Friday, 30 March 2012

Frodsham's bid for Mary Portas Status

Well its been hard work. Today we submitted Frodsham's bid to the Department of Communities and Local Government for Mary Portas pilot status. We think our bid is ground breaking and innovative.

Central to our bid is our proposal to establish a charitable social enterprise company called the Frodsham Foundation. All of us in Frodsham will have an interest in the company. The company will promote and support our town, our businesses and our community groups.

We see our soon to be appointed Town Champion being its Chief Executive and the trustees or board of directors being drawn from businesses, local government, residents and community groups. We're hoping it will become a sustainable enterprise within 2 years and perhaps even take over the delivery of local government services. The company will be entrepreneurial - but will reinvest its earnings in out town.

I bet you won't believe just how long it has taken to fill out the application form, prepare the suporting video, deal with the close on 1,000 emails that this process has spawned. And that's ever before we think about setting up the new website and the new Frodsham TV you tube channel.

Make sure you check out our video - it is absolutely incredible - but don't take my word for it go and find Frodsham TV on You Tube - or search for Frodsham Portas - you'll soon find it. The detail of the bid is on the foundation's website.

I have to say a great big thank you to everyone involved in putting the bid together. There have been loads of people involved with many meetings and discussions. There were 3 of us in the core team who put the bid together and we have worked exceptionally long hours - and wonderfully still kept our sanity, sense of humour and marriages.

 As things worked out we had our best ideas after midnight - that's when the scale and scope of what the Foundation could do really took hold. Its also when we agreed to ditch the staid and boring video that we'd put together in favour of our incredible version. I hope you enjoy it!

Monday, 26 March 2012

Youth Speaks - Regional Final

The Frodsham & Helsby Rotary Club hosted the Regional Final of Youth Speaks on Sunday.  In the morning 8 school based teams (aged over 14) competed and in the afternoon we had 8 under 14s teams.  The teams had to show their skills in public speaking.

The teams of three had to have a Chairman, a Speaker and someone to propose a vote of thanks.  The speaker also had to field a question - some of which were distinctly difficult to understand - let alone answer!  The speakers are marked on their content and presentation and can lose marks if they go under or over-time.  I do wish our politicians would note that!

The standard was breath-takingly high - and if anything it was the younger teams that stole the show.  I suppose the under 14s are yet to learn what fear is.  However you couldn't tell a difference in age when it came to the quality of the arguments or the use of vocabulary - the only clue you got was that the competitors were slightly smaller!

It was very heartwarming to see the evident enthusiasm of the competitors and how many of them are already knocking on the door of careers where public speaking will be a key ingredient.

Now Sunday was a particularly difficult day - the clocks went forward and many of us were starved of that extra hour in bed.  In fact one Rotarian forgot to set his alarm appropriately - and it meant I had to step in a short notice to introduce the event.  Some of the competitors had to travel from the Lake District - so for them it would have been a particularly early start.

Now the absent Rotarian gave me the chance to tell an anecdote. 

Telling the time - and not being marked on
public speaking ability - Cllr Andrew Dawson
As a youngster I was a Cathedral Chorister.  The Sunday morning when the clocks went forward was always brutal to a young body.  Your body knew what time it was even if the adults didn't.  What was this nonesense of loosing an hour of sleep.  In protest of the switch to BST I refused to move my watch from GMT.  I started this act of personal defiance at Primary School - it lasted until I got married.  You could imagine my parents angst when it came to exam time - how could I be so stupid to leave my watch on GMT!

Do you know I never, ever got confused - and in fact revelled in my personal defiance of convention.

But then marriage comes along ... and it took my wife to insist that I drop this habit - she was the one getting confused!  One of the teams spoke about whether the modern British Woman is truly liberated.  On occasion it is the man that needs liberation.  You don't have to look too hard to see the thumb prints!

