Readers may be aware that the Parliamentary Boundary Commission has recommended changes which would affect the Penistone Area. The Penistone West Ward would move into Colne Valley and Penistone East become part of a new constituency of Sheffield Hallam & Stocksbridge.
It should be noted that both wards remain part of the Barnsley Metropolitan Borough and residents will not experience any change in local authority services as a result..
We have written to the Boundary Commission suggesting an alternative name and the text is below:-
With regard to the proposals for the creation of the above seat I would like to make the following submission to the consultation.
Firstly, I recognise that there are strict criteria with respect to numbers of electors in each new constituency and that this necessarily limits the flexibility which the Commission can exercise in determining the composition of seats. Consequently I do not intend to try to devise any alternatives.
However, I would ask that consideration be given to revising the name of the new seat. The name ‘Penistone’ has been associated with a Parliamentary constituency, on various boundaries, since the General Election of 1918. It was the Penistone Division, then Barnsley West & Penistone and finally Penistone & Stocksbridge. From 1885 until 1918 the area formed part of the Hallamshire Constituency which itself had derived from the Southern West Riding seat, 1865-1885 and the West Riding seat, 1832-1865.
The name ‘Hallamshire’ is well known and recognised locally. It is a major hospital in Sheffield, the name of the Roman Catholic diocese, a golf club and so on. The origins of Hallamshire are unclear but it is reportedly mentioned in the deeds of the house of St. Wandrille in Ecclesfield in 1161 Penistone is an established market town with a Charter granted by King Edward I in 1290 and its grammar school was founded in 1392. Given that the names ‘Hallamshire’ and ‘Penistone; are both of considerable antiquity and local residents can identify with them I would submit that the proposed constituency be named ‘Hallamshire & Penistone’.
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Jobless Down Again
Last month the jobless total for Barnsley was down by 6% compared to September 2015. A total of 3,520 people were claiming out of work benefits. There has been a 47% reduction since 2010.
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Bus Service Consultation
The Barnsley Bus Partnership is conducting a consultation regarding public transport. The current proposals would see significant reductions in bus services across the Penistone area and I have received numerous representations from concerned residents. These are summarised in my own submission, copied below:-
“In general the proposed changes represent a significant reduction in bus service provision and if implemented would leave some communities entirely isolated from the public transport network. The use of public transport has fallen recently due to the service being perceived as so unreliable that residents have made alternative arrangements usually at increased cost to themselves. In general living costs in rural areas are higher than in urban areas and research carried out by the NFU showed that a family living in the countryside would expect to pay on average £2,000 more each year compared to an equivalent family in a town or city with transport/fuel costs being a significant factor. It appears difficult to maintain a rural bus service without an element of subsidy although maybe the need for subsidy would be reduced were the service provided viewed by residents as a viable alternative, taking them where and when they wanted to go at a price they were prepared to pay.
Turning to specific aspects of the proposed changes, I would make the following observations:-
· From the material provided it appears that little effort is being made to facilitate bus services connecting with the railway network and there are three stations serving the Penistone area, Penistone, Silkstone Common and Dodworth. From any of these it is possible to travel to Barnsley, Huddersfield, Sheffield and further afield. I was surprised to hear a representative of a bus operator say that he wanted to keep passengers on the buses rather than have them use the train. I would ask that further consideration be given to times and routes which would enable the train to be used for journeys where the bus operators will not provide a direct road service.
· Service 29. This currently runs from Sheffield to Penistone and provides a direct link to the Northern General Hospital for not only Penistone but the villages of Oxspring, Thurgoland and Wortley. Given that most passengers actually travel into the centre of Sheffield it does seem illogical to have it terminate at Chapeltown. Why not allow that direct service to continue and, if there is excess capacity, reduce the frequency of services which travel from Sheffield only as far as Chapeltown?
· Services 23a and 24. The loss of these services would isolate several villages which currently have no alternative. In particular Ingbirchworth, Crow Edge and the outlying parts of the Dunford Parish as well as many residents on the route to the west of Penistone. The document makes some vague reference to a Penistone community service but does not make clear what, if any, alternatives might be provided. There are many elderly residents in these areas without access to public transport who often live in social housing. No bus service will make it difficult to operators of social housing to find tenants for these properties. Again no connecting service to the railway station in Penistone is being proposed. These two services also provide the only viable link to other settlements such as Hood Green and Stainborough along with Northern College, many of whose students and staff use public transport. Crane Moor is also served and removal of these services would leave the dual settlement of Crane Moor and Crane Moor Nook isolated not only from Barnsley and Penistone but from the rest of the Thurgoland Parish of which they are an integral part. Service 24 also provides a link to the village of Green Moor and its removal would isolate residents of the Hunshelf Parish from the surrounding villages as well as from connecting services.
· Service 25. The loss of the Penistone to Holmfirth service would also have a serious impact on the settlements in the Dunford Parish as for historical reasons people living there often have closer connection with Holmfirth and Kirkless than with South Yorkshire. Again no alternative is being proposed.
