Keep traffic away from schools
March 5th 2018: Most parents know schools and polluting traffic should be kept apart. A new opinion study (for Client Earth campaigning lawyers) shows 60% of parents nationally support traffic being diverted away from school gates at the beginning and the end of the day. Here in Stockport, most councillors want the exact opposite: they are supporting the plan for the A6-M60 Bypass – including a dual carriageway and major junction to be built right next to Dial Park Primary School, Offerton (as pictured). We should be shouting about this shameful plan. It makes Stockport look like it is stuck in the 1970s when people thought pollution was healthy.
Late to tell us!
February 25th 2018: The official story about the unfinished A6-to-Airport Road is only half the truth. Last April Stockport Council admitted that the road would be finished late – this spring rather than last autumn, as originally planned. By July last year the Council’s road team knew the timetable was slipping further. A programme of work updated on 21st July last year EIGHT MONTHS AGO indicated the job would finish on 28th August this year, not this spring. Ideas of clawing back lost time got nowhere. Meanwhile the incorrect official message was unchanged: that the road would be finished this spring. Even the main funder, the Department for Transport, was told the same. Finally a week ago Stockport Council announced that completion would be “late summer 2018”. Can we trust the Council’s road-building team about either the unfinished Airport Road or the proposed A6-M60 Bypass? (Souce: Airport Road Programme Board minutes. Picture: Airport Road)
Complaints about flooding
February 25th 2018: Residents are complaining of flooding caused by the unfinished Airport Road at its Hazel Grove end. The latest Stockport Express says that houses as well as gardens have been under water. Stockport Council insists it’s all just a coincidence but the residents say that road building has changed the water table. This will add to concerns that something similar could happen if the A6-M60 Bypass is built through the Poise Brook flood plain around Bean Leach Road. The Council and its experts were surprised by waterlogging that has contributed to delays to work on the Airport Road. Can we trust any claims they make that the A6-M60 Bypass won’t escalate flooding?
Paying for the overrun
February 25th 2018: Who will pay for the delays in finishing the A6-Airport Road shambles? Work will go on until the end of next August at least – a 33% overrun. Last December’s meeting of the Project Board was told that Stockport Council and the builders were discussing “pain share” – splitting the costs of the overrun on the road-builders’ contract. We’ll be paying – as either local or national taxpayers. We should be told what’s happening. (Picture of Airport Road last spring.) NOTE: This item has been re-edited. ‘Pain share’ is complicated as well as unpleasant.
Queen Elizabeth Way?!
February 25th 2018: Stockport Council officials want the flood-hit and troubled Airport Road to be titled “Queen Elizabeth Way”. That isn’t a good and respectful way of celebrating Her Majesty! It is a disturbing thought that the royal name might also be applied to the road’s proposed extension (as the A6-M60 Bypass) as it destroys the Lower Goyt Valley, ancient woodland and Offerton and Torkington’s green space. Manchester City Council and Cheshire East, who are partners in the Airport Road, have been slow to endorse the idea which would need approval from the Palace. (Source: Airport Road Programme Board minutes. )
Junction 25 design flaws
February 25th 2018: The A6-M60 Bypass plan breaches standards for sight and stopping distance at crazy Junction 25. The plan involves switching the current weird positions of the northbound M60 and slip road so that the slip road joins the M60 from the side rather than the middle. You can understand why the Bypass designers might want to do that, to cope with much more traffic on the slip road. But moving the slip road leaves drivers on the bend of the M60 having to look through the slip road to see the junction ahead. The slip road is apparently planned to descend from Crookilley Roundabout on piles of earth, as at present. On motorways approaching junctions there should be a sight and stopping distance of 295 metres (we’ve shown it in blue on the extract of the official plans below; we’ve also added captions). A design modification is possible but could create new problems, such as further sharpening the bend of the motorway.
A year behind!
February 14th 2018: The opening of the Airport Road has been delayed again – from spring to late summer (ie autumn). The news was disclosed on Stockport Council’s semmms.info site. The announcement airbrushes the truth by failing to say that the original date for completion was last autumn. Hence the road (full title A6 to Manchester Airport Relief Road) has been delayed a year so far. When the previous delay was disclosed last year, rain and poor ground conditions were blamed. Now the collapse of the builders Carillion (partnered with Morgan Sindall) and the potential collapse of part of the existing A555 section are added to the list of calamities. Further rain this winter is also blamed. However, most seriously there is something close to an admission that inadequate investigation of the site prior to construction has played a part. Sloppy work, lack of transparency and delusional belief in road-building are also apparent in preparations for the A6-M60 Bypass. We must stop this fiasco being repeated across the beautiful valleys and green spaces threatened by the Bypass.
Consultation ‘later in the year’
February 14th 2018: The biased public consultation about the Bypass is now “scheduled to take place later in the year”, the Council has said in answer to a question. (Not in February, as originally planned.) The Council said it doesn’t know when the Government will respond to its request for money to pay for the consultation and other Bypass preparations. The Council has already said that the consultation will be about “the principles of the scheme”. So the consultation will ignore the damage the road will inflict on green spaces and local residents, such as people living on either side of the route in Offerton and Bosden Farm (pictured). Strangely, the answer from Stockport Council says nothing about the Major Road Network, which was the subject of the question and only a few weeks ago appeared to be the Council’s new target for getting money for the Bypass (see below).
The cunning plan to get half a million pounds
February 2nd 2018: Stockport Council has a cunning plan to get hold of some Bypass money. The Council’s current application for £500,000 is targeted at a brand new scheme called the Major Road Network. This Government scheme is due to start in the summer; under it the Government will provide money to local councils for important local roads, including new bypasses. The full cost of the A6-M60 Bypass (almost half a billion!) is so much that it needs a special decision by the Government, but £500,000 from the Major Road Network is a feasible first step – though a bit slower than the Council’s previously stated hopes of being given the money last month. Let’s do all we can to stop this waste of public money.
