Report to Saughall and Shotwick Park Parish Council
01 November 2021
Cllr Simon Eardley
As reported last month, a meeting facilitated by the Member of Parliament on the ongoing school transport challenges in the village took place on 20 October 2021 via Teams. I reported via my Facebook page as follows after the meeting. We await updates in due course.
An online meeting took place last night, convened by Chester’s MP, which brought together a number of interested parties to discuss the vexed question of school transport for high school pupils living in Saughall. The conversation also extended to include Mollington too. Many parents were present, together with representatives from Stagecoach, members of the ruling Cabinet administration at the Council, the key high schools (Upton and Bishops) and also Council officials. Useful factual information was shared but what was most important in my mind was the need to agree some positive next steps to try and resolve the issues being faced. I do not share the view expressed that the Council does not have money available to try and resolve these challenges but that is a party political point and I am keen to avoid doing that! Before commenting further, I would put on record again my huge thanks to the parents (and their children) who have been resilient and tenacious in their campaigning on this – I am very conscious of how exhausting it has been for many and deeply frustrating.
This ‘way forward’ was agreed:
- Cabinet members (those with executive decision making power) will look to formulate an ‘affordable supported service’ solution
- A proposal for this will hopefully emerge ‘this term’ (my comment - I expect this timetable to be kept to and pressed for it to be the case several times in the meeting)
- They will look at ‘other’ pots of funding, such as the ‘Climate Emergency Fund’ for this, acknowledging the detrimental environmental impact of the current situation
- They will pursue a kind offer from the schools present to assist with the administration of any such scheme
- An update will be provided within the next two weeks (most likely via the MPs office).
For those who might be interested, I was able to offer some early remarks and have repeated them below. This issue is far from over and I will continue to do all I can to assist in bringing about a final resolution to this major problem for so many in the Saughall and Mollington Ward.
“Chris, thanks for convening this meeting which is very timely and I think it is fair to say that parents (and students) will be grateful that it is taking place.
Can I also thank those colleagues from various organisations who have joined the meeting to give their perspective and input and for the way many of them have responded extensively on email in recent months.
And especially I’d thank the parents and their children, of course, for their patience around what is a very challenging situation and one which causes considerable anxiety and has done for a number of years now.
Others will document the problems that are faced, perhaps in more specific detail based on their own experiences, but in a nutshell:
- Saughall parents have a long-standing practice of largely looking to send their children to either Upton or Bishops in Chester – the area is long standing as a feeder for these schools
- Decisions have in the past been made on the grounds of ease of transport to these schools although parents do understand that there is ultimately a responsibility on them to ensure their children get there – issues arise when the Council changes the goal posts – which is what it has done
- The demise of the direct bus service to local high schools has caused real challenges for transport to them ever since
- This issue became acute before Covid-19 but action was taken to introduce some additional bus capacity which eased pressures and worked well
- Additional Covid-19 funding also helped with the provision of direct services – again, this worked very well – since it ended, the challenges from previous times have resurfaced again
- The journey now isn’t straightforward – multiple buses / changes at the central interchange / the need to walk / missing connections – it’s all well-known and extensively documented
- There’s been an unfortunate lack of knowledge on the part of drivers at times, poor advice given, unpleasantness from other people ‘competing for space’, students refused access to buses – sometimes it seems like drivers have been making things up as they go along rather than following guidance given from operators
- There appears to be a disconnect in Council policy documents around school admissions and transport – the text is ambiguous and unclear (for example, Saughall is not cited as a having feeder status to Blacon) – officers dealing with these matters have said as such
- On the subject of Blacon, I would comment there is no reluctance to send children there from Saughall – but it has been nigh on impossible to secure places in recent years
- I should also say there’s no expectation here that parents want a free service – that has never been asked for – people are willing to pay for a service but it should be proportionate and sensible
- There’s concern also about the long-term viability of the primary school in Saughall – access to good local high schools and ease of transport to them is a major factor in choosing to live in the village (and other villages) – the longer this is a problem, the more likely it is that there will be a knock on effect on primary school places and provision
- Communications have been poor from several angles – whatever the outcome tonight, this needs to change – this is a real problem
I’d also say there are major problems in Mollington village too (although I’m not sure who might be on the call from there). Public transport provision there is even worse and it is even more rural. This is a live issue for parents and students now on several levels. Those who are affected by the current situation and those who are actively making decisions about where their children might wish to attend in the next academic year. Transport looms large as a consideration for them. If they ask for advice, what should we say? That’s a key question here I’d say to address tonight.
