Monday 13 December 2021

Derbyshire Tories public transport plans - Less for More

 The woeful performance of Debyshire County Council (DCC) Tories in dealing with the cancelation of the 71 & 72 bus routes after Christmas has prompted a re-emergence of BelperStuff blog. This is yet another example of Tories claiming big investment into transport needs when the reality is cut after cut. The best way to illustrate this is to follow a timeline through the years of austerity. Yes this is the root cause of cuts to services, the year by year shrinking of the grant from central government to local authorities. The Tories took control in Westminster in 2010, at a time when the economy was starting to recover from the global credit crunch, with the promise that the country would have a balanced budget by May 2015. In the 2019 election the latest Tory prediction was that a balanced budget would be acheived by 2023 .... or would that be 2025.

2011 - More for Less ................. or .............. Less for More

Derbyshire County Council dutifully followed the party line and adopted policies reflecting the philosophy of austerity. This meant cuts to Derbyshire services but strategy papers tried to put a positive spin by claiming that efficiencies would be found to enable a bright shiny future under the Tories.

Derbyshire Local Transport Plan 2011 - 2026 

This plan was full of definitions of how decisions and policies would be determined but very short on key investment objectives. Mostly concerned with roads and potholes the only tangible policy initiative for public transport would be "Public transport (bus and rail) information"; found on page 4 of the document with nothing else of note in the following 121 pages. So the Tory promise for public transport over 15 years would be to improve information.

2017 - Tory County Council Election manifesto promise

"We will reverse Labour's cuts and restore important access to health and social care, shopping and social activities". 

Six years later and the cuts to services following the Tory Westminster government inspired austerity measures and the starvation of funds available to local authorities, meant that bus services would gradually lose county council support funding. The county had become Labour controlled in 2013 and in the run up to the 2017 election provided an analysis of the effect government funding cuts would have on Derbyshire services. The Tory manifesto response to this was to blame Labour for the cuts.

2018 - Derbyshire Tory cuts to bus services

The Tories won back control of DCC in 2017 and by 2018 were making savage cuts to bus services. This is evidenced inThe future of the bus report , a paper produced by the Campaign for Better Transport in 2019. Below is an extract from that report:

The report clearly shows during 2018/19  Derbyshire Tories were complicit in cutting 26 bus routes; that's 27% of all routes in England outside London. Further to this the report indictes a reduction of 38% in the budget for Derbyshire School transport and that the overall budget for bus subsidy was cut by 60%.

2021 - Derbyshire Tory Manifesto

The only mention concerning buses in the Tory 2021 manifesto is that there would be free companion bus passes for disabled public transport pass holders. No mention of reversal of Tory cuts. The promise of 2017 just did not happen and in the 2021 election the failure to honour that pledge was conveniently forgotten.

So now we turn to what was said by the Leader of DCC following the electoral victory in 2021. delivery-pace-will-be-our-mantra-council-leader-cllr-barry-lewis-sets-out-aspirational-vision and here are listed key passages from the DCC AGM speech: 

"I am immensely proud of the achievements of the last four years

We know too that there is going to be significant change and hopefully investment coming for public transport, because something transformative needs to happen in this space to ensure we can meet our carbon reduction targets, not just locally but nationally.  As an administration we’ve already committed to working with the Peak District National Park Authority to trial and deliver innovative public transport solutions there. 

 our innovative Levelling up for Young People scheme, something I’m particularly keen on.  It is sadly the case that too many young people in Derbyshire, mainly young white males in our instance but also young white females to a lesser extent find themselves disconnected from education, educational opportunities and therefore from the world of work and possibly ending up getting involved in illegal or criminal behaviours eventually.

We’re also keen to get on with delivering our commitment for Companion Bus Passes for disabled public transport users, an important scheme that will make a big impact on the lives of some disabled people in Derbyshire.  It’s not just about the big things but about looking at where we can make a real difference to the lives of Derbyshire residents".

I will finish by saying we have a new mantra for the next four years “Delivery at Pace”  


Welcome to the paralell universe inhabited by the entitled Derbyshire Tories. Barry Lewis is proud of being the leader of the county that cut more bus services than anywhere else in England. At least there is an acknowledgement that there has to be investment in public transport but 7 months later, when the resolve of Barry is tested by the unsustainability of the 71 & 72 bus routes, Derbyshire Tories can find no investment; their only concern being carbon reduction targets. Is this a hint of how that will be acheived .............. less buses equals less carbon in the atmosphere? Do they not realise that with every bus that is cut from service there will be an increase in the number of cars travelling on our roads?