Application tries to bypass the facts
February 2nd 2018: We’ve seen Stockport Council’s application to the Government for £500,000 for the next bit of Bypass preparation. The A6-M60 Bypass is such an expensive waste of money that the application tries to tweak the facts : 1. No mention of the eventual cost of building the road – almost half a BILLION pounds. 2. The Bypass’s length is given as 10 kilometres of dual carriageway when, in fact, it would be 8.5 kilometres of dual carriageway plus 1.1 kilometres of the single-carriageway Stepping Hill Link. 3. The Council says the Bypass is still needed although non-road transport improvements have been carried out as proposed by the 2001 SEMMMS report. Have they really? Scrap the Bypass now!
Government considering funding request
January 28th 2018: The clock is now ticking. From London comes news that two weeks ago Stockport Council asked the Government for £500,000 to pay for the next stage of preparations for the A6-M60 Bypass. The Government’s Department for Transport says it is considering the request. We don’t know how long it will take for Ministers to make a decision or how we’ll find out the result. The next stage of Bypass preparations could end with a decision to build the Bypass. Sometime soon we may once again need to stand up for our wonderful green spaces.
A555 section to close for 17 weeks
January 27th 2018: The A6-Airport road has been beset by troubles. It’s running seven months late because of ‘poor ground conditions’. The builder Carillion has gone bust leaving its partner Morgan Sindall to pick up the pieces. And now the bit of the road completed back in the 1990s is crumbling. The westbound section between the A34 and Wilmslow Road is at risk of collapse because of drainage problems. Excavations five metres deep are required to fix the problem, so the section of road will be closed for 17 weeks. This may mean it’s open again just in time for completion of the whole road in June, if that isn’t delayed again. It’s amazing how the officials, consultants and politicians behind roads like the Airport Road and its proposed A6-M60 extension claim to know what they’re doing – and some people even believe them!
January 24th 2018: Our meeting yesterday decided we need to get ready for the Bypass “public consultation” whenever it comes. We will prepare new leaflets and plan how we can get the word out via the internet. Also we will be inviting people to walk the Bypass route together, as we did last spring (see picture). The Council’s transport officials had planned to stage the “public consultation” next month, but it has been postponed until some money comes through from the Government. Mid May could be the next target date. On past form, the consultation is likely to feature biased information in favour of the Bypass and ignore the case against it.
Council chasing £500,000
January 20th 2018: Thanks to all who supported our questions at the Council’s Cabinet meeting on Wednesday. We had a question for the full council meeting on Thursday too. Council officials are actively trying to get £500,000 out of the Government’s Department for Transport to continue their preparations for the A6-M60 Bypass. However, the Council’s proposed public consultation about the Bypass will not now be going ahead in early February, because the Government hasn’t had opportunity or time to grant any more money, yet. The Council’s default mode is to deny messing things up, so it refuses to accept that its timetable for getting funding was wrong or misleading. Let’s be happy that the Council’s plans to apply for money are behind schedule, but they are still trying to push ahead with the Bypass and threaten our green spaces.
Learn from Carillion’s collapse
January 15th 2018: Carillion, the firm building Stockport’s Airport Road, is to be liquidated. What this means for Carillion’s many projects, is as yet unclear. Carillion has been pulled under by expensive contract overruns which result from “optimism bias” and delusions associated with projects like the Airport Road (pictured above). Such delusions also characterise the A6-M60 Bypass project, even though it’s still on the drawing board.
The Airport Road (A6-M56) was due to open last autumn, but this was put back to June 2018 because of “poor ground conditions”. The ground conditions were caused by rain (so unexpected!) as well as other unspecified causes – likely to be the result of inadequate surveying or examination of the route before construction begun.
This sorry tale ought to encourage a change of approach at Stockport Town Hall about the planned A6-M60 Bypass but will it? Wrong information has been given to councillors and awkward information has been kept out of sight.
Later news: Responsibility for completing the Airport Road will pass to Morgan Sindall building firm. They were in a joint venture with Carillion to build the road and are now “the last man standing”.
Getting ahead in Whitehall
January 5th 2018: The Government’s Department for Transport has received a briefing document from Goyt Valley SOS! We got in ahead of the Councill’s funding application for the next stage of developing the A6-M60 Bypass. Our message to the Government: don’t waste any more public money on this scheme which will destroy precious green belt to build a road that won’t work! (Picture: looking across the Goyt from the west.)
Restoring the bridleway
January 4th 2018: Work is under way to repair last summer’s failed resurfacing of the bridleway along Stockport’s Goyt Valley (see picture). So far a Council digger has removed the top two inches of mud and puddles from the section between Bredbury Hall and Barlow’s Farm. The digger driver is now starting on the worst section, between Barlow’s and Goyt Hall.
This operation may not solve the whole problem. Some of the damage to the surface approaching Goyt Hall goes deeper than two inches (inset). Also the lack of drainage on loose surfaces like this leads to pot holes, the beginnings of which can be seen in the repaired section.
The removal of the top two inches lowers the surface below the kerbs installed last summer. This may hinder run-off of rain water. Last summer’s new surface was above the kerbs, allowing the rain to drain off to the sides in theory, though not in reality.
However, the good news is that when the current work is completed, people will once again be able to enjoy the valley and see what would be lost if the A6-M60 Bypass is built.
‘New roads don’t reduce congestion’
December 23rd 2017: Stockport Express is continuing to provide good coverage of the case against the A6-M60 Bypass. In the Christmas edition, a letter from Deborah Hind gets star billing. She points out that there is “a wealth of evidence collected over many years throughout the world that new roads do not reduce congestion, but actually encourage more people to drive”. Deborah adds “The trouble is that some councillors are not sharing this with their constituents and instead allow them to beliwve that once the valleys have been destroyed and their green spaces are gone, they will be free of congestion.”
