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HB Partnership's Action Plan launch on Sat 18th

From Andrew Bibby

Friday, 10 May 2013

It's good to see that Hebweb has posted a news story about the launch on Sat 18th of the draft Action Plan from HB Partnership. There's more too on our new website. We hope lots of people will come to the drop-in session at the Town Hall during the day.

The new draft plan (and it is a draft: the final version will depend on all the comments we hope we'll be getting back) is a major revision of the 2005 Plan, which among other things helped kickstart the pedestrianisation process and the Town Hall development. Quite a lot of the issues discussed recently on this Forum (including the Park, Bridge Gate and ideas for the market) are covered, so you'll have to see if you agree with our suggestions.

If you read The Guardian, you may also want to look at the editorial today (May 10) on the shared space initiative in Poynton, Cheshire. We plan to show a very interesting video about Poynton on the 18th, and to host a discussion about whether a similar shared space scheme could work in HB.

From Larry Kin

Saturday, 11 May 2013

It would be preferable to see something like this driven by Calderdale Council and HRTC rather than an organisation that has no official stake in this and which is ultimately not legally accountable for the impact of its decisions. Even the board members of the partnership whom are nominated by parish and town councils are explicitly stated to be working in a personal capacity in the constitution.

From Paul Clarke

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Larry, you are dead right but don't forget the local great and good still feel need to tell us what to do even if they are not elected to do so.

After all through the last plan we did gain an anonymous office block in the middle of town..sorry, I meant the Town Hall extension.

From Anthony Rae

Saturday, 11 May 2013

On one factual point (which if left uncorrected will form a new 'truth' on the web), Andrew says that the new document is a revision of the 2005 Plan 'which among other things helped kickstart the pedestrianisation process'. In fact that process began a decade earlier when I wrote the Friends of the Earth submission to Hebden Royd Town Council proposing a scheme; the next important milestone was securing a budget for pedestrianisation within the WY local transport plan in the early 2000s.

The point being that developing the momentum for these big investments often takes a long time but you get there in the end. Consequently when the UCVR and Renaissance Market Town process came along between 2003-5 the project was essentially waiting for them to pick up and repackage (and then we had all the fun of the actual implementation); no harm in that and it helped secure the Yorkshire Forward grant that paid for the yorkstone of the wavy steps.

I suspect the big issue for the new plan will be housing, where at the moment some 250 houses are being proposed by Calderdale Council's draft Local Plan to be built on Green Belt in the area. The alternative, which FOE has put forward - here and across Calderdale - is to resist the developer determination to get on to the greenfield sites by instead concentrating activity on previously developed sites within the existing urban area. This will involved auditing all those sites, and then making some possibly difficult choices. People may react against increasing density in/around the town centre - although let's remember that that is the basis of these Victorian settlements - but the most likely alternative we can judge so far is large scale building around Heptonstall.

So maybe the the Partnership can assist in that 'audit and choice' process? Larry is right that the statutory responsibility for local planning rests with CMBC and HRTC. Therefore people need to focus on the former's housing land allocation exercise over the summer (don't know when; a date hasn't been announced yet), but we will need a collective effort if we are to secure the most sustainable and regenerating outcome for the area, and if we are to avoid the false choice that because we need more social housing it has to be on Greenbelt.

From Graham Barker

Sunday, 12 May 2013

I too am very uneasy about the claim of Hebden Bridge Partnership to act on behalf of the rest of us. It’s unelected and unaccountable, and has the temerity to give us peasants only until 10 June to ‘consult’ on its draft Action Plan. I can’t attend the launch day, but even if I could I don’t see why anyone should respond to the HBP’s dog whistle. It claims to be the ‘town team’. I’m sorry, but that’s taking the mick.

Are we to assume that if there is no significant voice against the Action Plan, it will become somehow official? Will we, for example, become known as a town that wants a shared space road scheme just because Hebden Bridge Partnership thinks it’s a good idea?

HBP may well have good intentions, but it appears to have a breezy disregard for the democratic process. Or among its ‘more than thirty ideas and suggestions for ways to strengthen our community’ is there one that proposes doing away with local elections and local councillors?

From Paul Clarke

Sunday, 12 May 2013

I think alarm bells should really be ringing when Graham Barker and I are in agreement, but he is dead right on this issue.

The self appointed 'town team' are giving us two weeks to have a view on a 'plan' they have devised to save our town. I would be hitting the roof if HRTC or Calderdale offered such a short time span for a consultation. In fairness they don't and wouldn't dream of it.

If the plan has been five years in gestation then what is the rush to close consultations? Maybe the 'town team' could take it out to local community centres to hear what hard to reach people have to say?

Equally if their 'plan' is adopted what status does it have? Who will implement it? Where will the money come from? Can it be altered once it is agreed?

It is interesting this 'town team' has no representation from the Trades Club which is rapidly becoming a nationally recognised venue with consequent implications for our tourism/arts strategy. Equally there is one scout group on there. but what about the guides and brownies? No Birchcliffe Centre which is on the edge of finishing its major refurb. So maybe 'half town team' would be accurate.

From Jenny B

Sunday, 12 May 2013

I am staggered at the audacity of this unelected group's proposals to 'better our town'. Having looked at their website to see who they are, it becomes clear that they are a rather small team of alleged representatives of various groups. However, it is not until you go into the minutes that you see who some of these faceless do-gooders are.

Aside from concern that the minutes of their meeting have not been published since February 2012, their sweeping statements of what this town needs is at best overly optimistic, rather a wish list than a plan.
The token offer of a consultation meeting is simply smoke screen for them to 'act on behalf of us all'.

