Shropshire Council’s management of highways challenged by whistleblower – questions about performance and monitoring to be asked tomorrow

Shropshire Council’s highways contract with Kier is not hitting many of its performance targets. The council is making the usual excuses. The weather was bad. Err, welcome to Shropshire. It pleads there were teething problems with the contract. Keir has a turnover of £4.5 billion. Shropshire Council has a budget above half a billion. How come these giants struggle to introduce a highways contract that costs £21m a year?

A whistleblower has submitted evidence that Shropshire Council does not properly monitor its highway contractors, Kier and WSP. The whistleblower, a Senior Quantity Surveyor who worked as a contractor for the council, said his complaints were not investigated. That’s a contravention of the council’s whistleblowing policy. Questions are to be asked in a council committee tomorrow.

The quality of Shropshire’s highways affects everyone. In 2018/19, 12% of the county’s B and C roads needed maintenance, well above the national average of 5%. It is time to stop making excuses. It is time to ensure that council taxpayers get bangs for their bucks. It is time to end the bangs and bucking people experience travelling on the county’s rural and urban roads.  

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Success after plan to construct housing using haul road along Foldgate Lane is abandoned

Representatives from Ludford parish council and Ludlow Town Council, along with Viv Parry and myself, met with Crest Nicholson on 3 October to discuss temporary construction access to the Foldgate Lane development. The housing developer has planned to create a haul road entered from Foldgate Lane to begin construction on the site. This was opposed by all councillors at the meeting. Now, Crest Nicholson has abandoned that plan. It will instead construct the site from an access from the A49 as set out in the original planning permission. Details of that access are not yet available.

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We are heading for an election. Are you registered to vote? Do you want a postal vote? Here are the details

It’s been decided. The general election will be on 12 December. That’s quite short notice so it’s worth checking that you are registered to vote at your current address as soon as you can. You should complete the Household Enquiry Form every year to ensure you keep your vote. You’ll be okay if you responded to the form that came by post a few weeks back and probably still okay if you didn’t.

You may wish to register for a postal vote. This is a winter vote and there is no predicting what the weather will be like. You might also be sunning yourself on a beach somewhere. In which case, I will be envious. Whatever your situation, you might think a postal vote more convenient for this election.

This article explains the registration and voting procedures, including electoral arrangements for students and people who have no fixed address.

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The government’s Environment Bill takes the emergency out of climate emergency and is full of holes

As the Brexit skirmishes continue, it is easy to lose track of other important pieces of legislation struggling to get parliamentary time. One of those is the Environment Bill. The second reading of the bill on 23 October was abruptly cancelled to make way for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. That’s ironic as a large part of the Environment Bill is concerned with reinstating the environmental protection the UK will lose if it ceases to a member of the EU. The bill aims for a lot more, including a deposit return scheme for drinks containers, measures to improve air quality, and rules to ensure biodiversity net gain from housing and some other developments.

It’s a great forward looking bill. At least, that’s what ministers say. In practice the bill is colander bill. It is full of holes. It fails to incorporate the principle of non-regression into law. It sets 2037 as the earliest date for any environmental targets and those targets are at the behest of ministers. It allows environmental policies to be watered down by ministers at a whim, including the target for biodiversity gain. It is a bill that takes the emergency out of the climate emergency. Continue reading “The government’s Environment Bill takes the emergency out of climate emergency and is full of holes”

Planners say plans for eight homes at Linney House are likely to be thrown out because of damage to the natural and historic environment

In March, a new proposal was submitted to build eight homes of modern design in the grounds of Linney House. Now Shropshire Council’s planning officers have said the plans contravene planning policy and are likely to be refused. A letter sent to the site developer eight days ago is a lengthy 14 pages. But the message it conveys is clear. The environmental damage and harm to the Ludlow Conservation Area from the proposed scheme would be unacceptable. At most, three houses can be accommodated on the site and there is already permission for this. Shropshire Council is likely to reject the current application to increase the number of houses to eight.

The planners’ letter does not mark the end of this seven-year attempt to build in woodland in the garden of the Grade II listed Linney House. The developer must decide whether to withdraw the current application or press ahead regardless. If the plans are turned down, he might appeal to the planning inspectorate. He would also be within his rights to go to planning inspectorate for a decision without waiting for a formal decision from the council. Or he might opt to build the scheme for three large houses approved in 2014 and 2017.

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