Monday, June 25, 2012

Yarm School Plans update

The developer & agent, Bellway Homes & Nathaniel Lichfield, have set up a website with the proposal on it, along with the questionnaire in electronic form.  Sadly, they still haven't provided a printable version so that people can write their comments after seeing printouts of the webpages, but I've asked them for one.
I hope lots of people will look at it and register their views.
I've had a number of people ask about affordable housing and what it means.  "Affordable" refers to a percentage of the average house price in an area (currently about 80%).  As a result a house in Yarm or Eaglescliffe can be labelled as affordable even though it costs several thousand pounds more than a "top of the range" house in a cheaper area of the borough.  Developers will sometimes suggest that they will contribute an amount of money equivalent to making 15% of their housing affordable so that the affordable housing can be built elsewhere.  There are some advantages to that - the borough gains more affordable housing than it otherwise would and the developer makes more profit by selling full price housing on all of the development.  However there are disadvantages too - the development ends up being less diverse than it otherwise would be and the young people who want to buy their first house or older people wanting to move into something smaller and more easily maintained can only do so by moving away from their friends, family, church and other communities.  I'm not suggesting that either way is right - just pointing out that it's a dilemma every time an application comes in for our area.

There's also lots of speculation about the remaining farmland between the application site and the footpath to Dinsdale way beside the golf course.  At the moment there are no applications for that area and I've had no word of pre-application discussions though they could be going on in confidence - commercial considerations mean that most developers speak to planning officers first to see what they might be able to do with a site before going public on the ideas.  All I can say at the moment is that if I hear about such applications Alan Lewis or I would send out a ward e-news as soon as humanly possible.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The plans for Yarm School's extension onto the Egglescliffe side of the Tees were worse than I had anticipated.  Not only the flood plain area is to be covered by rugby pitches, cricket pitches, rounders courts and athletics tracks but the upper field near the village will also house several rugby pitches of varying sizes for different age groups.  Between the two will be a cricket pavilion.  All this would be fenced off from the public by a wooden post and rail fence with high hedging, closing the Teesdale way off from views over the plain.   A swathe of land which slopes too steeply to be converted into sports pitches would become public parkland/open space.  A 36 space car park would be provided in the "wagon yard" at the foot of Stony Bank behind the new flats.  We were told that this would help to ease the problems of parking in Yarm High St, though why people would choose to park there when currently there is no shortage of space in front of those flats during the day is beyond me.
The link to Yarm would be via a truss & girder bridge which would be accessed from Atlas Wynd and from the school via a secure gate.
The whole would be financed from the sale of 500 large family houses on the current playing field and land beyond it towards Kirklevington.
Unfortunately our Focus leaflet had gone to press and was on the way to deliverers when we got this information so the only way we could let people know was by email.  Anyone who isn't on our email update list and would like to be can be added by contacting me.  Luckily a combination of email, facebook, twitter and word of mouth meant lots of people could get there and make their voices heard.
For those who couldn't be there, the developer's agent has promised to look into the possibility of setting up a website but meanwhile the website of the Protect Yarm - Leven Valley has some pictures of the display boards from the consultation.  If you want to let your Lib Dem councillors know what you think - just email.  We'll respond to all relevant comments.  At the moment all of our correspondence has been from people who object to the proposals.  It may be that there are some people in favour - we need to know so that we can truly represent the residents of Eaglescliffe ward.

Monday, June 18, 2012

I started the week with a visit to Wolviston Primary School to talk to the whole school about Fairtrade as an introduction to the topic before the School Council Eco team run a Global Cafe later in the term. What a great way to start the week.  Though I did feel for the little ones doing their phonics test today - I'm not sure they really knew what to make of it when they were presented with "made up" words alongside real ones.
Tomorrow ward councillors have the first opportunity to look at the plans proposed by Yarm School and I'll be particularly interested in the parts relating to the North side of the river.  After that it's off to Preston Hall for a meeting of the Friends of Preston Park.  Ward surgery and then a meeting of Churches Together in Yarm & Eaglescliffe completes a busy day.  At some point I need to make space to eat, but I'm not sure where that's going to fit!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Yarm School plans consultation

