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Archive for September, 2013

Searching for the Owners of Empty Homes

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Across the borough there are approximately 800 privately owned empty properties.  There are many reasons that lead to properties remaining empty – we know that in many cases the owner is trying to sell the property but market conditions make this difficult.  We also know that people may have inherited a property that is in poor condition and are unsure about what to do with it, or they may need access to finance to undertake the necessary repairs that would enable them to bring the property back into use.

The Council has joined a Greater Manchester campaign called “Empty to Plenty”.  The campaign aims to bring 1,500 empty properties across the region back into use by 2015 and in doing so reduce the negative impact that these properties can have on communities.

In Tameside, we are working on several initiatives to bring revive empty properties with two of our Housing Association partners, New Charter Homes and Ashton Pioneer Homes.

New Charter Homes are looking to purchase and repair empty homes in order to bring them back into use.  Ashton Pioneer Homes are looking to act as a managing agent for owners – if the home is in need of repair and the owner does not want to sell, then it may be possible to lease the property from the owner for an agreed period of time, make the necessary repairs and provide the owner with a good quality management service and a regular income.

I really hope these schemes are successful because empty homes represent a significant waste of accommodation and resources that if addressed could be used to help meet the housing needs of many local families in the borough.

To find out more about returning an empty property back into use visit www.tameside.gov.uk/emptytoplenty.

Dot com Droylsden

Friday, September 27th, 2013

I’ve witnessed many positive changes to Droylsden in the near 20 years I have represented the town as one of its six councillors. From the multi-million pound marina development, the creation of the new shopping centre behind the Concord Suite and the arrival of Metrolink to the brand new sporting developments at Medlock and Droylsden Youth Centre in Lewis Road – all have contributed to its impressive current look and feel.

Droylsden’s newly established Town Team has now developed a website to help promote the high street and create a new buzz around the town. Packed with useful information the website provides easily accessible details about the shopping offer, community life and events in and around town.

It’s easy to navigate your way around and has dedicated tabs across the top of the page titled About Droylsden, Directories, What’s On and Latest News & Offers to help visitors find what they’re looking for.

Unsurprisingly About Droylsden contains information on the town’s history, parking availability, public transport services and the Town Team, while Directories lists shopping, services, attractions and food and drink as well as community &charity and health and wellbeing facilities around town.

The site also contains What’s On and latest New and Offers sections, packed with useful dates and information on what’s happening in and around Droylsden.

For me though, the most exciting tool on the website is the suggestions tool, giving Droylsden’s community the opportunity to comment on the site’s content and what we can do to improve it.

I would urge all those interested to have a look and give us some feedback on how useful they have found the site and how they think it can be improved.

You can visit the website at www.droylsden.com

Vision is clear to see!

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

One thing Tameside Council is renowned for is the speed with which it reacts to changes in Government policy. One such national initiative came on the back of the Mary Portas report into the death of the high street shop. She claimed a flourishing and vibrant retail industry was critical if a town was to prosper in the current economic climate.

The development of the borough’s Town Teams was our reaction to the Mary Portas report and I see their introduction as a major benefit for the towns they service. Each town has its own Team who are charged with developing ideas for their dedicated area’s continued success.

Droylsden’s Town Team responded by launching a new vision for the town at an event outside the Concord Suite recently. Called the Droylsden Town Centre Vision, the 50 page report which outlines a number of key projects that will help the town centre unlock its potential as a go-to destination, was released for consultation.

The report comes at an exciting time for the town with the new Metrolink connection (soon to be extended to Ashton) becoming increasingly popular and the Droylsden Marina development re-starting and carrying on at a pace.

The Town Team, which I chair, initially looked at the town’s current position before earmarking what could be done to improve the centre even more.

The launch was the first time Droylsden locals got to see the plans where they were able to inspect display boards on the Vision and give their views.

The Vision also highlights the need to maximise the economic benefits Metrolink brings to the town as well as the need to enhance the town’s impressive canal network; tackle traffic congestion at peak times; investigate re-opening Droylsden rail station and the need to diversify its employment base and improve skills levels.

It is important that as many Droylsden residents and businesses as possible make their views known. It is after all their town so anything we do will directly affect their quality of life.

These are exciting times for Droylsden, so I would urge as many people as possible to go onto the Team’s official website at droylsden.com to get involved and make their views known.

Looking to the future with confidence

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

It’s incredible to think that a year has passed since the death of PCs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes.  The passage of 12 months has done nothing to dull the horror we feel at the cowardly murder of two young police officers who were “just doing their job”.

