How is our local NHS coping this winter?

 

We hear a lot in the news of late about the pressure on the NHS, particularly the A&E departments. The East Cheshire Trust is certainly under pressure if these statistics are to be believed. Currently the Trust performance places it  122nd out 133 Nationally.

 

 The position at the Countess of Chester is only slightly better. It rates 113th out of 133. Neither situation is great.
 Stay well.

The Active Community or ‘the fit the brave and the desperate’

 

This phrase ‘Active transport’ has recently made its appearance in certain government publication. It boils down to reference to walking and cycling, avoiding lifts where possible and replacing ‘sit-down’ transport by using our bodies to get about. These should be the normal way of getting about for our everyday needs. How do we make that a reality for everybody?

Firstly, we need a change of attitude. We need to agree that in Bunbury we would prefer people to cycle and walk rather than take the motor vehicle.

This simply recognises that allowing an ever increasing number of motor vehicles to be used for personal transport is having and will increasingly have an impact on the health and well-being of residents.

In a recent government publication Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (2017). What this document seeks is

1. Walkable communities

Walking is the bedrock of every trip we make. We walk to the car, bus, bike, etc. At the end of that stage we again get out of the car and bus and off the train and bike.

The statistics (2002-2016) on walking show a strong decline in the numbers, with a (-13%) distance walked, a  (-10%) time spent walking  and (-6%) in the number of walks. To put that in perspective, In 1974 70% of children walked to school, today under half (48%) usually do.

Studies show more people bike and walk in communities where improvements have been made, such as adding safer pavements, pedestrian crossings, and protected bike lanes. In addition, when people move to neighbourhoods that are designed to promote physical activity and active transportation, they tend to spend less time in their cars and more time walking. Making walking easier can also help communities by improving safety, increasing interaction between residents, improving local economies, and reducing air pollution.

  1. So what makes a community walkable?
  2. A calm centre with valued shops and services mostly within 5 minutes walk.
  3. A clustering of mix housing so people can get to centre easily and quickly
  4. Public spaces where people can gather, pass the time of day, and play.
  5. Pavements, footpaths that allow and encourage residents of all ages ad abilities to be out and about
  6. Key streets are speed controlled
  7. Zones where walkers, cyclists and drivers mix need to ‘highlighted’;. Evidence suggests that in such zones drivers are careful and courteous.
  8. A connected network of walking routes that encourage and support this activity.
How does Bunbury measure up?

Bunbury is  a dispersed village that grew out of three ‘hamlets’ so a network of links is all the more important. No paved footway links Upper and lower Bunbury. There is the footpath the Square, Wyche Road across to the Wyche Lane opposite the Jubilee Field entrance. Part of the path is across the field cropped by the local farmer. It is muddy at time and dug up at others. A real path along one side of Vicarage Lane would be better.

No pavement links the centre of the village to any other. It is, intentionally or not, a shared use zone of cars, lorries, HGV (local building deliveries), cyclists and of course the pedestrian.

Walking to school from  Bunbury Lane, Upper Bunbury, Lower Bunbury (via Wyche Lane) must be done on the road. Where pavements exist they are intermittent, requiring frequent road crossing  as well as periods of road walking. The route to school can also suffer from occasional  blockages. This was the state of School Lane in January this  year. It is on the school side of the School Lane. Although there is no proper path it is the side many use as a (muddy) footpath runs along the this section of the road. After heavy rain this side is blocked.

Puddle blocks one side of road to school

One puddle but two road crossings when walking to school

Before getting to the puddle  the children and other walkers will have had to negotiate the section past Bunbury Cottage. With cars parked along the hedge side next to Brantwood Cottage traffic is pushed over to the ‘walkers’ side’ of the road. A regulation pavement could fit down this route but it might mean the end of parking on the opposite side.

 

 

Action point: How can we make it safer to walk to the village shops? Why is it not possible to have pavement access right to the centre of the village and to the school from the three main directions. ?

2. Cycle friendly streets:

It is said that in the UK it is only the “fit, the brave and the desperate” who dare to cycle. While in the rest of Europe 20%+ journeys are made by bike is not uncommon. Despite the recent surge in cycling as a sport the UK has a very low level of cycling as a means of transport to work, the shops, or other utility uses. Why?

The Guardian asked people what stops them cycling. The top ten reasons were:

Bad driving – cars dominate the road. Drivers are seen as ‘passing too close, shouting abuse at cyclists when they move to the centre of the road, and generally driving too fast.

Dangerously designed roads – a road network that has for decades designed out cycling.

Substandard infrastructure

Perception of danger fear of having an accident keeps many people out of the saddle. It’s safer than playing tennis but that’s not how people see it.

Lack of facilities no showers at work or places to securely park bikes at work, the shops and at home.

They have had an accident – obvious reluctance to return.

State of the roads– potholes, potholes, rough repairs and dangerous road edges on country roads.

Not being in Germany or Netherlands – some have seen how they do it better abroad!

Rain and hills well the weather is rarely extreme but the rain and the lack of flat lands can put some off riding! But is this very different from Germany or Northern France?

