RESIDENTS TOLD: "MAKE A NUISANCE OF YOURSELF IF YOU WANT A BYPASS"
A Cheshire East councillor addressed a packed church hall in support of a Middlewich bypass and told them to “make a nuisance” of themselves if they wanted to ensure that a bypass remained high on the council’s agenda. Labour’s spokesperson for Highways Nick Mannion said, “Write, email, sign the petition. Talk to the people at the top. Make sure everyone knows what you think.”
Cllr Mannion, who is a member of the Environment Scrutiny Committee, told attendees at the latest Middlewich Matters residents meeting that councillors are only too willing to help, but they need residents to do their bit too.
“Our committee scrutinises and challenges council decisions, but we don’t know what we don’t know. The best questions are not written by us, they are written for us by residents; you are the real experts. Give us the bullets to fire, it works.”
He went on to say, “Our committee meetings are all public – anyone can attend, anyone can ask a question. Come along, ask about the bypass. If we can answer it we will, if we need to come back to you we will.”
The Middlewich Matters meeting, organised by Middlewich Labour councillors and held at Middlewich Methodist Church, Booth Lane on the 6th April, also allowed residents to speak about two local campaigns which have recently been launched: the Bypass First petition, calling for Cheshire East to refuse any new developments in Middlewich until a bypass is complete, and “Stuck In A Jam,” which encourages residents to contact Cheshire East and tell them why a bypass is important.
Jonathan Parry, who has launched the Bypass First petition said, “A petition similar to this was launched last year, and even though it gained the required number of signatures it was eventually binned by Cheshire East when they changed the rules on us. We have no choice but to start again. It’s vital everyone signs this and gets their friends and family to sign it too. Anyone in Cheshire East can sign this petition, not just Middlewich residents.” The petition so far has approximately 1000 of the 3000 signatures required to force CEC to debate it.
Gareth Williams, who has launched the Stuck In A Jam campaign explained, “This is about spreading the word inside and outside of Middlewich. We know that, at any one time, the majority of people stuck in a jam in Middlewich are probably not residents here, they are passing through, trying to get to the motorway, or neighbouring towns like Sandbach. Our “Stuck in a Jam?” posters are going up in the windows of houses, shops and cars – anywhere they might get seen by motorists. It encourages people to go to the web site www.middlewichmatters.co.uk so they can, firstly, sign the petition, and secondly contact Cheshire East councillors with their personal thoughts on why a bypass is needed, and describe the effect on them personally from not having one.”
A resident at the meeting asked, “If this has been going on for thirty years and we still don’t have a bypass, what are the chances of it happening now?” Gareth Williams replied, “The people of Middlewich have been amazingly patient over the years – probably too patient. You can understand it when, certainly in the last ten years they’ve been told not to worry, it’s on its way. But in the last year or so residents have become much more vocal, and suddenly it’s possible to detect a sea change in the discussions at Cheshire East. But we have to keep up the pressure. If we relax, so will they, and we can’t let that happen.”
It was confirmed in the meeting that the bypass is currently being discussed by Cheshire East, and new planning permission will probably be sought once the current permission expires in June, with a view to work beginning in 2017. However, it was pointed out by one resident that the current Cheshire East budget runs until 2020 and there is no mention of a bypass in that budget.
Middlewich Matters meeting chairman Cllr David Williams agreed and added, “The fact that our MP recently begged the government for £30m tells us that the £19.5m previously set aside for this project has now gone. I think you would call that,” he concluded, “the price of dither and delay.”
If you would like to sign the petition, read more about the history of the battle for the bypass, or find out how to keep up the pressure on Cheshire East, visit www.middlewichmatters.co.uk