Tragedy on Hermitage Hill

Following the recent fatal accident on Hermitage Hill, the obvious question is:

Could this tragic accident have been avoided if Shirehall had honoured their commitment to reduce the speed limit from 60 to 30mph?

Whilst it is premature to jump to conclusions before all the facts are known, I cannot help but feel that in all probability, this fatality could have been avoided if Shirehall had implemented the speed limit reduction scheme as promised.  Instead, they deferred the scheme for three years, before effectively throwing it back into the melting pot last year.

The fact is that two families will have been devastated by this tragic accident, wherever the blame lies.

My heart goes out to the family & friends of everybody involved in this accident, at what can only be a very difficult time.

It is high time that Shirehall implemented this scheme in full. How many more fatalities will there have to be before they take action?

Tesco’s Plans rejected

On Monday BDC’s Planning committee rejected the application by Tesco’s for a second store in Bridgnorth. This is a victory for the vitality of Bridgnorth as a market town. Tesco’s would have posed a serious threat to the local traders in Bridgnorth.

If the Planning Committee had approved the plan it would have undermined a host of retailers in the High Street, not only through direct competition, but also by reducing car parking capacity.

As a tourist town Bridgnorth needs to increase capacity not reduce it. Until capacity is increased traders in Bridgnorth will have to operate under a glass ceiling.

I have argued that Bridgnorth needs a low-rise multi-storey car park. With one level underground, ground level & one upper level, the visual impact would be minimal. This is common place on the continent and elsewhere in the UK.

I have obtained figures which show that it would be feasible to build a car park at no cost to the council tax payer. Unfortunately BDC have not furnished me with the information that I need to take this idea to the next level. Probably due to sensitivity about the Tesco’s & Sainsbury’s applications they refused to supply the information that I requested. Perhaps now that the Tesco application has been resolved I will be able to progress this further.

It remains to be seen whether or not Tesco will appeal to have the decision over turned. Unlikely, in my view. It also remains open to them to submit another application which overcomes the committees objections.

Enjoyable Raft Race

Julie & I enjoyed a great day watching Bridgnorth Raft Race. We started the day in Ironbridge. Below you will see some of the my photos as the rafts went beneath The Ironbridge – avoiding the pelted water bombs & eggs from spectators. Some of the rafts got their own back by hurling the same at the crowds on the river bank.

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Promise The Earth

As World Environment Day, 5th June 2006, looms large it is time to ‘talk the talk’ and make 1 to 10 pledges to save the environment. From simply leaving the tap off whilst brushing your teeth, through car sharing, to organising / volunteering for an environmental project.

Please support the campaign by clicking Environment Agency's WED pledge Sitehere
for the Environment Agency’s WED pledge website. Even a small pledge, when taken together,  can make a huge difference.

Read more about the UN’s World Environment Day here

Congratulations on 101 success

Can I congratulate all of the Residents of Bridgnorth who have supported the 101 service. The usage for service has more than trebled in four years.

As Liberal Democrats we campaigned on behalf of residents to restore the Town Bus service when the service was axed. Residents launched a petition, lobbied Kit Sheldon, myself, BDC and and Shirehall to get the service restored. The Town Council set-up a transport sub-group with Kit, myself, Ben Jephcott and Philip Cookson to work with Ben Walker (then BDC rural transport co-ordinator) and Tim Wastling from Shirehall to look at transport in Bridgnorth. A particular emphasis was placed on restoring the town service.

After some careful deliberation the 101 service was implemented, with an increased route into Lodge Farm, new smaller low floor buses, better information and promotion of the new service.

From the start take up has been good. Bus journeys have increased from 462 in the last quarter of 2001 – a considerable improvement on the axed service – to 2074 in the same period of 2005. Almost a 450% improvement. This service is the most improved service in the County. LibDems have long held out that if you lay on a service that is fast, efficient, convenient, reliable and affordable then people will use it. In contrast the Conservatives only alternative to a failing service is to axe the subsidy or cut the service. Instead of addressing the reasons why a service is failing they cut the service & isolate vulnerable members of the community.

