Sunday, 24 February 2013

Funding Gap for Luton Dunstable Busway

The Luton Dunstable busway has a £5.2 million funding gap. Councillors will discuss figures on Tuesday this week. Luton and Central Bedfordshire Councils are supposed to be paying £9.83m towards the overall cost of the project which is predominantly being paid for by Central Government. But they still have to find more than £5m.

Liberal Democrat Leader at Luton Borough Council, David Franks, is quoted in today's Luton on Sunday, as saying "It is no surprise to me that the busway looks like leaving a £9.3m headache. The scandal is that none of the senior Labour councillors seems to have seen it coming and they are still denying it's a problem. What they will not say is where the money is going to come from, my guess is that they will end up borrowing it which will lead to more problems with interest charges and repayments."

The busway is due to open later than planned in the middle of 2013.

adw

Friday, 22 February 2013

Fuel Prices: We're Too High in The UK !

Fuel costs hit everyone's budget. And effects prices in the shops. VAT is added to Duty. Tax on tax. It's not right. It's not fair.


Thursday, 14 February 2013

PhotoSpot: Landpark Wood

At Landpark Wood B4540/B4541, Bedfordshire 2013/2/13. Pathways very muddy in places. Not good for "silly shoes". Stout footwear, boots or wellies a must. Some of these images are available as quality prints. Check out my Pro-Prints.

Location Map, Bedfordshire, UK
From the free car park near the roundabout, there is a gate through to a meadow.  A littler bin and dog poo bin are available close by. Immediately ahead is a tarmacadamed path leading to a picnic table. The meadow is ideal for dogs to run around on. The meadow has a picnic table. Dirt paths run off at several points from the meadow. The paths are uneven and not suitable for people with walking difficulties. Great for a ramble and for exploring.











Thank you for looking. For pro-prints visit http://society6.com/AlanWinter

adw snow bedfordshire wood whipsnade dog meadow woodland






Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Things ARE Improving in Town!

On one of my rare journeys out to the west of Houghton Regis today I noticed that

  • Morrisons fly-post signs had come down
  • A new dual purpose recycling/ordinary rubbish bin has replaced a rusty bin at the bottom of Mill Road
  •  A dumped bus stop post lying in an alleyway had been removed
There's probably a few more things improved, but I think I'll chalk my earlier post up as having a successful outcome!

Now all I, and all other motorists want, is those wretched temporary road humps removed, and the rest of the road works in the town centre over and done with. All in good time.

hrnd adw

Monday, 11 February 2013

HRN1 Comments: More Needs Doing to Decrease Car Dependency

The Town Council Planning and Licensing Committee tonight made comments on the soundness of the overview plans for HRN1, the major site north of Houghton Regis which is expected to deliver up to 5150 homes of the 7000 total new homes Central Bedfordshire want to build around the north of the town.

I made several comments around the need to encourage less dependency on the motor car. In the many documents for review several mentions are made of walking routes and cycling routes, which is all well and good, but if we are to seriously encourage less use of the motor car then more needs to be done. Yes, the busway will help to get people into Dunstable and Luton for shopping, and possibly to railway stations, but even more can be done.

I asked that the developers look to encourage a car pool scheme especially around higher density areas, and also at provision of a shuttle bus service to Leagrave railway station. The former Kodak building in Hemel Hempstead town centre operates such a scheme, and if the HRN1 team are impressed, then such offerings would surely be useful selling points, as well as helpful to the environment.

More a critique of the overall development planning for the whole of Central Beds, I also asked for consideration of a park and ride scheme. The location at the to-be constructed M1 junction 11a, ought to be a suitable location for a park and ride scheme that would encourage local people to use long distance coaches rather than cars, for making those sort of journeys. Equally, incoming people might also be disuaded from clogging up the whole Luton- Dunstable- Houghton Regis conurbation when they visit for social, retail, and recreation purposes if they had somewhere to park before using good local public transport.

I requested that like for like alternative roads were provided around shopping centres so that if road works became essential, traffic could still negociate the area without making big detours.

Concern was raised by others about the lack of inclusion of land for a cemetery to which I added, land for place or places of worship had also been overlooked. The cash generating schemes like a car showroom and a supermarket had been specifically mentioned at this early stage. Isn't it telling that a loss making thing like a chapel or a cemetery, is too far down the developers thinking to be included at this stage?

