Saturday 1 December 2018

SERA (Labour Environment Campaign) celebrates 10 years of the Climate Change Act (2008)

BelperStuff traveled to London last Monday to attend the SERA (Labour Environment Campaign) celebration, 10 years of the Climate Change Act. Keynote speaker was Ed Miliband who, as Energy minister in the last Labour government introduced the act.

Link to the video for those who need it

I was struck by Ed's passion and thought back to the 2015 General election and the Labour manifesto that promised to re-focus the UK economy around the ethos of sustainable energy. As I listened to Ed I could not help imagining where our country would be now if Labour, led by Ed had won that election ......... the promised 1 million jobs in sustainable energy ............. increased funding for climate change related research and development .........  no withdrawal or dilution from the UK commitment to be a leading global force for the environment .............. no abandonment of UK initiatives to decrease UK carbon emissions .......... no fracking ..................... oh and of course no Brexit involving a withdrawal from EU environmental laws and regulations.

Link to the SERA New Ground magazine election special 2015

Returning home to Derbyshire on the train I sat thinking about the evening and wondered ........... what is the state of play in the UK in 2018. Have we made progress or are we as a nation backsliding? Researching this courtesy of East Midlands Trains wifi led me to this document:

Committee on Climate Change publication/reducing-uk-emissions-2018-progress-report-to-parliament/. This committee was created in 2008 as an independent, statutory body whose purpose is to advise the UK Government and Devolved Administrations on emissions targets and report to Parliament on progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for climate change.
It is worth checking out their website: Committee on Climate Change website

This initial overview chart taken from the 2018 report illustrated the success of the 2008 act but also highlighted what Ed was talking about, that we have to put the environment at the heart of everything we do:

The verdict of this cross-party and independent committee on Tory performance since 2010 is damning:

That cancelled policy chart (sorry about the quality of reproduction) references cuts that have had a direct effect here in Derbyshire. The County Council had planned 3 Solar parks whilst local Transition Belper activists tried to resurrect a Hydro facility at Ambergate ........ all were cancelled as a direct result of government cuts to sustainable energy projects.
I urge you to read the full document so that the betrayal of the present Tory government of the spirit and intention of the 2008 Climate Change Act can be understood

Ed referenced a SERA article in Labour List

Its worth reading this article by Jake Sumner, the co-chair of SERA:

I value being a member of SERA because it provides a focus for climate change and environment thinking in the Labour Party. It's not just about national and international policies but provides a means by which Labour Councillors and activists (be they parish, borough or county) can promote ecologically sound policies in their local area. As Ed urged, the environment should be at the heart of everything we do and SERA helps to make that possible. A good place to start is this SERA publication:

The Power Book published in collaboration with the Cooperative Party and the Local Government Information Unit.

For more information provided by SERA this is the link - - and of course the link offers you the chance to join and reap the benefits; not least of which is the excellent house magazine New Ground and a chance to attend events, discussions and seminars plus more local activities. SERA was founded in 1973 so is looking forward to 2023 when it will be celebrating 50 years of environment campaigning.

Link to SERA New Ground webpage

Wednesday 29 August 2018

Kvetchers or gerekhtfartikt protestors ?

This is the third BelperStuff blog concerning antisemitism and the Labour Party (click here for the first one  and if you are up for more click here for the second post in April 2018). A lot has happened in the last 4 months, essentially more of the same, more attacks on the Labour Party fueled by a fount of incidents recorded on social media followed by an insistence that Labour is institutionally antisemitic. Elements of the press are very active in unearthing any hint of antisemitism in the party and it seems a lifetime ago since Ed Milliband's father was attacked by the Daily Mail as a Jewish Marxist who hated Britain. Now, that same newspaper features stories attacking Jeremy Corbyn as an antisemitic with devastating frequency.

It has to be said that some of these reports are disturbing and need to be explained and it would be a welcome move for the party to look seriously at each claim as it emerges. We have a disciplinary process that is being used against those who make racist comments and as a democratic party this should apply to all. It is to be hoped that satisfactory answers will be forthcoming but unless that process is followed then the slur will remain.

Kvetchers or gerekhtfartikt protestors

It is appropriate to use the Yiddish word kvetcher because I read that it has been adopted into the English language. A perfect word to ........... well the Jewish Chronicle puts it best:

Jewish Chronicle definition of the Yiddish word, "kvetch" published in 2009

 ".............. or, he managed to kvetch antisemitic implications from a perfectly harmless statement."

and the gerekhtfartikt element means "justified".

