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Posts Tagged ‘Council’

Official – UK newbuilds are shoeboxes of Europe

August 16th, 2009 No comments

Anyone who has looked around a new housing development in recent years can’t fail to have noticed how new houses are getting smaller and smaller. Developers use tricks such as specially made ‘three-seater’ sofas that are only as long as a normal two-seater; doors are left off and TVs are conspicuous by their absence – all to hide the fact that the room is woefully small.

A recent survey by Cabe, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, has confirmed that new houses in the UK really are the shoeboxes of Europe.

The average floor space of a new UK home is only 76 square metres. That’s 13%, 21% and 32% less than Ireland, Spain and France respectively and just over a third of the space enjoyed by Australians and Americans.

The problem here is that developers get greedy, trying to cram as many of these overpriced shoeboxes onto a plot of land, while the local council planning department, who should really be the ones policing this and refusing permission, have a conflict of interest as more houses means more council tax. It is hardly surprising that those houses that do have garages, rarely contain a car as they have out of necessity become storage rooms or converted living spaces because the original design was lacking in space. Overcrowded developments also have detrimental effects on local traffic congestion.

New houses should have a minimum floor area and a minimum land area around it. If these are not met then the selling price that the developer can demand should be limited. We should also be forcing new-builds to have cellars.

Household Recycling

February 17th, 2009 2 comments

Kerbside recycling of household waste got off to a shaky start here in Bolton with some properties not given recycling containers while properties in the neighbouring street were (a farcical situation which still exists at our old address). The council also tried to reduce the non-recyclable waste collection to fortnightly without first providing sufficiently large bins for recyclable waste – an issue on which the previous council administration lost power in the local election.

I must say however that household recycling now works very well for us.

Four bins

4 binsWe now have four bins for waste collection:

  • Crimson for plastic bottles, glass bottles and jars, tin cans, drinks cans, aerosols and tin foil;
  • Beige for paper, magazines, cardboard and drinks cartons;
  • Green for garden and uncooked kitchen vegetable waste*;
  • Black for non-recyclable or ‘residual’ waste.

Oddly, according to letters in the local paper, this is somehow confusing for some folk.

The black bin is emptied every week, while the others are emptied once a fortnight. As a family of four, even with this frequency we find that we usually only need to put the recyclable bins out once a month and often find that we can skip a week on the collection of the black residual bin.

Composting

Although the green bin meant that the amount of kitchen waste going into the black bin was reduced*, we found that we had a problem with fruit flies and smells in the green bin, especially in the summer.

composterWe decided to buy a composter and settled on a ‘dalek’ type. This means that we can also dispose of other items such as eggshells and teabags which would otherwise have gone in the black bin. Unlike the green bin, you can wrap the kitchen waste in newspaper to reduce the problem of fruit flies. I would recommend doing some reading up on composting as you need to keep a balance between what are called ‘greens’ and ‘browns’.

We have been using this for over eighteen months now and have yet to take anything out of it; it just keeps rotting down. The green bin is now hardly used expect for larger garden items such as pruned branches.

So what about other stuff?

Not everything can be collected at the kerbside but used or redundant items can still be recycled or reused. Used batteries go to the local Asda who have a collection point for recycling. Anything that we no longer need but is still serviceable, particularly children’s toys and clothes, are taken to charity shops or sold. I’ve even sold a 32″ widescreen TV with a picture fault on ebay; I’d rather see someone else get use out of it whether for spares or by getting it repaired. Clothing that is worn out is usually turned into rags for use in the garage.

* I have since read a letter in the Bolton News, stating that the council are telling people that the green bin is not to be used for kitchen vegetable waste, except that the Council’s own Waste & Recycling website clearly states in the A-Z under ‘V for Vegetable Waste’ that uncooked fruit and vegetable kitchen waste can be put in your green bin. (Screenshot here in case their website is down, which is often the case)

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iPlay at Station Park, Horwich

December 24th, 2008 No comments

iPlay frame at HorwichAn iPlay frame has been installed at Old Station Park, Horwich, although it is not yet complete (see pic right).

The system runs a game where players must push, pull and spin parts of the frame in order to score points.
iPlay instructionsYou can even add your score to a national league table by logging on to the iPlay website. This looks like a great idea and there would appear to be more already installed around the country.

The whole thing is powered by solar energy, but the main concern I have is that of vandalism. The manufacturers claim on their website that the unit is ‘vandal resistant’ (note not vandal proof). There do not appear to be any CCTV cameras covering this area and given the proximity of park benches which have already been torched, I wonder what consideration the council has given to protecting their investment.

