Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Air Quality Forum - Mersey Estuary - a new relationship with Industry?

Professor Lathom's independent report devising an Air Quality monitoring regime for Frodsham, Helsby, Elton and Ince if the Ince incinerators are built has been released.  I have asked for it to be published on the Frodsham Town Council website.  When it goes up I will publish the link to it.  It is worth reading!

Professor Lathom was instructed by the Independent Air Quality Forum to review the present sources of air pollution in and around the Mersey Estuary and to devise a monitoring regime to detect any polluting impacts that the planned incinerators may have.  This is exactly what he has done.

The Air Quality Forum is made up of local residents, councillors and expert officers from CWaC and the Environment Agency.  Peel are also in attendance as they are footing the bill.   None of us on the forum are stooges or apologists for Peel - in fact so far as Peel is concerned I suspect most of us are viewed as being in the 'awkward squad.'  I wonder whether if it wasn't for the brow beating that Cllr Lynn Riley and I gave Peel and their partners Covanta we wouldn't have won the concession of this forum with Peel footing the bill.

In essence if Peel build their incinerators, then, well in advance of them being commissioned the air quality monitoring stations would be established and would collect data on an ongoing basis.  This background information could then be used to judge whether there had been any changes to air quality as a consequence of their development 'going live.'

When discussing the sites of the proposed monitoring stations a consensus was reached that we should look to use local schools as ideal monitoring sites.

I am constantly telling both industry and our regulators that both need to do much more to build confidence in the local community.  We are all cynical around the estuary having had unpopular developments such as these incinerators and the wind farm forced on us and this independent Air Quality Forum is one of our first tentative steps in getting industry and the regulators to approach the community in a different way.

Everyone from Government, the regulators such as the Environment Agency and industry needs to do more to provide accurate facts and information to local communities so they can make up their own minds about what is next door.  The model of an independent forum instructing independent experts directly and receiving advice from these experts independently of both industry and the regulators is, in my view a sensible step.

To be fair to Peel, when the community representatives asked for additional air monitoring - beyond that initially recommended by Professor Lathom as being necessary - they agreed and will, if their development goes ahead be footing all the costs.

From everyone's perspective this makes sense.

Peel are confident that their incinerators will not be polluting - but they also accept that the community may not believe them.  So paying for air quality monitoring that goes beyond that likely to be required by their environmental permit is a price worth paying for them and may show that what they say can be believed.

For the community, having access to independent monitoring and independent expert advice is a vital step in building confidence that either everything will be safe, or that if something is awry that it will be detected.  There will also be a stronger chance that appropriate action would be taken if there is additional monitoring.  It also means that the community can watch how the Environment Agency responds too in such an eventuality.

Not all industry around the estuary has 'got it' yet.  Ineos are set to burn Greater Manchester's waste shortly in their incinerator - but as yet they have not agreed to join in funding enhanced air quality monitoring.

Most of us living in and around the estuary have lived with 'heavy industry' for years.  We want good relations with them, we want to be respected by industry and for industry to be a good neighbour to us.  Being a good neighbour means acting safely, respecting and looking after our health and wellbeing and treasuring our environment.  Industry needs to prove that what it is doing or planning to do is safe and accept that we won't necessarily take their word for it.  Paying for independent advice, to advise the community independently strikes me as a sensible way forward.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Frodsham Town Council - by-election Frodsham West ward

Are you community minded?  Are you willing to help Frodsham?  Well there is a vacancy to fill.  There is a by-election for Frodsham Town Council - west ward.

If you are interested in standing for election do make sure you read the Notice of Poll.

If you want to learn more about the Town Council - speak to any town councillor - or John Wild our Town Clerk - 01928 735150.  John will also be able to put you in touch with the Cheshire West and Chester Council officers who are running the election for the Town Council.

If you want to stand you will need to submit your completed nomination papers to Cheshire West and Chester Council by 12 noon on 15 August 2013.

If there is a contested election (in other words more than one candidate puts in valid nomination papers) the election will take place on 12 September 2013.


Planning Update

If one judges the state of the economy by the number of planning applications then there is really strong evidence that things are on the up.  CWaC is handling many more planning applications at the moment.  We have our share of them in Frodsham - and some of them are controversial.