It was another wonderful occasion in Frodsham.  I was also somewhat shameless when it came to promoting our cultural side and the town's bid for Portas Pilot status.  I got the morning crowd to exclaim 'We love Frodsham' whilst recording it on video camera.  With so many wonderful speakers in the audience they were absolutely word perfect - and we did it in one take!

Anyway enough of this waffle - you want to know the winners ...
Tower College St Helens,
Mark Anthony Taylor, Charlotte Rozenbroek-Nelson and Victoria Nicole Looby
In the Senior team event the winners were Tower College St Helens who will go on to compete at the National Final on 28 April in Wrexham.

The best Chairman was Lizzie Whitehead from Dallam School near Kendal;
The best individual speaker was Molly-Ann Jones from Llanfyllin High School Welshpool; and the best proposer of the vote of thanks was Will Bishop from Sir John Deane's College Northwich.

In the Intermediate event the winners were Southlands High School & Techical College - they too are off to Wrexham.

Southlands High School & Technical College:
Bethany Collier, Olivia Latham, Charlotte Tuddenham

Individually -
The best Chairman was Kayleigh Ball from Biddulph High School;
The best Speaker was Rosa Handscomb from Bowland High School in Ribblesdale; and the best proposer of the vote of thanks was Jennie Roberts from St Brigid's School Denbigh.

So some more photos of the event - kindly taken by Ian Tickle.

Bowland High School:
Rosa Handscomb, Niall Doherty, Romilly Sherrington

St Bridgid's Schoo, Denbigh: Jennie Roerts
Dallam School: Jessica Horton
Falinge Park High School: Zainab Kauser

Friday, 23 March 2012

Out with the Chain Gang

I had a fantastic day yesterday.  It was the Lord Mayor of Chester's day out.  Cllr Johnson had invited the Mayors of the surrounding towns and cities to be with her as she visited Quinn Glass, Ness Gardens and Chester Zoo.  

The Quinn Glass ultra-modern glass bottle making and filling plant was fascinating.  We saw almost molten hot glass bottles emerging from the furnace as streaks of fire through to their cooling and checking and ultimately their filling.  The company is anxious to play a leading role in the life of the communities that surround it.  I had a chance to speak with Chris Spray who runs the site - and I have asked him to support Frodsham's bid to be a 'Portas Pilot Town.'

At Ness Gardens we were treated to a sustainable and delicious lunch of locally produced food - followed by a  tour of the gardens.  I was surprised to be told that these botanical gardens are amongst the driest in the country.

Then on to Chester Zoo where we had a guided tour.  The zoo is always a fascinating place to visit.  I was very struck by the way in which some of the animals interacted with the visitors.  I am sure some of them thought we were the ones paraded for their curiosity!

Quinn Glass
Ness Gardens

Frodsham meets Northwich, Halton, West Lancs ...

Tiger, tiger

I was very much amused to be invited to park the Frodsham Mayoral car alongside the other civic limos and couldn't resist the photo opportunity!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Smooth running - and breaking a few eggs on the way!

Strange things have been happening in Frodsham both this year, and indeed last year... and I've been noticing that these strange happenings have been taking place around the Borough ... our roads are being improved.  In fact I cannot remember a time when so many road works have been taking place around us... and I don't just mean a utility company digging up a road - I mean resurfacing and other improvements.

I'm sure I won't get the full list right but we've had; Howey Lane, Church Road, Fluin Lane all

We've had a new zebra crossing put in on Vicarage Lane and the one at Kingsley Road/Bradley Lane improved.  We've had new led lights installed at the crossing on the A56 by Bridgewater Close.  And of course we've seen the T junction at Hapsford resurfaced too.

At the moment the centre of Frodsham is enduring some congestion with highway works around the Bear's Paw traffic lights.  These works are taking some time to complete - and on Sunday Church Street was closed.  This did cause some congestion with vehicles diverted on to other roads.

