Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Speed limit between Gilberdyke and Howden is legally enforceable

As both a Howdenshire Ward Councillor and Chairman of the Police and Partners Community Forum, I have been asked many questions regarding the need for, and the legality of the speed limit on the section of the B1230 running through Eastrington Parish between Gilberdyke and Howden .

I cannot recall ever seeing a speed limit on a section of road quite like this, a limit in place to allow horses to use the road as a bridleway – but I’ve yet to see a horse, hear of anyone else seeing a horse, or know of any horse owners daft enough to ride a horse on this dangerous section of road.

It is all very confusing, with some people suddenly coming across the speed limit, braking hard and continuing at 30mph through the limited section, some vehicles behind are then surprised by the sudden braking and have to brake harder, and those behind them having to brake harder still. A great number of vehicles completely ignore the speed limit altogether and continue through the limited section at the normal speed - overtaking those travelling at 30mph at will.I am told by a local magistrate that he has fined people for travelling on this section of road, conversely I've had members of the public telling me the limit is not legally enforceable due to incorrect signage and warnings, including the lack of a 40mph buffer as the limit drops from the speed limit of 60mph for this type of road down to 30mph.

The Definitive Answer

The East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC) has looked into this on my behalf has provided me with some definitive information.

The Highways Agency is carrying out essential repairs to Addle Lane Bridge, which crosses the M62, and forms part of a bridleway used by pedestrians and horse riders etc. A risk assessment carried out by the Highways Agency stated that with the bridge being closed and horse riders having to travel along the B1230 to another bridge to cross the M62, that the route should have a temporary 30mph speed limit for the duration of the works.

A temporary 30mph speed limit was introduced on the B1230 between Addle Lane junction and Newland Gate junction under Section 14(1) of The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. The temporary order is dated 16/10/2008 and came into operation when the works started on 28/10/2008 and is valid for up to 18 months. It was anticipated that the works would have been completed within 5 months but the works have exceeded the anticipated completion date and the latest estimated completion date is 28/10/2009. This is still within the 18-month duration of the temporary order.

I am told there is no legal requirement to introduce a 40mph speed limit before entering a 30mph speed limit, either as a temporary or permanent order. 40mph buffer speed limits are occasionally put in place on “A” and “B” classified roads to help speed reduction prior to a 30mph speed limit in built up or partially built up areas or where there is a history of traffic injury accidents.

It has been confirmed to me that the temporary 30mph speed limit on the B1230 is signed correctly with 30mph / national speed limit signs on both sides of the road at the entry points. Specifically, there are five 300mm diameter repeater signs at approximately 200 metre intervals on alternate sides of the carriageway (the maximum distance between repeaters on alternate sides of the carriageway is 250 metres; Chapter 3, Traffic Signs Manual 2008, page 117, table 14-4).

I am also informed that only issue that might affect the legality of the 30mph speed limit is an interpretation of the distance from the terminal sign of the speed limit and the first repeater sign. The recommended maximum distance on a 30mph speed limit without street lighting should be 200 metres (Chapter 3, Traffic Signs Manual 2008, page 117, table 14-4). The distance from the terminal signs and the first repeater on the B1230 is 220 metres, at both the eastern and the western ends of the temporary speed limit. Whilst this is outside the recommended distance, it is a recommendation and not a mandatory distance. At 20 metres over the recommended distance, it is still within 10% of it.

In conclusion the ‘speed limit is legally enforceable - please drive with care’

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The British Wind Energy Association - should they listen more to local communities?

This past Tuesday was spent at a full day Renewable Energy seminar in sunny Bridlington, an event put on by BWEA (British Wind Energy Association) in association with Novera Energy who run the ‘nearby’ Lissett windfarm (pictured above), which we also visited during the day.

The day was enlightening in a number of ways and somewhat thought provoking. It is quite clear that the main driver of both the BWEA and Novera is addressing the issue climate change, which I applaud and can support. The other significant driver is of course money, something both parties seemed reluctant to address or discuss, but alas an issue that concerns many.