I am sure that Parish Councils and individual residents will also be making their own detailed representations as would urge you to consider them all carefully as they will have detailed local knowledge and experience of the needs of their communities.
There is a general feeling, often expressed by residents of the Penistone area, that they pay higher than average levels of Council Tax but services are designed more with the needs of urban areas in mind and the proposed bus service changes will only reinforce that perception. I hope that we can see some more positive changes as a result of this consultation and maybe even a plan to encourage more use of public transport instead of this continual downward spiral of service reductions.”
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Yes, it is that time of year again when many people put the paper recycling bag directly underneath the letterbox. However, I hope Penistone residents will take a few minutes to read the elections addresses of my colleagues, Cllr. John Wilson who is seeking re-election for Penistone East and Mike Ogle who is hoping to win the Penistone West seat on Thursday 5th May.
The local elections are to decide who represents you on Barnsley Council and, despite what others might claim, they have no impact on the EU, the NHS or national politics in general.
There is an entirely separate election for the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner also taking place on Thursday 5th May. This election differs from Council elections in that you have TWO votes, i.e. a 1st and 2nd preference. This is chance of all South Yorkshire electors to pass judgement on the management of the police and to decide how best the service it delivers can be improved.
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Jobless Total Down Again
Latest figures show that there were 3,380 people in Barnsley claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance or Universal Credit in December 2015. This is 10% lower than in December 2014 and 48% down on the same month in 2010. Youth unemployment has also fallen 64% since 2008. A spokesman for the Job Centre said there were still plenty of opportunities for those who are looking for work in Barnsley.
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Am I the lucky one? Imagine my surprise when I received an email, allegedly from the IRS telling me about a tax refund of USD3,416. Surprise certainly as the IRS is the Internal Revenue Service of the US Government and I do not pay tax in the US so could not be eligible for a refund. Furthermore, I would be surprised if the IRS actually used an ‘X Box’ email address.
Needless to say I did not open the attachment and I suggest anyone else who receives this type of email is similarly cautious. To see the email: Click here…
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Unemployment in Barnsley is down by almost half since five years ago. Figures from the Department of Work and Pensions show that in September there were 3,749 people claiming job seekers’ allowance and universal credit.
This is a drop of 11% compared with September 2014 and is 43% down since the same month in 2010. Meadowhall, Capita and XPO Logistics are among the major employers seeking additional staff.
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Winter opening hours begin at Barnsley’s Household Waste Recycling Centres from Thursday, 1 October.
From 1 October to 31 March, the centres at Smithies Lane Barnsley, Springvale, Penistone, Nicholas Lane, Goldthorpe and West Street, Worsbrough will be open from 9am to 4pm.
They are open seven days a week, except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day
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Superfast Broadband Inquiry
The House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport select committee is conducting an inquiry into broadband and mobile broadband connectivity. Submissions can be made up until 30th September. An ideal opportunity to point out that rural areas such as Penistone are missing out on the benefits of superfast broadband enjoyed by people in urban centres.
For further details Click here…
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We are all used to nuisance telephone calls. The ‘industrial deafness centre’ for example which says it can help us claim compensation for hearing loss suffered whilst working in industry – recently one took me seriously when I said my hearing had never been the same since I baled out of a burning Spitfire over the Channel in 1940!! Or the ‘insurance claim centre’ which tells us we were involved in a accident but when pressed cannot say what car we drive. Not forgetting the PPI claimers who think we need their ‘help’ making a claim and don’t even care if we never had any. Or the wine company selling their supposed vintage plonk as an investment but whose representative thinks that Pont l’Eveque is claret when in reality it is Camembert!
Moving on from these obvious scams we now have callers claiming to be from Microsoft telling us that our computers are infected with a virus. Again they can give no details and seem to lose their place in the script if told “…but I have a MacBook.”
So if a call comes out of the blue it is best to assume it to be a scam and not to give them any genuine information. However, much amusement can be had winding up the fool on the other end…
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Day of the Hogweed
Like in some bad 1950s science-fiction film a dangerous invader menaces the countryside. This time in the form of the Giant Hogweed or Heracleum mantegazzianum. Similar in appearance to Cow Parsley, the Hogweed can grow to over 10 feet in height. It is highly toxic and its sap can cause damage to the skin resulting in burns, blisters and long-term sensitivity to light.
For more information about how to identify and deal with this menace, please refer to the website of the Royal Horticultural Society. Click here…
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Waste and Recycling Centres
Barnsley Council’s household waste recycling centres will be switching to summer opening hours on Wednesday April 1.
The opening times and locations are:
• Smithies Lane, Barnsley, S71 1NL – 9am to 5pm
• Highgate Lane, Goldthorpe, S63 9AT – 9am to 5pm
• Springvale, Penistone, S36 6HH – 9am to 5pm
• West Street, Worsbrough, S70 5DJ – 8am to 7pm
These times will remain in place until the end of September.
