St George’s Square cycling confusion

Signs on Station Street, Huddersfield

The two signs in the photo can be found very close to each other on Station Street, Huddersfield. You’ll spot the yellow sign in the background of the photo of the other sign but can you spot the problem?

The problem here is that these signs aren’t consistent. The first sign (left) indicates that motor vehicles are prohibited, whilst the second goes further, suggesting simply that vehicles are prohibited. The plain white circle with a red ring means that even cyclists aren’t allowed.

However, the yellow sign probably isn’t legally enforceable. I very much doubt that the relevant traffic order will prohibit cyclists from passing through this part of Huddersfield, but I also don’t think the sign is in accordance with The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions.

Now, it is possible that Kirklees have been authorised to use the sign by the Secretary of State but I think more likely is that this sign was intended as a temporary measure to reinforce the meaning of the sign on the left.

I note from Google Street View that when they visited Huddersfield, there was a sign of the same design on Trinity Street. That sign has now gone and it is probably time this one went as well.

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The nuclear scientist, the Cabinet member, and the wannabe councillor

I noted recently how local Green Party councillor Andrew Cooper posted a response on his blog to a letter, published by the Huddersfield Examiner, from a Dr David Hill. Dr Hill intends to stand as an independent candidate for the Golcar ward of Kirklees Council at the local election in May. I therefore decided I would do a little research to learn about more him.

Dr David Hill with Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam, Truong Vinh Trong (WIF)

It seems that Dr Hill splits his time between running his planning and building regulations design consultancy in Huddersfield and travelling the world as Executive Director of the World Innovation Foundation (WIF) which is registered in Bern, Switzerland but based in Huddersfield.

It isn’t clear however what the WIF actually do. The principle activity seems to be to bolster its notability by offering prominent individuals fellowships which in many cases they will politely accept.

Those “members” include current MPs Gary Streeter, Brian Donohoe, Secretary of State for Wales Cheryl Gillan, and Minister of State for the Armed Forces Nick Harvey. There are also former MPs including Angela Browning, John Heppell, Nick Hawkins, David Jamieson, and Bill Olner. Lord Browne, who chaired the higher education review, is apparently a member, as is Nobel Prize recipient Desmond Tutu.

The foundation stone for all this would have been set in place when the Nobel Prize winning nuclear scientist Glenn T. Seaborg accepted an offer from the organisation:

“This is in response to your e-mail titled ‘Honorary President of the World Innovation Foundation’. I would be pleased to serve as Honorary President of the World Innovation Foundation. Thank you for thinking of me in filling this very important role.”

According to The Yorkshire Post (“Whatever happened to British inventiveness?”, 29 May 2003), the WIF was formed by David Hill sometime around when he took a Masters degree in construction engineering at Leeds University after his construction company went bust. The WIF was originally known as the Institute of National Economic Enrichment and Development (INEED).

Proposed Open Research Establishment in Lincolnshire (WIF)

One of the WIF’s plans fantasies is the construction of an “Open Research Establishment”, basically a glorified science and technology park. The Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph reported (“50-BILLION SCIENCE FICTION?”,  5 May 2005) that the WIF had identified a possible site in North Lincolnshire for its £50bn and 2,500 acre development.

The Telegraph reports that the “WIF was founded as the Institute of National Economic Enrichment and Development in 1992 by the late Dr Glenn Seaborg”. However, it is clear from Seaborg’s comments above that this perhaps isn’t the most accurate description of the organisation’s formation.

The very next day, the Telegraph published another article relating to the WIF (“50bn science ‘city’ scheme is questioned”, 6 May 2005). The article reports how the Telegraph spoke to the University of Hull who told them that vice-chancellor David Drury had “joined the organisation as an honorary member in November 2004 and has had limited correspondence, but he knows nothing about this project”.

It also said that former Chief Inspector of Schools Chris Woodhead, who was listed as a WIF member on the organisation’s website, was not involved with the organisation and knew nothing about the project. A spokesman for investment firm Goldman Sachs said he was not aware of their involvement with the WIF. It isn’t clear but presumably the Telegraph had been given the impression by Hill that Goldman Sachs were involved in some way. The Telegraph had apparently not been unable to get back in touch with Dr Hill after their research.

A little more about Dr Hill himself again. Letters from Hill frequently appear in the Huddersfield Examiner and he seems to make comments on a huge variety of websites across the internet, sometimes under the name “bettysenior”. He was an independent candidate for Golcar at the local elections last year and managed to get 289 votes (3.3%). Someone named David Hill stood as a Green Party candidate for Crosland Moor in the local elections in 2002, 2003, and 2004, and so I wonder whether this was the same person.