Cabinet votes 5–3 for next Bypass stage
December 20th 2017: The Council’s Cabinet voted by five to three on 19th December to ask the Government for £500,000 to fund the next stage of development of the A6-M60 Bypass. The vote confirmed the recommendation of last month’s full Council meeting. Councillor Sheila Bailey made an awesome speech against the recommendation, with Councillor David Sedgwick backing her up. If the Government grants the request for £500,000, a new business case will be thrown together to hit a June deadline. The new business case would be used to apply for most of the £500 million needed to build the Bypass. Earlier, there were five public questions from opponents of the Bypass. Despite the questions, we are none the wiser about the public consultation that will take place if the first tranche of money (£500,000) is granted. Before the meeting started, defenders of south-east Stockport’s green spaces gathered with banners outside Fred Perry House, where the meeting was held – see picture. We will be opposing this all the way!
An alternative route?
December 17th 2017: Something that looks strangely like an alternative route appears in the Bypass Business Case. On page 243 of Appendices 5 to 9 is a map showing screen lines for traffic forecasts. It incidentally shows the Bypass following an alternative route – avoiding Offerton by skirting Marple and going through Stockport Golf Club, as did a map of the Bypass on display at the SEMMMS Refresh events. Such a route would utterly destroy the Lower Goyt Valley and bring extra traffic into Stockport, so it is not an acceptable alternative. The Bypass should be scrapped. LATER NEWS: This item has been re-edited since publication. It remains unclear why the wrong route was featured in the map on page 243. The people responsible say it was “illustrative”, which presumably is a plea of carelessness.
Queuing to double with Bypass
December 17th 2017: Fifteen years after the opening of the A6-M60 Bypass, so-called “permanent queuing” will have doubled, according to the Business Case appendices. You say: “but I thought the Bypass was meant to cure Stockport’s congestion.” True. That’s probably why they’ve saved this forecast for page 240 of Appendices 5-9. Permanent queuing is a queue at traffic signals that takes more than one cycle of lights to clear. The forecast says permanent queuing would be somewhat worse if the bypass wasn’t built than if it was. However, the forecast ignores the extra traffic that would be generated by the Bypass itself, so it is could well be underestimating the amount of congestion if the Bypass was built! The Business Case’s traffic forecasting is flawed and unreliable, but one thing is clear: the greenbelt-destroying Bypass has no answer to congestion in Stockport. Another solution will have to be found. Please join us for questions to councillors at 5.30 next Tuesday (19th December) at Fred Perry House next to the Town Hall, Edward Street.
At the Town Hall, November
December 1st 2017: Thank you to all the many who came to support our green spaces yesterday evening at the Town Hall and cheer the presentation of our 7,061-signature petition. In the picture , Councillors Sheila Bailey and Philip Harding join us outside the Town Hall before the meeting started. It’s no good beating about the bush: the Council voted by 43 votes to 14 to move to the next pre-construction stage of developing the Bypass – a full outline business case. But, perhaps even more disturbing than the vote itself, is the fact that many of the councillors voting to move forward with the Bypass would deny having done so. They would, instead, say that they had merely voted for further investigation. This seems to be far from what they are going to get. Independent councillor Patrick McAuley shone some light on this by drawing on his time when he was on the Council Executive. In business cases and similar situations, he said, councillors were either being told what they wanted to hear or what officials and report-writers wanted them to hear. Councillor McAuley said he had moved from pro- to anti- the Bypass. Councillors Sheila Bailey, in particular, Richard Coaton and John Taylor were prominent among others speaking against moving forward with the Bypass. The decision now moves back to the Council Cabinet meeting on December 19th for confirmation. What happens next? The Council must apply to the Government for money to fund the “investigation”/business case. There is the consoling thought that the Government has already refused this funding application once, last year.
At the Town Hall, October
October 26th 2017: We attended the full Council meeting to show our opposition to the Bypass Business Case and to ask questions. The Council leader, Alex Ganotis, told us the Council’s Cabinet was still working through the Business Case in advance of their meeting on 14th November at which they will give their response. He mentioned the possibility of a public consultation on the Business Case. We also questioned Councillors Lisa Smart, Wendy Meikle and Kenny Blair. Councillor Meikle, who represents Offerton, said she was undecided about the Bypass while Councillors Smart (for Bredbury Green and Romiley) and Blair (Marple South and High Lane) reiterated their support for it. The councillors’ wards all include areas that would be badly impacted by the A6-M60 Bypass.
October 11th 2017: “Angry residents have held a meeting to discuss how to stop a major bypass potentially being built through countryside on their doorstep,” reported this week’s Stockport Express. The paper was catching up on the recent meeting hosted by Goyt Valley SOS! in Offerton Community Centre. Many local residents have been unaware that the A6-M60 Bypass would go near their homes in Offerton if it follows the current plan. If you’re concerned about the Bypass, you can email the Council Leader, Alex Ganotis, and other councillors (see https://www.stockport.gov.uk/councillors/group-leaders) and sign our petition at goo.gl/ApvKzX
Questions to the Cabinet
October 3rd 2017: Thanks to all who came to the Council’s Cabinet meeting on Tuesday October 3rd to show top councillors that people care about the devastation of our green spaces by the proposed A6-M60 Bypass. Ten-year-old Chloe surprised the councillors by asking a question about the threat to her school – Dial Park Primary. Our other questions protested that Offerton had been left in the dark and asked how people would be able to comment on the forthcoming Bypass Business Case.