I arrived feeling genuinely concerned that the industry has unresolved issues regarding siting of windfarms and how companies engage with local communities. The document at the front of the pack we were given stated, “Councillors and Officers will leave the events with increased knowledge of planning for wind energy” - was this seminar going to be a brainwashing attempt I wondered, if so bad idea!!

Did I learn anything? To be honest a little, and certainly confirmation that speculative windfarm developers are only in it for themselves, they talk about public enquiries and not the planning process, they allude to community engagement but not community involvement, and they refuse to publicly answer questions relating to Government subsidies.

There also seemed to be a startling lack of balance considering it was a renewable energy seminar perhaps it should just have been labelled ‘wind energy’ as it’s difficult to recall any significant mention of wave power, tidal power or Biomass.

Strangely the chair of the morning session failed to mention the local planning process even once but happily raised the subject of Public Enquiries – a very expensive £six figure process that comes as part of an appeal to the Government’s planning inspectorate if planning consent has been refused by the Local Authority.

The BWEA media briefing paper says, “The locally elected planning committees should not be relying on the Planning Inspectorate to take decisions which should be taken at the local level in accordance with national and local policy” – well I can say as a member of the ERYC planning committee, we certainly make those decisions, unfortunately not all are for approval.

As we see more permissions granted at appeal I certainly feel that the Government’s removal of legitimate basis for opposition during the local planning system and the politicising of the Planning Inspectorate can only be damaging to the industry.

It was quite obvious for all to see that very little priority is given to getting communities on board from the very beginning of an application, the BWEA don’t seem to understand this would certainly make the planning process easier. I raised the subject of community engagement, community involvement, and even community ownership of windfarms, which could include communities having shares in a windfarm, could include those communities within a 5-km radius receiving concessionary or low cost green electricity, or even constructing an extra wind turbine on a particular site from which the net profits could be given to the community. Needless to say this line of thought met with almost universal blank looks, although it did dawn on a couple of them later in the day that this might just be an option worth exploring!`

The afternoon session had a young presenter, who perhaps proved to be the exception on the day as he spoke on micro wind energy, something in which communities could play an important part. He dealt with turbines that could power an individual house, several houses or even an industrial site – something the possibly needs further investigation.

Finally, as we left the room and stepped into the bright sunshine I thought – Does the BWEA need to lift the lid from the boxes they appear to inhabit - and let some sunshine in?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Child's third pet cat dies in latest Gilberdyke poisoning

The weekend has again seen another case of what appears to be the poisoning of pet cats in Gilberdyke. Five-year-old Libby Reynolds, who stays weekends with her grandparents at 9 Scalby Lane, has had three of her pet cats poisoned during the last 6 months.

The first cat went missing last Boxing Day and she never saw it again and assumed it may have been run over, subsequently a neighbour informed the family that he’d found the cat dead in his garden and had buried it. Two days later on 29th December 2008, Libby’s other cat was found in a great deal distress and extremely ill at the front door by her grandparents when they returned from a night out, they thought it had been hit by a car, however on closer examination it was obvious that was not the case, they took the cat to the vet where it was kept in overnight, tragically for Libby the cat had to be put down the following day. The vet thought it had been killed by eating rat poison or weed killer.

Libby was then given two kittens to make up for her loss, all was well until last Saturday when one of them was found dead in a neighbours garden, it was lying in vomit and excrement and had the symptoms of an agonising death similar to that of her previous cat. On Sunday another cat that used to frequent Libby’s grandparent’s home to play with her cats was found dead in the same garden, it also had the same symptoms as the other two, the owner has not been traced.

The incident has been reported to the Police and the RSPCA and logged by the Police under crime number 792 of 20th June 2009. If anyone has any information please don’t hesitate to contact the Police on 0845 60 60 222.

Libby is not on her own as the Whitehouse family of nearby Willow Green also lost two family cats in mysterious circumstances last November.

