'Cycleway Sex Haunt'- will they stop at nothing? The extremely dodgy details are here
13/6/02 Could we all calm down a little? Perhaps we should take a peaceful walk down the Millennium cycleway? It appears to me we are blaming congestiontion on the folk who are clinging on to the one and of only tranquil route, we should not blame them for that.
From what I can see of the CDTS project it would in seem some car drivers are under the impression the busway would miraculously relieve congestion on the roads. Hoole Road, Brook Lane and Hoole Lane to name but a few. I think we need to take a step back. Honestly, do we really imagine a miniscule busway is going to relieve anything?
I choose to use a car. As a driver I must be prepared for congestion. As a walker, well, I must admit the prospect of facing subways fills me with understandable horror, and the whiff of car fumes and other nasties, no thanks. I tried it once, and would not like to face it every day as some people have to. As a cyclist, well, actually it is too frightening on roads for me, and I suspect most folk, but all power to those using pedal power, they deserve our gratitude not condemnation. Isn't it more than a tad selfish to deprive them of this one route?
I can't comment on the plans as I have never looked at them, It may have seemed a good idea at one time but things have moved on. The government aims to quaidruple bike use by 2O12- with a concrete busway and white paint it certainly won't. Treating these people with the respect they deserve would pay dividends for us all. We who are responsible far pollution and congestion should keep our heads well and truly down. The way I see it, we have nothing to lose by keeping the Millennium route green and tranquil for all, no matter haw many. We should be grateful to these active members of our community not savage them.
Timothy Manners, Chester
From the local press 13/6/02:
"City business chiefs are pressing for an early start to he made on implementing Chester's controversial busway scheme.
The Chester Ellesmere Port and North Wales Chamber of Commerce is appealing to the county council for a swift start on the Chester Deeside Transport System (CDTS), saying the busway will bring reduced pollution and increased prosperity to the city.
Tim Culpin, chairman of the chamber's transport committee, has written to the chairman of Cheshire County Council, Bert Grange, asking what progress has been made with the scheme since its approval by Stephen Byers, the former Transport Secretary, earlier this year.
The letter points out that the chamber has consistently supported the scheme from its inception.
Chamber chief executive Stephen Welch commented: "The introduction of the park and ride system into Chester has been an outstanding success in reducing traffic congestion and pollution.
There is, however, a significant gap in provision for traffic coming into the city from the M56.
"The proposed scheme, which would have a direct link off the M56 roundabout, would reduce traffic in Chester city centre by offering a fast and convenient alternative."
He added: "Stephen Byers, when Secretary of State, accepted the view of the independent inspector who conducted the public inquiry that the scheme was worthwhile, provided value for money and offered considerable advantages to the city.
Since then, however, there has been silence on the subject from the county council and we now understand that the county council officers and consultants are looking at the scheme again.
Although there has been opposition on the grounds of loss of amenity from walkers and cyclists who currently use the cycleway along the railway line, which would form the busway near the Northgate Village area, they woulkd in fact lose little from the scheme as the walkway was created in preparation for the busway scheme.
The chamber believes that the early implementation of this scheme is vital to enhancing the Chester region and its economy by improving accessibility to the city, environmental pollution and opening up the potential for further quality development to take place in a sustainable manner.
We hope that the county council wlll make an early, positive decision on the matter".
Some responses to the above:
19/6/02 So, the Chester, Ellsmere Port & North Wales Chamber of Commerce has openly criticised Cheshire County Council for their failure to make an "early start" on the CDTS busway.
Since the incompetent minister Stephen Byers gave his blessing- for what it's worth- to the scheme, they complain that "there has been silence on the subject" from County Hall.
In pushing for CDTS to go ahead without further delay, their chairman, Mr Stephen Welch, spoke of the worthy, but by now widely discredited, reasons of improving access to the city centre and reducing environmental pollution.
He then absurdly claimed that we, the users of this section of the National Cycle Network would "lose little as the walkway was created in preparation for the busway". He is clearly not one of us.
To my mind, Mr Welch then somewhat gave the game away when he spoke on a subject surely dearer to the hearts of his organisation's members than that of mere 'green' issues: in his words, the "opening up the potential for further quality development to take place in a sustainable manner".
Where, exactly, would this "sustainable" development be taking place, then?
I have seen no references to anything of the sort in the voluminous 'consultation' material about the busway. One has one's suspicions of course, but feel it would be fairer to hear it straight from the 'horse's mouth'.
Does Mr Welch and his members know something the rest of us don't? I feel it would be helpful to the debate if they could clarify the above for the benefit of the Chronicle's readers at their earliest convenience.
Why do Chester's politicians and business leaders have such a difficult time understanding that there's much more to life than making money and going shopping?
20/6/02 At the slightest whiff of a plan by another district, the local chamber of commerce starts to panic. Cheshire Oaks, Trafford Centre, Broughton, Ellesmere Port, Merseyside plans have had them spelling disaster for Chester shopping and claiming the 'solution' to the imagined 'disasters' to be the CDTS busway.
The danger of crying wolf so many times is obvious. The known facts are that Chester has gone from strength to strength and has continued doing very well indeed- without the busway. Chester recently won yet another shopping accolade without the CDTS busway. Businesses are queuing to come here. Why are commercial interests trying to snatch the only green tranquil cycle/walkway Chester has for some imagined disaster? This commercial excuse should fool nobody. Shoppers still come here despite easier parking elsewhere and will continue to do so.
Plans for the General Station and improvements in bus services are now helping everyone to access Chester other than by car. The free bus service from the station helps. It is good to know the council is now implemendug the real solution to congestion, pollution and parking difficulties without devastating any more of our green space.
As for the LPG buses, they seem to have been relegated, according to the letter by Mr Goddard, to the very small route from the Park & Ride Wrexham Road across the road and up to the Business Park road and back. The 'environmental' benefit of the CDTS busway has been disproved. The Millennium cycle/walkway- with mature trees and wildlife habitat, people using it and NOT using their cars- does help the environment.
