Thursday, May 20, 2004

County Council Regneration Moves 

Thursday morning was taken up by a meeting of Staffordshire County Council. These set pieces are quite boring with nothing really being achieved. Today was no exception.

One noticeable item was a presentation by John Wakefield the Cabinet Member for Regeneration. Standing in for Ron Hilton, the Director of Development Services, John gave a detailed rundown of the work of the department and what steps were being taken to bring new employment to the County. This was followed by a long debate which covered a wide range of items some of which had very tenuous links to regeneration. I got involved by asking John what steps were being taken by the County Council to ensure high quality, high density jobs were being established, rather than the low quality - low density - warehouse / distribution type employment which now seemed to be the norm. I used as an example the case of Prime Point 14, Stafford’s main employment site. It appears that the developer of this site prefers large distribution warehousing rather than smaller high-tech industrial units. I pointed out that the development of the technology park, next to the university has shown that these types of units are needed and can be let. I also reflected that the growing number of job loses in the town were from more skilled sectors and that warehousing were likely not to provide either the number or quality of these lost jobs. John listened with interest but neatly sidestepped the issue in his answer by saying that as a planning application was currently under consideration for the Prime Point 14 site he did not want to comment on the matter. However he had completely missed the point as all I wanted was his assurance that the County Council recognised that some jobs were of low quality and that the regeneration unit was doing everything in their power to ensure the County was not just swamped with this type of employment!

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Planning Farce 

Tonight’s planning meeting at Stafford Borough Council showed once again the bad face of local government. The meeting was the first since the committees membership had been changed at last weeks Annual Council Meeting. These changes had meant some of the old committee members had returned following their spell of enforced layoff – members are only allowed to serve on the committee for two years before being forced to withdraw for two years!

The meeting at time broke down into ciaos as the members exchanged jokes across the room or just shouted out comments and suggestions. Even the Chairman joined in which I’m sure did not give any of the members of the public who were there as observers any confidence in the proceedings! Luckily, my spell on the committee finished in May so I sat on the sidelines watching the proceedings and wishing the floor would open up and swallow me. At least that would have been a quick way out of the embarrassment I felt.

What is clear is that something must be done if local residents are not going to dismiss the planning process as a complete farce.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Church Eaton Grass 

The long the grass in Church Eaton is high on the agenda. Chris Byford, the Parish Councillor responsible for the Village’s entry in the best kept Village competition has been on the phone to complain that it has not been cut. I’ve taken this up with the County Council only to be told that it was being cut as I spoke, and that a cut had not been missed but that the grass had grown rather long since the last one!

One would have thought that would have been the end of the matter, but as the Council’s contract does not include the collection of the grass cutting I knew what was to come. Sure enough I had a number of complaints about the haymaking activity in the Village and the fact the cuttings had been left. The only thing I had to offer the callers was the fact the details of the contract and the fact the grass was only cut 8 times a year. I know I must try to get the Council to change the contract when it is next reviewed but the costs will astronomic and I’m sure the ratepayers in Staffordshire will not want to pay more. Unless the Parish Council agree to take on the grass-cutting and then top up the money the County council will pay them to do the work nothing will improve. However this will still mean the ratepayers of Church Eaton paying extra for the improved service, this time through their Parish rate!

Firework Meeting 

Tuesday morning’s meeting about the proposed changes to the laws surround firework was quite an eye opener and was well worth attending. It was one of a number of meeting across the County that had been arranged by the County Council’s Consumers Services Department. It was held at the Blind Centre in North Walls and was well attended by representatives of local Parish Councils, the emergency services, Borough and County Councillors, and representatives of other community groups.

Its clear that the Government does want to tighten up on the sale and use of fireworks but I do think the proposal do not go far enough. They rely on the County Council overseeing and licensing the sale of fire works and the police regulating the use. This will include a general curfew of the use of fireworks set at 11.00pm (there are a few exceptions to cover new year, November 5th, and some religious dates). However I’m at a loss to know how the police will stop fireworks being set off after that time, as by the time the police have arrived the fireworks will have long gone out! However I do support anything that prevents the antisocial use of fireworks and will support the police in their actions.

I raised the question of better labelling of fireworks with a clearer indication as to what size garden they should be suitable for. While this suggestion got general support from the audience it was not that well received by the representative of the County Council who appeared to be on the side of the firework manufacturers. As he was responsible for the inspection of Cosmic Fireworks whose headquarters is in Staffordshire I suppose I was not surprised!

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