• Nov 23, 2020:
    • Ludlow Covid Cast 1: Andy and Tracey talk about the spread of coronavirus in Shropshire and Ludlow

      Watch the video: Ludlow Covid Cast 1: Coronavirus in Shropshire (6m 40s).

      We can't duck the issue that Covid-19 is here in Ludlow, is everywhere in Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin. We have around 20 cases a week at present in Ludlow, most asymptomatic. Asymptomatic or not, this disease is a nasty spreader.

      In the next few weeks, months if necessary, Tracey Huffer and I are going to talk about Covid-19. About how it is affecting our community. How we are responding as a community. How health professionals are responding. And we'll be doing that with the help of professionals and our community.

      We have a long list of topics to cover along with topic events like the lifting of the second lockdown. We begin today with a video on how we got to where we are today in Shropshire. We will of course be talking about the refined tier system announced by Boris Johnson this afternoon later this week when we know what tier Shropshire is in.

      Watch the video: Ludlow Covid Cast 1: Coronavirus in Shropshire (6m 40s).

      The technical stuff

      The First Wave was underreported. Until July 2, by which time the first wave was over, the number of cases reported only included results from Pillar 1 tests (hospital tests processed in government labs) . Pillar 2 tests (drive-through and home kits processed in commercial labs) were added on July 2 leading to an increase in the number of reported cases. It was also difficult to obtain a Covid-19 test outside a hospital setting at the beginning of the First Wave and most people with mild symptoms or who were asymptomatic carriers of coronavirus were not tested.

      Today's statistics won't be right. Although the headline number of new cases detected is published daily, the daily data are rarely correct. This is because the number of cases headlined today is the number of cases reported to National Health England today. This will include cases detected during the previous four or five days. For example, the number of cases reported in Shropshire on 11 November was 124. Two days later, that was reduced to 92 after 32 cases reported on 11 November were allocated to the earlier dates on which the tests were confirmed positive. We should not be over-reliant on the daily statistics but study the overall trend which is unaffected by the day to day issues of collating and reporting the Covid-19 test data.

      MSOAs. I never thought I'd be talking about middle super output areas outside the hallowed halls of local demographic statistics. MSOAs are useful but sometimes awkwardly shaped geographical units containing 10,000 people. Ludlow is covered by one MSOA (Shropshire 038), Bridgnorth by two, Oswestry by two, Whitchurch and Market Drayton by one. In Shrewsbury, there are nine. They work well, but not always. The main outbreak of Covid-19 in Craven Arms was in the traveller community on the edge of the town. That led to the cases being allocated to Clun and Bucknell. But mostly MSOAs work.

  • Nov 21, 2020:
    • Shropshire Council to make most car parks free after 11am from 3 December to 17 January

      This is welcome. Shropshire Council has announced that most car parks will be free over Christmas and the New Year. This will include Castle Street, Galdeford and Smithfield car parks in Ludlow. Free parking will be from 11am each day until 8am the next morning.

      This move aims to attract more visitors into Shropshire's towns after the second lockdown ends on 2 December. This is a crucial time for independent traders who have had a tough year. Similarly, pubs, cafes and restaurants desperately need a boost before towns like ours enter the quiet season between New Year and Easter.

      We are looking forward to the end of lockdown. It will give shoppers and traders a break before Christmas and the New Year - and before a possible third lockdown. It will reduce the growing flight to shopping online. We can eat out once again. Being able to have a coffee or a glass of beer in a pub will improve our shopping trips, whether we are buying daily necessities or Christmas gifts. We don't yet know what social distancing rules will apply and a relaxed Christmas could boost Covid-19 infection rates. There is a chance that the lockdown will continue throughout December.

      But let's look on the bright side.

      Car parking will still apply between 8am and 11am each day to prevent car parks becoming clogged with workers and residents, rather than shopper and visitors. On-street car parking charges will remain as at present. People paying to park are encouraged to pay by app, text or phone using MiPermit, to avoid having to queue at or touch a pay and display machine.

      There will be no refund or extensions on season and resident permits.

      Linney Car Park is owned by Ludlow Town Council and is not part of this scheme.

    • Boris Johnson accelerates drive to electric vehicles as Ludlow Town Council consults on street charging points

      On Wednesday, Boris Johnson announced his ten point plan for a green industrial revolution. While not as great as he made it out to be, especially as only £4 billion of the £12 billion pledged is new money, it was nevertheless a welcome move from a government that had pushed roads to the top of its transport agenda.