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Burying Good News
It is a little disappointing that the details of some good news in the Budget is not easy to find without trawling through the small print of the Red Book. Take the announcement of £600 million to improve mobile phone coverage. This is what the Red Book says at Section 1.125:-
“The government will provide up to £600 million to support the delivery of the change of use of 700MHz spectrum, which will further enhance the UK’s mobile broadband connectivity. These funds will support the infrastructure costs of clearing the spectrum frequency, including support to consumers where appropriate, and retuning broadcast transmitters to enable broadcasters to move into a lower frequency. This will free up 700MHz spectrum for 4G mobile communications use through an auction next Parliament. The government will also centralise the operational management of public sector spectrum, and will reset the release target.”
In other words freeing up another part of the spectrum will increase the number of channels and the volume of data which can be transmitted so will facilitate the ever increasing demand for mobile internet.
Also found in the small print was some equally welcome news about broadband in rural areas, something which has become a pressing problem across the Penistone area. The Red Book tells us as Section 1.123:-
“The government will also take further action to support the delivery of broadband in rural areas, including looking to raise the Universal Service Obligation – the legal entitlement to a basic service – from dial-up speeds to 5 Mbps broadband, and subsidising the costs of installing superfast capable satellite services.”
The key phrase here is the Universal Service Obligation and many people in rural areas would be delighted to have even 5Mbps. So when we have good news let us not bury it!
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New Planning Application
A planning application has been submitted by Clarke Telecom on behalf of Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure Ltd for work on the mobile telephone base station on Tankersley Lane.
To view the application, (2015/0123), and associated documentation: Click here…
Mobile telephone and internet coverage is a problem in many parts of the Penistone area with some communities still feeling that the digital age has passed them by. Any improvement is to be welcomed and this application is deserving of support.
The deadline for comments is 3rd March.
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Waste Collection Update
Waste collection crews have been out across Barnsley emptying as many waste and recycling bins as possible since Saturday.
However, due to the continuing freezing weather conditions, despite gritters being out every day and night since Christmas day, the waste collection lorries haven’t been able to safely access some roads. This means that some bins haven’t been collected.
The following villages still have outstanding bins:
Grey bins: Penistone, Dodworth, Silkstone, Blackerhill, Cubley, Castle Green, Hoyland, Birdwell, Pilley, Elsecar, Jump, Platts Common, Hoyland Common, Worsbrough, Darfield, Wombwell, Tankersley,
Blue bins/White sacks: Monk Bretton, Lundwood, Bolton upon Dearne, Barnsley Town, Kexborough, Darton, Honeywell, Wilthorpe, Smithies,
Brown bins: Worsbrough Common, Kendray, Thurnscoe, Middlecliffe, Great Houghton, Billingley, Highgate, Dodworth, Monk Bretton, Pogmoor, Old Town, Gawber
Extra staff are helping to bring the service back to normal, and drivers have been revisiting streets that have been too dangerous in recent days.
The main priority is to make sure that grey bins are emptied first. After this, outstanding recycling bins will be collected.
The weather is expected to become milder soon, so this will help the service to get back on track. Residents are asked to leave their bins out and the crews will catch up.
People are reminded that any Christmas wrapping paper or cards with foil or glitter can’t be recycled and should be placed in grey bins.
To find out more about waste collections, people can visit www.barnsley.gov.uk/waste.
To find out more about gritting, people can visit www.barnsley.gov.uk/gritting.
For the latest gritting updates, people can follow BarnsleyCouncil on Facebook and Twitter, and use the hashtag #sygrit
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New Planning Application
A planning application has been submitted for three wind turbines, 93 metres to blade tip, on land at Spicer Hill, Whitley Road, Whitley Common, Ingbirchworth, Sheffield, S36 9PA
To view the plans in detail – Click here…
If you wish to make any representations please do so no later than 16th December.
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Local Plan Consultation
Consultation on the draft Local Plan for Barnsley will begin on Monday 10th November and run for six weeks until Sunday 21st December. The Plan provides local planning policy for the future development of the Borough up to 2033.
The consultation period is an opportunity for you to give your views on the proposals.
A dedicated webpage will be available from Monday 10th December.
For full details – Click here…
In addition there will be two Drop-In sessions in Penistone, viz:-
Saturday 22nd November 10:00am to 12:00 noon. Penistone Market
Thursday 4th December 2:00pm to 4:00pm. Penistone Town Hall.
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Residents will be disappointed to learn that an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate has been submitted in respect of the Council’s decision to refuse planning permission for a 34.6 metre wind turbine on land off Rag Lane in Thurgoland.
Site Address: Land associated with Pule Hill Farm, Rag Lane, Thurgoland
Description of development: Erection of 1 no. 24.8m (to hub) high wind turbine with a tip height of 34.5m.
Application reference: 2013/1096
Appeal reference: APP/R4408/A/14/2225997
Any representations submitted to BMBC will be forwarded to the Inspectorate but anyone who wishes to make further comments should do so no later than 4th November 2014. This can be done on the Planning Portal at www.planningportal.gov.uk/pcs or by emailing email@example.com. If you do not have access to the internet, you can send three copies to:
Des Bowring, The Planning Inspectorate, 3/10 Wing Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Bristol BS1 6PN.
