Last weekend I took the Metro Link tram into the heart of
Manchester city centre. The trams are very popular with the public and no wonder.
They ran at frequent intervals, the fares are affordable and the trams are run
from the outskirts right though the centre of the city. They will help to reverse
the trend of trying to get more and more cars into the city centre with all
the attendant congestion and air pollution.
There has recently been criticism in the media about councillors' support for
the conversion of the Mickle Trafford line into a public transport link from
the motorway through Chester city centre and into North Wales. ClIr Molly Hale
has come under fire in particular.
The Arcadian view has been expressed that we only need to build a cycle track
and footpath along this route. Personally I often walk or cycle into Chester,
but I am fortunate in being fit enough to still enjoy that way of getting about.
Many elderly People and those with disabilities am not so fortunate. A footpath
and cycle track alone would do little or nothing to deter thousands of cars
coming via the motorway into Chester from surrounding communities from continuing
to drive into the city. The trade they bring guarantees hundreds ofjobs in Chester.
Attractive, frequent and affordable public transport can persuade people to
come to Chester and get in and out of the centre easily without using their
cars for the whole Journey. I hope that councillors with a vision of how this
can be achieved will stick to their guns and use the derelict railway line for
pedestrians, cyclists and public transport.
Gordon Smith, 9 Canadian Avenue, Hoole, Chester
27/11/97 Chester-Deeside Transport System (CDTS). I refer to two letters published
on 20th November- "Greenway Plea" by Mr Emery and "Who is it" by Mr Siddle.
Mr Emery suggested that a planning application is shortly to be made for the busway.
I should like to confirm that this is not the case. SUSTRANS, the national sustainable
transport charity, expect to submit a planning application for a combined footway/cycleway
only, along the redundant track bed, at the earliest opportunity. The application
will avoid land required by the busway but will otherwise not refer to it. SUSTRANS
have agreed that the three uses - footway, cycleway and busway - can safely exist
side by side.
I was concerned that Mr Emery was urging the community to contribute money for
an alterative planning application- I would suggest that this may not be in the
best interests of the community since, for any application to be considered, a
substantial amount of supporting information on design, landscape, etc would be
required along with necessary notices on landowners. This would be time-consuming,
expensive, and undoubtedly require costly professional help. This well-intentioned
advice is offered solely to avid unnecessary abortive expense. There will be ample
scope for the local community to make their views known on the SUSTRANS application
when it is submitted and advertised. I would also like to assure your readers
that, if and when planning procedures for a busway are undertaken, there will
also be ample scope for the public to make any views known.
At Present, efforts are being focussed on assessing feasibility and affordability to ensure CDTS is a viable proposition in transport, environmental and commercial terms.
Mr Siddle referred to external consultancy advice which was recently considered by the county council. Mr Siddle has been contated separately to offer the opportunity to inspect the report; had he approached the council directly the same offer would have been made, as it was with another interested party. The matter was considered as confidential until all the affected councils, including Chester and Flintshire, had each considered it.
It is a bulky report which would be prohibitively expensive to circulate widely; it would have to be sold to protect council tax payers interests, but would not be of widespread value to the public. As with any external consultancy advice, some suggestions are supported by the council while others are not; it therefore needs to be read with this fact in mind.
I will happily provide an executive summay, make arrangements for the document to be inspected, or discuss the pressing need to tackle Chester's transport problems and requirements. Those interested are invited to contact me.
Carlton Roberts-James, Project manager, Cheshire County Council, Backford Hall
Each week in your columns there are letters expressing concern over the Chester to Deeside transport system, most of which display some misunderstanding of the nature of the proposals. I hope I can allay some of the fears.
The proposals will allow for a busway, a cycleway and a green walkway. The busway will not be a road for all vehicles but a guided route for suitably equipped buses. These buses will not be 'smelly diesels' but will be propelled by a modern fuel with low pollution, such as liquid petroleum gas (although no decision has yet been made as to the exact choice).
Cyclists will have their own dedicated track, as will walkers, and they will not be constantly fighting with other vehicles for their road space.
One bus every five minutes passing by on its own dedicated track would not be a great threat.
There has been a lot of talk about using the corridor only for a 'greenway'. The cost of such a proposal cannot be met from any resources available to the city and county councils because there will be a huge expense for the maintenance of the bridges which the Government will only allow the councils to meet by means of a package of transport and environmental measures. To use the line for a greenway, therefore, is not an option open to anyone.
However, the proposals contain the means of providing a greenway parallel to the two transport corridors for the buses (once again, not for general traffic) and cycles.
I find it difficult to understand why a greenway without the transport benefits is superior to a greenway with those benefits.
The line in itself will not solve Chester's traffic problems. But there is no doubt that it gives the city the opportunity, when taken with a number of other measures under consideration, to gain a modern public transport system fit to compare with those which can be found in many places on the continent but in few places in Britain.
It is understandable that people whose home is near the line should be fearful of pollution and noise, but the proposals do not indicate that they will in fact be subjected to such inconvenience.
If any reader wishes to discuss the matter with me, or with the officers of the two local authorities, please contact me by letter, by phone on 01244 683467, by fax on 01244 683467, or by e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.
I shall be happy to share views with you.
PETER BYRNE, County councillor, Sealand and College Division, Hough Green, Chester
I very much welcome Cllr Byrne's letter last week refence the Chester-Deeside transport scheme, which made a clear and concise case for the merits and benefits to Chester district as a whole of this proposed transport system.
He has my unqualified support.
I re-emphasise that the completion of this scheme will reinforce Chester's position as a sub-regional centre for business and tourism in the North West and greatly strengthen its economic base. Flintshire county council, recognising the economic benefitsto Deeside, is positively promoting and supporting the scheme, supported by the Welsh Office.
In addition, the European traffic Commissioner has acknowledged the merits of the scheme in all of its wider aspects and there are positive indications that European support may become available as the detailed planning progresses.
