Ramblings Of An Idiot – An Introduction

Welcome to my first article here on Pits n Pots, I’ve been asked to write what I like. Which is tricky, as the option to discuss “anything” leaves me with, well, a lot of options. But I suppose I should begin with a bit of a foreward, an introduction, into my views and perhaps what to expect from any future articles. Ive lived on the outskirts of Stoke On Trent and the Staffordshire Moorlands my entire life, studied here, work here and continue to study Computer Science here. I wouldn’t particularly mind spending the rest of my life here, it’s home. A place with personality, history and community. Ive studied Law, worked since i was 15 and loved technology my entire life. Id class myself as in the “socially aware” category of person (if that is even a category?) I like to really know whats going on in the world around me, locally, nationally and internationally.

I watch the news, i read decent newspapers and the social sphere i try to keep up to date with whats going on in the world. I think technology improves peoples lives and love anything from SLR cameras, laptops, tablets, computers, tvs, smartphones, speakers, computer games, software. All sorts. I love films and documentaries, id probably say i prefer documentaries more than film if im being honest. Continue reading

The best of Stoke, the worst of Stoke: send us your Stoke-on-Trent photos

What do you think is the best and worst of Stoke-on-Trent?

Do you have pictures of something that you really like about Stoke-on-Trent or something you really don’t like? We have created a Flickr group where you can add your photos and a description of why you think it is good or bad.

We have started to add a few photos in to the group to get it started but feel free to join the group and add your photos, we will pick interesting photos each week and showcase them on Pits n Pots along with your thoughts on why it is good or bad. Continue reading

Farewell to Oat Cuisine as Hole in the Wall shuts up shop

The world’s last traditional oatcake shop has closed its doors for the final time – marking the end on an era following council plans to demolish the premises.

The Hole in the Wall oatcake shop in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, was flooded with customers after news emerged that it would close.

The 115-year-old terrace house, which has served oatcakes through its front window since the 1920s, has become an iconic building on Waterloo Street. Continue reading

City Sentral Week 3

As MIPIM just about to start from 6th to 9th March in Cannes, MIPIM is the European meeting point and deal making forum for many key industry players.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council have teamed up with Staffordshire in attempt to generate interest and investment in the area? Continue reading

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.

The Bids Are In For £108m Stoke-on-Trent PFI Housing Project

Stoke-on-Trent City Council will now analyse details from a number of companies who applied for the extra care housing programme, after a European tendering deadline passed last week.

The council placed a notice in the Official Journal of the European Union – the publication that all public sector tenders for major projects must be published to – in November, to start the process to design, build, finance and operate the homes.

The scheme will deliver much needed extra care housing in the city – where older people can live independently and have the option of round the clock personal care, should they require it. The scheme gives residents the chance to prepare for their housing need in the future, and provides privacy and security. The homes also have communal facilities, open to both residents and the wider community, such as hair salons, gyms and cafes, to foster support networks and reduce social isolation.

Bidders were invited to submit details of their experience and ability to deliver such a major contract. As part of the process, the council held a bidder’s conference on 7 December, where around 85 companies met the council’s team to find out more about the programme.

Councillor Ruth Rosenau, cabinet member for regeneration, said

We have had a number of responses and are now working through the submissions of pre-qualification questionnaires by bidding parties.

We will now be conducting a process of assessment to select up to six consortia to discuss their proposals to deliver the scheme. Given the tight bidding timescales we are pleased to have achieved this first step on time

The sites allocated for the 390 new homes are

  • Holdcroft Fields, Holdcroft Road, Abbey Hulton.
  • Blurton Farm/Brookwood site, Consett Road, Blurton.
  • Turnhurst Road, opposite Selbourne Drive, Chell.

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Councillor Gwen Hassall, cabinet member for housing and neighbourhoods, said

This is another key milestone in delivering such a major, exciting project. Our city has an ageing population and these units are vitally important to help meet demand for supported accommodation for our residents.

 

VINCI Construction UK Selected As Principle Contractor For Stoke-on-Trents New Bus Station

VINCI Construction UK, who built the new Tesco store in Hanley in 2010, has been selected by Stoke-on-Trent City Council as the principal contractor for the development of the landmark new bus station in Hanley.

The appointment will see the next phase of the bus station start in the New Year as work on the foundations for the site start by the end of January.

