Red Carpet.. only if the shoe fits

Red carpet treatment for businesses who want to invest in Stoke-on-Trent, but only if the shoe fits.

I say this following the negative comments from the Assistant Director of City Regeneration to City Renewal Overview and Scrutiny Committee 28th June that

the Potteries Shopping Centre did not own the land and therefore the application may not come to fruition.

This is hardly the Red Carpet treatment we are lead to believe the City Council is offering to ALL business’s, wishing to invest in our City. Continue reading

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.

Stoke-on-Trent’s S.O.C.C Campaign Challenges Newly Elected Councillors

The nationally recognised Stoke-on-Trent Save Our Children Centres campaign has begun to step up their activities ahead of the City Council’s formal Consultation exercise, which commences on 16th May.

Almost every City Councillor has been contacted by S.O.C.C leaders and urged to attend a public meeting to discuss the implications of a £2.25million reduction in funding to the much valued service.

The public meeting will take place outside the Potteries Shopping Centre on 18th May at 10.30am. Councillors and interested members of the public are being asked to gather by the clock tower.

The only councillor who has not been invited is Lee Wanger, who has a past conviction for accessing a website which contained indecent images of children which resulted in him having to sign the sex offenders register.

The email sent by S.O.C.C congratulates all newly elected councillors and asks them to consider their campaign headline “ËœEvery Child Matters’

The campaigners believe the 30% reduction in the Children Centres budget will have disastrous consequences for childcare and family support in the city. They allege that the cuts are severe and punitive.

The full email is as follows:

On behalf of the Save our Children’s Centres campaign may we congratulate you on your election to our council.

We know and appreciate the hard job you have and the tough decisions that you will have to make over the next four years. Quite soon, one of those decisions will be about our Children’s Centres. In the 16th most deprived local authority out of 356 we are amazed that, with effect from the 1st April 2011, the Local Authority has decided to reduce children’s centre funding by 30% which equates to £2.25m. This constitutes a “ËœSignificant change’ under Section 5D Childcare Act 2006, in service delivery across ALL children’s centres in the city. Because of this “ËœSignficant Change’ the law states that the Local Authority must now enter formal consultation of their decision.

The formal consultation period begins next week on the 16th May. As part of the consultation process we are meeting on Wednesday the 18th May at 10-30 am in the centre of Hanley outside the Potteries Shopping Centre by the clock tower to inform the public of this consultation process and also to carry on with our ongoing petition about these severe and punitive cuts. We would like to invite you to that meeting so that you can meet and communicate personally with the public at large about their views on these cuts.

The Save our Children’s Centres campaigners truly believe that EVERY CHILD MATTERS. Do you?

Could you please let me know if you will be able to attend?

Kind regards and best wishes,

Alan Lear,

On behalf of the Save our Children’s Centres campaign.

The S.O.C.C team are monitoring and logging all responses from the 44 City Councillors.

Their last email got a very poor response, just 26 of the 60 councillors responded and just 7 of the 26 Labour representatives.

With 34 Labour councillors elected at the recent City
Council elections, all eyes are on the ruling group in this their first real taste of opposition.

With an opposition in the chamber of just 10 councillors, the next four years could see more community campaigns come forward to challenge the ruling Labour group which will see a new era in the politics of the City.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Cabinet Propose Retention of All Children’s Centres

Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Cabinet are proposing the retention of all 16 Children’s Centres after listening to public concerns and the 6000 strong petition organised by the Save Our Children Centre’s group headed by Millissa Beydilli.

Whilst the Cabinet are proposing to save the Children’s Centres, the award winning Stoke Speaks Out service, short breaks for the disabled and carers, the Merit Pupil referral service and 24/7 CCTV coverage, they have also confirmed their intention to close several key facilities.

Although the Children’s Centres have been saved Council Leader Mohammed Pervez would give no guarantee that staff jobs would be saved. He also gave an indication that there may be a reorganisation of the Children’s Centres management structure.

The decision to close Shelton and Tunstall pools, Fenton and Burslem Libraries and the Heathside and Eardley Care Homes was also announced.

There is a six month stay of execution for education establishments Ford Green Hall, Etruria Industrial Museum and Stanley Head whilst the council explores the possibility of the transferring them to a community trust or social enterprise.

The future also looks brighter for Meir Community and Education Centre and for Northwood Stadium.

The Meir looks set to retain their community centre after the council leader announced that the council was looking to transfer more services into the popular facility.

The popular service Shopmobility, located at the Potteries Shopping Centre, will also be saved.

Mohammed Pervez confirmed that users have offered to pay for the service and the council are happy to go along with that proposal.

Northwood Stadium is not closing at this stage.

