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Local News 9

Quite a political Local News this week, but politics does affect our own neighbourhoods and lives.

Changes to East Midlands rail timetable

East Midlands Rail (EMR) have announced their new timetable to run from 7 September, and it appears that Monday to Saturday the hourly train will no longer stop at Alsager (except first thing in the morning and last at night). Oddly, a Sunday service is still running. The new timetable can be viewed here.

As you can imagine there is a lot of outrage on Facebook. People are complaining that they will not be able to get to work or college or school, and there are suspicions about how the passenger numbers have been counted, particularly in these strange times. The train will still pass through Alsager station and will need to slow down for the level crossing.

Michael Unett, town councillor, will be raising this at the Town Council and has started a petition which you can sign here.

You can email EMR by using contact@eastmidlandsrailway.co.uk or write to them at Customer Service Centre, East Midlands Railway, Hudson Way, Pride Park, Derby, DE24 8HS. Might also be worth a letter to Fiona Bruce.

Black Lives Matter

A few weeks ago a few protestors stood peacefully in Sandbach town centre supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. This attracted quite a lot of racist comment, both in person and on social media, such that it became reported in the national press. Subsequently there has been a lot of correspondence in The Chronicle, including from people who complain that the protests make Sandbach “look bad”. Last week Katie Unnithan, the initiator of the protests, supported by nineteen others, wrote about her experiences of racism, highlighting the issues that exist and noting that if we do not recognise it we cannot address it. They now have a group of 600 people working towards being anti-racist and not allowing silence to be the answer.

Sandbach is a pleasant small market town five miles away, largely white, where people seem to be friendly. Much like Alsager. What is happening in Sandbach could happen here. Do we have the same undercurrents of racism? It is up to all of us to think about this and to speak against racism where we encounter it. Silence and inaction are complicity.

Planning changes

As you will probably have heard, the government is wanting to make major changes to the planning system, abandoning the Local Plan and the Neighbourhood Plan and replacing it with a slimmer, digital plan. They have a number of objectives including making the planning process quicker, clearer and more rules based with standards and high quality, moving to the digital age and reducing the vast piles of documentation.

Many of the planning issues they identify are indeed problems (as anyone who has tried to engage with it know). But many people have also identified issues with the proposed solutions – moving the democratic engagement from individual applications to a greater engagement at the plan making stage (giving automatic approval to individual applications which comply with the rules), dividing all land use into one of three categories (growth, renewal, protected), removing a number of assessments and replacing them with a single sustainable development test, and making 300,000 new housebuilds a year a statutory requirement. And we all know the problems governments have with delivering IT projects. Many commentators believe this is just a way of making is easier for developers to build.

There is currently a consultation on these proposals which closes on 29 October. Details can be found here.

You might like to know that our MP, Fiona Bruce, has written to me that “I currently await the full detail but my initial response to these proposals is that they are not acceptable or appropriate to my constituency and I oppose them!”

Alsager Sports Hub

Alsager Football Club (AFC) which uses the sports hub has been promoted to the Staffs County Premier Division and in order to comply with league regulations must have spectator barriers and fixed dugouts. These have now been installed thanks to volunteers and sponsors (though they are still seeking a source of Perspex which is currently in short supply).

During lockdown there have been a number of reports of anti-social behaviour at the sports hub, and the police are working with Everybody to address the issue, including extra patrols. CCTV is one option being considered.

Do you have commercial experience?

Cheshire East Council is looking to recruit two residents with commercial experience and acumen to sit on its Shareholder Committee that helps govern three of its companies – established to seek better value from service delivery. Details of information and how to apply are here. Closing date is 11 September.

Sarah Anderson

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