Whilst other councillors made other comments or otherwise supported my suggestions, it would be improper by the rules of the council, for me to mention them here. The collected comments will be available from the Town Council when approved in due course.

To make a comment, support or object: http://www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/PLANTECH/DCWebPages/acolnetcgi.gov?ACTION=UNWRAP&RIPNAME=Root.PgeResultDetail&TheSystemkey=579904

At the foot of the page, click "Submit a Public Online Comment", and then click If you do not have a reference number click here"

posted from Bloggeroid

Edit/ letter to CBC:
 I write to raise my concerns to the planning application CBC/12/03613 .

In respect of Floorspace and Landuse there is a lack of acknowledgement of the need to provide space for places of worship and places for the respectful consideration of the deceased. With the proposed number of new dwellings should be a calculation of landspace required to meet the minimum number of deaths occurring, I would suggest, in at least a 100 year period. In respect of accommodating places of worship, I would suggest that land multiplied by two, based on such places as the total floorspace of the Baptist Church in Hammersmith Gardens, and the Meeting House in Lowry Drive, in Houghton Regis is allocated.

I have concerns about the Illustrative Masterplan. The primary vehicular road through Zones H, G, F and E is depicted with homes facing onto the primary route. As this is just depicted as a single road, should roadworks be ever required after scheme completion, traffic would need an alternative route on a like for like road, and therefore could give rise to lengthy detours. A trivial, but nevertheless a potential problem when houses front a primary road, might be that weekly congestion occurs when dustbin lorries collect, witnessed weekly in Poynters Road, Dunstable.

The scheme makes mention of walking and cycling routes; a scenario mentioned in an online study for HRN1 puts the case for someone cycling around the entire area of Houghton Regis, including going as far as cycling through Houghton Hall Park. The case is flawed as cycling is not permitted in that Park. Whilst emphasis on cycling is welcomed, for most new home occupiers there will continue to be dependency on a motor vehicle for transport. The scheme encourages routes for buses, but I feel that even more could be done to discourage dependency on motor cars.

Long distance coach travel out of the area could be encouraged by the provision of a long distance coach stop with associated local long term parking. That same long term parking could also act as a place for people coming into the Luton / Dunstable / Houghton Regis conurbation to park up and transfer onto local public transport for shopping, business and cultural visits, thereby freeing up congested roads in those towns.

Where there is a high concentration of dwellings within the scheme area, a car-pool sharing scheme might be offered to make a vehicle available to residents when required. At the same time, an associated scheme might offer a shuttle bus service to the local railway station at Leagrave, for those residents reducing the need for additional parking provision at the railway station. Such a combination of schemes might gain favour in terms of reducing the overall normal requirement for parking spaces per dwelling unit. Such a scheme would help promote community bonding and ought to be a useful additional marketing strategy for such a development. For an example look at http://www.livetheimage.com, the KD Tower, in Hemel Hempstead.

The bus transportation companies should be encouraged to run a service direct from Houghton Regis to Leagrave Station.

Tags: hrn1 development car

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Hemel Hempstead: Labour Waste Public Money on a By-Election


ADEYFIELD WEST BY-ELECTION

Labour Councillor Keith White who represented Adeyfield West has resigned his seat as a Dacorum Borough Councillor.  With local elections planned on 2nd May the by-election could have been delayed however it has been called early, BY LABOUR.

Residents in Adeyfield West ward will now have to go to the polls twice, once on Thursday 21st March and again six weeks later on Thursday 2nd May.

Details can be found on the Dacorum Council Website http://www.dacorum.gov.uk/default.aspx?page=8096

adw

Zebra Crossings: My Passion for Central Refuges

This week I had correspondence with the Highway Authority for Bedfordshire,  and with Central Bedfordshire Council Development Control officials. Copying in various CBC councillors. I was concerned about the impending works due to start tomorrow in Houghton Regis High Street.

When complete, the scheme, a Section 278 agreement, for road works in conjunction with Morrison's new large supermarket, will provide 8 new zebra crossings, where previously there had been just 3 pelican crossings. Part of the scheme is illustrated here.