Now it has to be said that a couple (and I mean litterally a couple) of people have been moaning to me about the disruption.   None of us like the disruption - but then you can't carry out repairs and improvements with cars and lorries running over the roads either.  You can't make an omelete without breaking eggs!

As long as the works are being carried out efficiently I think the disruption is worth it.

On a personal level I am very grateful for the improvements made along Fluin Lane last year.  No longer am I woken in the small hours with an HGV clanging and banging down my road as its suspension fails fully to cope with a rutted surface.  I wouldn't have been the only one disturbed either.

The funny thing is - having lived in Frodsham for 20 years I don't recall a time when there has been so much work on maintaining our infrastructure.  I'm glad its happening even though, like most people I'll be glad when the road works go elsewhere!

There is a reason why CWaC received an award last year from a cycling organisation - recognising the excellent efforts made by the Council in improving the road network and dealing with pot holes.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Frodsham Music & Arts Club

I was honoured and delighted to be a guest of Anthony Barker and the Frodsham Music and Arts Club tonight at the Community Centre.  The club along with Eva Warren presented a musical evening where all the performers were young musicians.   The 12 youngsters (whose average age was also 12) performed brilliantly.  Their performances were wonderful - such great talent and musical ability on display.  I was very taken by how fearlessly they performed and the easy confidence they displayed as they enchanted the audience.

It would be wrong to single out any performance as they were all wonderful.  However I was particularly taken by Sophie Clarke's (13) rendition of 'Bright Eyes.'

As a former Cathedral Chorister who was brought up with the notion that girls can struggle to produce the 'bel canto' sound of a boy treble it was remarkable to have such a well established belief comprehensively challenged.  She sang beautifully.  It also took me back to reading the book, and seeing the film of Watership Down in my younger days.  She was pitch perfect.

I also have to mention Luke Jones's (16) fantastic virtuoso piano performance.  He played Scherzo and March by Franz Liszt.  This wasn't a piece I'd heard before - but he got me listening intently.  I was also very impressed that he performed an impromtu encore of a Chopin Etude that struck me as  fiendishly difficult to play well - and he did play it well- 'and then some!'

So well done Anthony.  Thanks for bringing such a wonderful show to Frodsham.  Thanks also to Eva in being able to assemble such talent from the north west and present it to us in Frodsham.  I loved Eva's style - barely organised chaos perhaps best typifies it.  That might sound harsh.  Well its not meant to - it was actually very endearing and contributed to putting everyone very much at their ease.

Anthony asked me to propose the vote of thanks.  I willingly did so.  Lets not forget that behind every talented performer, and especially a young performer is a team, largely unsung, of teachers and parents.  They, as well as the performers and impresarios have every right to be very proud of a truly excellent show put on for us in Frodsham.

I've said it before - but it is worth saying again.  We've a wonderful community in Frodsham and most of us don't even know the half, or even the quarter of what goes on here.  An exceptional evening.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Town Conversation at Costa

Many thanks to Kate our Town Clerk and Lisa and her crew at Costa for organising a fantastic evening.  More than a hundred people turned out to discuss what we can do to make Frodsham more vibrant.   Everyone was encouraged to chat around a number of topics all centred on improving the town and its prospects.  We'll give you more feedback on what was said when we've analysed it.  As you can appreciate Frodsham wasn't short of opinions!

I'm really delighted that we held our meeting in Costa - who willingly allowed us to use their premises for free - providing we bought their coffee!   I'm pleased to tell you our total tea and coffee bill was less than £81 - equivalent to room hire - but that money was spent with a local business - and they made more sales too!

Lisa will gladly have us back - perhaps we should hold our Community Forums in Costa and our Annual Town Meeting?  

Challenging Expectations - bring your centre of excellence to Frodsham

I have to admit it, I have a bit of a reputation at Cheshire West and Chester - I shamelessly advocate for Frodsham.  Many people know my favourite 'F word' is Frodsham - and I do know that sweep stakes are held from time to time about the number of times I will mention 'Frodsham' in debates.  Well as one of the two Councillors for Frodsham, and being very proud to represent our town and community  I make no apology for doing it!