We now have the official invitation to the community consultation on the plans for Yarm School's latest development.
The plans consist of about 500 houses on the current playing fields at Green Lane, Yarm and various measures to compensate for building on there.  On the Egglescliffe bank of the river they propose to put playing fields, a boating pavilion, a park and a footbridge to link them to Yarm and the school.  Also on the Egglescliffe side of Yarm Bridge they propose a 40 space car park, described as long stay parking for Yarm, behind the Blue Bell.
Councillors haven't yet seen any detail of the plans but even without detail we can see some impact on the Teesdale Way and some changes to the character of the river bank in that area.
The consultation event is taking place in Conyers school, Yarm (the Big Cook Canteen), between 4.30 and 8.30pm on Thursday 21st June.  Alan, Lesley and I hope that lots of Eaglescliffe people will make the effort to get there and give their opinions.  We will try to get copies of the plans so that people who can't get to the event can see them later.  Get in touch if you live in Eaglescliffe and need to see them after Thursday.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Down to earth with a bang on Tuesday morning with a message that Yarm School were holding a pre-application consultation on Friday for a proposal that had me checking the calendar.  No, it wasn't April 1st so this was serious.  Unfortunately it was also impossible to cross-check as the relevant people were on holiday for the Jubilee Bank Holiday.  It came from a usually reliable source and so I decided to let people know about it on our e-news.  Predictably, people were not happy.  The proposal is for car parking and sports facilities on the Egglescliffe side of the Tees and a footbridge to link it to the school.
On Wednesday came the information that although the consultation had originally been planned for Friday it was now going to take place at some time in the next few weeks.  A second e-news had to go out rapidly.  Fortunately our constituents are very understanding people on these occasions.
Lib Dem councillors understand that the pre-application discussions with planning officers are confidential but questions to Stockton Council officers about whether the applicants had been strongly recommended to involve ward councillors at an earlier stage have so far fallen on deaf ears.  So have questions about whether the applicants were told strongly enough that the area concerned is part of Tees Heritage Park and afforded some protection in the Core Strategy and the Green infrastructure strategy of SBC.  There's a sense of deja vu here - Preston Park and BSF funded school proposals spring to mind.
As soon as we know the date for the consultation we'll be letting people know - again!

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

The Beacon is Lit

When Egglescliffe & Eaglescliffe council decided to have a jubilee beacon and organise a little party round the lighting of it we didn't know that there would be 2 more within walking distance.  When it became obvious that there would be one in Yarm with much more elaborate celebrations round it and one in Preston Park with lots of activities for families leading up to it I began to doubt whether many people would turn up to ours.  How wrong could I be - the grass of Memorial Garden was packed, people were standing round the memorial to get a better view, up on the church yard and along the path.  Hot dogs disappeared as fast as they could be prepared.  The hot chocolate was a huge hit, though cold drinks were less popular (could have been something to do with the air temperature).  50s music played out from the "ghetto blaster".

Egglescliffe Beacon on tower of floodlit church

A few moments before 10:15 the music went off and the countdown began.  Up on the church tower the wardens were listening and watching so that the beacon flared into life at exactly the right moment.  Cheers and applause gave way to singing of the National Anthem with great gusto and then more cheers, applause, flag waving and a joyful playing of the church carillon.  Soon we could see another beacon, probably towards Leyburn, flaring up on the horizon.

As the bells subsided the fireworks display organised by Yarm Town Council started up and we were treated to a spectacular display from a little further along the river bank.  Thank goodness I'd been at the garden earlier in the day when the company arrived to set up the display or we'd have had it right beside where we were standing, with all the attendant health and safety problems of smoke and debris.  Luckily I could point out the problem to the company and they arranged an alternative site.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Day 2

Wow, what a party!  We'd advertised the Big Picnic Lunch to start at noon.  The first party arrived at 1145 and there was a steady stream after that.  Never mind the weather - the Big Picnic was on!  Entertainers turned up as promised; we had music, magic, puppets, stilt walking, juggling, sack races, welly throwing, fancy dress, and more - 4 solid hours of fun.  The afternoon drew to a close with the Salvation Army band playing then a short ecumenical service to round off the day.
A second day of the community pulling together to put on a celebration and I hope that the press publish a good story about it, having rung me for an interview part way through judging the fancy dress competiton!

Day 1 of Jubilee Weekend

Saturday dawned rather colder than we'd hoped but undaunted the Parish Council and community volunteers were up and out on the grass at Orchard shops by 8a.m.  For some that was a previously undiscovered time on a Saturday morning and I'm enormously grateful to them all.  By 10 the fencing was adorned with bunting and flags, the grass was fenced off as a safety measure to deter children from running into the road, the community centre was buzzing with activity as the exhibition, quiz and cafe were set up and a large tent was taking shape on the grass, surrounded by tables with fun crafts to try.
Sadly, just as the first Punch & Judy show got underway, the sky decided to weep.  Rapid removal of craft tables to the tent followed.
Undeterred by the weather a steady stream of people made their way to one end of the parade or the other, mainly determined by age. The exhibition in the community centre proved very popular and the afternoon talk "Was it really 60 Years Ago?" drew a  food audience of people most of whom had their own memories of the period and were happy to share them.
While older people reminisced about life in the 50s in the Community Centre the very young cheered and laughed and booed at Mr Punch and his goings-on.  Between shows crowns were made, dozens of biscuits decorated and eaten, paper plates became ornate plaques and pictures were coloured.  Outside there were fierce quoits battles and some entertaining attempts with hoola hoops.
By 4pm  when it was time to clear away that phase of the celebrations we all felt it had been worth getting up early on Saturday morning to set it up.
In the evening, local theatre group, Cliffe Theatre, performed a murder mystery evening to a packed house in the Community Centre.  Performed without benefit of stage lights (electricity problem caused by the fire a fortnight ago at the shops), stage space (occupied by the partially prepared set for the next performance by Centre Stage, our musical theatre group) or heating (no gas because of the fire) and using the scripts (because they hadn't had the rehearsal time they would normally have) it was nevertheless a thoroughly enjoyable evening and a great tribute to a community theatre group who pulled out all the stops to do their bit for the Jubilee celebrations.