By 2025 the Government want to double the numbers cycling  (Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (2017)). Bunbury already has lots of  people cycling through the village. Tilley’s coffee shop is a very popular stop for many cyclists out from Crewe or Chester. The real question for Bunbury is how many of our residents use the bike for recreation or transport? Certainly, you will find a number of recreational cyclists around the village often in informal groups and if you are quick you may catch sight of a few visiting the shops of a morning. on their bikes. Of course this is all incidental to the fact that there are no facilities specific to the needs of cyclists. Car parking spaces are provided outside the Co-op but nothing for the cyclist to chain his or her bike to let alone a cycle park. We (yes, I admit I am one!) make do.

 

 

 

 Puddle blocks one side of road to school

Review of 2017

We have had a busy year again. The first change to mention is that we are now the Bunbury Action Group. Why the change? Often particular groups emerge to fight a given development but disappear as soon as the application is decided. It is to be hoped that with one organisation we can maintain the watching brief on a wide range of concerns about the village. Secondly what we learn from each struggle with developers, enhancement of the environment, etc. will build our ability to be more effective. As we accumulate resources people will be able to find useful material more quickly and therefore be more effective in their struggle against inappropriate developments. Thirdly, one organisation keeps the village united. We must avoid parts of the village feeling that their loss is somehow others’ gain, or vice-a-versa ..’if they build over there then they might not build next to us…’ That breeds fragmentation. And while those directly affected will be most likely to lead the examination of the application, we must all feel included in the debate to protect and promote our village.

The new Friends of Bunbury website also seeks to encourage both easy access to the debates about housing developments but also the wider life of the village. Many of our struggles with developments have attempted to point to the damage to the environment, the loss of amenity and the threat to our wildlife. I hope this new website will give greater prominence to these aspects of our concern with our lives in the village.

1. What has  happened to housing developments in 2017

This year the number of applications for 2 or more properties increased to a peak. Please note these are my personal calculation and may not be error free. They also do not include single dwelling construction or applications.

Decisions granted:

                                                       Total Dwellings                     Affordable/Intermediate

Land off Oak Gardens                                 15                                                 4

Land off Bunbury Lane (Wulvern)               15                                                  5

Land next to Medical Centre                        7                                                   ?

Land off Bowes Gate Road                           11                                                8

Land around Bunbury Heath (4 sites)            8                                                0

Sub-total                                                     56

Planning Condition applications granted (Reserved matters and other conditions)

Hill Close                                                      15                                               5

Sites building:

The Grange (building)                                  14                                               4

The Outspan                                                  5                                               0

School Lane (Inc. Car Park)                            2                                               0

Totals                                                          92            of which                     26 are affordable in some way

Analysis by Type of Dwelling:

                                                                     1 Bed                  2/3 Beds          4/5 Beds

                                                                         2                   33                    53 (plus 4 undecided or unclear)

The 2013 housing survey of Bunbury identified 1 bed dwellings as being in strong demand. Developers want to build the ‘executive’ home but unlike elsewhere we are getting the 30% of affordable and intermediate (shared equity) housing.

2. What we learnt from Appeals:

During the year three applications went to appeal and we had the result of two during the year. The first up was the appeal on the land off Oak Gardens. This came through in mid June with the decision to allow the appeal. What did we learn?

  1. 1. Very little will protect a site if the local Plan cannot ‘demonstrate’ an adequate supply of land for development. Without the local plan all policies related to housing are deemed to use that strange phrase ‘out-of-date’.The Bunbury Neighbourhood Plan (BNP) was therefore, at the time, ‘out-of-date’. Six weeks later Cheshire East had a Local Plan and was able to demonstrate the required supply of land.
  1. 2. The ‘Co-location Policy’ contained in the BNP was open to different interpretation. The ‘local’ thought it applied retrospectively to the previous Local Plan (2010-2030) period. The inspector said the definitions were ‘contradictory’ and could only refer to houses built after it was ‘made’ i.e. became a legal policy in March 2016. The BNP development group had foreseen the problem if the policy were not retrospective. Adjacent sites given planning permission days apart in the spring of 2016 could deemed not to be co-located. Absurd.

Perhaps, as I have heard, some in the Government are troubled by the widespread adoption of the co-location policy. Designed to block the emergence of large estates it was being considered by many groups developing their own Neighbourhood Plans. This decision has damaged the policy and reduced its effectiveness. From now on the policy can only stop co- location of sites built with the period 2016-2030

Next the Wulvern appeal on the site east of Bunbury Lane behind the retirement bungalows. This application became controversial to many because of it linkage with the Hill Close battle. The granting of permission to the Hill Close site created a protracted struggle over access. Wulvern Housing Association (now part of Guinness Partnership) had an application on a site a field away. On the same day that Hill Close (CB Homes) got the go-ahead Wulvern was turned down. Most wanted it round the other way. Wulvern appealed.

1. The same point was used here as above. All housing policies are deemed ‘out-of-date’.

2. The co-location policy is also subject to a thorough ‘pounding’ by the inspector. The inspector agues that the development      of both these sites does not conflict with the policy as they are ‘visually separated’  (by the paddock) and it is: is:

inevitable that it seems to me, that some of the new housing would have to be located within the same geographical area of the village’.

She then suggests the field off Oak Gardens, that has just been given the go-ahead, illustrates her point very well! So the co-location policy is yet further reduced in scope. Anyone would think the inspectors have an agenda.

The final appeal was on the footpath diversions across the field off Oak Gardens. No word yet.

Let us hope 2018 will be a quiet year on the  planning front.