From Jason Elliott
Would it be possible for someone to enlighten me about the current situation with Central Street please?
What seems to be fairly clear is that it is an important thoroughfare between the town centre and the canal. It is also beyond reasonable dispute that there are some important buildings on it, not least Central Street School.
I don't think anyone would disagree that it is also in an absolutely shocking state of repair, not just in terms of the road surface but also in the way all kinds of litter, from condoms to crisp packets, patrol the area like tumbleweed in a spaghetti western. While this is always regrettable, it is particularly lamentable in this case, given that very young children, just starting out on life's journey, see this as an example of the way we care for our environment.
I am also let to believe that, even though Calderdale Council own half of it, it is technically "unadopted" and therefore ineligible for repairs from the CMBC coffers.
Assuming that the above information is correct, I wonder if anyone could answer the following questions?
If Calderdale MBC do not own 100% of a street, are they legally absolved from making sure it remains in a fit state?
What do the property owners have to say about the situation?
Assuming that CMBC can use legal loopholes to escape any obligation, is there not a case for Hebden Bridge collectively, whether that be solely through our representatives at Hebden Royd Town Council, or jointly with other groups (eg. the Business Association, the regeneration agencies, the property owners, the education authority etc) to take some responsibility for the current appalling situation?
Given the presence of the school, what do the council's educationalists and child specialists have to say?
From Graham Barker
This page dated 14 December 2007 may still sum up the state of play, unless anyone has any later information. Basically, it's a recognised problem and something positive is planned, but exactly what and when... who knows? I have dim memories of a consultation questionnaire we were invited to fill in a couple of years ago.
From Cllr Janet Battye
The current situation, so far as I know it, is that Calderdale Council's Cabinet have turned down the request for the Council to repair the street and then adopt it. This is really very disappointing as a lot of hard work has gone into this by a combination of Hebden Royd Town Council and ourselves as Calderdale ward Councillors with the support of Calderdale's Regeneration Scrutiny Panel and Highways Officers.
The streets behind Market St are privately owned by the "frontagers" - the people who own the building fronting (or backing!) on to the streets - including Calderdale Council for Central St school. The plan was to raise the money from them with large contributions from Hebden Royd and Calderdale Councils (who had pledged £60,000 between them from various sources against a total cost of £100,000). Despite numerous attempts we had a very poor response from the "absentee" landlords (although local owners had been broadly supportive). It depended upon Calderdale acting as banker (ie putting up the money through a legal arrangement to get it back when the property was sold) as the backstop and taking the necessary legal steps (issuing notices etc) to do the work and adopt the street.
The Cabinet's rationale is apparently that they don't want to set a precedent because there are many unadopted streets around Calderdale and they don't want to incur bills for hard-pressed landlords. Hmmm! So the puddles are still there (for the timebeing).
I have managed to get a pledge to continue with the financial commitments until the summer so we have another chance to have a rethink and the Working Group has been reconvened - the next steps are being reported to Hebden Royd Town Council this week.
We need local people's continued support and petitioning to keep up the effort! This is something that we've got to get sorted!!
From Christine Bampton-Smith
I would like to reply to Jason Elliott's letter in the HBT about Central Street.
From Jason Elliott
Thank you Graham, Janet and Christine for your contributions.
I appreciate that Janet and Christine, together with Hebden Royd Town Council and others, are obviously trying hard to do something about this, but when Janet says "The Cabinet's rationale is apparently that they don't want to set a precedent because there are many unadopted streets around Calderdale..." I wonder, are all the other unadopted streets half owned by the Council? Do these other streets have financial support pledged to them from their Parish Councils too?
Maybe someone from the Calderdale Cabinet would be kind enough to give us a direct response to these questions here?
I cannot help but note that the two local councillors who have responded to this question I posted a week ago have both been from the Liberal Democrats. Would it be that someone from the Labour party has a view on the subject that they would consider sharing with us?
On the subject of politicians of differing hues, surely an issue such as this would make a perfect vote-winning cause celebre for the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate, Craig Whittaker, who currently sits on the Calderdale MBC cabinet as Children & Young People's portfolio holder. One would have thought that, given how his portfolio neatly dovetails with the presence of the school in the street, coupled with the traditional paucity of Tory votes in Hebden Bridge, he would seize this opportunity to show himself a "man of deeds, rather than words" and set about persuading his cabinet colleagues of the particular merits of this case.
