Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Christmas hasn't been cancelled

Its a line in one of my favourite episodes from the Ronnie Barker sitcom Porridge uttered by the irascible 'screw' Mr McKay that 'Christmas has been cancelled.'
Given some of the rumours flying around Frodsham you'd think Christmas 2014 had been cancelled - or the Christmas festival at least.

It hasn't been cancelled.

The festival costs around £15,000 to stage with additional support from CWaC officers and other partners from the private sector.  The direct grant support from CWaC is being reduced to around £1,250 - a contraction by around £1,250 from last year.  This is less than 10% of the funding.

Personally I think Frodsham can manage this modest reduction in many different ways - and in fact we are about to ask local residents which option they would prefer.

So if anyone tells you the festival is cancelled - tell them they are wrong! 

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Weaver Words receives Members' grant support

Weaver Words sponsors: Cllrs Andrew Dawson & Lynn Riley from CWaC, Mayor of Frodsham Cllr Sara Wakefield representing Frodsham Town Council and Stephen Lawson of FDR Law
Cllr Lynn Riley and I have awarded Weaver Words one of the largest community grants from our members' grants pot.  We've jointly awarded them £1,000 to assist them with running the Weaver Words festival later this year.  It is wonderful that we've have such active community spirited individuals who produce such a fantastic festival.

Make sure you attend! it runs from 2-6 April 2014 (Wednesday to Sunday)

Full details at frodcomm.org.uk

Frodsham Governance Review - Re-warding Frodsham

CWaC is looking at all the parishes in the Borough at the moment and verifying that the boundaries and electoral arrangements remain up to date.

This plan shows Frodsham's existing boundaries - the black line edged in red.  The present recommendations of the Governance Review Committee is for the land edged with the royal blue line to be joined with Frodsham.  To the south this means the boundary extending along Kingsley Road to Lady Heyes.  To the east this means moving the boundary to the swing bridge.

The discussions regarding this process are continuing.

The Governance Review committee has also decided that Frodsham's Town Council's existing wards need to be reviewed.  Over time and through development they had become unfair.  The proposal is for Frodsham to have 4 wards each electing 4 Councillors to the Town Council rather than the current arrangement where East has 5 Councillors, West 3 and North and South 4 each.

The proposal discussed and agreed by FTC last night was to attempt to equalise the size of each ward to 1848 electors +/- 10%.  In fact the proposed arrangements get us much closer than +/-10%.

In summary the proposed changes are that North ward retreats behind Bridge Lane - with those houses being transferred to East ward.  North also retreats behind High Street with those properties (Salmon coloured) being transferred to West.  This means Blue Hatch, London Road, Withy Close etc all move into West.   If the transfer of the land between the Weaver and Weaver Navigation occurs North ward will take in that land and the properties on Mill Lane.

East Ward transfers The Willows (pink) into West ward and sees its boundary with South redrawn down Bradley Lane - with everything on the south side being transferred to South Ward (yellow).

South takes in the additional properties along Kingsley Road.

The final adjustment is for Castle Park, Netherton Drive and the few park homes etc along the A56 transferring from South ward into West (grey). The boundary between South and West is the Castle Park boundary - leaving Howey Lane properties in South.

There was some discussion at FTC as to what the new ward names should be - there was consensus that we should move away from compass points.  I have to say I would have preferred historic names - but the suggestions that secured majority support were:

North becoming 'River ward';
South becoming 'Caves ward;'
East becoming 'Lakes ward;' and
West becoming 'Parks ward.

These changes whilst agreed by FTC have to receive CWaC's approval before they become effective.  The desire is to have the changes effected by the May 2015 parish council elections.

Monday, 24 February 2014

St Laurence has some good news



I'm delighted to carry some excellent news from St Laurence Church - what follows is their press release:


Frodsham Parish Church wins Heritage Lottery Fund support for major repairs

The clergy team, Parochial Church Council and the people of St Laurence Church, Frodsham are expressing delight that their church has been awarded a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.  The Church is the focal point of the town, and is visited by thousands of people each year in addition to 120 regular worshippers.

The grant comes in two stages - a development grant of £16,000 - and if that first phase is deemed satisfactory the church will receive a further grant of £177,000 to deliver the whole project.  Overall there will be essential conservation repair work to the roof, rainwater goods and masonry.  In addition to the work on the building, the church will deliver a programme of learning resources and cultural activities to engage a wide range of people with significant heritage of one of the oldest church in the north west.