The CDTS busway will cost Chester and district residents a great deal. Money is not the only cost to bear in mind, people, quality of life and health are a more important commodity. I shall continue to submit my letters to the Press when the need arises. As a member of the public commented- "We want everyone to know about our tranquil cycle/walkway and please keep writing". Fine, but how about more objectors to the CDTS busway writing too, otherwise the next accusation heading in my direction will be- I am the only person to object to CDTS busway project!
21/6/02 In a letter to Cheshire County Council, the Chester, Ellesmere Port and North Wales Chamber of Commerce has called for the Chester guided busway (CDTS) to be implemented as soon as possible.
The letter states, 'The chamber believes the early implementation of the scheme is vital to enhancing the Chester region and its economy.'
How would one additional Park Ride scheme enhance the Chester region and its economy?
Chester already has a set of four Park & Ride sites around the city with more than 3,000 car parking spaces. In the city centre there are about 5,000 spaces. Chester has one of the highest car parking provisions in the country.
In addition, Chester enjoys the unique advantage of the use of the Chester Zoo visitors' car park as an overflow for the Upton Park and Ride site duting the vital Christmas and New Year season.
There is evidence that there is no lack of capacity in the existing system. Some 300 car parking spaces at the Wrexham Road Park & Ride site- about one quarter of its capacity, have been handed over for use a sprivate car parking for business park employees.
Should the busway be built, what certainty is there there that users would be attracted? May present Park and Ride users simply transfer to the route?
Which sectors of the regiion's economy would benefit from the scheme?
Residents living in the city or its suburbs live within the circle of Park & Ride sites so they tend to use buses to get to the city centre.
Overnight or long-stay visitors to our hotels would not wish to leave their cars at Park & Ride sites.
Evening visitors to our pubs, restaurants, cinemas or clubs would find a system which closes down at 7pm of little benefit.
Is there an alternative to the busway scheme which could benefit Chester? At present the transport system in Chester is in severe imbalance.
There is an over-concentration on ParK & Ride and a relative neglect of rail and bus services as the means of bringing people into Chester.
Chester is a regional railway hub. Improved station facilities and rail services would encourage visitors from North Wales, Wirral and Merseyside.
Overseas visitors landing at Liverpool, Manchester or London could be encouraged to stay in Chester. Improved links with Shrewsbury would benefit Chester, Wrexham and Shrewsbury.
Similarly, better bus services would encourage those without a car to visit the city.
Closer links could be forged with Ellesmere Port, Wrexham and Mold.
Regional shopping could be promoted as a package of contrasting experiences, combining the Cheshire Oaks Outlet Village, the traditlonal high quality city centre shops of Chester and the distinctive flavour of the Welsh market towns of Mold and Wrexham.
A balanced transport system for Chester would produce greater economic benefits and the wider region than the costly busway scheme.
W V Jones, Daleside, Upton Heath, Chester
20/6/02 With the busway argument having dragged on for so long, perhaps now would be a good time for the local planners to lobby the populace. If residents within a five-mile radius of any point on the proposed busway were to recieve a postage paid slip with a box to indicate whether for or against, a democratic decision could be reached. At the time of mailing the local press could host a half-page spread for both proponents and opponents to succinctly put their cases.
Matt James 56 Talbot Street, Chester
21/6/02 Your report highlighting Roger Parkin's comments about the appalling state of Chester Station illustrates much of what is wrong with the transport system in West Cheshire. What we have is underfunded, poorly maintained and unreliable, and yet it seems that we are soon to be siddled with the CDTS guided busway.
At best it is likely to be an underused white elephant and at worst a significant barrier in the way of meeting the Government's targets for increasing passenger and freight movements by rail.
Rather than build an unwanted busway, might I suggest that far greater economic, social and environmental benefits would be enjoyed by investing in our existing rail system, using the principle outlined by the Strategic Rail Authority's Richard Bowker to gain a 'quick win'. This would include refurbishing Chester station, reopening a pedestrian entrance from Hoole Road and providing staff at all local stations who could sell tickets, impart information and provide the reassurance of a uniformed presence.
Once such basic improvements have been made, how about doing something really useful like reopening the Frodsham-Runcorn line to passenger trains running from Liverpool via Runcorn to Ellesmere Port and Chester, relieving road congestion on the M56 and Runcorn Bridge and opening up new travel opportunities for a large swathe of West Cheshire people?
Such a scheme would also help to reduce traffic on Hoole Road and quite possibly remove the justification for the busway.
Still, it is unlikely to happen- too much 'joined-up thinking' and too many authorities too concerned with protecting tbeir own minor fiefdoms. I fear.
Huw Rowlands, Warrington Road, Mickle Trafford
4/7/02 Recent letters have contrasted niceIy the argumenents from the pro- and anti- CDTS camps. The former believing (many say mistakenly) that CDTS will be good for buisness, are pushing economic growth above all other factors. The latter believe that health, the natural environment and quality of life of local residents should be imncluded in the equation. Even if CDTS would bring further economic growth to Chester should this be our only yardstick? How much economic growth do we want? It is the push for economic growth above all else that is leading to the destruction of rainforests in Malaysia and the displacement of tribal peoples in favour of mining in the Philippines.
How many more people do we need to come shopping in Chester? What value do we give to the hoot of owls within a mile of the city centre or the pleasure of pushing a pushchair along a leafy green walkway accessible without getting into the car?
In the last few years Chester has done well to build hundreds of flats and houses on brownfield sites thus protecting the green belt. Most of these dwellings are very near to the town centre and we could reduce our locally generated traffic by promoting a culture of walking and cycling. To do this and to preserve our quality of life we need to keep our green spaces and corridors.
I think it was the King of Bhutan who said he was more interested in bis people's Gross National Happiness than the GNP. I hope that the county council takes account of Chester's gross happiness when making the decision on whether or not to go ahead with the concreting over of our green and pleasant land for a busway.
Catherine Green, Vice Chair, Anti-CDTS Groups, 63 Brook Lane, Chester
4/7/02 It seems to me there are two possible reasons why Chester, Ellesmere Port and North Wales Chamber of Commerce wants to see CDTS built as soon as possible.