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Broadband Problems in Crane Moor
Residents of Crane Moor and Crane Moor Nook often complain of having download speeds of 1.5Mpbs or less as well as experiencing intermittent loss of signal. This has been taken up with BT in the hope of securing some improvement.
The response from BT is not what we would have wished. The area is connected to Stocksbridge cabinet 18 and served from DP51. This is approximately 3km from the village and is therefore too far to support FTTC where the maximum optimum distance is 1.5km. Furthermore, it is not considered commercially viable to upgrade cabinet 18 to FTTC so it is not included in the roll-out programme nor does it appear in the BDUK plan.
Some further information can be found by Clicking here...
Residents are encouraged to keep up the pressure on their individual service providers. A further update will follow as soon as possible
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Planning Application – Hoylandswaine
A planning application for a total of sixty-six houses has been submitted for land off Church Lane and Church Heights, Hoylandswaine. This has been expected for some time but is still premature as the Local Plan has yet to be finalised. Many residents have already expressed their concerns that these proposals would constitute an over-development of the village and that the local infrastructure would be unable to cope with the increased demands placed upon it.
The full application can be viewed on the Council’s Planning Explorer – Click here…
Concerned residents should submit their observations as soon as possible and in any case no later than 6th August.
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Some businesses have been receiving apparently official looking documents purporting to charge for entry in some form of business directory on CD-Rom and/or online at a cost of EUR997. These documents are posted in the UK but have a return address in Paterna, Spain. The recipient company cannot be traced through Google although there is one with a very similar name but different address and which is clearly carrying out a totally different business. No telephone number is given but the fax rings unobtainable. If something looks too good to be true it probably is but this does not even look very good! Unless one is anxious to throw away money this should be ignored.
To see what the document looks like – Click here…
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We have received notification from Kirklees Council that a Planning Application has been submitted for the extraction of 190,000 tons of coal and 40,000 tons of fireclay from land off Litherop Lane, Clayton West. This site is close to the village of High Hoyland and the application is very similar to one rejected last year following objections from Wakefield Council on grounds of traffic and the impact on Bretton Hall Park.
For further details: Click here…
The deadline for comments or objections is 24th April
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Good News – For a Change!
We have just been informed that a planning application is to be submitted on behalf of Vodafone and TelÃ©fonica to upgrade a radio base station in Tankersley as part of the roll-out of 4G services. This upgrade will also improve 3G connectivity. Another planning application has also been submitted for additional aerial dishes on a mobile telephone mast on the ridge-line above Green Moor. Let us hope that these are just the first of many and that people across the Penistone area will soon enjoy the same connection to the modern world as is already enjoyed in towns and cities.
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Mobile Signals – Wortley
Following complaints from residents and my own experience I have written to Mr. Ronan Dunne, Chief Executive of O2, asking him to investigate poor and non-existent mobile telephone and 3G signals on devices connected to the O2 network in parts of the Parish of Wortley.
In 2014 it is hardly acceptable that people should have to drive out of their village in order to use a smartphone to send emails. This is surely not what is meant by the term mobile broadband. We are always being told that the western parts of Barnsley are not deprived but that is not how it seems to people who cannot use the technology now taken for granted in all urban areas. We wait to see what action O2 will take.
UPDATE: O2 have stated that residents should be able to receive a 2G signal indoors and outdoors but a 3G signal may only be available outdoors. Problems can occur when local geography such as hills and valleys come between the user and the nearest mast. The number of users attempting to access the network at the same time and in the same place can also result in congestion. O2 say that they are committed to providing indoor 4G coverage to 98% of the population by 2018 and that as this rollout progresses, 2G and 3G coverage will be improved at the same time. We also learn that O2 are spending over half a billion pounds each year on improving the network. Let us hope that their efforts help to close the digital divide between town and country.
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In July 2013 the Planning Regulatory Board refused an application for a wind turbine in Thurlstone, (BMBC ref. 2012/1380), citing a number of reasons for that decision but one in particular is noteworthy:-
“The proposed development would have a detrimental impact on air traffic control systems and would therefore present a hazard to aircraft safety.”
This follows an objection from the National Air Traffic Service on the basis that the turbine might interfere with their existing radar infrastructure. Hardly surprising that they should be concerned when we all know that Penistone is on one of the flight paths into Manchester Airport. It is to be hoped that the Planning Inspectorate also consider the safety of air travel to be of paramount importance.
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Turbines and House Prices
Recent research from the London School of Economics confirms what most people have long believed. That proximity to wind turbines reduces property prices. The impact varies with distance and the number of visible turbines but can be as much as -11% for houses 1.25 miles from a 20 turbine wind farm. Typically for smaller installations this varies between -5% and -6% with lesser reductions as the distance increases.
To read the full report entitled “Gone with the Wind” Click here…
Admittedly a lower impact than Sherman’s March to the Sea but still significant for anyone trying to sell.
