A Virtual Stroll Along the Old Mickle Trafford-Deeside Railway- now The Millennium Greenway

What the People Really Think part 18: Letters to these pages and the Chester press in opposition to the CDTS Guided Busway

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February 2003: The long. long battle seemed to be at last at an end, if this remarkable statement by Chester City Council was to be believed. (little did we know!) Also here is a spot-on editorial from the Chester Evening Leader, Lessons to be learned from CDTS fiasco..

9/1/03 Continuing the CDTS saga into 2003- Cllr Molly Hale (Lib Dem) is still trying to give the busway the kiss of life despite the cautionary warnings in the report from the county council treasurer. The fact that we have all witnessed underused park and ride buses and sites for most of the year, and the figures she quotes are open to challenge, based as they are on very optimistic passenger levels, have made most of us aware of the financial risks.
Meanwhile, in the same camp- Beverly Eaton (editor of Focus) is not convinced the busway is even still alive as she writes 'as far I am concerned CDTS is a dead issue'. The city council 'has neither the ability nor the resources' to fund it. Not as cheap as chips then?
Unfortunately, the few people still desperately clinging to the unwanted risky concrete busway are holding up the extension of the Sustrans cycle/walkway, which is a safe route to school for so many children. North West Development Agency (NWDA) would fund the extension to Park Farm, Guilden Sutton once the city council finally removes CDTS from its plans.
A blessing will be the bridge (a future plan) allowing the route to continue to Mickle Trafford. Many people there would welcome the chance to cycle in family groups to school and work rather than use their cars. A healthy alternative resulting in less congestion and pollution, all without covering huge green areas with concrete. Sustrans (a charity) actually maintains the whole national network and will continue to do so. It receives money from members and also business trusts that in their wisdom recognise the importance of walking/cycling to physical and mental health. Sustrans is given a little help from councils in other areas and it would be nice if our own city council helped them too, by organising a sweeper occasionally?
Many people realise the importance of this tranquil green route and already volunteer to help Sustrans in small ways- litter picking whilst walking their dogs, for instance.
Should anyone need more informtttion please ring 343055 before 6 pm or access www.bwpics.co.uk/railstroll/railindex.html.
Audrey Hodgkinson

10/1/03 Labour-led Chester City Council has spent a great deal of council taxpayers' money on constructing Park & Ride facilities in various places on the outskirts of Chester as well as a great deal of time pointing out to us the need to reduce gridlock in the city.
But Park & Ride is not paying its way and neither, as we all know, would the proposed CDTS.
Yet these very same councillors have given planning permission in the last two years for Chester Racecourse Ltd to steadily enlarge the acreage of car parking given over to the public as anyone walking the Walls will have noticed.
The result is that our loony councillors are actually encouraging direct competition against Chester City Council's own public car parks that are forced to charge several pounds more for all day parking than the £3 demanded by the racecourse.
Name and adress supplied

16/1/03 Why don't our councillors recognise our wonderful new linear park along the old railway line? It stretches all the way from England into Wales.
Usually our councillors claim great achievement in Chester, but not this one. I wonder if they are scared of what their council leader, Cllr John Price, would say if they did? Cllr Price wants to construct a concrete busway on top of it.
A Chester resident

10/1/02 I'm writing as I want to keep the cycle track as it is, for people like me with families, Me and my children ride along there and I feel safer letting my children ride along there rather than on the roads, its also a pleasant walk along there too, I often walk my dogs along the track.
I've even walked along the track to get to town from Blacon coming off just past the cemetry and walking along the canal..
Zena Perrin, Blacon. Chester

16/1/03 I am writing in response to a letter written by Beverly Eaton, the Liberal Democrats' Focus Editor, Hoole Groves Ward.
It is my impression that the Liberal Democrats have been consistent in their support for the concrete bus route and also that the party made a major contribution with its support for the removal of land from the Green Belt to allow for the extension of the MBNA bank.
Beverly Eaton writes that she would strongly oppose any move to support the CDTS scheme. This stand is contrary to the aims and objectives of the Liberal Democrat councillor Ann Farrell, who represents Boughton Heath and holds a cabinet position for Culture and Heritage and who has spoken in an antagonistic manner about the support of the Anti-CDTS campaign.
The second paragraph hopes we can move on to other things. Bm we cannot move on as Beverly Eaton suggests unless we have some comprehension of the ideas of other Liberal Democrats, 19 Conservatives and one Independent. Even if Beverly Eaton suggests that some Liberal Democrat councillors did not support the scheme I would challenge her to tell us who they are.
It is very clear that they are few in number. It is also beyond doubt from the press statements that more Liberal Democrats did support the CDTS proposals and the MBNA applications for building on the Green Belt.
What on earth does Beverly Eaton mean about a problem of 'rat-running traffic in Hoole'? Hoole Road is a main route and I have not been aware of speeding traffic passing along it- and what is this 'traffic management scheme' that the local Liberal Democrat councillors for Hoole, Newton and Upton have been pressing for, which Beverly Eaton says 'The Conservatives at County Hall have blocked by refusing to fund it'.
When Beverly Baton refers to the old railway Iine, as a 'linear tip running through our area' we can see which side of the pavement she would walk on if she came to a crisis.
Old Wavertonian