The Revd. Kath Williamson, Chair of St Laurence Repair Fund said: 'We are absolutely delighted with this outcome and are very grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for their generous support.  We are looking forward to progressing our plans to maintain the fabric of our historic church buildings to allow its wider use and further benefit to the local community.'

Notes:
St Laurence Church is a Grade I listed building.  The original church was mentioned in the Domesday Book. The current building was built in 1170 and is probably the oldest building in Frodsham, still retaining significant features of the original Norman architecture.  Its last major structural work was in 1885.

The church is a genuine focal point for the community and is already used for concerts, theatrical productions and special artistic exhibits - in addition to services of Christian worship, baptism, weddings and funerals.  The church is kept open every day for visitors and is well used by architectural historians; those seeking quiet contemplation; and people tracing genealogy.  This heritage aspects of such an important building will feature strongly and be developed further within the project being so generously supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

ENDS

Congratulations to everyone involved with the HLF bid and to everyone involved in fund raising and giving.



Our new Chief Constable for Cheshire Police

We had a meeting of Cheshire's Police and Crime Panel today.  It was our confirmation hearing for the proposed appointment of Simon Byrne to be Cheshire's new Chief Constable.

This was our first confirmation hearing for a Chief Constable - part of the reforms which followed the creation of Police and Crime Commissioners.

Simon Byrne is a career policeman.  His most recent positions have been with Greater Manchester Police and most recently with the Metropolitan Police.  He was brought up in Cheshire - and his family is here - so this is something of a home coming for him.

The confirmation hearing was webcast and will be available to view via the CWaC web portal shortly.  From a personal point of view I found his answers to the questions we put were both impressive and insightful.  I had great pleasure, later in the proceedings, in proposing that we recommend to the Commissioner that he appoints Mr Byrne to the position of Chief Constable.  The panel - made up of 5 Conservative Councillors, 5 Labour Councillors and 3 independent members - was unanimous.  We were all impressed.

Later, as part of my day job, I ended up talking to a policeman - outside Cheshire.  I mentioned what I'd been doing earlier in the day.  This policeman knew Simon Byrne and commented that he was a man that knew his own mind and was something of a task master.  Time alone will tell whether that is what he brings to Cheshire.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Swing Bridge open day

A big thank you to the Canal and River Trust for hosting an open day at the Swing Bridge.  Engineer Sally Body did an excellent job today - hosting the tours and explaining both how the bridge works and how well the restoration and renovation works are going.

The £4.5million scheme being funded by the Government, CWaC and the Canal and River Trust and is on schedule to finish in the autumn.

Here are some interesting photographs!



Cllr Lynn Riley dressing for the weather!
Sally Body explaining.


It was very wet and very cold


A model of the bridge showing how it pivots.  The mass of the bridge is supported on rollers and by a column of water

inside the control room - refurbished by a local company

megaphone in the control room 
The original steel work is in good 'sharp' condition in many places 
can you see where they've got up to! - the new paint will last for at least 15 years before needing 'touching up.'


Friday, 7 February 2014

Eddisbury Square - an apology from the owners and the suspension of car parking restrictions until 24 February 2014

Good news - the parking restrictions at Eddisbury Square have been lifted.  Modified restrictions will be reintroduced on 24 February.

I had a long conversation this evening with one of the Mason Partners LLP partners.  Mason Partners manage the Square at a strategic level for the owners - they are not the agents involved in devising the parking management scheme, nor are they the company managing the car park at the moment.  The partner has got involved as both Mason Partners and the land owners were monitoring our disquiet in Frodsham - and they felt they had to intervene.

The conversation was good natured.  I received an apology from Mason Partners to all of us in Frodsham - given on behalf of the owners for what has occurred.  They have assured me they did not intend to use a 'sledge hammer to crack this particular nut.'

I have agreed to meet with him later on this month to discuss how car parking can be managed in Eddisbury Square in a way that chimes with the community.  I am sure we all accept that the private land owners are entitled to restrict car parking to 2 hours.  I am told no one has been fined for parking on the Square and shopping elsewhere in Frodsham - and they intend that the new regime won't either.

I have asked for all car parking penalties so far paid to be refunded and all existing demands for payment be cancelled.  I envisage that I will have continuing discussions on this point next week.

