Sunday, May 25, 2008


New Post Office for Derrington

I was really pleased to hear that despite all the political hype that followed the announcement that Derrington Post Office was to close after the current post master decided to retire, that a new part-time office is to open in the Village. In an earlier entry in this blog I’ve already criticized Derrington’s Tory Councillors for saying it was a disgrace the Post Office was to close their office in the Village and I pointed out that the Post Office were doing everything possible to find not only alternative premises but also someone to run the new facility (see my blog entry for Thursday 8th May)

Well now I can report that the Post Master from Haughton has agreed to take over the Derrington office and that this will be located in the Village Hall. The new post office will be open three mornings a week – Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

However there does appear to be a delay in moving to the Village Hall, as British Telecom are not able to install the new ISDN line which is needed to connect the portable post office computer to the national network, for a few weeks. This will mean that despite everyone’s best intention the Village will be without a Post Office for that time!

The worry is that some people will find an alternative post office to use and then will not return to the new one in Derrington when it finally opens. It’s unbelievable that BT cannot provide a quicker service when this much needed Village service is under threat. Using the new Post Office in Derrington is important if it is to remain open in any future service reviews. If you do have to use a different Post Office while the new one is being set-up please remember to return when it does finally open.

Also, as I'm a member of the Borough Council's new Post Office Closure Working Group, I will be urging the Council to look at the way a service has been provided to Derrington and to perhaps use this model to see if similar facilities cannot be opened in other communities threaten by post office closures.


Road users ignore danger in Dale Lane

It’s surprising what some people ignore! Yesterday I had a telephone call from a resident in Haughton who was concerned that his son had nearly ridden his bicycle into an open road drain in Dale Lane. He was concerned that as the drain was a couple of foot in from the edge of this very narrow road it could cause a major accident.

As it was late on a Saturday afternoon, and also during a bank holiday weekend, I knew that it would be impossible to use the normal route of reporting the problem to the County Council. However I did have the out of hours emergency number, but before I made the call I thought I’d better pop down to Dale Lane to have a look ant the problem and make sure I knew exactly where the drain was. Imagine my surprise as when I drove down the lane I could see a wooden post with a plastic bag on top poking out of the open drain to warn motorists of the danger. I soon found out how this had happened as a few yards further on I meet another couple from the Village who explained they had borrowed the post and bag from a nearby farm. However they also discovered the drain top had been missing for a couple of days during which time dozens of cars must have driven past the spot.

After I called the out of hours number the County Council’s Highways on-call team came straight out and although they were unable to replaced the missing grid they errected a proper barrier around the hole with plenty of road signs to warn road users about the danger. They now have to return after the bank holiday, dig up the road, and install a new grid and mounting frame.

The person manning the County Council's out of hours emergemcy line told me that more and more drain tops were being stolen as the price of scrap metal continues to climb. He also confirmed no one else had reported the hole despite the real danger it posed to anyone using the road!

Monday, May 19, 2008


Another village shop to close!

I had rather mixed feelings when I read the news that Harold Stewart was to retire from running Gnosall News especially as this announcement came just days after the owners of Derrington Stores also said they were intending to retire.

On the one hand I was pleased that after serving Gnosall for 14 years Harold had decided to retire and take a well earned rest. Being a local newsagent cannot be an easy job, as it involves plenty of early mornings! Also being self employed, and I should know, is no easy matter these days and unless you keep on the ball and don’t let the red tape get you down your business can easily hit the rocks! So I certainly wouldn’t want to stand in the way of anyone who wants to retire from such pressures.

On the other hand I was concerned to learn that the Co-op who runs the supermarket just yards away down the High Street had brought the shop. I’ve already been asked by a couple of Gnosall residents was the reason they made this move just purely to ensure they had no nearby competition for the own store? I had to say I didn’t know, but I suppose only time will tell when we see what the old newsagents shop is going to be used for?

What is clear is that once again local people are the ones who are going to loose out, as it appears the Co-op do not intend to continue with newspaper deliveries. Indeed a number of residents have even asked the newsagent in Haughton if he could deliver in Gnosall, but as you might expect this is a non-starter!

One is left wondering of the closure of this shop yet another nail in the coffin of small rural services and whether or not it heralds the day when a number of villages will have to rely on one supermarket to supply their needs?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


At Long Last A Meeting About Bradley's Traffic Problems

I was pleased to hear that Bradley Parish Council have finally managed to get an officer from the County Council’s Highways Department to visit the Village.

