Bloody Garden Villages Begging for More Dosh

Bloody Garden Villages (BGV) are back on the agenda [pdf] when the CBC Cabinet next meets at the Town Hall on 6 September.

BGV, CBC, ECC, F-ALL etc.

To give the agenda item the gravitas that it no doubt deserves, Cabinet will be considering:

North Essex Garden Communities- Progress to date and key developments

We can cut to the chase and summarise it as:

“Shit. We need more money.”

The #localgov waffle optimistically observes that the BGV:

“Enables the four Councils to plan positively for the future homes and jobs needed across the area.”

That area happens to be your own home if you are thinking of moving to a BGV. CBC has forecast that 18.75% of residents will be homeworkers.

As for the grand ambitions of the BGV?

“They seek to reduce urban sprawl and unfettered expansion of smaller heritage communities.”

You try selling the urban sprawl argument to the likes of the tireless CAUSE; the heritage angle won’t exactly win you friends at Wivenhoe Town Council either.

This planning ahead of Planning doesn’t come cheap.

The four Councils involved in the land grab (CBC, ECC, Braintree and Tending) have already each lobbed a cool quarter of a million pounds into the pot.

Cabinet on Wednesday will hear that less that a year on since CBC agreed to partner the ambitious plans, the BGV project is already a further £1M under-funded.

And we trust these people to deliver 40,000 plus homes and infrastructure on budget?

The short-term solution is that all four partners are now being asked to cough up a further £250,000 each.

This will cover expenditure only for 2017/18. It “may not be recoverable.”

This is #localgov shorthand for covering your political arse.

Yes, PLEASE DO cover your political arse.

Especially YOU, Sir.

And so a further £250,000 for a scheme that no one in Colchester wants, except for the LibLabIndie love in lot and the landowners.

Fancy that.

But wait! There’s more…

“The process to prepare a Long Term Business Plan will involve a further budget review. No land deals have been secured, discussions and negotiations are continuing in respect of all three areas.”

It would be unfortunate if the further budget review and the land grab led to nothing…

Also key to the Cabinet report on 6 September is the emergence of the New Town Town Development Corporation.

Don’t get excited if you live in New Town. You’re old news, folks.

The report explains:

“New Town Development Corporation with local accountability has now emerged as a realistic option for the onward development of the project.”

This represents a significant power shift. CBC and the other Essex players are now in the hands of the big boys and girls in Westminster.

The closure of a NTDC can only be brought about by Parliament.

We have seen in recent weeks what a wonderful working relationship CBC has with some of the key players in our patch over at Westminster…

As ever with #localgov bodies and bodies within bodies [ewww] then someone wants paying for all this effort:

“The initial funding of the NTDC(s) will be supported through borrowing either by the NTDC acting as main borrower or by Local Authorities borrowing and onward lending to NTDC. If the latter option is selected we would need to consider the subsequent impact on Local Authority budgets.”

Put simply, CBC will need to cough up once again.

The BGV project remains strictly party political.

Sure, those nice Tories over in Tendring are backing the scheme. But only because the bulk of ‘their’ houses will fall on the CBC border.

We are now entering the stage where the poxy party politics is about to face the harsh reality of pounds and pence.

The value of your property may go up, or down, Comrades.

Local Plan and the Bloody Garden Villages

The CBC Local Plan Committee is becoming increasingly important.

It has always been of interest behind the scenes, but y’know: it’s not the most SEXIEST of #localgov mechanisms.

Throw on to the agenda Tollgate, the Northern Gateway and the bloody Garden Villages and you can see how the Local Plan is the means in which this town will be carved up over the next decade or so.

The agenda [pdf] for the next meeting on 30 August has been published. It included background reading on how CBC is progressing with the bloody Garden Villages.

As a reminder: the role of the Local Plan Committee is to consult and form policy around how the borough grows.

These are then used as the guiding principles for the BIG boys and girls of Cabinet as they attempt to regenerate Sunny Colch without pissing off local people.

We think we’ve got this right.

And so what we have on the agenda in the Grand Jury Room next Wednesday are a series of briefing papers.

The Local Plan Committee asked officers to come back with some further detail for the two bloody Garden Villages – one at West Tey and the other that swallows any spare land towards the Tendring border.

Build it and they will come, etc.

But where will all these new people work?

We’re talking a HUGE increase in the local population here: 24,000 homes West of Colchester, and 9,000 to the East.

Note this is the number of homes, and not adults of a working age…

On the agenda on 30 August will be:

Local Plan Employment Position Paper

The report rather optimistically claims:

“The Colchester Braintree Borders Garden Community is anticipated to generate 1.17 jobs and Tendring/Colchester Borders Garden Community 1.55 jobs per dwelling.”

Gis a job, etc.

But where are these jobs going to come from?

The brains behind this operation believe that it will mostly be self-generated. Build a bloody Garden Village, and the residents will work within the community.