Whilst I agree with the principles of community based involvement, that groups professing to represent the whole community can seemingly hold so much power is disturbing.

From John Maclean

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Am I alone in finding the tone of some these messages in this thread very disappointing?

I am not one of the Partnership "team". I just wouldn't have time. However, I find it encouraging that a group like this is prepared to look at our town and come up with some strategic ideas for Hebden Bridge for the coming years. Who else is going do that?

They may not be directly elected by the wider electorate but it is surely obvious that any decisions for action will have to be endorsed by our elected councillors. It seems to me the HB Partnership are just coming up with ideas, and at this stage we don't even know what these ideas are.

Let's see what they come up with, and if there is a consensus that the consultation needs more time, perhaps we can make that point. And presumably, if the consultation shows opposition to any of their proposals, such proposals are unlikely to go ahead.

Personally, I would be very pleased if they were able to address environmental and housing concerns.

But I think they should be applauded for being prepared to devote time and energy towards developing suggestions and ideas for projects which may affect us all.

From Dai Hallgarth

Sunday, 12 May 2013

No, you are not alone John Maclean! I strongly agree that HB Partnership should be applauded rather than attacked. I was getting quite depressed reading the unwelcoming responses above.

The Partnership members are not "faceless", and, as Andrew Bibby makes quite clear, they welcome comments, input and alternative proposals to their suggestions.

From Dave R

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

I think the tone of the 'dissenters' is questioning rather than negative. There is no point in a talking shop that doesn't get things done because they don't have the power to act.

What is best for our town is no doubt at the heart of their good intentions, but our healthy suspicion of altruistic intentions is not to be knocked.

From Paul D

Thursday, 16 May 2013

I find this one of the few local bodies with aims I can really agree with. Maybe the last one needs working on, but I find little to object to in terms of their intentions:

Aims and Objectives:
(a) To work with other public, private and voluntary bodies to promote the environmental economic and social regeneration of Hebden Royd and the four adjacent parishes of Blackshaw Head, Erringden, Heptonstall and Wadsworth.
(b) To develop initiatives aimed at making Hebden Royd and the four adjacent parishes of Blackshaw Head, Erringden, Heptonstall and Wadsworth better places in which to invest, live, work, shop and enjoy leisure activities.
(c) To inform the people and businesses in Hebden Royd and the adjacent parishes of the work of the Partnership.

It seems they work, or at least try to work, closely with democratically elected groups. We may not always like the outcomes (don't get me going on 'promoting the visitor economy') but this seems like local people getting stuck in and dealing with local issues - in their free time no less.

Hats off to them for at least putting a shoulder to the wheel. Getting the houses we need will be a big one for me. Let's stop exporting our young people.

From Larry Kin

Saturday, 18 May 2013

One primary concern remains - the group responsible for the vision, despite their official sounding name, have no mandate from the people of Hebden Bridge to represent them. It's akin to a few national charities, interest groups and businesses getting together and setting out a strategy for the UK. The worrying difference is that in the case of the Hebden Bridge vision there's a significant risk that local legislators and media will be conned into thinking that there is a mandate and acting on the findings.

The plan appears to be substantially written despite the lip-service paid to a consultation event that is yet to occur. But in any case an event organised by a self-appointed group of people with their own particular set of interests (and conflicts of interest) attended by the few who have the time to engage does still not provide a mandate to represent the community.

The people who very clearly do have a mandate to represent the local community are those at the various tiers of government who have been voted by the locality to represent them. It is these governmental representatives - Hebden Royd Town Council, our Claderdale Council representatives and perhaps our MP who should be driving and consulting on the change - not merely happening to be one subset of a much larger group whom the HB Partnership have had the good grace to invite along to their meetings.

B Partnership are not accountable or able to be held to account for any of the outcomes of their plan and as such it would be folly in the extreme to grant them so much power and sway in local decision making as appears to be their want.

Lack of opposition to plans through the laughable two week consultation period should not be interpreted as support for the project. Similarly support by a few who have the time, energy, or self-interest in the plans should not be interpreted as community wide approval for them. The community has already voted for town and borough councillors to represent their views (and indeed Calderdale is putting forward Local Area plans that it has consulted on) and there is no imperative on them to engage with some other group that have no legal or constructive authority to represent them.

It is instructive that despite the posting by a proposer of the vision on this site that HB Partnership have not taken the time to respond to the concerns many have articulated about their lack of mandate (it also speaks volumes about the transparency of the process that it's still the case as noted above that the most recent minutes of our supposed representatives' meetings that are published are from 15 months ago).

If the partnership are really concerned about helping the community (and not merely serving their own groups' interests) to formulate a plan then that energy should be commended. The proper way to harness that energy is for it to be offered as a resource to HRTC and or Calderdale Council. That would look very different to the current set up - it would have elected councillors driving the plan; it would have institutional bodies that are guaranteed to be around in the future to be held to account for the plan; it would ensure that those driving the project had the interests of the community at its heart; it would ensure that appropriate processes were in place to avoid the potential myriad conflicts of interest that are entrenched in the current HB Partnership set up; it would ensure that a proper consultation was conducted and that the results of that consultation were accurately interpreted; and the implementation of the plan would be mandated by the electorate that it is intended to benefit.

From Paul Clarke

Sunday, 19 May 2013

I agree with Larry but if we waiting for our MP to do owt don't hold your breath.

It's a very good job the document is printed on heavy paper as it is so unsubstantial and vague it is likely to blow away in the breeze.

