Month: April 2014

The excitement in Ludlow cannot be missed on an evening night this. This is not just a warm late April evening when people stroll the streets and take time to chat. It’s the night the May Fair arrives. Getting the fair rides into town is a major feat and scores of people gather around the Buttercross to watch the trucks squeeze into town. The biggest crowds of watchers are for the huge “Oxygen” truck, which has to negotiate the chicane between Bodenhams store and the Buttercross.   The driver must avoid knocking the portico of the Grade I listed market off its stilts. He has to ensure he does not clip the genteel upper stories of the Grade II* listed Bodenhams, which hang lazily outwards over King Street. This means the driver must reverse back onto the pavement outside Barclays and shuffle back and forth a few feet at a time. The driver gets a resounding cheer from the crowd when after more than twenty minutes, he pulls his trailer through the gap with the historic buildings of Ludlow unscathed. The May Fair attracts controversy. It seems bigger and noisier every year. That’s a problem for our historic streets and…

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Shropshire Council’s Youth Services scrutiny committee met today and I am sorry to report not much was said. The newspaper hacks sat at the back hoping that an announcement would be made on the future of youth services across the county. Alas, they slipped away without a headline. We heard from Tim Smith who told us that 1,000 people responded to the recent consultation. Four in five of these we’re aged ten to nineteen. Although the analysis of responses is not complete, it is clear that the option to create youth boards to commission local youth services is deeply unpopular. Young people simply don’t want to be subsumed into a mesh of bureaucracy. What is not so clear is that the council is going to drop the youth board idea, which many suspect  is it’s favoured option. The future of Shropshire Youth Association remains uncertain. It’s got funding for a year, after which it will have to bid under the new commissioning regime. We’ll not know more until the scrutiny committee meets again on 18 June.

Bus Users Shropshire held a very successful meeting yesterday in Bridgnorth. Around forty people attended, many drawn from villages where the bus service is now minimal or non-existent. The meeting highlighted the substantial problems rural dwellers have faced since the withdrawal of the Shropshire Link service. We were reminded that prior to September 2008 the 141 Ludlow to Bridgnorth service ran four return trips a day. The 141 was one of the major casualties of Link. It now runs just once a day, allowing just 36 minutes in Bridgnorth before returning to Ludlow (1). And it no longer serves Ditton Priors. Several people from Ditton Priors attended the meeting. Since the cancellation of Link, the village is now only served by the pre-booked Bridgnorth Community Bus service. A young mother told the meeting that her children could no longer take part in school activities. Although she had received cancer-related medical issues, she was skipping on treatment because of the difficulties of travelling. She complained that community transport could not quote for the costs of trips because that depends on where the driver started out from. I told the meeting that restoration of a 141 service of at least two round…

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Shropshire Council is consulting on its flood risk strategy. This a good piece of co-working with Staffordshire County Council. But I am not sure that it will allow us to tackle growing flood risk effectively. I’m sceptical that its guidance on planning will be followed in practice. I’m more disappointed that greater attention hasn’t been given to using woodland to alleviate flooding and that farming practices are virtually ignored. The flood strategy needs to be greener and more ambitious. Planning On planning, the strategy gives sound advice: Inappropriate development which could increase flood risk will be avoided, as will inappropriate development in areas of significant flood risk. 5.2(4). We will aim to manage flood risk and drainage associated with new development such that no new flood risk is created and, wherever possible, opportunities to reduce flood risk are taken through early engagement with developers. This a laudable ambition. Unfortunately, such sentiments are too often ignored when planning applications are being considered. The pressure to deliver new housing has been so strong that far too many developments have been built in the floodplain or without adequate regard to their impact on flooding. Objective 5.2.(4) should be given greater prominence in the…

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Shropshire Council is planning to bump up the charges for travel to school by 68% to nearly £900 per year for most 17 and 18 year olds. With inflation at less than 2% that’s eye-watering. The proposed charges from September 2014 are: Students from families not on defined benefits: £876 a year (previously £520) Students from families currently on defined benefits: £142.50 a year (previously free) There’s a £30 annual administration charge too. These proposals are unfair and short sighted. This is a low wage area. The new transport charges are significant amounts for any family and are likely to be unaffordable in many cases. A family on benefits will have to find more than £170 a year by cutting back on other expenditure. If we want Shropshire to flourish we must do all we can to help our young people thrive. Access to post-16 education and training is vital to ensure that our young people have the skills for their future. To hike charges and hinder access for those who can least afford it will perpetuate inequalities that weaken our society. If young people are denied the chance to meet their full potential, our economy and society will be…

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