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Â Yorkshire Greenspace Alliance
Not only in Penistone do people have serious concerns about the effects of over-development and erosion of the Green Belt. Now a new organisation has been founded by the Campaign to Protect Rural England and action groups in Kirklees, Wharfedale and Airedale. Called the Yorkshire Greenspace Alliance, this group believes “…that by sharing knowledge, expertise and resources; by creating an alliance with stronger visibility and voice at Community, District, Regional and National Level, we can more effectively protect and preserve Yorkshire’s green spaces.”
To view their website, Click here…
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Fall in Jobless
The number of people in Barnsley claiming Job-Seekers’ Allowance is at the lowest level in five years. In November there were 5,883 claimants which is a significant reduction from the high of just over 8,000 in February this year. Good news indeed for all those who have found jobs and encouraging confirmation that businesses in the area are growing. The numbers on incapacity benefit and employment support allowance has also fallen by about 2,500 from five years ago and are at their lowest since records began in 1999.
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Turbines & Sleep Disturbance
Wind turbine operators always play down the adverse effects of the noise produced by their machines on the health and well-being of people living in the vicinity. Now a recently published paper by Hume, Brink and Basner summarises the findings of a three year research project many of which have implications for people living in an area plagued by wind turbines.
To read the report in full Click here…
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There are around 3,400 empty homes in Barnsley so a new initiative by Barnsley Council should be welcome to owners of long-term empty properties. The Council has organised a fair as part of promoting National Empty Homes Week at the Metrodome’s Rigby Suite on Thursday, 28 November, from 7.30am to 7.30pm.
The annual cost of keeping a typical Council Tax Band ‘B’ property standing empty is around £1,400 so empty home owners are encouraged to attend this free drop-in event to find out how they can get help to bring their properties back onto the market. This includes financial assistance, loans and grants of up to £15,000, subject to eligibility criteria.
For further details. Click here…
A very welcome initiative. With so many empty homes we should be doing everything we can to restore existing properties rather than building on green field sites.
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4,400 More People in Full-time Employment
Between June 2012 and July 2013 the number of Barnsley people in full-time employment rose by 4,400 which is equivalent to 6.2%, more than either the regional or national averages. Barnsley is also bucking the trend when it comes to earnings growth with average earnings increasing by 4.7% over the same period compared to the regional average of 0.9% and 1.6% nationally. (Figures supplied by the Office of National Statistics and Enterprising Barnsley)
Some good news but no cause for complacency.
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Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment
This forms part of the process being undertaken by Barnsley MBC to formulate its Local Plan, formerly referred to as the Local Development Framework. It identifies many sites across the Penistone Area which could be allocated for housing developments at some time in the future. Some of us question the need for the scale of building proposed as well as having serious reservations about the capacity of the local infrastructure to accommodate extensive additional development. In many cases such developments would irreversibly alter the traditional character of the communities on which they were imposed.
There will be a further opportunity to comment on the Local Plan during 2014 but anyone wishing to make their views known about the SHLAA have until 1st November 2013.
For details visit the BMBC website. Click here…
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Planning Applications – Tankersley
Two planning applications have been submitted for large scale housing developments in the Tankersley Parish. One is for 41 executive houses on farmland between New Road and Lidget Lane. The other is for 35 dwellings between Pilley Green and Lidget Lane. Both these sites were included in the draft consultation document for the Local Development Framework, now called the Local Plan, but this has not yet been concluded. The applications are another example of developers jumping the gun and submitting applications while consultation with the public is still going on.
To view the application plans on the Council’s Planning Explorer – Click here…
Quote references 2013/1006 and 2013/1007
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Protect Sheephouse Heights
The group campaigning to protect Sheephouse Heights from wind farms has issued the following statement:-
Protect Sheephouse Heights held a public meeting on Thursday 5th September attended by over 40 participants. Speakers from PSH presented the background to the Sheephouse turbine application, detailing the failure of the developers to consult openly with members of the communities affected by the proposals. The analysis of filed documents by PSH Â had found a catalogue of errors and misleading information and these were highlighted.
Cllr. Robert BarnardÂ also addressed the meeting outlining his views as follows:
“This is the wrong development in the wrong place. In 2009 plans for a five turbine wind farm were rejected and the same grounds for refusal apply in this case. I believe this to be a â€˜salamiâ€™ application. If approval for one turbine were to be granted we could expect others to follow until the whole ridgeline became a wind farm”
A question and answer session then took place with some interesting comments raised, particularly regarding objections.
A spokesman for PSH commented
“Sheffield City Council Planning Board’s decision last Tuesday not to oppose the plans was Â a disappointing outcome,Â and we stronglyÂ believe that the whole process had been needlessly rushedÂ by ignoringÂ Â inputÂ from other bodies to make an informed choice.Â Nevertheless, there were many positives – Oxspring PC had confirmed their objection, Stocksbridge TC are expected to confirm their objection at their meetingÂ on September 11th and Bradfield PCÂ have yet to consider their position.Â If things go as weÂ expect them to,Â all Parish Councils and Town Councils being consultees on the proposed plans either haveÂ already Â or will object . WeÂ look forward to hearing the views of the Peak Park Planning Board and we hope that they will also lodge an objection.”