City Councillor John R Boughton, 8 Glebe Meadows, Mickle Trafford, Chester
Your correspondent of last week invited 'official' comments on the financing of the proposed Chester-Deeside Transport System (CDTS).
As chairman of the Chester Transport Study Joint Working Party, I write with all-party support on behalf of the county and city councils.
Both councils see CDTS as an important part of achieving a modern and sustainable transport system for Chester, capable of aiding the city's development and providing alternative means of travel to the car.
We believe that one of the best ways of contributing to this is to provide a footway, busway and guided busway along the disused Mickle Trafford to Shotton railway line.
If it were only possible to have one or two of these uses, we would have a problem; our feasibitility work indicates that we can achieve all three modes perfectly satisfactorily and there would be some question as to whether there would be the financial justification for anything other.
The whole package, including the completion of the Western Relief Road, is estimated to cost about £50m.
We are looking for financial contributions from developers of non-Green Belt sites allocated in the Local Plan and from private sector investors through the Government's Private Finance Initiative.
We have already been allocated Government finance for work on feasibility, environment impact and design, and hope to achieve further financial support for construction.
We, are conscious of the worries of the cycling and environmental lobbies and will seek to have a constructive dialogue with those who genuinely have Chester's interests at heart and wish to see the development of an integrated and sustainable transport solution to carry the city into the next century.
In conjunction with the Draft Local Plan, we will shortly be publishing the revised Chester Transport Study which will explain how we intend to achieve these goals, and how CDTS fits in.
If any organisations would like to discuss the current plans with the officers of the two cuoncils, please write to me at the adress below, or contact Peter Cocker the County engineer, who leads the transport study at Backford Hall.
Cllr Derek Bateman, Chairman, Environmental Services Committee, County Hall, Chester
I should like to comment on the letter about the Chester Deeside Transport System from Mr Emery in your last week's edition.
It is clear that Mr Emery has made his mind up about the idea, but it is wrong of him to conclude that his opposition is shared by everybody. There is in fact a broad range of opinion (including all political parties in Chester) who are in favour, though it is true there are many who want to see a cycleway/walkway only. But Mr Emery's opposition should not lead him to get his facts wrong.
The imminent planning application is for a walkway/ cycleway, with the space for a busway being preserved but not part of the application. It is quite open for Mr Emery or his organisation to put in an application to build a greenway, but without title to the land it is not likely to come to anything. I uge anyone who is thinking of contributing to such a scheme to think again, not because I don't want the opposition but because absolutely nothing can come of it.
If opponents of the scheme wish to put their opposition to me, I shall be very willing to meet with them and discuss the issues involved, which are really to do with long-term solutions of Chester's horrendous traffic problems. The CDTS is not going to solve these on its own, but it is part of a larger long-term strategy aimed at reducing dependence on the car. improving public transport so that more people want to use it, increasing the use of cycling as a means of leisure and of getting to work, and reducing the noxious fumes which are slowly (perhaps not so slowly) strangling our city and poisoning our residents. These are aims which I am sure Mr Emery can only agree with. Would he like to suggest his greenway would contribute to bringing about such a resolution of our problem?
Peter C Bryne, County Councillor, College & Sealand Division, Chair, Joint Authorities Steering Group, II7 Hough Green, Chester CH4 8JW
6/8/98 Re the disused Mickle Trafford-Shotton railway as a safe route to school. Friends of the Earth raised the question in your letters column about safe routes to school along this disused line as if they were the only ones to have given any thought to such an option.
Let me disillusion them. This priority has always been an integral part of the plans and is fully supported by Sustrans, both city and county councils, plus a number of Parish councils whose children attend Upton and Kingsway High Schools, as well as others.
However, as a grandfather, councillor and school governor, I am in regular contact with many parents. One of the main concerns they have expressed to me is the use of the route in this way if it remained an unlit, well screened, greenway only, for the safety of their children against the malevolent and predatory adults that we unfortunately hear so much about these days.
Quite apart from the fact that the three transport uses planned for the route will make a balanced and integrated contribution to Chester's traffic plans, all the parents concerned recognise that the provision of a regular, environmentally friendly guided vehicle along the route will go a long way to alleviating that particular very worrying problem.
My advice to parents is to write in positive support of the plans to offset many of the negative comments currently being expressed.
Cllr John R. Boughton, 8 Glebe Meadows Mickle Trafford, Chester
7/8/98 Your coverage of John Prescott's White Paper on transport (Chronicle, July 24) gave readers an admirable account of the Government's stance on crucial issues which are facing all of us whether as pedestrians, motorists, cyclists or walkers.
The White Paper gives us all in Chester an opportunity to create a city that is not choked with fumes and threatening to pedestrians, especially child pedestrians.
The one theme which is repeated time and time again in the document is 'no change is not an option'. At last, after many years of waiting. we have the tools to tackle the job property.
Sustrans has put in an application to build the cycleway part of the Chester-Deeside Transport System. Residents in areas most affected by the proposal will have the opportunity to look at the plans in detail at a meeting near them shortly.
The rest of the structure involving the guided busway (not a road) is taking shape and there will be full consultation with all residents when details are ready.
The county's transport board will be considering soon how best to utilise the Government's grant of about £600,000 for rural transport. The Safe Routes to School initiative is gathering momentum because of the knowledge that we now have a Government that is serious in its commitment to improving public transport so that it becomes a real alternative to the use of the car.
There is so much going on at the moment because of the renewed drive given by Government actions. As chairman of the county's transport board, I welcome your readers' participation in the exciting times ahead.
If you wish to contribute to the growing debate please get in touch with me at the address below.
County Councillor Peter Byrne, College and Sealand Ward, 117 Hough Green, Chester CH4 BJW Tel:01244 678825
20/8/98 I must ask for yor indulgence to reply to the letter Fat Cats Call Tune from Stephen Howe in your edition of 13 August. He displays an attitude towards local councillors, the planning process and current and past decisions which is, I must admit, only too prevalent among many of your correspondents. Unfortunately, he also displays a lack of real knowledge of what goes on which cannot be allowed to go unchallenged.