Come on Craig! It's a perfect opportunity! If you want our votes, represent us...
I have just come across the following comment from Craig Whittaker and thought it would illustrate my last point in my previous post perfectly: "that I still believe that the majority of us get involved in politics believing that we can make a difference, despite all of the bureaocracy and red tape - no matter which party you stand for.
I suppose the difference is whether when you are elected you can be pesuasive enough to make a difference - That's when you are judged by the electorate at the ballot box!"
You said it Craig.
All you need to do is persuade your cabinet colleagues that Central Street, for all of the reasons previously mentioned, is not just another unadopted Calderdale Street and has particular and unusual merit.
I would imagine that they would all support your bid to take the parliamentary seat back from Labour when Chris McCafferty steps down so surely they would listen favourably to any entreaties, particularly made on behalf of the little ones at Central Street School?
From Cllr. Craig Whittaker
Yet again it is amusing to see my Council Colleagues in the Upper Valley putting their own political slant on what has happened over the decision with Central Street.
First of all this was a Cabinet Decision based on the information put before us – not a Council decision as has been suggested. Colleagues did however discuss this at full Council on the back of the Cabinet minute.
This as most people realise is a private road, not half owned by the Council as Jason suggests – the School has a frontage and has an equal share in the road as do the other home & property owners. The school though is run by the Governors and any funds needed towards any improvements come from school funds – school funds come from the dedicated schools grant from Central government and not Council funds.
The information that came before us said that the approximate costs to upgrade Central Street was £100,000 – no proper costs, just estimates.
The amount pledged from Hebden Royd, & third parties was £40,000 (not £60,000 as reported – see Cabinet Minute 71, 27th October 2008 – available on the Calderdale web site), which left a shortfall of £60,000.
The consultation only returned replied from about 30% of property owners, some were against putting money in, few were for. Incidentally the School were for putting their share of the money up.
The option that we were asked to consider was for the Council to fund the refurbishment to the private road, then place a Charge on each of the properties to eventually get tax payers money back. Bearing in mind that these were not properly costed proposals before us, the estimate charge on each property (I think if my memory serves me correctly, adding in the legal costs of doing so) was around £14,000 for each property – please don’t quote me on that cost, but I can assure you they were substantial.
As a Cabinet we refused (I also voted to refuse) on several grounds. In a nut shell they were;
The challenge placed down for officers and indeed those Councillors of Hebden Royd was & is, to go away and come up with the money via grants and third parties, as they had already started to do
I hope this clears up exactly what was put before us to consider and also gives an insight into why we rejected the proposals
Cllr. Craig Whittaker
Cabinet Member for CYP Calderdale
From Justin Pringle
I have redeveloped 4 buildings on Market Street in the last 8 years, and live on the street. How much air must be exhailed and paper wasted on such a simple matter. Get the street agreed in principal and use you council tax to pay for the darn thing, with a sellers' tax applicable.
One letter from a solicitor to each and all, and jobsagoodun.
The council wasted a hod of cash doing a consultation that was revisited 3 times, gaining alleged local sway and input. The final consultation document was to say at best, a plan of costs... ramps, gates etc... thats the costs we are working to here.
Can I put a blip of realism into the aqenda... In the first phase, just to tarmac the road, would not cost a lot, and could be a quick and easy fix.
I regularly infill holes with lime chipping which works in the short term, to save the sump of my car's engine. I know that I and my neighbours, agreed to pay our bit, as long as it was appropriate.
There was however no door knocking, calling or proactive moves here. It was just a reactive responsive letter entity... Was someone wanting this to fail from the outset?
Numbers 11-13-15-17-19-21-23 Market Street, and also the old education building are the problems here, owned by distant landlords but easily sourced, (just call me for a number its dead easy...)... didn't respond and that's the hold up... just call them, or have a meeting to decide who will call them......
The education centre is looking for planning permission... get them over a barrel before letting it through
Jees, thats your sixty grand... How many bureaucrats does it take to tarmac a road?
Give me £200 an hour consultancy rate, and I'll get it sorted in an hour for you....
