Potteries Shopping Centre Expansion Gets Approval

Capital Shopping Centres (CSC) today announced that its plans to invest £14m in The Potteries Shopping Centre have been granted planning approval by Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

The shopping centre which attracts around 14 million visitors each year will build a multi-screen cinema complex, new family-friendly restaurants and a pedestrian boulevard at the centre. The £14m investment will re-develop an underused brownfield site, will harmonise with the surrounding area through landscaping and will promote sustainable transport through a Green Travel Plan.

Paul Francis, General Manager of The Potteries Shopping Centre, said

Stoke-on-Trent is crying out for investment of this nature and the Council’s decision will be welcomed by residents and the millions of people who shop in Hanley every year. 

Our plans will create much needed new jobs and provide a real boost to the city’s economy, not to mention offering a great place for families to come and enjoy.  As a long-term partner to this great city, we’re proud to invest in its future and can’t wait to start delivering this plan.

It is hoped that construction will start on site later this year and open the leisure extension at The Potteries Shopping Centre in early 2014.  Later this year, CSC will announce the operators who will be opening new restaurants in the leisure extension at The Potteries Shopping Centre.

The planning application was approved without the need for it to go to the planning committee.

Diggers Move in For Next Phase Of The Hanley Bus Station Development

Following extensive and challenging ground stabilisation the work, today will see a team of excavators move on to the John Street site, where they will begin creating the foundations of the city’s new bus station – the first phase of the £350million new shopping and leisure complex in the city.

Over the next 10 weeks enough earth to cover a football pitch will be dug out of the new landmark bus station site in the city centre. The excavators are expected to move more than 3500m3 of earth to prepare the up to 8m deep foundations needed to support the iconic new building.

Once completed a further 3600m3 of concrete will be needed to prepare the ground for the complex 245 tonne of steelwork being fitted next as part of the build.

Councillor Ruth Rosenau, Stoke-on-Trent City Council cabinet member for regeneration, said

Today is an important day in the construction of the city’s new bus station. The earth which is needed to be moved is no small feat and will create the foundations for the iconic bus station building.

 

The work is being carried out by principal contractor VINCI construction UK.

Mark Thomas, Regional Director, VINCI Construction UK Building Division – North, said

The ground breaking ceremony is an exciting event for Stoke-on-Trent and VINCI Construction UK. It represents the start of a challenging and significant redevelopment of the new city centre bus facility and will open the gates to the £350 million redevelopment of a new shopping and leisure complex in Stoke-on-Trent.

Once the foundations are complete work will start in Spring on creating the bus drivers accommodation building before work starts on erecting the station’s main bus concourse.

Newtown

Newtown

This pub sign in Fenton was probably put up in the 1960s and has a prophetic view of the future rising above the smoky past. Hanley represents a shining city on a hill- a vision from the perspective of the late 60s of what the future might hold. Manhattan on the Trent or so they hoped.

I lived close to here for the first ten years of my life in Lytton St, Stoke. It is an industrial landscape and particularly a sound scape. Factory hooters, the grinding sound of flint being crushed, the shrill sound of a saw from the coopers across the road, steam trains, the clatter of goods wagons in the siding and the chugging of barge engines. The canal in the 60s was still a working place with barges filled with bones, clay flint and pottery.
Instead we seem to have gone from industry and grime to no industry and grime. I took the bus into Hanley yesterday and the evidence of decay is all around. We went past the old shopping precinct; we went past the mosque boarded up and no sign of recent activity. True went the new Sixth Form and the new University building but then into Stoke with its boarded up shops and then Harpfields with weeds growing through the playground of the empty school.

Looking through the archives regularly as I do there have been many plans of what the future should have held. In 1973 for instance there was talk of a Stoke-Hanley Axis with grandiose plans. It is something that over the years we have not lacked are fanciful drawings and detailed drawings.

What has gone wrong? Is it indeed fair to blame the actions of officers and councillors of the last 40 years for the mess that we are in. After all other places such as Burnley and Hull are in the same position as Stoke. In fact the Centre for Cities has suggested that the gap between places like Cambridge and places like Stoke is widening and the vision represented in the pub sign looks like a mirage

I like the Victorians

I like the Victorians. They had drive, they had energy, they believed in progress. I know that there was poverty and disease and huge discrepancies in wealth but look around at any North Staffs town and you can see obvious signs of their desire for improvement. Local towns were building their own gas works, they were organising their own water supplies, and they were building their own town halls. And this was done at speed look at the 30 years it took them to build the railway system, look at the drains under the streets of many cities in the UK. I wrote this on the day that Burslem Town Hall was put up for sale. I came across the opening ceremony for the Town Hall in 1857. It was obviously a moment for pride and followed 6 years later by the Wedgwood Institute opened by Mr Gladstone.

