I feel I need to comment on three ‘Your Say’ contributors this week:
Stan Shaw asks “ will they accept the decision” and in doing so refers to three debates including the “17,000 name petition against moving the library”. I believe that this petition related to moving the library to the, soon to open, Broad St development. The context of this petition was very different and it did not include the transfer of the most important archive facility which was clearly unacceptable. The other two consultations were put out more recently by the previous Lib / Lab coalition and were questioned in relation to their accuracy ‘ / partiality. As a result of this, it was decided that an internationally respected market research organisation should be commissioned to carry out a full survey, using all their professionalism and experience so that there could be no question as to the accuracy of results. Given the importance of the decision, the cost of the proposals associated with it and importance to future generations of Calderdale people, it would seem wholly appropriate to me for this investment to be made. Furthermore, Mr Shaw is mistakenly referring to just one part of the issue in that: The Council are looking at the long term development of Halifax Town Centre for all Calderdale residents, whilst making best use of Council funds and assets. It is a fact that Northgate House is no longer fit for purpose, costing a huge amount of money to maintain. It is a fact that the council no longer needs it for office accommodation – numbers are reduced and there are other buildings which can be used. It is also a fact that the library is in poor condition, costing far too much to maintian and is in desperate need of redevelopment. Given NGH could / should be demolished, the site is a prime town centre / retail site. As soon as it is removed, it will cost £800k to provide the current library with mechanical services which are housed in NGH, on top of its maintenance and refurbishment cost. If the NGH site is to be redeveloped for retail purposes then any retail developer will also want the area currently occupied by the library as, in retail terms it is a ‘key position’. The council have made it clear that they wish to develop the town centre, providing better retail facilities for all the people of Calderdale. These retail facilities will generate significant business rates; funds which are necessary to pay for local services. It will provide more jobs for those out of work and encourage more visitors to Calderdale who will spend their disposable income here. The introduction of one or two major retailers, not currently trading in Halifax, into the retail mix will do all of the above whilst improving the shopping experience for local people. It is also a fact that ‘key store’ introduction to a retail mix will increase the overall footfall – to the benefit of other traders in the Town. More rates, more jobs, more income. So, let’s get this in context and proportion. The plan is to develop Halifax Town centre, reduce council operating costs whilst generating more income and jobs. In order to maximise the benefits of this plan the whole Northgate site needs to be put to a new use which means that the two buildings which are well past their sell-by-date, and cost a fortune to maintain will need to be removed. This means that a new library will need to be constructed – it will be new, bright, welcoming and will benefit from the new technology of the information evolution – including lots of books! It is proposed to go on the other side of the Piece Hall where new bus stops and adequate disabled parking facilities will ensure that the less mobile amongst us are able to enjoy these new facilities. This new library would form part of the evolving ‘cultural quarter’ of Halifax; including the Piece Hall, the Square Chapel, the Orange Box and the soon-to-be reopened Industrial Museum with, I am sure, even more to follow. What a wonderful stage in the evolution of Halifax made even more exciting by the recent Heritage Lottery Fund’s grant confirmation for the Piece Hall’s re-development. Well done to the councillors and officers who championed and managed the bid. There will probably be a lot of detractors even for this – getting my retaliation in first, I would say: get a grip, be positive, start thinking about glasses being half full, and getting more full by the year. Mr Shaw and Mr Sykes are also concerned about empty shops – I too am concerned about these but would say three things: Shops close and open all the time – there are, perhaps, a few more empty at the moment resulting from the current economic climate but battening down the hatches does not improve matters; The introduction of key stores will help other retailers and encourage the re-opening of closed units; We do not need reminding about the current economy but the current central government are frequently being lambasted for not investing in future development and I have some sympathy with that – the re-development of Halifax town centre, in my opinion, is just the right thing to begin planning at this time. My final response would be to Ivor Davies who also refers to the will of the people. I would refer him to my earlier comments on professional research and consultation. So, Janet Battye is “starting at home” but this does not preclude her from encouraging and supporting improvements to the UK’s democratic system as well. Surely no one can disagree with the fact that the House of Lords is undemocratic? I believe that an ‘Upper Chamber’ is a very important element of a democratic system but one which is based on privilege and ‘thank yous’ from political parties is less effective than one that is based on a more transparently elected membership. My final, final point [!] would be that I do agree that the will of the people should be central to national and local government but that the people should be able to make informed decisions based on a full knowledge / understanding of the issues and facts, and how they relate to all of the people - rather than a views of a narrow-minded pressure group.
Triangle Sowerby Bridge
Can we trust them over new survey?
IPSOS MORI may be impartial but the survey is not as a lack of impartiality is already built into it. One feasible, cost effective option is completely missing - retain both Northgate House and the library. Northgate House can be maintained for years yet. Also remember the library is currently physically dependent upon this building. The survey asks for your “post code.” It lists specific location codes close to Halifax and then “any other”. “Any other codes” will attract a lesser weighting (importance) than those close to Halifax centre. Not acceptable for a Halifax shopping survey, certainly not for a decision concerning a major well used regional library and archive. Furthermore, future financial liabilities of this project rest with all CMBC council tax payers, not just those in the centre. Should the survey results not go as CMBC Cabinet wish, they have a fall back. The Cabinet and not Ipsos MORI are in charge of deciding the Final Draft Results. Can we trust them? Absolutely not! Finally I note Coun Collins states, previous library consultation exercises have only cost £1,056. Get real Barry, pull the other one!
It is a bogus exercise to mislead us
I have seen the latest “consultation” on the proposal to resite the Central Library on the east side of the Piece Hall. I am afraid I see this latest attempt by the council to pesuade the people to endorse the proposal as simply a continuation of an ongoing bogus exercise. Politicians, both National and Local seem intent on misleading and ignoring people. All that is required is a simple “yes”or “no”, not for the question to be hidden as a sub-section of question 17! If people still deem it useful to return any questionnaire on this subject, it might be helpful just to complete that sub-section of question 17! After all’ at this late stage they may yet get the message! Of the people who have expressed a view on this subject, the majority have opted for the Central Library to remain on the Northgate site. Even the Council couldn’t mistake the people’s wishes. If an honest consultation was held and the vote was that the library be moved to the Piece Hall, then that would be fair and acceptable, but the present questionnaire will still be seen as bogus and, what is worse in the current climate, to be a waste of money!
There is no need for road closure
A further objection to the planned closure of Crag Lane, Mixenden/Wheatley, Halifax. Council has now re-worded the closure notice to suit themselves. Two road closures came into force on Monday the 23rd July. Both read slightly different, yet claim to affect the same stretch of road. However, the work is to take place to the rear (away from the road) of the section of road to be closed. Having had the fact that the address, as given by the council, does not exist, the closure notice has been amended to suit the facts. Latest amendment however puts the work to be carried out away from the highway, behind the houses on Rake Bank. Given that the work is now to be carried out away from the actual highway, the closure notice as posted Thursday on the section of highway on Thursday 19th July Again pre-dated by a day, also as it appears in the Halifax Courier. There is now no need for the road closure to go ahead. That is unless the notice is wrong and the work is to take place on the actual highway. If that is the case the closure notice cannot legally be allowed to take effect until the council is satisfied that they know exactly where the work is to be carried out. And not before the application has been submitted, again, clearly stating the area in which the work will be carried out.