From Gwen Goddard

Sunday, 19 May 2013

If our elected councillors were as forward thinking as those who form the Hebden Bridge Partnership then there wouldn't be a need for anyone else to come up with such helpful proposals.

Personally, I hope the Hebden Royd Town Council looks very carefully at the Action Plan and takes most of it into a Neighbourhood Plan, which I understand would then be accountable and have proper backing.

From Graham Barker

Sunday, 19 May 2013

I find little in the Action Plan to take seriously except for one proposal that I'll come to.

Much of it is more of an Inaction Plan. By my count, 18 of the 39 proposals fall into the 'let's form a committee and talk about it' category. Of the remainder, some are too slight to detain anyone long, while others sound like someone riding their own hobby horse. A handful are sensible but by no means original or profound.

The introduction states that the Action Plan was produced by 'a small task group', and while one individual is mentioned twice, no one else is named. My suspicion therefore is that the Plan is the product of a very tiny number of people with set views about what is good or bad for Hebden Bridge.

A prime example of that is the proposal that worries me most:

Proposal 1. We recommend research into the use of shared space schemes elsewhere, with a view to this solution being applied in Hebden Bridge.

The arrogance of the wording is remarkable. It's not 'Let's discuss this among ourselves as a community', but 'Let's assume shared space schemes are good, and have one in Hebden Bridge'. Shared space is flavour of the month among some urban planners and, as I've said on another thread, it may have its merits. But it's playing with people's lives, and in Hebden Bridge many of those people are children. Did anyone from the HB Partnership seek the views of nearby Riverside and Central Street schools before tabling this proposal? My information so far is that they didn't. Did the Partnership consult with anyone in the wider community at all, or did they just follow their prejudices?

The Action Plan as a whole is very light on how its proposals were reached. Where is the detailed evidence, and which members of the Partnership are the champions of each proposal? As it stands, the Plan has nuisance value because the authority and status it assumes unto itself will have to be challenged. But as a blueprint for a better and safer Hebden Bridge, it has little to offer.

From Patricia B

Monday, 20 May 2013

Very concerned about the proposal to alter traffic flow on Albert Street to allow only 13 parking spaces. I have a much better plan which I hope will be considered by whoever reads this thread. Adding at least 40 new car parking spaces.

My proposal for altering traffic flow and creating more parking in this area of town involves the use of Hope Street. As you know Albert street has two entry points into Garden Street carpark. This carpark is a highly used parking area and one of the largest in the town and is essential to our economy. I would like to see a similar layout applied to Hope Street. The entire street to be a carpark, from the A646 entry point opposite the Picture House up to the north end at Lloyds Bank/library. Through traffic to be allowed as is the case in Garden street carpark in one direction. I estimate it will be possible to create a minimum of 40 new car parking spaces. I see this as a viable solution to the town's urgent parking needs with minimal disruption to existing properties as there are few to consider.

One side of Hope street is the church grounds and library, minimal disruption here. The other side is Francine Turner letting, the old police station and approximately three terrace houses which currently do not have on street parking and would quite likely benefit from car spaces which would be free after 6pm. I would imagine the letting agency would also welcome parking at their doorstep. Buses could be moved to the adjacent Albert street. Hope Street is a very quiet street with little traffic or footfall, other than buses and passengers.

To summarise, the main advantages would be:

  1. A carpark opposite the Picture House cinema
  2. Daytime town centre car parking spaces which are badly needed
  3. A carpark for library users
  4. No disruption to existing traffic flow or businesses on Albert Street
  5. A carpark near to the memorial gardens/canal side walks
  6. Improved overnight car parking facilities for residents of Hope street and nearby residents
  7. No need to alter traffic light systems at junction of Albert street and A646
  8. Existing pedestrian crossing on New Road connecting Hope Street to Picture House/ tourist information/ memorial gardens is already in place
  9. Access from this new Hope street carpark to Crown street will benefit a number of businesses and residents

I cannot see a down side to this plan, we have the existing traffic light systems lets use them. I think it should be seriously considered. I hope HebWeb readers agree.

From Brian Kelly

Monday, 20 May 2013

I too agree that this plan seems rather imposed. One concern is the way the plan uses the photos with ticks and crosses. What is all that about?

As I live on Fountain Street, near Central Street, I find it particularly strange that there is a photo of Central Street with a cross and the statement that Central Street remains a "significant blight". As there are no plans in the document to actually do something in Central Street I cannot see how just calling it a significant blight helps anything. I would say that if there is nothing positive to say then please refrain from such meaningless comments.

If anyone from the Partnership reads this please remove these pointless comments from the plan. Oh, and no no no to shared space, crazy idea for HB.

From Larry Kin

Monday, 20 May 2013

Charitably one must suppose that for some reason HB Partnership have not thought to check this forum after their initial posting. As they will presumably be interested in demonstrating how they are mandated to act on the community's behalf and engaging with the many other thoughtful comments rather than merely selectively distilling cherry-picked responses given to their deemed consultation I have emailed the partnership to alert them of this.

From Heather Morgan

Monday, 20 May 2013

Brian with regards to your comments regarding Central Street remains a "significant blight". Why do the residents wait for others to address the issue surely the residents could and indeed should improve their own area. The notice on the homepage regarding limited access to Lee Mill Road is a fantastic example. The residents of this street have dug deep to fund the resurfacing with no external support. Perhaps the HB Partnership could use this model to become more focused on addressing and resolving issues.

From Graham Barker

Monday, 20 May 2013

Patricia's idea sounds pretty sensible. Could adjacent Cheetham Street be treated the same way? And perhaps these could be dedicated all-day slots for town centre businesses. Their needs tend to get overlooked and are certainly not mentioned in the Plan. (Because car = bad?)

