[BroxtoweInfo] Police plans/HS2 and Toton/Beeston Square/European referendum?
Interesting developments in the south of the borough:
It appears that we are about to get an announcement that HS2 will run to Toton Sidings.
The Beeston Square development plans are out.
I’ll say something about each of these, and then have a look at Mr Cameron’s European speech. First a note from the Bramcote community website, where they’ve reported newly-elected Police Commissioner Paddy Tipping seeking input on his proposed policing plans. To see his proposals and find a link for feedback, see
1. HS2 and Toton
The Telegraph reports:
“Detailed proposals, set to be announced shortly, for the so-called Y-route north of Birmingham will see one line run to Manchester and the other branch to the centre of Leeds.
Under the latest plans, the line will split at Water Orton east of Birmingham, with the eastern branch heading towards the major conurbations of Derby and Nottingham, which will be served by a parkway station at Toton Sidings.”
Note, before we all get wildly excited (positively or otherwise), that the line to Birmingham is expected in 2026 and the potential extension in 2032, so we’re talking about things happening in our area in maybe 15 years (and that’s if there are no delays whatever). All the same, the council will be consulted and will need to take a view.
Now there has been an all-party consensus to want Toton Sidings revived, and in principle there are very obvious advantages if this happens:
Very rapid links to London, Birmingham and Leeds
Lots more local jobs
Lots of money coming into the area for construction and operation, i.e. more contracts for local businesses
It could also increase house values in the area, which may or may not be a good thing (depending on whether you already have a house or would like to buy one), since it will become easier to commute to jobs in other places while taking advantages of lower prices in our area.
Early reactions have also included unease and distress, for similarly obvious reasons:
The development of the site seems certain to have a major environmental impact on both the trees and the wildlife by the Sidings – and potentially further away too, depending on the detailed proposals. I don’t see how it can be done without overriding Green Belt protection.
Construction is bound to involve disruption, noise, traffic issues everything we’re familiar with from the tram.
Once it’s running, how are all the eager commuters going to get there without overloading the roads?
There is a lot of opposition in other areas to the project, partly on cost grounds (summarised as “I thought we were supposed to be reducing the deficit?”) and partly because of communities fearing the sort of disruption mentioned above. That said, it’s probably less controversial to have an existing rail sidings revived rather than putting a railway where none existed, so I wouldn’t expect to see the local council opposing it in principle, and anyway the Government is clearly set on doing it anyway, reaffirmed in the Cameron/Clegg presentation this week. I’d urge everyone to await the details before we really take up views.
2. The Beeston Square proposals
The proposals from Henry Boot, the square developers, were presented at a public showing last week, though it wasn’t especially well advertised. It’s pithily reported by the local Beestonia blogger here:
and the plans themselves can be found here:
Beestonia is exceptionally critical, but it’s fair to say that the general response so far has been disappointment: as it stands, there doesn’t seem very much to look forward to.
Who actually decides? Well, the proposed redevelopment will need Council planning permission, and if the council doesn’t think it will improve the town they can attempt to get changes. It’s not in anyone’s power to force, say, Marks and Spencer to come if they don’t want to, and the economic climate is obviously unhelpful. But depending on the design, we can make it more or less likely. And unlike HS2 this is a near-term project, planned to finish next autumn, though I notice that it says that planning should be complete by, ahem, last September, so it’s already late and presumably the real completion date is more likely to be 2014.
3. Europe and referendums
I gather that Mr Cameron is preparing finally to give his speech on Europe, after numerous postponements which he compares with tantric (tantalisingly slow-motion) sex. (It’s probably true to say that few relationships would survive a tantric period of several months: there comes a point where you roll your eyes and go and make a cup of tea.) To be serious, though, the outlines are fairly clear: he will say that the current rethinking of the Euro zone gives a chance for Britain to negotiate some changes, and he will put the resulting package to a referendum. This isn’t new all parties are committed to a referendum if there is major treaty change.
The controversial bit is what happens if we vote no. As Mr Cameron is against withdrawal, what he seems to have in mind is something like the Irish model, where after a “no” the Irish asked for some reassurances and then voted again. At worst, the new treaty would simply fail and we’d be back with the EU status quo. I don’t think he is going to offer an option to vote for a withdrawal for the foreseeable future.
Personally, I don’t favour withdrawal either, but I think politicians who feel that should put the case more actively, rather than just relying on inertia. The thing is that we really have four options:
a) Become more closely integrated with Europe, joining the bulk of EU countries forming the hypothetical “core” group.
b) Remain broadly as we are now, in the EU but outside the more integrated part.
c) Withdraw and join the European Economic Area, which has countries like Norway who have chosen not to join but want to be part of the free trade area.
d) Withdraw and don’t join the EEA.
All of these have snags.
a) is simply very out of tune with public opinion. It’s possible that this might change in the future if the “core” became obviously more successful than us (there are some signs that this may be happening since they seem to be recovering from recession faster than we are), but it’s not a realistic option now.
b) is the status quo, which a lot of people are unhappy with, since they see it as a loss of sovereignty and a source of uncontrolled immigration.
c) would subject us to EU rules without any veto. The EEA is committed to adopting EU policies, but they don’t get a say in what they are. The obvious example is immigration: EEA countries have to adopt free movement of labour throughout Europe, exactly as though they were EU countries, but they have no say in whether, for instance, Turkey should join.
d) would mean we lose tariff-free access to virtually the entire continent where we live. In this situation, we’d expect a major exodus of large companies from Britain, if they are here as a base for European operations. In theory we might compensate by a lively trade with countries like Brazil and Australia, but the reason why all the major parties oppose withdrawal is that they think the economic impact would be disastrous. That’s also the view of both the CBI and the main trade unions.
However, I read the press in several languages, and something the British press hasn’t really picked up on is that the whole idea of a new treaty has lost momentum in Europe anyway. They feel that they’ve got on top of their crisis without it, and the sheer difficulty of getting a new treaty through 26 countries is daunting. So the premise of Mr Cameron’s speech, that there is about to be a major treaty debate which we can manipulate to our advantage, is probably mistaken.
I’d also argue that we are too negative about EU cooperation. In principle it’s obviously a good idea to work together to solve common problems, and easier for 26 countries to do that with common institutions than by all 26 countries negotiating bilaterally with each other (which would be over 500 separate negotiations). The free movement of labour cuts both ways: it’s brought many people from Poland to Britain often with positive effects but it’s also given our young people easy access to travel and experience other working environments. In today’s world that’s crucial, and we shouldn’t rush to prevent it, any more than we stop people from Nottingham moving to London or Edinburgh to widen their choices and experience.
The case for withdrawal is based on the idea that we can get the free trade of the EEA without the bits that we may not like. But that’s not an option on offer. Option c) doesn’t make sense – we would simply be giving up the right to influence the rules that we still have to follow. If we withdrew, it’d need to be all the way out.
In summary, I don’t think we’re going to be offered and in/out referendum, but if we were I’d vote to stay in. We should work to make the EU more transparent and accountable, but try constructive cooperation instead of being the eternal grouch at the table. We might like to live in South America, but as we’re here in Europe we should cooperate to make it work better, for all of us.
I know some of you won’t agree with this but honest debate is always best. Feedback welcome!