Hello!

Since my last blog, so much has happened – and much has already been reported on our website or elsewhere.  So, to avoid repetition, today I’ll concentrate on a personal perspective of what’s happening in the next couple of months and a few of the recent events.  It’s turned into a long read covering the following: Easter market, Annual Town Meeting, Neighbourhood Plan, Blooming Bingley! Lidl site (and other derelict buildings), Bingley Town Council offices, Bingley Public Toilets.  Supplementary documents:  Bingley Town Council priorities 2017-18, Submission to Regulatory and Appeals Committee about the Priestthorpe Annex.

First, dates for your diary:

Easter market

First, next Friday and Saturday, 14 and 15 April, there’s an Easter Market Extravaganza in Bingley Town Square.  The event is organised by Bingley Chamber of Trade supported by Bingley Town Council.  Councillors Michelle Chapman, John Goode and Mark Truelove are putting in a lot of hard work to make the Easter market a great success.  It will see regular traders joined by a variety of other stalls including food and drink offerings – and the Town Council’s own stall.  There will also be an Easter Egg hunt around the town, entertainment for children, including free donkey rides on the Saturday, and special appearances by the Bingley Bear.  We hope you’ll come along and join in the fun.

A consultation on what residents’ views on the market is due soon – we’re just working on the details with Graham Wilson, the Chief Executive of the National Associations of British Market Authorities, who is helping us with this project.

Annual Town Meeting

After the Easter market, the next event is the Annual Town Meeting on Thursday, April 27th, 6.30pm at the Methodist Church, Herbert Street, Bingley.  Whilst this is organised by the Town Council, it’s an opportunity for the council to talk about what it’s achieved in its first year and for electors in the parish to get together to raise and discuss issues of importance to them.

Neighbourhood Plan

Then, the following month on Tuesday, May 30th, we’re holding a public meeting about the possibility of a Neighbourhood Plan for Bingley.  A Neighbourhood Plan is a potentially complex undertaking and, as well as councillors, will need to involve residents who are prepared to get involved and share their skills and expertise.  Here’s a link to some information provided by the Royal Town Planning Institute: http://www.rtpi.org.uk/planning-aid/neighbourhood-planning/what-is-neighbourhood-planning

There are considerable advantages in having a plan.  In a nutshell, it will give us the opportunity to say what type of development (commercial and housing) we want and where it should be sited.  It will also entitle us to 25% of any Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) on new development.  At present, because Bingley has a Town Council it will receive 15% (if we didn’t have a council, the local area would potentially receive no benefit from CIL as it would all go to Bradford Council).  However, creating a Neighbourhood Plan may well be a 2 or 3 year project.  The Town Council is willing to lead on creating a plan, if there is sufficient and committed local support and enough volunteers. Locality provides an overview http://locality.org.uk/resources/quick-guide-neighbourhood-planning And here’s information about CIL and Bradford Council’s approach to it: https://www.bradford.gov.uk/planning-and-building-control/planning-policy/community-infrastructure-levy.  If you are interested in finding out more about a Neighbourhood Plan and getting involved, please come along to the meeting.

Blooming Bingley!

The end of May will also see floral displays throughout the Town Centre – the first time in my memory that this has happened.  There will be pole-mounted baskets, planters and tubs filled with gorgeous blooms!  Cllrs Edwina Simpson and John Goode have put in vast amounts of work on this in a very tight timeframe.   The displays involve investment but I firmly believe they will make a highly visible and positive difference, improve the streetscape and help to make our town bright, attractive and a place where people want to live, visit, shop and do business.

This year, the floral scheme will concentrate on Bingley Town Centre because, according to feedback from residents and those at the January Plants and Green Spaces Roadshow, that is the area of most concern.  Please be assured, however, this is just the start and the aim is to extend the floral displays to other parts of the parish in future years to complement the great work already being done by local volunteers and village societies.  Thanks must also go to the Women’s Institute members who have adopted the planters in the Town Square.  Maybe  one day Bingley will be entering Britain in Bloom!

