This is my first “Chair’s blog”. From now on, I hope to update, informally, every couple of weeks what Bingley Town Council has been doing. As this is the first blog, it’s rather long….in future I’ll try to keep it shorter.
Topics covered in this blog
- the budget and precept
- Aire Valley Incinerator
- planting and green spaces
- local schools’ ideas for how to spend the precept
- Bingley Market
In addition, if you subscribe to news on this site, you will receive regular news on Town Council activity and every quarter we aim to publish a newsletter. You can also keep up to date through the Bingley Town Council Facebook page and Twitter.
Since the council was formed last April, it’s been non-stop: lots of work setting up the council and lots of work to try to address the many issues facing our communities in Bingley, Cottingley, Crossflatts, Eldwick, Gilstead and Micklethwaite. There is much to be done and we have made a start on many matters as well as dealing with issues as they arise.
Budget and precept
In December, the council agreed its budget and set its precept. The budget details are at the end of this blog and the precept for 2017/2018 will be £15.96 per Band D household. This is an increase of 52p on the 2016/2017 amount and is still one of the lowest in Bradford District.
The budget has been set to cover the costs of the activities and responsibilities that the council must meet, its statutory obligations, as well as prioritising areas for action based on feedback so far from residents. City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council (CBMDC) is proposing further cuts in services, including closing all public toilets, but we understand that will not happen in the forthcoming financial year so, consequently, we have not made provision this year for any assets or services that we may take on from CBMDC, if that’s what local residents want.
Aire Valley Incinerator
A key and controversial issue in January has been the approval by CBMDC of a new Energy from Waste incinerator in the Aire Valley near Marley (planning application: 16/06857/FUL). This is in Keighley Town Council’s parish, not Bingley’s. Nonetheless, we were consulted. Bingley Town Council is against the building of this incinerator, although not all councillors support this position particularly as the development will provide jobs. However, at the meeting of the Regulatory and Appeals committee last Thursday (9 February) I was given the opportunity to share our objections to the incinerator and the grounds on which we recommended refusal:
- The number of large vehicles accessing the site, causing both pollution and noise.
- Heritage issues. The proposed development will be a large construction and will be visible for miles around the site and will interfere with the visual amenity of the surrounding area (it’s a stone’s throw from East Riddlesden Hall and will be visible from the Five Rise Lock and Leeds to Liverpool canal).
- There are concerns about the output from the incinerator. Toxins will travel into the Bingley residential area.
- There is a lack of information attached to this application.
- The air quality will be adversely affected.
- Incineration is an unacceptable method of dealing with landfill and other waste.
Despite our recommendation to refuse, along with Keighley Town Council, a CBMDC ward councillor for Keighley and an excellent presentation by the protest group Aire Valley Against Incineration, CBMDC has approved the application and it is likely the plant will be completed in 12-18 months. Work has already started on the site, near Marley, because Bradford Council approved an application for an incinerator back in 2013. A second application, with significant amendments, was refused in 2015, primarily because of the size and scale of the development. However, this latest application, in the view of the CBMDC councillors, addresses the reasons for refusal. I understand that the matter is to be considered by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, so there is a chance that the matter may be “called in”. Even if the plant is built, it still has to have a permit from the Environment Agency to operate. I hope very much that we find a way to stop this plant from being built or operating: it’s the wrong development in the wrong place.
Green and Clean
On a brighter note, Bingley Town Council’s Green and Clean sub-committee is having a considerable and positive impact. In January, it held an event for any individuals or groups involved or interested in planting and green spaces in the parish. The aim is to support their efforts by providing a network to share ideas and best practice, as well as access to lower cost plants for public spaces through bulk-ordering via CBMDC.