It all sounds very Trumpton:

“Both of the Colchester-related Garden Communities, are likely to be associated with significant jobs growth, where jobs linked to exogenous growth processes are presumed to be physically on site, those linked to homeworking will be physically associated with the homes of residents and therefore also on site, and those related to the consumption of local services may or may not be on site, but all will be reasonably local.”

There is also the suggestion that ongoing construction will lead to new jobs:

“Construction which will grow in response to new development and well as the demand for repairs and improvements.”

Which is a little insular and inward-looking to be honest.

The report enters fantasy land when it states:

“18.75% of jobs are anticipated to be homeworking.”

GOSH.

Not *that* type of homeworking.

Failing that then there is always the Knowledge Gate over at the University:

“The Knowledge Gateway and University reflects opportunities associated with the growth plans for the University of Essex and the benefits linked to the new Garden Community to the east of Colchester.”

The Knowledge Gateway didn’t get off to the best of starts when trying to attract new businesses to move in…

Elsewhere on the Local Plan agenda is the:

Local Plan Transport Position Paper

This highlights the impact of the bloody Garden Villages on transport:

“Traffic modelling suggests 40% growth by 2032 in the number of vehicle trips in peak periods compared to the modelled base year (2007).”

Allow this thought to pass through your mind as you are stuck in another traffic jam around North Station.

Finally the Local Plan Committee has attempted to defend itself from the fierce criticism over the consultation from the likes of Priti Patel MP:

“There has been criticism made of the Council and this provides an opportunity to clarify the process. In terms of the website, it is acknowledged that it is a new system and will take people a while to get used to.”

Does CBC carry out UX sessions?

Plus:

“At the time of writing the best guess for the number of representations received was approximately 1000.”

Best guess.

Bless.

Much for the Local Plan Committee to consider when it next meets at the Grand Jury Room on 30 August.

Wonky Colchester

This piece was first written for a publication that never actually appeared.

Hey hoe.

Colchester is wonky and I love it.

When you approach North Station and see Jumbo standing proud, you then realise that the rest of the town appears as though it has fallen off a ledge.

Colchester landscape is wonky.

You leave North Station and then have to walk up the wonky North Hill to reach the town centre.

This is wonky transport planning.

And then a delightful walk around the Dutch Quarter with the houses appearing to have half fallen down, almost under the weight of the past goods produced within.

Colchester housing is wonky.

It may not be the slick identity that tourist types want to promote of the town. But I don’t care. Give me wonky Colchester over the craters that are being filled in down the road in Chelmsford as regeneration is disguised as bland housing.

And this is where wonky Colchester currently finds itself. The regeneration of the Cultural Quarter came to a halt with the collapse of world capitalism back in 2008.

Colchester could by now have had straight lines running through St Botolph’s all the way down to Vineyard Gate.

Give the money men the option and they will choose conformity over the unpredictability of wonkiness.

We should celebrate that the downfall of the world economy saved Colchester from becoming a static metre stick, serving only to measure the status quo and not irregularities.

That was a wonky thought btw.

With the Second Coming of capitalism coming back for another feed at the trough, Colchester now needs to resist all attempts to straighten out the wonky elements that define our town.

We should rejoice that the failed first Cultural Quarter makeover wasn’t able to flatten our wonky ambitions. Even the £28m firstsite insisted on having something of an odd wonky appearance.

If you can navigate your body around our wonky flagship arts space, you may just get to see some contemporary art trying to hang itself on a wonky wall.

We really can’t do any better than this, and we really shouldn’t even try. Failures need to be celebrated. They define who you are, as well as lowering all expectations for the perfect non-existent lifestyle that you can never achieve.

Even an attempt at building something as basic as a new bus station led to the new arrangements going a little wonky.

Where is Colchester Bus Station?

Outside Gala Bingo along Osborne Street, or tucked around the corner on Stanwell Street?

It’s complicated; it’s wonky.

And it’s not just an appearance thing either. The more that you accept that wonkiness is part of what defines our town, the more you can see and sense it as you walk around.

The gloriously wonky buildings as you walk down East Hill are surely the High Seat of Colchester wonkiness. These then lead to a wonky attitude to life as your potter around our patch.

Oh, they’ve seen better days. Shall we knock them down and do a Chelmsford and start from scratch?

Nah.

Leave them be and we’ll get by without any high expectations, yet still managing to achieve something quite special in this little wonky place that we call home.

Colchester is wonky and I love it.

Sunny Colch Street Hunt, Photography, Cinema and Tours

And so the plan was to bash out another hit and miss Arts Centre Ahoy blog post; the autumn schedule for St Mary’s at the Walls has dropped. It’s STUFFED full of ACE events of the usual brilliant, bonkers Arts Centre variety.

But then the Arts Centre itself is rather busy online.

