HS2 – what is the point?

A leak of the government review into HS2 has revealed that costs could escalate again to £106 billion, but is recommending that it goes ahead.

It is quite simply out of control. HS2 not only will cost the earth in financial terms, but also in terms of destroying the natural world causing, disruption, upheaval and devastation to communities along its path. The part which includes the line tearing through Woodlesford and Oulton in the Rothwell ward is phase 2b. The review recommends that work on phase 2b from the West Midlands to Manchester and Leeds should be paused for six months to investigate if it could be a mix of conventional and high-speed lines, according to the Financial Times, which has seen a copy of the paper.

Now the big question is what’s the point, is it worth it? To which most round here would say no. And I support them. But if it is to go ahead, then it shouldn’t be a bargain basement version for up north. It’s wrong to penny pinch and not spend money where needed to alleviate some of the concerns of our communities. If HS2 is to go ahead anyway,despite our objections, then we need to compensate local people properly. We need to invest in minimising the impact which means more tunnels and less viaducts.

However, both these things would make HS2 cost even more, be even more over budget, and deliver even less value for tax payers.

It’s a downright insult that down south people would get the supermarket equivalent of ‘Morrisons The Best’ whilst all we get up north is the ‘Morrisons Savers’ version (as usual) by saving money on tunnelling and such like. Well our communities are worth much more than that!

But what is the point? Is it really worth it? We know HS2 is a vanity project that will almost certainly be well be out of date by the time it’s built. It costs far too much and causes too much harm to outweigh any benefits. All this money on a vanity project when the rest of the north’s public transport infrastructure is crying out for improvement.

The irony is that a lot of people round here who travel to London by train go from Wakefield where the fastest journey is one and three quarter hours and standard ones just two hours. Local people who would be impacted by HS2 running through here would then face the further disruption and extra journey time of travelling in the wrong direction to Leeds to catch a train to London!

A huge part of the cost of HS2 is because it is ‘high speed’. This has nothing to do with the very real and practical problem of increasing capacity on the east coast. Increasing capacity could be achieved at less cost and with less disruption leaving lots of money left over to invest in better local transport infrastructure. What matters to people isn’t the speed of the journey from Leeds station to London station, but the overall journey time from their front door to the door they are visiting in London. HS2 potentially makes this worse, not better.

HS2 has been and continues to be a huge issue for the Rothwell ward.

I am personally opposed to HS2 and it is also the official position of Rothwell Labour Party to oppose HS2 for these reasons:

  1. Devastating impact on local communities, not just in Woodlesford, but in many communities all along the route.
  2. Escalating cost that could be better invested in other public transport infrastructure improvements including local trains and a mass transit system (e.g. tram) in Leeds and West Yorkshire; and better trans-Pennine rail connections the so called HS3.
  3. The technology behind HS2 could well be out of date before the trains even start running.
  4. Grossly incompetent HS2 management who even if the other three reasons didn’t exist couldn’t be trusted to deliver the project.

We must now wait and see what decision the new government will make. Any decision on the future of HS2, compensation and the route is now totally the responsibility of Boris Johnson’s new government and Alec Shelbrooke, our local Conservative MP. I am watching and waiting to see what our MP does to support and stand up for our local community.

My regular LS26 Local column – December general election

As always, December is a great issue of LS26 Local newszine which is full of pieces about the local area and free at local outlets. I’ve enjoyed writing a regular column since it first started in July 2018. I usually like to write about local issues and not too directly about politics, but for December I of course wrote about the general election as it’s such a huge decision which will impact massively on the whole LS26 area.

All the issues including this one and all the back issues can be read online here https://issuu.com/ls26local.

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David Nagle is Elmet and Rothwell Labour Party’s parliamentary candidate in the forthcoming general election. David and I have worked very closely together as Rothwell councillors and I know he is one of the nicest and most genuine people you could hope to meet. He is also a tirelessly hard worker for the party and the community.

Victory for local residents as Oulton estate saved

I’m so proud of Save Our Homes LS26 residents on their fantastic planning victory! The former coal board community in Oulton near the sports centre were delighted when they found out their homes have been saved. Well done to Leeds City Council for refusing to let the investment giant landlord Pemberstone flatten a whole working class community’s homes and replace with executive houses. I was very proud to tell my daughter our Labour council turned down the planning application. Well done everyone!

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After almost two years of worry and uncertainty, residents of Sugar Hill Close and Wordsworth Drive in Oulton are celebrating the news that their homes have been saved from demolition.

At Leeds City Council’s Plans Panel, councillors rejected an application from investment giant Pemberstone (owners of the whole estate) which would have seen the demolition of 70 existing homes, many of which have been home to their current residents for decades. Elmet and Rothwell Labour Party has campaigned alongside local residents who have fought tirelessly to save their homes and community.

Decision day was a good day for the people of Sugar Hill Close, who have fought so hard for so long to protect the homes and community they love. As a local Labour Party we have been proud to stand with them, together standing up to these absentee landlords and their damaging plans. We believe that had this application been allowed to pass, not only would it have led to a net reduction in affordable housing in the Rothwell area and our already stretched city but the personal cost to these local people would have been immeasurable too. After working closely with the residents on this campaign for over two years I’m so delighted that Leeds City Council has listened and made the right decision on this.