From Jason Elliott
I am quite happy to be corrected by Cllr Whittaker about the proportion of the street that CMBC owns, although it is interesting to note that the actually amount isn't stated, just that it isn't half.
Maybe I should have said that I'm led to believe that the Council owns the largest part of the street? Ho hum. It seems to me that the point remains the same.
What doesn't seem to remain the same in the light of Justin Pringle's observations however, are the reasons for the current inertia.
Having known Justin for a number of years, I can feel certain that when he says "Numbers 11-13-15-17-19-21-23 Market Street, and also the old education building are the problems here, owned by distant landlords but easily sourced, (just call me for a number its dead easy...)" it isn't just hot air; he is actually able to pass on the missing contact information.
If he, as a private citizen, is able to access these numbers, then I am at a complete loss to reason why no-one, from any of the Councils, has actually been a little more proactive about getting them.
Speaking as a council tax payer, it strikes me that paying Justin a few hundred pounds to approach this conundrum with an approach sharpened by years of business (rather than bureaucratic wrangling) and give it a bit of project management, easily represents best value for those of us who will end up footing the Council's part of the bill.
He's thrown down the gauntlet and made the offer. Who from the Council dares pick it up?
From Cllr Tim Swift
I've just read Cllr Whitaker's explanation of the Cabinet decision regarding Central Street, and I have to say that I don't think it tells the whole story.
Firstly, I know from my time living in Hebden Royd just how significant the impact of Central Street is on the Market Street area so, whilst the issue of a precedent is important, there are certainly special factors affecting this road.
Secondly, it's not at all clear to me that the Cabinet decision has left any encouragement open for the Town Council or anyone else to bring forward further proposals.
The critical point is this. Unless the full cost can be found from grants and 'other sources' - which is unlikely - then some contribution will be required from frontagers.
Even if they all agree, this will in turn need Calderdale Council to use its legal powers to make up the road and apportion the cost - and as it's unlikely that every frontager will agree, this will be essential as without these legal powers the road cannot be improved.
However, the Council currently has no policy of using these powers in any circumstances.
Furthermore, as I understand it, the reason for not producing more detailed proposals was that there was felt to be no point in incurring the costs of this until there was some commitment to go ahead - which the Cabinet has clearly refused.
Calderdale is heading for a serious problem as a result of unadopted roads. In some cases - like Central Street - they are damaging town centres or causing a safety hazard. In many others, they are dragging down the condition of housing to a state where private improvements are no longer a realistic possibility. Yet every time they are discussed, the spectre of 1600 unadopted roads and the dangers of setting a precedent prevent any useful progress being made.
(And a number of us councillors are prevented from working fully on this issue because we live on unadopted roads ourselves).
So two challenges for Cllr Whittaker.
1. Can he specifically indicate what action the Cabinet will be willing to support that would facilitate progress on Central Street? and
2. Does he have any conception of the extent of the problem being created by unadopted streets in Calderdale, and what does he intend to do about it?
From Graham Barker
Here’s a thought. Tim Swift reckons there are 1600 unadopted roads in Calderdale in serious need of improvement, and we all know that the construction industry is in dire need of work. Put the two together and Calderdale MBC could launch a make-work scheme to get at least some of these roads upgraded at far lower cost than would have been the case during the building boom.
It won’t happen, of course. It needs a can-do, think smarter, join-the-dots attitude that always seems to be absent from Calderdale council.
And like others, I’m sceptical that it should cost anywhere near £100,000 to resurface Central Street. Could it be that council officers don’t want the trouble of such projects and so come up with big figures to frighten everyone off? Do councillors ever get, or ask for, a breakdown of these estimates so that their credibility can be assessed? And if they do, can we be given the information too please?
From Jason Elliott
Are we to conclude from the absence of comment that Calderdale, and Cllr Whittaker in particular, are not interested in responding to the points made in the previous four posts? Personally, I doubt it.
Some might think once a statement is given, it takes the form of a non-negotiable dictat. Not me.
Others might even think that Councillor Whittaker doesn't read the forum threads he participates in and ignores the opportunity involve himself in local debate. Not me.
Others still, might think that he realises the truth in the points raised after his comments and has run for cover, afraid of exposing the scarcity of practical thought within the CMBC cabinet, although I wouldn't agree on this point either.