Lidl site

We understand that Lidl plans to hold a public meeting in May about its plans for the site it bought recently from Sainsbury’s (the former Bradford and Bingley Building Society site).   We will publish more details as soon as we receive them.

I recently discovered that part of this site, which was actually registered as part of Myrtle Park, was sold by Bradford Council to Sainsbury’s in 2010 for £375,000 + VAT.  I was gob-smacked when I found this out as I don’t remember any consultation with residents – or this money being invested in our town.  I have written a full report about my findings and if you’re interested in it, please email me and I’ll send it to you ros.dawson@bingleytowncouncil.gov.uk .  In the meantime, Bingley Town Council has written to Bradford Council to find out more about this transaction and where in Bradford’s accounts it is recorded.   We’ve also asked for a meeting about this – I’ll keep you posted.

Continuing the theme of tackling derelict sites: Station Master’s House – a result, at last!  When I walked down to the station a few weeks ago I could not believe my eyes: no weeds, no litter – just the results of Bradford Council’s Environmental Enforcement team, spurred into action by a Community Protection Order.  It must have been an awful challenge for the team and I really appreciate their efforts.  It was just brilliant to see the difference.

Over the past year I’ve led Bingley Town Council’s efforts for positive action with this dreadful eyesore.  This has involved a lot of emails, letters, phone calls and conversations and, to be honest, a lot of frustration and disappointment.  I know I am not alone in trying to get something done about this site and thanks must go to all those whose calls for action over many years have added to the clamour.  The past failure of those responsible to respond to pleas to improve this site was one of my motivations for campaigning for a Town Council.  I believed that elected community representatives surely had to be listened to – and at last this has proved to be the case.  We must continue to be pro-active about this key site in our conservation area.  At the Town Council meeting on Tuesday (March 28th), it was resolved to ask Bradford Council for a valuation of the site and for a meeting to discuss a Compulsory Purchase Order.  The Town Council will also get its own valuation – and we are investigating the possibility of creating a not-for-profit organisation that could develop this site.  This may prove too onerous and unfeasible but I believe we have to explore and consider all options.

Anyhow, thanks to everyone who’s taken time to feed back to us on these improvements at the Station Master’s House.  Encouragement is always appreciated!

Of course, another cause for concern is the Priestthorpe Annex/former Technical School on Mornington Road.  Being a councillor enabled me to address Bradford Council’s Governance and Audit Committee during its deliberations about this site.  Bradford Council, acting as trustees of the school, are now planning to hold a consultation about plans to sell the building and distribute any monies for the “educational benefit of the people of Bingley”.  Again, I know a number of residents have put in a lot of work trying to stop the dereliction of this lovely building and I am grateful to them for having shared the results of their work and findings.  My address to the Bradford Council trustees is below.  Whilst I am delighted that action is now being taken on this building, we need to try to find a way to ensure whoever buys the building is committed to doing something positive with it.

Litter picks

A particular highlight in early March was the multiple litter picks to coincide with the #GBspringclean organised once again by Councillors Edwina Simpson and John Goode.   John worked with a group from Cottingley Village Primary School on the Friday, and was given great support and backup by Cottingley Cornerstone. Along with John and Councillors Chris O’Neill, Howard Clough and Sara Hardman, I helped out on the morning at Cottingley and was absolutely delighted to see so many residents and young people taking part.  The 1st Cottingley Guides did a sterling job.  Thank you girls and your leaders.  The litter pick also provided the opportunity to be shown the Guide Hut, recently awarded a £2,000 grant from Bingley Town Council for much needed repairs.  It is wonderful that as a community we can use the council’s funds to support groups like this.

The litter pick in the afternoon was equally productive with bags of rubbish being collected from the area behind Bingley Cemetery down to Keighley Road.  Thanks to all who took part, including our Councillors Mark Truelove, Joe Wheatley and Geoff Winnard, and to All Saint’s Church or allowing us to use Church House for refreshments afterwards.

The next litter pick is on Saturday, April 29th, on Gilstead Moor.

Offices and toilets

Looking ahead, the council has to find new offices as our current home doesn’t meet accessibility criteria.  We also of course have to consider the costs of our accommodation.

