk: There are no specific duties on County Councils or District and Boroughs to provide transit sites. The Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessments that took place in 2007 recognised a ‘need’ for transit provision, however, there are tangible costs associated with managing unauthorised encampments in terms of legal costs, clean up costs and officer time. …. There is a duty of care to meet the needs of the Gypsy and Traveller community, and to manage the impact on the settled communities, when unauthorised encampments appear in their localities. This should not be overlooked. Halton has a permanent site and a transit site; this is their view (in 2012) and - I've not checked - I assume the neighbouring authority is Warrington. In 2009, Halton Borough Council opened a transit site, which offers Gypsies & Travellers coming into Halton a safe place to stay where they are able to access services. Families are able to stay for a three-month period, which must be followed by three months away from the site before they can return. The transit site has greatly reduced unauthorised encampments in Halton – only 14 have occurred in the last two years and these were successfully dealt with within hours and the only associated cost was staff time. This compares favourably against a neighbouring authority without a transit site where there were over 60 unauthorised encampments over the same time period, a number of which took weeks to resolve and involved court action and the associated costs. Anyway, the Council has changed its brief so that the site can't be near residential property. That raises the definition of "near" - for Appleton residents (like Cllr Bennett) I suspect the idea of "near" might be rather broad..
  7. Sorry, what Beech House does this refer to? The Bay Horse was demolished before anyone could stop them, the Ship fell down - what's your evidence for the Council having prior knowledge? Ludicrous.
  8. About 100 of us at the Parr Hall last night for the organ concert (not bad for any organ concert according to the organist). Half of me is pleased to have such a great instrument in the town, even if it does restrict how we use the Parr Hall, but half of me says it would be better (even if for some other town's "heritage") to have it somewhere where it's played regularly, like the abortive plan to move it to Sheffield cathedral. Great story in the programme about how Mr Hopwood ordered it for Bracewell Hall as a wedding present for his organist fiancee, only for the wedding to be called off!
  9. It already had outline consent. This was just reserved matters on detail design. It's a Council scheme but committee members aren't there as rubber-stampers - you'd complain if the Council could guarantee its own planning applications would go through without a hitch. It was the back of the new building (facing a service road and the back of the Friends Meeting House) that they didn't like, because it was just a solid brick wall. Easy to add some detail, but we have a precedent in the Garnett cabinet works - with a 50' high solid brick wall facing Cairo Street Unitarian church... As for Boots, after years of hoping for an alternative use, the scheme means we retain the facade and it eventually becomes the new market. The market in the meantime moves into the new building (the one knocked back by the committee) then the old market can be demolished for the new council offices, so the Council can leave New Town House (which is leased). What happens to NTH remains to be seen. The temporary market building is then available for retail outlets.
  10. They could enlarge it easily. Take in Lower Walton over the Ship Canal, rather than tack it onto Bewsey & Whitecross ward, which is a bizarre suggestion from the commission. As Paul points out, it's historically part of Walton.
  11. Wrong again... The application 2014/23050 didn't appear on the interactive map but it was approved last year, for "supported living accommodation for vulnerable adults with a range of mental, learning and physical disabilities. The service users will not only have the benefit of their own apartment, but will also have 24 hour support on site, provided by Lifeways, a domiciliary support provider."
  12. No planning application it seems for conversion to apartments. "Thanks" to the Government's recent planning changes, conversion of shops/offices to residential may not need change of use but it still needs prior notification. I'll check.
  13. You'd think so, but in case you hadn't noticed, we just had an election which will mean local authorities will have less money for everything including public transport. Not much, and general subsidy for bus services wasn't part of it. The orbital (17) route didn't really fulfil its promise of linking employment sites with across the north of town (the bit from Callands to Birchwood carried few passengers) so without that funding element, it's been cut back to just a cross-town service (effectively an 18 on the west side and the old 24 route on the east). That's one of the reasons behind the loss of passeengers - the ideal is a "hub" operation between the town centre (where people work) to suburbs where people live, but there are so many out-of-town office / work areas now that it's impossible to put on buses to multiple "hubs". www.warrington.gov.uk/download/downloads/id/3038/lstf_executive leads to the list of the LSTF projects. Most seem to be completed or in hand.
  14. Sorry, I confused the original loan ("bail-out") with last year's short-term loan. The latter (being short term) has been completely repaid, the earlier loan is being repaid on schedule (rather than has been repaid).
  15. The so-called "bail out" was £650,000 two years ago, on a fixed repayment schedule of which 40% has been repaid. A short-term overdraft of £500,000 last year has already been repaid in full. In the context of the Council's historic capital investment in the company, that's not that big a deal. When set up 30 years ago the company had a £600,000 debenture loan from the Council (within the Department of Transport guidance for municipal bus companies) and further loans made to buy new buses. These were repaid around 10 years ago (originally due 2001) then out of profits the company actually made some dividend payments to the Council, before the recession and other factors led to a national decrease in bus patronage, and the difficulties that meant reduced services and higher fares. (Several local small companies have gone to the wall.) What is unquantifiable is the benefit the Council (and the public) gets from having a company that does run a service at "marginal" times when the "big boys" would not, who would leave the Council to pay for "socially necessary" services. A conservative estimate is that that's worth half a million pounds a year - but as the Council doesn't have that sort of dosh to spend on subsidising services, that would mean lots more cuts in services. I may well decline to go further into detail - anyone can look at the company's published accounts.