The discussions I intend to have will talk about what 'fair and reasonable' enforcement looks like in Frodsham.  I will also take the discussions on to how we can all work together to promote the Square and retail in Frodsham together.  We all want a successful Frodsham and a successful Square.  I also agree with Mason Owen that we need to ensure that the tenants at the Square don't end up paying for this either!

Incidentally I had drafted a letter to the Chief Executive of Sainsbury - it was ready to go - but doesn't need to go now.  I gather Sainsbury are also pleased that steps are being taken to calm things down.

So it is good news for now - but there is still work to do.

I did take the opportunity to give my views on the other agents who have been involved!





[Note text edited on 10/2/14 - correcting name of the Property agents to Mason Partners LLP]

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Eddisbury Square - an update from the planners at CWaC

As I mentioned last night I was seeking further confirmation from CWaC planners regarding the situation at Eddisbury Square.  

I publish below the response I have received from the Area Planning Manager this afternoon - one of Fiona Edwards's (Head of Planning) colleagues - as Fiona is away for the moment.

Before reading this email I think it is worth pointing out that I believe the planning application did not fully describe the car parking position prior to the Sainsbury application going in.  The planning application referred to 101 existing car parking spaces - which as a result of the Sainsbury application and the extension to the rear would be reduced to 91.  

Last night I was sad enough  to walk my dog in the rain around the Square and counted the car parking spaces.  There are 64 car parking spaces in front of the Square - all unaffected by the application - 40 around the periphery and 24 in the middle.  To the rear I got into the 30s - including where the building works are going on.  

Now I've always viewed the rear of Eddisbury Square as being a private service road (there is an old notice saying this) with car parking spaces for shop staff and for the residents of the flats above.  I don't think this point was appreciated by those submitting the application or the highway's officer when reviewing it.  If they had they would have split the car parking provision - and we wouldn't have had talk of 101 spaces being reduced to 91.  If my assessment of the car park provision is correct it should have been 64 public car park spaces (not forming part of the application site) with 37 private parking spaces to the rear being reduced to 27.

So - bear this in mind when you read the Area Planning Manager's comments - I had mentioned to him the point about the rear car parking... 

'Dear Cllr Dawson

Thank you for your recent contact regarding the Sainsbury's development at Eddisbury Square in Frodsham. 

Before I go on to comment on the current situation, I feel it would be beneficial to set out the context of the current development works. 

Planning application 13/01913/FUL, described as an 'amalgamation and extension of units 12,13 and 14 Eddisbury Square to create an enlarged single A1 Retail Unit', was submitted back in May 2013. Following a period of consultation, which included giving the Town Council, local Ward Councillors and the Highway Officer an opportunity to comment, the application was granted planning permission in July 2013 under powers delegated to the planning department. There were a number of local objections, but the Officer concluded that the proposal would be in accordance with current planning policy. 

The site location plan submitted with the application (often referred to as the 'red line plan'), which shows the area of land to which the submitted application relates, included the units in question plus the site of the proposed extension, which required the removal of a number of parking spaces at the rear. The rest of Eddisbury Square was surrounded by a blue line, meaning land also in the ownership of the applicant. However, 'blue line' land does not form part of a planning application under consideration. 
Given that the proposal would result in the loss of a small number of spaces, the Highway Officer recommended a condition requiring a car park management plan to be submitted and agreed. The planning Case Officer decided to follow this advice and imposed the condition on the planning permission. 

The first point I need to make is that the whole site is privately owned and the Council generally has no control in how private landowners choose to manage parking on their land. It would seem that the purpose of the condition was to try and manage the impact of the loss of parking spaces at the rear of Eddisbury Square, rather than the main block of parking to the front, as the latter would remain unaffected by the development. It is understood that the parking at the rear is restricted to unit occupiers and residents and is not available as public parking. 

The next point is that the developer has not sought to discharge the condition and no car park management scheme has been submitted to or approved by the Council. The exact wording of the condition is as follows: 

"A car park management plan will be submitted for the approval of the planning authority. The approved management policy will detail the allocation of parking spaces, maximum parking times and enforcement procedures and shall remain in force thereafter.

Reason: To reduce the impact of the loss of parking on site and overall town centre area by facilitating an improved turnover of parking space usage in accordance with Policy T1 of the Vale Royal Local Plan First Review Alteration."