The off-its-trolley Sainsbury’s road
September 27th, 2017: The planned link road from the A6-M60 Bypass to the A6 at Sainsbury’s is a little bit of road with big problems. As conceived in 2003, this would be single carriageway to carry around 10,000 vehicles a day. It would be sandwiched between Talbot Street and Alfreton Road. In our map (taken from the 2006 plans), mounds of waste earth (or “bunds”) line most of the road but won’t much reduce the damage for its neighbours. The link road would have congestion built-in at both ends. The 2006 plan gave it a traffic light junction with the Bypass – which would be a rush hour snarl-up. Down by Sainsbury’s the link road would get all mixed up with cars driving into Sainsbury’s. Surely traffic lights would be needed here, just a few metres away from the traffic lights on the A6 which would be another snarl-up? Bramhall Moor Lane on the other side of the junction cannot cope with its existing traffic, so imagine what it would be like as a feeder to the link road. Because of the extra traffic drawn to the link road, the A6 would become more congested around the junction than it is today with raised and unlawful levels of pollution.
Offerton needs to know
Still kept in the dark
September 19, 2017: We had a good discussion at our Goyt Valley SOS! meeting in the Queens, Bents Lane yesterday – with AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” playing in the background. One issue we talked about was the scandal of people living close to the A6-M60 Bypass route never having been given any information about the plans and how they would be affected. People are even now buying homes in places right next to the route such as Minsmere Walks and Torkington Manor without being warned that they could be living next door to a dual carriageway. How can those responsible justify keeping people in the dark? Please support our petition at goo.gl/ApvKzX
Why’s the Business Case late?
September 14, 2017: The Business Case for the A6-M60 Bypass has been delayed yet again. It was originally due to appear last March, but then postponed until this week. Now it may make its appearance on October 26. This supposedly short project will overrun by (at least) seven months. The contractors working on the Business Case have clearly been struggling over something but the Council won’t say what. At the heart of any road-building business case is traffic modelling which may not always be as free from human intervention as people like Stockport Council would like you to believe. Unless the modelling figures come out right, the Council will be unable to get money from the Government to build their green belt-destroying, traffic generating road. Long may the contractors struggle over their figures! Please support our meeting next Monday (the 18th) in the Queens, Bents Lane at 7pm.
September 14, 2017: The Goyt Valley SOS! display (below) was a popular place at the Council’s consultation in Bredbury at Werneth School. The display featured pictures of the devastating effect the A6-M60-Bypass would have on the Lower Goyt Valley. The top picture shows Debbie during a vigorous discussion with big Bypass supporter Cllr Lisa Smart. In the lower picture, planning officers move in to tell Debbie to close the stall down. Big mistake! Saturday 16th September from 10am to 12.30pm at St Michaels Church Hall, St Michaels Avenue, Stockport, SK7 2PG (Bramhall/Cheadle Hulme); Monday 25th September From 6pm to 8.30pm at Hazel Grove Civic Hall, London Road, Stockport, SK7 4DF; Thursday 28th September From 6pm to 8.30pm at Kingsway School, Foxland Road, Stockport, SK8 4QX (Cheadle).
Consulting with SEMMMS
September 5, 2017: It’s time for us to take a stand – in this case a DIY display stand – at the Council’s “consultation” on the A6-M60 Bypass (below). The Council doesn’t like anyone else having display stands at their events but they had to put up with it at the event in St Mary’s Church in the centre of Stockport. The stand shows pictures of what the Bypass would do to the precious green spaces of Goyt Valley and Offerton. People need to see this! At yesterday evening’s other “consultation” in Marple, our display stand didn’t fare so well under pressure from the Director of Planning and cohort. Rest assured, we’ll be back – next Wednesday 13th September from 6pm at Werneth School, Harrytown, Stockport, SK6 3BX and Life Leisure, Houldsworth Village, Broadstone Road, Stockport, SK5 7AT. More about the “Refresh”.
Tracking the Bypass
August 19, 2017: We tracked the Bypass through Offerton on Sunday 13th August. Offerton and Bosden Farm Estates and the top of Hazel Grove will be the communities hit most severely overall by the A6-M60 Bypass. Our walk showed us that very little of the green spaces there will survive. A beautiful stretch of fields and a small wood will be lost to residents and to Stockport. The Bypass will go close to homes and to Dial Park Primary School. See the map of what the Bypass will do to Offerton.
Offerton’s vista in danger
August 2, 2017: The magnificent panorama pictured would be blocked by a mound of grassed road-building spoil if the A6-M60 Bypass were built. The picture looks down from Alfreton to Bean Leach Road, reversing the view in our previous post. It’s not quite as far as it looks. From the fence to the low trees and shrubs would be filled with the spoil mound (according to 2006 plans that may be revised). The long mound with spirit-levelled top would block sight of drainage tanks, four busy lanes of traffic and the junction with the link road to Sainsbury’s A6 in the fields beyond – and everything else as well! It would be better to stop the Bypass with all its extra polluting traffic, and keep the vista. Please spread our petition at goo.gl/ApvKzX
Dirty air tricks
July 31, 2017:
Cheshire East Council staff has been exposed for falsifying roadside air quality data that may have affected planning decisions of various types. This worrying news is not a total surprise, since East Cheshire was already known for another piece of malpractice – sitting on terrible pollution readings for Disley. The Disley readings, if disclosed, might have produced a different result at the public inquiry in 2014 into Stockport Council’s Airport Road. When the Airport Road opens, it will draw traffic up the A6 through Disley and High Lane, further worsening pollution there. Stockport’s A6-M60 Bypass proposal does not involve East Cheshire Council, but that doesn’t mean we’re safe from manipulation. The Cheshire East revelations are a warning to us not to sit back and expect fair play from the Bypass Business Case, when it comes out in September.
Hills of roadside waste
July 26th, 2017: If the A6-M60 Bypass is allowed to be built, its footprint will be much wider than the dual carriageway itself. Much of the extra land will be taken to accommodate mini hills of waste soil. Although these flat-top hills are claimed to shield local residents, they are really cost-saving greenbelt destroyers. The Airport Road, now being built, shows how mini-hills are used. Nine hills have already been built but now another eleven are to be added because of a massive over-production of waste. That’s more than double what was planned! The Airport Road is expected to be completed seven months late, not surprisingly. The road-building experts know less than they claim – a point to remember when the A6-M60 Bypass Business Case is unveiled in the autumn.
