Highway Robbery?

The excellent QLocal website reports on some upcoming skullduggery from the Tory LCC that will, hopefully for them, raise £millions for the county slush fund. “Homeowners across Ormskirk, Aughton and Burscough could be vulnerable to being charged hundreds and possibly thousands of pounds to park their cars on their own driveways. The County Council’s begun to implement legislation (Section 184 of the Highways Act 1980), which enables it to charge homeowners to put in dropped kerbs if they are parking a car on their own driveway”.

And, quickly into spasms of indigation, Labour’s Cnty Cllr Hasina Khan (Chorley North), and Ormskirk’s John Fillis, Shadow Spokesperson Cabinet Highways and Transport, have castigated LCC because “This is a Conservative ‘Kerb Tax’ that is targeting ordinary people in their own homes, squeezing people for every penny they can get out of them”.

In October LCC introduced its latest “Highways Management Plan Code of Practice Vehicle Crossings” the scope of which is that “This Code of Practice has been drafted with reference to Section 184 of the Highways Act 1980 which gives the county council powers, as Highway Authority, to insist on proper construction of a crossing at an acceptable location, to authorise developers to execute construction of vehicle crossings in accordance with approved plans and also, following an application, to approve the location and design of vehicle crossings to be constructed at the applicant’s expense. The Highway Authority also has powers to take action should an unacceptable crossing affect the highway. This Code of Practice covers the provision of vehicle crossings at residential properties and the construction of vehicle crossings associated with developments”.

“The County Council encourages all occupiers of residential premises, wherever possible, to garage or park their vehicles off the road. Where they need to cross a kerb, verge or footway in a motor vehicle to reach their property, at an acceptable location, the crossing point, also referred to as a ‘vehicular crossing’ or ‘dropped kerb’, must have been approved by the County Council as local Highway Authority”.

As Cllr Fillis stated to Roger Blaxall “The legislation that supports this action has been around for years. But during the time of the Labour administration it was never used in such a cynical manner to raise funds to prop up the county coffers”.

And perhaps the key word is “could” in respect of homeowners being charged this “kerb tax”. They “could” if for example the local builder didn’t have the legal right to do such work. Builders don’t own the public highways, or any of the apparatus within it. And if you drive onto the public highway and damage services or the pavement, you are likely to be liable for an enormous bill and it’s illegal. The Highways Act 1980 Section 184, makes it an offence to drive a vehicle across a footway, or verge, where there is no proper vehicle crossover. It allows for the Highway Authority (or its Agent) to agree to a new vehicle crossover to be constructed. New drop kerb vehicle crossings were historically called carriage crossings. They include both the physical lowering of the kerb (the dropped kerb) and a permission to allow a vehicle to cross the public footway. The entire costs in design and construction of the dropped kerb entrance are usually paid by the applicant.
This, below, is the first letter that has created the Labour furore.
Highways Management Plan – Vehicle Crossings Code of Practice – October 2017
Appendix 2
Phone: (01772) 53Tel No
Fax: (01772) 53Fax No
Email: email address@lancashire.gov.uk
Your ref:
Our ref:
We wrote to you on [insert date] regarding your use of the footway [and verge on xxxxx highway name]. During a routine inspection you have been observed continuing to cross the footway [and verge] without a properly constructed vehicle crossing. Please find enclosed a further copy of our fact sheet explaining vehicular crossings in more detail and a copy of our fact sheet relating to making an application detailing the services that Lancashire County Council can provide. I must insist that you cease to run your vehicle over the footway forthwith. For your information I have enclosed a copy of letter one sent to you dated [insert date].
We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest opportunity.
Yours faithfully
Job Title-Jobsworth

Followed by this

Dear Sir/Madam
Notice to Construct Vehicular Crossing
Land at [insert location]
I refer to the letter and Notice served on you on the [insert date]. [As discussed with you on[insert date], Lancashire County Council as the Highway Authority does now legally have the power to go ahead with the work and then re-charge the costs. Arrangements have been made to carry out these works and work to construct the vehicle crossing outside your property will commence on [insert date]. We will endeavour to provide you with access to your property during the works and anticipate completion within 2 days unless a problem is encountered during the work.
Upon completion an invoice will be raised for the amount of [insert amount] and delivered to you for payment. If you wish to discuss this matter further you can call me on [insert number].
Job Title-Jobsworth.