He claims that local councillors do not listen to their electorate and give in too easily to the 'fat cats' of big business when it comes to planning decisions. He could not be more wrong. More often than not, local councillors do take the right decision, only to have their decision overturned by a government inspector at a later enquiry. Two examples of this happening recently were the Macdonald's restaurant next to the Town Hall and the plan for a leisure complex at the Greyhound Park. The Forum Two decision has not yet been finalised, because the city's planners and councillors are not convinced that the proposals are right. Of the other issues he mentions, Mercia Square did not go ahead because the developer withdrew his proposals, and the Electric Light Company where technical studies showed that it was impossible to retain the facade because of a sewer which crossed one comer of the building. It was certainly open to the council to reject this plan, but the consequence of this would have been twofold: the whole scheme would have fallen because the developer needed the site of the building to generate funds for the rest of the development and the developer would have appealed to the government department anyway and would have won on appeal because of the technical study. In such a case the city council would have had to pay the full costs of the appeal process not only for themselves but for the applicant as well, so that the Electric Light building would have gone but the council would be left with a huge bill. What would Mr Howe recommend if faced with this choice?
The main thrust of his argument however, is that local councillors pay no attention to the wishes of their electorate. What he really means by this is that local councillors disagree with his standpoint, which he thinks is the right one. Now Mr Howe has every right to his opinion and he has every right to fight for it to be adopted. What he cannot show, however, is that his opinion is either the majority view (you can't run a democracy by counting letters to the local press) or that it is the only view. As a democratically elected county councillor (and the county council does not deal with planning matters so I am not defending any of my own reponsibities in these matters), I have a duty to listen to Mr Howe's viewpoint and that of all my electorate. This does not mean I have to agree with them or to do as they want me to. One of my constituents is an inveterate letter-writer to the local press and often expresses opinions Which I am not alone in finding abhorrent at times. Do I have to agree with them? Or do anything to forward them? Or put them forward as representative of my elecorate's views? If Mr Howe thinks that the answer to those questions is yes, then I am afraid I shall have to ask him to vote against me when the time comes because that is not the duty of a local councillor.
On the specific question of the Chester-Deeside Transport System, I admit I am fully in favour of it, not because I have some perverse desire to oppose the wishes of residents near the line or because I want to roll over for the "fat cats", but because I believe it will go part of the way to reducing pollution in our town centre and reinvigorating our public transport system so that there can be a convenient and reliable alternative to a significant number of car journeys. Mr Howe is quite entitled to disagree with me on this but he is not entitled to eel in question my motives. He says that I (as a local councillor) "possess no culture and few original ideas". He does not know me.
Many people think, like Mr Howe, that it is useless to get involved with protests about local issues because councillors ignore what they have to say. Councillors rarely ignore what their electors have to say. Very often, however, it is not within the powers of local councillors to do what people ask them to. I recently attended a meeting of residents of Cranleigh Crescent, who do not want an access to the cycleway near them. Listening to their arguments, 1 was impressed by the single point they kept returning to in aid of their stance, and I have already taken steps to see if their concerns can be adressed. It may not be possible to do anything substantial about their concerns. Or it may be possible to do something at the cost of losing the whole scheme. I have to weigh what is possible against what is desirable. When you do this, you don't always come up with the answer that pleases anyone, let alone everyone.
Mr Howe should continue to press his point of view upon all concerned- But he should not assume that his is the only view, or the only possible view, or that anyone disagreeing with him "possesses no culture and original ideas of their own". The planning process and the democratic process are rather more complicated than he thinks and he does democracy no service by impuging the motives and intelligence of those who disagree with him.
County Cllr Peter Byrne, 117 Hough Green, Chester
Here is a response to the above letter...
1/10/98 So the view of the silent majority has prevailed in the planning debate over the future of the Mickle Trafford-Shotton rail line. Well done Chester City Council!
Too long the tendentious views of a small minority have dominated this letters page, and threatened to block a crucial transport proposal. But now we have the prospect of a valuable new route for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users.
It is perhaps understandable that residents who back onto the route should have some apprehension. They will gain however from having a well maintained and regularly used routeway, instead of the haven to miscreants provided by the current neglected trackbed. Careful design and landscaping of the scheme should avoid any noise or visual intrusion into adjacent properties.
Less acceptable is the NIMBY attitude by opponents who live away from the route. lf they had their way, no development would take place anywhere! Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has rightly said however, that local opposition is not in itself a reason for blocking a planning proposal.
Their calls for a public inquiry have already been satisfied. The Examination-in-Public (EiP) of the Cheshire 2011 Structure Plan in Chester's Queen Hotel last October debated the Chester-Deeside Transport System.
Representatives of CPRE, Friends of the Earth and local residents put their arguments to a government-appointed panel. But that panel endorsed the CDTS saying it would offer improved public transport and relief of traffic congestion. "Use of the redundant rail line as a linear park or simply as a footway/cycleway would be a missed opportunity," the panel concluded.
Neither would a footway/cycleway meet all travel needs. Walking and cycling is fine for the young and able, but what about the elderly, infirm, mothers with prams, and those with heavy shopping?
Even more inexplicable is the nonsensical claim in the latest Cyclomania newsletter from the Chester Cycling Campaign that the city council is not green because it supports the CDTS busway scheme. In truth, public transport is green, as every other environmental organisation agrees, revealing Cyclomania to be the organ of a lunatic fringe. It is surprising that firms like Halfords should sponsor such a tabloid, which should more accurately be renamed Cyclohysteria. (Very witty that. We laughed a lot)
I and the rest of the silent majority in Chester look forward to the completion of the combined footway, cycleway and busway, it will be a boon for residents and visitors alike, and will provide better access to the city centre with consequent gains in trade and jobs.