Thinking about the obvious escalation of protest aimed at the Labour Party I am most disquieted by the claim that antisemitism is now institutionalised within its sinews. As of May 2018 there are 552,000 Labour members and we are being accused of complicity in an organisation that finds antisemitism to be acceptable. That makes me feel very uncomfortable but is it true? The following video gives me some hope:

Labour Party video about the IHRA definition of antisemitism

As with all complex issues it is wise to separate out the constituent parts of the problem and deal with each in turn. To that end ......... there seem to be three elements:

  1. Not adopting the IHRA working definition of antisemitism and the resultant NEC Code of Conduct ...... the Labour definition.
  2. The complexities of Zionism and the right of people to self determination.
  3. Statements made by Labour MP's, councillors and other members that are antisemitic.
This would become a very long post if I tackled all three so in this post I'll start with the first one.

Not adopting the IHRA working definition of antisemitism and all that follows

The IHRA definition has been adopted by Labour but not with all of the subsequent examples that complete the package. It has to be said that the IHRA definition has not gained universal approval and there are many Jewish organisations and individuals who have doubts about it. Amongst those who voice their doubts is Moran Mandelbaum of Keele University who states, 

"Drawing on the IHRA definition without the problematic examples, the new code of conduct adopted by the Labour party is a step in the right direction." Why does he write this?

".............. focusing on anti-Semitism in an open society is an odd choice since the fight ought to be against racism in all shapes and forms rather than particular manifestations of hate/racism. Emphasising anti-Semitism might give the impression that there is a hierarchy of hatreds in which hate towards Jews supersedes all others. Are racist and violent acts towards BME in the UK and Europe, more broadly, less important?! There is no doubt room to define anti-Semitism and its uniqueness in historical, sociological and political analyses (see, for example, the work of Professor David Feldman). But defining anti-Semitism for legal purposes as a unique form of hatred is a dangerous path to take and may end up essentialising the figure of the Jew rather than dislodging it."

This brings me to something else that is troubling; the IHRA definition has no legal standing. It is not enshrined in British law as it is only advisory. The adoption of the IHRA definition can only be used within an organisation (such as the Labour Party or even the UK Government) in an advisory capacity. British Law regarding hate and racist crime is already very explicit as is evidenced by the  Police Hate Crime Operational Guidance.pdf  specifically from page 35 to page 38 where antisemitism is addressed: I will defer to those who are legally trained to say if this is adequate but this definition of antisemitism is the law of the land.

The Labour Party Code of Conduct - Antisemitism

I do wonder how many of us have read this: Labour code of conduct - antiseminism

The Guardian lined up a few unfortunates to review Labour's code of conduct  and it makes interesting reading. Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner had me thinking when she commented,

Stating, for example, that the right to Jewish self-determination is fundamentally a racist endeavour is not legitimate criticism, but a denial to Jews of the same rights given to all other peoples – which I also want for Palestinians".

Turning to the Labour code of conduct to understand where she was coming from I found this:

12.     Article 1(2) of the 1948 UN Charter refers to respect for the principle of equal rights and self- determination of peoples”.  The Party is clear that the Jewish people have the same right to self-determination as any other people.  To deny that right is to treat the Jewish people unequally and is therefore a form of antisemitism.  That does not, of course, preclude considered debate and discourse about the nature or content of the right of peoples to self- determination.

I ended up having a very pleasant exchange of emails with her but I still cannot see what it is in
the code of conduct that treats Jewish people differently or makes any claim that this is a racist
endeavour. Am I missing something here. One thing I did gain from contacting her was a link to 
an interesting organisation - Reform Judaism. Following that link takes you to a page reporting on
an article by Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain in the Independent British Jews, please do not abandon 

In conclusion

We could have avoided all of this if we had just followed the example of the Tories .......... just say that you are adopting the IHRA definition (Teresa May in 2016) then produce a rule book that makes no mention of it nor once mention the word"antisemitism". .

I urge you to explore theories being put forward as to why the IHRA definition is being promoted, most noticeably by alternative Jewish news sources but first read this: Poland - Israel accord on holocaust law. Read that article and then imagine that it is Corbyn and not Netanyahu who has entered into an agreement that many have dubbed holocaust denial. 

Labour's code of conduct on antisemitism was drawn up under the direction of NEC member Jennie Fornby. An appreciation of this work can be found here: An article by Brian Klug on the Open Democracy UK website. I liked this quote:

"Ironically, it is the drafters of the Labour party’s NEC Code, not their critics, who have grasped the meaning of ‘working definition".

This post has been written a few hours after the ex chief Rabbi stated in an interview:

“The recently disclosed remarks by Jeremy Corbyn are the most offensive statement made by a senior British politician since Enoch Powell’s 1968 ‘rivers of blood’ speech.” 