One is that the Chamber of Commerce is hoping that every car which CDTS takes off Hoole Road, etc is quickly replaced by another one, so that the busway produces no long-term traffic reduction but simply brings an extra 1200 car loads of people into town. This is, after all, exactly what happened with Chester's first three park and ride schemes.
Altematively, the Chamber of Commerce wants CDTS for much more altruistic reasons. Members are concerned about the amount of money that traffic congestion is costing them, even though they have never come out with a quantitive estimate of how much this is. They worry about the amount of traffic that local folks have to put up with, and they care deeply about the lungs of local children. So they want to bring traffic levels down, and in order to keep them down, they want to bring in some kind of 'traffic control measures'. Motorist bashing to you and me.
Now in this latter case, I am sure that friends and foes of CDTS alike will be interested to know just what it is the Chamber has in mind. Toll gates, perhaps, at the top of Hoole Road and Newton, Hoole and Mannings Lanes? A workplace car parking tax? No, I think they have opposed that one in the past. How about a tit for tat cut of our in-town parking? Simple and effective, it must be said. Or would they plump for Chester's old favourite, and start placing bulk orders for traffic lights? I suppose reworking Hoole Road with bus lanes is out for obvious reasons.
Whatever it is, l think we should be told. No-one would argue that CDTS wouldn't knock a hole in Hoole Road's traffic on it's opening day (although ff you compare it with Whitchurch Road you can see why Hoole Road residents are not vocal CDTS supporters). The question is, what happens afterwards?
9/7/02 It never ceases to puzzle me that residents all over Chester and district have to put up with treacherous paving, holes in roads, drains never cleaned on a regular basis (as they used to be) and areas swept once a year if they are lucky. The police are only seen flying around in cars towards the motorway, never seen on foot or cycle. I can't remember the last time we saw a traffic warden- have they been disbanded through lack of money?
Residents may ask for a simple repair or maintenance but are told of lack of money. Yet there never seems to be a problem when it comes to anything about this busway. Everybody seems to think it is crazy, apart from big business and a few scattered residents. If the city can't afford maintainance, or even use a mop and bucket on the floor and walls of both bus stations, why on earth is the councii even considering spending millions on this waste of space busway? It makes my blood boil. The thought of an unnecessary busway being demanded by some who, if you asked them to donate to Chester Christmas lights, would faint. A city awarded best shopping but the poor business chiefs can't afford to donate to new Christmas lights- but have the nerve to demand that millions (of ratepayer's money) be spent on a busway.
I have news for these people. Buses run on roads or don't we have any roads maintained enough in Chester these days?
I think it is time authorities get their priorities right. 'Residents come first' should be their motto from now on. No residents- no local tax.
Annoyed Chester Tax Payer
Headline in Chester Evening Leader, 9th July 2002: 'Cycleway Sex Haunt':
'Chester's tranquil cycleway has become a sickening haunt for perverts after reports of a string of sexual attacks on women and young girls in the last two weeks.
Eight women, includng teenage girls, have been subjected to indecent acts, including being flashed, grabbed and, in one disturbing incident, followed home.
The alarming incidents have all happened over the last two weeks along the cycle path, which runs through Chester to Blacon.
At a highly-charged police forum meeting last night, residents of Blacon, where many of the incidents have happened, demanded action.
One resident said: "Somebody has to sort this out; we can't have people being sexually harassed. In the past two weeks, I know there have been at least eight sexually motivated offences on the track. One of my neighbours was exposed to by a man while walking along the cycle track with her toddler. The man tried to follow her home but luckily she didn't go home; she managed to escape him. Another time, a woman was walking and a man tried to grab her. There have been four more similar incidents in Saughall and a man tried to grab two young girls under Egerton Bridge".
DCI John Armstrong assured residents that "everything possible" would be done to tackle the situation and told the forum of previous successful undercover operations related to other offences had led to arrests.
DCI Armstrong said: "The cycleway is an amenity that should be enjoyed by everyone. In respect of people using the track as a vehicle for sexual activity, unfortunately some areas of the track are secluded and are readily available for incidents of this nature. Officers in Blacon are in no doubt aware of the situation, and wherever possible we will give the area as much attention as possible. We do have specialist officers that have intelligence on sex offences".
Further details followed in the Chester Chronicle the following Friday, 12th July 2002: 'Police plea to woman over cyclepath fears':
'Police are appealing for a woman who claims the city's cycleway is a haunt for 'perverts' to come forward and tell her story.
A Blacon resident who attended a police forum told officers a number of her Westbourne Road neighbours have been flashed at, grabbed or even followed home by men loitering on the nearby cycle path.
But police say they have not been able to 'substantiate' her claims and they would like to be able to speak to her again.
The woman, who left the meeting before anybody could approach her, pleaded for help and said females are afraid to go near the path which leads through Chester to Blacon.
She said: "The cycle track should be a well-used local amenity. But in the past two weeks alone I think there have been at least eight sexually motivated offences. A man exposed himself to my neighbour- she is a young woman, she was with a toddler and she was pushing a pushchair. The man then tried to follow her home. A man tried to grab two young girls aged only 11 or 12. The people of Westbourne Road are terrified. Plus I have heard of similar offences happening in Saughall".
The woman added: "This isn't on, we can't have people being sexually harassed on that cycle track. The police must do something".
Detective Chief Inspector John Armstrong said: "We have had past operations- which were successful- targeting this problem. I myself use a cycle on the pathway. The cycle path is secluded and there are a number of access points, which are not necessarily accessible for police officers patrolling in vehicles. All of these factors will attract that kind of activity. Personally I have not heard of any of these incidents but I am sure if there is a problem then the officers who deal with Blacon would be aware of it".
After the meeting police spokeswoman Jacqui Hanson said: "Since the meeting we have done our checks and we had not received any complaints about these incidents before the meeting. The lady who made the complaint left before any of our officers could talk to her. We would urge her to get in touch so we can establish what exactly the problem is".