I'd like to throw in an idea of my own. How about getting rid of all our unsightly wheelie-bins by changing to the sort of system used in France and Spain: small on-street skips emptied every day or so. Rubbish doesn't build up and collection must be far more efficient. The siting of the skips would need some thinking about - maybe sites could rotate so any inconvenience is shared out - but a streetscape free of wheelie-bins and piles of black bags may be worth the effort of lugging our rubbish a few extra yards. Again, this is an aspect of Hebden Bridge life ignored by the Action Plan.

And another idea! Maybe Hebweb could set up its own alternative, truly inclusive Action Plan based simply on ideas we all post in!

From Brian Kelly

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Regarding Central Street my point was simply this.

On page 8 of the action plan it has a picture of Central Street, with a cross on the picture, saying that it remains a “significant blight” but that nothing seems likely to be done. So that is not really a plan, and seems, in my opinion, a comment that is out of place in a proposed action plan.

I also think that it is not a good idea to make comments about any particular group of residents in this forum. It is not all residential properties on Central Street and many of the properties that are residential are rented. I am sure everyone in every street wants to improve their own area, there are no particular groups of residents that are different in that regard.

From Cllr Janet Battye

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

I'm pleased to see that we're getting all sorts of interesting ideas in response to the draft Action Plan. We're going to collect, collate and analyse them so that we can bring the responses to the next open meeting of the Partnership on Monday July 8th.

The value of the Partnership, I think, is that it brings together representatives of groups in Hebden Bridge (including the Town Council and Calderdale Council) and its meetings are open so that anybody present can participate (unlike many formally constituted groups) and we have a wide remit. Final and formal decisions may be taken elsewhere but it is a useful place where people come together.

From Graham Barker

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Janet - I think the strongest feeling emerging from this thread is that the Partnership lacks legitimacy and is perhaps not impartial. Why then should anyone who feels that way engage with the Action Plan, when that would doubtless be spun as an endorsement of the Partnership?

My own view is that we really ought to knock this one down and start again. We need a much more open forum that allows anyone and everyone to contribute and discuss ideas transparently. Hebweb would be ideal if they are prepared to cope with it!

From Larry Kin

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

For clarity according to the constitution it is not the case that there are representatives of Calderdale Council or Hebden Royd Town Council serving on the partnership's board. The constitution explicitly states that those people on the board who occupy councillor roles are acting in a personal capacity. This isn't a semantic point - councillors are specifically precluded from acting on behalf of the body to which they are elected and thus are free to serve their own interests rather than those of their electorate. In practice one might hope that the councillor is suitably altruistic and the two sets of interest coincide but one should probably grant legitimacy to a body that wants to have such a huge impact on its locale on more than mere hopes. This is especially true when there are such large conflicts of interest in the offing.

A further reason to undermine the spurious claim that the partnership has to act on anyone other than its own behalf.

From Andrew Bibby

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Well, I started this thread ten days ago and I deliberately haven’t entered the fray since then, partly because I think it’s sometimes more helpful to a debate if the originator doesn’t keep chipping in with their two pen’ worth all the time. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been noting the comments coming in.

But as there’s been some lively comment and also an amount of criticism so I do now want to respond.

I regret the tone of some of the postings, because even if we disagree I would hope that the disagreeing can be done in a civil way. But I know that, er, shall we call it ‘plain-speaking’ can be the convention on online forums these days.

There are two significant points being made, I think. Firstly, people are taking issue with the proposals which the Partnership has made in its Action Plan. Some people are commenting on particular ideas, and this feedback is what we want and are hoping for. We have taken a lead in putting forward a number of proposals for ways we think HB can be better, and we want to know whether or not these ideas strike a chord. We’re getting feedback on this forum, of course, and we’re also getting responses to the survey monkey on the website and paper copies of the survey are also coming back. Some are very supportive, some suggesting new ideas, some identifying possible snags with what we’ve come up with. We’re also getting some more detailed comments emailed back to us, and these are v helpful. For example, the Sustainable Transport group has given us a 2 page response on the transport section; another example is the email which came through this morning with a detailed proposal on empty property.

We asked for responses within a little over three weeks, mainly because we thought if we gave longer people would put off doing it immediately, get sidetracked, and end up not responding at all. But if there’s a general feeling that people need longer, then we can easily extend this.

The second criticism is raising some questions about the role of the Partnership in local life, and effectively its right to take an initiative like this. As anyone who knows me will know, I take the issue of accountability seriously and since taking over the role of Chair earlier this year one of my aims has to broaden the Partnership’s reach to parts of local community life which it hasn’t yet engaged with. So I am not going to claim that the Partnership’s record is beyond reproach in this respect.

But nevertheless the reason why I’ve chosen to give my time to it at the moment is because I think it is a useful tool in our community life. A little bit of background is in order. The Partnership was set up in 2001, and as you’ll see if you read the constitution was designed to be a broad body, representing as many different facets of local life as possible. Calderdale nominates a representative. So does the Town Council and so (collectively) the four parish councils. The bulk of the Partnership’s members however are local people, there to represent different areas of activity (business, arts and culture, environmental groups etc).

Ten years or so ago the upper valley participated in the Upper Calder Valley Renaissance initiative, funded by Yorkshire Forward. Each of the four main towns established ‘town teams’ and identified priority projects for UCVR. Tod has Tod Pride, Sowerby Bridge has the Community Forum, and Mytholmroyd has Royd Regeneration. (Hebden Bridge Partnership was originally Hebden Royd Partnership and at that stage focused on both HB and Mytholmroyd). The government (and Mary Portas) are currently getting very enthusiastic about ‘town teams’ but here in the upper valley we have had them for over ten years.

