Saturday, 29 January 2011

LOCAL "SITS VAC" - a new Service from the Teme Valley Times!

With the recent price increases in fuel and the unrealistically timetabled public transport, I am beginning to hear more stories of people, who are finding it harder to afford to get to work.  In the last few years Tenbury has become a bit of a dormitory town with more and more people commuting to Worcester, Kidderminster and beyond.  

It would be really nice to see local people taking local jobs, rather than commuting 200 miles a week.

So to start the ball rolling, The Teme Valley Times, the local newspaper, with the highest circulation figures,  is launching an offer for the Feb/Mar issue (due out Feb 9th) - just £20 for an ad 84mm wide and 80mm high - big enough to stand out, but at a price all employers can afford.

This price is for a simple mono ad - a typical "sits vac" ad in other words - no colour, no fancy design, no photos etc.

(Ad deadline: Feb 2nd - Colour/design/photos etc are all possible, but then the ad would cost a bit more.)

Spread the word.  

Monday, 17 January 2011

Tenbury Town Council Inflation Busting Increase

Tenbury Town Council voted tonight to increase their precept by 5.5% an increase of £5312 on last year.

Although some items of expenditure have been cut or budgets reduced, the loss of income from the Regal & associated shops and community centre during renovation has meant an above average increase to the precept.

Hopefully once the restoration is fully completed and the building is fully functional and utilised, the Town will see the benefits and the precept will be greatly reduced.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Join Hugh's Fish Fight.

I'm not often taken by campaigns, and I knew that by-catch is a problem, but it wasn't until Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall started his Fish Fight that I realised just how big a problem it is.  On the trawler Hugh visited, they had to throw away dead, 50% of their catch as they had no quota.  This happened every five hours. If you just counted the Cod, it was enough to feed 2,000 people. Yes 2,000 people, every five hours from just one boat.

Surely, it would be better to limit the number of days the boat was allowed to fish, but to land everything they caught.

Apart from the shameful waste of fish, think of the waste of fuel used by the Trawler having to stay at sea twice as many days.

I urge you all to sign up to his campaign and lobby you MP & MEP.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Tenbury Town Council - Budget Cuts?

Tenbury Town Council were struggling last night to prepare a balanced budget now their Golden Goose is due to stop laying.

Regular readers of this blog may remember that I have been urging the Town Council for several years to modernise their account procedures so that they can better understand where their (our) money is spent.

Previously they set a budget against one set of criteria but reported income against a completely different set.

I maintained as our democratically elected representatives it is up to them to decide what they subsidise and by how much, but I couldn't see how they were making informed decisions when the accounting was shrouded in such mystery.

One reason for the reluctance to publish clear accounts, is that maybe large sums of money are being spent subsidising facilities that are used by very few people, but in the past it was impossible to confirm the exact details.

It now appears that the Regal Cinema was making a significant positive contribution to the Town's finances, but as it is going to be out of action for between 12 & 18 months for renovation, this means that the money to prop up their other services has to be found elsewhere.

To balance the budget, either expenditure has to be cut, or the amount paid by the Council Tax payers through the precept has to be increased. Or perhaps a mixture of the both.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Tesco Tenbury - Why Permission Was Refused

Yesterday, Tenbury witnessed a lesson in democracy.  For many of the "audience" this may have been the first time that they had witnessed their district representatives in action and how they interacted with the paid officers of the Council.  I was impressed by the presentations given by both the Tenbury Ward members.

What may have surprised some, is that despite some councillors feeling that they are qualified to sit on such a committee they clearly do not have full understanding of the process.  
No wonder the Tesco representatives were smiling at some of the Cllrs comments as they clearly paved the way for any appeal.

Luckily their minders, the paid officers, by due process, managed (just) to keep the final decision on the straight and narrow and hopefully avoid MHDC (and us by virtue of our Council Tax) being hit by a large application for costs at any appeal.

I am not either a planning or legal expert so as always the content of this blog are my opinion and observation.  I have been wrong before, and will be wrong again.  Additional coverage of last nights meeting is scheduled to run in tonight's Shropshire Star, and will probably also appear in the various Newsquest publications such as the Worcester Evening News.

By the time yesterday's meeting took place, some of the original objections raised in the very comprehensive "Recommend to refuse" report had been overturned by additional information having been made available.  The final reasons for rejection are.:

1. The detailed design, general massing and site layout of the proposed store would not make a positive contribution to the character and local distinctiveness of the Tenbury Wells Conservation Area, and would result in the demolition of a valuable building of local interest in the conservation area, contrary to Policy HE7.5 of PPS5, Policy CTC19 of the Worcestershire County Structure Plan and Policies QL7 and QL8 of the Malvern Hills District Local Plan.

2. The design of the proposed car park and its relationship to the River Teme does not sustain and enhance the significance of the Tenbury Wells Conservation Area, the River Teme and the Riverside walk and does not constitute a positive role in place shaping contrary to Policy HE7.4 of PPS5, Policy CTC19 of the Worcestershire County Structure Plan and policy QL7 and QL9 of the Malvern Hills District Local Plan.

3. The proposed car parking area adjacent to the boundary of the Old Firestation and Temeside House is harmfull to the setting of the grade II listed buildings, detracting from their significance as heritage assetts, and is likely to damage the buildings economic vitality now, or in the future contrary to Policy HE10 of PPS5, Policy CTC19 of the Worcestershire County Structure Plan and Policy QL13 of the Malvern Hills District Local Plan.