Another pressing issue is the future of Bingley Public Toilets.  Bradford Council has resolved to stop funding all public toilets in the district, apart from one in the city centre right next to City Hall, so is looking to parish councils to find out if they wish to take on their conveniences.  We have had an initial discussion with Bradford Council officers and are being provided with information about costs and responsibilities etc.  I believe every civilised community should have public toilets. However, the Town Council will need to look at what’s involved in taking on the loos and then weigh up the social, environmental and economic/budgetary implications.  If a solution is not found, Bradford Council has made it clear the toilets will be shut and probably pulled down.

I hope this blog has given a broad outline of the type of work the council in which the council has been involved.  There is so much to be done.  Sometimes, the volume threatens to overwhelm.  So, to give some shape to our work programme, the council has now finalised its list of priorities for 2017-18 in which councillors have highlighted areas they wish to concentrate on.  These are published below and will be outlined at the Annual Town Meeting at the end of April.

As ever, constructive feedback on our efforts is always welcome.  I hope to see you at the Annual Town Meeting – and I’ll update the blog after that event.  Of course, any questions, please get in touch.

Best wishes, Ros

Bingley Town Council Priority work streams 2017-18

Priority More info Lead councillors Supporting councillors
1 Good governance Statutory: complete policies, general power of competence, continue excellent start achieved. Dawson, Winnard Simpson
2 Allotments Statutory: manage the allotments Dearden, Goode, Hardman,
3 Regeneration Taking on the market square, improving the market, improving Bingley’s retail offer, Christmas lights, events, working with Bingley Chamber and businesses, tourism initiatives, map of businesses, improving car parking offer, tackling derelict buildings and sites, improved digital infrastructure. Chapman, Dawson, Quarrie, Simpson, Truelove Dearden, Goode, Hardman, Varley, Winnard

 

4 Planning and Neighbourhood plan Neighbourhood Plan public meeting to be held – progress depends on engagement and involvement from wider community due to the scale of the undertaking. Quarrie, Truelove Clough, Dawson, Fenton, Hardman, Simpson, Winnard
5 Green and clean Implementing agreed Green and Clean strategy including litter picking, floral displays and planting and other initiatives.

 

Hardman, Goode, Simpson Dawson, Chapman, Fenton, Quarrie
6 Voluntary and community groups Liaising with, supporting and encouraging voluntary and community groups All
7 Residents’ consultations

 

Including surgeries, specific consultations on issues such as priorities, the market, wider consultation as part of possible Neighbourhood Plan. Dawson, Hardman, Simpson, Varley Winnard.
8 Events Attending and organising events. Chapman, Goode, Truelove, Varley Clough, Dawson, Winnard.

 

9 CBMDC liaison Liaison with Bradford Council + Community asset transfers/ACVs/services/event e.g. Bingley Music Live. Dawson, Simpson, Truelove Dearden, Quarrie

 

10 Crime Tackling crime and anti-social behaviour and improving policing. Pressure authorities to act on known trouble spots. Dawson, O’Neill, Clough, Dearden, Quarrie
11 Greenhill Development monitoring Hardman Dearden, Fenton, O’Neill
12 Communications Newsletter, website, social media + develop a proper strategy, blogs EMAC committee
13 Emergency planning Chapman,

Hardman

14 Gritting Hardman Simpson
15 Improvements to highways and transport Dawson

 

 

Submission to Regulatory and Appeals Committee of Bradford Council, 9.3.17

 

Mr Chairman, councillors and officers, thank you for allowing me this opportunity to address you about the Priestthorpe Annex, which is also known as the Technical School on Mornington Road in Bingley.

May I also thank the officers or councillors who have enabled this matter to come your attention.  This demonstrates a clear will for progress with this site which is very welcome.   I am the Chair of Bingley Town Council and this report and your decisions today will be considered by the Town Council at its next meeting.  I am not pre-empting any of its comments.

As you will understand from the officer’s report, the degeneration and state of the Technical School has been a long-running source of anger and frustration for many people in Bingley.  It is a key, unlisted building in the Leeds to Liverpool canal conservation area.