23/1/03 As usual, a pro-CDTS busway letter writer is barking up the-wrong tree. Anti-CDTS does not advocate abandonment of existing park and ride sites encircling Chester. Some progressive, enlightened and futuristic cities are already running free buses on existing roads, finding it a much cheaper option than more car parks in their city or green field sites. They are delighted with the results.
Now that is progress.
Cars cause congestion, not buses. Talking about 'ambling', many school children and commuters use this safe cycle/walkway instead of further congesting roads. Are we to lose all our green areas, pay whatever the cost for an unwanted and unnecessary busway and lose the one and only tranquil, wildlife green area cycle/walkway to city or country in the forlorn hope some car drivers may save a few seconds? If every able-bodied person thought a little more about the environment instead of trying to break the sound barrier in an attempt to meet themselves coming back, the world would be a much healthier, happier place.
We are not anti-car. Some Anti-CDTS Campaign Groups members are professional and business people, they commute, and some rely on their cars for vital work. No matter what, we have put our money where our mouths are- to the tune of well over £10,000 for expert witnesses at the public inquiry. We spend a massive amount of time reading documents and expertst papers on all aspects of transport and environment in order to weed out fact from fiction.
As for visiting other places, a vital form of transport is missing from your letter- rail. It is a sobering thought that most people do not need to use a car for most joumeys.
We have a choice now. Do we jump in a car to 'save' some of our valuable time? Maybe we could 'amble' along the walk/cycleway to town and even find time to stop jn wonder at the rare site of a grey wagrail, with his so lovely yellow flashes, a tree sparrow, a thrush in full song, and smiling-people? No contest!
Audrey Hodgkinson

30/1/03 I have read with interest the continuing debate over the CDTS. Like many others, I am hopeful that Chester's own "Millennium Dome" can finally be put out of its misery.
Reading some letters in the Standard recently, it seems that there is some misunderstanding about Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity, and its role in the Chester section of the National Cycle Nretwork (NCN), part of which runs on the disused railway line proposed for the CDTS. The question has been raised as to whether Sustrans can maintain and extend the cycle and pedestrian way beyond Hoole to Mickle Trafford, as originally proposed.
Sustrans has successfully pioneered 6,500 miles of cycle network across the country with the plan to extend this to 10,000 miles by 2005. We Cestrians should look at the the bigger picture and be proud to see our section of the NCN working as a part of the whole. I understand that our section was the only one of its kind to have a proposed busway running alongside, even planning to push the cycletrack back onto the road completely at certain points! It has also already been compromised because the cycle route has had to be built to one side to allow room for the busway, and interesting sculptures, such as you can see elsewhere on the network, have not been built on the Chester section of the route.
Sustrans has been operating for 25 years and has just received the Queen's Award for Enterprise. The charity has grown remarkably due to the vision and commitment of its leadership and members- it began merely building cycle routes and now is involved in a much broader range of activities such as rural transport, 'home zones' and safe routes to schools and train stations. Sustrans successfully operates with volunteer rangers who look after a local section of the route, helping with signing, reporting major problems, litter picking, etc.
So instead of denigrating such an innovative and successful national organisation, why not support Sustrans, become a ranger or help out at a local maintenance activity?
You can become a member of Sustrans for £15 a year- to find out more go to www.sustrans.org.uk or write to the charity's head office at 35 King St, Bristol BS I 4DZ.
If you wish to know more about local cycling activity, including Sustrans rangers, contact the Chester Cycling Campaign by email to info@chestercycling.co.uk.
Sue Steeland, Chester