Looking back to the record of the Planning and Licensing committee of the Town Council in October 2010, I can see that we recorded concern at the proximity of some of the 'pelican' crossings to roundabouts. Where 'pelican' came from, I'm not sure, because the scheme shows zebra's. For myself, I do recall commenting that they were zebra crossings.

At the time we probably concentrated a lot more on the plethora of paper work to do with the store, the car park, and the access points. Nevertheless, the point was made about crossings being too close to roundabouts.  But, I think, whatever sort of crossing, there was an unquestioned belief that central refuge's would also be provided with these crossings. After all, as with the present pelican crossing below, we already had a refuge. Why would this new scheme offer less protection to pedestrians?

Pelican crossing with central refuge is due to be replaced with a zebra and no refuge.
The Bedford Road, Houghton Regis, was converted to a zebra late last year. The old central refuge was removed, the zebra installed a bit further back from the roundabout than previous position, but without a central refuge. There was an instant outcry from the public saying it was too close to the roundabout for such a long crossing. Check my Houghton Regis News Desk Facebook page. And newspapers have twice reported knock-downs of pedestrians since then, in Bedford Road.


CBC's Development Control apparently asked for  the crossing to be moved even further back from the roundabout "before Christmas". But nothing appeared to happen. The revised plan I was privvy to seemed to call for the zebra to be removed back down the road about 3/4 the width of the crossing. Maybe it was, or is being moved. But I don't think people will spot that it's been moved. So we're still likely to have an outcry. 

The width of this road in Houghton Regis is due to get a zebra crossing without a central refuge.
Somewhere near the keep left sign above, a crossing is due to be installed, without a central refuge. I am very concerned that when traffic comes off this roundabout that they will not have a clear view of a pedestrian standing over on the right hand side of the road. Traffic will emerge from Bedford Road (on the right of this picture above) and will not necessarily have a good sight line to pedestrians. In the picture below, looking from the other direction, you could try to make your own estimation of sight, on perhaps a dull, wet day with rain lashing at the windscreen.

Orange arrows indicate locations for TWO zebra crossings. High Street, Houghton Regis
This is a view of the same crossing from the other direction. As you can see from above, maybe there should not be two crossings so close together, but that is a secondary issue to the one of providing a pedestrian refuge. 

Can I tell you, dear reader, I'm currently being advised by Highways that in Houghton Regis the road is not too wide, and therefore people do not need a refuge. So why am I so passionately in favour of refuges? 

Here's why. When I lived in Hemel Hempstead for over 30 years, the local zebra crossing in Queensway close to a roundabout, had a refuge, and still has. A fairly narrow road, taking a significant amount of traffic, but IT HAS A REFUGE that 
  • gives pedestrians a safety zone if someone coming off the roundabout misses them, 
  • gives pedestrians confidence to cross.
  • helps to reduce the chance of accidents.

Queensway, Hemel Hempstead. Busy road, zebra crossing, AND a central refuge.

Closer to home there are dozens of examples where central refuges are provided. Here's one in West Street Dunstable:



So, why can't we have refuges, too, in Houghton Regis?

  

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

A Question of Gay Marriage

Would I go to a gay wedding? No. I wouldn't want to go to a gay wedding. It would give me the creeps.

That said, if the Bill goes through, there'll be lots of broad happy smiles in the gay community, planning their weddings, and generally cheering people up in a time of economic gloom, as they walk down the road. Perhaps the sudden outbreak of spending on gay weddings will even boost the economy and help get this country out of the doldrums.

Some say marriage for heterosexuals is for family life and bringing up children. But the same arguers overlook that gays can adopt.

Older heterosexuals don't necessarily marry for children; Surely they marry for love, companionship, security? Same for gays. No difference.

A civil partnership looks after a lot of the legal niceties. Are we saying that older heterosexuals should not get married, and instead make do with a civil partnership? No, that would be silly. So long as marriage is recognised okay for this group, I can't see how it would be equitable to disallow a gay couple to have something they call marriage.

#equal #equalmarriage adw Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. 400 MPs in favour / 175 against.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Another Unpaid Week in Politics


I've had a number of meetings this week.

