1. Let’s Start With A Piece of Really Good News!


The Home Bargains retail chain now owns the previously Somerfield/Co-op/Budgens store building. That company is intent on opening a flag-ship store there, once a total – and costly - interior refurbishment has taken place. It is now doubtful that the store will be open before Christmas, but, by February of the New Year, there will be a fresh retail offer to add to those already here in Buckley. Not only that, but think of the workforce that will be required and the employment opportunities for local people.

 

2. Let’s Continue With A Second Positive Item!!

Readers of my last newsletter, all sixteen pages of it, will perhaps recall that it included advice of the opening of a “Pay-As-You-Feel Café” in one of the offices above the Town Council Chambers, as of 13th August. As I described then, it is more of a shop without prices than a café, although the volunteers will fix you a cup of tea or coffee if you ask. So, quite reasonably, the Café has become a Store; perhaps a case of, “A rose by any other name.” The store has been open for some two months as I write this. Slowly but steadily, with the help of some Facebook activity, exactly where it is and the worth of a visit to it, are becoming better known and welcome within the community.


Marks & Spencer’s, Cost-Co and other responsible super-stores are providing the charity with consumables, fresh each day, that they feel they no longer wish to display on their shelves, but which are perfectly edible despite that. There are no fixed prices on the goods on offer. Instead you are invited to pop discreetly into the donations box whatever you feel the consumables are worth to you, according to your own affordability. The store is open from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Monday to Saturday and is well worth a visit. Why not visit it now and then, as my wife and I do? What is in their fridge and on display might just surprise you as it did both of us the first time we called in there.

 

3. Let’s Make It a Hat-Trick!!!

For those who may not have spotted it, the planning application submitted a couple of months ago by Castle Cement, as we all know it, for improvements, upgrade and a certain amount of diversification, to enable growth at the works, has been granted. That means the long-term security of around a hundred quality jobs at the site – and a good few more new job opportunities during the construction phase of the work now planned. Any employment security news or additional job-opportunity news for the area is welcome indeed.

 

4. To Remain Pedestrianised or Not. That is the Question!

Whether or not the shopping area portion of Brunswick Road, which we all, commonly, but incorrectly, call, “The High Street,” ends up remaining a pedestrianised area during most daylight hours, or reverts to an open road, possibly as a “One-Way” item, rumbles on. I have publicly stated my stance, which is to oppose such a move. I want to see the “Ames” car-park made free for traffic, with a strictly enforced half-hour stay limit. However, town councillors at our last meeting in September, did agree to ask County Council’s officers to set out the detail of their proposals for de-pedestrianisation, so that fair consideration could be given to them.
So far, no such details have been provided, which is unhelpful, to say the least. Whether or not other town councillors agree with me – and I know several who do – if any firm and formal detailed proposal comes before town council, I shall call for a Local Referendum on the issue, so that the will of the town’s residents and the shopping public can be expressed and, hopefully, taken notice of, one way or the other.

 

5. The Precinct.

The owners, Spurscow Developments, recently decided to re-brand what we locals have known for many years as “The Buckley Precinct,” as “The Buckley Shopping Centre.” Their representative was scheduled to appear at Buckley Town Council’s October 24th monthly meeting, but sent in an apology for absence at somewhat short notice. The idea was to try to establish a two-way dialogue to see what both parties could do to help generate footfall and create a broader range of retail offer for the town’s residents. That meeting and potential dialogue will now have to wait until a Special Meeting of council, on the 21st of November, by which date I hope you will have read this newsletter. A concern of mine, relating to the potential development of the Precinct/Shopping Centre, is that the owners appear to be interested in applying for planning permission to build retail units on the portion of the Ames Car Park nearest to the pedestrianised way and to be supportive of the de-pedestrianisation of the currently pedestrianised shopping area. I would welcome the views of ward residents and others on such proposals and the likely effects thereof.

 

6. Proposed Housing Development South of Meg’s Lane.

Leith Developments, on behalf of the Hill family interests, have submitted an Outline Planning Application for a sizable housing development within the green barrier land immediately south of Meg’s Lane. The majority of local residents are opposed to it and so am I. The opening for such opportunistic submissions has been occasioned by the fact that the county council’s Unitary Development Plan is, technically, time expired. The replacement Local Development Plan, which should have been in position to smoothly follow on from the UDP has not yet been completed and signed off and thus, the county appears to currently lack any full five-year supply of housing need, as is required. Meetings of concerned residents have been held, a small committee has been formed, for the purpose of opposing the application and I have assured ward residents of my support in that battle to have this unwelcome application turned down.

 

I am pleased to be able to state that, at the town council meeting at the end of September, other councillors supported my written and verbal observations, added a few of their own and recommended to county council that the application should be turned down.

I am now advised that it is likely that the application will be heard by county council’s planning committee on 6th December, 2017. That gives me a little personal grief, because I am away then and will be unable to say my piece at planning committee. However, I shall carefully brief those who will be able to speak out for the community, on this unwanted application, which we all hope will be refused at county level and then again higher up the ladder at appeal level, because I have no doubt that if, as and when county councillors might agree to refuse planning permission, the applicant will go on appeal.