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Thank you Rothwell

Just to say a huge thank you to everyone in Rothwell for your support which has enabled me to make such a difference in our community in the eight years I’ve served as your councillor. I put my heart and soul into serving Rothwell, but couldn’t have done it without the unstinting passion of those who give up their time to work week in week out in our communities of Rothwell, Woodlesford, Oulton and Carlton.

It was a real challenge being up for election again just a year after being re-elected. Normally when a councillor is elected it is for a four year term. I was also now the sole Labour councillor, but I was more than up for the challenge and ready to stand again on my record of standing up for our local people.

But a lot of the electorate decided this election was about Brexit even though it was a local election which should be about local issues. Those of us who were out on the doorstep in Rothwell heard local people’s not just concern but real anger about Brexit. That anger and disappointment cost us hundreds of votes and because Rothwell is a marginal between Labour and the Liberal Democrats it also cost us the election. I don’t blame people for being angry at the mess that the Conservative government is making on Brexit and more clarity is rightly expected from Labour, even though as a councillor you don’t have a say in what happens at Westminster. We can only hope that the national mess will be resolved and then we can come back stronger.

I was gutted when the result came through. It was lovely to see the support throughout the ward though, particularly in certain areas as the boxes came in – on difficult issues that residents had stuck with us. On issues such as the Wood Lane parking issue where votes confirmed my conversations with residents who were more interested in solving the problem than in the petty blame game the Lib Dem councillors were playing. I sincerely hope that they will actually do some work to solve the problem, which they didn’t for the last 12 months.

It is all a bit unreal suddenly not being Rothwell’s councillor anymore. I have to keep reminding myself when I wake up on a morning not to go and do a surgery or not go to Civic Hall that day to discuss what needs doing in Rothwell.

Together we achieved a lot in Rothwell and whilst out and about I’m reminded of how I helped to make a difference. I feel proud when I look at our new fire station that would have been lost. When I see improvements like the new playgrounds in Springhead Park and Woodlesford Park and earlier ones on Wood Lane estate and Carlton. When I see the Windmill Youth Club we saved together. Road safety improvements like the speed indicating devices crossings and 20 mph zones. The Rothwell college re-opening. And lots more we’ve done together.

The Rothwell Liberal Democrats give the Tories an easy ride, blaming the council for things the government is responsible for. Things like HS2, local people suffering through austerity, the housing crisis and relaxation of planning laws. It’s easy for them to criticise, snipe and moan because they never have to take responsibility for any of the vital services we all depend on.

I’m proud that although the council budget has been cut in half by government, services which have been axed elsewhere such as Rothwell children’s centres have been kept open. Rothwell library has not only been kept open, but has extended hours in the new community hub while libraries elsewhere have shut. We still have regular youth clubs where they’ve been axed by other councils. Because these are priorities for the Labour council.

The people in Rothwell, Woodlesford, Oulton and Carlton are the best. Thank you to everyone for your kind messages of support. Your good wishes have meant so much to me. I’m sad not just for me, but far more for Rothwell not to have a Labour councillor who can work with the Labour council to get the best deal possible deal for our area. However you look at it, Lib Dems are a group of eight councillors on Leeds City Council, not important enough to be relevant or make a difference. Labour has 57 and the Conservatives have 23. Some local people have said it’s been great to have a mum like them with a school age child representing them as it’s reassuring to have someone who understood their issues better.  On that note I’d like to thank my husband Stuart and our daughter, their support has been invaluable enabling me to do what I love.  Also thanks to all the Rothwell Labour Party members for your support and hard work and to my agent David Miller.  Thank you all again, I’ve loved working with everyone in our communities.

All I can say is even a week is a long time in politics and that’s truer now than it ever was!

Welcome new Rothwell Springhead Park playground

The new playground for younger children has been
eagerly anticipated and it’s great to see it’s already started to be enjoyed with vigour by lots of our younger members of the community including these Easter holidays.

This is the first phase of the new Springhead Park playgrounds, with the second phase for older children to be the next step.

It’s wonderful that the playground is here and it’s fantastic to see the children enjoying their new play equipment. I’m so pleased it’s being enjoyed right from the start of spring. It’s great when a project I’ve worked hard on for so long to achieve finally happens and I can see the benefits to Rothwell’s youngest residents.”

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I would like to thank Groundwork for its help in pulling the scheme together, support from Rothwell Tenants and Residents Association and Springhead Park Volunteers, Large grants came from S106 monies which has to be paid by the developer towards greenspace projects from recent building at Rodewelle Green, and Veolia Environmental Trust and thanks to South Leeds Housing Advisory Panel and the Tea Cosy Memory Cafe for their contributions.

The new playground includes 6 swings, a toddler castle with slide unit,  2 towers multi-unit with slide and wackle bridge,- 8 lucky clover stepping pods,  3 spinner bowls, a fully inclusive roundabout and much more!

I talked to a lot of residents and it was clear this was a huge priority for young families and grandparents alike.

So many local children, including my daughter, have loved playing on the current playgrounds over the years and have fond memories, and I’m sure the new equipment will give many hours of happy memories to families with young children today.

I’m keen to see more dynamic and challenging pieces of equipment for older children, such as zip wire and other popular equipment. This will be the next phase in improving our park this summer, your ideas are welcome.

Outdoor play is great for children. Playing outside helps children to develop their learning abilities. Outdoor play is great for encouraging children’s creativity. There are numerous health benefits to playing outside. Other benefits to local children include social skills, well-being, independence and exploration.