The Future of the City Farm looks bleak however. The Council Leader, Mohammed Pervez confirmed that the council did not consider the farm as a priority and indicated that the council had no statutory obligation to deliver such a service.

The tender to transfer the farm to an independent operator was suspended amidst a dispute over the ownership of the land. Whist the tender is likely to be re-instated at some stage, the feeling is that there would be a lack of interested parties coming forward to take over what was consider by the Guardian Newspaper a top 10 free attraction in the country just a few years ago.

There was also good news for every household in the City.
The Council Leader announced that Council Tax will be frozen for the next year.

The City Council will take up the governments offer a 2.5% grant which will realise £2million to the local authority.

Mohammed Pervez said that this decision was taken because the Cabinet considered that families were already under pressure following the impact of the recent VAT rise to 20%.

In presenting these proposals, the council leader said that he and his cabinet, along with the CEO John van de Laarschot and his officers, had listened to feedback from the public, elected members and members of the City Council’s staff.

Despite today’s announcements it is still expected that 700 staff will leave the employment of the City Council over the next few months through voluntary or compulsory redundancies.

The City Council are facing a gap in funding of £35.6million for the next financial year.

The national coalition government implemented cuts of 8.1% upon the City of Stoke-on-Trent which when the council factored in the reductions in area based and other grant funding, actually resulted in a bigger percentage cut.

Mohammed Pervez was keen to point out that he had pleaded the case that Stoke-on-Trent was a special case with the government but in his words “Ëœthose pleas fell on deaf ears’.

Pervez said that he had written to government on numerous occasions, he had visited London and held talks with a junior minister working in Local Government and Communities Minister Eric Pickles’s team and had joined forces with other authorities namely Blackpool, Blackburn, Hull and Torbay, but to no avail. Stoke-on-Trent was still one of the worse hit areas for cuts in funding.

The council leader also said that this budget consultation had been the most thorough than any before. He and his cabinet claim that they had taken into consideration the feedback from the “ËœLet’s Talk’ consultations and the comments made during his live web debate exclusively on Pits n Pots when making these difficult decisions.

Members of the City council staff had also been given the opportunity to have their say as a part of the “ËœTell John’ exercise held by the CEO John van de Laarschot.

These proposals will now be put in front of all the political groups and presented to all elected members ahead of the Budget Meeting of the Full City Council to be held on the 24th February.

The meeting will be webcast on the Council Website.

After the briefing Council Leader Mohammed Pervez and CEO John van de Laarschot gave their views.

Listen to the audio below.

Plans for city regeneration go on display

Residents are being asked to have their say on plans which will completely transform the centre of Stoke-on-Trent over the next 15 years.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council is holding a six week consultation from Tuesday 12 October on the City Centre and Etruria Road Corridor Area Action Plan.

The plan, which pulls together all of the city’s regeneration projects, will be on display in the City Central Library, Bethesda Street, until 22 November.

There will also be a series of staffed exhibitions throughout the period to give people the opportunity to ask questions. The plans will be on the city council website (www.stoke.gov.uk/ldf) from Friday, 8 October.

“Over the next few years the people of Stoke-on-Trent can expect to see some big changes in their city. These plans help to highlight the work that is being done and we are keen to get people’s views. It is vitally important that the people of Stoke-on-Trent make their views known so that we can help shape the future of our city together.”

The plan aims to create:

*New public open spaces and distinctive gateway buildings

*A lively night-time economy with a city centre cinema and a better range of restaurants, bars, cafes and entertainment venues

*A second retail centre

*A new bus station on the existing John Street surface car park

*A high speed bus link between Stoke-on-Trent railway station and the city centre

*Better transport links with the completion of the Potteries Way extension

*Four city centre hotels

*A minimum of 500 homes

Staff will be available at the following exhibitions to answer any questions:

Tuesday 12th October ““ 9.30 ““ 5pm ““ City Central Library Foyer

Thursday 14th October – 1 – 6pm – Victoria Hall Foyer

Saturday 16th October – 9 ““ 6pm – Potteries Shopping Centre

Monday 18th October – 9 – 2pm Victoria Hall Foyer

During the consultation period documents will be available to view in all city council libraries and at the Civic Centre in Stoke.

State-of-the-art toilet facility to help disabled

A toilet facility featuring a changing bed, a hoist and a shower is set to transform conveniences for people with profound and multiple disabilities visiting Stoke-on-Trent.

The toilet ““ which meets the national Changing Places campaign’s criteria for accessible toilets ““ is the first facility of its kind in the city.

The convenience will be officially opened next to Shopmobility on the multi storey car park of the Potteries Shopping Centre on Wednesday (29 September).