If you are the woman who stood up at Monday's Chester and District Police Forum meeting, held at St Theresa's Parish Centre, Blacon Avenue, Blacon, or you have any information about the alleged incidents on the cycleway please contact 01244 350222'.
Below is a response to both the above highly suspicious articles and to letters from Cllr Alex Black and city centre manager Martin Seed...
17/7/02 Councillor Alex Black tells us he is depressed by the large amount of "boring" correspondence concerning local issues- including, naturally, that busway- appearing in the local press these days.
A strange comment from an elected representative of the people, one may think.
Nontheless, there can hardly be a single person in the city who would not heartily agree with him.
For example, rather than having spent so much of our time over the past few years expressing our objection to, and explaining the follies of, CDTS, there are many of us who would, I'm sure, have preferred instead to have been able to get on with our lives- which, of course, would have included regular jaunts with our families along the pride of Chester, our Millennium Cycleway.
But ah, no. Common sense remains slow in dawning. Long term followers of the debate will be acutely aware that the great majority of the opinions expressed over the years by, not the "same few", but by hundreds of concerned contributors, have been overwhelmingly in favour of retaining the cycleway as we know and love it today- perhaps even getting it finished it as far as Mickle Trafford and as part of a safe route to Upton High School.
Nontheless, councillors and business interests clearly still have little interest in, or respect for, the wishes of these citizens. This week, in the pages of the local press yet one more, Martin Seed, Chairman of Chester City Centre Management- whatever that may be- expressed his opinion that CDTS is vital for the future prosperity of the City of Chester.
He claims he knows of no business-linked group that disagrees with him. Well, my own small, but thriving, business is one that most certainly does. But then, mine is situated in Hoole and not in Eastgate or Foregate Streets.
One wonders where many of these politicians and worthies of the business community and their families choose to take their exercise and relaxing strolls. Doubtless there exists a wider choice out where they live.
And then, more seriously, we were all recently alarmed by a banner headline on the front page of an evening local newspaper, 'Pathway of Perverts', followed by a story that, shockingly, told us "at least eight sexual attacks" had taken place on the Millennium Cycleway during the past few weeks.
It gradually emerged that this claim had been made by a female speaker at a police forum meeting in Blacon, who then disappeared without identifying herself and who has not been subsequently traced. The police themselves claim to have no record of a single such attack ever having taken place.
Now, the last thing I wish is to make light of the real and shameful situation where women still cannot walk in safety on the streets of Chester and I freely acknowledge that the cycleway is indeed inhabited by its fair share of lurking youths, glass breakers and motorcycle riders, all completely free of the worry of being bothered by passing policemen.
But was I alone in feeling that the appearance of this deeply worrying statement, made at a time when local feelings about CDTS are running particularly high, by an unknown individual, and subsequently splashed over the pages of the local press- despite a complete lack of corroborative proof- could be perceived as being somewhat suspect?
After all, what more effective a way than this could there be to discredit the concept of a tranquil, green, quiet, safe, pathway than this? Put it about that women using the cycleway are at risk of being attacked. Let it be known, in due course, that, "naturally, your nature-rich, peaceful cycleway would be much safer with CDTS"- because, after all, there'd be buses roaring up and down it every few minutes...
(and sure enough, the first letter on this theme appeared just a few days later...)
I seem to recall, a while back, that a spokesperson for Chester Police told us that they "were not obliged to patrol the Millennium Cyclway because it was private property". This apparent denial of responsibility for one of our city's transport routes seemed, to my mind, difficult to understand and I may, ideed, have misheard him. Could Chester Police please confirm, deny or clarify their intentions regarding the protection of users of our local section of the National Cycle Network?
The cycleway's builders and administrators, Sustrans, apparently enjoy a healthy cooperation with local police forces elsewhere on the network, but, as a daily user, I have certainly never caught sight nor sound of them on our stretch.
Chester Police made much in the local press, a couple of years back, of their acquisition of mountain bikes which, they said, would enable officers to patrol areas difficult to access via panda car- so surely ideal for situations such as this. Could they also inform us what ever became of them?
Correspondent William Vernon Jones reminds us that we still, at this absurdly late stage, have not been supplied with a single detail of the 'complementary measures' required to accompany the busway nor of any up-to-date, accurate and honest details of the funding involved.
A little less disinformation and much more information is what we all need to arrive at an informed judgement of the merits, or otherwise, of CDTS. And, in closing, I can only assure Mr Black- who curiously neglected to include his 'councillor' title when signing his letter (but who nontheless surely speaks as a member of the pro-busway Labour Party and as a bus driver to boot)- that we regular contributors would be only too delighted to 'cheer up' the letters pages of our local press- just as soon as we have a reason to.
Steve Howe, Lime Grove, Hoole, Chester
11/7/02 Your report on the government inspector's report on the Local Plan is misleading. The inspector did not "back the proposed busway". He had neither the remit nor the competence to judge the merits of the scheme. He merely recommended that the line of the old railway be kept unimpeded- hardly an earth shattering pronouncement. Indeed, it is a recommendation that the council would have been well advised to heed in the past. This railway line originally had links into Northgate Station (opposite the Arena) which were allowed to be built over, and which could have been useful for transport purposes. And even more recently, the M56 motorway now blocks the line between Mickle Trafford and Hoole for potentiai rail use.
The economics of the CDTS scheme remain doubtful, and you do your paper no credit by this sort of biased reporting.
David Beattie, Rushleigh House, Chester Road, Kelsall
11/7/02 Maybe I am a super cynic and I could be very wrong. But I believe that whether the people of Chester and district want the guided busway or not it is as inevitable as joining the euro, if that's what politicians and businesses want it will be forced on us anyway.
I also believe that the busway will be proven to be an economic and environmental disaster, but what does that matter, it is far easier to turn an unused financial flop into a road than it is to turn a popular linear park into a road. I firmly believe there is a hidden agenda and someone somewhere knows that the CDTS will be a flop.