I believe the most likely reason that he hasn't commented on the points raised is that he is carefully considering all of the suggestions and working on a way of incorporating them into a new, revised, action plan for Central Street, about to be released soon.
So come on all you sceptics, give the guy a break...
(And Craig, back me up on this please.)
From Jason Elliott
Hmmm... Maybe I should stop banging on about this now? After all, whilst I do live in Hebden Bridge, I don't actually live in Central Street, so really, it doesn't affect me, does it? It's been a problem for years anyway, so what can I do?
Actually, I think it is my problem, and if you live in Hebden Bridge it's also your problem.
This is the nature of community, or at least, cohesive communities like ours that are capable working together.
Anyway, for anyone, particularly Calderdale Cabinet members, that haven't been down Central Street lately, this is what it looked like this morning.
Take a look and let me know if you think this is something for us to be proud of...
From Cllr. John Beacroft-Mitchell
With a view to "getting the job done" Hebden Royd Town Council has reaffirmed its commitment to the Central Steet project by increasing 2009/10 Central Street budget to £30K.
Central Street is an important part of the infrastructure of Hebden Bridge, being a main thoroughfare for Salem Mill, the school, the canal, and for domestic and commercial properties.
The appalling state of the road is not only dangerous for both pedestrians and vehicles alike but is commercially damaging to Hebden Bridge.
Cllr. Whittaker says: "In the current economic climate, (I believe and this was voiced at the Cabinet meeting), that it is morally wrong for a Council to be placing extra burden’s on property owners by placing charges over their freeholds..."
By improving the public realm of Central Street property owners will see an increase in the value of their properties which would more than offset any charge to be paid. Note: The charge would only be payable when the property is sold, not at the time of the regeneration of Central Street.
The ball is very much in Calderdale's court to match this commitment in money, expertise and good will.
From Dave Dempsey
Calderdale Cabinet Committee gave the absence of support from landlords as a reason for refusing to regenerate the area. Despite many approaches and verbal assurances, even after renewed encouragement, only one land owner has pledged support which means that whatever anyone else thinks, the funding promised will disappear and the area will continue to decline.
From Jason Elliott
I would just like to applaud the decision by the Calderdale Cabinet to look again at the Central Street case.
It's great to see that the popular will has been listented to and appreciated by Calderdale's elected representatives.
Hats off to the Hebden Royd councillors (in particular Cllr Dixon) who, together with Ward Cllrs Battye and Fekri, have maintainted the pressure to restore this integral part of the town to a reasonable standard.
Now all we need is for the Cabinet to approve the funding and maybe the Handmade Parade will get to use it next year. (See the Facebook group.)
From Councillor Robin Dixon
We're finally very close to resolving the Central Street issue but we need your help. After many years of consultation, planning and hard work by HRTC councillors and officers, some Calderdale councillors and officers, the Central Street saga reaches an important milestone on June 22nd when the Tory Cabinet meets to decide the fate of the present bid for a safe environment for the children, workers, property-owners and users of Central Street.
HRTC councillors and officers were asked to get 50% of property-owners on board, and we have in fact secured 100% support from them.
If you feel strongly enough about this issue, please make an effort to come to the cabinet meeting on June 22nd at 4pm in Halifax Town Hall. Your local Calderdale councillors as well as HRTC will be there. Please come and support us.
If you are unable to attend but want your voice heard, please email me your comments, along with your with your experience of Centrl Street, ie parent of schoolchildren, wheelchair user, resident, etc. We can use this information in support of our campaign on the day.
From Cllr Catherine Groves
Contrary to the general tenor of the Hebweb News article, HBTC have far from given up on the redevelopment of Central Street. We have worked too hard and too long to give up without a fight. The Tory Cabinet may well be minded to vote against the scheme on Monday, which is why we need as much support as possible at the meeting -remember what happened about Garden Street?!
(The news article was based upon a press release from Hebden Royd Town Council - ed)
From Michelle Billingsley
It doesn't sound like HBTC (or is ir HRTC, I'm never sure which) have done anything other than second-guess CMBC Cllr. Groves.
Emotive words like "crush" and "scrapped" in the HRTC press release as published by Hebweb do nothing other than suggest a very adversarial relationship between HRTC and CMBC, or worse that HRTC are seeking to create controversy where there is none, for the sake of their own publicity in this matter.