PSH continues to pursue every possible avenue in orderÂ to ensure that these plans are rejected, and are holding a display at Penistone Show on Saturday 14th September.
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A new initiative had been launched to help any young people in the Barnsley area who have a bright idea and wish to set up a business but need help to start.
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Â Jumping the Gun
Recent reports that a planning application is due to be submitted for a development of 165 houses in Penistone, even though the Local Development Framework proposals have not yet been ratified, is apparently not an isolated instance. Surveyors have been seen in Cawthorne, there are proposals for Barugh Green and now invitations have been sent out to a ‘Community Exhibition and Consultation’ regarding plans for 300 houses on land off the A61, the main Barnsley/Wakefield road, at Staincross. Is a pattern starting to emerge?
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An investigation by the National Audit Office has found that the roll-out of superfast broadband to rural areas is around two years behind schedule. The scheme is also expected to cost the tax-payer more than first thought. A public sector procurement exercise both behind schedule and over budget – now fancy that! Who mentioned Concorde and De Lorean?
Non of this is likely to offer any comfort to people living or trying to run business in rural communities especially as they are always being told they do not live in a deprived area. The eventual extension of the 4G network might offer some relief but only if the other problem of poor or non-existent mobile signal can first be overcome especially for places, like some in the Penistone area where the topography makes any line of sight transmission problematic.
For more on this story – Click here…
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Payday Loans – Update
The Payday loan industry is “out of control” according to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau. Loans have allegedly been given to people who were drunk, had mental health issues or were even under 18.
Irresponsible lending combined with irresponsible borrowing is leaving many people who can least afford it burdened with unsustainable debt repayments. Astronomically high interest rates mean that the total repayment is often many times higher than the amount originally borrowed. Take as an example a loan company which quotes an APR of 1,748% in the small print of its advertisements. A loan of Â£1,000 over three months would leave the borrower with three monthly payments of Â£1,562 so the final bill would be a staggering Â£4,686! Does anyone think this makes financial sense?
The total repayments on any loan are not difficult to calculate and this is made easier by the many online calculators and features in modern mobile telephones.
Just because borrowing is possible does not make it wise for individuals, businesses or even countries.
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One Less Blight…
Some residents will be aware of plans submitted last year to Kirklees Council for surface mineral extraction of 190,000 tonnes of coal and 40,000 tonnes of fireclay from land off Litherop Lane. This is situated close to the Parish of High Hoyland.
I had objected on the grounds that it would have been an inappropriate development in the Green Belt and would have had a detrimental impact on residents of High Hoyland due to noise, dust and increased traffic movements as well as possible contamination of the River Dearne and the water table with heavy metals and other noxious substances. Objections were also submitted by local residents and by Wakefield MDC citing a detrimental effect on Bretton Park.
I am please to report that the application was refused by Kirklees Council on 15th April. One less blight on the landscape and on the environment.
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Pay Day Loans
We will all have seen television advertisements from companies selling loans. Amusing scripts and ingenious marketing promote these financial products as a simple answer to a shortage of funds. The APR quoted in the small print, being usually several orders of magnitude higher than that charged by banks and credit card companies, means that the eventual repayment can be much more than the borrower expects especially if the term is extended.
The Office of Fair Trading has published a report of the investigation into the Pay Day Loan industry. Among it many criticisms the OFT says the “… fundamental problems with the operation of the payday market go beyond non-compliance with the law and regulations.”
The Government has also announced plans to clamp down on the practices of these companies. “The government will work closely with the Office of Fair Trading, Advertising Standards Agency, Committees of Advertising Practice, and industry to make sure advertising does not lure consumers into taking out payday loans that are not right for them. Said Jo Swinson MP, the Consumer Affairs Minister.
Regulation is all well and good but is no substitute for calculating the interest and deciding if such a loan is wise.
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Fuel Bills Too High?
Barnsley residents could save hundreds of pounds on their gas and electricity bills.
Thanks to a Government funded scheme Barnsley residents could save hundreds of pounds on their gas and electricity bills by joining together in our first collective energy switching scheme. The scheme is for all residents of the Borough – home owners as well as Council tenants and people in private rented accommodation.
The YORswitch Cheaper Energy Together scheme aims to gather the interest of Barnsley residents who want to pay less for their energy by switching energy tariffs and suppliers, without the usual hassle.
When many people group together, they can get energy companies to bid for the lowest price to win their custom. The scheme is being managed by Berneslai Homes on behalf of Barnsley Council. They are working with other Yorkshire areas to pool together as many residents as possible who want to find lower energy prices.
The offer is open to anyone with a residential gas or electric supply and the more people who register, the better chance of a great deal being secured for all.
Residents simply need to register their interest on the website or telephone number on the information leaflet.
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We have had a number of enquiries from residents about the services available to assist people sleeping rough. Traditionally this has been less of a problem in areas like Barnsley which have a relatively static population than in some of the big cities. However, the Council has taken steps to help people in that situation.