On Monday evening I took part in the full Town Council Meeting. We heard that we had not got all the information we needed to set a budget for the town council yet, for April 2013 to March 2014. In the past the number of households on which to base Council Tax has included all those who did not pay council tax, but were in receipt of benefits. The government then guaranteed the collecting council, in our case Central Bedfordshire, the money. Now, the government is saying that the collecting council cannot include those households on benefits. Therefore, there is a shortfall of household numbers over which to spread the same total costs. In common with other councils, Central Bedfordshire have had to come up with their own scheme to decide how they will charge those households on benefits. In turn, for the coming year, CBC have calculated a bonus that Houghton Regis Town Council will get from its share of the money they hope to collect from those households on benefits, some of whom will be paying Council Tax for the first time (or not, if they decide putting food on the table is more important!) - The resulting gap on the Town Council's financing  is that we'll have to put up our share of the Council Tax just to keep on with what we are paying for now. Then add inflationary costs, and it bumps up again. The next dilemma, is that there is no guarantee from CBC that they will give us this "bonus" next year, which could leave us with a gaping £90,000 hole in the budget for next year. Tomorrow night, we have to meet again to decide what our Town Council's share of the whole Council Tax pot will be.

On Tuesday I attended the Houghton Regis Memorial Hall's steering committee. The Hall was built out of fundraising in the fifties by people who wanted to leave a lasting legacy to the local people who died in World Wars. The Hall's funds are in a healthy state. We heard about the need for maintenance items like water pipes needing attention, flaking brickwork in parts, and discussed ways to keep cars off a pathway at the rear of the building. New fire doors are to be ordered up to replace a rotting framework and doors in poor condition. The insistence of the Performing Rights people that the Hall needs to pay for a licence to put music on rumbles on. The committee doesn't see why the Hall should pay for a licence as they don't play any music. People who book the hall pay for their own licences if they want music; why do Performing Rights insist on a douple dip?  We meet again in 2 months time.

On Wednesday afternoon I had a two hour meeting with Nick Shaw from Central Bedfordshire Council's Travel Choices team. He gave me an overview of their remit and explained how some of the £4.9m is to be spent around Leighton Buzzard, Dunstable, and Houghton Regis. In return I gave him a list of things on my mind to do with Houghton Regis.The team have already done some work on Dog Kennel path and other parts of this route that form a part of a national cycle route. There is some potential news ahead in the form of a community bus. A wheels-to-work scheme is being run by Beds RCC - an example given was that someone was assisted back into the workplace by being provided with a scooter to get to Aylesbury for 6am. If anyone has ideas for improving routes to work, or otherwise improving walking and cycling routes, and provided the route is one that "Highways" would be responsible for, then Travel Choices might be able to help. Or drop me a note.

On Wednesday evening I had another meeting at the Town Council's offices. This time in private to meet with my colleagues to discuss our ideas on the Houghton Regis precept for the Council Tax. Debate and consensus reached.


© A D Winter 2013

On Friday I was amazed to see the roof was off a land-mark building in Houghton Regis town centre and wrote up this story. Some of my Facebook friends nearly had kittens when they read it. I understand from ward councillors, Susan Goodchild and David Jones that they have alerted the planning enforcement officers.


On Saturday morning I attended a 3 hour meeting of the Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service public forum in Brewers Hill Road, Dunstable. An insightful and well run meeting in which the options facing BFRS for their share of Council Tax were explained and considered. The government would permit a 1% increase in BFRS share of Council Tax, AND GIVE IT TO THEM FOR NO INCREASE TO THE COUNCIL TAX PAYER. Except the catch is, that if inflation runs at 3%, then by the end of the year their overhead costs will have increased, and they will then need to collect even more the following year to catch up. Perhaps it is better to collect 2% and pass that 2% increase to the tax payer. That way asking for another increase the next year will not need to be such a big jump. That was certainly what the majority of the public forum thought. 

FIRE QUIZ
Have a go at these questions and write a quick answer down. Then check this link for the answer. 
1. How many people per year die in fires in Bedfordshire ?
2. How much does it cost in labour to crew one fire engine for a year ?
3. What is the annual budget of BFRS ?
4. How much does BFRS cost a Band D property ?

And Finally ...
It was brass monkey weather down at "Great Crixsey Cow Common", the home of Dunstablians RFU, on Saturday afternoon. At least 3 degrees cooler than up in the town. At least the locals won!
© A D Winter 2013