COVID-19 and our local streets

I’ve been thinking a lot about the challenges and opportunities that COVID-19 offers to the way we use our streets and roads here in Winchester.

The lower level of traffic is causing some immediate problems, such as increased speeding; revealing other problems, particularly in places where our pavements are too narrow for the number of people who want to use them; and also showing great opportunities, with a big increase in walking and cycling, particularly on our rural roads.

As we move into the recovery phase, we also need to do more to make our centres ‘social distancing’ friendly. This means wider pavements and, learning from other countries, more opportunities for businesses to have widely spaced outdoor seating areas. People need to feel confident and safe coming back to our towns and villages knowing that they can easily move around in a socially distanced way.

What sort of measures would this give us?

  • We need to tackle the heavily walked and queuing areas where the pavements are too narrow and the roads are too wide. An obvious place to start is the one-way system. I’d like to see if we could cone the whole one-way system down to a single lane with the rest reserved for walkers and cyclists – single lane in North Walls – single lane in St George’s St – narrowed single lane in Jewry St – narrowed single lane in the upper section of the High Street. If possible, we also need to do something for pedestrians on City Bridge and Romsey Road bridge too (although given both are heavily used by buses, this will be harder).

  • We need to cut cars and lock in the change on roads where we have seen a dramatic increase in leisure usage. In my own area the road where this is most visible is Sarum Road. I’m sure there are plenty more. As a minimum, we need signage which shows that this is a road where cars drivers are not the priority users and should expect heavy foot and cycle usage.
  • On speed, we need to finish the job in Winchester – and extend the 20 mph zone to residential areas across the whole city. We also need to narrow roads and widen pavements or add cycle lanes where there is a particular risk of people driving too fast. I would love to see up an uphill cycle lane on Chilbolton Avenue, for example.
  • We need to create space for businesses to use the highway for widely spaced outdoor seating. The most obvious option to do this is to fully pedestrianise the Square. We may need a couple of blue badge parking spots for people who need parking near the centre, but we should definitely stop through traffic.
  • Finally, one minor irritant that I know concerns some people. We need to revisit our push button crossings. Can we make them sensor or timer driven – so we don’t all need to push the button?

Make sense? Any streets, roads or priorities I’ve missed?

One of my responsibilities at the council is the City of Winchester Movement Strategy, so I’m already talking a lot with council officers and engineers at the City Council and County Council about how we can improve our streets. I promise to pass on any ideas that people send through!

Posted in 20s plenty, City Council, County Council, Cycling, Walking, Winchester, ~COVID19 | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hampshire’s cuts to hit Winchester hard

A press release I sent to the Chronicle – that colleagues liked so much that they asked me to post it online. So here it is:

Yesterday’s meeting of Hampshire’s Conservative cabinet confirmed that they will go ahead with their reckless £140 million cuts. These will only cost us more long-term.

In particular:

  • Their cuts to health and care will mean that the NHS is unable to hit the financial targets laid out in its ‘sustainability and transformation plan’ – and will put health and care services under even more stress.
  • Their cuts to Household Waste Recovery Centres are almost certain to lead to more fly-tipping.

In a surprise decision, the Cabinet also voted to recommend extra money to support parish and town councils in covering for services cut by Hampshire – such as community transport, school crossing patrols and subsidised bus services – however the Conservatives still have not put anything in place to support the many areas of Hampshire without parish and town councils – such as Winchester.

There’s also still no sign that they are taking any account of the impact of the cuts in less well-off areas of Hampshire.

Martin Tod, Liberal Democrat County Councillor for Winchester Westgate, commented:

We’re paying the price for the Conservatives’ incompetent and chaotic management of Brexit and the economy. This has led to collapsing investment, the lowest growth in both the EU and the G7 and rapidly growing inflation. Aside from the effect on people’s cost of living and the very real threat to businesses and jobs, this utter incompetence makes it even harder to tackle the crisis in funding for council services.

These cuts are a disaster of the Conservatives’ making – Conservative MPs, Conservative Ministers and Conservative Councillors have all contributed to this fiasco – and it will hit local people hard. The Conservatives are now compounding their failure by deciding not to have any kind of plan for the many areas of Hampshire without parish and town councils.

This is a real threat to Winchester – and, along with my colleagues, I will continue to push for the council to put in place a plan for unparished areas – and to stop the most damaging of their proposed cuts.

And nationally, the sooner we can find a way to ‘exit from Brexit’ and focus on a plan to turn round the economy, the better it will be for jobs, for businesses and for our local public services.