What many of my colleagues perhaps have not realised is why I do it, and why it is so important.

In a Borough with around 326,000 people and comprising 1 city and 4 Towns I am very conscious that Frodsham often gets squeezed and the near 10,000 people who live in Frodsham and the other 10,000 who live around us and look to Frodsham often don't get the consideration we deserve.  (This 20,000 figure makes us larger than Neston and the same size as Northwich Town (if you don't count its hinterland).  My colleagues also perhaps fail to realise the number of times I sit through meetings and here the constant refrains of 'Chester' or 'Ellesmere Port' and to a lesser extent cries of 'Winsford' and 'Northwich.'   In order to provide balance and to raise the sights of my colleagues beyond these settlements and to think of everywhere else I challenge them with Frodsham.

Now last night I was invited to a presentation about the Student Village proposal for Chester.  All Councillors were invited and officers were present to facilitate the event.  This is a very controversial proposal.

Sitting alongside this student village proposal - but seen as separate from it - is a proposal to build a 'Sir Steve Redgrave Centre of Excellence' for rowing.  There was much crying and gnashing for teeth from Cestrians - both Councillors and locals about the student village complex being separate from the 'Sir Steve Redgrave Centre' and there being no planning application presently before the Council for this centre.

I have to say on a personal level I found the presentation regarding the rowing centre overly sycophantic - but leaving that aside and the overt and continual name dropping - I have to say I think the concept is inspired and exactly what we as a Borough should be encouraging and welcoming with open arms.

I find the Cestrian tussles unedifying and last night one Councillor objected to the presentation about the Sir Steve Redgrave Centre being made to us.  If I was a developer I would perhaps hope for more welcoming treatment - that wasn't a pretty thing to witness.

So, when no-one else dared to open the questions last night I made the very obvious pitch - bring the Sir Steve Redgrave Centre of Excellence 10 miles down the road to Frodsham.

Frodsham has better Motorway connections than Chester, we are closer to the electrified main rail line to London and thus have a much more frequent rail service available to London than Chester.  We have a greater population catchment area living within a 1 hour travel distance than Chester, we have the River Weaver and Weaver Navigation - longer straighter stretches of river than the Dee.  We have less water traffic than Chester so rowers can row largely unimpeded. We have a tradition of rowing on the Weaver and a Kayak trail... and we would welcome them with open arms.

Now funnily enough my suggestion brought howls of laughter from Cestrians - and then some admissions that my colleagues hadn't realised just how wide the Weaver is or indeed how well placed we are.  I also received support from a couple of Councillors from the eastern side of the Borough who know the Weaver.

Last Sunday I was walking along the Weaver with my wife and dog and saw a couple of 8s in training and a 4 and I took some photos.

So Mr Developer for the Sir Steve Redgrave Centre and my 'little Cestrian' colleagues - if you are looking for a community that would welcome you with open arms, that is in the right place, with cheaper land values, a big heart and united sense of community, with excellent transport links and closer to the centre of the North West of England and the principal motorway network - come to Frodsham!

Alternatively if you are a Cestrian and you want these prestigious developments ... perhaps you should think about the impression you are creating - and the fact you don't have a God given right to the Crown Jewels.  Given the accidents of history and geography - what might have been a strategic location for the XX Legion and mediaeval monarchs is less so today.  I suggest you be more welcoming!

Chester was saved from being sacked during the Jacobite rebellion not by a battle near Chester - but by the action at Frodsham where the bridge over the Weaver was torn down to prevent the rebels crossing - perhaps hinting at just how strategic a place Frodsham is and how wide the Weaver is too.  There is a reason why Chester has a Frodsham Street as its principal route to the East and the heart of England...