From what was said at Mondays Parish Council meeting the visit was very positive with the officer going away to look at various improvements to traffic signs and marking. When I was County Councillor for the Village four years ago I started the process of getting the Council to look at traffic problems in the Village. John Wakefield, the then Cabinet Member responsible for roads, meet with me and Ron Hilton – who incidentally is now the Council’s Chief Executive – to look at what could be done. They agreed to carryout a full review and present their finding to the Parish. Unfortunately a few weeks later I lost my seat and since then nothing has happened with the proposal. So four years later the fact that someone from the Highways Department has come to look at the problem is really worth mentioning!

However finding a solution will not be easy. It’s clear heavy vehicles, following their Sat Navs are cutting through Bradley from the A418 to the A449. These are not only causing damage to the narrow lanes and verges but are also proving a real danger. It’s also noticeable that more and more traffic is travelling far to fast and I sure it’s only a matter of time before there is a fatality. Perhaps then the County Council will take the problems the Village is facing seriously, but until then the residents of Bradley will just have to accept new signs and road markings.

At the very least they could look at taking positive action to stop the heavy vehicles using this "rat run" either by installing and getting the police to enforce a weight restriction, or by lobbying to get the route removed from Sat Nav information!

If, after four years, all they can do is come and look at the situation once again I'm not holding my breath that anything major will be done just yet!

Monday, May 12, 2008


New Technology in Bradley

Dennis Foster is well known around the Bradley area as he built Fosters Garden Centre’s from a small business to a huge multi-site undertaking. A few years ago he sold out to a national operator but rather than sitting back and enjoying his early retirement he channelled his energies into other ventures.

Today I was lucky enough to see how one of these has developed. Dennis is passionate about developing and incorporating energy saving technology in to homes. He has just completed a marvellous upgrade to what for many years was a derelict farmhouse on the outskirts of the Village. From the outside you know the job is going to be impressive, but when you walk through the kitchen door you are blown away. The workmanship, the finish, and the design are flawless, but that’s not the end of it. Dennis is more proud of the energy saving features that have been included.

You might expect double glazing, insulated walls, and low energy lighting, but the real surprise is in what I can best be described as a small cellar. Here is the heart of the state of the art heating system.

Hidden almost from view on the roof is a bank of solar panels – old hat you might say, but these are linked to a geothermal heat exchange system which is located in a deep bore hole beneath the lawn. These two systems should provide all the heat and hot water the house will need and use little or no energy in the process – even in the cold and dark winter months!

However this house is just the start as Dennis is now ready to start work on his next conversion project which will use the same technology, but if Dennis gets his way will also include a wood pellet boiler and more interesting a wind turbine. This should generate enough electricity not only for the house and barn conversion Dennis is planning on the site but will hopefully feed some power back to national grid.

Taking these radical steps in reducing energy consumption is perhaps beyond the means of most people. I certainly know that having talked to Dennis and seen what he is achieving I was inspired. That just leaves the question how do we get that inspiration to a wider audience!

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Blame Where Blame is Due!

It’s very easy in politics to lay the blame at someone’s door if it helps to make a point even if the person or organisation has had nothing to do with the issue being discussed. This week the news that the owners of Derrington Village Stores were retiring broke in the press. To all intent and purposes this would have been a non-story had it not have been for two factors. Firstly the Village Stores is the only shop in Derrington and secondly the shop is also home to the village post office. This means that once the shop is closed the post office disappears as well.

I’d learnt about the closure a few days ago and had also discovered that the Post Office had already put in place plans to operate a part-time replacement post office from probably the Village Hall. So you can imagine my surprise to see the main front page article in Wednesdays Express and Star in which the two Conservative Councillors for the Village seemed to play down the fact the shop owner had decided to retire and instead attacked the Post Office for withdrawing the service. Both Councillors said they were so appalled at the way the Village had been treated they were writing to the Post Office to tell them what they thought of the plan.

To make matters worse I then opened an e-mail from the Borough Council that had been sent on Tuesday which had a copy of a letter which the Post Office had sent to the Council’s Chief Executive attached. This clear said how sorry the Post Office was that the current shopkeeper and his wife were retiring and that because of this the Post Office in the village also had to close. However they were doing everything in their power to find someone else to take on the Post Office and were asking the Borough Council to let them know if they had any ideas as to who might be suitable for the job. They also said they hoped the village would be without a Post Office for the shortest time possible.