This is one example of how the Green and Clean sub-committee has been working alongside Bradford’s Parks Department. We are also working with ward officers and the Canal and Rivers Trust (CRT). We held a meeting last Monday (6 February) at which issues, particularly tackling litter, were discussed. Bingley Town Council has received a number of complaints about the overflowing litter bins along the canal, especially at the Three Rise Locks. These bins are emptied by contractors employed by CRT which has responsibility for the towpath. The Trust has promised us it will investigate why this contract is not working as it should and ways to ensure the bins along the canal are emptied regularly. CBMDC has also undertaken to clarify who owns the land under Britannia Bridge. This area of shrubs is usually unkempt, litter strewn and, sadly, used as a dog toilet. If ownership can be established, it will be the first step towards responsibility for the site being acknowledged so that it can be cared for. It can also then be used as a means to connect the canal to the town centre, signposting what is on offer.
The area under Britannia Bridge was the starting point for the most recent litter pick, organised once more by Councillor Edwina Simpson and supported by Bingley Green Dog Walkers, a small group of volunteers who do a sterling job raising awareness of the menace of dog poo and encouraging more responsible dog ownership. Thirty volunteers turned out for the litter pick and collected over 40 bags of other people’s rubbish, as well as tackling dog poo. Equipment for the litter picks has been provided by CBMDC and we will work with them ensure the bags of rubbish are disposed of properly. We were also pleased to welcome a representative from Litter Free Guiseley who popped over to find out how our litter picks work, as well as rolling up his sleeves and clearing rubbish.
In addition, at least 12 residents have come forward to become “Green and Clean Champions”. They will all be provided with equipment by the Town Council and encouraged to patrol a patch, trying to keep it clear of litter. We are liaising with CBMDC to try to ensure that particularly problematic areas are covered by the Green and Clean Champions, as well as avoiding overlap of CBMDC efforts. Cllr Simpson is in regular contact with CBMDC officers and this has resulted in an enforcement order on the Ministry of Justice to tidy up its land by the Magistrates Court. We have also highlighted “grot-spots” around Bingley railway station (including the Station Master’s House). Litter removal along the by-pass and the slip roads into Bingley have to be done by CBMDC and, for health and safety reasons, involve lane closures. We understand the next litter pick along the by-pass is scheduled for the end of February.
The Green and Clean sub-committee is also aiming that this year will see the start of floral displays, probably on lamp posts, in Bingley Town Centre. Feedback from residents across the parish has highlighted a keen desire for an improvement in the appearance of the town centre. So, this year we will be concentrating on the centre. In future years, it is hoped that other areas across the parish will also benefit from seasonal floral displays.
Another source of great frustration for local residents is the state of several “eyesore” properties, namely the Station Master’s House, the “Annex” on Mornington Road, opposite Priestthorpe Primary School – and the former Bradford and Bingley Building Society site. The latter was, of course, bought by Sainsbury’s several years ago but sold, just after Christmas, to Lidl. Bingley Town Council has made contact with Lidl and will do its best to ensure that site is developed in the best way possible for the town. In particular, at the next council meeting, we will be discussing a triangular piece of land at the “park-side” of the site. This was sold to BBBS in 1974 by Bingley Urban District Council with a covenant that, if the Bingley Society was demolished, the land could not be built on again. However, it seems that in 2010 there was an agreement between CBMDC and Sainsbury’s that altered this covenant. We are now trying to establish the implications of this change.
The Station Master’s House: we have written to the owner and his agent requesting urgent action to tidy the site – no reply. We have asked CBMDC to use its powers under planning or housing legislation to get the site tidied and brought back into productive use. Sadly, CBMDC says the site is safe, that the authority does not have the funds to take any action and there are other derelict sites across the district of greater priority. Bingley Town Council does not agree with this and will continue to press for action to stop this site blighting our town. We have recently requested CBMDC executes an order to tidy up the litter on the site – we’ll keep you posted.
Priestthorpe Annex: this site is owned, through a trust, by CBMDC. The latest is that in the building’s deeds it states that the property has to be used for educational purposes. However, CBMDC can’t find the deeds. So, it is now going back to its legal department to work out what to do. Previously, CBMDC has committed to disposing of the property. Bingley Town Council has contacted the Charities Commission and Land Registry to try to find out if either of these organisations has the deeds and will continue to press CBMDC for action.
Progress on these buildings is frustratingly non-existent, despite all our efforts and the time invested. But, I am absolutely determined not to give up. I am so tired of looking at these neglected sites and the negative impact they have on our town.