You have two recommendations listed in your report.

(not going to say these – but here just in case need to refer to them)

Recommended –

 

(1)       That the Strategic Director, Corporate Services seek representations from the public in respect of the proposed sale of Priesthorpe Annexe, Mornington Road, Bingley.

 

(2)       That, having given due consideration to the representations received, the Strategic Director, Corporate Services refer the matter back to this Committee for further consideration or, if no objections to the sale are received, progress the sale of the property and, subject to further legal advice, use the net sale proceeds for the educational benefit of the people of Bingley

 

Firstly, the recommendation to seek representations from the public is welcome and I hope comments will be made publicly available.   However, there are some questions about the second recommendation relating to the sale of the building.

It’s stated in this report that: “The disposal of the property will facilitate the dilapidated building being brought back into use which will benefit the amenity of the immediate area.”

Unfortunately, as we know from experience in Bingley, it cannot be assumed that ownership of land ensures it will be developed: the Sainsburys’/Lidl site, Station Master’s House, former Auction Mart site, land opposite Bingley Grammar School and the former Magistrates’ Building are all present examples of brownfield, empty or derelict sites or properties that blight our town.  There is a risk that the Annex/Technical School could be bought be someone who simply sits on it, does nothing, allows it to degenerate further and become dangerous.

This property, the Annex, is already in a dreadful and sorry state – “now considered to be beyond economic and physical repair”.  This has such a negative impact on a well-established residential neighbourhood.  There is a primary school opposite the building and it is surrounded by adopted footpaths and highways.  We don’t want it to get any worse.

Therefore, firstly, I would like to request that the committee considers using the term “disposal” rather than sale in its recommendations.

Although the term “disposal” tends to imply a sale on the open market for monetary consideration, it can also mean releasing, vacating or transferring a property.

Disposal doesn’t rule out selling the property – but could perhaps involve conditions on the sale to ensure it is developed – and developed sympathetically and within a timeframe.  Or, through using this or other appropriate legal terminology, perhaps, the building could be asset transferred to a not-for-profit organisation with a positive plan.

Secondly, given the state of the building, a clear and early steer from Bradford Council’s conservation office and planners about what would be acceptable for this site would speed its development.  Therefore, could the conservation team be consulted now and put together a publicly available report on ways ahead for this site?

Thirdly, clarity about “educational benefit” and how this is to be delivered is needed.

Fourthly, more information about why this matter is now being progressed would be welcome: there is concern that the building is now in such a bad state that money has to be spent just to make it safe.  Is there a recent health and safety assessment?

The report, under “other considerations”, states that Bradford Council is at risk of criticism for failing to properly manage the asset.  Well, Bradford Council could also risk criticism if it doesn’t dispose of the property thoughtfully and carefully.  From an asset management point of view, putting the property up for auction is one way to get rid of this problem building, get some money for the site and for the council and trustees to discharge their responsibilities.  However, that approach is not in line with the commitments to serve communities stated in the “Council Plan”.  Disposal of this site needs to be properly managed or it could continue to be a problem for Bingley – and therefore, implicitly, for Bradford Council.

Finally, if you are minded to seek representations from the public, I am sure that Bingley Town Council would support you and help to spread the word and encourage people to share their views.

So, to summarise: progress on this building is welcome, please share the current health and safety issues, please consider “disposal” rather than sale and please consider the conservation and planning issues.  Please also consider how, as trustees, you can use this opportunity to best help Bradford Council to act to ensure this derelict site is brought back into productive use and serves the community of Bingley, as its creators intended.

Thank you.

 

Further note: as a result of my submission, the word sale was altered to “dispose” in the recommendation.

Recommended –

 

(1)       That the Strategic Director, Corporate Services seek representations from the public in respect of the proposed sale of Priesthorpe Annexe, Mornington Road, Bingley.

 

(2)       That, having given due consideration to the representations received, the Strategic Director, Corporate Services refer the matter back to this Committee for further consideration or, if no objections to the sale are received, progress the sale of the property and, subject to further legal advice, use the net sale proceeds for the educational benefit of the people of Bingley