  16. Network Warrington has repaid the "bail-out" (i.e. loan). Interesting that the press picked up on the loan in the council agendas but not its repayment. Anyone can register a bus service. Stagecoach started with two buses. The council can pay a company to run a few early morning or evening services on their daytime commercial routes but other "socially-necessary" services have to be tendered. Coachways got the Burtonwood/Westbrook 33 route contract but went bust, Tanseys took over, but they relinquished it recently at short notice so NW has been asked to take it over. One hopes the good people of Dallam and Bewsey (and those going to the hospital) will avoid an out-of-town company (even without the drivers' convictions). Councillors who are directors on municipal bus company boards are not paid for being directors.
  17. There's a serious question about whether using water to clean stuff for recycling is environmentally beneficial, but if you can't afford to use a bit of water to rinse out containers before they go in the blue bin, you must be very poor. As for "Labour Council cuts" - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/9770908/Tory-shires-in-revolt-over-cuts.html http://www.theguardian.com/society/patrick-butler-cuts-blog/2014/dec/18/council-cuts-local-tories-lead-criticism-as-savings-hit-vital-services "It's a basic right for every English man and woman to be able to put the remnants of their chicken tikka masala in their bin without having to wait a fortnight for it to be collected." (Eric Pickles earns the prize for daftest quote of the last Parliament)
  18. All plastics can be recycled but this is why we only recycle some plastics: To ensure value for money, councils are able to recycle more plastic per pound spent on the recycling scheme by collecting plastic containers only. Only collecting plastic containers reduces contamination from different types of plastic and ensures high grade material that can be recycled. Plastic containers are relatively dense and compact which enables them to be easily sorted mechanically, into the different types of plastics. Plastic film and bags are not easily mechanically sorted making them very costly to sort. Plastic film and bags are much more likely to be contaminated with food waste and as a result market demand for these mixed plastics is currently limited and less secure.
  19. I'm not sure we'll give them listed building consent for that. Stepped copings in artificial stone? Even if it looks like there were previous repairs in modern brick that's no excuse.
  20. I emailed our planning enforcement (with a pic lifted from here) at midnight last night (case ENF/15/04804) but it's Paul's ward so he can sort it! Not sure EH will be rushing round - they tend to leave it to local action unless it's Grade II* or Grade I. Peel may want to pretend it's "temporary" - and WBC is certainly telling them that can only be temporary until they get listed building consent for a proper repair. Apart from notifying EH, Paul's been speaking to senior management at Peel so we hope Peel now do the right thing - unauthorised work to a listed building is a criminal offence. And just undoing that mess will be costly - It's wrong brick, wrong bond, wrong mortar. I'd be interested in the lorry insurer's correspondence with Peel - I suspect they'll not be keen to pay for a temporary and a proper repair!
  21. I'm still smarting from those who misread my post (possibly some deliberately) in which I asked a reasonable question about how much you'd want the Council to spend restoring a bridge with no modern function, whether it might be moved somewhere it could be of use (I have no idea where), and then said "Seriously" to point out that if it were a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that might unlock money to save it just for its pure heritage value. Anyway, I said I'd ask questions. Here's some answers. Cheshire County Council took over the bridge, so when Warrington went unitary we had to buy it (for one pound). I haven't unearthed the terms on which Cheshire took it on (and why). Our engineer says it is still structurally sound (even though English Heritage have it "at risk" because of "deteriorating ironwork"). The Council will look at having it painted - but I'm not saying I'd vote for that without knowing the cost. Using the new epoxy paint, the Forth Bridge cost £130m to paint... but that is 1.5 miles long and our bridge is one-fortieth as long... it may not be an exact comparison! If I've got the stats right, Forth Bridge is 50,000 tons of steel, Newport transporter bridge is 1,000 tons and ours about a third that size, so even at 1/150 it's a big six-figure sum for a lick of paint... BBC interviewed Andy Farrall for 15 minutes so don't judge what he said by the ten seconds they showed.
  22. Sorry folks, but once again serious debate descends into abuse - I said I couldn't see a way the bridge could be of use, and while I'm not certain it seems PJ can't think of a way either. So I've given on this thread; I'll engage instead with the group trying to save the bridge.
  23. I will ask about the terms of the lease, and the chances of external funding, but I resent the nonsense that my reply was "callous", a "disgrace" or in any way showed a disregard for the town's heritage (especially from those unwilling to answer my simple question about how much of your money you want your council to throw at it). In just one case, I've spent time researching the history of a Victorian terrace (not listed) that's under threat, trying to retain it. But I'm a realist, and frankly it's easier to get heritage funding when repairs become urgent (i.e. you can get funding to prevent its loss but not to maintain it in the first place). The Council's policy is "to recognise the significance and value of historic assets by identifying their positive influence on the character of the environment and an area's sense of place; their ability to contribute to economic activity and act as a catalyst for regeneration; and their ability to inspire the design of new development". That's the policy but I see no way that the bridge "could contribute to economic activity and act as a catalyst for regeneration", which means millions would be spent to conserve it merely for its own sake (and then to maintain it at an annual cost to the good citizens of Warrington). All suggestions for some use that will not make it forever a burden to us will be gratefully received. Just keep it real.
  24. Wow - nothing like demanding an instant response...
  25. It's one of 3 in the UK. There are 5 more around the world. It's in my ward, so let me consult you. So how much of your money do you want your council to spend? Newport's cost £3m in 1995 to re-open, and another £2m to repair in 2011. Middlesbrough's has cost £6m in the last 5 years. And both those serve some purpose. Here we're talking about a redundant works bridge with no modern use whatsoever. A tourist attraction like the Angel of the North? Give over. Best bet would be to do the Auf Wiedersehen Pet thing and move it somewhere else where it could be useful. Seriously, unless there's some heritage funding out there, I'm not sure how renovation could be justified. There's a suggestion that the three UK bridges should be made a world heritage site. That might do it.
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