Update: 1st Feb 2009

Well it’s now over a month later and the iPlay doesn’t look any different – still surrounded by fencing.

iPlay

Update: 28th Feb 2009

As well as installing more equipment (a large bowl swing, a short zip-wire and a see-saw/roundabout) the i-play has finally been switched on.

Unfortunately, it is already broken; the ‘spin’ control is just about audible sounding like water has got into the unit and the ‘press’ control is completely silent, making it impossible to play the game.

Not a good start really.

Lack of Response from MPs and Councillors

October 28th, 2008 No comments

In the past three weeks, I have contacted a number of people regarding the Manchester Congestion Tax. It is interesting to note the lack of response from the majority, without even the decency of a simple acknowledgement from some.

These details are updated as of 30th November:

Date
Sent
To Ack
Rcvd
Reply
Rcvd
Days
Elapsed
11 Oct Cllr Raymond Barrow
Bolton Councillor for Horwich & Blackrod
No No 50
11 Oct Cllr Patricia Barrow
Bolton Councillor for Horwich & Blackrod
No No 50
11 Oct Cllr Michael Hollick
Bolton Councillor for Horwich & Blackrod
No No 50
11 Oct Rt Hon Ian Stewart
MP for Eccles
13 Oct No 50
11 Oct Cllr Barry Warner
Salford Councillor for Clifton
13 Oct 13 Oct 2
23 Oct Rt Hon Ruth Kelly
MP for Bolton West
No No 38
25 Oct Rt Hon Graham Brady
MP for Altrincham & Sale West
25 Oct 4 Nov 10
25 Oct Rt Hon Graham Stringer
MP for Blackley
No No 36
31 Oct Cllr Bob Allen
Bolton Councillor for Heaton & Lostock
31 Oct 31 Oct 0

Not a very impressive set of figures really; only three replies.

Given Ruth Kelly’s lack of response in the past, I don’t hold out much hope.

I will keep this post updated.

Update: 12th December

Ruth Kelly has finally responded – well sort of…

Only ten minutes after hearing the excellent result of the referendum, I arrived home to a letter from Ruth Kelly, but far from actually replying to my concerns, it would appear that she has simply forwarded my letter to GMPTE whose reply she has simply forwarded back to me without comment. A secretary could have done that!

It clearly stated in my original letter that I was fully aware of GMPTE’s attitude, so what was the point of getting them to repeat their propaganda? Given Ruth Kelly’s support for the TIF bid, it would seem that she is simply sitting on the fence.

Moses Gate Air-Show (or maybe not)

October 6th, 2008 No comments

While browsing my RSS feeds, this one caught my eye on the Bolton News site:

A giant 200th anniversary
A MAGICAL open air-show will celebrate 200 years of Moses Gate Country Park on Saturday.

but when I checked the full story on their site, instead of talking about the Red Arrows or a Lancaster fly-past, it talked about ‘giant puppets, music and lanterns‘.

Then I spotted it – The lead should have read open-air show, instead of open air-show – two very different things.

Ah well, it did seem a little odd that Bolton Council would be staging anything so spectacular.

Horwich Morris Men’s Pavement Parade

April 26th, 2008 No comments

The Horwich Morris Men performed their annual parade around Horwich today to celebrate St.George’s Day, but thanks to the sad compensation-led state of our legal system, Police will no longer organise rolling roadblocks, so roads must be closed ‘for safety reasons’.

Horwich Morris Men
Horwich Morris Men make their way down Church Street from the Brown Cow

Fortunately, rather than canceling the event, the organisers decided to continue but stick to the pavements.

According to the Bolton News, teams who were due to take part included: Wrigley Head, Mossley and Saddleworth morris men, Ripon City and the Britannia Coconut Dancers, from Bacup.

Saddleworth Morris Men outside the Bridge, Horwich
Saddleworth Morris Men performing outside the Bridge Inn

Bolton Recycling Weeks

January 6th, 2008 No comments

Bolton Council make recycling collections on a fortnightly basis. Addresses are assigned to a Blue or a Yellow week. You can check which week you are on at their Sort-it website, but it fails to tell you one very important piece of information: which weeks are blue and which are yellow. They do include a calendar hidden inside the free council propaganda newspaper ‘Bolton Scene’, but many people will have binned this as soon as it dropped through the door and therefore lost the calendar.

When we moved in last year, I emailed the council to ask which weeks were which and they very helpfully emailed back a well formatted excel spreadsheet showing blue days. This begs the question why this spreadsheet is not available for download on the Sort-It website.

Here, therefore, is a calendar for 2008 showing blue and yellow weeks.

Bolton Recycling Calendar for 2008 showing blue and yellow weeks

I have since found links to poor quality scanned PDFs on Bolton Council’s own blue and yellow calendars on the normal council website. Why these are missing from the Sort-It site is still a mystery.

