Friday, 27 January 2012

Flood Risk Management Group meeting - January 2011

I had my first meeting as the new Chair of the Local Government Association’s Inland Flood Risk Management group this month. On the face of it a bit outside my comfort zone but some of the flooding issues experienced by householders in the Armitage Bridge part of the Newsome Ward have highlighted to me some of the real concerns people have who have gone through flooding events.

The attendees represented an array of Councillors for whom this area is a real passion and officers who grapple with flood related issues on a day to day basis including the National Flood Forum, the Environment Agency, DEFRA officials. So it was a very well informed gathering and an ideal place to get acquainted with the issues. I put the officers from DEFRA and the EA at their ease by telling them I was keen for us to have the meetings questions put to them and answered in a Select Committee fashion with lots of probing to get to the nub of concerns. They seemed suitably pleased by this and they defended the government as best they could.

One real bone of contention was the issue of how Insurance Companies approached flood risk. Insurance companies are approaching the insurance of properties for flood risk not on the basis of flood risk but on postcode. So you could have one property which could be at low/no risk of flooding and then further down the road a property at high risk. Both could be insurance blight areas. In fact this issue affects hundreds of properties in Runnymede which are completely unaffordable to insure for many householders and it would appear that their local MP isn’t desperately fighting their corner on this issue. Following flooding you would assume that Insurance companies would be keen to make areas ‘resilient’ to flooding in future by getting electrical sockets raised and having flood resistant flooring installed. You’d be wrong as Insurance Companies generally want things restoring to their previous state including low electrical sockets etc. Bonkers. I have suggested that there could be a 'green deal' type finance approach to paying for flood hardening measures for 'at risk' homes. A 'Wet Deal'?

The first actions I have asked for is a letter to the Association of British Insurers about the issue and a request for a meeting with the Minister along with other concerned Councillors and officials.

Stirley Hill - Dead and Buried

Stirley Hill - Burial at sea?
Kirklees Planning Committee voted 7 votes to 6 yesterday against a new cemetery at Stirley Hill yesterday. A groundbreaking (maybe the wrong word) decision where the Committee went against Kirklees Councils own proposal to build there. Regular readers of my blog will be familiar with the issues where a site with poor transport links in a location which becomes waterlogged and bleak in winter. Tragically the poor road and weather conditions on the road leading up to the proposed site had resulted in a traffic fatality a few months ago. This highlighted the real issue that would have faced corteges of vehicles going up to the site. There was a massive petition of over a thousand signatures completed in favour of the cemetery but as Cllr Christine Smith pointed out many did not come from our area. In reality these were people who were anxious for a cemetery for religious reasons and were not related to the site or the planning application. They would most likely have been happy with a cemetery anywhere. I spoke up outlining my and the Green Party’s concerns about the site the one point I didn’t make that I wish I had was that because the site is often waterlogged and it is a high site with often frozen land that this could actually make it difficult to actually dig graves. The site was never really fit for purpose. So what happens now? There still remains an issue of a lack of burial spaces and it is not an easy position for the Council to be in but that does not mean it should have put forward a poorly thought out option that had some real downsides. Ultimately, forgetting the impact on the scenery around Castle Hill and the transport issues, it was a far from ideal location and the Committee were right to reject it.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Scrap - Would you credit it!

Now Ronald Reagan is not one of my political idols but some rather good quotes are attributed to him one being this one,

"There is no limit to what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit."

Somehow or other this sprung to mind this week when I read in The Huddersfield Examiner that Kirklees Council will be considering establishing a Voluntary Code of Conduct for Scrap Dealers Now regular readers of this blog will remember I spent a morning going round scrapyards with the police and environmental services back in September and raised the issue with them about establishing such a code. Later we met along with the British Transport Police and knocked some ideas backwards and forwards and a produced a draft code which I suggested was put to Cllr Khan as Leader of the Council but also because he has an interest in the issue of scrap at a national level in his role at the Local Government Association. Of course we'll need Kirklees Cabinet approval to get it adopted and quite rightly we're looking at getting the code adopted more widely in Yorkshire and I think through the Local Government Association we could get replication of the idea at a national level. I guess it will be character forming for me to sit at the sidelines and watch the idea take off and be adopted more widely.

Monday, 2 January 2012

2011/12 Green Party Boxing Day/ New Years Day Bus Service

Yours truly took to the wheel for a couple of stints

Cllrs Derek Hardcastle and Robert Barraclough on the Boxing Day stint. I daresay the Tories will refer Derek to the Standards Board for wearing a jumper like that!

Mr Andy Storey driving on the first session on the  New Years Day Newsome service
Karen Allison rode shotgun/navigation on both Newsome and Flockton services

Over a hundred people used the service in all. The last people to get off had been hospital visiting on New Years Day