Month: October 2013

After the debacle over Ludlow’s new hospital, there is concern whether South Shropshire will have adequate health provision. The NHS is now consulting nationally and locally on the shape of future health provision. The trend in the National Health Service is to provide more treatment at home, while concentrating acute services in major centres such as Shrewsbury and Telford. The danger is that the middle level services, built around community hospitals like Ludlow, will be squeezed out – not because they are not needed, but because they become relatively expensive to run. The NHS is now consulting nationally on the future of services, including here in Shropshire. Being a government body, the NHS can’t call a consultation a consultation. It brands it a “Call to Action.” You can read more about the issues for Shropshire here (PDF). It is vital that local and rural voices are not ignored. You make your voice heard through the online survey. It closes on 4 November. Or you can write to: Freepost Plus RTAA-XTHA-LGGC Communications & Community Relations Staffordshire CSS, Heron House 120 Grove Road Stoke-on-Trent ST4 4LX

These days, I edit and write for Liberal Democrat Voice, formally as Friday editor and but also at other times as news breaks or topics need to be discussed. This week has been typically busy, with zombie pubcos and vampire railways in the frame, as well as the vital issue of biodiversity offsetting. First up was an attack on the pubcos. These are the companies that took over large number of pubs in the 1990s. Lib Dem MP Greg Mulholland raised the issue in a hard hitting speech in the Commons on Monday night and I reflected: QUOTE: Four years ago, I cried when the tenants of my local were forced out by a pubco. They’d had a brilliant first year. They’d made the pub a hub for the local folk scene and helped breathe new life into the community. But on New Year’s Day, their rent doubled. That was the price the pubco levied on their success, and it was an impossible demand. The pubco accountants cared not. The pub has struggled ever since. It’s up for sale, facing closure. Read: Casked Crusader battles zombie enterprises over “Great British Pubco Scam”. On Friday, I tackled the seemingly obscure topic…

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The Shropshire Star and BBC report yet more planning applications for greenfield solar farms in the county, including at Condover. I am not so keen on building solar farms in green fields. After all, one of the biggest industries is county is tourism and that relies on the beauty of green landscapes. Energy minister Greg Barker has made it clear that he wants solar panels on the roofs of car parks, warehouses, supermarkets and other sites where they will not interrupt countryside views. The government’s emerging strategy on solar farms says as much. Here in Ludlow we have a modern library which has southward gently sloping roofs. These are ideal for solar panels and they won’t one bit distract from the building’s beauty (or ugliness – take your own view on that). So wake up Shropshire Council. You could generate a lot of electricity, make money to run the Library and take the pressure off our green fields. There are lots of places we can put solar panels without eroding one of the county’s greatest assets, its green fields.

Consultation on Closure of Ludlow Tip

Shropshire Council has not yet made a final decision on closing the Amenity Skip and Recycling Centre at Coder Road – known as the local tip to you and me. But it is only putting forward three options: closure, part-closure and closure. And the staff have been given their notices, so its curtains for the current site. The council is currently consulting on three options: sale of the land conversion to an unmanned recycling bring bank site clearing the site and selling it to environmental charity, Cwm Harry, which is to take over the former biodigester site next door. None of the options involves keeping the site open for non-recyclables. On 4 November, a councillor from Oswestry will decide whether or not to close the Coder Road centre. He will propose the motion and second it. The vote is guaranteed to be unanimous as this Cabinet member will be the only voter. Not a single member of the public or the press is allowed to attend this meeting. We can’t watch him make the decision. We can’t talk to him. We can’t film him. There will there be no notes taken of that meeting. Nothing to say who said what….

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Shropshire Council went ahead and cancelled the rural Link service today. The buses are still running, but only for schools. Disabled and elderly people will need to use dial-a-ride community transport, which will run shorter distances, less frequently.  Hereabouts, that’s the Ludlow Traveller service. There was never any need to scrap Link. It was costly but it did not need to be so. Bizarrely buses were based in Shrewsbury, even if they only ever ran 30 miles away in the south of the county. Passenger numbers grew substantially from Link’s launch in December 2008 to a peak of around 3,000 passengers a month in mid-2012.  From end of 2012, they have declined, though now seem to seem to be fairly static at around 2,500 a month. This compares to an average of 1,005 passengers a month on the previous fixed rural services. Nearly 3,000 school students use the service each month. Though service use grew overall until the end of 2012, the different zones fared differently. Details are given in the graphs below (click on a graph for a bigger image). The puzzle is why numbers dropped after the end of 2012. Is it a coincidence that the drop begins…

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