There was much activity in drawing up a strategy for UCVR, much consultation, and eventually the UCVR John Thornton strategy plan was produced. It’s still an interesting read, and we will try to get it up on the Partnership’s new website for anyone who wants to look back. It’s still there on www.ucvr.org.uk. Following this, HB Partnership produced a more detailed Action Plan for the town in 2007, quite similar to the 2013 one we have just launched. In the years after that it helped coordinate a range of community initiatives, with five particular priorities: a heritage initiative (which has become Pennine Horizons), an initiative to do something about the Town Hall, improvements to the park, improvements and relocation of the market and improvement work to Central Street. Lots of people worked very hard on these, and progress has been made on most. (The main disappointment was Central Street, where lots of effort was expended but in the end nothing has yet materialised – this wasn’t the fault of the residents).

The current Action Plan has already been the subject of a Saturday consultation at Wainsgate chapel centre in March 2012, when a lot of the ideas which have ended up in it came from the participants. I’m sorry if you weren’t there or didn’t know about it.

Currently, notice of Partnership meetings goes out to 81 people, and anyone can ask to join the mailing list. Meetings are open to all. Previously, we occupied a section of the ucvr website which wasn’t very well publicised or updated, and this was definitely a weakness in terms of communication. We have just set up our own Partnership website, which hopefully will make communications easier. The one event which I would really hope people will note in their diaries is the AGM (this year Thursday, 10 October). The arrangement here is that any local organisation or campaign has up to (and no more than!) three minutes to share what they have been doing and future plans. We have sometimes had more than 25 groups having their 3 min slot.

Larry Kin’s last posting can be answered very quickly. Directors of any company (and we are incorporated as a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee) have a responsibility to act in the interests of that company/organization, not any other body. So councillors cannot be delegated by their councils to take particular decisions when they are acting as Partnership directors. The Town Council nominates its councillor on the Partnership (currently its chosen nominee is Cllr Jonathan Timbers) and each year a letter comes through from the Town Council clerk saying who that will be. Calderdale equally nominates its own councillor (Cllr Janet Battye). This is a very standard arrangement for many voluntary sector organisations.

Incidentally, Larry has contacted me off-list and I did reply offering to meet, to try to address some of his concerns. I haven’t yet heard back, but the same offer applies to anyone else who would like more info than I’m able to give here. Sometimes face-to-face communication works better than electronic.

I’m sorry this posting has turned out quite so long.

From Larry Kin

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Instead of stating that you can easily extend the deadline a more effective response to criticisms of the short deadline would be to extend the deadline. However this is moot given the more substantial points about mandate, accountability and conflicts of interest that are still to be adequately addressed.

It is stated that you are concerned with accountability but a more effective response would be to suggest how you plan to address the issue of accountability. One suggestion is that you become a formally elected council with established voting systems enshrined in law and practice together with a guarantee of longevity (such as e.g. HRTC or Calderdale Council). Of course this isn't an option and serves to underline why it is difficult to take any claim to accountability seriously. That you have sought to broaden your membership to a slightly wider group of mostly parochial (with that term used advisedly these are parochial even factoring in the community focus) interest groups doesn't establish accountability. To be accountable there needs to be some recourse for the short, medium and long term impact of your decisions - there's no assurance that your organisation will be here next year, let alone in 2020 or further into the future. But even if you are around what's the recourse? You are a group of mostly self-elected organisations and individuals who cannot be removed from their post by the public and there is no legal recourse for any poor decisions you might make because you are not empowered to take them in the first place - instead HRTC and Calderdale will be financially and reputationally liable.

As an aside you have since put up two further minutes on the website (with the dates of two others and but no link) however there is still a gap of 13 months to February this year where there are no minutes, and the last AGM (which you highlight as one the ways in which you solicit community involvement and which your constitution requires you to hold annually) is from 2010. Not supportive of the claim to accountability and nor would it led credence to the claim of transparency either.

The point about councillors being explicitly required to act in a personal capacity was that this therefore immediately forestalls any claim to there being people representing the councils on the body (incidentally of all meetings online since the beginning of 2012 - admittedly only four - there has only been one person using the title 'Cllr' present). That three is a sound legal reason for requiring the constitution to be written in this way does not obviate the fact that the councillors on the board are acting in a personal capacity and only helps support the claim that this process should be led by a body governed by an accountable body of properly elected individuals.

There is nothing in the response that addresses the conflict of interest issue and indeed it would be difficult to imagine how this could be satisfactorily addressed given the constitution of the group, its membership's interests and its (did I mention) lack of accountability.

Since the partnership are reviewing this one hopes they will adequately and substantially (citing Mary Portas does not count as substantial) address these significant concerns about their legitimacy and consider whether the interests of the community might not be better served by subjugating this whole process to some body that is mandate to act in the manner that the partnership wishes it could act.

From Graham Barker

Thursday, 23 May 2013

While Andrew usefully explains the background to the Partnership, his lengthy post doesn’t alter my view that the Action Plan is misconceived. He claims that the proposals are only suggestions intended to spark discussion. If so, why give the Plan all the appearance of a finished product, albeit with the figleaf of the word ‘draft’? You can’t have it both ways. You don’t put a half-cooked meal on the table, especially if you’ve spent over a year preparing it.

In the light of what Andrew says, I think the Action Plan should be withdrawn and relegated to internal discussion document status. It is too lacking in credibility to be anything else.