As an aspiring councillor, I think there are a few questions which Dr Hill might like to answer. The most fundamental is whether, as chief executive of an organisation apparently planning the construction of a £50bn “Open Research Establishment”, does he really have enough spare time he could dedicate to being a member of Kirklees Council? It would also be helpful to learn a bit more about how he came to become Dr Hill. He was apparently awarded an honorary higher doctorate from the Academy of Sciences of Kyrgystan in 2004. What has he achieved that merited this award?

This all seems a bit, well strange.

On an unrelated note, I wonder if I started a credible sounding organisation and found a famous scientist to accept an invitation to be honorary president, how difficult would it then be to find other famous scientists and engineers to willing accept a fellowship?

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Labour shouldn’t be too smug about Oldham East and Saddleworth

So, it has been announced that Labour’s Debbie Abrahams has won the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election. Labour unsurpisingly seem quick to try to describe this as some great victory. It isn’t.

Labour would be very foolish to consider this by-election win as something they can be proud of. Let’s not forget the circumstances. The incumbent MP Phill Woolas won the general election by just 103 votes and in doing so had broken the law by lying about his nearest rival, Liberal Democrat Elwyn Watkins.

This is the same Phill Woolas which Ed Miliband decided was fit for a position as a shadow Home Office minister, even whilst Woolas waited for the judgement of the election court. Ed has defended this by saying that, “I think it’s right in this country that we practise the principle of people being innocent until they’re proven guilty”, but this is a poor excuse for Ed’s poor judgement. Ed shouldn’t need a court to find one of his MPs guilty of a criminal offence to be able to see that Woolas had crossed the line.

Another reason why Labour shouldn’t be proud about winning this election is that they are a party with no policies. The don’t offer an credible alternative to the Government. Actually, they do have one policy, that is to criticise anything the coalition do. That is even when they would have done it themselves or, as is the case with tuition fees, had colluded (again) with the Conservative party to keep the issue off the general election agenda.

The Oldham East and Saddleworth result isn’t an endorsement of Labour’s position, not least because they don’t really have one. It is simply a reflection of the tough measures which are necessary to address the problems the county is facing. A significant part of why Labour has won will simply be because they are the largest party not in government.

Another problem for Labour is that if we are to consider this a “referendum on the coalition” as some have described it, then the voters of Oldham East and Saddleworth have shown Labour lost; more voted for the Lib Dems and the Tories combined than voted for Labour. Despite the doomsayers, the Lib Dem vote has held up well and the share of the vote actually went up.

The media shouldn’t draw too many conclusions from this result. Raising taxes and reducing public services are never going to be popular. The time to judge the coalition is in four years.

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David Brown’s relocation could provide opportunity for the Meltham Greenway

The Examiner have reported that Lockwood-based engineering company David Brown are considering a possible relocation of part or all of their facility. The Penistone Line runs alongside part of their site and the junction with the disused Meltham Branch Line is close by, just underneath the Hanson Lane bridge.

As I have discussed in a previous post, the long term aim of the Meltham Greenway project is to create a cycle route linking Huddersfield with the small town of Meltham, making use of the trackbed of the disused Meltham Branch Line where possible. The potential redevelopment of David Brown’s Lockwood site could provide an opportunity for another part of this route to be secured.

Map of Lockwood showing possible route for the Meltham Greenway

The image above shows the possible route from the start of the Meltham Branch Line to Swan Lane. This would require the use of a small section of land about 120m long which will be owned by Network Rail. Use of that land would not prejudice any future reinstatement of double track on the Penistone Line at this point so this should be a realistic possibility.

The section of Network Rail owned land would provide access through to Lockwood via the David Brown site to the north and to the track bed of the Meltham Branch Line to the south.

Kirklees Council, along with the Friends of Meltham Greenway and Sustrans, should therefore in my view try to ensure that a route for the Meltham Greenway can be accommodated as part of any future development of David Brown’s site.

UPDATE (12 January)

The launch of the Who Owns My Neighbourhood project has provided some interesting new information regarding this situation. It confirms my understanding that Kirklees own the section of the former Meltham Branch Line adjacent to the Penistone Line. More interestingly though, it seems to suggest that some of the David Brown site is on Kirklees land which I assume they lease. If David Brown were to relocate, this could make it even more feasible for a route for the Meltham Greenway to be found.

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Debbie Abrahams: I used to live in Newhey

Debbie Abrahams is the Labour candidate for the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election. She also stood in the Colne Valley constituency at the general election in May.

Answering questions on the Examiner website at the time, Abrahams said:

I live in Longwood with my husband John. I used to live in Newhey – six miles away.

I do think it is important to live in the constituency you wish to represent to be part of that community and that’s why I moved!

Debbie Abrahams (right) in a general election leaflet saying she lived in Longwood

She also stated that she lived in Longwood, in the Colne Valley constituency, in her election leaflets. I must say however I think this was a little misleading.

When she talks about living in Longwood having previously lived in Newhey, I would think most people would assume that meant she had sold her home in Newhey and purchased a property in Longwood or some similar arrangement. I suspect the reality is rather different however.

