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Previous Newsletters

A Taste of Honey, or a Waste of Money? (Autumn 2005)

A Honeypot for Some, A Heartache for Others (November 2006)

Mighty Mouse or Mickey Mouse (Autumn 2007)

An Open Door or a Closed Book (December 2007)

Goodness Gracious Me (July 2008)

A going Concern or a Gone Goose (August 2008)

Ahead of the Game or Head in the Sand? (Summer 2009)

Incomparable or in Chaos (August 2010)

Rough Waters Ahead, Safe Harbour Beyond (November 2010)

Awesome or awful? Only Time Will Tell (March, 2011)

An Open Door or a Closed Book (June 2011) (July 2011)
Careful Collaborators or Complete Charleys? (November, 2011)

Safe Hands or Butterfingers? (March 2012)

Short on Cash or Short on Courage? (November 2012)

A Small Cog? or a Big Wheel? (May 2013)

Up for it? Or Past It? (November 2013)

September 2014

Buckley, Flintshire and Beyond (December 2014)

April 2015

August 2015

December 2015

March 2016

Agile? or Fragile? Time will Tell!! (August 2016)

November 2016

January 2017

August 2017

November 2017

 

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.

Towards the end of 2017, the owners, Spurscow Developments, decided to re-brand what we locals have known for many years as “The Buckley Precinct,” as “The Buckley Shopping Centre,” which new name is now firmly displayed above the main entrance.

 

That change alone is unlikely to create any more widely spread retail or service offer, nor gather any greater footfall numbers, both of which are needed if the Precinct itself is to thrive and attract shoppers to the town centre for the benefit of other outlets as well. On the positive side, as promised a couple of months back, your Town Councillors, of which I am one, did receive a presentation from the owners of the Precinct, about future developments. Their representative appeared at Buckley Town Council’s chamber. 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 special meeting of council, on the 21st of November, was a step forwards in communication and mutual understanding, upon which we hope that both sides can build. Proposed alterations to what was, for some years, the Natwest Bank unit have been completed, for all to see and the new Dragon Travel Agents business is up and running on the other side of the main entrance. The Precinct’s owners are hoping to attract either a nationally known retailer to the previously NatWest unit, or perhaps a quality restaurant chain. We can only wish them luck in their endeavours.

 

On the negative side, the Town Council has had to arrange for the removal of the small “Santa’s Shed” and the bench at the far end of the Precinct, alongside the Iceland Store, due to the repeated wanton vandalization of both by a thankfully limited – and well-known – number of feral youths, whose continual anti-social behaviour goes un-punished for lack of any proper or meaningful community policing activity. That removal of the bench has caused several Older Persons from the sheltered accommodation at Jubilee Court to cease to undertake shopping trips to the town centre. I shall be seeking the placement of a vandal-proof style of bench, for the benefit of all. Wish me luck!

 

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, which is within Bistre East Ward, whose residents I represent at both Town and County Council levels. The majority of local residents are opposed to this application 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, 2017, 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 Flintshire County Council’s planning committee at their February 2018 Planning Committee Meeting. At that meeting I hope to be able to make the permitted 5 minute presentation on behalf of residents whose wish is for the application to be refused, which we all hope it will be. If it is refused at county council level, I have no doubt that the applicants will make an appeal to the Planning Inspectors’ Department at WAG level. While I am far from complacent or certain about the eventual outcome, I believe the application can be defeated and will do my best to make sure that all of the necessary evidence to gain that aim is made available to decision-makers at whatever level.

 

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 of 2016, 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 need 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 surpluses 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. Being January as I pen this, it is too early in 2018 for the 2017 year ‘s trading figures to be available, but they are expected to be around about the same. Willingly slamming the door on that kind of trade balance was never a likely occurrence. Now that we have some form of agreement on the “Divorce Bill” itself, arising out of the December 2017 negotiating sessions, as we approach the very important next round of negotiations, later in 2018, it will be interesting to see just how those individual nations within the EU who have trade surpluses with the UK, balance their wish to appear loyal to the EU, while protecting their own essential trade balances with the UK. History affirms you cannot be loyal to two masters, so it is those nations who find themselves between a rock and a hard place as March of 2020 looms ever closer.