Then there’s the matter of the Partnership’s legitimacy. I don’t doubt its good intentions, but when a body with such an ambitious remit manages a total attendance of seven people at its last two meetings for which minutes are available, you have to question its viability. As Paul Clarke suggests, it doesn’t represent what one might call the nuts and bolts of Hebden Bridge. There is no obvious representation from retail businesses, pubs, schools, healthcare, social care, emergency services, private companies, property agents, housing associations, churches etc. If after ten years they’re not there or have dropped out, I’d suggest that the Partnership must either approach its task very differently or perhaps consider taking gardening leave.

From Dr Lindsay Smales

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Having been the person who facilitated a Neighbourhood Planning Workshop in March 2012 for the Hebden Bridge Partnership, a session which helped to kick start the process of arriving at the Draft 2020 Action Plan, I have read the recent debate on the Forum with interest.
I believe that a number of points arising from this debate need to be addressed, namely:

Why does Hebden Bridge need an ‘Action’ or ‘Neighbourhood Plan’?

Part of the price that we all have to pay for living in such lovely, attractive and great places is that other people want to join us in doing so. This is why developers are keen to build on available sites and see opportunities in Hebden. At the same time we also have a ‘duty’ to help contribute to the need to build new housing – much of which would hopefully be ‘affordable’ for local people and built on brownfield sites.

Add to this the desire to improve and enhance that which is best about our places and locality and we arrive at the current dilemma and need for an agreed, publicly endorsed, way forward.

Hebden Bridge and its champions could continue dealing with these development pressures, as it has done in the recent past, by campaign either for or against each development proposal as it arises, such as Garden Street or those for the Brown’s site. Or the community could be pro-active by setting out an agreed set of key aims and objectives for their town as a whole and its constituent parts.

By doing so it would then be possible to assess and evaluate current and future development proposals against locally-endorsed criteria, thereby presenting the opportunity judge their worth and value in a wider context and set of ambitions.

In the absence of such a ‘plan’ and range of principles for the future of Hebden Bridge as a whole, local activists are in danger of spending much of their time and energy in opposing development, rather that embracing a more creative process which might offer the chance to channel their energies, concerns and ambitions in a more productive and positive way, as in producing a Town or Neighbourhood Plan

Who Decides?

Contributors to the Forum debate have quite rightly raised the concern that The Hebden Bridge Partnership are, on the whole, not elected and/or accountable for their work or current the current Action Plan.

To a certain extent this is true. However, a quick visit to their website will show how many local bodies are represented on this organisation and have contributed and endorsed the Draft 2020 Vision document.

In an ideal world, HR Council and their elected members would be the body to have produced such a draft Action Plan. Not surprisingly, they have a lot of other things to do. They have, however, a clear representation on the HB Partnership Board and, as far as I am aware, support and generally endorse the current Draft Action Plan.

In this context, it is helpful that a local body have had the insight and ambition to set the ball rolling, and stick their heads up above the wall, in order to engage the community in a very necessary debate about the future of the town.

How to Consult?

Various criticisms have been made of the ‘consultation’ process that the HB Partnership have set up.

They have published a paper copy of the Draft Action Plan and a survey form, set up a day-long Consultation drop-in event and a website within which people can add their comments and observations.

This conforms to best practice and it would be unfair of folk to suggest that they had not had the opportunity to make their concerns or support known.

Were this Draft Action Plan be turned into a proper ‘Neighbourhood Plan’, which would need to be fully adopted by Hebden Royd Council, then it would have to go to a local vote.

This vote would need to be attached to a Local or General Election Day and registered voters be asked to either support or reject such a Plan.
In this way any Plan that aims to be adopted as the set of policies for the future of HB could be either be adopted or rejected by the electorate.

What Next?

We all look forward to a summary of the findings from the consultation process on the Draft HB Action Plan.

These should, and no doubt will, be used to inform the content of a Second Draft of the Action Plan and, ideally, a nascent Neighbourhood Plan that could be open to further local consultation and debate and, ultimately, be adopted by HBR Council.

Whether local people like it or not, the current Coalition Government have set in train a planning process which endorses the production of Neighbourhood Plans as part of their ‘Localism Act’. In principle this is a good idea and one that has been around for a long time.

No other community in Calderdale is so far down the line towards producing such a document. Should such a Neighbourhood Plan be ‘adopted’ by the local community, it would become the local planning document that the planners and politicians in Halifax, as in CMBC, and future developers, would have to adhere to and follow.

The current Draft Action Plan is a very good start. Whilst many people might not be happy with some of the suggestions it contains, it has had the positive effect of starting important debates.

Good planning has been described as ‘The right kind of development, in the right place and at the right time’.

In this context, and no matter what anyone one’s political perspective, working towards a ‘Neighbourhood Plan’ for HB is the way forward.
As such, the efforts of Andrew Bibby and his colleagues on the HBP should be supported in the form of positive suggestions from ‘critical friends’.

The route to a collectively agreed ‘Neighbourhood Plan’ as been well and truly trodden by the publication of this Draft 2020 Vision Action Plan.
Please embrace it and the very positive intentions and ambitions of those who both wrote it and are involved in the HB Partnership.

The Draft Plan needs to be seen as the rough diamond that it is. When compared to what other towns and communities are doing it is a very good start.

Change in Hebden Bridge is inevitable. The issue is the extent to which local people feel they are at its mercy or in control. The current Draft Action Plan should be seen as a positive attempt to try and influence and engage with this process.

From Graham Barker

Friday, 24 May 2013

Dearie me, the condescencion piles up. So to précis Lindsay, we’re stuck with this wretched Action Plan whether we like it or not.