The story has been told too many times to need repeating here.  However, since last September, the courts have done their work.  Several criminals have been jailed and the man who killed the two officers knows he will never leave prison.  So I believe it’s essential we remember that the tragic events of 2012 were in no way representative of Hattersley, Droylsden or Tameside as a whole.

While we must never forget Nicola and Fiona, or the risks their colleagues face each day as they serve the public, I feel that we can now face the future with greater confidence.  A lot of work has been done to make sure such tragic events never happen again.

In Droylsden, for example, a very effective pubwatch scheme has been put in place so that criminals can no longer terrorise licensees and their families.  In Hattersley – a district where people have always looked out for each other – the community is even more vibrant. Regeneration has continued with the opening of The Hub on Stockport Road.

I often talk about the Tameside way, and in Tameside we refuse to allow criminals to affect our way of life.  The bonds that hold us together are strong no matter which one of the towns or villages we come from.  We value these bonds and will never allow anyone to loosen them.  We look after our own.

Hattersley, Droylsden and Tameside are strong communities which have become stronger. When you think about it, isn’t that the best memorial to Nicola and Fiona?

Helping people to stay warm and save money

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

It’s that time of year again where the chilly mornings and evenings make you consider turning your heating back on. However, rising energy prices continue to be a serious concern for many people.

The Council is keen to do everything possible to help residents stay warm while also reducing their fuel bills. As part of the Toasty Tameside scheme, part of a wider Greater Manchester initiative, homes across the borough are being targeted for both free and part-funded energy-saving measures – which now also include boiler replacement.

Tameside Council is running the campaign with partners ScottishPower and Dyson Energy Services to help deliver the Government’s Energy Companies Obligation. Some homes in more deprived areas of the borough will automatically qualify for free energy efficiency improvements, as will some low income households. Even people who don’t think their property is eligible are encouraged to double check as they may find out it does.

You can visit www.getmetoasty.com for more information, or call the Greater Manchester Energy Advice Service between 9am-5pm Monday to Friday on free-phone 0800 009 3363.
With the onset of autumn there’s no time like the present to find out if you qualify for help to start saving money on your bills this winter and beyond.

Tameside's hidden gems

Friday, September 6th, 2013

It might be because of the Industrial Revolution and the many factories, mills and workshops that it spawned, but I’ve always felt we have a tendency to ignore our architectural treasures in Tameside – and believe me, they are there.

In Droylsden, the town I’m proud to represent, we have the Fairfield Moravian Settlement which is known across the country as a place of historical significance. However, there are lots of other sites across Tameside which could rightly be described as hidden gems.

That’s why I always look forward to Heritage Weekend every September. It highlights our notable buildings and gives people a chance to see what lies behind walls they may walk past time after time.

Take Ashton Parish Church – properly called St Michael and All Angels. Thousands of people must see it every day as they drive along the bypass yet never give it a thought. In fact, it is one of only two grade-one listed buildings in Tameside. It dates back to the 15th century and has some magnificent medieval stained glass.

Our other grade-one building, Mottram Parish Church – also called St Michael’s ¬– has an equally interesting history. For Heritage Weekend it will be exhibiting the Chester Diocesan Millennium wall hanging which was made to mark the arrival of the 21st century.

As well as churches you could take a guided tour of the old Mossley Town Hall, visit Newton Hall, Hyde, or visit the Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre on Cotton Street, Ashton.

There is so much to do across the borough over Heritage Weekend. I would encourage you to visit at least one building. You’ll see Tameside from a completely new perspective.

You can find full details here www.heritageopendays.org.uk

I can see both sides

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

On September 1 the Government brought in new regulations which prevent parents taking their children on holiday during term time.

Head teachers have no say in the matter. The Department for Education has told them that authorised absence can only be given in exceptional circumstances and holidays do not qualify. As an authority we have to expect all schools in the borough to introduce stringent measures. Anyone taking away their children in term time is liable to a fine.

For my part, I can see both sides of the argument. As the father of two sons, I fully understand why parents would want to take a break at some time other than August or Easter. Prices increase at those times, often putting package deals out of the reach of families who are already struggling to make ends meet. Term-time holidays are so much cheaper.

Here in Tameside we have worked hard with our schools and parents to support them and reduce absences. We have enjoyed considerable success which has been reflected in our improving GCSE results.

Holiday companies could do a lot more to help the situation. The Government must be prepared to put pressure on them to make their pricing more competitive and family-friendly.

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