Trim Trail in Cavendish Park

This morning I was out delivering leaflets with Cllr Norman Lewis and Cllr Bernie Ryan in the West Didsbury part of Chorlton Park ward. While I was on Cavendish Road I went into the park to have a look at the trim trail that is being installed. The trim trail has caused some controversy because a number of local people were unaware that it was being installed and they woke up yesterday morning to find parts of the park being dug up.
The trim trail has been organised by the Friends of Cavendish Park. They had spoken to Leisure Services about consultation and had questioned whether they needed to send out leaflets about meetings to consult as widely as possible, but had been told that the notices that went up in the park and the South Manchester Reporter were sufficient. Unfortunately this has meant that some people didn't know what was going on.
A similar problem occurred some time ago in Cavendish Park when the children's playarea was installed. Four years earlier, as local Councillors, we had consulted with residents about local facilities and what people wanted to see. A lot of people had responded, saying that there should be play equipment for younger children, but unfortunately there was no money available at the time. However when the the redevelopment of the hospital site was going through the planning process I negotiated for some of the s106 money to be spent on the play equipment. By the time this money came through there were some people living in the area who were not aware that this was already in the pipeline (because they had moved to the area more recently) and questioned why they had not been consulted.
Of course everyone at the time had been consulted, but this was several years earlier.

West Didsbury Residents Association AGM

Last night I went to the West Didsbury Residents' Association AGM at the Albert Club on Old Lansdowne Road in West Didsbury. It was good to see Barry Aelion there for the first time since he stood down as Secretary and Planning expert at the AGM last year after a 20 year stint!
One or two of the faces have changed over the forteen years that I've been going to WDRA meetings - many people will remember Doreen who passed away and Vanessa who moved to Cumbria to fight "foot and mouth" - but what is more amazing is the number of people who are still there. Pam is still the Chair, Jenny is still collecting subs, Paul is still the Treasurer and Niall (who is soon to move) has been involved in organising social events in the all time that I've been there. Others like Alison have become involved during my time, and I'd be willing to bet that she will still be defending the local environment against developers in another 10 or 20 years time.

FA CUP Quarter-final Draw

Away to Chelsea if we beat Stoke in the replay. I seem to remember predicting that. Never mind, time to concentrate on the very slim hope of finishing 4th in the League.

Valentine's Day Shopping

After delivering some leaflets first thing yesterday morning in Chorlton, I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon (with my surgery sandwiched in between) shopping for Catherine for Valentine's Day. Romano in Chorlton is always a really good choice for perfume, because they always seem to know the sort of stuff you're looking for (or am I just a sucker for the sales technique?). I also ended up getting a necklace as well, so guess I am just a sucker!
After my surgery at the Mosque on Burton Road I went to a few of the Burton Road shops, which are always good for unusual bits and pieces that blokes would never think of buying until you see them on the shelves. That's why I never buy online, because I like to see things on the shelf that shout out "buy me".
Happy Valentine's Day everybody!

Man City 1 Stoke City 1

Stoke are good at home, but they're supposed to be ordinary away. City started well and scored a goal with some assistance from pantomime defending by Stoke. We were all over them for the first 15 minutes, but then we sat back and the inevitable happened. We should have had the game killed off in those first 15 minutes, but we always seem to let the opposition get back into it.
I suppose that we are at least still in the draw for the quarter-final, but I fully expect us to get beaten in the replay. If we get through, knowing our luck, we'll be away to Chelsea! That would be an interesting contest, given the revelations about John Terry and Wayne Bridge's former girlfriend.

St Werburgh's Metrolink Stop

This morning Cllr Norman Lewis and I attended a meeting with the traffic department to discuss parking issues around the proposed metrolink stop at St Werburgh's Church. As there were changes to the proposed stop and planning permission had to be sought, £40,000 was allocated to help address parking problems associated with the new stop, through a s106 agreement.
In terms of traffic regulation orders or residents' parking you don't get a lot for £40,000, and at this stage nobody is sure exactly what extra parked cars the stop will generate, or which local streets will be affected.
There is certainly concern from residents on Sandy Lane and Corkland Road, and the roads off these two roads, as well as along Nell Lane, Caddington Road and Elladene Park. Across the constituency boundary, there is also concern about the impact on parking near to the shops on Egerton Road South (particularly outside the Post Office). Residents are to be consulted, but whether the money will be sufficient to introduce a suitable scheme remains to be seen.

Metrolink Environmental Meeting

Last night I attended a meeting with local residents and councillors about the clearance of the Didsbury spur section of the Metrolink line. There is a lot of concern about the disruption to wildlife during the clearance of the line, and that the new habitats that are due to be established are not yet in place, as well as the number of trees that will disappear.
GMPTE have been told that they need to apply for planning permission to relocate a pond to the Albemarle Allotments. I have been encouraging them to get the application in as quickly as possible, but unfortunately they were saying last night that it is going to be at least another two weeks before the application is submitted, and then it might be a further eight weeks before planning permission is granted.
I think that some of the concerns of local people were dealt with last night, but questions remain over how many trees will be retained, and where replacement trees will be planted. There is also confusion over the need for a badger license and the most appropriate way to clear the area around badger sets. One thing is for sure - communication needs to improve to keep people informed and what is happening (and when). People should have been told that the Parrswood allotment site was going to be used for storing the trees and branches that were being removed, rather than leaving people to question why it appeared to have been converted into an illegal logging operation!

MI5 "Knew Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed was being tortured"

Not the Labour Government's finest hour. The Foreign Secretary David Milliband claimed that details couldn't be disclosed because of national security, but we all now know (thanks to the Court of Appeal) that it was just a cover up to try and avoid people finding out that the Labour Government knew that Binyam Mohamed was being tortured. Shameful. That's the only word for it.
Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, said "It has been clear for over a year that the Foreign Office has been more concerned with saving face than exposing torture. These embarrassing paragraphs reveal nothing of use to terrorists but they do show something of the UK government's complicity with the most shameful part of the war on terror."

AV - one small step forward for Democracy, just 12 years late!

Last night the Government finally came forward with plans to have a Referendum on changing the voting system to Alternative Vote (or AV). AV is different to the current method of First Past the Post used as it allows voters to rank their preferences 1, 2, 3 and so on rather than the current method of striking only an (X) next to your first choice.
The vote was won, and we suppported the proposals because they are a step in the right direction.
Most Labour and Tory MPs don't want a fair voting system, because they know that they would be the biggest losers. Gordon Brown's Government's death-bed coversion is almost certainly a sham, and I won't be holding my breath for the introduction of fair votes any time soon.

Transport Select Committee at TRANSEC

This morning The Transport Select Committee went to Transec (Transport Security and Contingencies Directorate) for a briefing on the current transport security situation, following the upping of the security risk to "severe".
There has been a lot of interest in the decision to make the use of body scanners compulsory.
This issue has been raised by a number of my constituents who are concerned about their privacy.
The Government's response has been that people do have a choice - you can go through the scanner or you can choose not to fly. Not much of a choice really, but at the meeting I asked what happened if a transit passenger came into Manchester or Heathrow and refused to go through the scanner. Clearly they couldn't choose not to fly because they were already in transit. No one was able to give me an answer.
I have submitted a couple of Parliamentary Questions to try and get some answers from the Secretary of State on this very issue and it will be interesting to see the response I get!

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