Thursday, September 30, 2010

Goole College Consultative Forum

I was invited to be part of a new Consultative Forum at Goole College and today we had the first meeting, which turned out to be especially enjoyable and very constructive. The more I see of Goole College - the more I am impressed with what I see, particularly the forward thinking demonstrated by Gary Warke the Deputy Chief Executive and David Caldicott the Centre Manager – the glass is certainly half full when it comes to the future.

This is typified by the relationship the College has developed to deliver the ATA (Automotive Training Arm) for BMW in nearby Thorne. This is a move away from the concept of College education having to be delivered in a College building – I certainly feel education can be delivered in many different ways and not necessarily in a formal educational building or establishment, and if this can be provided effectively and efficiently in partnership with business it is surely one way of delivering the same, or more, for less money.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

HSBC continues in refusing to reinstate North Cave ATM cash machine

North Cave continues to cope without the HSBC ATM machine; with the company continuing to dig in it’s heels in refusing to reinstate the machine after the attempted robbery.

Needless to say the bank has replied to the Council subsequent to my motion to the last Council meeting, in the letter the HSBC still pedals the ‘questionable’ reasons it feels why a service to a rural community should not be continued, and refuses to listen to reason.

But there is good news - I have recently received an expression of interest from another company willing to install a free to use ATM in the village – I will be working with the company, Parish Council and residents to identify a suitable site and try and find a way forward.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hull, Scarborough & East Riding LEP - Let's make the area a great place to do business!

With all the uncertainty over public sector cuts and the future of our economy it is entirely logical that a number of business leaders across the Humber region have real concerns about a Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) comprising of Hull, Scarborough and the East Riding of Yorkshire - but does not include North and North East Lincolnshire.

Until the government decides exactly what LEPs will do, it is understandable why some people are still very unsure and skeptical as to what it will mean to them, and why many believe that a Humber focused LEP would be preferable to the Local Authority areas of the East Riding, Hull and Scarborough joining forces.

It we look at Goole, there are strong connections not only between Goole and North Lincolnshire, but also with Doncaster and West Yorkshire, with businesses trading with other businesses and people travelling from one area to another to work.

In the north of the East Riding the business connections between Bridlington and Scarborough are equally as strong, and in the west we see the same relationship between Pocklington and York.

The relationship between Hull and the East Riding is very strong in terms of business, travel to work and culture, no better example then when it comes to football with Hull City receiving a great deal of it’s support from the East Riding.

My understanding is that the LEPs are intended to be LOCAL, about PARTNERSHIP working, but most importantly about ENTERPRISE.

LEPs will be business driven, designed to facilitate enterprising people and businesses working together to strengthen, enhance and rebuild our local economy.

Business does not and should not have boundaries and I welcome the opportunity for the private sector to take responsibility for running significant aspects of our local economy. After all businesses want the best opportunities for business.

There are many other forums were businesses presently talk to each other and work together and I’m sure this will continue.

I firmly believe that forging links with neighbouring LEP’s, but also wherever they are in the UK will be an extremely important step forward in helping Goole and Howdenshire to become an even better place to live and work.

The Humber Estuary is vital to our economy and Goole is extremely well placed to take advantage of the opportunities it brings. Our inland location and ready access to the country’s central road network be it north, south, east or west places us in a great position to help drive the new Local Enterprise Partnership forward.

So does an East Riding, Hull and Scarborough LEP mean that we will cut our ties with North and North East Lincolnshire? Of course it doesn’t, put simply, it gives us the chance to work together to forge economic links in new and smarter ways.

There are many unanswered questions about Local Enterprise Partnerships, but before we are too quick to judge, let us see this as an opportunity not a threat and rather than wait to be told what to do, let’s take the initiative to work together like never before to make the Goole and Howdenshire area a great place to do business.

For me, as with most things, the glass is certainly half full when it comes to Local Enterprise Partnerships

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Yes to Coalbed methane exploration in Howdenshire - But No to walking over local opinions

Scottish energy company Composite Energy will have to go back to the drawing board for a proposed 900m deep exploratory borehole in the search for coalbed methane on a site near Marr Grange Farm in Oxmardyke near Gilberdyke.

The Government’s planning inspector Mr K Williams ruled to uphold the decision of the East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s Planning Committee to refuse the application due to unresolved access issues.

At the time when the application was before the Planning Committee the members supported my proposal that the Marr Grange site be refused on the grounds of the access along Marr Lane, a very narrow road with a history of subsiding into the dyke alongside, and repeated damage to the water main in the roadside verge. It was determined that the road was unable to cater for a great number of 32 or 34 tonne lorry movements. The preferred access was a more direct and shorter route directly from the much wider and more substantially constructed Tongue Lane. The Market Weighton Internal Drainage Board and Gilberdyke Parish Council had highlighted this, and the Committee agreed the risk was unacceptable.