      The prime minister's ten point plan seeks to increase power from offshore wind; increase low carbon hydrogen power; new nuclear power; green public transport, cycling and walking; zero emission jets (really?) and green ships. The plans also seek to accelerate the shift to zero emission vehicles, including by financing the rollout of on-street charging points.

      Shortly before Boris Johnson's announcement, Ludlow Town Council launched a welcome consultation on installing on-street charging points in Ludlow.

      Charging point in Milton Keynes

      Ludlow Town Council's consultation is being conducted in partnership with Ludlow 21's Sustainable Transport Group. The survey asks about the extent of electric car ownership and for views on installing on-street charging points around the town. The consultation is open until 16 December and can be completed via the council's website.

      Boris Johnson's commitment to ending the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 is welcome. It also presents challenges to consumers, manufacturers and councils. However, manufacturers have been gearing up to deliver the all-electric transport age and part of Johnson's promise is to deliver the gigafactories needed to produce batteries. And most consumers would leave fossils fuels behind if they could get the comfort, driving range and price. That will be the case. The story of modern technology is faster production, reduced use of materials, lower costs and greater attention to consumer needs.

      Councils face one of the biggest challenges in providing on-street charging infrastructure. Charging points in car parks are straightforward and we already have two charging bays in the Galdeford car park. But installing enough charging points in neighbourhoods without off street parking will be a challenge, especially in historic towns like Ludlow.

      Fortunately, other towns and cities have led the way with installing charging points. Cars can park by a lamppost and top up, as the Go Ultra Low City Scheme in London has shown. New roadside charging points need be no more than a small pillar. There is, therefore, no reason why charging infrastructure need be intrusive or conflict with conservation aims.

      Charging point in Newcastle

      Moving to electric vehicles will help the UK meet its ambition to go carbon neutral by 2050. But it doesn't mean the transition will be without problems.

      In recent years, attention has turned to pollution from tyres and brakes. Experts predict non-exhaust emissions will be up from 7.4% today to 10% of all UK PM2.5 emissions by 2030. This could be a major problem in the cities. We don't know whether it is a problem in Shropshire because there are no monitoring stations, though there is a single station in Telford. I would not expect this to be a significant issue in Ludlow but we should be careful when we describe electric vehicles as pollution free.

      Battery technology relies on mined metals and rare earths, including cobalt. Mining is rarely environmentally friendly and can be a health risk. Fortunately, the lithium and cobalt used in electric batteries can be recycled. I am surprised that there is no mention of recycling in Boris Johnson's announcement. If we are to continue to consume natural materials, we must also conserve them. We can't just leave recycling to the market, we need legal obligations to recycle batteries under a UK equivalent of the EU Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE). That will push manufacturers towards ensuring that car batteries (mobile phones too) are easier to recycle.

      (Household batteries are collected for recycling from your doorstep in Shropshire. Just put them in a clear bag and leave it on top of the recycling box.)

      Could almost every vehicle on Britain's roads be electric before 2050? I hope so and installing EV charging points around Ludlow will be one step towards that ambition.

      The prime minister's commitments

      Like all government statements in these eco conscious times, Boris Johnson recycled previous commitments. Philip Dunne, Ludlow MP and chairman of the commons environmental audit committee, got it right when he said: "It is disappointing that of the £12 billion funding in the plan, only £4 billion is new." It is more than disappointing. £12 billion is only a third of what is being spent on new roads.

      Extracts from The ten point plan for a green industrial revolution published 18 November 2020.

      "We are taking decisive action to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030, with all vehicles being required to have a significant zero emissions capability (e.g. plug-in and full hybrids) from 2030 and be 100% zero emissions from 2035."

      "We will invest £1.3 billion to accelerate the roll out of charging infrastructure, targeting support on rapid charge points on motorways and major roads to dash any anxiety around long journeys, and installing more on-street charge points near homes and workplaces to make charging as easy as refuelling a petrol or diesel car. And whilst the costs of EVs are already falling, we will provide £582 million to extend the Plug-in Car, Van, Taxi and Motorcycle grants to 2022-23 to reduce their sticker price for the consumer."