Statistics prove it but the road to relieve the congestion through Hoole and off Sealand Road is a well kept secret. The trouble is, we are not all as naive as politicians think. As I say, I may be wrong and I hope I am but mark my words in ten years time the busway will not exist but the concrete ribbon will. A light railway would have been far more useful and probably far more environmentally friendly, but thinking about it, it is far more diffcult to remove railtracks to lay concrete than it is to lay concrete over the guided concrete (foundations) ribbons of a failed busway.
R. Jim Edge, 2 Dentith Drive Blacon
11/7/02 Your feature in last week's Standard: 'Local Plan Inquiry report backs proposed busway' may have given the impression that a decision had been taken to impiement the controversial CDTS busway along the former Mickle Trafford-Shotton railway line.
This decision has yet to be taken by Cheshire County Council.
The inspector's report in fact refers to the policy in the Chester Local Plan which safeguards land from development that would hinder the implementation of schemes identified in the Cheshire Structure Plan.
The inspector says the policy does not give the necessary permission for such schemes or secure their funding, other procedures deal with such matters.
CPRE welcomes the re-instatement by the inspector of policy DENV 20 along the full length of the Mickle Trafford-Shonon line which was 'in error' removed from the Deposit Proposals Map.
Policy DENV 20 delineates on the Proposal Map green corridors which the council will seek to protect and enhance as an important part of the fabric and character of Chester and the Green Network.
The inspector recommends that the Mickle Trafford-Shotton Railway line is covered by policy DENV 20.
The council acknowledges that although this is mentioned in the introduction to the policy the Proposals Map fails to show it. This will now be rectified. (Report Para. 3.180).
CPRE also welcomes the inspector's recommendation that the Local Plan proposals map should be updated to include the Millenium Way now created. (Para. 4.48)
The inspector's recognition of the value of the green corridor and cycleway highlights the potential loss to Chester if a two-lane concrete busway were to be constructed along it.
Ann Jones, Planning Co-Ordinator, Chester District CPRE, 101 Daleside, Upton Heath Chester
11/7/02 Since its opening I have regularly used the cycle track to commute from Saughall to Chester City centre. In that time I have seen fox, rabbit and shrew, greenfinch, chaffinch, goldfinch, bullfinch, wren, robin, blackbird thrush, plover, heron, blue tit, great tit, little owl, house martin and swallow.
There are venerable old willow trees, many types of wild flower, fields full of poppies and lots of undergrowth for the wildlife to live in. The journey is an absolute delight. The track is well used by cyclists, walkers and runners alike. It would be a complete tragedy ff this wonderful linear park were turned into a guided busway and a valuable amenity destroyed for a very negative bit of progress.
12/7/02 There are two aspects of the ongoing debate about the proposed Guided Busway (CDTS) which have received very little attention.
In their consideration of the proposed Busway, the panel oi inspectors at the Structure Plan Inquiry stressed the importance of'complementary measures' as an essential part of the Busway package.
The inspectors said: 'Such measures as bus and cycle lanes, and other traffic and parking management proposals, need to be spelt out in principle in direct relationship with CDTS.
Otherwise, it should be stressed, the success of CDTS, and even the existing park and ride, will undoubtedly be prejudiced by the freemg of exisdug road space on radial routes, and vehicular congestion in the city centre would increase.
'The potential benefits would then be lost and the costly scheme would indeed be wasteful.' (Cheshire Structure Plan 2011 Report, Page 115)
The proposed complementary measures have not been spelt out in direct relationship with CDTS.
Traffic and parking management proposals' could include additional bus Ianes, workplace car space charges, a limitation or even reduction of existing city centre car parking, and congestion charges.
Councillors and the public need to know the package of measures which the Busway scheme will demand before agreeing to the scheme. There is also a lack of detail about the costs of the Busway.
We have estimates of some £11 to 13 ;million for the capital cost.
Half of this would be met by Government grant, the other half through 'borrowing permission' to the local authority - that is us, the local taxpayers. Then there would be the ongoing running and maintenance costs.
It would be helpful to the debate if figures for the running costs of the existing park and ride scheme were made available.
Do the schemes make a profit, break even, or make a loss?
What happens to any profit, or how are any losses made good?
Information on all aspects of the proposed scheme need to be available to councillors and public alike if the county council is to make an informed decision on a scheme of this importance.
William Vernon Jones, Daleside, Upton Heath, Chester
18/7/02 Cllr Alex Black's letter in the Standard last week complained about letters of criticism in the Points of View pages. Of course, those pushing for the busway project wish to keep us silent. If great assets to Chester are being threatened such as the Millennium walk/cycleway, a green corridor and lung for Chester, people rightly speak out. Fortunately, more and more important people are commg to understand the huge benefits of keeping this route motor-free. No amount of money can compensate for loss of health, profits should not come before the health of residents of Chester and district.
Letters in the Standard are always interesting on any subject. The editor, thankfully, gives readers a chance to put their point of view forward as any good paper does. It has many contributors which shows how popular it is.
The Millennium walk/cycleway is a wonderful experience for all those wishing to enjoy delights of wildlife in natural surroundings and is of huge benefit to those able to use it for commuting or other journeys they would have used a car for in the past. It is capable of removing cars off the road with little expense to the local taxpayer and is of great value to human health as it is completely traffic-free. Regarding the canalside, a major drawback- deep water, a danger and not a stress-free ride/walk for those with young children. The path is very narrow in places a blessing as it is can't be threatened with a busway, though it too was an old transport corridor was it not?
The lovely oak trees and others on the Hoole stretch are in for the chop should the two-lane concrete busway be given approval by the council in September. But even more trees will go- digging means trees, even a surprising distance away, would have severed roots, become unsafe and in for the chop.
Audrey Hodgkinson, Secretary, Anti-CDTS Campaign Groups, Hoole, Chester
26/7/02 Once more the CDTS supporters complain of a 'plethora of anti-CDTS letters in The Chronicle over the last few months'.
Does this not tell you something? No one unconnected with the planned busway is in favour of it, least of all those who use the present cycleway.