The ERYC Planning Officers had recommended approval and subsequently employed a consultant, but unfortunately neither could support the reason given for refusal. This led to the Council Officers offering no evidence at the public inquiry held as part of the appeal process. It was left to Peter Clark, the recently retired Clerk to the Market Weighton Drainage Board and I as the local Councillor to come up with and present the evidence, challenge the applicant’s witnesses and be challenged by their Barrister. But I guess the end justified the means and we won the day.

The company use a pioneering method of drilling, it is hoped they are successful and that a large and reliable gas field is found, as this would bring a tremendous boost to the local economy. It would also help to reduce the imports of gas from foreign lands, some of which are controlled by unstable and unpredictable governments.

I therefore hope that the company will learn from this appeal decision and realise they can't walk all over local opinion, and now go back to the landowner and renegotiate a more direct and shorter route from Tongue Lane to the proposed site. Ironically this would mean any temporary road from a highway to the drilling site being much shorter than originally proposed from Marr Lane.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Opening of the year at Goole College.

In my role as Chair of the Goole and Howdenshire Local Action Team (LAT) I was invited, along with Andrew Percy MP and Goole Town Councillor John Frost, to attend the opening of the year at Goole College. It was great to see all the students, many on their first day. Andrew gave a short speech saying how he remembered vividly his first day at college some 16 years ago, as he said this I was casting my own mind back even further, some 32 years, to my first day at Harrogate College.

Pictured with Elaine McMahon, Andrew Percy MP and David Caldicott)

Andrew also related to a previous visit to the College and volunteering (?) for a haircut, well as you can see from the photograph it was perhaps me that should be volunteering this time.

Elaine McMahon the Chief Executive and College Principal gave the students a very warm welcome and spoke passionately about the College, and how proud she was of it's excellent OFSTED rating. After a chat to some of the students we were invited to sit down with Elaine and Centre Manager David Caldicott for coffee, croissants and plum jam made from the fruit of the tree outside her office window.

The conversation was very frank and wide-ranging, including student funding, Adult Learning Grants, building on the links with local businesses, immigration, and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPS).

I promised to revisit the College in the near future to work with Elaine, David and other staff to explore ways of how the Local Action Team can help the College in building partnerships, not just with business, but also the Police, Fire Service, NHS and Voluntary Sector.

Andrew Percy MP said he would also look at how he could help with other issues raised.

It is not surprising that under the leadership of Elaine McMahon and David Caldicott, and the commitment of the staff, Goole College is rated so highly by OFSTED.

(Photograph courtesy of Sean Stewart)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hull, East Riding & Scarborough Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) - 'Enterprise' is the key to making it work

The East Riding of Yorkshire Council together with authorities in Hull and Scarborough have put forward proposals to the Government to establish a Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). This is something I really support as it will radically reshape the way business and local government work together in the future. I certainly feel that the word ‘ENTERPRISE’ in the title is the key to making the LEP work.

The Country is facing economic problems that need bottom up solutions from local communities. The proposal fits together well, not only geographically and economically but specifically in the areas of business, planning and infrastructure decisions, tourism, renewable energy and transport. As the leader of the ERYC said, “The way we intend to work will recognise the distinct but closely-related needs of city, coast and countryside.”

The key is for LEPs to be locally focused and have the flexibility to determine their own agenda, rather than have it handed down to them by Whitehall. The proposed East Riding, Hull and Scarborough LEP can rewrite the economic geography of our area to best serve the needs of local businesses, we will no longer be part of the overly large and somewhat unrepresentative QUANGO that was Yorkshire Forward and the top-down prescription approach taken by the previous Government.

The LEP will be the vehicle through which we re-build our local economy. The proposal put forward by the three Council’s is quite radical and innovative in its approach - identifying the challenges facing our local area and how we are to tackle them, and how important it is that our local area determines its own economic development and how private sector job growth is driven, by bringing council and business interests closer together to create the conditions for business to thrive and prosper.

The Government is keen to see partnerships remain proactive and maintain momentum. Over the coming weeks Ministers will consider the proposal in detail, looking at how it will support economic growth, before providing feedback to us ahead of the publication of the White Paper on sub-national economic growth and the introduction of the Localism Bill – something I personally hope to see sooner rather than later.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Community funds attached to windfarm applications - a thinly disguised attempt at bribery?