We should give him time to reconsider that remark .......... perhaps after he has had a chance to read Peter Walker's response in the Guardian

Sunday 5 August 2018

Why are there no trains in Derby this summer?

Belper train passengers will already be aware of the engineering works in Derby Station this summer and the bad news is that it will be getting worse before it gets any better. London trains reduced to one an hour (then none for seven days), No trains to Chesterfield or Sheffield, No Cross Country trains to north or south, the Matlock train only runs to Derby (later, no service at all for over a month). For detailed information about dates and bus replacements go to

Travel in 1850 (Old Station at Derby, North Midland Railway)

Cuthbert Hamilton Ellis (1909–1987)

National Railway Museum

So why is this happening?

Derby Station was opened in 1839 as the southern terminus of the North Midland Railway linking Leeds, Rotherham, Chesterfield and Derby (Sheffield was added soon after). Since that time railway routes and services have developed to a degree that would be unrecognisable to the early railway pioneers; Derby station growing to accommodate the extra traffic with additional platforms and tracks. Unfortunately, all this growth created a bottleneck to the south of the station, a two track section through which all passenger and many freight trains had to run (marked on the diagram below with a black circle). It is the elimination of this bottleneck and the installation of modern signalling that is being undertaken this summer.

To understand this bottleneck I have marked the 3 distinctive routes and services as:

  • Red = Cross Country services running southwest to northeast.
  • Brown = Services that run between Nottingham and Birmingham (reversing in Derby)
  • Green = East Midlands trains serving London, Chesterfield and Sheffield.
  • The Matlock <> Newark and the Derby <> Crewe trains have been omitted  to aid clarity.

If all goes to plan the work will be completed by 7th October with all trains running normally from the following day. The new layout separates the three principal routes at the southern end of the station which will have a major, beneficial effect on timekeeping and capacity. Passengers will find that their trains may well be routed through different platforms:

  • Red: Cross Country trains will now use platforms 1 and 2.
  • Brown: Nottingham <> Birmingham trains will use platforms 3 and 4
  • Green: East Midlands London <> Sheffield trains using platforms 5 and 6 but it should be noted that what has become platform 5 was formally platform 6. Platform 6 is now located on the newly built island platform. (The old platform 5 was a south facing bay platform that has now been taken out of use). 
  • Matlock train: There seems to be no reason why the arrival in Derby should not be on the new platform 6 but the train to Matlock may well be moved from platform 2b to 3, 4 or 5 Time will tell.
  • Freights will no doubt continue to be threaded through the station using the most favourable route at that time but we will no longer see freights from the north destined for the Birmingham route being looped on the Pride Park side of the station.

A wasted opportunity to electrify the route

The original intention was to electrify the East Midlands route through Derby during this blockade, in time for the St.Pancras to Sheffield services to change to electric trains by Autumn 2019. The governments cancellation of this scheme is particularly galling. The blockade would have been an ideal time to electrify the route up to Ambergate but now this will not happen.

I have heard it said that heritage problems such as the bridges at Belper were a deciding factor in the cancellation but this was not so (previous BelperStuff post on why the East Midlands electrification was cancelled). There are many ways in which the railway could have been electrified through Belper and Ambergate with no undo expenditure or adverse effect on heritage assets. What a wasted opportunity.


Don't forget:

  • No direct trains to London between 13th and 19th August (bus to East Midlands Parkway from Derby station) otherwise it's one train per hour up to October 7th.
  • Matlock train does not run to Nottingham and worse, does not run at all from 25th August to October 7th (again a substitute bus service)
  • No rail services between Derby and Nottingham, Crewe, Birmingham, Sheffield until 2nd September (yup you've guessed it - replacement buses)
Hopefully I've made no mistakes and all the above information is accurate but don't forget that reliable updates on travel ca be gleaned from East Midlands Trains here or go to National Rail Enquiries.

Friday 13 July 2018

The labyrinth of planning ......... and a way out of it

The Minotaur surprised while eating
Maggi Hambling - Tate
I know this may seem stupid but I am starting to feel really sorry with all those involved with the AVBC attempts to produce a viable Local Plan .......... from the understaffed planning department to obviously befuddled responsible councillors .... oh and not forgetting the large number of Amber Valley residents who make their views known at hearings and through the consultation process. It brings to mind the Labyrinth in which the Minotaur was trapped; constantly revisiting passageways that never led to freedom. Does that sound like the AVBC Local Plan process? Ah yes, the beast of planning, never sure of what it is trying to do nor how to do it. I draw this allusion because of the maze that AVBC now inhabits (hopefully there is no need to apologise for including Maggi Hamblings wonderful painting - - that's how I see the current impasse).