Martin Seed, chairman of the grandly-titled Chester City Centre Management, would have us believe that failure to adopt this guided busway would lead to 'stagnation and decline' while building the busway will 'clearly give a huge boost'.
However, as with most of the supporiers of this scheme, he is quick to forecast doom and gloom if we don't have it, but unable to offer a single reason as to how or why this will benefit Chester if we do have it.
He goes on to shoot himself in the foot by listing our competition as Liverpool, Trafford Centre and Wrexham (he forgets Cheshire Oaks), but all these seem to be thriving without the mythical benefits of CDTS. Perhaps it is enough to offer friendly service, ample parking and a wide variety of shops.
I often wonder if the CDTS scheme would have attracted half the publicity (or a quarter of the funding) if it had been originally presented as what it truly is- just another Park & Ride scheme.
Yes, it will probably have shiny new gas-powered buses, yes they will be on a guided busway, and yes they will still get stuck in traffic when they leave the busway for the final part of the journey- but at the end of the day, no matter how fancy the title, this is still just another Park & Ride scheme.
Just who is the busway supposed to serve? Chester residents will not drive out to the M53 just to get a bus back into the city centre. People visiting from North Wales? They already have a Park & Ride on Wrexham. Road.
Perhaps people travelling down from the M56 or M53 motorways? Assuming they have reason enough to pass Ellesmere Port and Cheshire Oaks, they could carry on for a further six minutes past the end of the M53 and use the existing Wrexham road Park & Ride.
Are we really going to spend over £11m just to save visitors an extra six-minute ride ?
Would we not be better spending some of this money expanding the existing Wrexham Road Park & Ride scheme and improving the access off the dual carriageway, or is that solution too easy?
So many questions and so few answers.
Perhaps it would be easier if I took the pro-CDTS approach and just said, 'If we have this busway bad things will happen- trust me, l'm a chairman.'
S D Brocklehurst, Victoria Road, Saltney.
26/7/02 Martin Seed informs us that his organisation (Chester City Centre Management) is 'unanimous in its support for CDTS'.
For the businesses in the centre of the city to think that spending millions of pounds on the transport infrastructure would benefit them is not that surprising.
However, their support does not mean that the project must automatically go ahead.
And the fact that the proposal has gone through a public inquiry does not ensure it is the best alternative. A public inquiry is a very blunt instrument for considering the merits of such major projects. Its terms of reference are usually closely drawn so that it can consider only the proposal put before it.
Wider considerations, such as, 'If one were to spend £13m on the transport infrastructure, would you spend it this way?' are not an option.So to a large extent, the selection of a single scheme largely decides that outcome. And the involvement of 'senior barristers' in such inquiries leads to increased complexity, time and costs, but adds little additional legitimacy to the conclusions.
So why are there still reservations? There are now indications that the numbers using the Park & Ride schemes have reached a plateau. If this is the case, does it still make sense to invest £13m on another Park & Ride, which will deliver a journey time around 10 minutes shorter?
Do we have to jump straight in to the full scheme? Wouldn't it be prudent to start first with a conventional Park & Ride from the same spot at minimum cost, and then assess the viability of the full scheme in the light of numbers using this scheme?
As Mr W V Jones highlighted, a wide range of information about the detailed running of the scheme remains to be made available.
The inspectors to the Structure Plan inqury recommended a raft of 'complementary measures' to be necessary were the CDTS to be implemented. So that is why some people are still asking questions.
And of course, one would wish to improve the lot of any child who has asthma. But the effect on air quality of the CDTS would be marginal, and it is irresponsible to try to promote this scheme on these grounds.
And finally, in response to the Chronicle caption, 'Is the anti-CDTS campaign a threat to prosperity (of the city centre?)', the answer is no.
But there is a need to ensure that such large sums are well spent, and would achieve the results claimed.
David and Jane Beattie, Chester Road, Kelsall
26/7/02 Martin Seed goes on about those who know better than the informed general public.
I would remind him that the then Transport Minister John Prescott said, "If in five years' time there are not fewer journeys made by car, I will have failed:". He failed.
If a Transport Minister can get it wrong, I don't think Mr Seed can preach to us about those he feels have better judgment that we 'ordinary people'.
I remind him too that Mr Prescott also backed the disastrous Dome and the CDTS busway. The lesson- listen to the informed general public, don't ignore it.
Since the public inquiry, there has been much change, though we have still not heard a peep what the 'complementary measures' for Hoole Road are to be.
To listen to a small section- those who do not live in Chester nor pay our exorbitant local tax, and those who think only of profit- is unfair and dangerous to residents of Chester and district.
We do not see this very small busway as a 'major' anything but a destroyer of something actually benefiting our community more than anything else has for a very long time.
Authorities in government can and do get it wrong, but things have changed considerably since the inquiry. Mr Seed, you have a right to speak on behalf of business people whether you are right or not. Your customers can access our city by many other means- train, bus, car or the four existing Park & Rides- and costly construction of a busway should put the brakes on this project for good, especially under the government guidelines to reduce car use.
We also have a right to defend our tranquil cycle/walkway that actually does take cars off the road. It is time to consider the people not the profits.
Chester is doing well without this busway and you know it. lf you get your way on this busway what will the next project to 'help out' big business be?
23/8/02 Changing the cycleway from one environment to another will no doubt please one and upset another. Yet the one thing you cannot take away is history.
I was born in Blacon in 1943. When I was a baby my mum would stand on Blacon station with my brothers and sister waiting for the big steam train to take us, pram and all, to town for the day.
The station master used to let the women and kids in his room when it was cold to sit by the big coal roaring fire. Half of Blacon's mums used the now defunct but then the only means of transport to Chester- Blacon corridor.
Great big puffing steam trains came up the hill from Sealand, shuddering to a halt, always full. The guard offloading the local fishmongers' fish.
I remember the kippers from Aberdeen and waiting for Alec Duncan to come in his van and distribute the fish to the Blacon people. There weren't many shops in Blacon there was a little shop on Highfield Bridge called Greenhaugh. It was kept by an old lady who served you with black mittens and a scarf to match.
