Tuesday, 2 August 2016

M56 Jn12-14 closures planned to repair Weaver Viaduct

Highways England are planning to make repairs to the joints in the Weaver Viaduct and carry out resurfacing of that part of the Motorway.  This will mean the motorway will be closed whilst the works are carried out - however the aim at the moment is for the works to be carried out at night between 20:00 and 06:00.

 The dates for closures are currently

·         Friday 30th September
·         Monday 3rd October
·         Tuesday 4th October
·         Wednesday 5th October

Note - all closures will be in operation from 20:00 to 06:00
There may be a requirement to close the M56 on a further 2 occasions toward the end of August / early September but are waiting for further information from Highways England on these dates.

Two separate diversion routes will be signposted one will be for high sided vehicles.  

Friday, 29 July 2016

CWaC Labour's flip flop on fracking

You couldn't make it up.

The CWaC Labour manifesto on which they were elected in May 2015 said they would introduce a moratorium on fracking if they were elected.

Having made that promise to the Borough's electorate and having narrowly won power the ruling Labour Group had the embarrassment of the Borough Council's Monitoring Officer telling them that it would be unlawful for such a policy to be adopted by the council.

If that wasn't bad enough the council's cabinet has just approved for public consultation Part II of the draft local plan.  It is this part of the plan that contains the policies that will regulate exploration and extraction of novel hydrocarbons (including by fracking).

When the policies were debated in draft at the Local Plan Working Group I argued strongly that the policies proposed were not strong enough.  I wanted to see explicit protection of the environment written into the policies - and crucially a policy that explicitly sought out and gave the local community the decisive say when it came to deciding whether such developments should go ahead.

Well, whilst the officers did take on board some of my concerns - and they did amend the draft policies and strengthen them somewhat, but they did not, in my view go far enough.

When the draft policies were considered by the Cabinet on 20 July I pointed out Labour's fracking moratorium embarrassment, how their original draft policies had been partially strengthened by my amendments - but that they had not gone far enough.  I suggested to them that they should have courage - and reject that aspect of the draft plan.

So did they rise to the occasion?  Did they reject this aspect of the draft plan?

They decided to go out for 6 weeks public consultation - almost certainly over the summer when many of us will be going away and when many town and parish councils don't have meetings.

A good time to bury bad news perhaps?

If you'd like to see what happened at the Cabinet on 20 July you can find the video on the council's website following this link 

Just scroll down to item 9 and watch.  Item 9 is about more than fracking by the way!

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Windfarm liaison panel meeting

We had a meeting of the Frodsham wind farm liaison panel last night.  A number of issues were raised:

  1. Peel say the turbines will be completed by the end of July - but the electrical commissioning won't take place until the end of September.  At the moment all the Frodsham turbines have been erected.  Whilst they are currently rotating slowly in the wind they are not operational yet.  There are 11 turbines erected so far with 8 more to go.  All the remaining turbines will be in front of Helsby.  The only further development at the Frodsham end will be an 80m anemometer mast.  This will have weather sensors attached to it.  It will be a lattice construction which is expected to be 'lost' when looking towards Ineos.  There are another 24 abnormal loads to go!  
  2. The target is for all the remaining turbines to be completed by the end of July.  There have been weather delays - and Peel are looking for co-operation from CWaC and local residents to extend the working hours on site as a means of dodging bad weather.  This has been tried informally already without any complaints so we can expect working on into the evening when the weather is good.
  3. The work on the access tracks is now on hold until all the remaining construction and commissioning works are completed.  The roadway contractors will return later and restore the roadways.
  4. Peel have a habitat creation group led by their consultants Atmos looking to preserve and enhance the bird habitats.  The RSPB have requested an environmental improvement scheme to create small scrapes for wetland birds.  However they have not been formally engaged - but discussions are continuing.  Atmos have found that the birds have not been disturbed by the erection of the turbines and that birds are nesting - including the rare marsh harrier.   Peel's planning permission requires them to monitor the wildlife in the vicinity of the windfarm over the lifespan of the windfarm.  Peel will be looking for consultants to do this work shortly.
  5. Peel have found that the special protection area birds are declining - but this is believed to be a naturally occurring phenomenon.  The Eurasian Marsh Harrier (a protected species) is seemingly nesting quite happily in the midst of the windfarm and the construction activity.  The precise location of where the marsh harrier is nesting is not being publicised.
  6. Peel have asked that anyone engaging in birdwatching confine themselves to the permissive rights of way.  They have requested that people not stalk the birds wearing camouflage in the reeds where they potentially put themselves at risk in meeting cranes of the mechanical not feathered variety!
  7. We talked about the complaints procedures that Peel have.  There are specific complaint routes for issues such as noise, flicker, interference with tv reception and the like.  We will receive a particular briefing on these arrangements at a later meeting.  We heard about a complaint that has been received complaining about the brightness of the turbines.
  8. I raised national cycle route 5 and the desire for it to be upgraded.  Peel have met with CWaC officers over public rights of way on the marshes.  I raised the importance of safe routes to school and made suggestions how that could be done.  Peel have promised to engage about this issue. They have plans to upgrade some of the routes on the marshes. I emphasised that they could assist safe cycling to Helsby High School by facilitating other routes too.  We were all in agreement that creating a web of safe cycling routes to Helsby High School from Frodsham, Helsby and Elton would be a benefit to all the communities.
  9. I also raised the issue of the community benefit fund, it's management and, crucially its transparency.  We are to have a briefing at a later meeting.  I'm told that the management documentation is with lawyers at the moment.
  10. School liaison meetings- children will be given a chance to learn more at meetings at Forest Hills Hotel in Frodsham - where they will be able to see the array 'in full.'