It just gets worse : AVBC's Local Plan Inspector's note July 2018

Timetable chart extract from Inspector's note
So the hearings will resume just around the time that AVBC staff will be organising an election in 15 wards ................ but there are serious doubts that they will be able to redraft their plan by April'May 2019. What AVBC is attempting is a complete rewrite of the Local Plan so many factors have to be considered; not least because the inspector wrote:

"The process of identifying and proposing additional sites for housing and other uses should be carried out in an open and transparent way, using an appropriate methodology which objectively considers and assesses the reasonable alternatives. The Council should set out clearly its reasons for selecting the reasonable alternatives chosen, which should then be subject to an equal examination. This would be best achieved by the production of an Addendum to the Sustainability Appraisal (SA).

 With regards to the submitted SA, although I acknowledge, for instance, that it is important to take into account additional information that may be available in respect of a site which is the subject of a current planning application, this should not be at the expense of a site which does not have the benefit of further detailed supporting evidence. In cases such as this, the Council should consider the possibility of similar provision being made on the other site or sites in order that the reasonable alternatives are assessed on an equal basis". (that second paragraph is a killer)

There is considerable cause for concern as they have been basing the housing forecasts on pre-existing planning applications and it would be prudent to assume that the green belt assessment will follow this pattern, a re-assessment of hitherto rejected planning applications to develop land such as AVA/2017/0322 which proposed 185 homes on 10.6 hectares of green belt land off Crich Lane in 2017.  (more on planning application AVA/2017/0322 go here)

A pertinent question would be, "how many rejected applications to build on green belt land could be referenced by AVBC?"

Back to the positive

Pinglewick village at the end of Acorn Drive in Belper. Admittedly built in the 1970's on a green field site.
The boxed in area is 0.1477 hectares containing 65 dwellings with a density of dwellings per hectare of over 400.
You can find a video of the developer describing the construction of Pinglewick here.

We discussed in a previous blog post that a better way forward for AVBC would be to assess how much development could be undertaken on brownfield sites ............ using as an example the work undertaken or commissioned by the NP4B team. This prompted a thought ........ just how many hectares of brownfield locations were included in the AVBC brownfield site register?  The answer, after a simple totting up (didn't even have to take my socks off) is 149.36 hectares. Which leads on to how many dwellings could be built on these brownfield sites:

Yes of course not all of the sites would be suitable for housing or at appreciable densities but as the target number of homes in Amber Valley is 9,770 there is a fair degree of leeway ........... especially as there are a considerable number of windfall and other large housing developments that have been built since 2011. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) lists 56,130 households paying council tax in 2016 whereas in 2011 there were 52,596 ............ an increase of 3,534 though how many of these extra dwellings are counted towards the Local Plan target is a moot point (a development below a certain number of houses is not "statistically" relevant ... apparently). If we assume an incremental increase of 700 homes per year of which a conservative third or 233 can be counted as part of the Local Plan target then by now (mid-summer 2018) the target has dwindled to somewhere around 8,200. If these calculations were acceptable to the inspector then there would seem to be enough brownfield site capacity in Amber Valley to match the target. If, as would seem sensible, the Local Plan end date was adjusted (2011 - 2028 = 17 years) to 2035 then we could assess the true value of brownfield sites for years to come. No need for development of green belt or green field land.

A further look at densities

We should also note that densities above 80 are achievable on some sites as per these two examples:

  • Belper East Mill development proposal is over 600 dwellings per hectare so renovation of existing though moribund industrial premises offer significant advantages.
  • Pinglewick is over 400 dwellings per hectare.
Examples of acceptable housing densities can be found here in an Architect's Journal article - Planning Suburban Housing Density and three informative graphics from that publication are copied below:

35 dwellings per hectare

50 dwellings per hectare

80 dwellings per hectare
A cautionary note is that two extant planning applications for local brownfield development sites, the Arbru site in Milford and Derwent Street North in Belper were for density of dwellings per hectare of 22 and 26 respectively. There is obviously a lot of scope for the council to be in discussion with developers and funding bodies in an attempt to unlock the potential of our derelict brownfield sites.

Tuesday 3 July 2018

Despite election pledges AVBC look to develop on green belt land?