The route to traffic chaos
July 23rd, 2017: Tomorrow the A6 will close for up to 12 weeks in the centre of Stockport for essential repairs to the long bridge over the Mersey. The effect on traffic is bound to be severe! But before any drivers suffering extra delays around Stockport start calling out for bypasses, it would be worth thinking about the chaos that would be produced if the A6-M60 Bypass were to go ahead. The two jobs causing most trauma would be the rebuilding of M60 Junction 25 to accommodate three lanes entering it eastbound and the remodelling of Crookilley Way roundabout to unsuccessfully cope with around 40,000 extra vehicles daily (based on 2004 data). That really would be prolonged (and pointless) traffic paralysis.
Jim Fearnley to disappear in 2022?
July 12th, 2017: Council officers have told us this week that the Jim Fearnley Bridge has an estimated remaining life of five years. This is a disturbing footnote to our celebration of the Poise Brook Valley and the bridge last Sunday. The bridge isn’t a permanent structure and will, sooner or later, have to be either replaced or just removed. There are three reasons why the Council may not want to keep a bridge between the Goyt and Poise Brook Valleys: 1. Money is short. 2. A bridge will be opened in 2019 near Pear Mill for the new cycle way. 3 Senior Council officials intend to ruin the Poise Brook Valley with the A6-M60 Bypass. If we want to keep Jim Fearnley Bridge, we will have to speak up for it.
Celebrating Poise Brook Valley
July 9th, 2017: Our Poise Brook Valley Day celebration today took us through the Goyt Valley looking its best in the sunshine – apart from the bridleway itself which is messy while surfacing work continues. Our event was part of Fields In Trust’s Have A Field Day national activity. The King George V Cup pooh sticks race (named after the founder of Fields In Trust) was contested from Jim Fearnley Bridge. When we reached Poise Brook Valley itself, Fossil Creek lived up to its name (fern fossils pictured today). Our walk continued into the valley to the little footbridge over the brook. It was a great day to appreciate Stockport’s good fortune in having the two beautiful valleys and the bridge linking them. Let’s hang on to them.
The next big election is in Offerton
June 26th, 2017: Forget the general election, the next big vote will be taking place in Offerton. Because Stockport Council is on a knife-edge between Labour and the Lib-Dems, any closely fought ward can make the difference – and nowhere more so than Offerton. Campaigning is already under way for the next Offerton vote – though it will not be until May 2018! The candidates’ enthusiasm is impressive but they are being strangely shy on one of the biggest issues facing Offerton. What do the candidates think about the proposed A6-M60 Bypass which will devastate the heart of the ward? Over to you, candidates.
Safety has become important
June 26th, 2017: “Health ‘n’ safety” is no longer just for wimps following the tragic Grenfell Tower inferno. This year there has been increasing concern across the UK about hundreds of schools and nurseries within 150 metres of major polluting roads. Sorting out the existing problem will be a huge task, but surely we shouldn’t be putting more schools and busy roads next to each other – as will happen if the A6-M60 Bypass is built is built next to Dial Park three-school site in Offerton (picture) and the Overdale Centre, Romiley. Air pollution can affect children’s lung and brain development, according to research. There is no safe level but a 150-metre red line is a start.
What the Business Case will ignore
June 26th, 2017: Some confusion has been created – deliberately! Are we waiting for a “feasibility study” (stage 2) for the A6-M60 Bypass or a Business Case? The answer is that in 2015 the Business Case was officially named a “feasibility study” so it would sound fairer and more thorough than it really is. The Business Case’s purpose is simply to get the Council to build the road and get the Government to fund it. The Business Case will use traffic modelling to attempt to show that the Bypass will cure traffic problems rather than create new ones. That’s a bit unlikely in the real world, but modelling can be guided to produce the required answers. But what about all the other problems with the Bypass? The Business Case will say little about pollution, flooding, dodgy geology, lost green spaces, wildlife and heritage. These will only be looked at once the Business Case has been approved – and then only to check that all legal requirements are covered. The Business Case is biased, by design. Please don’t trust it when it appears in September.
Geology Report remains buried deep
June 18th, 2017: At the cabinet meeting of leading Stockport councillors last Tuesday, we yet again asked about the missing geological report of 2005 covering the A6-M60 Bypass. Once again we urged the Council to ask the authors for a copy. At the previous Cabinet meeting we had been told the company that wrote the report no longer existed. We subsequently pointed out by letter that the authors definitely existed and even had the same Altrincham phone number but now used the name of their parent company (Aecom). The Council then countered that Aecom were not the contracted authors. And finally on Tuesday a new line: they are not approaching Aecom because the report is out of date – ie a twelve-year-old report dealing with, among other geological issues, the 300-million-years-old Red Rock Fault! It may be that some technology has changed since 2005 but this series of evasions gives cause to distrust any statement from the Council concerning the Bypass. It is the people responsible for transport in the Council who have taken this decision. It is a shame that it tarnishes the whole Council which, of course, contains many excellent people.
Business Case to be four months late
June 18th, 2017: Last Tuesday we asked the Council’s Cabinet about what’s happened to the A6-M60 Bypass Business Case. The answer given was that it’s “still in progress”. The Business Case had been due to appear in Spring 2017. It is now expected on 14th September. The Business Case will be mainly about traffic and economic issues – with very little about the environment, pollution, loss of green space from Bredbury to Torkington, or the effect on people living nearby. It’s possible that the traffic modelling didn’t come out right to justify the £600 million cost or some other aspect undermined the case and had to be fixed, hence the delay. In the absence of explanations, we are left to speculate. A delay’s not good enough – we need to stop this destructive road plan completely!