The toilet is much larger than a standard wheelchair accessible toilet and has an adjustable height shower changing bed, a ceiling hoist and a shower toilet. The facility has been built to higher standards than the minimum called for by Mencap, a charity for people with learning disabilities.

“Many people with profound and multiple disabilities cannot use standard toilets or even wheelchair accessible toilets.

“Families or carers of people with such disabilities often have to use the floors of public toilets for changing facilities. This is unhygienic and undignified, and is not an acceptable situation.

“Before this new facility was created, the only option for people was to limit their trips out to only a few hours, or not to go at all. This new toilet will make shopping a more relaxed and enjoyable experience for disabled people, their families and carers.”

Faye Johnson, 23, from Clayton will help to unveil the new toilet. She has cerebral palsy and uses an electric wheelchair on a permanent basis.

“I’m really excited to be helping to launch the toilet. I require hoists when using toilets and it may sound silly, but I have to plan my outings to take into account the need to go to the toilet.

“I have used the facility at the Trafford Centre which is fantastic and it is brilliant that such a toilet is being opened locally. It will mean that I will be able to shop more in Stoke-on-Trent and for longer periods of time ““ I will be able to spend a day out instead of just to go out for a couple of hours.

“It will also hopefully bring a lot more disabled people to the area because they will know that there are facilities for them to use.”

“We were pleased to be able to offer such a location for the only facility of this kind in Stoke-on-Trent. The centre is a real hub for the local community and we were only too happy to help provide a great shopping experience for everyone.”

City council calls on consumers to “Ëœdrop in to drop them in it’

A nationwide “ËœScamnesty’ campaign by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) aiming to help end mass marketed scam mailings in the UK, is coming to Stoke-on-Trent next week.

“ËœScamnesty 2010′ calls on the people of Stoke-on-Trent to fight back against fraudsters by collecting any scam mailings they receive and dropping them into designated “ËœScamnesty’ bins located at Hanley Town Hall, The Civic Centre, and the City Centre library.

Trading Standards Officers will be raising awareness of the campaign at the city centre market in the Potteries Shopping Centre on Wednesday 10 February, and Longton Market on Friday 19 February.

Nearly half of the UK adult population has been targeted by a scam. Every year, 3.2 million adults ““ one in 15 people ““ across the country fall victim to a scam involving deceptive unsolicited mailings, phone calls, or emails, which are designed to con victims out of their cash. UK consumers lose around £3.5 billion to scams every year.

The Scamnesty bins will provide valuable new intelligence to Trading Standards Officers, and help inform future investigations which will prevent others from being scammed.

Examples of local scams include:-

* A recent prosecution against MM Publications. The scam involved setting up a bogus publishing business which alleged to produce leaflets for schoolchildren warning against the evils of illegal drugs. Very few, if any, of the nominated schools actually received the books. Trading Standards officers traced and spoke to hundreds of businesses and schools who were caught up in the scam. The court imposed a lengthy prison sentence of four and a half years to the main brain behind the operation.

* A local man was contacted by a company offering to recover over £7,000 worth of bank charges for him and requested payments up front to cover costs. Over £2,000 was paid in total, though this was done by bank transfer to India. Of course, no bank charges were recovered.

Heather Clayton, OFT Senior Director, said: “Scamnesty 2010 promises to reveal a marked increased in scale and range of mass marketed scam mailings in the UK. Every day, people are at risk from unscrupulous fraudsters who want to con them out of their cash. By dropping your scam mailing into your local Scamnesty bin, you will help provide crucial intelligence to support us in stopping scams bringing misery to millions of people every year.”

Councillor John Daniels, cabinet member for housing, environment and neighbourhood services, added: “These scams are becoming more dangerous and sophisticated and so it is vital that we stop them as soon as possible. With the Scamnesty system everyone in the city can play a part helping to put an end to these potentially harmful scams that prey on people’s desperation and trusting nature.”

People who think they have been the victim of a scam, or suspect a scam, can call Consumer Direct for advice on 08454 04 05 06 or visit

www.consumerdirect.gov.uk/scamnesty.

Rave On Against Proposed Power Station

By Pits n Pots Reporter

HUNDREDS of people are expected to take part in a silent rave organised over the internet to support a protest against a £400 million power station.
Around 300 people are signed up to the Stoke-on-Trent’s Very Own Flash Mob group which plans to stage an event outside the Potteries Shopping Centre on Saturday. Â Ã‚  Organisers hope to repeat the success of a similar event held during the summer which saw around 100 simultaneously lie down in the city centre for two minutes.
The event will involve the group of people turning up in Hanley and then dancing silently for two minutes from the strike of 2pm.
Sharon Crawford, aged 21, from Newcastle, set up the Facebook group for people to get involved.  She said: “People were talking about the lying down event everywhere during the summer, and I think that events like these are good if charities want to get involved to raise money or awareness for a cause. I think the power station being built will destroy the beauty of the Staffordshire Moorlands.”