There has been a degree of speculation in this office as to the identity of this 'green campaigner' whose strong convictions nontheless preclude the inclusion of his name. We'd put folding money on it being Councillor Dave Bennett, however, who has taken steps to distance himself from the Chester Cycling Campaign- the 'lunatic fringe' of which he was a so recently a member
The following letter to Cllr Bennett from 'one who knows' which was recently passed on to us would also seem to bear this out:
"Thanks for your letter of 10 October and for your support for better cycling facilities in Chester and in which you claim "significant progress". I don't doubt your intentions for a moment, but I regret that your claim of progress is just greenwash, compared to what could be done. Here's why, at three levels: world, UK and Cheshire.
A recent world report on environmental degradation shows the world is not still not moving towards sustainability. It is accelerating away from it. Dave, I ask you to support a sustainable approach to transport instead of being a pawn to a few powerful but mediocre stonewallers who blackball anything which threatens the car culture which dominates the County's Backford Hall.
While I acknowledge that more is happening locally than before, you must know that, according to UK Government statistics, cyclist safety, compared to driving, is fast going backwards.
In the past five years, the lethality of cycling, compared to driving has increases from being twelve times more lethal to eighteen times worse. Such fast and significant worsening is the very opposite of progress. Plus, nationally, transport planners who plan our roads are largely ignorant of the dangers which cyclists face.
In the search for "significant progress" locally, I have looked at Cheshire County's own agenda 21 targets on transport. Unfortunately, I found that that every measured index of sustainability relating to transport is negative. For example, cycle use is down and car use is up. How can this amount to "significant progress" in sustainability and cycle takeup? Cut the greenwash, Dave.
Moving to your next comment, you, a cyclist, deride "the bike lobby" as "fanatical" and you also imply that cycling is not a normal thing to do. Sadly I reckon you are correct on both counts. But why are we fanatical? There are two possible reasons why...
1. Choosing to cycle is fanatical (and I think it is).
It is patently fanatical to choose to cycle, in the face of high and mounting dangers which I mentioned earlier. Dave, you are a fellow fanatic, since you cycle too.
2. Wanting improvements is fanatical (and I think you cravenly cravenly portray it is such).
You appear to assert that it is fanatical to repeatedly ask for cycling safety to be improved and for priority to be given to cycling before further roads are built. Wrong: suffragettes were also portrayed as fanatical (also by quite moderate reactionaries) in their time, but an inevitable logic and fairness also underpinned their demands.
Dave, I admit that in your name-calling, you may have a valid point. Today's justifiable "normal" image of a cyclists is indeed of an increasingly foolhardy and, yes, a madly fanatical minority. A fast dying breed! Meanwhile, Chester's far larger and more silent majority of safe and mainstream future cyclists today choose to drive or take the bus, while repeatedly telling Friends of the Earth's researchers that they would welcome the chance to cycle safely.
But surely you can aim to help the latter group in a way which does not alienate the former? Surely you can see that your recent public attempts to divide and rule the cycling lobby can only help the most unsustainable of travellers- who must be laughing all the way to the petrol station?
As they say in the PR trade: I. Greenwash stinks. 2. It can also stick. 3. Where it sticks hard, it
takes years of work to remove. 4. But it only sticks hard to those who apply it cack-handedly.
As one green campaigner to another I ask you to revive your vision of real sustainability- I know it's there because I have seen it enthuse you. And, please, stop attacking potential supporters..."
More thoughts of 'Green Campaigner'
8/10/98 In the various arguments regarding the disused railway line between Mickle Trafford and Connah's Quay, no one recently appears to have put forwards a scheme that is both environmentally friendly, user friendly and resident friendly. The controversy will run and run since each side is using fallacious single issue arguments which do not pretend to take into account the security requirements of the residents, the actual needs of the users (the public transport user), the real requirents of an ecological viewpoint and any pretence to an environmentally friendly approach based on sound and costable engineering which would take Chester proudly in to the next millennium.
As one from an engineering background might I suggest that the line be returned to the use for which it was designed, but updated. My suggestion is for a single track monorail based on the simple conversion of long wheel base, single deck buses from their diesel engines driving wheels, to driving fans. Then it is a short step to an air cushioned monorail (Hovercraft principle). The monorail is for guidance and signalling and passing points be at the desired access points (stations).
It would take no great advance to form a design team based on a Cheshire engineering faculty, a Cheshire, or North Wales vehicle manufacturer, a local engineering contractor, the local authorities concerned, and a train operator. If the operation were conceived as a cooperative with a portion of the shareholding reserved for the general public, the staff, and the appropriate investors, we would have a test bed for future transport initiatives elsewhere.
I specify local, since any public work should be envisaged to provide work for the local community, not jobs for the boys. In this context the controls could be simplified so skilled manual operation were used, instead of wasting money on high-tech fallible computerised systems, which would then have third world export potential and each hover train would carry a conductor/ ticket seller, as well as a driver. The ecological flexibility would come from being able to run, perhaps, trains of one to eight buses long, depending on demand. Suitable vertically mounted exhaust scrubbers/silencers could be installed. Now this could be a project for millennium or Lottery or European money, and given the will be ready for the year 2000.
As for the push bike fraternity, my advice is, push off. Do they not realise their credibility, as a minority pressure group, is at an all-time low, due to the antics of a minority, aggressively riding on pedestrian walking space (pavements). Their puerile attempts to occupy the moral high ground from an environmental viewpoint are at best fallacious, and at worst a con trick. If there were a decent bioengineer amongst them, they would realise on an energy audit based on consumption of resources per person mile they were well down the list. Basing an argument on anti-car publicity would be bound to be exposed eventually. Push bikers use the roads or pay yearly taxes on your push bikes to fund your demands for bikeways. This requires bottle. Think of the outcry if moped or 50cc scooter riders used the pavements.
Tim Colledge, 34 Masefield Drive Blacon, Chester
And 'Green Campaigner' calls cyclists a "lunatic fringe"...
8/10/98 It is true, at Mr Lyall quoted in his letter last week, that I have never received so many letters on one subject as I did regarding the Sustrans footway/cycleway planning application. I carefully read them all, talked to some people and replied to many. May I take this opportunity to apologise to those who did not receive a reply.
