Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Transport in Darlington - the next 15 years

Council strategies as dry as dust? Well possibly - but they do genuinely influence spending priorities and scheme development. Having a say at the time when strategies are put together really can affect DBC policies for years to come.

The Council has been consulting on the formulation of its Third Local Transport Plan, which will run from 2011 to 2026. The outline themes have been considered by a joint workshop comprising members of the Council's Environment Scrutiny Committee and the Local Strategic Partnership, and an open Talking Together event in November. Now the outcomes are being considered by members of the Greener Theme Group. A final draft will be approved by Cabinet in March.

The headline priorities which have been identified to date are as follows;

1. To share prosperity for employment, economic activity and sustainable development by providing and maintaining a reliable, predictable, efficient transport network.

2. To tackle climate change through quantified reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from transport.

3. To achieve better health and longer, active and independent lives for everyone by reducing the risk of death, injury and illness from transport, whilst providing active travel options.

4. To achieve a fairer society by enabling people to access jobs, education, training, health, food and green spaces.

5. To achieve a better quality of life for all by minimising the negative impacts of transport such as noise, air pollution and accidents on the natural environment, heritage, landscape and people.

Members are being asked;

a) whether they think the 5 outcomes are right?
b) whether there are any outcomes missing?
c) whether there is one that should be a priority?

If you have an opinion, email me, and I'll ensure your views are passed on.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Christmas Everyone!

The final present's been wrapped, and Santa's on his way!

Best Christmas wishes to you all from Meadowfield Cottage.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A whole load of grit!

Darlington's current cold snap, now dragging into day 6, has excited plenty of negative comment from the blogosphere. My blogging LibDem council colleague Mike Barker posts from the "front line" - apparently walkways in the Pedestrian Heart haven't been gritted or cleared for 5 days.

Mike's also been chatting to someone who's been chatting to someone in the Market Hall. There a DBC employee may have said that the reason why no gritting had been done since Friday was because the mobile gritter had been broken down for weeks - management ignored requests from a fortnight back to get the machine fixed. Shocking stuff. If it were remotely true...

In general, I tend to find opposition councillors rely on third hand nonsense like this, because doing the sensible thing (ie ringing up the relevant officer and checking the facts) delivers rather less lurid headlines.

So I spoke to Ian Thompson, the Assistant Director this morning about Mike's allegations. He told me that the gritting machine had been out on Thursday evening, but had broken down and went into the garage to be fixed. It was out on Friday, but again there was a problem with the salt spreader, and it was looked at once more. It was then out working quite happily on Saturday, Sunday and thereafter.

Ian makes the point too that for the brief periods when the mechanized gritter wasn't working, Street Scene personnel were out spreading grit by hand.

He adds that there were 8 staff hand-gritting on Friday, 4 on Saturday, 5 on Sunday and 8 again on Monday. Clearly, in a longer cold snap than we are used to, snow and ice continue to fall, so repeated work was necessary.

More generally, on the main highway network, the roads have been gritted and/or ploughed 17 times between Thursday and Tuesday am. Now that it has been several days where the snow and ice haven't dispersed, it's likely that the gritters will move into the main housing estates.

If Mike's after a scandal, then he might like to go to Middlesbrough town centre - no gritting or clearing of any kind in its pedestrianised area in evidence as of Moday, with Christmas shoppers slipping and sliding on compacted ice and slush. I have pictures, which I'll put up this evening.

Just sometimes, it's worth checking the facts and celebrating what our Street Scene staff are doing (and in pretty miserable conditions too) before running Darlington down again.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Housing Plans - Former Springfield Primary School Site

One recent success of the Labour-run Coucnil here in Darlington has been the successful bid for £3 million Government cash to construct affordable homes for rent in the town. At a time when property prices are still relatively high, it is intended to help more families access decent housing.

Earlier this year, a developer was granted planning permission for a scheme on a part of the old Springfield Primary School site between Salters Lane South and Belsay Walk. In the aftermath of the credit crunch, the deal fell through. The Council now plans to use some of that £3 million to build houses on the same site, using the existinbg permission. The properties will provide low-cost energy for the people who live in them, as well as generating low amouints of CO2.

We pressed for more consultation with local residents on the scheme, which consists of 16 apartments, 12 terrace properties and 6 semi-detached houses. We're delighted that this was agreed, and tomorrow, (16th December 2009) between 3.30pm and 7.30pm at the Education Village, local people can view the plans and leave their comments.

To publicise the event, we've distributed nearly 1,000 newsletters about the event in the vicinity - many thanks to our willing volunteers Alan and Colin who've helped get the letters out at very short notice.

We'll be going along too, of course, to hear what local people have to say.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Dealing with Darlington's Waste

MBT Plant Opening

Cllr. Nick Wallis | MySpace Video

On Friday, John Wades formally opened its MBT (Mechanical Biological Treatment) plant at Aycliffe Village - the facility which processes Darlington's household waste, and material from the Wade-operated Civic Amenity Site on Whessoe Road.

Together with representatives from the Council, the various contractors responsible for the plant were also there. Inevitably, there was ribbon, a pair of scissors and an Echo photographer - I'm prepared for the worst given the runaway success of the excellent Glum Councillors site which lampoons exactly this kind of shot.

Anyway, of much greater interest is the rapid prgress at the site - remember it was little more than concrete walls and floors in June of this year. Now, our recycling rates are improving rapidly, and in a facility where every effort is made to minimise landfill. I'll be going up to the plant again soon to record some of active processing of the waste.

It's Jenny!

Jenny Chapman was selected this afternoon as Labour's candidate for the next General Election.

I'm not sure the actual voting figures will be released, but I can reveal Jenny won comprehensively, ahead of Pat McCourt, Dan Whittle and Ash McGregor. All the candidates should receive credit for the positive nature of their campaigns - certainly, Darlington Labour Party has emerged stronger from the selection procedure.

Jenny will be a first-class candidate for Labour, with impeccable local credentials. Very bad news for any lingering Tory hopes next year!