Unless you have experience of the planning system it can be confusing - so here, in brief is a quick overview of the system here in Frodsham at the moment.

With the exception of national infrastructure schemes - which are decided by Government Ministers (eg windfarm permission granted by Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey (Lib-Dem)) or planning appeals which are decided by planning inspectors or in the case of larger schemes by Government Ministers (eg Ince Resource Recovery Park under Labour) all planning applications are submitted to Cheshire West and Chester Council ('CWaC') and it is for CWaC to determine them.

'Determine' in a planning application context means 'to decide.'  In other words the decision is taken by CWaC.

CWaC planning officers are responsible for 'validating' all applications (ie checking the formalities have been complied with and the fee paid), determining who should receive 'neighbour notifications' and evaluating the applications.

CWaC planning officers also send out details of the applications to 'statutory consultees' - these are the bodies that are entitled to be told of the planning application.  These statutory consultees vary on the type of the application and its location.  Some of the consultees are other deparments within CWaC - such as highways.  All applications in Frodsham are sent to Frodsham Town Council.  FTC can express an opinion to CWaC about these applications.

All planning applications are published by CWaC on the web - you can find the planning portal very easily by searching on Google for 'Cheshire West planning portal.'  Anyone can make comments and representations about a planning application directly on the web - or by writing to CWaC.  Please note that all representations made are published for everyone to read.

The vast majority of small scale uncontroversial planning applications are determined by CWaC officers.  The more controversial are decided at a Planning Committee made up of CWaC councillors.

Each Borough councillor - in Frodsham Lynn Riley and me - have the right to call-in any planning application for determination by the planning committee.  We have to exercise this right within 28 days of the application being published.

At the planning committee the applicant and representative objectors can addresss the planning committee.  Lynn and I can address the committee too as ward councillors.  All CWaC planning committee meetings are broadcast live on the web if you want to watch what is happening without having to attend the planning committee yourself.  Anyone is entitled to attend a planning committee meeting.

Do please let either Lynn or me (or both of us) know about any planning application you are concerned about and we can discuss what representations can be made and whether or not to call it in or seek to persuade officers that a matter should be heard by the committee.

I have called in 2 current planning applications for consideration by the planning committee they are:

  • 13/02874/S73   Removal of condition 1 of planning permission 12/01321/COU (change of use of land to use a residential caravan site for one Gypsy family, with 4 caravans, including one static mobile home, hardstanding and access improvements) to allow permanent occupation of the site. Brown Ridings Bradley Lane Frodsham Cheshire
'I wish to call this planning application in to the planning committee on the grounds that the application is of great interest to the local community and is a matter of local controversy. 

The original, recent grant of temporary planning permission was itself a matter of significant controversy locally. The application to make the land use permanent will, when knowledge of the planning application becomes better known also be a matter of significant local controversy. This site is in green belt, and is, in my view an inappropriate use in this location. CWaC is making significant strides in bringing forward permanent residential sites for Gypsies and Travellers meaning that there is even less justification for this type of development.

I reserve the right to add to these submissions both in writing and at the planning committee.'
  • 13/01647/FUL    Land At 64 Howey Lane Frodsham - 2 detached dwellings
'I would like this matter called in to the planning committee for determination.
There is significant local concern about this proposed development. Most of the concerns relate to the design of the proposed dwellings, the fact that they are no in-keeping with the area and that they could be seen as detrimental to the near-by conservation area. They can be seen as a controversial design.
Given this I do believe this application is best dealt with in front of a planning committee where all parties can put their views forward.
I do take the view that the proposed development is contrary to the Frodsham Town Design Statement - and its desire to resist sub-division of plots on Howey Lane. The fact that the dwellings will have little garden land of their own, in contrast to the existing layout suggests an urbanisation of this area - and demonstrates that the proposal is not in keeping with the area.
I agree with the views of the Landscape Team - but come to a different conclusion - in the sense that the development proposals should be rejected and that conditions are insufficient to mitigate against the adverse impact.
I believe that there are concerns regarding privacy for those on Netherton Drive. That the loss of mature trees should be resisted. In that regard I agree with the Tree Team.
I also agree with the comments of the Conservation and Design Team. The importance of Castle Park cannot be overstated in Frodsham. Anything that affects its setting is of concern.'