Might I respectfully say from the outset – because what we will need is a way forward rather than a list of reasons why things aren’t possible, that from a Council perspective, we don’t really need to hear:
- That the Council has no money for X,Y,Z
- That the Council can’t really influence or affect matters because of the governance status of a school
- That the Council has met all its statutory obligations (some might dispute that) – there’s a much bigger picture here, not least around our responsibilities to treat parents with respect and to provide a proper customer service experience for those who have asked questions and indeed the welfare of those who are most affected, i.e. the students.
That said, it is essential that we are all aware of the key issues and when it comes to that later in the agenda, I know a number of parents will wish to elaborate in simple but clear terms what those issues are. It is in the context of those that we can hopefully move forward. My summary above is pretty rudimentary.
Finally, we are about ten days away from the clocks changing. For me this brings home quite clearly the acute challenge that is faced – dark nights and dark mornings. My overarching concern here is safety – the safety of students getting to school in a timely and safe way, addressing the very real anxiety that parents also face about whether their children are safe. It’s a big issue.
So, I look forward to these discussions but most importantly for a practical and realistic way forward. It is progress that we need to see which is crucial tonight. Thank you.”
Update re. tarmac destruction – pathway to Smithy Close
I’ve previously reported on repairs that have been undertaken to tarmac that has been uprooted by tree roots on the footway between Church Road and Smithy Close. A repair was undertaken but the situation has deteriorated again. Officers now advise as below. This is logged as a job to be done but there is currently no firm timeframe on when it might be so.
“Having sought further advice from our tree officers about the tree type, they have particularly invasive roots that will seek out water sources, as tarmac is a flexible material sucker roots will come up through the surface. Other tree types have much slower growing roots and present less of an issue where a patch is adequate to remove the problem. The tree officer advises that these roots can be severed without badly affecting the plant, and a root barrier could be installed to prevent further root growths into the footway from the plant within the private property. This can be more of a problem with privately owned trees/plants where, due to the type, removing the roots can damage the health of the tree/plant in these cases this is a difficult situation that residents can put us in with their choice of plants/trees, and whilst it may seem an easy problem to solve this isn’t always the case. We will arrange for a root barrier to be installed to prevent any further issues.”
Possible average speed camera trial
I have relayed my support in writing to the Police and Crime Commissioner around the possibility of Saughall being included in his trial of average speed cameras in various parts of Cheshire and have also discussed this with him verbally (as well as with his deputy). I was unable to attend the meeting arrange by Cllr Kerr with the ChAlc representative on 26 October but arranged for relevant data from CWaC to be supplied to help inform the discussions. I look forward to learning further how this meeting went. A copy of my note to Commissioner Dwyer is below for reference.
It is good to see details of the potential pilot scheme that you are championing in collaboration with local councils and other interested partners. This matter was considered at a meeting of Saughall and Shotwick Park Parish Council on Monday 4th October and they are very keen to be part of this work. You may recall from our previous visits to Saughall village that Hermitage Road in particular is a cause of major concern for residents around speeding. It is a long stretch of road (admittedly with ‘bends’) that basically runs the whole length of the village from Blacon to the Vernon Institute and by its nature attracts irresponsible driving. The parish council, which I have been pleased to support from my Member Budget, have shown their willingness to seek to address these challenges by the introduction of VAS in strategic locations. These are newly implemented but there is a widespread view that they won’t be sufficient to deal with the challenge overall.
I understand the parish council are willing to engage around the financial commitments that a project like this would bring and I have also indicated a willingness to contribute from my Member Budget. I would strongly suggest that this route is an ideal location to be part of the pilot scheme and would appreciate it if due consideration could be given to that being so. If it isn’t possible in the initial trial, then hopefully in a future one.
Many thanks for the opportunity that this offers to make communities like the one I represent safer; a key issue for rural areas.
Bonfire Night fireworks event at the Greyhound Pub
There has been quite a considerable amount of correspondence in in recent weeks around the planned event both with the CWaC events team and indeed the local Police. This has not been with the intention of preventing the event from taking place but rather to ensure adequate organisational provision has been arranged to avoid inconvenience to others (particularly around parking matters) and also raise awareness in the context of the motion I proposed to Council in January 2020 concerning such events and the use of fireworks in particular. I understand that the following additional parking provision has been agreed with the relevant organisations: The Vernon Institute, the Methodist Church and the doctors surgery. This clarification was provided in response to correspondence from CWaC which stated: “The organiser has confirmed that the event will be limited to 300 people on site and is a ticketed event. They have secured parking at a number of locations and are in conversation regarding the use of no waiting cones on the road at the venue.”
I received the following email from PC Hannah Forest of Chester Police on 25/10/21 which is repeated below in full for your reference:
“We are very much aware of the event taking place. Tony Icke (PCSO) and I (PC) have attended at the Greyhound Pub in Saughall and spoken with Nicky Edmunds, the owner.