The performance of Amber Valley Borough Council is becoming more and more disturbing. This blog has referenced AVBC quite a few times, admittedly never from a position of approval except for that one post about homelessness in Belper when the diligence and obvious compassion of the council officer involved was duly noted. I am sure that there are other officers who are equally as involved with their allotted responsibilities but I fear that they are battling against overwhelming odds. I am trying to hold on to this belief though a recent development in the inspection process of the AVBC Local Plan has once again led to questions of competence. The nub of the Local Plan is to allocate land for the development of 9,770 homes within the time period of 2011 - 2028. There is also an added imperative that development should not be delayed towards the latter end of this period so AVBC has to demonstrate that 5,000 homes will be built in the initial 5 years. In the real world the 5 years started in 2011 but in the world of Amber Valley the 5 years starts now. According to Labour Councillor Ben Bellamy AVBC had spent over £1 million by 2017 on unsuccessful attempts to produce a plan (see here Ben's excellent article in Nailed - Belper Independent news).

It is obvious that AVBC has been struggling to produce a viable Local Plan for some years and yet again their shortcomings have hit difficulties during the inspection process:

Inspector’s Note on Land North of Denby

The Council considers that the process of identifying and proposing additional sites is likely to require the release of land currently within the Green Belt. As such, the Council proposes to undertake a Borough-wide Green Belt boundary review in order to inform this process. The Council has confirmed that, given that part of the site known as Land North of Denby is within the Green Belt, any review of the Green Belt boundary is likely to include an assessment of this site. 

Following the review of the Green Belt, the Council will then consider whether any potential sites within the Green Belt, including that which forms part of the Land North of Denby, could be identified and proposed as Housing Growth Sites, including the assessment of Reasonable Alternatives. A Sustainability Appraisal will also be carried out. 

This map is helpful in understanding what land is being considered :

This map which is included in AVBC's Local Plan clearly identifies the green belt land that is to be considered for development. AVBC is employing external consultants to carry out this appraisal which, as the council admits, is looking solely at green belt land re-designation. This is not just waiving the white flag of defeat but a clear statement that after years of election promises to voters this Tory administration is willing to renege on their pledges (for more on this see here .........and also here where the Tory record of building on green belt land is explored plus Labour's opposition to it). Apologies for the seeming incestuousness of referencing earlier BelperStuff posts but they do contain some interesting links.

There is another way - the alternative of Brownfield site development

Here in Belper there has been a spirited opposition to development of greenfield land such as Bullsmoor and Belper Lane and we can now see that Neighbourhood Plan for Belper has taken this on board with their strategy of restricting any large scale development in the parish to brownfield sites (see here NP4B Viability study of brownfield sites for the Parish of Belper). The majority of these sites are contained within the AVBC Local Plan but they have relied solely on the planning applications by developers to determine the number and types of housing that would be built. NP4B has realised that the AVBC plan envisages larger homes configured to a suburban density; for instance the Arbru site in Milford comprising 136 homes has a density of 22 dwellings per hectare. By raising the density and type of dwelling ( less bedrooms to suit starter homes and downsizing from larger homes on the outlying estates) to 30 and 50 dwellings per hectare, which is more in line with the urban nature of these sites the target figure for development in the parish can be contained on brownfield sites. Indeed, with careful planning these sites could provide the homes needed for the next 20 years without recourse to development on green field or green belt land. This depends upon the NP4B being passed at a referendum and a methodology being found to produce the homes that are desperately needed rather than the AVBC method of relying on what he market decides to build.

Brownfield sites in Amber Valley (from AVBC Local Plan)

So what should AVBC do?

The simple answer is that the borough should decide that: 

Has AVBC done any of this?

Cognitive dissonance

Last year I shared a conversation with a Tory borough councillor (representing Duffield) who boasted that, "we have reduced Amber Valley staff numbers by 134 ......... that is the way you manage local government". He said far more than that but I found his comments so unsavoury that I'll not repeat them here. I could see that he was convinced that staff cuts were a good thing but when I pointed out the consequences of a reduced planning department that was struggling to deal with planning applications and produce a viable Local Plan he could not see the connection.  The point was not lost on me that he measured borough council success on how much money could be "saved" by making staff cuts rather than the council serving the community in a meaningful way. It is the mentality of small government.

Local Government planning departments have lost 60% of their funding since 2010

The Councillor's belief that the market will supply the homes needed without any intervention by local authorities is current Conservative thinking and has been since the Thatcher years so he's not alone. The evidence however does not support this belief:

The private sector and housing associations have proved to be inadequate providers of new homes for a growing population. Privatisation of housing supply has failed. For anyone who believes in smaller government and the primacy of private companies in dictating what and where is to be built a chart such as the one above will cause them to have a headache. So what do they do? The evidence disproves core conservative doctrine ........... the only way is to let private developers loose on virgin land whilst in our town centres old industrial buildings rot.