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 latest 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, which it now seems, as January of 2018 proceeds, is beginning to appear likely. In doing so, Mrs. Merkel looks 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 infrastructure spending within Germany and limitations on immigration, 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. Just as we in the UK have recently seen, with the collapse of the construction company, Carillion, “Debt” means trouble. The staggeringly massive quantities of national debts currently “Up in the Clouds” of electronic banking and international finance will be unlikely to survive long enough for a “soft landing” should the EU/UK Brexit negotiations end up in a “No Deal” situation. It would be of a magnitude that neither Germany nor France would be willing, or even able, to step forwards and offer to cover. Because of that scenario, my guess is that despite Christine Lagard’s personal antagonism towards Brexit, the IMF, Germany, France and other nations will quietly exert influence within the EU to work towards an affordable, fair for all sides Brexit, even iff only to avoid another international financial crisis akin or even worse than that of 2007-8.

 

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.

As a one-time serving police officer and traffic specialist, I have had to personally recover all too many dead bodies and even parts of bodies of drivers of motor vehicles involved in road traffic accidents. While the majority were the offending parties in having caused the accidents, dozens and scores were innocent persons, drivers, passengers and even pedestrians, who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Most of the cases involved excess alcohol or excessive speed for road conditions and circumstances. Very often the two went together. In this modern day, the hallucinatory effects of assorted “substances” also make themselves felt, adding to the grim toll of deaths and injuries on our roads.

 

That is why I co-ordinate Buckley’s Community SpeedWatch Scheme’s team of 7 volunteers, whose collective aim is to educate drivers towards compliance with road traffic speed limits, for the safety of the community. In undertaking our roadside activities, we do not pile points on to driving licences, nor extract £s from driver’s pockets. Nor do we “nick people for being a mile or two over the limit” as many idiots on social media claim. We take no interest unless a vehicle is 10%, plus 1 over a 30 or 40mph limit. That means up to 34mph in a 30mph zone or 45mph in a 40mph zone will be ignored by us. Above those limits, a first recording of your details will get you a letter from the police force, indicating that if you had encountered the GoSafe Van at your recorded speed, points on your licence and £s out of your pocket would have been the result, so will you kindly pay more attention to the local speed limit in future. If you should come to our recordable notice a second time, you will receive a slightly stronger letter. If you appear, as some dozens have done, on our record sheets for a third time, it will be a visit from a uniformed officer, who will politely advise you that your details are no recorded within the Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) System and any further transgressions will likely result in a formal prosecution.

 

In the year of 2017, the team was at roadside, in our high-viz jackets, in various Buckley and surrounds locations, on 162 occasions, always in daylight hours, where speeding of motorists has been complained of by local residents. We passed on to the North Wales Police Central Ticket Office, who issue the warning letters, a total of 2327 sets of details of speeding motorists, some 72% of the total number of speeders reported by CSW teams in the whole of North Wales during the year. During our activities, we have recorded speeds of 57 and 74mph in a 30mph zone, across a pedestrian crossing and past a residential rest home entrance. The many speeders we have recorded at our locations near schools, at opening and closing times, simply beggars belief. Selfish, reckless and anti-social is the only way to describe them.

 

Of course our activities are not appreciated by a certain limited number of drivers, so we take the verbal abuse, the foul language and the single and double-digit gestures of passing motorists without concern or worry, for the fact is that the friendly thumbs-up, waves and requests for the CSW team to appear here there and everywhere far outweigh the antagonistic elements. As for the social media, the bad-mouthers are far outweighed by the many who monitor what is there, make no entries of their own, but email or phone me to tell me they disagree with the bad-mouthers and encourage I and my team to get on and do more of what we are already doing.

 

One unexpected result of our roadside recording of speeders has been to expose that around 3% of the vehicles whose details we record, when checked through DVLA records, show up as being currently un-taxed, without current MOT certification, or both. Given the lack of insurance cover and potential dangerous vehicle conditions that go with such situations, it is further proof of the “Sod You” and “Anti-Social” attitude of some small percentage of drivers. To the vast majority of drivers, those who drive sensibly, legally and carefully, a hearty “Thank You” from all of us engaged in the CSW work on behalf of the community.

 

Recently, a little bit of activity by the town’s CSW team produced the following data on a road within our 30mph urban area, not far from a school. In just one mid-afternoon hour, we noted 324 vehicles passing by. Of those, 85 were driving at 35mph or greater speed. (We ignored those between 31 and 34mph) That represented 26.2% of drivers speeding at a wee bit 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. I leave readers to decide whether the speeders were the careful, thoughtful, law-abiding motorists that we all should be when behind the steering wheel of our assorted vehicles.

 

If you wish to know more about CSW nationwide, just tap “Community Speedwatch On-line” into any search engine and read the mass of information available there. If you wish to join the Buckley team, I can supply you with the necessary application forms, or invite you to sample a roadside session, just to get the feel of what goes on. Commitment of hours is an entirely voluntary, periodic decision, according to personal circumstances.

 

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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