  • Nov 18, 2020:
    • Shropshire Councillors stuck in their cars and stuck in the past refuse to #BanPavementParking

      Charity Living Streets has today been promoting a national day of action against pavement parking. #BanPavementParking. Vehicles parked on the pavement are one of the blights of our modern life. Cars, HGVs, vans. All owned by drivers that feel free to block the pavement. To force pedestrians and mobility scooter users out into the traffic. Making it difficult and sometimes impossible for the pavements to be used for their main purpose. Pedestrians and people with limited mobility or sight are relegated to second class citizens. Their rights are secondary to car users, even though pavements are meant for people who are not driving.

      Council leaders of all parties in Shropshire have wrung their hands and said nothing much can be done. This is the true mark of a council that believes that the car drivers come first and everyone else second.

      Today is #BanPavementParking day. We have a long way to go. Please sign the petition.

      Update. The petition is now closed. More information from Living Streets.

      In London, the practice of parking on pavements, except for loading, has long been illegal. The government is now consulting on extending the ban nationwide.

      Our two local councils have different approaches to a ban. Ludlow Town Council has supported a London style ban. Thanks! Shropshire Council, ever the promoter of the Car as King, only wants extra enforcement powers for its traffic wardens. More fines and presumably more wardens.

      Shropshire Council's cabinet discussed a potential pavement parking ban at its 2 November meeting. This discussion was prompted by the Department for Transport's consultation on stricter rules or an outright ban on pavement parking.

      The cabinet, supported by leaders of the opposition, plumped for a do little option of increasing enforcement but not extending the prohibition against the anti-social behaviour of parking on pavements.

      The cabinet's excuse for its pusillanimous policy is the limited nature of the questions asked by the Department for Transport. That was a pathetic car-centred response. Shropshire Council just ticked a few boxes and not moved policy forward. It's still gives a green light for pavement parking.

      Pauline Dee, independent member for Wem, summed up the general view that if parking on pavements was universally banned, it would impede traffic. Alan Moseley leader of the Labour Group said that we need more flexibility and most residents parked responsibly. There were only occasional problems. Really Alan? Gwilym Butler, cabinet member for enforcement, complained the Department for Transport consultation was too prescriptive. He called for local devolution. Roger Evans, leader of the Lib Dem backed that sentiment but said there will be an environmental and health impact that should be reviewed. Butler warned the cabinet that implementing a stricter ban "could alienate more people than we please."

      Yes. It's only about votes. Pleasing the crowd. Not seeing those squeezed out because our streets are becoming impossible to navigate unless you are in a car. Unless cars park on the pavement to allow you to drive without impediment. Cabinet members don't see the person struggling to get by on the pavement. One of the reasons that they don't see them is that many are not there. They have become confined to their homes. They find it too hard to go out without a door-to-door taxi because they cannot use the pavement that should be exclusively for people not in vehicles.

      While I agree that local devolution of pavement parking bans would be good in principle, I don't trust council leaders on this. All the language at the cabinet meeting was about the needs of car drivers. Members seemed to tremble that drivers could be slowed down for goodness sake!

      Shropshire Council is giving out the wrong message. It should be saying that parking on pavements is wrong in principle. Instead, it is saying that it is wrong only if you get caught by its Civil Enforcement Officers (traffic wardens to you and me).

      It is time the council dumped this upside down thinking. Dumped thinking that people cocooned in their vehicles are the superiors to all other users of highways. Dumped thinking that because "only a few" people might be inconvenienced", it is okay.

      That thinking is discriminatory but the entire cabinet discussion on pavement parking had that thinking at its core.

      That sort of thinking traps people in their homes. It prevents active travel and activities during travel.

      That sort of thinking would not be allowed in any other area of public life. Where was the equalities assessment? None. The council said equalities were not relevant because of the way the DfT phrased the question. That's a "Get Out of Jail Free" card worthy of 1980s thinking. If there is not obvious discrimination through the windows of councillors' cars, there must be no discrimination. That's a mindset I had hoped we had left behind in the twenty-first century.

      But as it wanted as ever to promote cars over other users, Shropshire Council's cabinet shamefully hid behind the restrictive nature of the DfT's questions.

      A council with a bold agenda and an ambition for active travel would have squeezed as much as it could into the answers to those questions. Instead, the council squeezed as much out of every answer it possibly could. It provided the bare minimum in its response to the DfT it could get away with. That bare minimum will be to the disadvantage of everyone who relies on using pavements as a normal part of their experience. A day to day experience that seems totally alien to leading Shropshire councillors.