We can sign post you over here —->>>>

There’s a feeling though that the Arts Centre is ever changing and trying out some new ideas. Some may work, others will be a little ‘challenging.’

That’s very much the spirt of Antony and the team. If you are trying something new and want to be creative, then the Arts Centre will usually give you a chance.

And so instead our attention turns towards Colchester Street Hunt – or more specifically the associated events that have been themed around Street Hunt.

As a reminder – Street Hunt is the outcome of the Arts Centre CBC Big Choice pitch a couple of years ago. £50k [gosh] was given to the Arts Centre by the Council to stage a treasure hunt.

We thought it a little… excessive at the time; we’ll reserve final judgement until the project has had the chance to showcase our town.

But what we weren’t expecting is how the Arts Centre team is now framing a whole series of events around the treasure hunt art project.

Basically it’s a rather clever way of saying to Colchester folk:

Hey! This is your town. Get out there, poke around and look at your surroundings in a way that you might not normally do.

Which is kinda neat.

To kick start all this we have the opening of the Street Photography exhibition at the Old Bus Depot along Queen Street this Friday.

The location is not a million miles away from firstsite – but then it is a million miles away on oh so many other fronts.

There is a fascinating psychogeographic history to the location and the arts – if that kind of topological bollocks rocks your boat.

For Friday evening however it will be the home for a series of photographs that very much celebrate and reflect on life on the streets of Colchester.

Working with Beacon House Ministries, the Arts Centre encouraged homeless people around our town to capture their Colchester perspective with a camera.

It’s an idea that is non-judgemental but will lead to some thought. Homelessness has made an unwelcome return over the past couple of years. We shouldn’t ignore it, and we shouldn’t ignore any attempt to highlight the issues involved.

The Queen Street exhibition will run through until 24 September.

The project also involves the screening of some films themed around the idea of life on the street. These will also take place at the old Queen Street Bus Depot.

The schedule includes:

26 August

A Streetcat Named Bob

Mad Max: Fury Road

2 September

Nightcrawler

9 September

Locke

16 September

The Motorcycle Diaries

23 September

Secret surprise kids film…

Thelma and Louise

It’s a BARGAIN £3 entry, £2 concessions and FREE for under-10’s.

And to complete the Street Hunt themed programme of events we have a series of Sunny Colch Street Tours.

Once again these question us to look around our town and to appreciate its beauty and challenges away from the usual twaddle that comes our way.

The Arts Centre has teamed up with the folk behind Jane’s Walk weekend to deliver a wonderful early autumn schedule:

2 September

Sustainable Colchester with Pam Nelson

Street Photography with Jonathan Doyle

3 September

Riots, Rebellions and Protests with Dorian Kelly

An (In)spire-rational tour with the brilliant LOON that is Richard DeDomenici

9 September

7am with Anthony Roberts, natch

Concrete Legacy with Kath Wood

10 September

Haunted Colchester with Rob Brown

16 September

Place, Story, Artefact with Sara Hayes

Sustainable Colchester and Green Living with Emily Harrup

17 September

Lost Theatres with Dorian Kelly

As for Street Hunt itself?

Buy the book, walk around the streets of Sunny Colch and stay clear of the £50k funding political tit-for-tat bollocks.

And finally…

The Arts Centre now has a random, anarchic podcast for you to enjoy.

Never Knowingly Understood, etc.

Goodo.

Carry on Campaigning

And so the Comrades of Colchester Labour have finally selected a candidate for the Shrub End by-election on 7 September.

Step forward local resident Mike Dale, filling the gap in those awkward #labourdoorstep selfies with the AWOL candidate.

Carry on Campaigning, Comrades, etc.

Mike stood in the not quite so Corbynista friendly ward of, um, Prettygate back in 2016.

He finished in fifth place with 599 votes – 1,038 votes behind the third place Tory, Cllr Roger Buston.

But it’s a mighty long way from the leafy Prettygate to the more rustic Shrub End.

The local CLP will be playing a game of political catch up, now that they finally have their man.

The Tories have already been parading Vic Flores around the ward; the LibDems likewise with Sam McCarthy.

It has been painful to see the #labourdoorstep ‘FANTASTIC RESPONSE’ tweets without a candidate in shot.

A few ‘seasonal difficulties’ have slowed down the process. Holidays have got in the way of the serious business of campaigning.

But you don’t win elections online – even if EVERY door step session is ‘FANTASTIC.’

And so why all the fuss about Shrub End in a bloody by-election that won’t change the composition of the Council?

As a reminder: WIN Shrub End and you WIN the momentum ahead of the next round of election by thirds in May 2018.

This is a winnable seat for all three political parties.

It won’t change the policies on the ground for the residents, but it will change the power battle currently taking place in the Town Hall between the administration and the opposition, and within Cabinet itself.

Happy campaigning, Comrades.