Questioning Council leaders
June 10th, 2017: We are going to the Stockport Council Cabinet meeting on Tuesday (13th June) at 6pm with three questions about the A6-M60 Bypass: 1. Why are the Council still refusing to ask the authors of the 2005 geological report for a copy since the Council have lost/destroyed their own copies? 2. Will Greater Manchester’s new “environment czar” (Stockport Council Leader Alex Ganotis) join us in the Bypass-threatened Poise Brook Valley for an event as part of the July 8th national day of activity to protect green spaces? 3. Please, please tell us when you finally intend to publish the Outline Business Case for the polluting, green-space-destroying Bypass so that we can pull it apart? (After the questions we’ll be going on to the Goyt Valley SOS meeting at the Cow & Calf, 7.15pm.)
Waiting for the Business Case
May 31st, 2017: A Business Case for the A6-M60 Bypass was due to appear in “Spring 2017” setting out why and how the green spaces of Torkington, Offerton, Romiley and Lower Bredbury are to be trashed. The document (also known as the Feasibility Study Stage 2) remains under wraps. Stockport Council has not explained the delay. The hold-up could be due to the dubious official practice of keeping controversial plans away from the public during general elections, but this has not been stated. The next possible date for the Business Case to appear is June 30th when the agenda for the next meeting of the Council’s Economy & Regeneration Scrutiny Committee will be published. The meeting itself is on Thursday July 6th. Is the Business Case such rubbish that the Council is embarrassed to let anyone see it? Are its traffic modelling figures being hastily reworked? Why can’t the Council just tell the public what’s happening?
Our Bluebell Walk in the press
May 17, 2017: Our Bluebell Walk and campaign are in this week’s Stockport Express. The helpful article highlights the threat of a high-level bridge across Stockport’s Goyt Valley. The Stockport Council spokesperson quoted gives nothing away about when the forthcoming Business Case for the A6-M60 Bypass will be published. The article was illustrated by a photo of the Bluebell Walkers similar to the brilliant picture at the top of this page. The picture shown here of walkers passing bluebells in Goyt Valley woods is also nice (thanks to photographer Jack Wrigley).
The burying of the geological report
May 11, 2017: Attempts to block access to a geological report became almost laughable at the April meeting of the Council’s Executive.
The A6-M60 Bypass would include a tunnel running along the Red Rock Fault through Lower Bredbury (see picture) as well as potential problems from a gravel pit and unmarked mine workings. So a geological report would surely be useful.
A Geo-environmental Interpetative Report covering both the Airport Road and A6-M60 Bypass was produced in 2005. Goyt Valley SOS first asked for this in 2015. We were told it was “not available”. “Destruction of files” was mentioned – i.e. it had apparently been thrown away!
Trying a different tack, in April 2017 we asked the Council Executive to request a copy of the report from the consultants who wrote it. The Executive responded that the company “no longer exists”. This is amazingly and blatantly untrue. The report was by Faber Maunsell, who were set up in 2001 by the US firm Aecom. In 2009 Faber Maunsell became Aecom Europe. They kept the same telephone number in Altrincham. The Council used Aecom for further reports for the Airport Road in 2011 and 2013. The Council know they exist.
The councillors on the Executive cannot be blamed for giving a misleading answer because they were fed wrong information by officers. However, councillors of all parties need to start questioning what they are being told about the Bypass.
After we complained to the Executive, Council staff are again supposed to be looking for the report. Meanwhile the question remains: why are some SMBC staff so against people seeing this report?
Jim Fearnley fears remain
April 27, 2017: Our visit to the Council Executive confirmed that we should be worried about the future of the Jim Fearnley footbridge over the Goyt. In answer to Rachel’s question, Councillor Kate Butler said the bridge was not a public right of way – implying the Council was not obliged to repair or replace the ageing structure. Councillor Butler had nothing clear to say about what would happen to the bridge if the disastrous A6-M60 Bypass was to go ahead. But she did significantly refer to the new cycle and foot crossing approved further down river, which we fear could sooner or later be used as an excuse for closing Jim Fearnley. The Councillor said “it is a little bit too early” to determine the future of Jim Fearnley but it would cost “up to £1 million” to replace the present structure (if it is judged unsafe). We need to use this bridge and speak up for it, or lose it.
Questions for the Council Executive
April 22, 2017: Goyt Valley SOS! is going to the Council Executive meeting next Tuesday (25th at 6pm in Fred Perry House) to ask:
- Please promise that the Jim Fearnley Bridge will remain where it is and be renovated or rebuilt if that becomes necessary.
- Please tell us how the seven-month delay in completion of the A6-to-Airport Relief Road will be paid for.
- Please make the 2005 geo-environmental report available to the public. (This is the most recent geological report covering the A6-M60 Bypass; access to it has been refused despite the route going across a gravel pit, mine shafts and the Red Rock fault.)
- Please tell us when people can see the Bypass Feasibility Study Stage 2.
The Bypass in the General Election
April 18, 2017: The shock plan for a General Election on June 8 will affect our campaign against the A6-M60 Bypass. Sadly, prominent candidates will be vying to support the Bypass – while also opposing building on the green belt! The Bypass plan was first resuscitated immediately before the 2015 election. It will be difficult but we need to ensure that the case against the Bypass can be heard. Goyt Valley SOS! is strictly non-party political.
Airport Road lags behind
April 18, 2017: Work on the Airport Road (A6-MARR) is to overrun by seven months and finish in June next year, according to Stockport Council. This is relevant to the Council’s plans to build an A6-M60 Bypass in three ways: 1. It shows major road projects are risky. 2. The Council is putting part of the blame for the overrun on “poor ground conditions” – but the geology for the A6-M60 Bypass could be even more challenging. 3. The overrun will mean that realistic traffic modelling for building the Bypass cannot take place until 2019 when the effects of the Airport Road become clear; instead the Council has been relying on modelling already carried out despite the great changes the Airport Road is likely to make to traffic patterns.
The realigned A6 at Hazel Grove is about to open following the erection of massive netting to protect drivers from stray golf balls. The realignment is part of the Airport Road scheme.