Hardly the stance one might expect from an organisation that had just shut the Post Office themselves.

Interestingly, I understand, the e-mail had also been sent to the two Councillors for the Village! Why they choose to make a statement to the press that attacked the Post Office is beyond me and I have to say a number of people I have spoken to have also made the same comment. One hope they just made a genuine mistake and hadn’t understood the real reason the Post Office was closing.

Friday, May 2, 2008


Boris wins London!

I’ve now seen everything – Boris Johnson has been elected as the new Mayor of London with a majority of just under 140,000 votes. As I don’t live in London it’s difficult ti understand how this could possible have happened. While I’m no supporter of Ken Livinstone I cannot see how Boris can be considered a better bet. Perhaps the BBC news web-site summed up Boris's win well. They say:-

“Dismissed by political opponents and many in the media as little more than a music hall turn, he (Boris Johnson) confounded his critics by running a gaffe-free election campaign.”

“During the campaign the tousle-haired Old Etonian was restrained and professional.”

“Has the old Boris gone forever? What happens if he returns? And what will it mean for David Cameron and the Conservatives? The Tory leader does not want to spend the two years in the run-up to the next general election having to defend, or distance himself from, the London Mayor.”

Only time will tell! But Boris Johnson’s election could be the best thing that’s happened to the Labour Party for months.

However what has to be remembered is that this is the first significant Tory political victory since 1992 and that Boris is the first Tory since John Major to wield significant political power.


So Much for Supporting the 'Boro

I was interested to read Judith Dalgarno’s contribution in the “Politically Speaking” column in this week’s Newsletter. Surprisingly it concluded with a couple of paragraphs about Stafford Rangers who have just been relegated from the Blue Square Premier Division of non-league football.

Judith quite rightly said a few kind words about the club but then went on to say that she hoped Stafford residents would get behind the club and give it the support it deserved. That rich considering the Borough Council have not sponsored a match at Marston Road for the last couple of seasons. The official line is that they could not negotiate a suitable game with the rangers, but the more sceptical wonder if the lack of sponsorship had more to do with budget cuts rather than a lack of will on behalf of the club. All they managed this year was to sponsor the ball for one game!

It also surprising just how many Councillors support the club. I for one have been a season ticket holder for some years and meet Bill Simpson, Jack Kemp, and Chris Baron at the ground every home game. However the only time you see other members of the Council there is when they get in free as a sponsor, and then, apart from the Mayor who is there representing the town, the visitors are usually members of the Cabinet and the Council Leader!

Thursday, May 1, 2008


Bikers Beware?

Should bikers beware of other traffic or should other traffic be beware of bikers? That was the question that was being asked over a cup of tea at Haughton Village Hall on Monday night. The occasion was the annual meeting of the Parish Council, which as usual was well attended by local residents.

What prompted the question was the new signs that have appeared on various lamp posts and road signs along the main road from Stafford to Newport. The bright yellow signs, which appear to be part of a road safety campaign by the County Council display the wording “Bikers Beware” along with a black silhouette of a motorcyclist. It that wording which was the cause of the discussion. Some residents felt the signs were tell bikers to be aware while others insisted that they were telling motorists to be aware of bikers. No one really knew the answer but trying to work it out passed an interesting twenty minute.

However, what everyone did agree on, was that the signs didn’t seem to slow the motorcyclists down. Derek Butlin – one of the founders of the A518 Action Group - summed up the situation well by saying that the majority of bikers were sensible and that only a few flouted the speed limit on the road and put both their lives and the lives of others in danger. I certainly support that view as only last weekend I watched a motorcyclist pass my house travelling well above the speed limit, but if that was not bad enough he had both hand in the air in some sort of kamikaze salute.

One really has to question exactly what the County Council Highway’s department hoped to achieve by putting these signs up. They certainly standout, but their bright yellow is out of place in the rural area and they add nothing to Haughton’s attempt to win the best kept village competition! Buying these signs and putting them up will not have been cheap and I for one on Monday night wondered if the money could not have been better spent on more positive measures to slow traffic down on the road. As one resident said “I’m so engrossed trying to work out what the signs mean I forget all about driving. It’s lucky I’ve not hit one of these bikers!”

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