[quote] Whilst many people might not be happy with some of the suggestions it contains, it has had the positive effect of starting important debates. [end quote]

That’s rather like saying that bunging a brick through my window is good because it starts me thinking about getting double glazing.

From Patricia B

Friday, 24 May 2013

To get back to the proposals, rather than discuss the membership of the partnership. Looking at proposal 13 the relocation of our weekly markets to Lees Yard, surely this is just moving the market from one car park to another. Why not relocate to the marina (canal basin). A much under-utilised area at present. It would create a lively and attractive area in a main road location. This would be a great way to support our markets, give them what they want. Rather than as suggested in proposal 9 suggestions of marina use, such as addition of an artwork.

Makes sense to me, the market traders have for many years felt this would be the ideal place for them. In fact I remember there being various markets held successfully at the marina many years ago. Not everything in our town should be focused in the square or town hall area.

From Susan Quick

Friday, 24 May 2013

Relocating the market to the marina would make it inaccessible for those of us who are disabled, particularly to wheelchair users. And to mums and dads with buggies or prams. The surface of the marina is not wheel-able.

I represent the disabled community of Hebden Bridge on the Partnership. I'm head injured and my impairments include partial sight and lack of balance, therefore I walk with stick.

We had an initial discussion at the Town Hall launch of the Partnership 2020 vision. We are anxious to know from everyone what issues impede your access to shops, public buildings, businesses, etc etc. How would you like your access needs to be better met? What changes to infrastructure would help? Any other suggestions? Please let us know. You can contact me via the Partnership or leave a message here.

From Patricia B

Friday, 24 May 2013

As Susan rightly says the marina is one of those areas not accessable by the less mobile. This will have to be looked at surely, after all, whatever the future use of this area it should definitely be for all to enjoy. I wonder why the resurfacing of the marina was not done in a more user friendly way. Although the rough stone work is attractive it should have been thought through. If the proposal to create a bridge over the canal connecting the railway to the town goes forward I would imagine the partnership will take the necessary steps to redress this issue and then it will be perfect for use as a site for our markets.

From Paul Clarke

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Good to see Janet Battye (Calder, Bedroom Tax) admitting the 'half town team' is a forum for talking but has no power or resources to do owt.

I've read the 2020 document a few times now and couldn't agree with Brian or Graham more. Between them they have exploded the spin created by the 'half town team.'

But the game is given away on pages 22 and 23 where it lists the 'partners' who might 'help' deliver their wish list. By 'deliver' they mean organisations that have the resources and knowhow we don't to deliver our wish list.

The main 'partner' is Calderdale so maybe Cllr Battye (Calder, Bedroom Tax) might have to do something but not holding my breath there.

I noticed the great and good stirring to defend their own so here's my challenge to them on 'proposal 22.' This where they state they support the introduction of lifts at the station. Now, no-one in the right mind would not support such a proposal but the question for the 'half town team' is just what they intend to do to make it happen or is merely an empty gesture.

I've no problem with a load of people with no mandate sitting in a room chatting but don't pretend you are representing me as you are not.

PS: Citing Mary Portas is just a tiny bit desperate.

From Dai Hallgarth

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

For goodness' sake, don't you realise/remember/ even know that we almost lost the rail link altogether 30 odd years ago let alone the station whether or not it was equipped with lifts. We need forward-thinking people like the few who took the trouble to fight the CRAG campaign. Maybe they have become the "great and the good" over the years, but, if you really care about Hebden Bridge, please stop whinging and get involved in a more positive way than knock knock knocking. You may be surprised at how you will be able to "make it happen"

From Gerard Liston

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

I think the draft plan is well-considered and constructive and, like Dai, I find it disappointing to read some of the responses.

My main suggestion is about the section on 'Community, Social and Artistic Life'. The proposals cover the park, leisure services, the Picture House and a footbridge. This doesn't seem to address the theme.

The report starts by saying, 'We want a strong and healthy community life ... where all parts of our community feel engaged and able to play their part.'

More is needed than changes to infrastructure and the economy to achieve this. I don't subscribe to the 'Suicide Capital' descriptions of our town, but I do think there is a need to support development of spiritual and emotional wellbeing.

Hope Baptist Church has been seeking fresh ways to make a contribution here: Mindfulness Meditation Courses; hosting Valley Organics during the flood; developing a Community Garden; and providing a venue for last weekend's Blues Festival - to provide just a few examples. The imminent £1/4m repair of the chapel interior will provide this town with a fantastic sanctuary space - literally at the heart of Hebden Bridge. (Hope Baptist Church website)

Many others are also contributing to the spiritual and emotional wellbeing of people who live in and visit the area and there is certainly not just one community centre.

I look forward to more creative and ambitious proposals about social, artistic and spiritual life if we are to create a 'strong and healthy community'.

From Graham Barker

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

There are many people, businesses and organisations who care about Hebden Bridge, but the Partnership has too few of them on board and appears not to consult beyond its own 'friends and family'. Whatever its origins and intentions, it now has all the appearance of a closed shop of special interest groups with wish lists. Its Action Plan is being imposed on us high-handedly (and perhaps expensively - how much did it cost to design and print?) by a tiny number of people with the flimsiest of mandates. I find that quite creepy. If expressing concern about it makes me a whinger, then I'm comfortable with the label.

From Paul Rigg

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

I am not sure where Dai gets the impression that we almost lost the rail service 30 years ago. The service has been secure since West Yorkshire PTE was formed. It is true that options A and B of the 1982 Serpell report did recommend closure of the line, but those options would have closed most railways in the country and they were never a serious option.