I also came across more modern examples of public works in my work today. Jez Moxey breezy stating in 1996 that the new Britannia Stadium would have ” ample” parking and why o why was it built next to a railway line without a station? Anyone who has studied the history of the last 30 years in the area must conclude that modern politicians are big on building castles in the air, but unlike the Victorians not very good at doing the actual building.

Attention to detail

I don’t often write blog posts on here, I generally keep my opinions away from the site other than in the odd comment here or there.

Today I am going to make an exception to my rule and ask why do Stoke-on-Trent City Council seem to have such a lack of attention to detail?

Earlier I published a piece on the consultation for bus re-routing in Hanley. The re-routing needs to be carried out to allow the new bus station to operate.

I have an issue with the way the documents are presented, when you click on the links to view the proposed inbound or outbound bus routes, the maps are presented to you sideways. Why? It takes literally seconds to rotate the files before they are uploaded.

I’m lucky that I am a reasonably technically competent person so for me to rotate the files so I can read them is not a big problem, but a lot of people have little or no technical skills when it comes to computers or the Internet and could struggle trying to do this. More importantly why should I or anyone have to rotate files so we can read them? I don’t think that it is an unreasonable expectation for documents to be orientated the right way on the council website.

Who actually checks the content once it has been published? Every time I publish content on here or on other sites I run, I immediately go and look at it on the site, just to check it and make sure that everything looks and works as it should.

I’m pretty sure that the City Council don’t plan to make things difficult for us to read, I think it is just a lack of attention to detail.

Now while I am talking attention to detail, have a look at the Proposed Traffic Management Measures map that is part of the consultation.

 

Attention to detail isn’t an issue here, everything is detailed, even things that won’t change, all on one map. This cacophony of colour covers every detail of the changes that are proposed to the roads in the city centre, but you can’t see the road names because they have been obliterated by the addition of various coloured arrows and markings.

Bizarrely whoever created the map saw fit to add large black arrows on all one way streets that remain unchanged. Surely the standard implication on a map such as this is, everything is the same unless we tell you otherwise? So why add all this extra confusing detail that isn’t needed, maybe a note on the map stating that, all one way streets will remain the same unless otherwise noted, but I see no need to make this important map even more difficult to read.

Why not make a simple interactive map on-line that shows what the changes are rather than just producing a flat PDF? Someone with half an hour or so to spare could make something like the one below.


View Hanley Proposed Traffic Management in a larger map

The hardest part of creating this map was trying to work out what the actual roads were on the council map! This isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination and I’m sure it could be done a lot more elegantly but it proves a point and shows all the proposed changes.

The regeneration of Hanley as the ‘city centre’ for Stoke-on-Trent and the badly named City Sentral development is allegedly going to put us in the top 5 shopping cities in the UK I heard a few weeks ago. Well if this is the case then we need to be in the top 5 with everything else as well to support it, administration included.

200 years ago Stoke-on-Trent was at the forefront of the industrial revolution & manufacturing, world leaders in ceramics and known across the globe, now we can’t even get a PDF the right way around. Can you imagine Josiah Wedgwood allowing something to go out of his factory with the decoration on sideways?

Whinging about a couple of PDF’s that are not rotated may seem a bit petty, but I think the lack of attention to detail and the, that’ll do attitude, puts us in a bad light. When you see little things like those PDFs or the City Farm Tender document (remember that gem?), it makes you wonder why are we over looked for investment, why don’t we succeed with the bids we put in, is it the lack of attention to detail in the bid documents and presentations?

I want Stoke-on-Trent to improve, I want it to succeed, I want the council to be better. 

We deserve better.

Consultation for Bus Re-routing in Hanley begins

Public consultation on changes to the bus routing in Hanley appears to have begun.

Although there has been no official public announcement about this from Stoke-on-Trent City Council yet, the web page on the council website appears to have been updated on Monday.

It was proposed at the December Cabinet meeting, that public consultation should take place in January & February 2012, with the detailed design phase taking place between February & April in order for the final proposals to be presented to the April Cabinet meeting.

The consultation covers in-bound and out-bound bus routes for the new John Street bus station as well as substantial changes to the traffic flow on roads in the city centre.

According to the agenda pack for the December Cabinet meeting the public consultation will involve a leaflet drop to every address in and adjacent to the city centre as well as a public exhibition of the proposals.

You can view the councils consultation page and the Cabinet meeting agenda item using the links below.

Ben Gummer MP to introduce Statements of Taxation Bill

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer will introduce his Statements of Taxation Bill after Prime Minister’s Questions tomorrow. The proposal is that each year Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs should send every taxpayer a statement detailing:

  • how much Income Tax and National Insurance they paid in the previous year
  • how much Income Tax and National Insurance they can expect to pay in the current year
  • how that money is being spent, broken down by areas of government spending.