This gives details of the service provided by Street Link, (http://www.streetlink.org.uk/) and if you or anyone you know becomes aware of anyone sleeping rough, please refer them to Street Link.
Please also see the following for details of the Council’s Homeless Service.
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With the short days and long hours of darkness, crime in rural areas generally increases in the winter months. The Country Land and Business Association is advising farmers and rural landowners to review their security arrangements.
Theft of and from vehicles is an ongoing problem and owners are advised to remove keys and ensure outbuildings are properly secured. With many rural properties off the mains gas supply and the rising price of fuel, heating oil and diesel present particularly tempting targets. Please ensure your tanks are fitted with locks and check regularly to see if any is being siphoned off.
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Ash dieback, or Chalara Fraxinea is a fungal disease which affects ash trees. There are no confirmed outbreaks in this area at the time of writing but the Forestry Commission website provides information and a video to aid identification as well as giving details of how to report any suspected cases.
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Residents will be pleased to learn that there is some light at the end of the tunnel with regard to improved broadband speeds. Following media reports about the imminent launch of the 4G system we have been told by EE, (Everything Everywhere Ltd), that they intend to bring 4G to our community by the end of 2014.
EE has a Â£1.5 billion project to make the network 4G ready and will be installing new equipment on 28,000 mobile sites throughout the country. Â£3.6 million will be spent in Barnsley.
Obviously other providers will also be able to offer 4G and we wait to see if any of those will get here sooner.
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Council Tax Scam
Some residents report being called by individuals claiming that they can obtain refunds of Council Tax by securing a revaluation of the property into a lower band.
Council Tax banding is the responsibility of the Valuation Office Agency, part of HM Revenue & Customs, and not the Council. In fact the VOA itself warns against this kind of scam on its website here…
There are a few very limited circumstances in which banding could be challenged and anyone who thinks they might qualify should refer directly to the VOA. Remember that any revaluation could result in the band going up as well as down.
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Isle of Skye
The Penistone East ward might be the biggest in Barnsley but it does not extend as far as the Western Isles! This Isle of Skye is the former quarry site above the cricket field in Green Moor.
In 2006 the Isle of Skye was purchased by group residents;Â six long years and much hard work later, they have all been repaid and the area has become a public open space preserved for future generations. Formally opened by the Mayor of Barnsley on Sunday 17th June 2012.
The achievements of Hunshelf Parish Council and its residents have now been recognised by the Prime Minister who writes that “…the community of Green Moor are the very embodiment of our Big Society.”
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Several residents have contacted us with concerns surrounding the possible implications of the implementation of European Directive 2010/63/EU of the protection of animals used for scientific purposes.Â I haveÂ taken this up with the Home Office and the salient part of the response is copied below:-
“I note your concerns about the use of stray animals in scientific procedures.Â The Directive specifically prohibits the use of stray and feral animals in procedures.Â The possibility of exemption is extremely narrow and unlikely, and would have to be specifically and strongly justified.Â We cannot currently envisage such circumstances unless the proposed work was for the benefit of a feral population.Â Therefore the Directive effectively retains the current UK prohibition on the use of strays.”
Hopefully this will go some way towards reassuring people that lost pets will not end up inÂ a laboratory being used in some experiment. Although why we need interference from the EU in such matters is no clearer than why we need to continue with this practice at all.
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Flags & Bunting
Contrary to reports circulating on some social media sites, Barnsley MBC has not been removing or telling residents to remove flags and bunting being used as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. The truth is out there but not always in cyberspace!
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Tofts Lane Standby-Generators
Along with Hunshelf Parish Council, Cllr. Barnard has objected to the Planning Application submitted by Green Frog Power Ltd, for standby generators on the Tofts Lane sub-station. It isÂ a large industrial complex out of place in a rural locationÂ andÂ is anÂ unacceptable development in the Green BeltÂ especially when there are suitable former industrial sites in nearby Stocksbridge. There is also significant concern about noise having a deleterious effect on nearby residents as well as pollution of agricultural land surrounding the site.
Comments by the new Secretary of State for Energy have also been welcomed by local people. In an interview with the Sunday Times on 15th April 2012, The Rt. Hon. Greg Barker MP said “there will be no significant expansion in the number of turbines on land beyond those already in the pipeline.” Given that part of the justification for the proposed development is the need for more standby capacity as reliance on wind energy increases, then this would seem to have holed this application below the waterline. This confirms what Cllr. Barnard has long said, that reliance on wind power for electricity generation would result in duplication of capacity for when the wind does not blow or there is the wrong sort of wind.
Your local Conservative Councillors agree with the Secretary of State when he says:- “We inherited a policy from the last government which was unbalanced in favour of onshore wind….There have been some installations in insensitive or unsuitable locations â€” too close to houses, or in an area of outstanding natural beauty.â€
Since the licence application for the Shindig event at Silverwood Scout Camp was submitted, your Councillor Team have received numerous representations from residents concerned about potential noise nuisance, anti-social behaviour and road safety issues. The application will be considered by a Panel of the Regulatory Licencing Board on Wednesday 2nd May at 10:00am in the Central Library in Barnsley. All Ward Councillors have objected and Cllr. Barnard will be speaking to oppose the grant of a licence.