Tory highway robbery? Probably!

No Joy At Beacon Park Golf Course

 Has Scrooge been appointed to take over the running of Beacon Park Golf Course and the club house from Serco Leisure Services? It might seem so from gossip among golfers who have heard there will be no expenditure on a golf simulator, which is a graphically simulated driving range or golf course, usually in an indoor setting. It is a technical system used by some golfers to continue their sport regardless of weather, and would have been an asset at Beacon Park.

It’s also rumoured that improvement investment of around £60,000 for the course won’t happen. Golfers have found the club house heating is off and Sky Sports has been cancelled as being too expensive.

As readers know, this wonderful old course has been the subject of massive landfill to create a new 9hole course and a “footgolf” facility. Planning permission dates from December 2011 for “Partial remodelling of existing golf course and driving range and creation of new nine hole short course”. Six years of gross mismanagement and private landfill looting on this publicly owned leisure facility and still no use and income for what would be a mere “one third” share for WLBC and its council tax payers.

Readers have seen pictures of the dangerously appalling height of the “footgolf” dream! But now, it’s all secured by steel fencing and padlocked as another rumour spreads that “there is too much crap tipped on the driving range, it’s way too high and it has to be lowered”. But where will it all go? Surely not on the other side of the first fairway, that will mean wagons going across the fairway causing disruption for years? And who will pay? The private landfill contractor Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd filed 2016 accounts showing a mere £783 of shareholders funds and net assets, compared with 2015 £318,589 of shareholders funds and net assets.

Enough speculation, as stoical golf club members see what we can see, the dreadful surface of the new short course with its deepening ankle breaking gullies while somebody is marking out tees and direction of holes. But the future direction of this wonderful old course, once in the top ten UK courses, is uncertain, as it always has been since the secret council files lie buried and hidden from the owners, WLBCs council tax payers.

12 Anti-frackers Guilty Of Obstruction

12 people, including three councillors, have been found guilty of obstructing the highway after a lock-on protest outside Cuadrilla’s shale gas site in July. But they were cleared of trades union charges which can carry a more serious penalty. The verdict, given by District Judge Jeff Brailsford, this morning followed a trial earlier this week at Blackpool Magistrates Court.  [pic by Kirsten Buus]

The protesters included Lancashire County Councillor Gina Dowding, Fylde Borough Councillor Julie Brickles and Kirkham Town Councillor Miranda Cox. They were joined in the lock-on by other local residents Sara Boyle, Barbara Cookson, Nick Danby, Daniel Huxley-Blythe, Catherine Jackson, Michelle Martin, Alana McCullough, Jeanette Porter and Nick Sheldrick. All 12 denied the offences against them. They were each given a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay costs and surcharge totalling £270.

The court had heard evidence that the protesters locked themselves together outside Cuadrilla’s site on Preston New Road at about 3am on 3 July 2017. Eight of the group were released and arrested between about 11.30am and 5.30pm. The remainder, except for Miss Martin, were arrested that evening. Miss Martin was arrested the following day.

In his verdict, District Judge Brailsford said there needed to be a balance between the rights of the protesters and other people. He said thousands of local people had been inconvenienced by traffic delays. “I look at the alternative actions that those protesters could have taken up – breaking off earlier, self-releasing. They did none of those things. The disruption continued for hours. My issue therefore is whether that was unreasonable or whether there was lawful excuse for the extent and duration of the protest.

“There were, I am satisfied, other measures open to these defendants which they did not take. The consequences of their intransigence was obstruction to the highway which was in my judgement overall unarguably unreasonable. For those reasons and on the evidence presented I find that each of these defendants is guilty of the charged offence of obstructing the highway.”

The judge the duration of a protest was not “all-determinative”. But he said “I have previously offered the view eight hours was “at the very outer edge of what might be capable of being accepted as being ‘reasonable’, particularly where the protest had been facilitated for over four hours by that time”.

