It’s been a dramatic week for Longton town centre with two buildings falling into disrepair to the extent that one (in Uttoxeter Rd) started to collapse and one (in Market St) need to be demolished. The subsequent road closures are of great concern to businesses in the town, who fear their trade will be significantly affected. I am been assured by officers that Market St will reopen fully early next week with the rest of the network already back in action.
Dereliction in Longton East has been a problem for many years. None of the problem buildings are in public ownership, but while the council lack the resource to CPO and bulldoze the worst of them, we need to ensure we exercise our regulatory powers to full effect and pursue the land owners to pull their finger out. I’m trying to put together a database of all problem buildings in Broadway and Longton East, and using that I’ll ask officers to do everything they can to avoid the situation in Market St and Uttoxeter Rd repeating itself. You can report a building on the new ‘Report It’ page on this site.
In the heat of the moment of these incidents I have received some very angry representations from traders. Ever since I’ve been a councillor the most fiery representations have always come from the owners of small businesses, and that’s no surprise as livelihoods are at stake. Usually the council is the bogeyman, apparently letting Longton become the downtrodden cousin of the six towns. I have to challenge the hyperbole.
- There has been a huge investment CoRE, regenerating an extremely run down part
of the town and creating a training and research facility which puts us at the cutting edge of a growing industry
- The council has been involved in the promotion of Longton Avia, a golden opportunity for engineering jobs in the town
- There is a heritage scheme which is looking to bring some of the buildings with significant heritage value back to life
- We’ve seen the delivery of the Phoenix Park, soon to have full occupancy
I hold my hands up that the council could do more to achieve some quick wins in terms of sprucing up the town. I’ll also admit that I’ve not concentrated on this the issues of dire dereliction as much as I should have as the ward councillor. I will work with traders to address these issues with expediency. In line with my earlier blog, I want to see Town Centre Management, run by a trader’s cooperative.
With that I’ll also say things as they see them, however unpopular. For instance, the authority is right in its prioritisation of Hanley as the commercial hub for the whole of North Staffordshire. Neither is the council the only organisation to blame for the current problems in our town. I never hear complaints criticise the absentee landlords whose blase approach to their properties is the main cause of dereliction; nor at idiots that chuck rubbish about with the expectation that the council will clear up after them; nor at the Westminster government for reducing the city budget by 30%; nor the Chancellor for their insistence on plan A which is like a millstone around the ankles of our economy; nor the chain stores in Longton that offshore income to tax havens to dodge paying the cash to the treasury that could make all the difference to cities like ours.
Blame shouldn’t relentlessly be concentrated on the local authority. Neither, should the responsibility for correcting the mistakes of unscrupulous landowners. Traders and council tax payers should expect the council to act fully within its powers and financial means – that is what I’ll aim to ensure.
With that rant over, on to something positive. The Olympic Games. I have been mesmerized by the Games and after being a bit of a cynic over the past seven years have completely bought into their ability to inspire. Watching sports I have never really seen before I have been excited and elated. I’ve never so frequently had shivers running up and down my spine. Judging by conversations with colleagues and friends I am by no means alone. A special congratulations to local Anna Watkins (from Leek) who won Gold earlier today in the women’s double sculls alongside Katherine Grainger.