Glossop Community Voice Meeting, 3 Feb 2014

Went to my first Glossop Community Voice meeting this past Monday. I’d read about it in the paper before, and this time curiosity got the better of me and I went along to see what it was all about. It’s run by High Peak Borough Council (HPBC; our local level of government), quarterly. It was surprisingly helpful and informative, so that was a pleasant surprise.

Extra, extra, read all about it …

There was some discussion of what plans are in the works in various groups for World War commemorations (it being 100 years since the beginning of World War 1 and 75 years since the beginning of World War 2 this year). George Wharmby talked about the Royal British Legion’s plans for a drumhead service and parade. Glossop Peace Group emphasized the importance of commemorating, rather than celebrating, the wars, and the horror to be found in the 1914-1918 issues of the local newspaper. Some overlap of effort was discovered (namely, Glossop Peace Group and Write from the Heart are both researching the stories of the individuals named on our local war memorials – Write from the Heart is keen for anyone who remembers those individuals anymore to get in touch with them); hopefully there’ll be some adjustment now, leading to less duplicated efforts. I was surprised to learn that we have cenotaphs (war memorials with names) up on our surrounding moorland; I also learned that – possibly – the rose bushes in the Rose Garden of Manor Park originally numbered the same as the names on the Glossop Cenotaph. That’d make sense, since the signs there say it’s a memorial rose garden, but I’ve never seen a memorial (though I could’ve overlooked one, I suppose). Caitlin Bisknell, HPBC chair, who was chairing the meeting, said that HPBC will have a page on its website for local commemoration events – excellent!

I later realized that a page to collect any information about what projects in observance of the commemorations that local community groups are working on would be a useful thing, as well. Only whatever information is sent to them, mind: I don’t propose they should spend any time on gathering the information, but just type up a couple of paragraphs, send it out with their press releases, and then copy and paste anything they’re sent, along with contact information for the group in question. I told Chris about this idea the next day, but he banned me from pursuing it myself, seeing as I don’t have enough hours in the day as it is. I emailed it to Caitlin, along with a couple of other thoughts I’d had, and she replied swiftly to tell me that she’d fed my ideas to the appropriate departments, so we shall see.

There was also discussion of ideas of how to attract visitors to the Tour de France down into our town. Yes, it’s the real Tour de France bicycle race, starting on the Yorkshire Moors, and coming through something like three miles (total guess) of Derbyshire. I don’t have any idea why the Tour de France has moved to England this time; maybe they got bored of France, I don’t know. Anyway, one idea is to have large screens set up in the town, including at Manor Park where Glossop Carnival will be in its second day, for people to watch the race. Another idea is to have shuttle service based in the town. I do hope shuttle service is arranged, because the logistics of going to watch it seem a nightmare otherwise.

The focus really, though, was on community groups. About five groups had been invited to give a short talk about what they do and what their current projects are, which was very informative. The one thing that made me cringe terribly, though, was the implication that meetings mean progress. I’ve found far too many meetings to be complete wastes of time, so to hear the council and group representatives say that progress is being made because they’re having meetings with each other every few weeks felt akin to someone saying that roadworks are clearly making progress, since cones have been up for a few months now.

That niggle aside, I learned that High Peak Access is making progress with the developer and council on the dreadful state of Howard Town Mill (the problems are explained here, here, here, here, here, and here). There is some hope that some of the obstructions will be fixed, at least in Phase 2 of the development. I learned that Glossopdale Trust is working on acquiring the Town Hall / Municipal Building from HPBC. It’s only beginning stages yet, and Caitlin said that the library (Victoria Hall) will be dealt with first, so my guess is that it’ll be some years before the town hall gets dealt with.

(There’s one structure in the center of town that is variably called the Market Hall / Town Hall / Municipal Buildings, and more names. It’s one building, in actuality, so I use the names interchangeably – except I never pluralize Municipal Building, because there’s only one building.)

The gal from Glossop Volunteer Centre told us it runs a free community stall on Glossop Indoor Market for local not-for-profit organizations – though the flier says it’s the outdoor market, and the website says it’s the indoor market; the website further says it’s £5, so not actually free. Oh, and I see that they also don’t mention (it’s in the t&c linked on that page) that your organization must have insurance: Public Liability and Products Liability, each with £5 million cover; Employers Liability with £10 million cover. I know for a long time the market was running an offer of letting the stall for £5 so long as you had insurance; not sure if that’s still the price, but I’d check into it before involving another layer of unnecessary bureaucracy by giving the £5 to Glossop Volunteer Centre instead. But then, I do so detest unnecessary bureaucracy – and let’s face it, most bureaucracy is unnecessary.