As it can be seen, there is no specification within the condition as to when the scheme needs to be submitted for agreement. As such, it is entirely up to the developer as to when they choose to submit, if ever at all. Whether this was intentional or a drafting error, the fact is that the Council cannot take enforcement action to force the developer to submit a management scheme for agreement under the terms of the condition. It could also be argued that the loss of a relatively small number of spaces in the rear parking area is a matter primarily between those with a right of access and the landowner, and in any event is unlikely to cause any significant impact locally as the main front public parking area is unaffected by the development.  

As such, given the above factors, the Council would not consider it expedient to pursue the submission of a car park management scheme in this instance.

In hindsight, it could be said that the imposition of the condition was not strictly necessary. However, I can understand why Officers felt it would be helpful as a mechanism to mitigate against the loss of parking. I would accept that the context of the condition is not entirely clear and I would offer an apology if anyone has understandably made a connection between the imposition of the condition and the landowner's current attempts to introduce a new parking regime for Eddisbury Square. 

I would therefore wish to confirm categorically that the existence of the car park management scheme condition or otherwise on the planning permission is immaterial to the landowner's current attempts to introduce a new parking regime for Eddisbury Square, over which the Council has no control. 

I trust the above is helpful. If you have any further questions, please contact me.' 

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Eddisbury Square - the latest

I received an email from a director of the property agents handing Eddisbury Square.  For unknown reasons they are particularly sensitive about their correspondence being published and have sought to deny me the right to publish what they have sent to me.

Of course they cannot prevent me from publishing what I have sent them.  

I have redacted their various names in my reply from this email and I have not published an entire section which debates their claim to anonymity. Again their claim to anonymity in this regard strikes me as surprising and needlessly clandestine. It does, however, reinforce me in my view that they are seeking to isolate themselves from local discussions, rather than embracing them.

Just imagine if the agents, with the owners and tenants, had organised an events day for the people of Frodsham.  They could have celebrated the Square, really pushed the businesses that are located there to increase awareness and trade. They could have indicated what the plans for the future are, how it contributes to Frodsham and what they would want from the wide community and the councils. As part of that process they could have raised the issue of car parking and the need to ensure that it is managed effectively.  They could have debated the restrictions and penalties to be enforced and the signage that would be posted.

In this Utopia - everyone benefits.  I would have thought agents working with the grain and seeking to maximise value for their owners would have spotted this collaborative approach as the way forward in this day and age...

This is an issue I am continuing to debate with them.

Dear Mr X

Thank you for your email.  I will seek to address the points you make in the email.  I would appreciate it if you, or your colleague Mr Y, would respond to the letter I wrote to him fully too.
...
Secondly - the issue of Eddisbury Square - Mr X, whether it is with you, or indeed with Mr Y, Cllr Riley and I would like to have a discussion with you about the Square, its car parking and its contribution to what I'm sure we all hope is the continued vitality and viability of the retail centre of Frodsham.  I note, that so far, you have not responded to this now repeated request.  Eddisbury Square is not an 'isolated island' in Frodsham - it is part of a wider whole.  

Thirdly I note your interesting interpretation of what you think should or should not be part of my 'elected office.'  I do see a key part of my role in 'joining the various dots' in the town and seeking both to maximise the common good and to minimise unnecessary and unintended consequences.  If you had spoken to Cllr Riley and me before introducing the parking restrictions in the Square we would no doubt have sought to persuade you to do it in a way that contributed to the town, that would have minimised the risk of public anxiety and distress and hopefully would have achieved the benefits that you seek.  It is as much the way in which you have gone about your task that has and is causing anxiety as well as what you have done.  If that public anxiety can be lessened it is likely that everyone can benefit.  It is in everyone's interest to work with the grain - not across it.

There are anecdotal tales of an elderly driver being penalised for parking in the Square when he was seeking to pick up a prescription.  It is inevitable that the local residents will raise these issues with their elected councillors - and you should expect that we will reflect those concerns to you - and show our community that we have done so.

It is clear from your correspondence that you are not particularly familiar with Frodsham.  Discussions with local councillors could help you with this lack of local knowledge, including the tangible support provided to the local business community by the councils, and how to communicate with the community.  You should note that other than the usual smattering of double yellow lines there are no car parking restrictions in Frodsham, nor are there any public car parking charges.  It is in that context that significant distress and anxiety is caused when a private provider institutes parking enforcement more typical of what one might see in a major conurbation such as Manchester.   