      I utterly despair. I wonder when any member of the cabinet last travelled to work or a social event on foot, on a bike, or was even able to experience the difficulties that people using wheelchairs or mobility scooter have every day.

      The cabinet could have come up with a policy on pavement parking. It did not do that. The cabinet and party leaders are stuck in their cars when they travel and stuck in the past in their attitudes to active travel.

      Too often the travel distances we experience in Shropshire are used as an excuse for lazy thinking. We have poor public transport because political leaders don't use it. If they had experience of buses and trains, they would have a sharper focus on improving public transport. We have huge issues with people getting around on the pavements dedicated to them for the same reason. Political leaders don't use them.

      Today is #BanPavementParking day. We have a long way to go. Please sign the petition.

  • Nov 14, 2020:
    • The 1824 St Leonard's Clive Arch on Corve Street is collapsing - should it be partly demolished?

      Many will have noticed that the gateway at the entrance to St Leonard's Churchyard has been covered with scaffolding for a while because the top of the arch is beginning to tilt forward towards Corve Street. A functional rather than architecturally distinguished construction, the arch commemorates the consecration of the burial ground, gifted by Viscount Clive to St Laurence's, on 27 August 1824.

      St Laurence's Parochial Church Council is now proposing to remove the arch, leaving two stone pillars supporting the cast iron gate. The Clive Plaque will be relocated nearby.

      The Clive Arch is Grade II listed for its historical value. That means there is a presumption against any major changes, including partial demolition. On the other hand, it will cost a lot of money to rebuild the arch. Money that could be used for other purposes.

      Before the scaffolding

      I met Ewart Carson from St Laurence's this morning to talk through the proposals and discuss why any work is needed. The arch is weakening and leaning.

      The Clive Arch has stood for 200 years and is of sufficient historical merit to have been listed as Grade II in 1969.

      The site was formerly occupied by the priory of the Carmelite Friars of Ludlow, founded in 1350 and dissolved in 1538. The graveyard is reputed to be haunted. A plaque is built into the head of the arch commemorating the consecration of the burial ground by the Bishop of Hereford, George Huntingford.

      Image by Jude reproduced here with permission and under Creative Commons.

      The evidence of the deterioration of the arch is obvious. The image below shows the lean of upper courses towards Corve Street.

      The stone quality is poor. The arch is faced with ashlar with a rubble core and has little structural strength. The adjacent wall looks to be built of local mudstone and is showing signs of weathering and exfoliation. I suspect the whole arch might built with stone from the Raglan formation which outcrops at Fishmore. It will need a geologist to confirm that.

      St Laurence's is currently seeking a faculty from the Diocese of Hereford to remove the top of the arch and remodel the gateway as two stone piers supporting the cast iron gates. The church is also talking to Historic England about its proposal. An application for Listed Building Consent to Shropshire Council will follow.

      It is far from easy to get major work on a listed heritage asset approved. Especially when it also lies in a conservation area. In planning terms, the work proposed constitutes "substantial harm" - an irreversible change to the character and integrity of a heritage asset. Sometimes substantial harm cannot be averted. But a golden rule of heritage is that historic structures should be maintained and where they have not been, that is not a reason for substantial harm.

      There is no doubt that there is a difficult decision ahead. I don't think the case for partial demolition of the Clive Arch is yet made. We need to see the opinion of Historic England and a full application for Listed Building Consent before we can judge what the next actions should be.

      In a related matter, the residual width of the Corve Street pavement with the scaffolding in place is too narrow. Just 0.6m with 0.1m kerb. The minimum width should be 1.2m to allow transit of people travelling on mobility scooters or pushing child buggies to pass. I have asked Shropshire Council to look at this and consider whether a couple of parking spaces should be suspended to allow a ramped passage from the kerb to be put in place.

      Historic England Listing

      Grade II.

      Gateway: wall, arch and entrance gates. Dated 1824. Ashlar, facing to coursed rubble. Central pair of possibly later cast-iron gates with spearhead finials under 4-centred arch with hood moulding and band. Coping with central parapet carrying remains of finial, and cast-iron plaque. Arch and piers flanked by recessed wall with drip course and coping ending in piers with pyramidal coping stones. Buttresses to rear of arch piers, and figurehead to keystone of rear arch. Inscription commemorates gift to parish of burial ground by Clive family, 1824.