Glossop is right on the edge of Derbyshire, and the transport links into Tameside and Greater Manchester are vastly superior to those going into Derbyshire. Ages ago, when the NHS was devising its local areas for management, it lumped Glossop together with Tameside; several other entities have done the same (not sure which was first). From a standpoint of being able to physically attend various hospitals and clinics, this makes a lot of sense. I saw some news item awhile back that said that our management is going to shift now to Derbyshire NHS instead of Tameside & Glossop NHS, though I can find nothing online about it now, and am now massively confused about the whole thing, given what I have turned up in my search. Hm.

At the meeting, there was a lady repeating that Derbyshire’s going to take control of Glossop’s NHS appropriations; she and her team are, as she put it, keen to learn more about what issues there are in Glossopdale, and what holes there are that maybe they could fill. See, they have the quantitative data from the census (a 32-page booklet which I found to be incredibly nosy and intrusive) to tell them about people who’re inactive and where they live, but now they want to get the qualitative data to tell them why those people are inactive: is it a lack of parks / playing fields / etc in their neighborhood? Is it a lack of awareness of such resources? And so on. Fair enough; hopefully they’ll figure it out. I don’t see how they’ve gathered that data from the census, myself, *shrug*. I put her in touch with one of the guys running WellFit Glossop – a group trying to help inactive people get active seems like it’ll be well-placed to know why people haven’t been being active.

A lady from Friends of Manor Park spoke up at this point to tell us that they’re lined up to acquire the second bowling green in Manor Park from the council soon, because it’s not used much apparently, and while they’re still very much in the early stages of thinking about what to do with it, one thought they’ve had is to make it into an adult exercise space.

I also learned that Derbyshire County Council (DCC) has apparently skuppered the plans that HPBC and Glossop SOUL (Save Our Unique Library) had for SOUL to take over Victoria Hall (in the same way that Glossopdale Trust is working to take over the Town Hall). HPBC says that DCC has assured all that the library will remain in Victoria Hall, and instead of spending £2 million on building a new library 100 yards away, DCC will now instead spend it catching up on the backlog of maintenance it should’ve been keeping up with all along. As such, HPBC says that there’s no need for an asset transfer to the community, so instead they’ll be figuring out how best to improve Victoria Hall. SOUL is taking the longer view of things, and would like to run Victoria Hall, taking money in from letting out other spaces in the hall (it has three floors; the library occupies one) to secure the library’s future in perpetuity, being able to subsidize the library should the need arise in the future. After all, as the representative rightly pointed out, administrations and budgets come and go. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the asset transfer will happen. Hopefully SOUL will at least be included in the planning for the improvement work to the building.

I touched base afterwards with the folks from High Peak Access; when I was responding to the planning application for a new housing development here in Glossop, I was disturbed by the narrowness of the sidewalks (which should never be called pavements, because pavement goes on the road, and thus calling them pavements makes drivers think they should drive and park on the sidewalks). The first thing that leapt out in my mind was whether a wheelchair could even get down the sidewalk. I got the width of the wheelchair of someone I know (69cm / 27″), and found it to be just narrower than these proposed sidewalks (75cm / 29.5″). However, that’s just a sample set of one, so instead of citing that in my objection, I searched online for some credible source to tell me how wide paths should be for wheelchair users; I found one from the Irish government that said 180cm/71″ is the minimum for two wheelchairs or the-incredibly-numerous-in-Glossop prams (strollers) to pass each other, or 150cm/59″ is the minimum for when there’s an obstruction temporarily (like a tree). There’s a massive difference between 180cm/71″ and 75cm/29.5″!

Anyway, what I was hoping to learn was if there was a domestic thing I could point to in the future, and he readily helped me with that, showing me the BSI 8300 [pdf] British Standard. He also invited me to send my concerns about this development to the group, since he didn’t think they’d heard anything about it yet. I did, and was annoyed when I did because it involved re-reading my letter of objection to see that I’d urged HPBC to consult with this group – obviously that fell on deaf ears. To be clear, I’m actually in favor of the housing development; I will be overjoyed if any of the mold- and rat-infested abandoned factories in town ever get torn down. There are just a few niggles I have such that I hope the council puts conditions on the decision to make the development better – like appropriate-width sidewalks. Going back a few paragraphs: narrow sidewalks that are covered over with cars (because the roads are too narrow and there’s a dearth of driveways and garages) are probably not helping people get active. It’s one thing to have this problem where the houses and roads are 300+ years old, but there’s no excuse when you’re building a housing estate from scratch.

All in all, a good meeting; well worth attending. I look forward to the next one.