Also five year old Tyler Holtby of Hewitts Cottages, Clementhorpe Road, Gilberdyke lost two of his cats in mysterious circumstances in March of this year, and a third cat returned home showing similar symptoms to Libby’s cats. Fortunately the vet was able to save the animal on this occasion.

A cat belonging to Kerry Mortimer also of Hewitts Cottages had her cat disappear last October.

These incidents may all be accidental - but they may also be deliberate. I hope that if the poisoning of these cats has been deliberate the person or people responsible fully understand the appalling suffering the animals go through before they die, and the distress caused especially to small children whose only crime has been to own a pet cat.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Campaign to protect children from abuse by estranged parents

I recently met Clare Scanlan who is part of a campaign to protect children from legalised abuse, and she asked me to highlight her cause. The issue concerns parents who leave a domestic abusive relationship to protect their children only to be forced by the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (CAFCASS) & family law courts to hand over their children for contact with the very people they are trying to protect them from, therefore placing them at risk.

Having looked into this there is invariably two sides to each story or case, but there does appear to be a loophole in the system that needs addressing, and an e-campaign has been set up on the Number10.gov website (see link below)

CAFCASS is independent of the courts, social services, education and health authorities and all similar agencies. It is a non-departmental public body accountable to Ed Balls, MP, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families in the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

The campaign is to highlight concerns that both CAFCASS and the courts are putting the rights of the abusive parents before the needs and rights of the child that needs protecting, often without even doing the relevant checks on the abusive parent. It also asks why is this being allowed to happen and that it must be stopped now, before yet another child becomes another sad statistic

The campaign message is:

Please help us parents who had the courage to leave an abusive relationship, protect our vulnerable children. An abusive parent is NOT better than no parent!

Please find the links below to the facebook group, an e-petition on the No.10.gov website, and the netmums forum that started all this.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Who owns the Market Weighton Canal and what happens to the money paid by people to fish?

A while ago, at the request of residents and Newport Parish Council I attempted to establish the ownership of the Market Weighton canal, who was responsible for the banks, who owned the fishing rights, and what happened to the money paid by people to fish.

Ownership was transferred to the predecessors of The Environment Agency in 1951, and was, and continues to be limited to the bed of the canal, stretching from the disused Sodhouses Lock (near Wholsea Grange) in the north, to Weighton Lock as the canal joins the Humber in the south.

The Environment Agency does not own the banks of the canal apart from four small areas of land which were purchased by predecessor bodies, as follows:

1. Land around Weighton Lock

2. Land each side of the canal at Oxmadike Marr (to the north of the railway line)

3. Land at the junction of the canal and the River Foulness.

4. A small area of land in Newport, on the left bank of the canal just to the North of the B1230 (Main Road).

Until a few years ago, Hull and District Anglers Association paid rent to the Environment Agency and its predecessors. The Anglers Association requested fishing platforms to be built but the Environment Agency however were unsure of who owned the canal banks, and from this time on, the Association refused to pay rent to the Agency presumably because they assumed that if the Agency did not own the banks then they did not own the fishing rights, although this has not stopped the Anglers Association continuing to charge people for fishing. Even today I was able to buy a Temporary Membership Permit/ticket for £4 (see below) enabling me to fish for the day.

The Agency now take the view that, as owner of the bed of the canal, they are able to assert an exclusive right to the actual fishery, even if they cannot provide fishing platforms without the consent of the people who own the canal banks. They have assured me that they will look into the matter of regularising the situation with the Hull and District Anglers Association, and I hope the appropriate rents can be levied on them without delay, and these rents be backdated to reflect the fact the Hull and District Anglers Association has, and continue to charge for fishing.

It is worth noting that although the Agency’s ownership does not (for the most part) extend to the banks of the canal, their position as an authority which regulates ‘main rivers’ means that they have a considerable amount of control over what the owners of the banks and the adjoining land can actually do with their land, as they require the Agency’s permission/consent for most actions within the eight metre byelaw strip. But this is another story.......