4. In the absence of a Section 106 Agreement in respect of highway and sustainability measures which include the provision of a local bus service, a contribution to public realm works and monitoring of the junction of the A4112/A456, the level of car parking proposed on the site and traffic generated by the proposal would result in vehicles associated with the development parking within the public highway, which would restrict the free flow of traffic to the detriment of highway safety, contrary to Policy DS3 of the Malvern Hills District Plan.

A number of Cllrs had wanted to add Town Vitality and the Bridge/Road Safety into the reasons for rejection, but were wisely advised by the Council Solicitor and Development Control Manager, not to.

Yesterday the Cllrs had a choice to accept the reasons above and refuse planning permission or the defer the decision and work with the applicant to improve the design and agree on the terms of the S106 agreement.

They decided by voting 7 to refuse, 4 not to refuse and 2 abstentions.

So where does that leave Tenbury?

Personally I think Tesco will appeal, and I think they have a good chance of them winning. (but what do I know!)  They may also prepare a new application which addresses some of the issues, and use the threat of the appeal to concentrate the minds of the officials.  The town is far more likely to benefit from a generous S106 settlement from an application than from a plan passed on appeal.

Why do I think this?

The first reason for refusal is all about size and design.  These decisions are subjective.  I have felt all along that the design is wrong and the size too large.  I'm not architecturally trained, but I know a good design when I see one (although another person looking at the same design may well disagree).  When backed into a corner in the past Tesco have appointed "eminent" designers who have come up with stunning designs.  Size will still be an issue, Tesco will want to maximise the size of the store to maximise their return on investment, whilst the site demands a smaller store to allow sufficient car parking, access and room for the River side walk.

The second reason is about the interaction with the car park and the River Teme.  It has at last been acknowledged that if Tenbury stands any chance of becoming a Tourist destination, it needs to make much better use of its Riverside position.  The existing dark, damp and unkempt riverside walk is a disgrace.  Much more thought needs to be given how to open up this path and provide an attractive environment and views. 

The third reason is both subjective and technical.  Temeside house is hardly an attractive or vibrant addition to the town.  It continues to deteriorate, and whilst it has some residential and business use these could cynically be termed as cosmetic rather than viable.

The fourth reason is purely technical and a negotiated S106 agreement could be completed without too much effort.

Other Arguments 

Vitality : Much has been made of the development damaging the vitality of the Town.  This is not an argument that I have agreed with, and it seems that the Independent Retail Consultant employed by the District Council also disagrees.  Many articles and studies have been quoted, but they all refer to large out of town superstores.  I can find no studies where small (the proposed store is at the larger end of small) in town stores have caused major damage.  They do provide competition to other similar food retailers, but that isn't sufficient reason to refuse them.  Both Bowketts and Spar have been described as "over-trading" (which means their turnover per square foot is much higher than the expected norm) which means they could reduce their turnover significantly without it fundamentally damaging the business. 

The Bridge : We all know that the bridge is "old" and showing signs of wear.  The County Council maintain that it is structurally sound and that their monitoring and inspection regime will ensure that it remains operational.  Opinions may differ, but in planning terms, you have to defer to the statutory experts.

Safety : In an ideal world you wouldn't mix vehicles and people, but we do not live in an ideal world, and vehicles and people have to mix everyday.  The delivery arrangements for most of the business' in town are far from ideal, and Tenbury is not unique in this.  Only large, modern and often out of town shopping complexes solve this problem, but of course they also cause many others.  I agree that wherever possible we should plan for failure, but again this argument isn't one that holds up in planning terms.  Risk management is the duty of the retailer.

Jobs : I was surprised that the Tesco representative was still quoting the 150 jobs figure.  This is calculated as the average number of jobs per square foot of retail space.  I thought this figure had been down graded due to the slowing economic climate.

Electricity : It is claimed that a company in Burford is unable to expand as Tesco have bought up all the spare capacity in the area.  Sorry, but I don't believe this. 

The only option : Clearly this isn't the only option for the site.  It is probably the most financially rewarding option for the site owner. It is the only application on the table, but it would not be beyond the scope of human ingenuity to come up with alternatives.  

Parking :  Parking is and always will be a problem. Insufficient parking adds to congestion as cars circulate looking for somewhere to park.

Public transport : Public transport especially in rural areas is a joke, and anyone with a viable alternative is unlikely to be persuaded otherwise.  Tesco's have comprehensively misunderstood the existing provision and have not as yet come up with any sensible alternatives.  Clearly their "wish" that staff will arrive using methods other than cars is short sighted and unless their opening hours are only 10am to 3pm completely unworkable.

Traffic Congestion : As someone who has lived and worked in London and other major cities, I would say what congestion, but the lack of road congestion is one of the major benefits of living rurally.  I do believe that the traffic survey was defective as Tenbury Traffic does not conform to the norm.  In most Towns, Saturday afternoon is the busiest time of the week, whilst in Tenbury it is the quietest. This needs to be re-visited, and revised if any new application is submitted.  I think that congestion will be more of a problem than acknowledged by the applicant, but less than indicated by the objectors.

So, we live in interesting times.  I predict chaos on Teme Street for much of 2011 & 2012 (and perhaps beyond) as work begins on the renovation of the Regal, the repairs to the drains, the resurfacing of the roads & the repairs to the bridge.  TesNo or Yesco, the next few years will see additional pressure on the vitality of the town, for reasons other than competition. 

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Tesco Tenbury - Permission Refused

The Northern Area Development Control committee of Malvern Hills District Council has tonight upheld the planning officers recommendation that planning permission be REFUSED.

After hours of discussion a final vote of Councillors was 7 for refusal, 4 against refusal and 2 abstentions.

More information to follow tomorrow......