Just across the road was the Highfield Hotel, kept by a respected landlord Reg Kite and his wife. Then of course you had a proper bar and a proper lounge where the ladies could socialise. There used to be a proper fair outside the pub. I had never seen a waltzer before.
As a kid I knew every house, and the name of the people in them as well. There were no locks, only latches. Just down the road from the pub was Rose Meade. They held the fete and all of Blacon got together and chipped in to crown Miss Blacon.
The coal merchant, Doreen Little, the post office's Jack Pring, Miss Loude the grocers all helped little business people, everyone knew everyone. There was no crime, no drugs, no boredom.
The Blacon corridor served the people well. I cycled down recently, but I wasn't prepared for the lesson in nostalgia that emerged.
I looked across to the dairy I used to go to at 5 am to catch the milk horse and help the milk man deliver the milk. I was a nipper, no more than eight or nine. The co-op man also delivered the bread by horse and cart.
A bit lower down and Blacon school emerged. Mr Williams, the headmaster, was respected by the people.
As I neared Egerton Bridge I looked up at the railway bank, it took me back to when I used to lie on the grass waiting for the train to pass and the train driver, old Norman Ellis, would take pity on us and throw some coal off the tender on to the railway lines. It smashed into little pieces and we would put the coal into a sack and take it home and sit around the fire listening to Journey into Space, or if we were really treated, the Wednesday evening play on the radio.
Carrying on through, I passed Hallidays farm. He pasteurised his own milk and cooled it, bottled it with cardboard topping and delivered it at 5am with a whistle. I know I sat on the back of his Morris 8 (or something) helping him.
A little lower took me to Wash Hall Farm. Old Ma Shaw and Tony Darcy woutd chop the trees for logs to be put on tbe horse and cart and sold house to house.
I saw the village hall, now a video shop, it used to hold whist drives on Tuesday and Bob Edwards had a rock 'n' roll night on a Friday. He took his radiogram, then a luxury, to act as a disco.
The only church backed on to the railway bank. All tbe kids went to Sunday school. After the vicar Mr Wright had finished with us we used to go home via the bottom of the church garden and down to the railway bank, birds' egging, then cut across the camp home.
The camp, Blacon Camp as it is now called, was part of the community. I remember the soldiers used to have Laurel and Hardy films shown in tbe gym for the families.
The cook house was run by ATS women who would hand out hot cakes to us. There was a German prisoner of war we called Choker. He said, 'Come here, if you don't I'll choke you', and we would run home.
There used to be square bashing on a Sunday morning on the parade ground. All you could hear was hundreds of boots marching and the NCO Sgt Dodsworth bellowing out his orders.
There was a golf course in Blacon, by Gorsts Hill. It's not called Gorse Hill, as christened by the newspapers. There was a family called the Gorsts, who lived on the hill at Clifton Drive. They were a family of farmers, again well respected.
On the way home along the corridor I could see Smiths Corner, where all the posh people lived. In fact many still do.
Yes, Blacon was the place to live. The corridor, as it's now called, used to heave with people. Full employment carried the fellas to the steelworks- three shifts, 10 trains one way. People walked to Chester down the lines and went up the Liverpool Road train station to town.
The canal was our bathing pool. The corridor gave- it still does, no matter what you do with it.
Just remember its history, and treat it with respect. I do, and so do quite a few other Blacon people.
Terry Dodds, Blacon, Chester
23/8/02 Members of our associations have been reading the great discourse every week concerning the proposed guided bus system (CDTS) between Chester and the Deeside Industrial Park (which employs 9,000 workers) along the old Mickle Trafford-Shotton disused railway line.
Our associations felt from the outset that the railway track should not have been taken up and removed.
Cheshire County Council ignored the proposed project of a light rail system (trams) that could be added to over the years.
Now as you look around the British Isles, more than 20 schemes are proposed for tram systems in towns and cities. They are already in place in Manchester, Sheffield, Croydon and Sunderland, recently approved in Liverpool, proposed in Edinburgh and Bristol and under construction in Nottingham and Dublin.
Trams could be run into Chester railway station and Chester Northgate. This could be the answer against critics who are against extra buses being driven into the centre of Chester.
It is still not too late to sit back and reorganise this scheme as a light railway system.
If a train service had been reinstated back on this disused railway line instead of an unknown guided bus system the opposition would have been nil.
A T Garrett, Public relations officer, Wirral Transport Users Association and Wrexham-Birkenhead Rail Users Association, The Moorings, Lower Heswall, Heswall
23/8/02 It seems Michael Meacher, Phil Goodwin and 27 other transport professors (most of them leaders in their field) are not impressed with government policy on either transport or environmental issues.
The professors are so alarmed the country is heading for total gridlock they released an open letter on the website www.ucl.ac.uk.
Anti-CDTS objectors are equally worried. For instance, the CDTS busway scheme, far from discouraging car use, would provide easy parking for 1,200 on our Green Belt land.
Adding to this environmental damage, it would degrade a very popular tranquil green space cycle/walkway into a fenced-in narrow path next to a two-lane concrete busway.
The professors say, 'Laying concrete only encourages more traffic'. They also advocate 'wider and better facilities for walkers and cyclists'.
The CDTS busway plan would lay two lanes of concrete to provide easy parking for an additional I,2139 cars.
It would also bring total gridlock on our roads even closer. I am sure councillors will make good use of the expert advice of the transport professors before making their decision on September 11.
Please start to help us not to be so dependent on our car, don't encourage us to use it more.
Audrey Hodgkinbson, Secretary, Anti-CDTS Campaign Groups, Hoole, Chester
23/8/02 Why has it taken so long for the counting device recently installed for the walk/cycleway at the entrance of Northgate Park to appear?
One was in place on the Welsh part of the walk/cycleway within a short while of it being opened. It seems a pity that both directions are now being counted when many would be on holiday and not using the route to commute or for leisure.
Nevertheless, despite the last minuite installation uf this counter, let us hope the figures are still impressive for I have no doubt they will be used at the CDTS busway plan decision meeting on September 11.