 

7. The Future of Town and Community Councils.

I have expressed my concerns over the future of “Local” as in the current Local Government structure in Wales. What the Wales Government is up to by way of an almost furtive consultation sequence, deepens my concerns. If you are computer equipped, tap, “The Future of Local Government in Wales,” into your favourite search engine. What is proposed may concern you.

 

8. A Sad Reflection On Current Society?

I occasionally have to remind some of my senior citizen friends and older members of the general public, that each day brings change; that change is inevitable and that it is no good hankering after “The Good Old Days” of their youth, because no amount of mourning or longing for such will bring them back.

 

Where I do agree with them and what I do have a concern over, is that many of the changes have brought no real betterment for most of humanity. Long ago, the Chinese scholar and philosopher, Confucious, is said to have set down that, “The proper person seeks that which is right; the improper person seeks that which is profitable.” A pre-courser to Jesus booting the money-lenders out of the temple? Whatever, it is necessary for us older ones living now to not only reflect upon, but to speak out about, where change has brought harm to the majority. Perhaps in the hope that those in authority and the seats of power might be minded to do some re-thinking.

 

As a young copper in Hove in the 1960s I never had to carry the assortment of protective clothing and weaponry that the young police officers of today require before they feel safe to venture out on to the street. Was it because my generation was taught respect for ourselves; for people around us; for the property of others and for the laws of the land, greater and lesser, all of which seems to be lacking in this modern era?

 

I also had the good fortune to need housing when the buying of such was affordable, unlike the present day, when wages are low, work tenure is uncertain and mortgage cost are crippling for the average twenties and thirties group.

 

Whatever has been the cause, or causes, I sorrow for this present generation, which I often call a “Sod You! Society,” with an “I, Me, Now” attitude. Not that I am alone in that view, for the eminent scholar and shrewd observer of society, Rabbi Lord Sacks, recently passed the following comment on “Life in the 21st Century.” He stated, “What do we worship? I think that future anthropologists will take a look at the books we read on self-help, self-realisation, self-esteem. They’ll look at the way we talk about morality as being true to oneself; the way we talk about politics as a matter of individual rights and they will look at this wonderful new religion we have created. You know the one? It is called, “The Selfie!” I think they will conclude that what we worship in our time is the self, the me, the I.”

 

Watch out world, he and I have you surrounded!

 

Seriously, my generation did not have to suffer the constant bombardment of advertising, perpetually demanding that we recognise that we are unworthy if we are not perfect in body, modern in vogue, living in a new house, in possession of every electronic gadget on the market and driving this year’s most popular performance car. All of which is of course good for the economy and the financial and banking world, but which inevitably leads to the four most common problems in modern society; Alcohol, Debt, Drugs and Gambling. Each of which is, outside of properly controlled moderation, a killer of marriages, partnerships, families and ultimately, of lives.

 

The availability of alcohol was constrained, within pubs, clubs and off-licensed premises, open during limited hours. Changes created during Maggie Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister opened the Pandora’s Box of unlimited provision of alcohol at all hours, everywhere. Good for the economy maybe, but not good for society, or those unfortunate persons incapable of controlling their own alcoholic intake. Just ask any health worker or serving police officer about that. Deaths from alcohol abuse and liver damage have increased exponentially. That is not good for the individual, families, or the NHS. Some of the cost we can count in cold hard cash, but what about the sadness, sorrow, misery and suffering of those close to the afflicted? Try putting a price on that -if you dare!

 

Moving on to the debt time-bomb which is ticking away at every level from individuals to nations, it never existed when I was a younger person. For firms, their employees, and the average householder, let alone the many banks and building societies, the monetary world worked on cash. Workers were paid in cash, which you spent as you wished; but when your cash notes and coin were all gone, you stopped buying, made do and bought those nice new shoes you wanted, next week, or the week after. Modern day folks simply keep on waving their contactless credit card over the machine in the shop and just let the debt bubble in the sky grow a little bit more. Once again, that may be good for keeping “the economy” rolling, but it is, in the long term, fiscal insanity, because it is the road to “Boom & Bust,” which leads to misery for millions of people. It is a shame we cannot hear the voices of those who lost out in what came to be called, “The South Sea Bubble” of more than three centuries ago, or the more recent pained voices of those who went through The Great Depression of 1928-33. They would tell you that “Boom & Bust” is no sensible way for economies to be managed, but that is where we are, once more.

 

When I was a young copper, a driver “under the influence” meant wobbly legs, slurred speech and a smell of alcohol. Nowadays, the number of drivers proving positive for heroin, cocaine and amphetamines is rivalling, if not exceeding, those found to be over the drink-drive limit. A serous proportion of our crime is drug-habit related, another burden on the police and NHS which was not there in years gone by. Making drugs legal is no answer – perhaps hanging a few drugs dealers is!

As for gambling, that has always been with us, but, it was never the problem it now is, fuelled by unlimited opportunity for plastic card credit, on-line activities, the targeting of children by unscrupulous providers and 24hr provision of the opportunity to feed the tragic habit.


