Wednesday, 14 March 2012

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...