Posted in County Council, Latest News | 1 Comment

A surprising campaign

A 250-word article for the Petersfield Post, Clanfield Post, Horndean Post and Bordon Post:

Like many, I’ve been surprised at how shambolic the Conservative Party’s national campaign has been. We supposedly have a ‘strong and stable’ Prime Minister, but frankly she’s been all over the place.

First, we had the shambles of the ‘dementia tax’: poorly thought through and an embarrassing flip-flip when it came to light.

We’ve had ever more evidence at the damage that Conservative cuts are doing to vital public services like the police, health and education.

And we’ve had platitudes and no detail on what the Conservatives want to do with the Brexit negotiations – and what they intend to do to offset the massive risks that the Prime Minister herself admits exist.

We need a change.

As your MP, I won’t only vote for the party line, I’ll put Meon Valley first:

  • working to get proper funding for our health and social care services,
  • making sure none of our schools lose funding – and stopping any of them being downgraded to secondary modern status as the Conservatives propose
  • working to block any Brexit deal that doesn’t protect local jobs, local farmers and local businesses – doesn’t maintain full shared security cooperation – and doesn’t have full membership of the single market. I will also seek to make sure that the British people have a final say on any Brexit deal reached.

Even if the Conservatives win nationally, they still need a strong opposition. Please use your vote to back me and ensure that Meon Valley’s best interests are fully represented in Westminster.

Posted in Meon Valley | 2 Comments

Stopping terrorist attacks

A 250-word article for the Petersfield Post, Clanfield Post, Horndean Post and Bordon Post answering the question ‘What action would you/your party propose to take to prevent more terror attacks like the one in Manchester from happening again?’:

The atrocity in Manchester was horrifying and very distressing. One of the few points of light has been the failure of ISIS’s strategy of using this kind of attack to polarise the community in Manchester and nationally: they’ve almost completely failed to do this. It has also been reassuring how quickly the security services seem to have wound up the network responsible for the attack – enabling the terror threat level to be reduced from critical to severe.

The critical question remaining is how it could have been prevented. People who knew Salman Abedi reported that he was a risk on several occasions but he still slipped through the net.

While we need to wait for the results of Police and MI5’s review of this failure, one reason for Liberal Democrat concern with the brutal Conservative cuts to policing budgets – including here in Hampshire – is that this kind of problem might emerge. That’s one reason our manifesto pledges to increase community policing by giving an additional £300m a year to local police forces.

We also need to continue to collaborate internationally in fighting terrorism. Theresa May’s plans for an ultra-hard Brexit must not be allowed to jeopardise this. Finally, we must also resist the temptation to use this to justify indiscriminate snooping powers or to weaken encryption. The priority must be strong community relations to identify people who are potential risks – and then focused efforts – via surveillance or, if necessary, through TPIMs to disrupt any potential attacks before they happen.

Posted in Meon Valley | Leave a comment

Mini-rant about Gibraltar

Both sides are over-reacting massively here.
The Brexiteers are reacting to a (perhaps deliberate?) misunderstanding of the EU letter. It didn’t say that Spain would take over Gibraltar. It says that Spain will have a veto on any trade (or other EU-related) relationship between the EU and Gibraltar. That’s either a statement of fact – or a recognition that QMV won’t be used by other EU states to overrule Spain on Gibraltar-related issues (not sure which applies – possibly the latter, otherwise the letter wouldn’t have said what it did).
The idiotic Howard quote now means that Remainers are compounding the misdirection by implying that Howard is saying we’ll invade. Some other particularly idiotic Brexiteers have gone on to say this – but Howard didn’t. He just did some standard Brexit BS bluster about how ‘resolve’ can somehow make a Spanish veto go away… (it can’t).
All sides are missing the fundamental difference between the Falklands and Gibraltar. The Argentinians – as they discovered – didn’t have a veto. And while the Spanish can’t enforce a change in sovereignty, they do, and can block almost any other aspect of the relationship between Gibraltar and the EU. And despite what the Daily Telegraph says, we can’t use military force to overcome that.
Whether Spain want to use their veto or not is a different issue. They have a lot of voters who work in Gibraltar – and a whole bunch of other issues at stake in their relationship with Britain (and Gibraltar). The ‘punishment’ approach to Gibraltar didn’t work before – and there’s no reason why it should work now. Longer-term they have more to gain from a positive approach.
But if the UK Government and its proxies continue to behave as complete knobs – and pretend that they can unilaterally tell Spain what to do, it’s not impossible that Gibraltar will be caught in the resulting crossfire and suffer as a result. After all, Spain has voters and a sense of national dignity as well. We can’t barge around gratuitously pissing people off and expect there to be no come-back.
Posted in Europe | Leave a comment