If you want any further information do look at the Frodsham wind farm website.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Protos Community Forum - AGM and business meeting

Today we've had the latest Protos Community Forum AGM and a business meeting.  Protos - if you haven't noticed before - is the new name for Peel Environmental Ince Resource Recovery Park.  'Protos' is Greek for first.

Everyone in Frodsham should have had a letter drop from Protos.  If you haven't you can find out information online at thisisprotos.com .  You can also find some photographs and drone footage of the development site there too.

The latest news is that Peel have started the ground works including their associated road works, drainage and sewer works for their massive 126 acre (51 ha) development site.  The biomass development site is also under construction.  The 85m stack will be constructed in July.  Interestingly they are pondering whether to build the building and install the plant - or install the plant and then build the building around it.

Covanta have renewed their interest in an energy from waste scheme - albeit on a smaller scale than before.  You and I would describe both these developments as incinerators. 

The Air Quality monitoring equipment will be in place and operational in mid September this year - a year ahead of the likely commissioning date for the incinerator.

An application for planning permission for this Covanta scheme is likely to go before CWaC's planning committee in the autumn.

Peel will also be seeking amendments to their planning permission for plot 3 - their timber recycling plot soon.

I raised concerns regarding national cycle route 5 ('NCR 5') which passes through plot 4 on the site.  NCR 5 is to be diverted as part of the works.  I've asked for Peel to co-ordinate with their wind farm colleagues and look to enhance the quality of the cycle routes over the Frodsham and Ince marshes.

At the AGM we agreed that representatives from Thornton-Le-Moors can join the community forum.  Thornton has around 260 residents.  I raised the need to ensure that when it comes to discussing the community benefit fund arising from the Protos developments that we ensure that the larger communities such as Frodsham and Helsby don't lose out just because they have larger Town and Parish councils - and thus many fewer Councillors per head than small communities such as Ince and Thorton etc.  That will be on the agenda at the next meeting.

Peel were challenged as to their use of local contractors and their support of local apprentices both during the construction and operational phase of their sites.  This is an issue that will continue to be raised with Peel I'm sure.

The wind farm was mentioned - all the turbines are set to be erected by the end of July.  The Frodsham turbines are all erected.  Work on the Helsby turbines continues.  The recent poor weather has delayed their construction.   Each turbine will be individually commissioned later this year.

We learnt that there are proposals to build a standby electricity generation site alongside the fertiliser plant.  Apparently this will be a gas fired installation able to generate electricity on very short notice - no doubt balancing when the wind doesn't blow.

I raised fracking at the forum and asked Peel Energy directly what their position was.  Curiously seismic testing didn't take place on the Helsby part of the wind farm sites.  Peel Energy did, in contrast, allow their land to be tested - as did the Ship Canal company (another Peel entity).

Peel confirmed that they would permit it to take place on their land.  I enquired whether they would permit it even if the local community were opposed to it?  I've asked that Peel consider this question over the summer and return to the forum in September with a considered answer.

I also asked whether Peel would agree to open these community forum meetings up to the public either directly or via web casting.  This will be debated at our next meeting in September.

One of the interesting side benefits of meeting at the Ellesmere Port Boat Museum is watching the traffic on the ship canal.  

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Celebrating Cancer Research UK's 25 years in Frodsham

I was honoured and delighted to be invited by Angela Close Cancer Research UK's shop manager in celebrating the charity's close connection with Frodsham over 25 years and to meet some of their volunteers who have served in the shop for all of those 25 years!

Sarah Loughran, the Area Manager presented flowers, badges and letters of commendation.

The Eddisbury Square shop is one of the charity's most successful shops.  Over the 25 years it has raised a staggering £2.3 million pounds.  Each week they receive around 300 bags of donations as well as gifts of money.  They receive so much that the donations in Frodsham support the many of the charity's shops on Merseyside.

I had great fun talking to the staff and hearing them talk of the official opening, all those years ago, performed by Ken Dodd!  The ladies told me that, originally they cleaned and ironed the clothes themselves before putting them on sale.  It was fun hearing them reminisce - including their reminiscences of my mother-in-law who was a volunteer at the shop for many years.