The difficulty was that most were long letters on multiple subjects and many were based on a misconception of the decision to be made. it was not an application for a busway (nor a "back-door way" of supporting one). it was an application for a cycleway along 7km of the route, designed with regard to the Local Plan- as it had to be.
The disused railway line is a "designated transport route" and as such, under government regulations, the cycleway could not be sited down the centre of the track-bed. The design had to "indicate the relationship" to my proposals for a busway.
If definite proposals for a transport system do come forward it will only be when the massive funding required has been identified and after a long procedure. The procedure would include public consultation and a public inquiry. There will be ample time and opportunity for the public and their elected representatives to express their views.
Meanwhile, I and my fellow Newton councillors are very pleased that, if full council gives approval next month, we should soon have a footway/cycle way for the benefit of residents and as a link into the National Cycle Network. We thank Sustrans for responding to our request to make some design adjustments in accordance with the wishes of local people.
Cllr Jean Garrod, 64 Upton Park Chester
15/10/98 It was to be expected that the facts of my letter published on this page a fortnight ago (see above) would upset the opponents of the Chester-Deeside Transport System (CDTS). They are comfortable that their campaign of half-truths, distortion and hysteria has been exposed for what it is.
Allan Jones retorted last week with the claim that when the councils canvassed public opinion on the CDTS, most people didn't bother to reply. An AJ half-truth, for he convenient forgot to add that of who did reply, the majority backed the proposal.
They are the silent majority.
AJ also queried the status of last October's Structure Plan Examination-in-Public (EIP) which backed the CDTS. It was not a type of public inquiry, he claimed, but some kind of public exhibition. An AJ Distortion.
Official county council documents refer to the EIP as "a type of public inquiry'. Furthermore, two govemment-appointed inspectors conducted the EIP: the city and county councils, CPRE, Friends of the Earth and others including AJ himself presented evidence, and then the inspectors went away to deliberate before publishing their report a few months last. What is that if it is not a type of public inquiry?
More crucial is the public inspectors' endorsement of the CDTS scheme. Quote from their conclusions: "This scheme is an opportunity which offers considerable benefits of the city in terms of improved public transport and relief of traffic congestion. Its use as a linear park or simply a footpath/ cycleway would be a missed opportunity."
AJ might find this rejection of his arguments hard to come to terms with, but that does not justify a pretence that the inquiry didn't take place.
Most noteworthy though, was that all of last week's letters attacking me sought to score debating points and did not challenge my central argument that the combined footway/ cycleway/ public transport route will bring major benefits. The city council's historic decision to back it means that attention can now turn to the choice of public transport system. Whether the right solution is a monorail using technology yet to be developed- as suggested last week- is questionable but ought to be evaluated alongside other options.
A while back in the Standard, Cllr Gordon Smith spoke glowingly of Manchester's Metrolink supertram system. This must merit study for the CDTS. By using the existing trackbed for new rails, the million pound cost of building a concrete busway through would be avoided. To my knowledge no cost comparison has been made between busway and supertram here in Chester, although in Manchester, converting former rail lines to busways was found to be far more expensive than the Metrolink proposal eventually adopted.
Being quiet, clean, pollution-free and with level boarding with the kerb (vital for mothers with prams, the infirm, as well as the disabled), a supertram system would put Chester back into the premier league of cities. And it would satisfy local residents' concerns about noise and fumes from diesel buses.
I would urge Cestrians to join me and Cllr Gordon Smith in calling for a study of a supertram CDTS- a truly green transport option.
16/10/98 Once again your letters column is dominated by those opposed to the proposals for the guided busway and its associated cycleway and walkway.
The opposition is based on a number of factors, some of which are reasonable and some of which are the stuff of fairy tales.
The purchase by Tesco of land at Mannings Lane keeps cropping up, with the clear implication councillors are waiting for an opportunity to let developers have their wicked way with the Green Belt. Why councillors should want to do this is never consided' this canard should be laid to rest.
Under the Government's policies (in deed under the policies belatedly-adopted by John Gummer, the last Conservative Environment Minister), there is little or no chance of a supermarket or other such development in that area.
Where that leaves Tesco, I do not know, but readers can rest assured there is no move on the council's part to countenance. such a development.
There is also the idea being peddled that Sustrans was forced into leaving the busway envelope in position when it would sooner have had the whole of the line to itself. Sustrans itself has replied to that one in your columns by pointing out the line was always to be a transport corridor.
The alternative was not the busway or the cycleway. The two councils entered an agreement With Sustrans so the cycleway could be added to the plans already being developed.
Without the busway, there, was no funding for the cycleway.
The most important point, however, is the one which the campaigners do not seem to understand. The busway is only part of a concerted effort to stop Chester from choking on its traffic fumes.
Encouragement of public transport is the key element in persuading people to use their cars less.
Instead of driving as near the city centre as possible before clogging up the residential areas, commuters will be persuaded by a fast and efficient system that it is better for them to drive a little less ofthe way.
There are a large number of associated measures to ensure the road space released by the fewer cars entering the city will not be taken up by the continuing increase in car use and car ownership. Bus lanes, traffic priorities at lights, encouragement of walking and cycling, traffic calming, safe routes to school, all these will in a short time be transforming the way
we look at our traffic problems.
It can't be done all at once and it won't be done by city councillors, county councillors or Simon Brown exhorting people to be good. It will only be done by persuading motorists
that it is better, cheaper and more efficient to use good public transport.
Residents of the inner city areas such as Handbridge and the area near to where Simon Brown lives will appreciate the need for action.
I appreciate there is more than one way to skin a cat and not everyone will have the monopoly on the right way. But can we please have an end to calling people names and calling in question their motives just because they don't happen to agree with you?
Some of your respondents seem to think that anyone can have an opinion except a local councillor.