Darren Tranter, chairman of Villagers Voice Staffordshire Moorlands, a group set up to fight the plans for the £400 million power station in Cresswell, said: “Our fight to put an immediate stop to this proposed development is continuing at a pace.  We are determined to utilise every possible avenue to get our message across.  We are absolutely delighted that Sharon and the facemobbers have decided to support our campaign.”

Meanwhile, MP Bill Cash has now raised fears about the effect on wildlife and that the proposed station could lie on contaminated land. Â Ã‚  Mr Cash said: “The Environment Agency has said that the issues of contaminated land, bio-diversity and wildlife concerns, which I had raised earlier, should be addressed in an Environment Impact Assessment.”
In a letter to Mr Cash, Staffordshire Moorlands District Council chief executive Simon Baker states:  “The view of the council’s planning officers is that the scheme cannot be supported because of the visual impact.”

The planning application will be determined by the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

To find out more about the proposal or to sign a petition to oppose the development go to www.vvsm.co.uk

Civil unrest or just lying down?

By Mike Rawlins

On Saturday I took Mrs R shopping in to the seething metropolis that is Hanley and in particular the Potteries Shopping Centre.

The usual timetable of shopping was followed, shoes, handbags, shoes, jewellery, until we decided to go for a coffee. As we were walking around I noticed that all the shopping centre security guards were wearing HiViz vests, also there were far more police and PCSOs around the centre than normal. A couple of the City Councils Street Wardens were walking around as well.

As we were wandering along, me laden with bags of said shoes, handbags and jewelry, I overheard a member of staff saying to a shopper, “at about 2 O’clock lots of people are going to lie down on the floor, it’s nothing to worry about, something that has been set up on the Internet. If you do see anything suspicious you should tell security or call the police!

Now I need to be honest and say I did know about the Ultimate Stoke-on-Trent Lying Down Game that had been set up on Facebook and attracted over 4000 followers. So it was no surprise to me when at 2pm people started lying down around the shopping centre,

Lying Down in the Potteries Shopping Centre

Lying Down in the Potteries Shopping Centre

what did suprise me though was the number of police & PCSOs that had been deployed to the Potteries Centre. I counted around 13 that were waiting at the Town Road entrance to the shopping centre, along with most of the Potteries security staff and the Street Wardens, so in excess of 20 people. Oh and I mustn’t forget the 2 ambulance people who were there as well all deployed to deal with the massive show of civil unrest.

Outside around the clock there were around 100 – 150 people lying down, now if it were me planning something like this I would have not done it in such a large group in one area, as there was an old couple and a couple with a small child and a pushchair who ended up landlocked in the middle of all the bodies. Maybe the plan was to do it inside the shopping centre in a more random style but with the intimidation of all the security staff & police (who I did see stopping groups of youths entering the centre) maybe this wasn’t possible. Also planning it so publicly on Facebook and calling the local paper probably detracted from what could have been quite an impressive sight.

On a more serious point as long as Staffordshire Police show as much interest in dealing with real crime as they did in sending officers and PCSOs to stand and watch people lying on the floor then all is well in the world, but if I hear of someone reporting that the police were too busy to come out then that is a different story.

Potteries Shopping Centre to expand

This is not new news, it has been kicking around on my desk for best part of a week.

Capital Shopping Centres Plc have announced that they are planning to expand the Potteries Shopping Centre by around 25,000 Msq or roughly half as big again.  Land ajacent to Bryan St and Potteries Way has been purchased and Capital Shopping Centres Plc are currently working on plans for the proposed extention to the site. Â  The proposed extention is thought to be in direct response to the East West Precinct development.

There are also plans in the pipeline with other developers for a new shopping & leisure complex on the site of the old PMT depot on York St.

Now investment and regeneration can only be a good thing but what impact are all these new store going to have on local retailers?   Are we going to have a transport infrastructure in place in time for any of these developments opening?  The York St development is rolled up with the final piece of the the Potteries Ring road which would go some small way to keeping traffic moving.  With a 50% increase in shopping space in the potteries, how many parking spaces are going to be allocated?  CSC state that 65% of their shoppers travel to the Potteries Shopping Centre by car with only 26% using public transport..

Is it a good thing or a bad thing?  Will we be in danger of having too many shops?  We need to trade the enviromental impact off against the economic impact and the future investment in the City.

Your thoughts?