The protesters had also been charged under section 241 of the Trades Union and Labour Relations Consolidation Act. On this charge, Judge Brailsford said because the protest was on the highway there had been no trespass on Cuadrilla’s land. He also said the company had not provided evidence that its operation had been hindered. “I see no evidence of civil wrong. I do not know whether, for example, any delivery was scheduled for that day, what such delivery might have been, and how it would form part of Cuadrilla’s work or working practices.”

He said it would have been “fairly simple” to get this evidence. “I am in no doubt, in those circumstances, that the Crown has failed to prove the elements of the S241 offence to the requisite standard. That charge in relation to each defendant is accordingly dismissed.”

Pseudo-Scientific Assertions On Brexit?

A week ago I read an official UK Government report that stated “In 2016, the UK exported £236 billion of goods and services to other EU member states. This is equivalent to 43.1% of total UK exports. Goods and services imports from the EU were worth £312 billion (53.9% of the total) in 2016. The UK had a trade deficit of £82 billion with the EU in 2016 but a surplus of £39 billion with non-EU countries” [Source House of Commons Library]

So I find it strange to read a letter in the Champion today  from MT by email that indicates the writer is concerned about us being honest and realistic about a possible negative impact of Brexit. Isn’t a trade deficit of £82billion with the EU already negative enough about remaining in the EU? But the remark that MT makes about Brexit being an incredibly complex issue…followed by his tart remark “…let alone the horde of pensioners who seem to know more than the average Nobel prize laureate” is, frankly, gratuitous crap. This “professional scientist” is no more likely to reason the minds of 17,410,742 leavers even if we were all a horde of pensioners, than the losing 16,141,241 remainers.

Once again it’s not so much pseudo-scientific babble as a denial of democracy. That’s the honest and realistic situation. And I do like this new EU map  showing the UK to have already left the EU.

Cllr Moon Seconded The Removal Of His Wyre Party Leader From Office

Readers may look askance at the Minute COU38 of the extraordinary meeting of the Wyre Borough Council called by the Mayor to be held on 28th September 2017 to hear a “Motion To Remove The Leader of the Council” with immediate effect, the Leader being Cllr Peter Gibson. The motion was proposed by Cllr A Vincent and seconded by Cllr Moon  [now also a West Lancashire Borough member]. It was resolved by 31 votes to 0, after which another motion to appoint Cllr A Vincent as interim Leader of the Council until 7 December 2017 at the latest was carried by 31 votes to 8.

In February 2011 it was reported that Cllr Moon had quit Wyre Council’s ruling cabinet after throwing a dog ‘poop scoop’ bag at a member of the public, following a council chamber debate on dog control orders. The bag hit Mrs Irene Horner, a pensioner, who had taken part in a question and answer session, along with other dog owners concerned about the impact of the orders. Mrs Horner said “This is disgraceful behaviour from a cabinet councillor, which only serves to bring the council into disrepute. Can you imagine the outrage if someone in the public gallery had thrown something at a councillor?”

Moon decided to step down from his £8,000 a year post as cabinet member with responsibility for ‘Street Scene’ matters. Moon apologised to the members of the public and resigned from the role of street scene portfolio holder. Moon’s party and Council leader Peter Gibson said Moon had been quick to take personal responsibility for his actions as he recognised that this was an error of judgement on his part. It was not the first time Moon’s activities in the council chamber had raised eyebrows, as he put a pair of underpants on his head during a mayoral meeting, prompting quizzical looks and leading one Tory colleague to describe his actions as “out of the school of Michael Bentine, and not appropriate in a council chamber”.

A month or so ago the Mirror reported that “a rural council was at war after its Tory leader sent a “jaw-dropping e-mail rant in revenge for being forced out”. The saga unfolded on Wyre Council, Lancashire, after more than 30 fellow Tory councillors voted to axe Peter Gibson as leader while he holidayed in Portugal.

“Cllr Gibson allegedly wrote a bizarre rant in revenge for being ousted by his own party. His “bombshell e-mail” went to 50 people accusing some fellow councillors of domestic abuse, throwing dog poo at a resident, and having sex in the back of a car. His fellow councillors used an emergency meeting to accuse him of turning up to meetings “worse for wear” for drink, a claim Cllr Gibson denies. So Mr Gibson, who was leader for eight years, responded with his dramatic mid-morning e-mail to all councillors.