Peter C Byrne, County councillor, College & Sealand, Hough Green, Chester
11/2/99 I am fed up of reading letters from Chester residents objecting to the proposed busway along the old Mickle Trafford line. Having lived in Newton with a garden bordering the line for 23 years, when steam trains ran on the line. I don't remember reading letters in the local press from people objecting to the trains then. I can't wait for trains to be re-introduced as hopefully less people will walk along the line and I will have fewer trespassers in my garden and fewer pains of glass will be broken in my greenhouse.
My one request is that all gardens that border the line will be given high security fences to keep unwanted people out of private gardens.
25/2/99 People who don't live in Blacon should keep their noses out of Blacon business. I'm talking about Graham Lyall from Newton who wrote that it's wrong to cut a few trees so Blacon can have a new walkway and cycleway, and Klaus Armstrong Braun telling us whether our school ought to have a new leisure complex.
We in Blacon welcome the prospect of a traffic free path down which to stroll, and the busway will give us a faster ride into town. Armstrong Braun is not even a councillor in Chester. He should get on with problems in the area he was elected like the closure of Saltney police station, instead of interfering in matters which are not his concern.
Angry Blacon resident
26/3/99 The debate on the Chester-Deeside Transport System now starts for real, as the county council revs up for a wide range of consultative meetings. On balance I am strongly in favour of the added value aspects of the CDTS scheme. They will bring commercial and environmental benefits to Chester and add a dimension to the city's urgent need to improve Public transport options.
But of course, CDTS is just one part of solving Chester's transport problems.
Because, as I was reminded by Bert Morris, now public policy manager for the AA but formerly a Chester city council traffic engineer: "Town centre commerce needs the custom of the prosperous family which shops by car".
That was the simple message Mr Morris gave to a recent conference of the Association of Town Centre Management- which, in his view, has been largely ignored by all those concerned with transport planning.
He even went on: "If the attractions are outweighed by the difficulties of a lack of access, then that town centre will find it very difficult Indeed to compete".
Chester has plenty of attractions, but the overall problem of either poor access or lack of access has, if anything, become compounded ever recent years.
In welcoming the CDTS debate, and supporting its proposals, let us also see a wider debate on how Chester is going to face up to, and solve, the broader traffic management and car parking problems.
Perhaps we should be looking at Chester itself as an out-of-town development which, perhaps for the majority of people, It is.
How would we then approach the issues?
Certainly not by introducing a road-charging policy to motorists, or poor signage, or unwelcoming or anti-car attitudes, or driving up parking charges and driving motorists into the arms of our competitors.
Bob Clough-Parker: Cut and Thrust column in the Chester Chronicle
9/4/99 Editorial feature in the Chester Chronicle:
'The authorities behind a guided busway have hit back at a pamphlet being circulated which attacks the scheme.
The Chester-Deeside Transport System (CDTS) involves setting up a large Park & Ride site on land near Mannings Lane, Hoole Village, linked Into the city centre via a congestion-free off road route.
However, not everyone is happy with the scheme which would operate on the disused Mickle Trafford to Shotton railway line.
The Cheshire Preservation Group has issued a six point Ieaflet attacking the scheme which aims to keep cars out of Chester's congested city centre. (Oops. Touch of bias showing through there)
Chester City Council, Cheshire County and Flintshire County councils have countered each claims point by point "to set the record straight" (assisted and supported by the Chron itself of course)...
Cheshire Preservation Group: 'CDTS will cost an estimated £56m. The public will pay for it. Your Council Tax bill will increase as local residents will be expected to pay a minimum of 20%.'
Councils: 'Cheshire County and Chester City councils are consulting on Phase One (Hoole to city centre).The cost of constructing the guided busway is estimated at about £7M.
However, if all three phases were to go ahead- including the link to Flintshire and the Chester Western Relief Road (from Wrexham Road Park & Ride to Sealand) then the total cost could be about £56m.
Most of the cost of Phase One would be funded by central government. As the costs would be shared across the county and spread over the lifetime of the project, the effect on Council Tax bills would be extremely small- about £l of the annual Council Tax bill on a Band D property.
Cheshire Preservation Group: 'Houses along the line will decrease in value. Its prime purpose is to roll back the Green Belt. Tesco wants the Green Belt boundary moved back to Mannings Lane site area. The Western Relief Road will lead to massive destruction of the countryside and more out of town development. There will be no impact study until after the public consultation.'
Councils: 'Claims that property along the line willbe devalued are speculative. By law, some properties could be eligible for compensation under the Land compensation Act.
The councils believe that bringing the derelict line back into beneficial use, and maintaining it properly, would have positive rather than negative effects.
All of Chester's Park & Ride sites have been built on the Green Belt. The Chester Local Plan- the development plan which sets out how land should be used- does not permit any other form of development on the Mannings Lane site.
Already a number of constructive suggestions have been made by people who visited the exhibitions In Newton. The Environmental Statement will reflect these comments, and that It is why It is being produced after the consultation.
The Environmental Statement would then be submitted as a statutory part of the application to Government and made available for public inspection as part of the consultation process.'
Cheshire Preservation Group: 'CDTS will encourage greater car use. It Is dependant on the car, thus it is socially exclusive- not for non-car users, disabled, children and the elderly. It is not for the use of local residents.'
Councils: 'The new Park & Ride site would transfer existing car users from the road to clean public transport in the built-up area.
This is where most people live and go about their daily business- and where the unwanted impacts of the car- such as noise, fumes, congestion and danger- are the most serious.
This is how CDTS would benefit residents, visitors and workers alike.
On March 29 the Chester Access Group, an independent lobby group which ensures that facilities are accessible for all, unanimously agreed to support CDTS because it would be of substantial benefit to people with special access needs.
Cheshire Preservation Group: 'Bus services have just been cut and fares increased. Money could be spent on Improving public transport services.'
Councils: 'Bus services have been cut, and fares raised, because of unprecedented price increases (profiteering) demanded by the private companies operating routes subsidised by the county council.
If the Government approves CDTS and promises to finance it, the money would have to be used specifically for this scheme. It cannot be transferred to existing or planned public transport services.'
Cheshire Preservation Group: There are already 8,000 Park & Ride car spaces.
