Posts

INTRODUCTION.

INTRODUCTION . Well, ‘instructions’ might be more accurate because this blog platform doesn’t make navigating around the articles easy. You can progress through the dates easily enough, but only sequentially by hitting 'More Posts' at the bottom of the page. If you’re looking to go back to an earlier month or year then you have to enter the month or year in the search section at the top of the page and hit your ‘Enter’ key. Likewise, if you want to avoid having to follow through sequentially and get to a later date then, again, enter that date in the search function and hit your ‘Enter’ key.

JULY 2020. HPC. (First 'official' statement of intent towards Shirehall's closure.)

Those of you who bother to read my blogs will be familiar with this in its original version, the seeds of which first appeared in the July 2013 edition of the Highley Forum. Events have overtaken the original concerns to exceed even the extent of the break-up of local democratic processes that I foresaw back then. Well, local democratic processes as we used to know them anyway, the sort that channelled a collective local voice into the decision making processes of what used to be the "local council”, whether parish, district or county, the last two long defunct in Shropshire since 2009 when unitary and its ‘Strong Leader with Cabinet’ model of governance came in. Incidentally, it's Leader with a capital ‘L’ who is voted into place by members of the largest political grouping at Shirehall, which in Shropshire’s case is the Conservative Party. That 2009 change to unitary channelled decision-making into the hands of that "strong leader" and the nine individua

JUNE 2020. HPC.

My last report generated quite a bit of comment on the local Facebook pages, but no one appreciated the full significance of the decision to allow those 20 ‘affordable’ houses intended for the site alongside the bridleway behind the telephone exchange. Understandable because there was a lot of smoke and mirrors involved in the process because the underlying sensitivity of this site lies not just in its location, but in the impact the earlier decision to refuse permission would have had on Council plans for the larger site just yards away to the north. I can only imagine the panic when the full import of that refusal by that case officer became known to the rest of the planning department. I bet it wasn't long before the full weight of the more senior planning officers descended on the poor man's head. Another refusal for that smaller site on the grounds of “over-development” would call into question all of Shropshire Council planning department’s plans for the much larger

JANUARY 2020. HPC. (Includes lengthy report on the impact of the Astbury Hall chalet development on local highways.)

Back in September 2014 I wrote... Perhaps democracy is increasingly irrelevant to people’s daily lives. I was talking then about the way changes at Shropshire Council were impacting on the way the council engaged with the people of Shropshire, although more accurately I should say increasingly disengaged with the people of Shropshire, a process that, if anything, has increased since then. There are still a lot of people who persist in thinking that “the council” is still what they’ve always thought of as “the council” - it ain’t! When, in 2009, the old district councils and county council became a single unitary council, changing from a committee system to one known as (and I kid you not) ‘Strong Leader Plus Cabinet’, Shropshire Council has increasingly become what I would call a “Service Director led administration”, where the directors of service departments, in close partnership with consultants, no longer just advise the elected councillors in the Cabinet bu

DECEMBER 2019. HPC.

Apart from the planning briefing on the 4 th November, the really significant events at Shirehall were the Rural Strategy Workshops. The planning briefing was about poultry farms and a few of us thought: “This’ll be fascinating – not!” A reaction which I suspect kept quite a few Members away. But in fact it was a real eye-opener. Apart from the expected area of Norfolk (thanks to Bernard Mathews) and one area in Northern Ireland, the real “poultry hot spot” is Shropshire; we have the biggest concentration of poultry farms in the UK. Now, whilst we can celebrate that as some sort of achievement in that we have somehow managed to attract so much of that industry to the county, it comes with massive environmental implications, enough to wake Shropshire Council up to the need to do something about it through its planning system. As I said, it was a real eye-opener for all of us present. It’s a subject that we’ll be hearing much more about, but too sensitive for me to go

NOVEMBER 2019. HPC.

1...It was a good meeting with Professor John Whitelegg on the 24 th October who presented his case for an improved rural transport system and fielded a wide variety of questions from an engaged audience. I didn’t feel that he adequately addressed the issues that rural communities like Highley face, his solutions had more to do with urban networks, citing European cities and the example of the park and ride scheme in Truro (which I know well and was impressed with) and applied it to the problems of traffic in Shrewsbury, it fell to Cleobury Councillor Madge Shineton to highlight the cross-county-border issues that make subsidising our local services so problematic, a factor that has had a significant impact on the Ludlow/Kidderminster route that passes through Cleobury. We are extremely lucky to have the 125. As John Whitlegg was talking I couldn’t help but reflect on the fact that this current financial year councils face a £652 million funding gap in providing conc

OCTOBER 2019. HPC.

Given the dire straits that Shropshire Council finds itself in with regard to central government revenue support funding it’s inevitable that “cuts” have to be made with competing priorities leading to controversial decisions, one of which has been the reduction in (and in some cases the complete removal of) funding for public transport, whether in the form of direct funding for ‘community buses’ or the subsidies paid to commercial operators to maintain commercial routes. It’s a contentious issue, particularly when it comes to support for post-16 transport of students wanting to pursue further education in whatever form it takes and whatever the desired outcome. We’re lucky in Highley because we have the 125 service bus running from Bridgnorth to Stourbridge at hourly intervals, but if you want to travel by bus to the cinema in the evening then hard luck, because the service ends at 6.30. And getting to the FE or Sixth-Form college of your choice will break most banks