She has taken steps identified to her in relation to people’s concerns regarding the event. Nicky assures us there are measures in place to address issues which may possibly arise from the fireworks event.
She has obtained the event licence, employed marshals to direct traffic, spoken to local venues and got permission to use their parking facilities, advised locals to walk to the event wherever possible, and is hiring cones to ensure traffic management is in place.
I have also agreed to lend her our police cones for the event to ensure there are enough cones available.
Nicky is liaising with Ian Tordoff from Cheshire West and Chester with regards to the temporary traffic regulation order which needs to be applied for in order to use traffic management cones.
Nicky is also in contact with Adrian who owns the local horse stables and assures me she will inform him of the event. This is to address a Council motion which was agreed in 2020;
- to require all public firework displays within the local authority boundaries to be advertised in advance of the event, allowing residents to take precautions for their animals and vulnerable people
Nicky has only advertised the event on her social media site for the pub, and by way of posters inside the pub. She is expecting this to be a local event with very few people travelling from outside the community to attend.
She has bought a ‘clicker’ to ensure only 300 people are allowed entry to the event. (She is actually licensed to allow 400 people to attend-inclusive of her own staff).
I have informed Nicky that myself and Beth George will be giving the event passing attention on the night, not to police the event, but to support the community. She was very welcoming of us attending for this purpose.”
Flooding visit – longstanding concerns at ‘The Peg’, Hermitage Road – site visit here and other locations
As previously mentioned, a site meeting here has now taken place. I include below a ‘read-out’ from it for reference from the officer concerned. This has taken a long time to arrange but I am pleased that it has now happened. It remains to be seen what additional progress might be possible.
“We had a productive meeting with [the residents] and their neighbour from no.[ Y] and were shown around the area. While we were on site I removed a quantity of debris from the open ditch across the road from the [--] and we also lifted some covers in the vicinity. The system under the road looked a little silted up so we will make arrangements for those pipes to be cleared. There appeared to be flow in the ditch running alongside the access track to the [--]and the pipe through their land was also flowing. We opened the intermediate chamber that had been installed just inside their walled garden. It would appear that the [--] have done as much as they can to try to get the water through their land without installing larger pipes. At this stage I am not sure that we could accommodate the [--] request to install a further pipe under the road and discharge this to a third parties land. As I discussed with Mrs [--] we are considering the wider Saughall area under the Section 19 reports due to the roads being inaccessible in and out of the village. Flooding to gardens, garages, conservatories and outbuildings does not trigger a Section 19 investigation regardless of the flood water depth.
We also visited the location where the internally flooded properties were, around the Lodge Lane area with a colleagues from Betts who is also a resident of Saughall himself. He knows the area well and was going to send over a plan showing those areas generally affected by flooding where we could possibly undertake some work to keep the village open during storm events. It appears that the issues in Saughall are longstanding and well known with the Storm Christoph event overwhelming the various systems.
A colleague from Atkins was also with us and they will be producing the Section 19 report that will eventually be in the public domain.”
Pear Tree Farm Development Update
A number of points have been raised with me around the ‘discharge of planning conditions’ at the ‘Pear Tree Farm’ development in recent days, not least because a number of people have now moved into the new properties. These points focus around drainage, highways issues (kerb alignment) and the location of a telegraph pole. Please see below for the response I have received on these concerns from the allocated planning officer. I will continue to keep colleagues informed as this progresses.
“I regret to inform you that a number of issues have arose on the Pear Tree Farm site. Whilst some conditions have been informally agreed those that are outstanding are in relation to contaminated land, drainage and highways. Despite contacting the agents and developers several times over the last few months regarding the outstanding information, non was submitted and last week myself, the Highways Team and Welsh Water carried out a unscheduled site visit.
The fact that the houses are occupied with out the discharge of a contaminate land condition is a serious. The developers were advised on site and via e-mail that this was a priority and they were required to submit a timescale as to when our Environmental Protection Officer comments would be addressed within 7 days. Failure to do so would result in the Authority seeking enforcement action. Reports were submitted this week and our officer is reviewing the content.
From the site visit it has also become apparent that the drainage plans have changed and what has been submitted to discharge the drainage conditions is not what has been done on site nor what has been agreed with Welsh Water. The drainage scheme is now proposed to be a separate foul and surface water system. Welsh Water are only responsible for the foul water. The current proposed drainage scheme needs to be submitted to the Authority, Welsh Water and the LLFA need re-consulted, and they have submitted revised plans yesterday.
The Highways Authority cannot enter into a Section 278 agreement until the drainage details/issues with Welsh Water have be resolved, and this is done through their own legal process (Section 104 Agreement). Given this circumstance there will be some delay in the highway conditions being resolved. Please be aware that in order to have the appropriate drainage system in place it is likely to require a road closure and to get this in place could take 3months.