The council has discussed selling off the Sealand Road site, due to their dire financial situation. The council estimates it will be £2m In debt for the year 1999/2000.'
Councils: 'This Is wrong. There are not 8,000 Park & Ride spaces in Chester. There are 3,144. There Is no intention to sell any Park & Ride site and Chester City Council, far from being £2m in debt for the year 1999/2000, has met a £2m shortfall challenge.'
Cheshire Preservation Group: 'Flintshire County Council has no Interest in this project at the moment due to lack of funds. Therefore why is It called the Chester-Deeside Transport System? Are we being misled?'
Councils: 'CDTS has the support of three separate councils, spanning two countries Flintshire County Council, Cheshire County Council and Chester City Council. Flintshire County Council Is a member of the CDTS steering group, and supports the principle of Phase One and of extending CDTS along the former railway line into Deeside.'
15/4/99 I note that many points were raised about the Chester-Deeside Transport System (CDTS) in reader's letters pages which appeared in the 8th April issue of the Chester Standard- many of which require clarification or correction.
First and foremost CDTS is about people. It will help keep cars out of the city centre that would otherwise clog up our historic streets or give out fumes that clog up our airways. Most people go about their daily lives in the built-up area where congestion can only get worse, as predictions show that traffic volume is likely to increase by a third over the next 20 year if current trends continue.
So we need to think ahead and plan for the future. We need to encourage more people to think whether their journey by car into the city is really necessary- and whether public transport could be a better option, particularly for regular short trips. Park and Ride systems offer an enlightened way forward. We need to build on our success to entice more motorists out of their cars before they enter our beautiful city. The guided busway provides the perfect solution. A great deal of information is being made available through public consultation on the first phase of CDTS from Hoole to Chester city centre, Our aim is to raise awareness of the process, the proposals and the issues surrounding this joint initiative between Chester City and Cheshire County councils.
We have distributed a general leaflet to thousands of households across Chester to show people what is going on. We have delivered more detailed brochures to all addresses within the 200 metres of the proposed project. We have advertised widely in the local press to ensure that people know about the eight days of exhibitions held in Newton and the Town Hall Square. More than I800 people alone came to view the Chester exhibition. From this we have received many positive comments on the professional standards and level of detail set out at these exhibitions. We have also produced briefing packs, covering a range of topics for those expressing a special interest. The exhibition plans and displays make it absolutely clear what is being proposed, and many people have told us so far how these have given them a fuller understanding of the process. But there is a limit to how much paperwork can- or indeed should- be distributed. Much detail has been placed on display at the exhibitions for all to see.
For this first phase of the scheme the initial period of public consultation draws to a close on Friday 23rd April, If the councils agree to take the proposals forward to the next stage what you have to say about the proposals will be given very careful consideration, as will all public comments every step of the way throughout the entire process.
And ultimately it will be the Deputy Prime Minister Mr John Prescott who will take into account any matters of conscience before making a final decision.
Cllr Peter Byrne, 117 Hough Green, Chester
30/4/99 The last thing Cheshire county and Chester city councils intend to do is create confusion over the proposals for the Chester Deeside Transport System.
On the contrary, the councils have mounted exhibitions to ensure questions are answered fully.
So we are grateful to your reader DM Begbie of Chester (Points of View, April 1st) for providing us with the opportunity to shed more light on the plan to create a guided busway along part of a disused railway track from Hoole to Chester.
For the benefit of your readers, the length of the guided busway is about one and three quarters of a mile. A round trip, from Hoole to Chester city centre and return, would be four and three quarter miles.
Whatever the distance, in metric or imperial, it is our view that Chester would be miles better for the majority if a guided busway system wins public support.
It would help us do more for pedestrians and cyclists and reduce congestion. It would offer a swift, clean and pleasant route into the city, not only for residents, commuters and visitors but cyclists and walkers too.
The first phase of the public consultation period draws to a close on Friday, April 23. We are keen to hear your views. If readers want to know more, I urge them to telephone the CDTS Help Line on Ol244 603131
Councillor Peter Byrne, Chairman, CDTS Steering Group
30/4/99 I thank the many residents and members of the public- more than 1,400- who have sent us their comments over the proposals to create Chester's first ever guided busway.
Your views were canvassed for the first phase of the proposal to transform a disused railway line into a transport link between Hoole and Chester city centre.
I also thank the many- an estimated 2,000 people- who showed such an interest in the plans for the scheme which went on show at two exhibitions in the city centre and also in Newton.
The views you have expressed through the consultation process which drew to a close last Friday, April 23 are being collated and analysed before the outcomes will be presented to the county council's environment committee on Friday, May 7.
In the meantime, the Draft Environmental Statement linked with the proposal will be made available on request at County Hall from Tuesday, May 4, after which it will be submitted, following any agreed amendments, to national and local consultees from May 10.
Copies will then be available for public inspection at Backford Hall, Chester Town Hall and County Hall, Chester.
Councillor Peter Byrne, Chairman, CDTS Steering Group, Hough Green Chester
In the long-running debate on the Chester-Deeside Transport System, the time has come to state, loudly and clearly, that the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) and their vociferous hangers-on have got it wrong.
Nowadays no edition of the Chronicle passes without the Points of View pages being stuffed with correspondence from CPRE types pronouncing that the CDTS proposals are as ill-founded in principle as they would be ill-founded in practice.
(Actually it's clear that letters of opposition to CDTS are tellingly thin on the ground within the pages of the Chron)
The blunt truth of course is that the CPRE will only ever be really happy if the decision is taken that there will be no further development of any kind whatsoever in the City or Chester and its environs.
That, frankly, is the, kind of organisation the CPRE and its environmentalist cohorts are.
They act like armchair pundits, pursuing their single issue agendum but woefully ignorant of the bigger picture and the wider issues.
None of which is to say that environmental issues are unimportant, or that I am certain the CPRE is made up of a (verv small) group of very nice people and all with the best intentions in the world.