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Bolton Council Betrays its Residents

July 28th, 2007 No comments

I’m curious…

How many pieces of silver did it take for Bolton Council to betray the people of Bolton to the Manchester Congestion Tax?

No doubt, they are labouring under the delusion that “we’ll get a share of the money, but it won’t affect Bolton?. Well, it might not affect the councillors who work in Bolton, but it certainly will affect thousands of council tax paying, (and don’t forget voting) residents of Bolton who do work inside the M60. A clear case of “I’m alright Jack?.

Flawed

The congestion charge scheme is flawed for one very important reason: it wrongly assumes that motorists have a choice. We don’t. We still have to get to work, but the public transport alternatives simply do not exist. This is not London who enjoy a co-ordinated transport system, we instead have the GMPTA. It is therefore nothing more than an additional tax on the motorist. The motorist has already paid several times over in the form of road tax and one of the highest fuel duties in Europe. It is not our fault that successive governments have squandered this money rather than using it to provide a decent public transport system.

Since I work flexitime, it would seem sensible to alter my hours from 8am-4pm to 10am-6pm to try to avoid the charge and ease congestion, but since the evening charging period lasts until 6:30pm, it is clear that the GMPTA’s aim is to maximise income rather than ease congestion.

Expect queues of parked cars just before 9:30am around Manchester, as people hang back before crossing the M60, then an increase in speeding and road rage just before 4pm as drivers race to get out before the charging period starts. This along with several other issues were put to the representatives of the GMPTA at a Salford Chamber of Commerce meeting – not a single question could be answered.

Before anyone compares me to Jeremy Clarkson, I would point out that I would love to use public transport to get to work. I live around the corner from Blackrod station, and work right next door to Clifton Station. The journey time should be around 25 minutes, except for the fact that only one train stops at Clifton each morning. In order to connect with this train, I would have to leave Blackrod the night before. I have contacted GMPTA regarding this lack of service, but it is clear from the excuses in their replies that they have no intention of rectifying the situation.

Metrolink? What Metrolink?

Finally, much hype is being made of money being used to extend Metrolink. Since Bolton is one of the few areas that will never benefit from this, why should we be forced to pay the same as other areas who have the option of using it?

An edited version of this post has been published as a letter in the Bolton News.

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Crown Lane Madness to End

July 21st, 2007 No comments

I was relieved to read in the Bolton News that the ridiculous chicanes installed on Crown Lane in Horwich, are to be removed.

The full details of the decision can be read here, but the summary reads:

Residents of Crown Lane/Station Road have had a longstanding concern about the speed of all traffic and volume of heavy goods vehicles, using this route. In August 2006, following a consultation and public meeting to discuss the options, an experimental scheme was introduced in the form of two chicanes and a 7.5 tonne weight limit. At the end of the first six months of operation, local residents were consulted to determine their views on the operation of the scheme. This report summarises and comments on the concerns expressed, both in response to the introduction of the scheme, and in response to the consultation. Having considered the comments made in response to the latest consultation and by those who have submitted formal objections in writing, the Director of Environmental Services recommends the Executive Member to agree to the removal of the chicanes on Crown Lane, Horwich, to the north of Vale Avenue and on Station Road, Blackrod, at the M61 motorway bridge. The Director further recommends that the Planning and Highways Committee be requested to confirm the Experimental 7.5 tonne Weight Limit as a permanent Order.

Not before time! This is not some back road being used as a rat-run, it is a classified road (the B5238) and forms a vital link between Horwich and Blackrod (and the A6). You only have to look at the chaos caused when the A6 was closed by roadworks, the alternate route via Chorley New Road and De Havilland Way ground to a halt.

If traffic calming is required, then two mini roundabouts at Vale Avenue and Moss Lane would achieve this, (Moss Lane is going to be getting a lot busier, since the Council approved the building of a large number of apartments there), but that would of course cost a lot more money.

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Spirit of Sport

December 2nd, 2005 No comments

I drove past the new Spirit of Sport sculpture next to the Reebok Stadium this morning.

For something that’s supposed to be 21ft higher than the Angel of the North, it doesn’t look very tall, although the Angel of the North is raised up on a hill, rather than stuck in the middle of a roundabout.

Add to that the fact that this has cost over 300,000 pounds, not including the numerous times Bolton Council have dug up the surrounding road, changing the dual carriageway to three lanes and now back to two, causing traffic chaos and delays in the process. This, at a time when the council are whinging that they are 400,000 pounds short on the roads budget. No doubt, someone will point out that the money for the sculpture has come from some different pot, but it doesn’t solve the fact that money has been wasted on the surrounding roads for this.

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