Monday, 1 February 2010

20,000 voices against the West Cheshire plan

The National Assembly's petitions committee came to Wrecsam today. It's an innovation that allows Welsh citizens to raise their concerns directly with their representatives and this was a well-attended session.

No surprises there - first up was a evidence regarding a petition of nearly 20,000 names opposing the West cheshire/North East Wales sub-regional strategy.

Carrie Harper, Pol Wong and myself spoke for 15 minutes and then answered questions from the committee, arguing that the impact of the strategy on Wrecsam, Flintshire and Denbighshire was negative in terms of housing, local services, communities, Welsh identity, the environment and our carbon footprint. The key argument was that this was to the detriment of Assembly policies and that this was why the Assembly should reconsider its role in the strategy. We also wanted a specific North-east Wales Spatial Plan to reflect the needs of our communities and local people, wherever they come from originally.

In response, Cllr Dennis Knowles (leader of Wirral Council and chair of the Mersey Dee Alliance) droned on about the strategy for the full 15 minutes.

Backing him up were Wrecsam Council leader Aled Roberts and Flintshire's deputy leader Tony Sharps.

Sharps made an, er, interesting contribution after initially admitting that he hadn't prepared as he wasn't expecting questions. Apparently we need more people moving into north-east Wales because we don't have the skills to meet demand at Airbus and other factories in Flintshire. That'll be an eye-opener to the many hundreds of skilled local engineering workers who have lost their jobs in the past year. It also begs the question of what Airbus's own extensive apprenticeship scheme is doing if they can't meet demand at the plant.

Aled Roberts claimed that Network Rail only want to deliver the Bidston-Deeside part of the rail line, which was news to everyone present.

The feedback after the meeting from friend and neutral alike was very positive. It's safe to say this was far more constructive debate than last February's Wrecsam Council scrutiny committee, when three councillors opposed the council's role in the Mersey-Dee Alliance. The questioning from the petitions committee was sharp and exposed many of the holes in the sub-regional strategy.

Whether that's enough to change the Assembly on this matter remains to be seen, but the pressure put on defenders of the current unsustainable strategy is mounting.


Welsh and Proud said...

Many welsh people work in on the chester business park, are you suggesting that we move to England rather than "commute" to work?

The fact is that you cannot have Welsh jobs for Welsh workers at Airbus and that sometimes there are university educated and skilled individuals in England - who have come out of a better funded education system and that sometimes skilled jobs require that extra dimension.

Plaid Whitegate said...

I think you're misreading what I wrote.

1. My opposition to the sub-regional strategy is that it promotes *further* commuting, which is not desirable. I'm not proposing we undo what is already the case in terms of where people work now.

2. The point re Airbus is that Flintshire CC deputy leader Tony Sharps said Airbus couldn't recruit enough workers locally. Yet 10 months ago, 250 agency workers were made redundant at the site.

Royston Jones said...

Welsh and Proud, there is always cross-border travelling to employment, millions do it every day on the continent. So the red herrings away.

The issue here is building thousands of new properties in north-east Wales to protect property values and country town ambience in places like Wilmslow.

The people these houses are being built for want to live in Cheshire - which is fine by me so build the houses there.

Anonymous said...

Royston you've hit the nail on the head, Planning permission is hard to get in Cheshire and a lot easier in Wales; so west of Chester (Flintshire) is all built up whilst the villages east of Chester is England's green and pleasant land. Well personally I would prefer to live in Wales's green and pleasant land, not some bloody concrete jungle which the north east of Wales is rapidly turning into.

Anonymous said...

It seems ridiculous to make such a fuss about a border which doesn't actually exist in local people's lives.
A very large percentage of Airbus staff live in Ellesmere Port and the Wirral, and a lot of Flintshire and Wrexham people work in Ellesmere port.
This fuss is being made by Cllrs and politicians who know that PR is more important than facts and the law.
The reality is that people live where they can afford to live, and work where their skills are appriciated.

Anonymous said...

There is no question of preventing anyone living or working where they like but we shouldn't engage in a process of social engineering either. The MDA and the Wales Spatial Plan has more to do with meeting the housing needs of English authorities than anything else. English local authorities are letting down their own residents by not providing sufficient housing for those people who are then 'forced' to move to areas where planning laws are lax to live this then creates unsustainable commuter estates and how do they reduce our carbon footprint which all levels of government are so obsessed with

Welsh and Proud said...

Maybe the Plaid group would like to be specific about which large commuter estates they object to?

Many welsh born and working residents have moved to these estates not just the english! To suggest these people want to live in Cheshire is a joke.

Plaid Whitegate said...

The additional pressure on schools and increased traffic congestion on roads in and out of Wrecsam are evidence that our infrastructure is struggling to cope with the population rise.
The increase in housing has not answered the need for homes locally. Instead it has exacerbated it because we have had apartments and executive housing built instead of starter homes and 2/3 bed houses. Our Local Development Plan is trying to redress that imbalance.