8/2/03 Now CDTS has been finally dropped I hope the Evening Leader, will grant me space to thank personally the following -
• Members of Anti-CDTS for their letters and donations.
• Our experts witnesses at the Public Inquiry
• Anti-CDTS Committee members- especially Catherine Green and Graham Bromley.
• Our many helpers, including the shopkeepers displaying the Anti-CDTS posters.
• CPRE (Council for the Protection of Rural England)- my admiration for Ann Jones, Chester Co-ordinator, is immeasurable.
• Steve Howe, Black & White Picture Place, for his award-winning website of Chester. (thanks yourself, Audrey!)
• County Council Conservatives for their logical decision not to fund the guided busway project, also their ability to acknowledge and consider pubic opinion.
• Those offering valuable information and encouragement throughout the years of my letter writing and research. I am not at liberty to name them.
• The Evening Leader for their fair coverage of this contentious issue. Local people are grateful this paper featured CDTS busway fairly and gave so many people a chance to see the 'wider picture' and voice concerns- over 1,000 signed the Evening Leader petition.
• Cllr. John Ebo (Con) who has always spoken against CDTS. Cllr Klaus Armstrong-Braun (Green Party) the F.O.E and other campaign groups, along with individuals campaigning behind the scenes. Doug Kelly (former Cllr) who spoke against CDTS at Labour meetings.
• Sustrans (Charity) for their wonderful network, Anna Geroni (County Cycling Officer) and our Anti-CDTS volunteer 'Friends' helping Sustrans warden.
• My husband Ralph for his unstinting help over the many years campaigning to keep an environmentally friendly asset for humans and wildlife to share. We need such places for nature to work its wonders, not squandered for a catering area for more car users. Wildlife enriches our lives bird song gladdens our hearts. Our environment equals our lives; mankind is responsible for the consequences of pollution and neglect.
At the beginning of our campaign I wrote "people could move mountains". Whilst we still have obstacles to overcome, I hope all authorities will now sincerely seek and consider public opinion, their reward will be respect and less waste of council funds.
Ralph and I are taking a sabbatical hoping to find time to decorated our front room, long overdue! Happy walking and cycling.
Audrey Hodgkinson, Sec. Anti-CDTS Campaign Groups.

12/2/03 Chester cyclists will be delighted at the news that the CDTS project now appears to be finally dead and buried.
This news is a real tribute to those who have campaigned tirelessly to fight the project. We are fortunate that the NCN cycleway route passes through Chester, giving us access to thousands of miles of the national cycle network. It is only right that we should show our love for the cycleway by working to keep it in good shape - free of litter and overgrown trees and shrubs. This Saturday, February 15th, there is an opportunity to celebrate the saving of this green route by participating in a work day organised by SUSTRANS. This will take place throughout the day, and will involve trimming scrub willow growing alongside the track past the Saughall access point. All equipment will be provided by SUSTRANS including saws and pruners. All you need to bring are gloves, hot drinks and snacks! As you cycle from Chester towards Connah's Quay, look for the white SUSTRANS van parked on the side of the cycleway between Saughall and Sealand RAF. We hope you can join Audrey, Ralph, and me in protecting and caring for this valuable community resource. Think about it- lots of people turned out for the last work day in November. Ask yourself how many people would turn out to clear overgrown vegetation from the CDTS busway, had that ever been built??!!! We care for what we love...
Craig Steeland, SUSTRANS Volunteer Ranger

13/2/03 What a worrying picture Sue Proctor paints in her letter. The poor local councillors taking so much stick that they may resign en masse. But before we get too worried, let us see why this has occurred.
In the CDTS debate, much of the analysis (and inevitably, given the poor economics of the scheme, the opposition) has come from members of the public. Yes, Sue, there has been a majority of local councillors in favour of the project. But this does not mean they are right. And if they continue to push the scheme despite the evidence, then they will continue to collect countervailing letters.
And, agreed, it is not just the Liberal Democrats who have been guilty of selective talking-up of the proposal: Labour councillors Robinson and Price, who normally have their feet fairly close to the ground, have also gone into "huff and puff" mode over this.
There is still a need to improve Chesterts transport links. A few weeks ago you published a scheme I put forward which I felt could achieve most of the benefits of CDTS at a fraction of the cost. Apart from one acknowledgement, I have received no follow-up inquiries from any of the councillors I sent it to.
What does one conclude from this? Closed minds? Pique? More interest in retaining power than sorting out the needs of Chester? Perhaps we should be told.
David Beattie, Rushleigh House, Chester Road, Kelsall

13/2/03 It is interesting to note that Cllr Sue Proctor believes that readers must be getting bored with the lengthy correspondence about CDTS. It is not quite clear how she knows this. However, it is rather a strange view given that she has herself contributed the longest column to the correspondence. Hey, that's OK though!
If, as she claims, the majority of all parties support CDTS, how come the county council has ditched the idea? In any event, will she now write a letter giving the names of those councillors in her party who supported the scheme? Should I not hold my breath? At least people will then be able to exercise their vote in a more meaningful manner at the next local elections.
She complains about councillors being attacked in the local press. Yet she does precisely this in her last paragraph when she attach the Tories. What she is really doing is attacking freedom of speech. Now we know what the Liberals really stand for. Voters should really take note.
Concerned citizen, Newton

17/2/03 Brass neck dept: We thought readers may be amused by the following from the current Hoole Groves edition of the always-entertaining Labour News...