It is way past time that our assorted governments began to realise that a law-abiding, cohesive society, healthy in mind and body, is a pre-requisite for a highly-skilled, hard-working, inventive and competitive nation, which we British can be, with the right leadership, which we have sadly not had, for years.

 

9. BREXIT.

Directly after the Brexit referendum, one of the certainties in my own mind was the fact that the EU needs us as a trading partner, just as much and maybe even more, than we needed the EU. Because of that, I was fairly confident, that once all of the bluster about the UK being a “supplicant” in the exit negotiations and having to be “punished” for daring to leave the club, the hard-headed industrialists of German, France and other EU nations would look at their bountiful trade surplus with the UK and start to whisper some of life’s realities into the ears of EU Ministers. My guess was that it would be Germany who started the ball rolling, because that nation had, in 2016, a trade surplus with the UK of some 50.4billion Euros. Willingly slamming the door on that kind of trade balance was never a likely occurrence. Now, as we approach the very important next round of negotiations in December, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel’s, language and whole approach to UK’s Brexit decision has softened notably.

 

However, in the time since the Brexit vote, there has appeared a further reason for Angela Merkel to adopt a more constructive and reasonable stance. That has arisen from the results of the recent German general elections, in which Angela Merkel did not do as well as she might have hoped. Following in the footsteps of our own Prime Minister, Mrs. Merkel lost her commanding majority and now needs to negotiate with other parties to form a government. In doing so, Mrs. Merkel appears to be heading towards the most expensive coalition agreement in German history, if she is to satisfy the demands of both the Free Democrats and The Greens. The more Mrs. Merkel is forced to commit to spending within Germany, to satisfy her partners, the more she needs to ensure that the markets of the UK remain fully open to German produce, starting with motor vehicles

.

Given that background, Germany clearly needs to avoid a breakdown in the Brexit talks, because a no-deal Brexit would cause a serious fiscal crisis in the EU, possibly across the entire world. It would be of a magnitude that neither Germany nor France would be willing to step forwards and offer to cover. Because of that scenario, my guess is that Germany will quietly exert its influence within the EU to work towards an affordable fair for all sides Brexit, where “The Divorce Bill” and future trading negotiations form parallel parts of the whole agreement.

 

10. Decriminalised Parking Arrangements.

I wonder how many of the county’s residents, particularly motorists, are aware that way back in October of 2013, Flintshire County Council, the last local authority in North Wales to do so, de-criminalised all issues of the parking of motor vehicles, whether on or off street?

 

That was why our loved, or hated, depending on viewpoint, Traffic Warden Mr. Peter Ball, vanished from sight around our town.
Since then, it is the county council’s own Enforcement Officers, or their contracted team employed by Kingdom Environmental, who are the authority in sorting out, via civil processes, obvious breaches of parking regulations and matters of the dangerous and obstructive parking of motor vehicles. It is a reality that more motor vehicles are appearing, year on year, upon our streets, estate roads and trunk roads. The regrettable demise of affordable local and medium distance public transport, along with a growing population intent upon having personalised transport at their fingertips at an instant’s notice are all contributory factors. The difficulty now arising, more frequently than in years gone by, is that the unthinking drivers among us are failing to realise that their obligation towards safe driving also applies when it comes time to park their cars. Although not presently strictly enforced, parking on pavements, or parking any motor vehicle in a manner which creates obstruction, or danger, are breaches of traffic regulations. As a Town and County Councillor I am on the receiving end of complaint after complaint upon this subject. Many of those who complain to me are coming to my door, phone or email system because they do not wish to directly confront the offending party, for fear of upsetting years of good neighbourly relationships, or copping an earful of abuse.


My earnest request to all motorists in the ward is to please think about your parking position, be it an occasional or regular one. Give a thought to ensure that it does not stop our pram-pushers or motability scooter riders passing safely by, or create visibility problems for other motorists driving by.

 

11. CSW.

Recently, a little bit of activity by the town’s CSW team produced the following data on a road within our 30mph urban area. In just one mid-afternoon hour, we noted 324 vehicles passing by. Of those, 85 were driving at 35mph or greater speed. (We ignore those between 31 and 34mph) That represented 26.2% of drivers speeding more than “just a mile or two over the limit.” Top speed recorded was 52mph, with another one at 49 and two more at 48mph. The average speed of the speeders was 38.2mph. Given the following chart, is the speeding a matter of negligence, or just an expression of the selfishness of modern society?

 

12. Christmas and The New Year.

Do please remember the evening of the 25th November this year is the switch-on event for the Christmas Lights in town. For the Christmas and New Year season itself, I wish you all good health, safe travels, enjoyable times, good company and a shortage of nothing you need for your well-being and comfort.

If you have problems and need a word of advice, or support over the coming weeks, I am always at your service and available, on my home phone number of 01244 549421, or via email at arnoldwoolley@outlook.com or arnold.woolley@flintshire.gov.uk. My website is available at www.arnoldwoolley.com.


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