Barry - if you are serious about carbon reduction then put your money into public transport.
(sorry, that should be our money raised from taxes)

Barry then goes on to comment on the "Levelling Up for Young People Scheme" which will address the disconnect with "education, educational opportunities and therefore with the world of work." The first priority for young people to access anything is to be able to get to where those opportunities exist. Cutting bus routes stops this sort of initiative dead in it's tracks. 

Barry does however point out that these nebulous Tory ambitions will be subject to "Delivery at Pace". What good is that catchphrase for those who become isolated and disenfranchised from normal opportunities of life, because their bus services have been cut. If they have no car then the alternative is to go by foot; for them it will be:

Delivery at Walking Pace

Sunday 12 December 2021

Bus services lost in Belper - We expect better from our county council

The recent announcement by Notts & Derby Bus company that they could not make the 71 and 72 routes between Belper and Derby pay or even recruit enough drivers came as a real shock for residents who depend upon these services to get to work, college or school; to shop or have an acceptable level of cultural or social life. Derby Telegraph December 1st article

Many in the community contacted Derbyshire County Council to urge them to step in and this they have done though the solution that has been agreed for the continuance of service past the threatened deadline of Christmas Eve is far from ideal. Ther Derby Telegraph reported the 7's being replaced from 29th December by an extension of the 137/8 Langley Mill <> Belper service which would allow passengers to access Derby via a connection with the 59/59A Derby <> Shipley service but in reality the best routing will be via  "the nines" at Kilburn Toll Bar. BelperStuff checked the Derbyshire County Council website news to check for accuracy but here too it states that a combination of 137/8 and 59/59A services will replace the 71/72 services when they are discontinued we must hope that more definitive information will emerge in the next few days.

Timetables/ 137& 138 Belper<>Langley

Timetables/ 59/59A

Timetables/ the nines Derby <> Ripley etc.

Aside from passengers from Holbrook, Bargate and Parks areas losing their direct link with Derby this effectively means that on a school day the first bus into Belper from the Parks will be at 09:49. The loss of the 72 service impacts badly on not just the Parks Estate etc but also Mount Pleasant.

There are still questions to be answered:

  • Where are passengers expected to change between the 138 and the 59 services?
  • When will an integrated timetable be available?
  • Will through ticketing be allowed if passengers combine the 138 and the more obvious 9 services?

Belper estates still lack services in the evenings or on a Sunday.

This is hopefully an interim situation

The routes being lost are:

 Credit to moovitapp for these maps

The loss of the 71 and 72 services has happened despite promises by Derbyshire Tories to protect public transport in the county. In 2011 they proudly announced "more for less" in their Derbyshire Local Transport Plan 2011 - 2026. Cancelation of bus routes is what they are actually delivering. BelperStuff will explore the Tory record on public transport in Derbyshire in the next blog post - Less for More.

Thursday 6 May 2021

Impacts of Neighbourhood Planning in England - a report by Reading University - 2020

BelperStuff has been re-activated because of the odd comments that are being posted on Belper social media that are trying to trash the Neighbourhood Plan for Belper (NP4B) which is subject to a referendum being held on May 6th 2021. Sadly this report has only just come to the attention of this blog but I post here, at the eleventh hour in an attempt to dispel opinions that are, in effect, just that .. opinions. What follows is evidence that has been gained by an extensive desk study analysis of 141 plans as well as a cohort assessment of 865 completed neighbourhood plans; 143 questionnaires targeted at active neighbourhoods and Local Planning Authorities. Nine case study areas across England involving 20 neighbourhood plans were studied and three targeted discussions with developers, non-completing groups and active neighbourhood planning consultants

This is a report commissioned by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government which has been undertaken by the University of Reading. The link to the document is below:

To best describe the scope of the task set the University here is an extract from the report:

1.2 Research Brief 

The research was set out by MHCLG to cover a series of core Research Objectives (ROs). These concerned: 

  • Development Impacts and Housing Supply 
  • Other Development Impacts (including Quality of Development) 
  • Decision-Making and Investment 
  • Community Attitudes and Engagement 
  • Influence of Geography 
  • Success Factors and Common Barriers
The key findings are to be found in the Executive Summary which is extracted below:

The key findings are set out in precis and organised here by the six Research Objectives: 

1. Development Impacts and Housing Supply Neighbourhood planning’s contribution to housing supply can be significant. Neighbourhood plans which are allocating housing sites are providing sites for an average additional to local plan allocation 39 units per neighbourhood plan. The study found 18,000 units above LP allocations in 135 plans. However communities seeking to make housing allocations did encounter added burdens, both technical and political compared to creating a non-allocating NP. Scaling-up production of NPs could make a significant contribution to housing supply – particularly if cooperation between neighbourhoods and LPAs are strengthened further. There was no evidence found that NPs displace development from other parts of the local authority area. 