I still fail to understand why the landowners who have let Central Street fall into disrepair, should be bailed out using taxpayers money. It all seems very reminiscent of another recent bailout situation in this country.
From Cllr Catherine Groves
I'm sorry Michelle if you think that. I would refer you to HRTC (apologies for my typo before - that doesn't invalidate my argument - to err is human) working party minutes and full council minutes as well. Certain of our councillors and workers have been working tirelessly on our account and we're so close to resolving it
If we lose now it will be because the Tory Cabinet, with no representation foom Hebden Bridge as far as I can see, wants to save money. The money is there. We have raised what we were required to plus the agreement from the householders.
Having thought about it. I'm not quite sure what political point you're trying to make. HRTC ( I got it right this time!) is a Liberal-controlled council but we mostly work on consential politics, as is only right at this level.
The Labour Group have pushed through the Central Street issue, it's true, but we have been supported by Liberal Calderdale counciilors. We're not trying to gain any points as a council, only to sort Central Street. At this point that's the important thing.
From Paul D
I think we should keep it just as it is. Then our children will learn at a very early age that, being local to Hebden Bridge requires the acceptance of a simple truth: you don't matter that much. If they're in any doubt, they can compare their decaying route to and from school with the squillions of quid thrown at bridge gate and the square to make it a better place for the consumption of fatty snacks.
Any lingering doubts that this isn't really a town for them will be dispelled by comparing Mayroyd Lane (aka the mud bath) with the new pay and display car park on Station Road. One prevents commuters and tourists from getting their feet too wet, the other ensures that the kids from Fairfield do just that as they use the lane as a route to school.
A good project (if they're at Riverside) could be entitled 'car park or school playground - did your parents decide or were they just dumped on again?' - they could discuss what life before 'the fence' was like with any adults still able to afford to live here.
Then, as they grow up, they'll see people they mostly didn't grow up with taking lots of time to not change very much, certainly they can listen to them discussing things that mostly don't matter to them, but must be taught to opt out of voting as this is a prerequisite of local maturation. This also provides immunity from any hope (instilled in schools mostly) that democracy actually works and ensures that, as cynical local adults, they'll be more accepting of low paid work servicing the needs of tourists, seasonally of course, but out of season there're always magic mushrooms and/or fell running to fall back on (not both at once though).
So keep Central Street as it is, it teaches our children a very important lesson: they don't matter.
From Michelle Billingsley
Cllr. Groves, the HRTC website claims that "Regeneration of Central Street Scrapped" in the title of it's only news article.
For a town council, having only published one piece of news is probably embarrassing enough, but to make false claims is really quite something. Making a prediction is one thing, seeing into the future is surely quite another?
From Cllr Catherine Groves
The point of my post was to ask people to support us at the meeting on Monday. We are so close to getting this through but we need local people to support us. The Labour Group has been working hard on this for years. We are a minority group on HRTC so obviously don't speak for the coucil nor does it speak for us. I'm proud of how far we've got this issue and I'm pleased with the support the Labour Group has received from certain Liberal councillors, as I said before.
From Cllr Catherine Groves
A big thank you for all the support we received from councillors and members of the public at yesterday's meeting.It worked! I suppose this proves that 'people power' still has its place. Even Craig Whittaker had to back - track! In our manifesto, the Labour Gropup promised to finally get to grips with Central Street and it's gret to be able to fulfill our promises. Partcular thanks to Cllr Dixon and project officer Jude for never giving up, and Nader Fekri and Janet Battye for help with Calderdale Council.
From Cllr Janet Battye
Yes, I hope that (yet again) we really are nearly there this time ! Nader did well to keep negotiating with the Cabinet at the recent meeting so we've got some more work to do before it goes back to Cabinet again in September. We're talking with Calderdale Officers to get more help from them, and going back to the owners of the properties on Central St., Hilton St, Pitt St etc.
But this is important to all the users of those streets - the children and their parents of Central St and Riverside, the people who live along or off those streets, and the general public walking through to the canal and ATC. Residents and visitors to Hebden Bridge !
Hebweb News: The Central Street Saga continues (June 09)
Hebweb News: The Central Street Saga (Jan 09)