But what would Labour do?

We will protect the greenbelt, and prioritise brownfield land for development. (an extract from their 2017 Housing Manifesto - New Deal on Housing

This is also the policy of local Labour councillors.

Monday 7 May 2018

HS2 will reduce number of East Midlands trains through Derby

A 2015 BelperStuff post explored the claim of Alistair Darling that building HS2 would drain money away from the existing rail network. He was rubbished by the then transport secretary Patrick McLaughlin who eventually went on to postpone the East Midlands electrification. The sorry saga of political shenanigans has taken the odd twist since then, first reinstatement of electrification but eventually cancelled by the incoming transport secretary Chris Grayling once the 2017 general election was safely out of the way.

I suspect Alistair Darling of possessing a crystal ball because the reasons finally admitted to by Grayling for cancellation was that the cost benefit ratio for electrification of the Midland Mainline (MML) was now so low that it made more economic sense to use by-mode trains that could run as electrics under wires and diesels everywhere else. The MML wires would only go as far north as Kettering with a branch off to Corby. Trains to Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield would be diesel powered.

HS2 Phase 2 planned for sometime in the early 2030's once a route through Nania has been agreed

This came as a surprise to many of us who remember that in 2015 the cost benefit ratio for MML electrification was stated as being between 1:4.7 or :7.4 (that's for every £1 spent the benefit would be between £4.70 and £7.40). Now Grayling claims it's only 0.8:1 (which should have read 1: 1.25, for every £1 spent you gained £1.25 - sorry to bang on about this). So what happened between 2015 and the 2017 Grayling statement? That is very clear:

HS2 would, by 2033 carry all Sheffield passengers that currently use East Midland trains.

That was the justification for cancelling MML electrification, just as Alistair Darling predicted. The Tories went into 2 general elections promising electric trains and improved services on the MML only to break those promises to shore up the weak economic case for HS2.

(In the accompanying cost benefit chart only the minimum benefits have been listed but it should be noted that the MML scheme ranged from £4.70 to £7.40. The HS2 figure was scrutinised in 2016 by the House of Commons Account Select Committee who found that it should be nearer £1.10).The true costs will emerge in time but many believe that Phase 1 between London and Birmingham will go so far over budget that Phase 2 will never be completed. (More of that in a following post).

But what of the future? 

What does this mean for East Midland trains? Grayling has already stated that HS2 and the West Coast franchise passenger service (WC) will be merged with first contracts to be signed as early as 2019. The consequence of this is that a significant number of MML passengers will be counted as HS2/WC passengers which will make East Midlands Trains loss making. The DfT and HS2/WC will move to deter passengers staying loyal to the MML route to St Pancras so a decrease in the number of MML trains would seem a likely outcome; the existing East Midlands services will not survive in their present form so our 2 trains an hour from Sheffield and similar 2 trains an hour from Nottingham will at best be cut back to 1 per hour .............. the Sheffield services may be cut back to Derby with Chesterfield, perhaps with the most to lose, served by Cross Country trains (though even these are under threat from HS2).

Even if my pessimistic view is proved wrong (and I don't think it will be) we will be condemned to a second class service on the MML. Already the trains are slowing:

The April and May times are factual whilst the 2033 times are a best possible time guess.

These timings are partly the result of  more intensive Thameslink train services south of Bedford resulting in slower running MML trains and more time spent changing trains at Derby. Electrification of all East Midlands trains to London was originally planned for 2019 and would have mitigated against these extended journey times.

Grayling says that new by-mode trains will perform just as well but does not say when these new trains will be available. The surprise is that the railway industry has not called Grayling out on this because the technology he proposes will add to operational costs and struggle to match the existing Meridian performance levels. The current East Midlands Meridian fleet were due to be cascaded to other routes with the InterCity electric trains currently working on the East Coast mainline (Kings Cross <> Leeds/Edinburgh etc) moving over to the MML. This will not now happen. The Meridians were built in 2003 and have an expected minimum life of 25 years so could be around on the MML well after HS2 is introduced in 2033. Can we believe Chris Grayling when he says that new by mode trains will replace them before 2033? I have serious doubts. Whatever the outcome we here in Derbyshire will suffer diesel fumes for years to come. Grayling tries to placate environmental criticism of the continued use of diesel by claiming that the hybrid trains will eventually be converted from electric/diesel to electric/hydrogen power yet this is a technology that is unproven in such an environment as the MML.