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Dust to Dust
Councillors are expected to carry out a variety of duties but that of theatre critic is one I had never expected to be asked to perform. Even less would I have expected to have been asked to do so by the BBC for Sunday Politics. Nevertheless that is how I came to be at the Civic Theatre to see â€œDustâ€ by the curiously named Quidem Productions. Quidem is latin for â€œcertainlyâ€ – they were certainly skilled at obtaining free advertising and on the BBC! But with a production like that they needed all the help they could get.
Given that the play is set in Arthur Scargillâ€™s luxury flat inÂ Londonâ€™s Barbican on the day of Margaret Thatcherâ€™s death I was expecting it to contain some obvious political message. Some of the expected rhetorical hyperbole was there in the portrayal of the former NUM leader surrounding his supposed project of writing a biography of Arthur Cook, another minersâ€™ union leader of whom few will have heard and about whom even fewer have any interest. Most of the dialogue was little more than bickering with his publisher until the unexpected arrival of a former associate. Queue more bickering with his visitor who was from the outset tired and emotional, a condition exacerbated by the liberal consumption of vodka.
What could be said about it? Well, it was a novel concept for a play which might have been inspired by Meryl Streepâ€™s recent portrayal of the Iron Lady. It was amusing in parts but unfortunately those parts were few and too far between. For the rest it swayed between aggression and sentimentality and only confused the audience by switching scenes between London and Doncaster where a different drama was being played out but on the same set.
No attempt was made to consider the wider aspects of Mr. Scargillâ€™s contribution to British industry or the underlying problems faced by the coal industry. Much has already been written on that subject and I doubt I can add anything new. Suffice it to say that state owned monopolies like the NCB did not prove a successful business model which is hardly surprising given the combination of weak and unimaginative management and obstructive union leadership.
After the interval it went off at another tangent and probably lost most of the audience along the way as the increasingly inebriated visitorâ€™s past relationship with the publisher was revealed although what this added to the narrative remains unclear. The only impression which remained of Mr. Scargill was that of a man increasingly irrelevant even in his own flat!
The world has moved on since Mr. Scargill was a regular performer on our televisions; his rhetoric now dated and his view of society consigned to the past.Â Barnsley has moved on as well. New industry has emerged in former mining villages and the growth of housing has turned many of them into a commuter beltÂ with peopleÂ working in Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield, Sheffield and even Manchester. More new industry is still needed and we can only hope that productions like this do not reinforce a false stereotype of the area which is not recognised by those of us who have always found it a desirable place in which to live.
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A628 Woodhead Road
There are surprising numbers of Penistone area residents who regularly use the A628 to commute to Manchester and the frequent closure of that road in recent months has been a considerable inconvenience to them as well as undermining local businesses.
Following complaints from residents Cllr. Barnard wrote to the Department for Transport and in reply Mike Penning MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary stated that the Department was aware of a perception that the road was closed too often and went on to say that they were reviewing the protocols regarding road closures in this area with particular reference to the A628.
Unfortunately there seems to have been a willingness to close the road to all vehicles in windy conditions when it might only have been necessary to close it to high sided vehicles such as HGVs with curtain sided trailers which are particularly susceptible to being blown over when empty.
For the sake of all road users we hope that a consistent and proportionate approach will be adopted in future.
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Since the Barnsley Chronicle reported last December that broadband speeds in the Pilley and Tankersley area were unlikely to see any improvement as no upgrades were planned for the Hoyland exchange, we have been contacted by residents thoughout the Penistone Wards complaining about their own service. It appears that in some villages downloads speeds of even less than 1Mbps are being experienced. In addition, we understand that some residents are suffering repeated loss of service – in some cases due to cabling faults and where this is known we are taking it up with the providers.
Can anything be done to improve the level of service? Possibly but it is not going to be simple. There are examples in other areas of community wi-fi schemes where service is provided to one or more villages by a powerful transmitter and residents are able to subscribe to that service rather than use a land-line. Download speeds of 6 to 8Mbps are reported which is significantly better than in some parts of the Penistone area. Some residents, particularly those in older houses with thick stone walls might need to install an external aerial.
We are currently investigating this type of scheme but it would need to be both technically feasable and commercially viable before any further progress could be made. If anyone has first hand knowledge or expertise we would be pleased to hear from them.
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Rising Fuel Prices
The increasing cost of fuel is a problem for everyone but especially for people who live in rural areas where homes are often larger and older than those in towns and cities. Some do not have access to mains gas and must rely on expensive heating oil.
Have you ever thought about setting up an Oil-Buying Cooperative? This is where a group of residents band together to obtain the benefits of bulk buying. Already operating in some areas, most notably in North Yorkshire, these are proving very successful with indicative savings in the region of 10-12%.