The service continues to grow with Officers considering an extension first mention by myself some years ago to move the route from The Hookfield to run up The Queensway & Princess Drive instead. This route would increase the reach of the service making it more accessible for people living on the Queensway Estate. However, this route has it’s own problems with potential conflict between a bus & parked cars occurring outside the Stars newsagent.

Tim Wastling, Shirehalls principle transport co-ordinator is asking residents to contact him with their views on the service and or the extension arround the Queensway estate. You can reach Tim by phoning Shirehall on (01743) 251000.

Bridgnorth District Local Plan

So the Local Plan has been assessed by the Planning Inspector, with some mixed messages for Bridgnorth District & for the Council.

The Inspector considered over 2000 representations, amounting to 1687 objections.

In Summary, the number of houses required to be built under the plan has been drastically reduced and the time frame for their construction has also been extended (2016).

The impact on Tasley has been reduced with the allocation either side of Church Lane deleted. The remaining allocation between Wenlock Rd and the by-pass has had it’s quota increased from 190 to 300 dwellings. The reference to the proportion of affordable housing being sought on allocations has been deleted. To offset some of this the Inspector has supported allocating the College site for a hotel & housing.

Whilst it greaves me to be loosing the college, having campainged to keep a constructive presensence in Bridgnorth, I do recognise that there is a massive demand for Hotel Accomodation in Bridgnorth. This site is a prime site for a Hotel which will pick up passing trade, allow us to ratain vissitors for longer and bring more vissitors to Bridgnorth. We need to recognise that Bridgnorth is a tourist town and do everything we can to increase our all year round capacity for tourism. Building a large hotel will go some way to securing this. However, traders in Bridgnorth will have an effective glass ceiling on their ambitions until the District Council increases car parking capacity.

If the College is to dissapear I would have prefered to see the mixture of economic development, affordable housing & cultural use advocated by John Gorman. The eventual development of housing will be welcome as long as there is a sufficient allocation of affordable housing.

In my view, the Wenlock Rd news is good news for two reasons:

  1. Increased density will mean more affordable houses. A developer will still want to build big houses for profit, but they also have to build more smaller unity in-order to achieve the required density.
  2. Less green field land will be swallowed up by development

Local residents may not take the same view as they will loose the green field and some of the view that they have come to know and love. However, if the truth be told, this site was destined for infilling with houses as soon as the by-pass was built regardless of what anybody said to the contrary at the time.

I have long argued that the percentage allocation for affordable housing needs to be much higher in Bridgnorth. For several years, Bridgnorth has seen a decline in the proportion of affordable housing. We needed a strong corrective response in order to restore the balance. For too long we have seen in-fill after in-fill development build large houses, whilst property prices have shot up. The shortage of supply, increased commuting to work from Bridgnorth & people moving here to retire, has rendered many people unable to get on to the property ladder. First-time buyers are an increasingly rare sight in Bridgnorth.

With an ageing population Bridgnorth and large dormitory population Bridgnorth is rapidly becoming unsustainable. This is only compounded further by Bridgnorth District Council’s poor record on Economic Development in Bridgnorth. If Bridgnorth is to have thriving local facilities & services it needs strong investment in Economic Develoment, Culture & Tourism to create quality jobs locally. 

Confused Conservatives

The Conservatives on BDC are confused bunch. Earlier in this month the administration group split. A new group was formed called the Independent & Conservative Alliance. The new admin includes 11 from the previous admin leaving 6 of the old admin members behind in the Conservatives with Independents group. After a farcical, bitter & vitriolic power struggle at annual council we have a Tories in administration & opposition. We have Chairmen who don’t have a positive endorsement of Council – Ed Shirley won Resources & Finance with 16 votes in favor, with 18 abstentions!

We have also have Conservatives voting all over the shop with regards to increasing the recycling rate to 90%. Having just voted in favor of 80% and only buying one vehicle, on Wednesday this week, they voted in support of a call from LibDem & Independent members to move to 90% and buying two vehicles. If only they had gotten their heads out of the sand 18 months ago we could have already reached this target.

