A Development Board for every town in Calderdale ?

And what if local people don’t want one ? And what about the villages ?

At the Cabinet meeting on Monday, Labour decided to set up Development Boards in towns in Calderdale, having tried it out in Todmorden. They haven’t evaluated the one in Todmorden so they haven’t learned lessons from it. It has only recently had four non-Councillors become Board members and meetings aren’t open to the public. Minutes are sometimes slow to be published so people don’t know what’s going on.

Most places have some form of local community group which brings interested people together to talk about and plan services. Sometimes it’s through the Parish Council (as in Heptonstall and Blackshawhead), or a broader but formal Partnership (as in Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd and Elland). Invariably, the public are welcome to attend, participate in and contribute to the meetings. Labour cited the lack of such a group in Halifax (although I thought that there was a “town team” there) but this is no reason for imposing their model everywhere. They say it’s flexible but there seems to be no means of negotiating it. They don’t seem to be reviewing what there is already so there could be a real risk of duplication (and nobody quite knowing who’s doing what). Recipe for a muddle and a mess !

There seems to be no thought given to villages – and even where there’s no Parish Council or formal community group, there are usually things happening and their own, local version of a village plan which could evolve into a Neighbourhood Plan.

So while there is undoubtedly the germ of a good idea here, it needs more thinking through. But Labour took it straight to Cabinet and the discussion there almost turned into a Scrutiny Panel discussion – and that’s where we hope to take it !


Overgrown vegetation on Churn Lane

Following a few complaints about local residents concerning overgrowing vegetation on Churn Lane I contacted the Highways department. I’m pleased to say they have written to residents with regards to getting some of this vegetation cut back.
Thanks to those of you who live on Churn Lane for helping to cooperate with this, if we keep back any trees and vegetation we might have that overgrows onto paths, lanes and roads then it helps keep things running smoothly.
Further to your e mail regarding overhanging vegetation on Churn Lane 10/09/2015:

We e mailed you in September to let you know that residents had been written too regarding this matter and I can now confirm that we have had contact from two residents who will be beginning the process of clearing vegetation from property which they own, quotes are being obtained and works are being planned.  Second letters have been sent to properties which have not responded.

Our Enforcement Officer continues to monitor the situation.

Here is the news from Todmorden Town Council

Labour confirmed at tonight’s meeting that the Council won’t be producing any more newsletters… so how are local people to know what the Council is (or isn’t) doing ? They also won’t be publishing Councillor attendance on the Council website and there was fairly low attendance at tonight’s meeting (but it is half-term).

Regrettably, the Town Clerk has decided to resign with effect from April 2016 (after 16 years service) so an appointment panel has been set up but they will take the appointment decision (unlike higher-level Councils where the final decision of the appointment of a new Chief Executive is taken by full Council).

At last the Town Council is making progress with developing a Neighbourhood Plan but Labour decided that there will be no LibDem representation on the Steering group, although it’s good to see the inclusion of many community groups. There is some progress with the Council nominating Rose St as a community asset to Calderdale Council. The decision appears to have been delegated to the Development Committee at its meeting next week.


They shouldn’t be doing this !

For years, I’ve been concerned about developers trying to build on every bit of open land in Hebden Bridge. Whilst using previously developed “brownfield” sites to build the shops and employment space that we need, the Council (in giving planning permission) and developers do need to think about the impact on surrounding buildings and facilities.

A small plot of land, partly over the river, at the top end of Valley Road at the back of Hebden Bridge is a prime example of this. There was part of an old mill there but it’s now between a quiet cul-de-sac of houses, a children’s playground, and a new block of sheltered housing for older people. Not the place to build. That’s what we argued in the Planning Committee. The residents of the houses spoke out about the impact on them – the access will be through part of their road. I urged the developers to meet with them to work out the best deal both for the building period and so that the eventual occupiers become good neighbours.

And in Planning Committee, I expressed my concerns about the impact on the playground. Not a problem, said the developer. And then the next thing that I heard was from Council Officers asking for endorsement of plans they were agreeing with the developers to fence off part of the playground, remove equipment and pay what seemed to be a derisory sum of money in compensation – so the building work could begin. “It’s for Health and Safety” say the developer. Not good enough ! this shouldn’t be happening. The Little Park playground is a valued local service – parents, children and the Councils put a lot of time, thought, effort and money into renovating this important local service which is the only play area for most of the children in that part of Hebden Bridge, populated by terraced housing, much of which doesn’t even have a back yard ! The developers shouldn’t be doing this at all.

What to do next about child poverty in Calderdale ?