2. Other Development Impacts (including Quality of Development) Neighbourhood plans have helped improve design policy and refined local priorities e.g. housing for specific societal groups. There is further potential within the neighbourhood planning process to reflect both community needs and tie with more strategic concerns coming from above. Closer partnership working between communities and planning professionals (i.e. local government planners and planning consultants) can help address this. Better recognition and more targeted support for the effective integration of placemaking matters that go beyond pure land use planning policy would also benefit neighbourhoods and other interested parties (e.g. local government, third sector, funders). 

3. Decision-Making and Investment Neighbourhood plans have improved local engagement with local planning authorities, and are important vehicles for place-making beyond land use planning. Other initiatives have included the establishment of Community Interest Companies and Community Land Trusts. Impacts of Neighbourhood Planning Page 4 of 44 This highlights that communities lack a formal arena for place-making projects unrelated to planning policy, and may help explain why a large number of communities have not completed land use plans (NDPs). In terms of how the Plans are used in practice, the evidence from LPAs and appeals indicates NPs do have an influential role in decisions, reflecting their legal status, and as a minimum they provide nuance to decisions. Over half of LPA respondents see NDPs as having a ‘moderate’ or ‘high’ degree of influence on decision-making. Moreover, responses suggest the vast majority of decisions that go to appeal go in favour of the relevant NDP. However, their impact will vary according to the circumstances and Plan policies. We found no evidence that NPs were ignored but some communities felt Plans were not always recognised as clearly as they would wish. This indicates that LPAs could better communicate how neighbourhood plans have been taken into account and highlights the value of clear and specific policies that have been road-tested by development management officers. MHCLG could share best practice to support LPAs in their role in developing and implementing NDP policies. 

4. Community Attitudes and Engagement Community attitudes to development may become more positive as a result of the NP experience, and the acceptability of development is supported by a large proportion of Plans with policies on design and affordable housing. Some neighbourhoods reported better relations with LPAs and a more positive attitude to development, but in other cases poor relations with some LPAs and lack of an up-to-date Local Plan also presented a barrier. There was no clear evidence that there is faster delivery of sites, though where sites are chosen in the NDP they are clearly more accepted by the community, which can reduce delays associated with legal challenges or other forms of opposition. Often allocation of sites is a motivator as it allows greater protection of other locally important spaces. It is therefore important to maintain protection for neighbourhood plans from speculative development. 

5. Influence of Geography While there has been strong take-up of neighbourhood planning since 2011, there are many neighbourhoods who have not used this community right. The total number of communities who have started or completed neighbourhood planning went beyond 2,600 in Autumn 2019, but the take-up rates have slowed considerably. The main reasons for this are associated to known time, processual and technical burdens, relationship with local plan progress, and levels of enthusiasm in some local planning authorities. This indicates that for some neighbourhoods an uptodate Local Plan lessens their concern to finalise a NDP. There is a noticeably low take-up in urban areas, and in northern regions. It is notable that all LPAs with no activity are urban. There are a range of reasons for this disparity and if government wish to continue to support the initiative there will need to be affirmative action taken to sustain and expand neighbourhood planning activity. Government are missing an opportunity to realise benefits in urban and deprived areas and assist in their levelling-up agenda. As such Government should consider either increasing support to reflect additional Impacts of Neighbourhood Planning Page 5 of 44 challenges faced by these communities, or ensure community engagement/involvement, in other less burdensome ways. 

6. Success Factors and Common Barriers While NP is a manageable process for most parished communities and a NDP is an achievable goal, support from consultants and positive relationships with LPA are important to helping with progress. MHCLG could do more to identify and share best practice for LPAs, particularly around site identification. The process remains burdensome for community volunteers with the time taken to reach completion around three years (and for many it can take longer). NDPs take longer when Local Plans are in progress, particularly where a new Local Plan is initiated after NDP work has started. This can add a further 6-10 months to NDP production on average. Better alignment with LPAs and Local Plans may assist here. Local Planning Authority (LPA) support overall is varied, with examples of strong support but also ambivalence in other areas. A common criticism was duplication of policies and MHCLG could find ways of better aligning / integrating Local Plans and NP processes – through clearer ongoing communications between LPAs and neighbourhood planning groups.

The full report gives a much better understanding of the important part that Neighbourhood Plans can play in reflecting the wishes of the local community and translating them into an effective planning document.