Data equates to Passenger journeys made in 2016 - 17

What we need in the East Midlands is a transport strategy that delivers what local people need and not counted as makeweights used to bolster an HS2 scheme that is seriously flawed. Only 27.3% of East Midland passengers travel to London, whilst a similar number stay within the regional boundary, basically short commuting or shopping trips to local centres. The main growth is seen on cross country routes to the North West, North East and West Midlands. Just how HS2 can improve these journey experiences is debatable once we factor in the necessary transfers to and from Toton. If anything, the passenger journey data underlines the case for re-opening the through route to Manchester via Matlock .......... I am sure that the cost benefit ratio for the old Midland route through the Peaks would make interesting reading. 

That 13% of East Midlands passengers are journeying to the West Midlands is significant (around 4.6 million per annum) though a fair proportion of these are travelling to and from the Leicester area which is bypassed by HS2. For East Midland passengers in the Derby area HS2 offers no real benefit for travel to Birmingham, the added mileage to Toton and extra time changing trains eating away at the fast HS2 journey time to Birmingham Curzon Street. There is claimed to be a benefit for Nottingham <> Birmingham passengers but here there is a much cheaper and immediately deliverable alternative ............... a fast connection utilising the freight branch between Sheet Stores Junction (near Long Eaton) and Burton, thence to Birmingham. This would be an additional service that would cut the current 74 minute journey to around 50 minutes by avoiding Derby. This offers a centre to centre journey time comparable to the 44 minutes claimed by HS2 for a fraction of the cost. We are talking of a couple of cascaded diesel multiple units to maintain an hourly service that could even offer new journey opportunities for the good folk of Burton. The resultant loss of journey opportunities on the Derby <> Birmingham route would also have to be addressed but there would be no loss of capacity as astute Nottingham passengers would avoid trains routed through Derby.

What next

The usual justification cited by those who promote HS2 is the claim that we desperately need more capacity. The next BelperStuff post should perhaps take a look at this and perhaps try and make sense of some of the doom-laden forecasts of spiraling HS2 costs. The bill so far is at least £2.7 billion and they haven't even started building anything yet.

Friday 4 May 2018

Results of yesterdays Belper AVBC elections ............. an analysis for nerds

Success in Belper but losses elsewhere means Tories increase their majority hold of the borough. Congratulations to Carol and Fay.

Both Labour candidates won their wards with Carol retaining Belper South whilst Fay wrested Belper East from the Tories. A good result for Belper Labour but not so successful elsewhere as we did not make any inroads in Duffield and lost 2 wards in Heanor and 1 in Ripley.

Further analysis

Belper East

What the figures show is that a 6% increase in turnout favoured Labour and easily offset the fallout from the UKIP disintegration (if not fielding a candidate can be so described). Labour campaigned hard to win this ward and fielded an excellent candidate, backed by a dedicated team of supporters which netted a 52% increase in their vote. In contrast, the Tories relied upon their incumbent retaining the seat with the help of UKIP voters in search of someone to vote for which gave them a 29% increase over 2014. The strong LibDem increase of 141% is encouraging for them and evidence that they are emerging from the cloud cast over them from their alliance with the Tories at national level (or is it ...... see Belper South results).

Belper South

With only a 1% increase in turnout Belper South should be an easier analytical proposition but the emergence of both Green and Independent candidates coupled with the towel being thrown in by UKIP  leaves this ward hard to read. Labour and Tories increased their vote by a similar percentage amount but Carol Angharad attracted an extra 182 votes (evidence of incredibly hard work and application) whilst Tim Sutton (who is presumed to be the next Belper mayor) could only manage an extra 148 votes. In 2014 it seemed that the UKIP vote was a decisive factor in Erik Johnsen winning for Labour, the theory being that UKIP took votes away from the Tories. The 2018 result does not support this analysis as Labour's showing suggests that many UKIP voters have moved to Labour. The significance of the 200 Independent and Green votes tends to confirm this.

The collapse of the Liberal vote in Belper South is at variance with their strong showing in Belper East which could or could not be reflection of strength of candidate and campaign.  

Looking forward to 2019

It should be noted that Labour now has 4 seats in Belper so has emerged as a strong force in the town's representation. In 2019 a further 4 Belper borough council seats (all Tory) will be up for election. The work never stops.

One last comment

I would like to thank Erik Johnsen for his hard work over the past 4 years, not only for Belper South but for the help he gave to BelperStuff, supplying accurate feedback to ensure that this blog remained truthful. Well done Erik and good luck for the future.