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

Over the next few years Stoke-on-Trent city centre will start to look very different as major projects such as the regional new shopping centre, bus station and improvements to the public realm areas are developed. The new city centre bus station will create an important facility and stunning new gateway in to the city centre. It is exciting to see the project progressing to the next stage with Vinci.

VINCI Construction UK was chosen from 16 companies that showed a strong interest in undertaking the next phase of the Grimshaw Architects designed bus station.

Work on the site has progressed well since it started in April 2011. With the site now fully secured by 8ft hoarding, the ground works completed and the site prepared for foundations to start in the New Year. Work on the foundations will take around 8-10 weeks to complete with the new facility due to open in Autumn 2012.

Chris Hamer, Managing Director of VINCI Construction UK Building Division – North, said

VINCI Construction UK is helping to initiate the redevelopment of Stoke-on-Trent’s city centre with the construction of the first phase of City Sentral, the new bus station. We are replacing a tired 1960’s building with a new visually captivating facility that will kick start the redevelopment. It is exciting to be part of a project that will have such a positive effect for Stoke-on-Trent and improve the public realm.

The landmark new bus station will make way for the new £350million shopping complex – City Sentral – to start on the site of the current city bus station.

Duncan Mathieson, Managing Director of Realis Estates, said

The bus facility is an important first step towards transforming City Sentral. Work on the new bus station is set to progress quickly, setting the scene for us to move ahead with the main City Sentral development. Once completed, City Sentral will transform Stoke-on-Trent city centre with the stunning new bus station acting as a landmark gateway to the Midland’s newest regional shopping and leisure destination.

Hanley Bus Station location

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Mark Meredith What’s holding him up?

Film buffs might recall the end of the 1949 film noir “ White Heat” when the psychotic villain Cody Jarret played by Jimmy Cagney is shot several times by the police officer who had infiltrated his organisation. Jarret finally succumbs by blowing himself up on the top of a gasometer. “ Made it Ma” top of the world before ending explosively. His ending is protracted “ What’s holding him up?” the frustrated police officers querulously asks.

I was thinking of Jarrets end when contemplating Mark Meredith after the latest revelation in the local media and the pivotal role that Meredith played in the fiasco. The cost of his involvement was a high one born by Council Taxpayers. A comment piece in the Sentinel called for Meredith’s resignation. He failed to fall on his sword and seems to have protection. Meredith seems to encounter negative comment. The latest escapade follows adverse reports on trips to Cannes which resulted in no perceptible gain to the City Council or the failure of the £100 million green development in Hanley to attract adequate funding after Mark Meredith toted the project as a major opportunity.

According to the Sentinel in 2007

Multi-million pound plans to transform the city centre have been revealed for the first time today. Iconic five-storey high transparent bottle kiln structures, transformed public squares, shared spaces for cars and pedestrians, spectacular lighting and an amphitheatre are all part of the £100 million plans to put Stoke-on-Trent on the national and international map. The designs are by internationally-renowned architects and designers Glenn Howells as part of its winning bid to help kick-start Stoke-on-Trent’s economy by drawing in visitors from across the country. And they are to be officially unveiled by the Princess Royal during a visit to the city today. Work will start within months – although the exact designs could change following public consultation – and the whole project is due to be finished by the end of 2010.

Mark Meredith, elected mayor of Stoke-on-Trent, said

Second best is not good enough. We will create a place that every resident of North Staffordshire can be proud of so they tell their family and their friends to come and look at our special city centre

This never made it off the drawing board

However it is the Dimension fiasco in which Meredith is fully implicated The BBC revealed that in 2007 he pushed to close Dimension swimming pool and pay Waterworld in nearby Etruria a subsidy for cheaper admissions. But the secret deal lead to protest and was eventually scrapped after massive protests and demonstration.

Waterworld’s owner, Mo Chaudry, claimed the authority had reneged on the deal and successfully claimed £44,000.

One thing that is equally disturbing according to a comment that I heard that the Regional Labour Party has barred local Councillors from commenting on this which cannot be right. Despite Cannes, Dimensions, the disastrous mayoralty, the false accusations, the failure of regeneration of the Unity House site, the over promotion of Hanley Mark Meredith still survives “ What’s holding him up”