"Chester City Council has announced that it will not be funding the Chester to Deeside Transport System (CDTS) that was refused funding by the Tory controlled County Council (the Highways Authority) in December last year. The leadership of the joint Labour/Liberal Democrat administration on Chester City Council announced on Friday 14th February that the costs would now be prohibitive to Chester's council tax-payers to bear alone.
Cllr Alex Black said, "By the time I became a councillor for Hoole Groves in 2001 crucial decisions had been taken by both councils and I had no chance to take part in the decision making. I did support the City Council's policy of promoting CDTS- however I am relieved that a final decision has now been made."
The County Council as Highways Authority now have to find an alternative solution to the traffic problems facing the residents of Hoole each day on Hoole Road and Hoole Lane. Alex said "I shall now be campaigning for the Sustrans footpath and cycleway to be extended through to Guilden Sutton."

Good lad. However, the next paragraph, subtitled 'THE WORKER' tells us that,

Recently Alex was doing one of his 'roving surgeries' when a resident pointed out that the footpath between Oaklea Avenue and Fairfield Road needed cleaning up. A couple of days later Alex had same time to spare so he went and did the job himself.

...rather than the sterling collection of volunteers- the 'Friends of the Millennium Way'- who, without a word of acknowledgement or thanks from the council, have been hard at work clearing up the path for months now...

Alex says, "I believe that councillors should not be afraid to roll up their sleeves and do what is needed for their community. Sometimes it's the quickest way of getting things done and it is certainly cheaper." Alex has a record of carrying out projects like this and is the only Hoole Councillor to do it so far".

Alex Black, of course, also happens to be the prospective Labour candidate for Hoole Groves in the May council elections...
Noting his new-found enthusiasm for our cycleway- and also the undoubtedly splendid work he has recently undertaken clearing up the Spinney off Hoole Lane- the secretary of the Anti-CDTS Groups has sent him one of the 'volunteer sheets' she has organised for Sustrans in the hope that he may take over the work of the 'Friends' now that she has done the hard work of setting it up...

"I began to feel a little despondent when I read Points of View last week. It appeared that almost everyone was coming under fire from some quarter. There was criticism of the Member of Parliament, CDTS, the Lache play wall, policy over the amphitheatre, the buses; I could go on, but I don't want to be as boring as some of the letters we read week by week". Cllr Alex Black: Chester Standard 11th July 2002

20/2/03 Congratulations must surely now be due to those of our city councillors who have finally faced up to the truth and consigned that unworkable, uneconomic, unwanted, and potential white elephant- the CDTS to the'silly ideas' waste paper basket from where it should never have emerged in the first place. But why, of why has it taken them so long to see the obvious?
May we now see this quite excellent cycle/walkway and realise the real and true potential it is capable of, totally free from the destructive effects a motorised vehicle would have had on it.
It is an asset the city can be justly proud of and of inestimable value to residents. Some seven miles of virtual country land conditions totally free of the may hazards and nuisances of present day roads is indeed an almost unique amenity.
A final word must be offered to the valiant 'Anti CDTS Group' who spearheaded the opposition from the word go. The behind the scenes work and expense they put in to ensure we did not lose this superb amenity to the hair-brain CDTS plan will never be known but I trust the public will not forget them when they enjoy the pleasures of the Chester Cycle/walkway.
M. H. O. Hoddinott, 19 Dicksons Drive, Chester

20/2/03 Well done the anti-Chester Deeside Transport System campaigners for their successful campaign.
What a great pity though, that while winning the battle to keep our cycleway "an environmentally friendly asset for humans and wildlife to share" we have also created the largest and most accessible dog toilet in Cheshire.
Since opening I have seen the number of dogs openly fouling the cycleway and its surrounds increase at an alarming rate.
The solution to the problem may have been to place dog waste bins along the cycleway at its opening; alas, I fear, it is too late for such an initiative, the culture is among us with many owners not even bothering to keep their dogs on leads.
May I suggest the term ‘CDTS’ be retained for the cycleway but the initials, more appropriately standing for ‘Chester Dog Toilet System’!
Bill Vinton, Mickle Trafford

First, Cheshire County Council pulled out of funding CDTS. Now read this Chester City Council press release (11/2/03) announcing their abandonment of the busway- and what the Chester Evening Leader had to say about it!...

Letters opposed to the Busway 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 19 Letters in favour of the Busway
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