Tuesday 1 May 2018

YOU HAVE TO THINK THROUGH THE CONSEQUENCES ................... Amber Valley council election 2 days to go

In yesterdays blogpost I mentioned the content of Belper Tories facebook page. I braced myself and took another look today and, to be fair, the content, in the main is an acceptable expression of the image that local Tories want to promote about conservatism. Unfortunately some of their posts need closer scrutiny such as their slant on parking. In their zeal to attack Labour they have not thought about the consequences of their car park plan. I noticed that they had a graphic that attacked the Labour plan to sell off the Field Lane car park extension (so-called). I thought this warranted a closer look because I consider the Tory position to be illogical and ill thought out.

Additional note: It has just been brought to the attention of BelperStuff that whilst the Tories attack Labour about wanting to sell off the parcel of land off Field Lane it was the Tories  themselves who actually did  propose to sell it off in March 2014. As you read through this blog keep in mind that the land is still up for sale by the Tory controlled borough council despite what Tories would have you think. Theirs is not a well thought out strategy ....... more akin to knee jerk reactions.

The graphic that they produced is:

The graphic is intentionally misleading as it suggests that Labour want to sell Field Lane car park in its entirety which is not the case; though the Tories do admit in the accompanying text that it is only the so-called extension that is proposed for sale (that's the lighter square of land under the "LE!" of the word "SALE" superimposed on the above image).

Now if I was a Tory I would want to keep very quiet about this small parcel of land. It was bought by AVBC Tories to be the site of a new leisure centre and never intended to be a car park. Those plans had to be scrapped because the scheme depended upon a level of government funding which, when applied for was declined on the basis that Belper already has a leisure centre. Unfortunately, the Tories had already bought the land so to make the best of a bad job they re-purposed the land as a car park extension. The shame of it is that they shunned the opportunity to buy some land adjacent to Derwent Street that would have cost a third of what they spent on Field Lane and provided far more car parking spaces. What we have ended up with is car parking at a cost per space similar of what you would expect to spend in central London and not in a small Derbyshire town. The cost per car in Belper should be under £5,000 but the Tories have managed to spend nearer £50,000 per space. You could finesse the site to bring that cost down but this only to around £40,000 per space. ( for an insight into the methodology of this calculation you should start here).

What are the consequences of the Tory proposals?

By making this attack on Labour's plans the Tories have put forward what they intend to do about parking in the town once the residential development of Derwent Street North commences, bringing with it the closure of the Derwent Street car park.

Derwent Street car park on a typical midweek day. Yes the Sun is shining. Photo by BelperStuff
The Tory plan is that all these cars will be transferred to the Field Lane car park. That means that there will be a considerable extra number of cars entering the car park via the Bridge Street/Field Lane junction or the rat run through Church Street/Green Lane. Many feel that Bridge Street is already saturated with traffic so any increase in the number of vehicles making a right turn into Field Lane could prove to be chaotic. The Tories have already lodged objections to planning applications on Derwent Street based on concerns of traffic congestion but now they propose to increase the number of vehicles entering Field Lane even though it is a far more sensitive junction.

The traffic problem in Belper warrants a far more intelligent approach than what we are offered by the Tories. Now that I am aware that they base their car parking strategy on a small parcel of land that they actually want to sell I find the situation quite bizarre.  There is of course the adjacent Ada Belfield care home site with the residents moving to the new facility being built within the old chocolate factory on Derwent Street. I expect that the potential of the combined care home/car park extension area has not escaped the notice of potential developers.

Google Maps satellite image overlaid with typical traffic flows on a weekday morning
The effect that a supersized Field Lane car park would have on these flows can be easily imagined.

So what is the Labour alternative?

Labour propose selling off the so-called car park extension and, if they can recoup the full amount that was paid by the Tories for the site, use the money to realise the dream to rebuild the River Gardens Tea Rooms as envisaged by the Friends of Belper River Gardens. The residue should then be more then enough to enable an invigorated Labour controlled AVBC to explore sensible parking options that would utilise far less costly land and have minimum impact on traffic levels in the town.

The town deserves an overarching traffic plan for the town and not this bodging approach we have at the moment. The plan should be evidence driven and complimentary to the historic nature of the town. The ultimate solution for Belper is that we have an enhanced public transport network plus residential development that encourages people to walk rather than use their cars. Strategies such as this are needed now and this is what you will get if you vote for Fay and Carol in 2 days time on May 3rd.

I know that those seeking your vote often make the claim that a vote for them is a vote for change but this Thursday in Belper that is exactly how it is. A vote for Fay and Carol in Belper East and Belper South would help to ensure that the Tories are ousted from power in Amber Valley so that we bring forward policies that are of real benefit rather than those proposed by the Tories as they try to paper over the cracks of their mismanagement.