Therefore considering the issue the priority for the developer should be resolving the contaminated land condition, then drainage and finally highways.
With regards to the telegraph pole this was raised during the site visit and we were informed that an application to re-locate the pole is with BT, apparently they have come to site to begin those works but it was never completed. This is outside of the Authority’s control as the ownership/responsibility of the telegraph equipment lies with BT.”
- Woodside House, Church Road. An appeal has been lodged with the Planning Inspector ref. application 21/00612/FUL (proposed rear single storey kitchen extension, sliding glazed doors and rooflights / lantern to rear of property with new entrance lobby and two bay windows to front elevation.) This is an application that I called-in to the Planning Committee and was refused. It will be determined by written representations and there is no opportunity to submit additional comments.
- Brookside Farm Cottage, Parkgate Road. I am advised as follows by CWaC Planning (20/10/21). Colleagues will recall I raised concerns around this application although it wasn’t formally ‘called-in.’
“Following discussions with Paul Parry in our highways team, the applicant has agreed to close the northernmost access (adjacent to the bus stop) and extend the retained access to accommodate two way traffic. Paul is happy with this arrangement subject to conditions including the provision of covered cycle parking.
As the Borough has a more than a 5 year housing land supply and the application would provide a healthcare facility, the loss of one dwelling would not give us a robust reason for refusal.
I’ve asked the applicant to extend the hedge across the full width of the boundary (indicated by the red line below) to improve the visual appearance of the site, and will look to secure this change via condition. I’ve also advised that any further landscaping within the site would be welcomed and contribute towards the business starting on a positive footing within the local community. However, we wouldn’t be able to justify the refusal of the application if further planting is not provided, as the only physical change proposed as part of this application would be the addition of a bike shelter.”
- Hermitage Road. Possible enforcement matter regarding inappropriate use of a garage. I am in touch with CWaC on an issue in this area.
- Land to the rear of ‘Roslyn’, Long Lane. A planning officer has now picked this application up properly and has recently undertaken a site visit. I am expecting to have a meeting in the near future to discuss the specific issues I have already raised as part of the ‘call-in’ for this site.
- Far East Takeaway. This application has been called-in. I met with concerned residents in-person on the matter in mid-October and have further relayed the specific issues they have on this application, around which I have been extensively involved with in recent months.
Distance / Fingerpost markers
Cllr Johnson and I have been in correspondence with various around the state of historic distance / fingerpost markers in the borough, some of which are within the parish and at least one is in a poor state of repair. It may be, if CWaC persist in their view that they do not have any resource to maintain these properly, that on a joint basis with the parish council, we might wish to look at how we can bring about appropriate restoration works. I asked a question at Council on 21 October (a virtual meeting) and published some comment around the matter recently too, as below.
"Will the Cabinet member for Highways confirm whether or not the Council maintains a database of the historic and distinct distance marker posts and directional finger posts (commonly known as '1898 Marker Posts') which are an important feature around the Borough? If yes, can she confirm whether their maintenance and preservation is a feature of ongoing work programmes within her portfolio and will she publish a report on the status of this work?' The answer given was that there is indeed a database but owing to budget pressures there is no ongoing maintenance programme and their condition is not recorded.
As you'll see from these images, the one on the Parkgate Road (A540) near Woodbank is in a poor state. I'd like to see what can be done to restore this important features of our local heritage which might involve working with parish councils to secure their future if resources can be secured, including from my Member Budget. It would be a real shame if they are simply left to rot away."
- Willow Hey flooding issues. Following on from my report last month, I am yet to hear further from the Chester MP regarding progressing this case. This will be pursued over the course of November.
- I am in correspondence with Sanctuary Housing around issues raised by a resident relating to Parkway (parking and housing matters).
- Rakeway resident. Issues at this location which were received from a resident via the parish council have been raised appropriately.
- Cllr Warrington raised a query with me around gully clearance in the parish (Saughall not appearing on the website I directed colleagues to following the last meeting. The following response was received from CWaC Highways. Colleagues are encouraged to log any specific areas via the Council reporting facility or pass them on to me and I will be pleased to do so. “Saughall gullies are on the Saughall & Shotwick Park route which was completed in April. The web page was created in May and did not include the routes for April. If there are any locations of blocked gulleys please let me know and I will arrange for them to be inspected.”
- Highways. I informed CWaC Highways that the parish council would be prepared to meet the 50% costs of any additional traffic/speed survey work on Fiddlers Lane. This is now logged for action in due course. I have also chased for the indicative costs promised by CWaC around the possible introduction of ‘traffic islands’ in specific locations. Further information is awaited.
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