But they are also wonderful examples of the BANANA concept- Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone.
Why don't they square up to the facts of the issues facing Chester. Here we are about to enter the next millennium, with an inner-citv road system still based on Roman lines (We wonder if you, too, find his use of the word still rather chilling?)- and an outer-city system at times unable to cope with the modern-day imperative of the motor car.
The many advantages of Park & Ride cannot on their own cope with the demand, leaving us with problems that need solutions. A sensible contritribution to the whole question of better public transport is available if Chester grasps the opportunity CDTS provides.
CPREs would do well to remember that it's not just their own narrow interests at stake here, but the retention of existing jobs and the creation of new ones, as well as the economic and cultural development of our city for the benefit of the majority of the residents.
Bob Clough-Parker: Chester Chronicle 7/5/99
We break with our normal practice of publishing views opposed to CDTS and allied issues elsewhere to bring you a few responses to the above piece of unpleasantness:
14/5/99 While certainly not wishing to feed Mr Clough-Parker's ego- which already appears to be running at a dangerously high level- I find it impossible to allow his slur against the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) to go unchallenged.
Mr Clough-Parker feels that, as regards the Chester-Deeside Transport System (CDTS), "The time has come to state, loudly and clearly, that the CPRE and their vociferous hangers-on have got it wrong".
It seems rather presumptuous of this gentleman to assume that he is the man to whom we should turn for the final word on this highly controversial Issue.
I am not a CPRE member, nor, as your columnist so boorishly puts it, am I a slavish 'vociferous hanger-on'.
What is his definition of 'vociferous'? Local residents who have the temerity to publicly state their objections to aspects of the CDTS?
It seems Mr Clough-Parker needs reminding that we live in a democracy. We are all entitled to voice our opinions, although some are unfortunately, and mystifyingly, given a weekly 'soapbox' In which to do it.
The CPRE always strives to present local people with aspects of plans which may have been played down by our city council, but which will have a significant impact on residents. I, for one, am very grateful to the CPRE for providing this valuable information through letters to our local newspapers.
It may well be uncomfortable for Mr CIough-Parker and his hangers-on to be faced with fierce opposition from growing numbers of local residents, but that is no reason to vent his frustration with crass attacks on the admirable CPRE.
Mrs K Roden, Blacon Point Road, Chester
14/5/99 It really is sad that Bob Clough-Parker should use such an important issue as local transport purely to attack the CPRE (Chronicle, May 7).
His petty, spiteful ramblings demonstrate quite clearly that he has not even read all the documentation thoroughly. The CPRE critique on particularly the environmental aspects is excellent. Even if he doesn't care about the environment his business acumen should query why only 15-20% of the scheme is costed.
How about another angle? There is no detail at an on the implications. On these two grounds alone it should be flatly rejected. For consultation purposes it is evasive, almost secretive. Everyone knows suitable access plans are desperately needed.
These must be fair to all and open to real consultation with no sign of a concealed agenda and a proper balanced concern for the environment and recreational interests. As for banana Bob, he should be aiming at the real culprits, those who produced these inadequate, evasive plans. Mind, with his accuracy he would probably still hit the CPRE.
Alex Woods, Great Barrow, Chester
3/6/99 Could we through your column do a little "cutting and thrusting" of our own? We should have liked to get it published in the paper concerned, however they appear to lose news items that are headlines in the most read local papers of Chester. We could not see our humble effort getting as far as their print room floor. Especiaily when the subject matter is objecting to the short sighted scheme called a busway planned to 'cut and thrust' through wildlife habitat with no thought for the bigger issue- the one called the world. (By the way what does loudly and clearly mean to you?- vociferous, quite). Do get some one to check your work, you should get out walking or cycling a little, away from traffic if that is possible where you live. Sitting in armchairs hanging on every word councillors and planners tell you must be addling your brain cells. Well you wanted the blunt truth and you have it. People slip on bananas and you have slipped on yours.
Here we are about to enter the next millennium and some of us, who should know better, have still not grasped the fact we must use our cars less, and decent facilities should be provided to encourage more walkers and cyclists. We have tried coping with the motor car and look where it has got us? Even after P&Rs have been provided and cars entering Chester has gone up. Don't take our word for it, see Molly Hale's April circular. The majority of residents (57 per cent) realise the CDTS is not the answer. The figure would he more than that if a certain paper gave readers all the facts instead of propaganda, propaganda, propaganda...
Bob and Betsy Healthy Walker-Pundit-Smith
All of which produced the following response from the great one in the Chester Chronicle of 4th June 1999:
I suppose it was inevitable there would be a whining outburst to my comments a couple of weeks ago about why I regard the Chester-Deeside Transport System as a good thing.
Not only has the Points of View page of The Chronicle reflected the outcry, but a local paper has carried a running poll that shows whereas more than 700 are against CDTS, just four are in favour.
As Chester Labour Group leader John Price remarked this week, that in no way reflects the views of the people of Chester in total and, in any event, those opposing CDTS are being selfish.
And, of course, he's right.
If the good old Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, the rest of the Green lobby and the other objectors had their way Chester would become a fossilised memorial to some distant (but nonexistent) romantic past. Perhaps they should take their argument to its logical conclusion and insist that all the houses in Hoole that are apparently going to blighted by CDTS should be demolished so as to restore the lovely green environment it was, up to a comparatively short number of years ago.
As Cllr Price so sagely observed, let us welcome the fact that, in addition to all the other benefits, thc new busway, pedestrian and cycle ways will result in fewer cars on Hoole Road.
And then there were those who accused me of writing with only the interests of the business community at heart. Even if that were true- and it isn't- the continued and improved commercial viability of Chester is paramount for the future.
Businesses create wealth, jobs, and city and county council revenues- all of which, in turn, contribute greatly to maintaining the city's infrastructure, culture, tourism benefits and general quality of life.
However, I must amend my earlier assertion. Thc CDTS is not just a good thing.
It is an essential requirement for the very future of Chester.
Now go on to the second page of letters in support of CDTS...