Really interesting workshop yesterday. One of those sessions that makes you go away thinking about it – a “wicked” problem requiring a “messy” solution but 8,595 children in Calderdale are not realising their potential. Various things are happening – notably we’ve had over £10m Pupil Premium since 2010 (and I’m proud to say that this is an achievement of Liberal Democrats in government) into Calderdale schools and we’re learning what has most impact on helping children’s attainment. Jim Davis from the Children’s Society told us that children are worried about “fitting in”, feeling that they belong just like any other child. So what can we do about it ?

Another busy week (and it’s only Wednesday)

just a few of the things that I’ve been doing so far this week …..

Markets Working Group: Whilst we had a productive meeting last week to finetune (I hope) the plans to move the market in Hebden Bridge, we had a meeting of the Calderdale Council markets group this week. What’s most important is getting the vision and the strategy in place to shape and guide what we want to do. Calderdale is a place of market towns (from Todmorden to Brighouse). While we’ve got to repair and update the market in Todmorden, we’ve also got to do some serious work to Borough market in Halifax which is a beautiful building whose potential is not realised to the full.

BEST group links local businesses with the Council: The new Principal of Calderdale College talked us through their emerging plans to develop the College in its important role of developing the skills primarily of our young people. There’s a seminar planned with UKTI, the government body that supports businesses wanting to export but an exciting piece of information was that 31 companies have benefitted so far from the Export support fund that we, the Liberal Democrats on Calderdale Council, set up through the Council’s budget.

Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Panel: It’s pleasing to hear that our children’s social care services are now improving to the point where it’s very likely that the Improvement Notice (issued by the government) will be lifted. That’s taken over 6 years of hard work (since the Conservatives ran the Council with Craig Whitaker as Lead Member for Children’s Services).


Bonfire & firework nights across Calderdale – 2015


As autumn sets in Halloween and Bonfire night are not along around the corner. I’m going to updating this page with a list of bonfire and firework nights across Calderdale as I become aware of them. If you have a bonfire night planned that you would like advertising please use the contact section of this website to let me know about it!

Saturday 31st October – 6.30pm – New Hobbit, Hob Lane, Halifax, West Yorkshire HX6 3QL – New Hobbit Bonfire and firework night

Thursday 5th November – 6.30pm – New Hobbit, Hob Lane, Halifax, West Yorkshire HX6 3QL – New Hobbit Bonfire and firework night

Friday 6th November – Todmorden Golf Club @TodGolfClub

Saturday, 7th November –  5.30pm – Hullenedge Park, Elland –  ELLAND ROUND TABLE CHARITY BONFIRE AND FIREWORK DISPLAY 2015

Saturday, 7th November – Fire lit at 7pm – Long Can Hall, Fountainhead Village, – Long Can Hall – Pub firework and bonfire evening

Sunday 9th November 2015– 6.30pm The Clubhouse, North Dean, Stainland Rd, Greetland, Halifax – The Heath and Heath RUFC


Remember – If you are attending or holding a bonfire night then please remember to think about safety. There is a really good website filled with safety advice here that you can look at




Todmorden Business Breakfast: another hotel for Tod ?

Well-attended and good to see so many local business/shop- people in Todmorden Town Hall early on a Wednesday morning. The big topic was a presentation by Calderdale Council’s tourism officer about the idea of a another/larger hotel in Todmorden. Establishing the need for this is critical to encourage interest from hotel companies. There’s about 100 bedspaces of various types (current small hotel, Band Bs, hostel and campsites etc) but without a sizeable hotel, we’re unlikely to get visitors, conferences etc on any scale. Undoubtedly there are potential sites around the town centre !

Winter service (gritting !)

At the recent Town Parish Council Conference, there was an interesting presentation by Calderdale Council’s Highways office about their work. So I asked the question about gritting – essential to make sure that we can get about in the winter months (however long that lasts). The answer was that this year’s service will be as before but the standard (and cost) is higher here than in many places – approx 2/3rds of the road are gritted here – so the Council is planning on reviewing it.

So I went to the Economy and Environment Scrutiny Panel last night to speak out for us – a review is planned (last done in 2008/9) but it’s essential that our needs are taken into account. So watch this space and be ready to respond.

I also asked about the salt barn (a large barn to contain and protect the Council’s pile of salt and grit). Not much from the sound of it – caught up in the Council’s Review of depots. Watch this space, too.

Making progress with plans to move Hebden Bridge market

In this morning’s Working Group meeting, we had a draft plan of proposal to move the market into Lees Yard which we worked on. A further (final ?) version will be brought back to us shortly. We’ll need to check the costs and urge Calderdale Council to fund it. It does look promising but it needs to be good enough to consult with market traders, local shops and local people. A big step forward, nonetheless !