Last Thursday afternoon, several of our local schools presented their ideas for ways to spend the council’s budget to several of the councillors. The underlying aim of their projects was to encourage the students to use maths to solve problems and provide evidence. It was a fascinating event and the pupils, who were full of passion and enthusiasm, came up with an impressive array of suggestions, summarised here:
Bingley Grammar School: wanted to see the former BBBS/Lidl site transformed into a flats along with a leisure and retail park including a cinema. It is an ambitious plan and they’d put a lot of work into the costings. (BGS, I am sure the council would love to do this but our budget is £135,000 per year and we don’t own the site.)
Saltaire Primary School: devised a community garden for the centre of Bingley. They produced impressive spreadsheets and had used recycled materials in their beautiful designs. Interestingly, their ideas were in line with some discussed at Green and Clean meetings so, perhaps, going forward Saltaire’s hopes might become a reality.
Eldwick Primary School: concern about speeding drivers had prompted the students to design and cost out new signage for the roads in the village, urging motorists to slow down. The pupils had made a brilliant bar chart showing the evidence they had collated to support their ideas. They also calculated it would cost £428 for eight double sided signs. Bingley Town Council has invited highways officers from CBMDC to a forthcoming meeting – and I will certainly raise the pupils’ ideas with them.
Beckfoot Grammar School: Incredible Edibles, a project pioneered in Calderdale, had caught their imagination. The pupils hoped to replicate the scheme in Bingley by providing planters in which the town can grow healthy fruit and vegetables. They had calculated costs of planters, soil and plants as well as working out how to gain funding from a variety of sources – local business, CBMDC as well as Bingley Town Council. Going forward, this is a project already in the Town Council’s strategy and which we hope to promote.
Crossflatts Primary School: their focus was also the former BBBS. They too want a leisure centre with a trampoline park. They had a fabulous plan and used entrepreneurial as well a mathematical skills, although their budget £8,332,569.43 (!!) is in a different league to that of the Town Council’s c.£135,000 per year.
Priestthorpe Primary School: across the road from the Annex, they had looked at how to bring this derelict site back into use: a gym, more classrooms and even an underground tunnel to connect the annex to the main school. Their analysis of the pros and cons of their ideas was solid and they provided a lot of evidence for need, based on increased local birth rate. With the help of a parent, they’d created a wonderful 3-D plan and estimated it would cost £250,000 to renovate the building. I’ll scan and send their presentation to CBMDC to underline just how great an impact this abandoned building is having on so many lives.
Finally, Bingley Market which has dwindled to three stalls and is a source of much concern to local residents: the Town Council has joined the National Association of British Market Authorities. A few councillors have held a meeting with NABMA’s Chief Executive and, at the next Town Council meeting, I’ll be putting forward a plan to carry out a consultation and other work that will help us come up with a plan for the market.
On Monday (13 February), Councillors Marcus Dearden (Vice Chairman and Chairman of the Finance and General Purposes Committee), Mark Truelove (Chairman of the Planning Committee) and I met officers from CBMDC to try to get a clearer idea of how we can all work together for the benefit of our area. On Tuesday (Valentine’s Day), it was the Planning Committee at Shipley and Bingley Voluntary Services, Cardigan House, Ferncliffe Road, 6.30pm. As well as a variety of planning applications, the committee discussed a pre-application for a new phone mast in Crossflatts.
This week, we also hope to distribute the latest copy of the Bingley Town Council newsletter. We are very keen to keep residents up to date with our activities on their behalf – and also welcome suggestions and constructive criticism. Please keep comments positive. Unlike district councillors, town councillors receive no allowance and freely invest their time and energies in our community. There is so much that needs to be done to help our communities and we are attempting to focus on priorities. As well as suggesting what you might like to see happening in Bingley, it would be helpful if you could add a note on who might be able to do the work, how much it might cost and ideas on how it could be achieved.
The next full Town Council meeting is on Tuesday, 28 February, 6.30pm at SBVS, Ferncliffe Road, Bingley. On the same day, the new Town Council website should also be launched.
Very best wishes, Ros Dawson.
The budget and precept details are available here.