What an appalling state of affairs

We the wheels have finally fallen of the Labour Government. Rats in a sack springs to mind. You wait for ages for the spin machine at number 10 to mess up, and then, just like waiting for a bus 3 come along at once.

The scale of the damage for Labour will not become clear until the local election results are declared next week. With the last two polls have shown Labour at a 19 year low, Labour party chiefs were already bracing themselves for a good whipping next Thursday. The talk was that they were expecting about 150 losses. Now after ‘Shambolic Wednesday’ they must be dreading those declarations. This is ‘manna from heaven’ for the opposition parties. However, The Conservatives must be worried that they will miss out on next Thursday’s bonanza. The latest Mori poll has shown Labour votes moving to the LibDems. Labour has fallen 9% in a month, the Tories are down 4% and the LibDems are up 6%.

The results next week look to be very interesting indeed. Shooting fish in a barrel according to some reports. Tonight’s Moray by-election might give us a clue.

Hermitage Hill speed delayed – possibly indefinitely

Over the last few years I have reported on the campaign to introduce traffic calming & speed reduction measures for the B4363, Hermitage Hill in Bridgnorth. In 2002 options for introducing a speed limit were consulted on. After deliberation as local member I signed of on the scheme full expecting the immanent arrival of the scheme.

In December 2004 I was dismayed to learn that the scheme would be scaled back. A much reduced level of commitment was proposed due to funding difficulties. The new proposal was to introduce a 30mph limit just above the junction with lodge lane. From there up the hill the road would remain at the national speed limit. As previously reported on my website I was grateful for some sign of progress but would not be happy until the whole scheme was fully implemented. The new proposal presented its own difficulties as vehicles coming down the hill would not get enough warning about the new speed limit.

The original scheme was consigned once again to stagnate as a ‘service request’, to be investigated and prioritised against other requests, with no guarantee it would be implemented. But at least the 30mph signs were on there way.

For three consecutive years I had been fobbed off with promises that the scheme would be implemented in that financial year. The new 30mph signs were supposed to have appeared in the then current 2004/2005 financial year. Here we are nearly at the end of the 2005/2006 financial year and those same signs have still not materialised. Today I have learnt that even those 30mph signs has also been consigned to a ‘service request’.

To say I am disappointed is an understatement. We have had serious collisions by the junction with Lodge Lane. Several years ago pensioners reported to the Annual Town Meeting, at St Mary’s school, of terrifying incidents where HGVs had nearly collided with their car when exiting the junction. It is high time there was some serious action at this extremely dangerous junction.

A442 Quatford speed limit update

I am pleased to reported that the speed reduction proposed for the A442 through Quatford is out to consultation with the Police. Once Shirehall have received the views of the Police they will make any required modifications and then go out to formal public consultation. Although this is somewhat later than I had anticipated.

Recent accidents in Quatford have only heightened the sense of urgency for this scheme to be implemented. I hope the Police take a positive position on the proposal so that this vital scheme can be implemented as soon as possible. However, considering that the original intention was “have works completed on site during the current financial year” I feel somebody needs to step up a gear.

The proposal is to reduce the speed limit through Quatford from 50 to 40mph. The move by Shirehall was announced during the build-up to the 2005 elections as part of a wider review of speeds limits along the A442.

The campaign to reduce the speed limit through Quatford village has been going for several years. My involvement started when I became a Councillor in 1999 lobbying the County Council on behalf of residents. The wider A442 campaign has been spearheaded by LibDem Councillor Colin Taylor of Alveley, former Ludlow MP, Matthew Green and myself after a number of serious accidents along the A442.

Whilst a member of SCC I participated in a scrutiny review of village speed limits. The aim of the review was to ensure more speed limit projects were implemented. The historical position had been that there were massive delays in the whole programme. Largely brought about by excessive demands from the Police that schemes should be ‘self enforcing’. This meant even the most simple of projects had to have masses of highly expensive red tarmac and traffic calming measures, pushing costs through the roof and preventing many worthy scheme from seeing the light of day.

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