The Council has not said who will pay for the Airport Road delay. Rain and flooding, as well as ground conditions, are being blamed. An Outline Business Case for the A6-M60 Bypass is to be published next month. Councillors must then decide whether to push ahead with developing the Bypass and asking the Government to pay £600 million for it.
Jim Fearnley Bridge at risk
April 17 2017: The Jim Fearnley Bridge would be scrapped when a monstrous Bypass bridge is built across the Goyt. The Jim Fearnley Bridge at present provides a peaceful and vehicle-free crossing of the Goyt for walkers and cyclists around 300 metres away from where the Bypass would cross. Clearly, if the A6-M60 Bypass is built, Stockport’s Goyt Valley will cease to be a place to enjoy leisure – and the planned removal of the Jim Fearnley Bridge underlines this fact.
The Bayley-style bridge has a limited structural life, so we should be talking about when and how this much used and loved feature of the valley is rebuilt. The Council seems to have other ideas. The Jim Fearnley Bridge is missing completely from both the 2004 and 2006 plans for the Bypass. This is all the more disturbing because, generally, the Bypass plans overlay the existing map, whose features such as paths remain visible. It is as if the Jim Fearnley Bridge has already been air-brushed from history.
In the extract below from the 2006 plans, we have added dots to show the bridge and path to Alan Newton Way. We have also added labels and coloured the river, brook and two large ponds planned to collect road run-off.
The threatened valley
April 12 2017: A superb view of the Lower Goyt Valley was snapped by an airline passsenger. We have added the destructive route planned for the A6-M60 Bypass.
An ominous intersection
April 8 2017: The picture below shows where the greenbelt-destroying A6-M60 Bypass would join on to the Airport Road just north of Simpson’s Corner. The advancing Airport Road (coming from the front of the picture) is still mud, but the realignment of the A6 is now so far advanced that there are a line of lamp posts, a sign to Buxton and even a car sitting there last Sunday morning. There will be a T-junction between the realigned A6 and the Airport Road. If the Bypass were to be allowed to smash through the woodland to join the Airport Road, the T-junction would become a cross-roads or more likely a complicated and intrusive roundabout.
Dark Lane: into the darkness
April 2017: The starting point of our May 7 Bluebell Walk would be devastated by the the A6-M60 Bypass, according to the recently disclosed 2006 plans. We’ve added some red labels in the plan extract below. The little car park outside the gates of Bredbury Hall where we will meet is on the left. An access for emergency vehicles for tunnel accidents runs across the side of the field next to the stream and the car park. Three reed beds and a pond for road run-off are right next to the Dark Lane/Alan Newton Way bridleway. The run-off drains from there into the stream. The Bypass cuts through Vernon Road Woods Nature Reserve to the mouth of the tunnel, exactly where Vernon Road bridleway is now. This will be an intensely noisy and polluted place. The bridleway is diverted up over the top of the shallow tunnel. Fortyacre Drive and Bancroft Close are nearest to the tunnel hell’s mouth. Fortunately none of this has happened yet and we will do all we can to prevent this nightmare. Please join our walk through the still beautiful Lower Goyt Valley at 2.15 on Sunday May 7 from the gates of Bredbury Hall, SK6 2DH.
Seven old woods would be ruined
April 2017: Study of two tythe maps from the 1840s has revealed that the A6-M60 Bypass (as planned in 2006) would ruin seven old woods shown on the maps. Not surprisingly the wonderful Poise Brook Valley Woods is one. The other six old woods are smaller, but still precious – especially because of their closeness to urban areas. Among the casualties would be two small woods above Goyt Hall Farm, which are shown on the tythe map of 1841 looking much the same as on a modern satellite photo (in the images below I have coloured the woods and removed a distracting page fold). The Bypass would hit them full on. Road-builders are supposed to try to avoid ancient woodland, which is defined as more than 400 years old. All seven woods might be that old but so far the case is only proven for Poise Brook Valley and Crookilley Woods – and both remain on the Bypass route despite the supposed protection! We need all these patches of wildness that have survived in valleys and along streams for centuries.
Dodge home in danger?
March 2017: The blunders and alarming assertions from the A6-M60 Bypass feasibility consultants just keep on coming. This one comes from the just-published appendices to the Feasibility Study Stage 1. In some maps tucked away at the back of the document the Bypass is shown going right through the historic Halliday Hill farm house (former ancestral home of the Dodge family).
This error is all the more amazing because the public inquiry of 1988 ordered the road rerouted away from the farm house. The new maps are dated June 2016. So how come they include a route abandoned for almost 30 years?
The maps in question show various protected historical and environmental features that the Bypass should try to avoid. The map for listed buildings shows the Bypass scoring a direct hit on Halliday Hill farm house. Another map showing the Bypass in relation to Poise Brook Valley woods also endangers the farm house.
So is it a mistake by a work experience student or a deliberate change to the route, involving the demolition of an important part of Stockport’s heritage?
2006 plans surface in 2017
Dealing with Stockport MBC’s s road-building arm can be a maddening business even before they let loose their bulldozers. Last spring we submitted a Freedom of Information request “Please would you provide the most recent plans available for the 1.Relief Road from east of A627 Offerton Road to A6/A6MARR junction 2. The Stepping Hill link. I appreciate the latest plans could be from 2004.” The “most recent plans” they sent on 22 April last year were indeed from 2004. We now know that they should have sent the much more detailed and updated 2006 plans that have just been disclosed in the Bypass A6-M60 Feasibility Study Stage 1 Appendices. If they had done so, we would have known, for instance, that the threat to reroute Marple Road through Foggbrook Close had been lifted ten years ago – which would have been useful for the people living there! The Appendices have just been reluctantly published by SMBC. Why not be more open – this caginess just makes it seem like SMBC road planners have got some big horrible secret. The 2006 plans are on page 38 onwards of the Appendices. The imminent Feasibility Study Stage Stage 2 will include 2017 plans.