Jonathan Isaby, Political Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said

We have always campaigned for greater transparency from the Government about how much of our money it takes in tax and how it then spends it, so this Bill is long overdue. Not only would an annual tax statement make clear how much of our annual income is taken in combined Income Tax and National Insurance contributions, but it would set out proportionately how much of that money funds the benefits system, the police, the NHS and so on.  

It is a simple and cheap proposal, but one which would give taxpayers far more information as we seek to hold the Government to account over how it spends our hard-earned cash. In the interests of transparency and accountability, MPs owe it to their constituents to give this Bill their support.

 

The Grand Illusion- the search for no work in Jan 2012

I was on Radio Stoke a week ago today, talking about unemployment and tactics to get a job. I was positive and I was upbeat but I did feel a fraud. As a friend who is out of work told me the elephant in the room is the simple equation that there are 2.6 million out of work and 400,000 vacancies. That is the simple arithmetic that says that there are nationally 5 people chasing every job.

I know three people out of work. A relative has been out of work for 18 months and lives in South London. He does voluntary work for a drug treatment centre in Brixton. His view of the Job Centre is dismissive especially his case worker a very overweight hectoring woman who insists that he applies for jobs that he is not qualified to do such as being a touch typist. Incidentally the woman took 20 minutes to type a three-paragraph letter. The irony of having someone in charge of your destiny whom is essentially crap and would have difficulty herself in the job market if she were out of her job. She also was in the impression that Tameside in Greater Manchester was in London. The relationship is not a good one.

A friend has been out of work since November 2010. He has applied for 300 jobs. He was inducted on to the Work Programme and went along to a meeting at the Old Post Office in Tontine St in Hanley. There were a few people on the course including a bloke from Norton and a disabled woman who had not worked for over a decade. The attitude of the bloke from Norton left a great deal to be desired he went off and came back smelling of beer. He had obviously had a drink at Weatherspoons. The disabled woman had difficulty coping with a basic computer test- the Fischer Price test as my friend called the laughably unsubtle assessment. The company that was running the Work Programme was called Ace and was Wigan based. All the staff were from the North West which makes knowledge of the North Staffs labour market questionable at best. A view reinforced when none of them knew where my mate asked the best place for cheap bacon sandwich- I suggested Abdul’s on the Bus Station. They sat around tables when someone gave an ” Inspirational” talk. He was told to do volunteer work which he would have done anyway.

A third friend also unemployed in Wolverhampton, a teacher of over 20 years experience also believes the Job Centre does not have any jobs. They were suggesting voluntary work. He is doing a computer course of no merit.

Bullying

I was working at my till when the person arrived with two children. The individual was exhausted and fatigued was etched into the face. They were very tired and told me that they were unable to sleep. They had tried all the remedies such as lavender on the pillow, not drink caffeine and exercises. The real problem was the atmosphere at work. They worked in a big NHS building project in North Staffs. The atmosphere was terribly bullying. People were yelled at for getting the tiniest thing wrong, The CMT were the worst behaved and the men and the women were equally badly behaved.

Bullying at work seems to be endemic. My partner in a catering post at Kerrygold equally had a bad time and it had a very damaging impact on our relationship as she suffered from insomnia and became very angry. She eventually left after a few months of this ordeal.

I gather from one and two sources that the atmosphere at the City Council is equally poisonous. I am told that no dissent is countenanced and the working environment is not a healthy one.

This seems to fall into a national pattern according to the recruitment agency Monster
Britons are among the world’s most bullied workers, with seven in 10 admitting to being bullied by bosses or colleagues.

A survey by recruitment company recently questioning 16,517 workers in 53 countries, discovered a quarter of Britons find the bullying and cruel jibes so upsetting it dramatically affects their performance at work.

Some 10% admitted they had even been physically attacked in the workplace.

The research also found that our European counterparts also suffer badly from workplace bullying, with a staggering 83% claiming to be victims of physical or emotional bullying at work at some point in their career.

This compares to 65% of bullied Americans and 55% of harrassed Asian workers.

The survey also discovered that Spanish workers are most likely to be physically attacked while sensitive Dutch workers are the most likely to shed a tear due to work bullying.

Belgium had the lowest rate of workplace bullying, with 38%

Special General Meeting Called for Stoke-on-Trent City Council UNISON members

There are reports coming from inside Stoke-on-Trent City Council that UNISON have called their members to 2 Special General Meetings on Thursday to discuss terms and conditions that they feel are under threat.

The leaflet being handed out to UNISON members states that

  • Essential Car Users Allowance
  • Reduced Mileage Allowance to .45p per mile
  • Charge for car parking
  • Removal of subsistence allowance
  • Removal / Rationalise shift / weekend/ unsocial allowances

are all under threat.

So if you are lucky enough to escape the on-going threat of redundancy then the City Council want to reduce your Terms & Conditions of the staff.

All this on the day that it was reported that the number of officers earning £50,000 or more at Stoke-on-Trent City Council had increased by 24 in 2010/11.