There is some confusion as to the potential loss of community funds with the refusal of the two Spaldington windfarm applications. It would appear that supporters of the applications are peddling a rumour in that villages surrounding Spaldington will lose funding for community projects.

It is common practice for offers of community funding to be made by developers of windfarms and other energy providers and can be very controversial, with some looking upon it as a thinly disguised attempt at bribery i.e. “If approval is granted then we will give the area an amount of money each year – if you don’t approve then there will be no money”.

That communities gain direct benefit from development in their area is welcome. However the issue of community funds which are outside the control of the community does not sit comfortably with me as a member of the East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s Planning Committee. Particularly if the developer can threaten to withdraw local benefit if there is objection to their application.

When an application is approved to which community funding is attached, the money is in some cases paid directly to the East Riding of Yorkshire Council to be administered by a panel including representatives of the community, developers and the Council. In other cases the funds may be retained and administered by the developers themselves.

The conditions attached to the funds by developers can vary but they usually specify the area within which the funds can be used, and limit their use to specified purposes.

The areas benefiting from the money available tend to be restricted to the parish in which the development is located, and neighbouring parishes. However, there have been instances where the area of benefit extends further into the East Riding, but with the emphasis being placed on projects most closely associated with the development.

The purposes for which the money can be used, and the way in which it can be distributed, are always restricted in some way and may be limited to a narrow range of objects such as being energy or learning related. In other cases developers are more flexible with their requirements.

There is no information on the offers relating to Spaldington and whether or not those offers would be withdrawn if the applications were refused and went to appeal. However, I can recall only one occasion where a developer failed to offer a community fund during the course of an inquiry.

The bottom line is that offers to make payments into a community fund rarely carry any weight in the planning balance. We were reminded of this at the Planning Committee when the Spaldington applications were discussed and advised that any offers made should not be used as a reason for approval or refusal – and in my case I completely ignored the offer. My decision and my vote are not for sale at any price at any time.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Spaldington windfarm applications thrown out by ERYC Planning Committee

Pictured with David Davis MP and Spaldington Residents

This week we saw a victory for local democracy as the East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s Planning Committee supported 98% of Spaldington residents and threw out the two windfarm applications – one at each side of the village.

We had the Parish Councils of Spaldington, HOSM, Bubwith, Foggathorpe, Gilberdyke, Eastrington, Wressle, and Howden Town Council - representing some 13,755 local residents all objecting to the applications, we also had local MP David Davis and MEP Godfrey Bloom speaking out against the applications.

The East Riding is already carrying more than its fair share of the country’s EU and National renewable energy targets in those that have been approved. The capacity of the East Riding to accept more wind farms is perhaps open to question – BUT what is clear is that this particular area - within a 12 ½ mile radius of Spaldington, that forms the gateway to the East Riding, will be saturated by the 90 wind turbines that are either constructed, or are already approved and waiting to be are built. What we will see is effect a windfarm landscape without adding more.

As a member of the Planning Committee, I can’t recall considering any like the two applications facing the village. It was not just about the proximity of 2 windfarms – it was about Spaldington being at the centre of a large windfarm, with residents living in the middle of 12 of the biggest on-shore wind turbines in the UK. We had never seen applications were so many properties would have been within 1000m – 56 houses, and unbelievably 24 of which would have been within 775m.

For me Spaldington residents have suffered enough, and continue to suffer from the foulest smells as a result of agricultural composting, but now at least they will not be faced with being at the centre of a large-scale windfarm – I hope the decision we made will give a little respite to the community by not compounding their suffering with a noisy windfarm.

I spoke at length and moved refusal for both applications for the following reasons

1. Cumulative impact of both the applications and the other 90 wind turbines that are either operational or approved within a 12 ½ mile radius of the site.

2. Overbearing and detrimental impact on the lives of residents living in the properties falling within 1,000m of the proposed site.

Fortunately the majority of the planning Committee agreed.

The applicants can of course appeal the decision, as we have seen with many windfarm applications in the East Riding, so it may be that residents have been victorious in this battle but the war is still to be won.

If it is the case that the applicants do decide to appeal the decisions, it is clear they will have one hell of a battle - with a formidable residents group to lead the fight. I will no longer be shackled by the Councillors ‘Code of Conduct’ (as I have prior to the planning committee meeting) - therefore please be assured that if the decisions are appealed I will do my utmost to ensure that ultimate victory will be with Spaldington residents, and those living in the neighbouring communities.

(Please see images below produced by Robert Hare showing showing sections of the views from each end of the village now and also with the proposed wind turbines superimposed as per the industry standards)