There is one other potentially controversial matter which officers are to send to committee.  Lynn and I persuaded them to exercise their discretion to send it to committee.  It is:
  •   13/01392/FUL Conversion of shop and flat above into single dwelling with rear ground floor extension 48A High Street Frodsham Cheshire WA6 7HE

If you are interested in any of these or indeed any other applications do please make sure you have your say.  Planning is a democratic process that involves balancing competing interests.  The best decisions are made when as many people as possible get involved.





Monday, 8 July 2013

Even the weather was smiling!

What a great weekend for us in Frodsham.

On Saturday we had the annual celebration of the Parliamentary train going round the Halton curve coupled with the 150th anniversary of the Ellesmere Port - Helsby Railway line.

Then on Sunday we had the Downhill Run and Rotary's Frodsham Festival and the weather was glorious.  This weekend really highlighted the skills and talents of Frodsham's army of community spirited volunteers that enrich all our lives and make Frodsham such a special place.  We never say thank you enough.  So Sue and her wonderful team at FCA - thanks for everything and the wonderful family event that is the downhill run.  And to all the gang at Rotary - another great show.  Please bring the same weather next year - and perhaps more food and drink.  Just imagine how full and beer and tea tent would have been!

I'm writing this blog on Monday.  I feel geriatric - my legs are stiff.  Perhaps I overdid Sunday.  I did the Liverpool-Chester bike ride - all 26 miles in just over 2 hours - faster than my 18 year old son!  Then the dash to Frodsham and the downhill run.  I gather I was 123rd in the downhill run - its my legs that feel 123 today!  Ah well no pain, no gain... and I beat our MP Graham Evans too!

I have loads of photographs of the downhill run (taken by my daughter Sarah) if you'd like copies - or you'd like me to see what I've got - just drop me an email to andrew.dawson@cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk



smiling having cycled to Chester
still running - just!
On your marks

reminding Graham Evans MP that I got down the hill ahead of him

Mayor of Frodsham Sarah Wakefield opening the Festival

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

More than a finger in the dyke?

The Environment Agency announced earlier this year that they are to relinquish the responsibility for maintaining the two pumping stations and associated infrastructure that drain the Frodsham & Ince marshes in 2015.   The agency spends around £70k per year on maintenance.

The pumps are antiquated and date from the 1940s.  They are working at the moment - but they are becoming increasingly temperamental.  Spare parts have to be fabricated.

That said around 80% of the water draining the marshes leaves through a siphon under the ship canal - only 20% of the water is pumped.

The Agency has expressed the position quite frankly - they have higher priorities with regard to flood risk than our marshes.  They have estimated that it will cost around £2.7m to maintain the pumps etc for the next 100 years when accounting in today's money.

The Agency with CWaC has convened a steering group of all interested parties with a view to seeing what can be done going forward.  It looks like some form of local drainage board will be created bringing together all interested parties which necessarily includes:

  • land owners and occupiers;
  • local businesses dependent on their land being drained effectively; and
  • CWaC and the neighbouring parish and town councils of Ince, Elton, Helsby and Frodsham.

At the risk of stating the very obvious all of us living in and around the estuary have a vested interest in ensuring that the marshes drain effectively.  None of us want local flooding of any residential area or of our principal roads or the motorway.

Having listened to the local farmers there has clearly been an issue regarding the maintenance of the main drainage channels over recent years.  They have done some significant clearance and de-silting works.  This coupled with the ship canal company de-silting the discharge siphon has, apparently, led to the 'natural' drainage being restored.

As many of us could no doubt envisage, even if we haven't seen, the marshes are criss crossed by drainage channels many of which feed into larger cuts.  These have to be maintained if the marshes are to drain effectively.

FTC is the town council for the greater part of the marshes.  Some 9,500 of us live in Frodsham, again by far the largest community living near the marshes.  We clearly all have a strategic interest in seeing that any new arrangements work for the benefit of all of us.

In the preliminary discussions I have suggested that FTC could, subject to the council agreeing, make some modest financial contribution - but in return we would want to see greater leisure use of the marshes and better public access arrangements.  Wouldn't it be wonderful for our children to learn more about the marshes, the flora and fauna and the significant engineering that has shaped and continues to shape them?

Thoughts and observations anyone?