Installing a lift on the Leeds platform at the station should be done - there is a lift shaft there already which could be used and the ramp on the Manchester platform would only require slight modification to allow step free access to that platform.

From Paul D

Sunday, 2 June 2013

I'm with Dai and Gerard on this.

The document is a bit aspirational and purposefully sets out to fly a few kites, but in my experience that's what discussion documents do.

I don't like all of it, but some of it is quite brilliant, they seem to capture some really deep rooted local needs and then go on to something I'm not at all interested in, but doesn't that say more about me than it does about the plan? That I've got quite narrow interests compared to their vision, ambition and scope?

I think what's really annoying people is not any democratic deficit, or the make up of the partnership, who's there and who's not, but the optimism the document conveys. It's very optimistic and very ambitious and in a climate where not much gets done and what does get done is often the result of a political stitch up, people don't like that. So I wonder if the negative reactions reflect a sort of mistrust of others with ideas and especially of those with the confidence and optimism to put them out there?

From Patricia B

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Perhaps the membership of the partnership can openly declare that none of them have any ulterior motives or business interests in any of the proposals, that none of them hope to gain financially or otherwise by the implementation or non-implementation of any of the proposals, that neither they, their businesses or any of their circle will be developing, tendering or in any way involved in the proposals other than the initial suggestion of what they believe will be in the best interests of our town. Perhaps that will allay people's fears.

From Larry Kin

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Still no more minutes on the site; no evidence of the constitutionally bound requirement of an AGM since 2010; no answer to how conflicts of interest are to be avoided (stating that members have no conflict of interest would not be in any way sufficient to address this) ; no extension of the consultation period (despite it being stated that this could easily be done); no evidence demonstrating how the partnership can be effectively held to account.

An uncharitable reader would assume that the partnership (who seek to shape Hebden Bridge and substantial parts of the day to day life of its residents) don't care about any of the above.

One hopes the response to the consultation will fully engage with and publicly acknowledge and address these issues and draw an appropriate conclusion about whether to proceed as a body. Failure to do so would further confirm the attitude that is apparent from the dearth of engagement here.

From John Maclean

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

I find some of these negative responses very depressing. With the Partnership, we have a group of people who care about the future of our town putting in time, energy and enthusiasm to create a set of exciting ideas. Yet so many on this thread make comments which are almost cruelly dismissive.

I remember a particular organisation I was in. Nothing ever got done because as soon as someone put forward anything new, there were one or two members who would consistently say 'point of order' and point out some small print in the constitution whereby we couldn't even discuss the matter. Nothing changed, nothing happened and soon the only people left were the bureaucratic nit-pickers.

Of course, just because the Partnership have put forward ideas, it doesn't mean that we have to automatically agree with them. But let us at least have the courtesy and good manners to discuss the merits and problems associated with the various projects they have put forward.

In our imperfect democracy few groups could really be said to properly represent us. No matter who it was putting these ideas forward, it would be possible to challenge their legitimacy. But give them a chance! Let's see where the debate goes. As I said in my post about a month ago, ultimately final decisions will have to be taken by elected councillors. What's to lose!

If we carry on being dismissive, the consequence will be that those involved may become disillusioned and give up, and that others in the future will therefore think twice about suggesting any exciting projects for our town.

We don't have to agree with everything they have suggested but surely we can at least appreciate their intentions and thank them for initiating these interesting debates.

One of the projects I'd like to see more discussion about is the rebuilding of Buttress Brink. I really don't know if it would be possible but would love to see the possibilities explored.

From Susan Quick

Friday, 7 June 2013

To respond to Paul Rigg's suggestion that we reopen the lift shaft on Platform 1 and that there is a slope up to the platform. Unfortunately this was a goods lift. Friends of Hebden Bridge station have had a review conducted of disabled access. We were told that it would be necessary to install new lifts and that the ramp from the current lift shaft was too steep and would need to be extended.

In February 2011 the sub-group chaired by wheelchair user Ged Haley submitted an application for Calderdale Performance Reward grant. Unfortunately we were not successful. We continue to seek potential funding but the cost estimate more than 2 years ago was £980,000. There is a rumour that Hebden Bridge may be raised from a Grade 2 station to a Grade 3, in which case it would be mandatory that we become fully wheelchair accessible.

Currently only the bottom two stations, graded on passenger numbers are not legally required to become fully accessible. The iron is that when the station was refurbished we got a fully accessible toilet on Platform 2. Pity that if you want to come back to Hebden after a day out in Leeds, you have to go all the way to Rochdale in order to change platforms. Or you can get a taxi from Halifax, not paid for by the railway. Although a few months ago a guy who uses a wheelchair did manage to get off at Mytholmroyd and get a taxi paid for. Don't know how he did it. We need to look at getting access reviewed don't we?

From Paul Rigg

Monday, 10 June 2013

It would seem strange to me that there is a difference between a "goods" lift shaft and a "passenger" lift shaft. In fact the lift at Halifax is installed in a "goods" lift shaft and there are lifts at York that are similarly installed to access the ex-"goods" subway which passengers can now use,

Maybe instead of asking "consultants" an estimate could be obtained from a lift company to install lift in the shaft.

From Graham Barker

Monday, 10 June 2013

Like Paul, I'd question the £980,000 estimate, which sounds like the usual consultants' trick of adding an extra nought. In view of Susan's comments about the ramp, it could be that the estimate is based on a new tunnel with lifts on both platforms. If so, that would be expensive but shouldn't be necessary. A new lift using the existing shaft plus a Stannah-type wheelchair lift to cope with the ramp ought to be a workable and relatively cheap solution.