It is with great interest that I note that the home address she has given for the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election is the same as that which she gave in 2008 when she was a candidate in a local election.

Since she wasn’t living in the Colne Valley in June 2009, apparently planning to do so “as soon as possible”, did she manage to sell her property in Newhey and move to Longwood by April this year, then move back to the same house in Newhey by now? Obviously not.

I would suggest that it in all probability she was simply renting a flat in Quarry Bank Mill, Longwood, whilst Newhay remained her main home. Cllr David Ridgway’s comments that she appeared briefly on the electoral register in the Colne Valley from January through May would seem to support this theory.

On this basis you might want reconsider her comments to the Examiner. Was she being completely honest when she said that she “used to live in Newhey” and had moved to live in the Colne Valley?

UPDATE (13 January)

The Telegraph have reported that “Sources close to Mrs Abrahams told The Times the candidate’s family home was in Newhey, but that she had rented a flat in Longwood for part of last year.” This would seems to confirm my theory.

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Potential problems with traffic restrictions in Hipperholme

Brookeville Avenue/George Street

I recently read that a number of motorists had received fixed penalty notices for using Brookeville Avenue and George Street in Hipperholme which are designated access only. To implement restrictions such as this, local authorities must make a traffic regulation order (TRO). For the restriction to be enforceable there must be both a valid TRO and the signs/markings which are required by legislation.

Being aware that it isn’t unknown for local authorities to make mistakes in TROs, I made a request to Calderdale Borough Council for a copy of the relevant order to enable me to exam whether it appears valid. Errors in the TRO could in some cases make the restriction unenforceable.

They’ve now provided me with The Borough Council of Calderdale (Traffic Regulation) (No.5) Order 2007. Part Two of the order deals with the prohibition of vehicles except for access. Article 3 of the order is:

Article 3 of The Borough Council of Calderdale (Traffic Regulation) (No.5) Order 2007

I would highlight the start of that sentence; “Save as provided in Article 3”. The important thing to note here is that this is Article 3. It could perhaps be argued therefore that no vehicles may use the road unless directed or authorised by a police officer or traffic warden, despite the Article 4 providing various further exemptions. However, Article 4 does start “Nothing in Article 3 of this Order shall prohibit” and so it could also be said that this cancels out the problem of Article 3 referring to itself.

This same issue is present in Part One which relates to the one-way restriction.

The Examiner story (29 November) mentions that three drivers had received Fixed Penalty Notices but as the story refers to both the access only routes of Brookeville Avenue/George Street and the nearby Barfield Road, it isn’t clear how this is broken down. The Hipperholme Neighbourhood Policing Team website has details of another operation in the area which suggests six FPNs were issued for contravening the access only restriction in place on Brookeville Avenue/George Street. If the access-only restrictions weren’t enforceable then this gives some idea of the number of people who may have been recently incorrectly issued with FPNs.

I would doubt however that these mistakes would make the one-way and access only restrictions unenforceable but this does illustrate my point about local authorities often making mistakes with TROs.

It would be helpful if councils would publish their TROs online but this might not be so straightforward. As a example of some of the potential problems, Kirklees say they have more than 3,700 TROs in force. There is also probably little incentive for them to do so either since increased scrutiny could lead to some restrictions being found to be unenforceable.

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Student fees: The debt distortion attempts to dispel some of the common tuition fee myths

As tuition fees seem set to increase, the impact higher fees may have on putting off potential students from applying to university has been one of the concerns raised. Indeed, research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggests there is a direct relationship between the level of fees and the likelihood of students from more modest backgrounds going to university.

Since it is unlikely that tuition fees will be abolished in the near future, this is a problem we really need to address.

All too often the media will find a college student to ask whether the idea of leaving university with thousands of pounds of debt puts them off applying and inevitably the answer has usually been yes.

It seems that collectively, the public have developed a warped perception of debt.

Whilst some in society are taking on credit cards with high interest rates, little prospect of repayment, and dire consequences of failing to repay, it appears that potential university students are being allowed to become terrified by the idea of borrowing money from the government at bargain rates. Not only that, student loan repayments are deducted from earnings with no risk of a bailiff knocking at the door and the debt is eventually wiped after a number of years.

There is clearly work to do in ensuring that students and their parents fully understand the cost of going to university and how that is to be paid. As fees climb higher this becomes an even greater issue and so the Government and others must seek to deal with this.

I hope that the NUS, which some suggest have been misrepresenting the current proposals, will devote the same amount of energy that has been involved in their recent protests to correcting the misunderstandings regarding tuition fees which may be discouraging some young people from going to university.

I fear instead that the NUS will focus more on getting revenge by going after Liberal Democrat MPs. That is unlikely to benefit students much, particularly since the Lib Dems are the only party which wants to scrap tuition fees, even if that unfortunately isn’t possible at the current time.

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