Month: April 2013

Last Thursday, BBC Radio Shropshire’s political correspondent, Liz Roberts interviewed five of the six candidates standing here in Ludlow North. The green candidate was unavailable. You can catch up on the interviews on iPlayer: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p017gp5s/Eric_Smith_Shropshire_Breakfast_Henry_Olonga/ The first segment is at 1:16 into the recording: Independent: Jennifer Leyton-Purrier UKIP: Chris Woodward The second segment is at 2:11: Lib Dem: Andy Boddington Labour: James Hooper Conservative Rosanna Taylor-Smith I talked about buses. The original plan was to record the interview on a bus in transit. But for the second time that day, the town bus had broken down. This is a normal occurrence here in Ludlow, and is just one example of how out of touch Shropshire Council is with what really matters in this town.

A couple of days ago, I published a blog supporting criticism by The Ramblers of swingeing cuts to Shropshire Council’s rights of way budgets. In a discussion on Twitter, Council Leader Keith Barrow tweeted: “We have around 3,500 miles of footpaths. Well used ones keep clear.” He is wrong. Well used footpaths don’t keep clear. Keith is right that The Ramblers help a great deal, as do Parish Paths Partnerships and other groups. Many people just clear paths on their own. But he doesn’t understand why well used footpaths block or become unpleasant to walk. This point is best illustrated by an example. I keep a stretch of the Shropshire Way clear. It’s the sunken way at SO569749, south of Knowbury church on the south west slopes of Clee Hill. I guess I spend around 7-8 hours a year getting it clear and a rather more on nearby paths. This is a well-used path. The Shropshire Way is our premier walking route and hundreds if not thousands of people tramp up from Ludlow to the top of the Titterstone Clee. But the sunken way becomes impassable without clearance. This happens for a very simple reason. Once the soil and air…

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I caught the 11.30 Ludlow town bus from Tollgate Road to the town centre this morning. For the first part of the journey, the passengers were discussing the appalling state of the town buses. One woman said: “You wouldn’t get a bus service like this in Shrewsbury.” She’s right. The bus is a museum piece with three steep steps to get on board. There is no buggy or disabled space. Any anyway, how could anyone with even moderate mobility problems get on board? I got off the bus at the Co-op and snapped the shot below. Look again at that photograph and imagine if the person trying to board the bus had been a wheelchair user. A few weeks back, a wheelchair user up here at Tollgate waited in the cold for a bus. The bus that arrived was a low floor bus. But it could not lower its floor to get him board. Why? Because if the floor was lowered, the doors would jam open. The bus would then have to return to its depot for maintenance. So the wheelchair user went home, unable even to get to the shops. Our buses are clapped out. In other parts of…

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A letter has arrived from The Ramblers asking me to “support a reversal of the cuts imposed by the current administration so that we have Rights of Way that are accessible to all.” To me this is a ‘no-brainer’. Here is what I said in my latest Focus Newsletter which has been delivered across Ludlow and Bromfield: Like many people in Ludlow, I love putting my boots on and going for a hike. I’ve noticed of late, as have so many others, that the quality of walking is getting worse. A year of lousy weather hasn’t helped, but the main issue is broken stiles, illegally locked gates and paths overgrown with crops and brambles. Too many of our footpaths are in a mess and this can only put off visitors, reducing trade to our pubs, cafés, shops, and bed and breakfasts. It would be a folly to scare tourists away. Walkers pump £65 million a year into the county’s economy and support around 1,000 jobs. Conservative led Shropshire Council must get a grip on footpaths and invest in their maintenance.   This gate at Cayman has been locked for six months When I lived in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, great walking…

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I confess I don’t often see eye-to-eye with communities secretary Eric Pickles. As supposed champion of localism, he has done so much to undermine local decision making in the last couple of years. He just doesn’t have a grip on how decisions in Whitehall and at the Planning Inspectorate in Bristol undermine public confidence in the planning system and betray communities who have worked hard to get a local consensus. But on one matter I am in total agreement with him. He has challenged councils to publish details of how they spend their money. Shropshire Council has joined in with the majority of councils to publish information on bills above £500 – though the process does not work smoothly. I am still waiting for the financial information for October to December last year – nothing at the moment gets published unless it is chased. Shropshire Council keeps too many secrets about the way it spends our money. We may not know for thirty years what the council’s Audit Committee thought about the huge consultancy bills officers and the Leader of the Council have run up in the last couple of years. We will not know for months how much the…

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