Tuesday 26 March 2019

A new 'Garden Town' north of Stafford.

A new 'garden town' has been announced: "Meecebrook, in the north of Stafford borough - about 10,000 homes".

What's a 'garden town', then? Sometimes also called an 'eco-town'. It's all rather nebulous, but the best I can figure is this.

Properly planned, from the ground up, to:

* fit naturally into the existing natural environment.
* add enhancements to the existing natural environment.

* learns all the lessons from the past British 'garden cities' and new settlements such as Bournville, Poundbury etc.
* designed for the real British weather, not some architect's 'flat-roof and pastel stucco' blue-skies modernist/postmodernist Mediterranean fantasyland.

* high-quality housing, with an eye for beauty and design.
* homes that don't all look the same.
* proper shops with proper frontages.
* use of local / natural building materials.
* meaningful public art.
* widely employs craft-based apprentices during the building.

* cars discouraged.
* locally accessible jobs, via cycling and walking.
* 'work from home' over superfast Internet.
* local supply of the workers needed to manage the abundant gardens, parks, open spaces.

* allotments.
* community centres, local shops and doctors.
* good local schools and home-schooling facilities.
* community networks, autonomous groups, has a volunteering culture.
* robust ongoing control of noise, dogs, litter and other annoyances.

* community ownership of the land.
* the town is locally led, once up and running.
* ongoing control of ugliness and tackiness re: shop fronts, hoardings, signage.

* wider green belt protection.
* local heritage assets protection in the surrounding district.

In terms of local materials, it would be great to see extensive use of hard-wearing tiles and other ceramics from Stoke-on-Trent.

Tuesday 19 March 2019

Leaf it out! - leaf blower bans

Bans on leaf blowers are coming into force in places across the USA, as America nudges out of a deep winter and toward another summer. Most notably bans in many parts of California and across Washington.

Let's hope this spreads, and to the UK. I'm usually not one for having the state ban things, but anything that reduces the growing amounts of annoying noise in a suburban summer must be good. Such blowers and strimmers are also old, usually highly inefficient two-stroke petrol engine technology, and are unhealthy in all sorts of ways for those using them. Not least in terms of hearing damage. Many blowers and strimmers are said to get up to 80-100 decibels.

I can't imagine that the local sensitive-eared pet population or wildlife finds them a welcome addition to the landscape, either.

Some places are going even further and banning all noisy landscaping and cutting tools in summer, expecting contractors and gardeners to switch to battery-power or hand-tools or a mix of both. Should Stoke follow their lead?

Thursday 14 March 2019

All aboard!

Nice one. Stoke-on-Trent wins £5.6m for train station improvements – and there's a bid for another £50m.

How local MPs voted, to stop a 'No Deal' Brexit

Last night's votes in Parliament, by local MPs:

* MPs who voted to stop a 'No Deal' Brexit were:

Ruth Smeeth (Labour, Stoke-on-Trent North).
Gareth Snell (Labour, Stoke-on-Trent Central).
Paul Farrelly (Labour, Newcastle-under-Lyme).
Laura Smith (Labour, Crewe and Nantwich).

* MPs who voted to allow a 'No Deal' Brexit were:

Jack Brereton (Conservative, Stoke-on-Trent South).
Karen Bradley (Conservative, Staffordshire Moorlands).
William Cash (Conservative, Stone) (aka Bill Cash).
Fiona Bruce (Conservative, Congleton).