“Seen by the Mirror, it claimed the wife of one rival made a “claim that he was violent towards her”. Another, the e-mail said, “once threw false dog poo at a resident in the public gallery”. A third, it was claimed, “once turned up at full council after a day out with his pals and bragged he had drank 10 pints”. A fourth was accused of having sex in the back of a vehicle. The e-mail added “These are the people who make a judgement on me. Next to them I look like Mother Theresa”.

“Frantic council chiefs launched an investigation hours after Mr Gibson sent the litany of claims last Friday and blocked him from accessing his e-mail account, iPhone and iPad. Chief executive Garry Payne e-mailed all councillors warning them not to leak the message because it “may be a serious breach of the data protection act”. Mr Gibson confirmed he sent the e-mail in a phone call with the Mirror, saying “I thought I needed to bring it into the public domain.” He claimed his ousting showed “the nasty party is back”, adding: “It’s outrageous, it’s disgraceful, it’s disgusting, they couldn’t even wait until I was back.”

“Asked about claims he turned up “worse for wear” for drink, Mr Gibson said “That’s just nonsense. I’ve got diabetes. If you Google ‘diabetes’ you’ll find you sometimes look as if you’re intoxicated when you’re not.” Asked if he had a drinking problem Mr Gibson said “I’ve got medical conditions, I accept that”. Asked if he was talking about his diabetes, he replied “Yeah, and I’ve got highish, not massively high, blood pressure.”

“But interim council leader Alan Vincent, also a Tory , insisted “He turned up to two council meetings apparently the worse for wear.” Mr Vincent added “Nobody knew he was on holiday because it wasn’t in his diary. Obviously we thought we had to take action fairly quickly to protect the people of Wyre, and that’s what we did”. He declined to comment on the contents of the e-mail and said Mr Gibson was still a member of the Conservative group [he has since left the Conservative party].

“Wyre Council chief executive Garry Payne said in a statement “It has been brought to my attention that the former Leader of the council, Cllr Peter Gibson has sent an email to all councillors and the email contains a number of statements, some that could be libellous and others that may breach the Data Protection Act. This is a very serious matter but for reasons of transparency and to avoid any accusations of bias, I have asked an independent local authority to support me with the investigation.” Wyre Council refused to tell the Mirror which council was supporting the investigation”.

One Of Those Nights At The Aughton Parish Council

 As you look at this chart above you might wonder how and why it connects to the APC, but all will be revealed.

Last night at the APC would, we who attended thought, be fairly mundane. The Clerk, seven councillors, eight members of the public, and Wally, Mrs Wally, and Sam Currie, the recent failed aspirant to represent us all by replacing Rosie Cooper as our MP. Nothing too taxing on the agenda, although the Chairman promptly suggested he would later ask Wally for his “advice” on the “Motion/Resolution proposed for the LALC General Meeting in respect of the forthcoming Review of the Land Drainage Act (1991) (notes circulated to members)” but not circulated to the public.

I can’t in all honesty recall Wally ever showing, or even knowing, anything useful about the matter of land drainage, but apparently hope sprang eternal for the Chairman. And Wally proved my point by declaring he knew nothing about it but would need to go away and do some research. Not to be deterred the Chairman insisted the APC needed to know now in order to instruct the Clerk how to vote at the LALC. Wally could not help him.

Briefly on other matters, 13 assorted crimes were reported since the last meeting. And the APC would receive circa £23,000 for Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) based on new housing developments in the parish. How might that be spent? Your guess is as good as mine, it could take five years, as in 2015/2016 the APC reports on £2,771.91 CIL received, CIL expenditure NIL.

Following the departure of the borough councillors, the APC members then discussed the matter of the LALC Motion/Resolution, and notwithstanding expressions of bewilderment about the repercussions of the review including who would foot the bill for flooding events, the Clerk was instructed to abstain at the LALC meeting. As for the chart above, that’s the calculation of the hydrology relating to water runoff. We can only wonder what Wally might think of that little gem of information!