W R Hodgkinson, Chester
Right: Tireless campaigners Audrey and Ralph Hodgkinson and Catherine Green on the cycleway, 13th September 2002.
29/8/02 Councillors and local MPs should use their summer break and get on their bikes and ride from the Sefton Road end of the Millennium Cycleway all the way to Hawarden Bridge and back so they can have the pleasure and enjoyment of this route. They will then know what cyclists and walkers have been saying!
Being a new cyclist I really enjoy this route. It only takes approximately an hour there and back and it is flat all the way and enjoyed by many.
P. Hughes Lache Hall Crescent, Lache Lane, Chester
30/8/02 'Metro-Loop' is an outline, transport and pedestrian route concept designed to convey pedestrians around Chester city centre, either by walking, or by riding on an electric-type bus vehicle or vehicles, from Chester General Station, along the existing Wrexham line towards Northgate.
From there, the route would go back to the railway station via a ramp viaduct and then through an under pavement and road 'hypoduct' which would run approximately from the Castlegate (??), behind the Amphitheatre across Foregate, and under the canal.
Pedestrians could walk along the non-railway section of the Metro-Loop in both directions and could access the loop from street level ramps and the connecting 'rotunda'.
The Metro-Loop vehicle type is optional. An electric bus- similar to the Birkenhead 'E' - is one possibility, and a fleet of these (for peak hours) would provide flexibility, though a train type variety of that model is another possibility.
The scheme is designed to connect to under-pavement and road malls at Eastgate, Northgate and Watergate etc. The malls are ideal for underground gardens, ferneries etc. Lighting is possibly by synchrous solar light collectors on lamp standards.
The whole should provide a stress-free, traffic-free conduit for residents and visitors alike.
Colin P Milne, Aspendale Road, HigherTranmere, Birkenhead
30/8/02 Since the CDTS (Phase l) busway Public Inquiry at which Chester CPRE submitted strong objections to the scheme, several additional reasons for the rejection of CDTS have arisen.
Those supporting CDTS have argued that it is vital for the growth of the retail economy of Chester. However, the planning application recently submitted by London and Amsterdam for the masive rebuilding of Chester city centre states that "the total spare capaclty of all existing Park & Ride sites based on their current parking capacities is considered to be more than sufficient to accommodate the maximum additional peak-hour generation of 153 arrivals by car".
In the light of thls assessment by a major retail developer, the question needs to be asked: Does Chester really need this additional, expensively engineered Park & Ride scheme?
In relation to any potential benefits of CDTS on traffic congestion in the city centre and along Hoole Road, the panel of inspectors reporting on the Cheshire Structure Plan were concerned that without 'complementary measures' such as bus lanes, restrictions on city centre public parking' and congestion and workplace car parking charging, the costly CDTS scheme, and even the existing Park and Ride service, would be wasteful.
One of the complementary measures put forward by Carlton Roberts-James in his proof of evdence on behalf of the city and county councils at the CDTS inquiry was a workplace parking levy.
He stated: "In the local transport plan a bid was made to include Chester in the Government fast track pilot scheme for workplace parking levies and this measure would be presented to the DETR as being important to maximising the benefits to be derived from the investment in CDTS Phase 1".
Has, then, this important complementary measure been accepted by the city and county councils?
The panel of inspectors reporting on the structure plan were also concerned about the rather sharp escalation of the costs of CDTS and the necessity to assess both the final figure and whether the scheme represents value for money.
The question needs to be asked: How much of this escalating cost will be imposed on the local taxpayers paylng back the loan?
Chester CPRE believes that these matters deserve very serious consideration by councillors and the community before the final decision on the CDTS busway is taken.
Ann Jones, Planning co-ordinator: Chester District CPRE
30/8/02 Pat Garrett is right. There would be fewer objections to a single line railway instead of the busway.
For a start, it would encourage less car use and leave room for walkers, cyclists and wildlife habitat. It would not be a destructively wide and concreted roadway for buses, or have trains every four minutes. That the CDTS busway would encourage more car use is obvious- the plan provides for 1,200 additional car spaces.
The rail network pulls in passengers from a huge area- there would be no need for a 1,200 space car park on Chester's Green Belt land. There are many traffic experts who state laying concrete creates more traffic.
A two-lane concrete busway would also discourage those wishing to consider their health and environment by using their car less. Walkers and cyclists have been subjected to very bad conditions over many years. It is time to redress the balance, say experts.
Many millions of council funds poured into concreted busways, when we need positive moves to encourage less car use to stave off total gridlock on our roads, is thought of as wasteful in the extreme.
W R Hodgkinson, Hoole
12/9/02 I am somewhat confused. Who gave he so-called Chester in Partnership the right to speak on behalf of residents? We did not vote for them and their words instill no confdence. Are these people paid, if so who pays them and why? Our councillors are siupposed to speak out on our behalf, though I admit sme certainly don't for reasons they done know.
The CDTS busway plan (or 'prosperty road' according to some) is quesioned regularly. Either a large number of transport experts and most of the population of Chester or our town planners have it wrong. The traffic experts (all 28 of them) say more concrete creates more traffic. Wait a minute, I think I get it- Chester planners want gridlock as a way of keeping the hoards in Chester longer. The trouble is they cannot see the wood for the concrete, what happens when no more goods can get in? If my memory serves me well, many expert and the general public did not think the Dome was a good idea either. Lessons should be learned that arrogance clouds the issue.
Then there is Chester race traffic which crosses most of Cheshire and which the city has to endure. Our rates get even higher while our road surfaces get worse. The racecourse is a stone's throw from both railway and bus stations. Can't planners persuade these hordes to be environmentally aware or think of our quality of life? What about a free bus service from the station to the racecourse? If these people won't walk, subsidise alternative transport by those who profit from racing. Residents tolerate the hordes with good humour on the whole, but if our quality of life is continually on the downward spiral and local rates are on the up, something has to happen.
I see more than road gridlock on the cards.
I. Rumble, Chester
But what's this? Go on to page 15 of our CDTS letters for some major news!...