Response delivered to the biased ‘Study’
Today the Goyt Valley SOS! response to the Bypass Feasibility Study Stage 1 was delivered to each of the 63 Stockport councillors. It’s quite long and detailed but the basic message is that the Study “is a sub-standard piece of work making troubling proposals and inaccurate statements” and “councillors ought to be concerned that the same contractors (WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff) are producing the Stage 2 Study”.
One of the most troubling proposals is the “high-level bridge” option across Stockport’s wonderful Lower Goyt Valley, but the Stage 1 Study also makes a case for the road as effectively part of the strategic road network, rather than the “local bypass” previously planned. This would make it all the more likely that the Bypass would sooner or later seize up. Maybe more of the councillors will now start to realise what ruinous rubbish the A6-M60 Bypass plan is. Read our analysis.
Mr Ganotis – please just stop!
When Labour’s Alex Ganotis, Stockport council’s leader, took office last year he promised to review the A6-M60 Bypass plan (good!), but two months later SMBC applied for Government funding for more preparation work beyond the current Feasibility Study. This could mean that the promised review isn’t serious – although the Council told us that the funding bid was just in case the decision is to push ahead. At the Council meeting in January, Mr Ganotis strongly implied that the work would carry on, although the review still hasn’t taken place. But there’s a hitch – SMBC must reapply for the funding, having failed to obtain it in the current bidding round. What an opportunity for Mr Ganotis to put an end to the whole miserable saga and to challenge the Lib-Dem and Tory groups to back him. Otherwise everywhere close to the route will be blighted for years, the Council will continue to waste its efforts, and the Bypass will continue to be a real danger. Mr Ganotis: please just stop it.
MP bungles plea for Bypass cash
Hazel Grove’s MP William Wragg made two startling errors while pleading in the Commons on Thursday for money for the nightmare A6-M60 Bypass.
He said the Bypass was needed because, among other reasons, traffic using the A6 is “predicted to increase” after the Airport Road is completed! This is true for traffic coming up the A6 through High Lane to get to the Airport Road but the Bypass could make this worse – whereas the longer stretch of the A6 from Hazel Grove northwards is supposed to be made better by the Airport Road. Otherwise, why is the Airport Road being built? It is amazing that Mr Wragg should be campaigning for the destructive, dysfunctional Bypass without being clear about such a basic fact.
Mr Wragg also was confused about what he was asking the Government to pay for in the first instance, asking the Government Minister: “Does he support progression to the stage 2 feasibility study?” The study is already funded and about to appear (unfortunately)!
Replying to Mr Wragg, the Government Minister (Andrew Jones) was promising nothing but said the promoters of the road could send him the Bypass Feasibility Study after it was completed (Mr Jones seems to know more than Mr Wragg) and “it will be considered and given a very good hearing”.
Save the Greenbelt groups to rally on April 1
Stockport Council have taken a step back from plans to hand the green belt from High Lane to Heald Green to housing developers. The great Stockport walk on January 14 to stop the draconian housing plans is pictured above. The housing development plans could yet reappear in one form or another. Meanwhile in other parts of Greater Manchester, the grabbing of the green belt goes on. Likewise in Bredbury, Romiley, Offerton, Hazel Grove and Torkington, where the plan to send 60,000 vehicles a day across our green belt is still with us in all its reckless and destructive stupidity. That’s why groups across Greater Manchester are rallying to save the green belt in Albert Square, Manchester on Saturday April 1st at 1pm. Goyt Valley SOS! will be there.
Well attended Marple meeting
On a wet night in Marple on 21st February more than 60 people came to our meeting on the A6-M60 bypass; many names were added to our mailing list. The presentation covered the impact of the Bypass on our green spaces and on people living near the route, and the likelihood of congestion on the bypass and streets leading to it. Many contributed to the discussion that followed, including several who retained the belief that the Bypass would solve Stockport’s traffic problems. Other speakers welcomed the way we had brought the Bypass plans to people’s attention, and the situation of residents of Foggbrook Close was highlighted.
A well-argued contribution pointed out that it was an established fact that new roads generated more traffic. The same speaker noted the authorities’ failure to implement public transport improvements that were supposed to be an essential part of the original 2001 SEMMMS plan alongside new road building. These included new Metro lines to Stockport and Marple, priority bus lanes and improved train frequencies.
Town Hall questions
We went to the Town Hall on 23rd February to ask questions at the Council’s full meeting. All the councillors heard from us about the threat to the Goyt Valley from either official options – a massive cutting and long bridge or a very long high bridge. We also told them of the 27 streets and three schools that would be most severely affected by the Bypass. And we told the council leader that he would have no credibility if he moved ahead with further preparatory work for the scheme while claiming at the same time that he had not yet reached a decision to back it.
What were the results of our Town Hall visit? Council leader Alex Ganotis said it was the responsibility of councillors to “take seriously the concerns of residents” even if the councillors supported the A6-M60 Bypass and the residents were affected by it. (Reality check: don’t expect councillors of Hazel Grove, Bredbury and Romiley to become suddenly helpful.) And Mr Ganotis admitted that “a significant proportion of people in certain areas of Stockport will not be happy” with him not stopping the bypass now. That’s progress because opponents of the bypass have previously been pigeon-holed as conservationists rather than people living in streets destined to be next to the nightmare road..
Mr Ganotis did said he would meet people from affected communities but, unfortunately, only as part of an official consultation that won’t take place until after a decision to move to the next stage of development. So that’s more like a No than a Yes to ‘public engagement’.
He was unclear how a decision to move ahead would be taken, following publication of the Feasibility Study Stage 2: will it be just based on the Study’s recommendations, since it seems as if other submissions may not wanted at that time? This is worrying since Feasibility Study Stage 1 is slipshod and biased. Disturbingly Mr Ganotis did not rule out the high-level bridge across the Lower Goyt Valley (suggested in Study Stage 1) as a bad joke.