Incidentally I find your desire to keep your correspondence with me in someway 'secret' to be incompatible with me being an elected Councillor and my needs and desire to be seen as open and transparent with the community I represent.   We are discussing the community having access to Eddisbury Square and car parking associated with it.  I struggle to see why such correspondence should be kept secret.  To my mind there is a profound democratic need for this correspondence to be accessible to all.

regards

Andrew W Dawson

Monday, 3 February 2014

A letter to the agents of Eddisbury Square - sent 3 February 2014

What follows is the text of a letter sent to the agent acting for the owners of Eddisbury Square:


Dear Mr X -
[at the request of the property agents this name has been redacted the question of whether they are entitled to this privacy is being discussed.  Change made 13:53 5 February 2014]    

Letter sent:  3rd February 2014

Eddisbury Square, Frodsham

Further to the correspondence that has passed between you and both Cheshire West and Chester Council (‘CWaC’) and Frodsham Town Council (‘FTC’) we write to you directly as the Councillors for Frodsham on Cheshire West and Chester Council.

You are doubtless already very well aware of the considerable disquiet in the Frodsham community caused by the recent decision to bring in car parking enforcement at the Eddisbury Square car park. 

In the final analysis Eddisbury Square is a private car park and as such you are free to do with it what you like within the law and your contractual arrangements.   You are clearly aware, given your unilateral actions, that you are not obliged to discuss anything with us, CWaC, FTC, or with or the local community.  You do not need anyone’s approval – nor have you sought it.  However we would have thought it was in your best interests to consult the local community before taking the actions you did.

It must be in your economic best interests, as it must be for the owners of the Square and its tenants, for the Square to be inviting and accommodating of the local community.  We would have thought it would be in everyone’s interests for the Square to be a vibrant, bustling and successful place to do business.  This includes having a successful car park.

Your actions in bringing in car parking restrictions and enforcement without adequate notice or any communication or consultation with the wider community has caused unnecessary and avoidable annoyance and disquiet.  Your actions come across as high-handed, arrogant and potentially self-defeating.  There is a strong feeling that those motorists who have been penalised have been treated unfairly given the failure to advertise your changes in advance and the small insignificant signage deployed. 

There is disquiet concerning the level of penalty being imposed and the apparent ‘big brother’ tactics being used to support enforcement.

You should be aware that there is talk in Frodsham of locals boycotting the Square both through annoyance and through fear that the enforcement regime is arbitrary, unfair, disproportionate and unwarranted.

We suggest that you take steps immediately to restore confidence in you and in the Square.  We see the steps you should take as being the following:
  •    immediate suspension of your current enforcement arrangements and the posting of notices to that effect;
  •    reimbursement of all penalty charges levied and cancellation of all in course of being levied; and ,
  •    you joining with us, the tenants and the property owners in discussions as to how your legitimate interests can be managed with the community.

Those of us living in Frodsham do expect those benefiting from the commercial activity in the town to act responsibly and reasonably.  We all share the town – and we all have a legitimate interest in seeing that the town functions as well as it can – you as well as us.  We actively seek to support the commercial vitality of the town – and we therefore expect business to support the wider town too.  This means we expect, at the very least, discussions and consultation. 

We envisage, that following the discussions we seek, that some form of public consultation and advertisement will follow so as to ensure that members of the public fully understand the rationale behind any parking restrictions and what the rules are.  We trust that your rules will be seen as reasonable by the community.  The current ones are not.

As you will readily appreciate the issuing of Parking Contravention Notices and the enforcement of them is a civil matter for your agents.  We are aware that many of the local community are educating themselves with regard to the ways in which such notices and any proceedings can be challenged – with all the continuing aggravation and cost for all concerned.  You may already be aware that Graham Evans MP is looking into this matter as well.

We trust that you will agree to meet with us swiftly and look to create a solution that is understood and accepted by the local community.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Andrew Dawson      &     Cllr Lynn Riley

 

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Goods Shed Consultation

The latest round of consultation run by the Chester University looking at potential community uses for the Goods Shed was held today. 

It was an interesting collaborative experience punctuated with tinkling cymbals to denote time to move on to the next stage.  You could be forgiven for inwardly smiling at the 'trendy hippy' approach!  That said it was challenging and a positive experience to contemplate what the future of the building could be.  We all had a vision of shared, community and entrepreneurial public space like a 'Costa on steroids.'