Richard Sparkes: Conservative Candidate for Acocks Green 2016

Richard Sparkes

Questions and Answers

Q1 There are a lot of larger Victorian and Edwardian properties in Acocks Green which lend themselves to a variety of uses.  in recent years there has been much discussion in regard to the preservation of roads as residential roads.    A recent decision on a planning application (see this link) gives some support to the idea that residential roads should where possible be retained as such in order to help preserve the community atmosphere of the neighbourhood.  This issue becomes even more pressing in regard to applications to turn larger properties into what is technically known as ‘C2’ (Residential Home) accommodation.  What is your view both on the general preservation of residential roads as such, and in particular on the clustering of a number of C2s in a small area, which because usually Victorian/Edwardian, will often be part of the proposed Conservation Area as well.

A I believe that it is important to preserve the atmosphere and community spirit of our residential areas. It is true to say that a large concentration of residential homes or HMOs can permanently alter the atmosphere of an area and even cause issues around parking and noise pollution. The provision of residential care within our community is vitally important and it is better to have a building in use than potentially neglected or even falling into dereliction.  Having said that every planning application needs to be viewed on it’s own merits, bearing in mind the circumstances and situation. One of the things taken into consideration certainly should be the mix of current property uses on a street to ensure the balance is maintained and our neighbourhoods are preserved as far as possible.

Q2 We are currently awaiting a decision from the Boundary Commission upon the final boundaries of Acocks Green ward.  The subject generated considerable heat earlier this year.  However, regardless of what decision is finally taken as to where the boundaries should lie,  we will become smaller as a ward, and we will have fewer councillors handling a larger number of households.  In the light of what is in effect going to be reduced involvement and support from elected representatives, what is your view on Acocks Green setting up its own parish council, and would you be willing, as a councillor, to help support this?  To help you here are two links (1) from Hebden Royal Town Council  and (2) Notes by David Treadwell, Chair of Acocks Green Neighbourhood Forum on parish councils

A I would be very much in favour of Acocks Green setting up its own parish council, as long as it had the broad support of local residents. I think that it is a good thing for power and responsibility to be transferred to a very local level in this way. Parish councils have proven to be great advocates for their local communities and thus should be encouraged. As a councillor I would be very supportive of such a move.

Q3 Recently, in  Douglas Road Acocks Green there was much publicity, see link here  following a seven-car pile-up after a speeding incident.  It has so far proved impossible to charge the driver, who cannot be identified by the police.   Fortunately, and amazingly, no-one was hurt.  However, are you confident that a 20 mph sign in the road will prevent this kind of incident occurring in the future, or do you believe that physical traffic-calming measures may need to be installed on some of the longer and more vulnerable residential roads in Acocks Green?

A I believe that many drivers would not adhere to a 20mph speed limit wherever such a limit were to be put in place so I do not think that this is the answer. There will always be a few drivers that will drive recklessly, whatever the official speed limit happens to be. Therefore I think that physical traffic-calming measures are regrettably necessary on certain, vulnerable residential roads. An issue that needs to be considered however is that parking is often scarce, particularly on streets with an abundance of terraced housing. Therefore careful consideration needs to be given to the type of traffic calming measure to be adopted such that it does not reduce, already limited, parking provision.

Q4 Fly tipping and garden waste collection both continue to be issues of concern in this area, especially since some free council services have now become paying services.  It is not disputed that government cuts to local councils present a strong challenge.  What measures would you therefore put in place to prevent unsightly and in some cases insanitary, eyesores accumulating in the area this summer.

A A Conservative Council would scrap and refund Labour’s “Garden Tax” charge and would also scrap charges for bulky waste collections. Further to this a Conservative Council would create new Dog and Litter Warden posts to tackle the increase in dog mess and litter on our streets and introduce special clean-up crews for each local neighbourhood. I believe that such measures would greatly reduce the amount of fly tipping in the city and help to prevent the unsightly eyesores which the question refers to. I believe that the Labour Council has got its priorities wrong when it is charging for green waste collections but is able to spend £1.7 million on taxpayer-funded Trade Union offices and £2 million on European and Equalities Officers.  

Q5  Do you believe that local ward meetings are important?  What views do you have on the continuation, structure (e.g. top table/formal or informal around a shared table/circle etc)  and advertising of local ward meetings?  (There is a reason for including this link – see where it takes you!)

A I think that local ward meetings are important, not least to give local residents a chance to have their say on the issues discussed and to give them an opportunity to petition their local councillors. I think that making them as informal as possible would lead to an increase in participation and attendance. A shared table would, in my opinion, be the best structure to facilitate informal discussion. Some of the ward meetings are rather poorly attended and therefore new ways of advertising them need to be explored.

Q6 We are seeing an increasing trend for planning applications in Acocks Green to involve the considerable enlargement of existing properties.  Sometimes these applications can throw the visual appearance of a  Victorian, Edwardian or 1920s or  1930s property ‘off balance’ and can also alter the street scene for the worst.  Obviously, every PA is different, and all PAs need to be considered on their individual merits.  However, do you have an overall view on this?

A We are only the custodians of our buildings and street scenes for future generations and we have a duty to preserve the historical value of them. However I do not believe it is possible to preserve them in aspic and we need to recognise that they may need to be altered to meet modern needs and styles of living – in many ways this is the best way to ensure preservation in the longer term. I do believe, however, that any development should be conducted in as sympathetic a way as possible and challenge any potential developer to do so within the planning process. 

Q7 Can we count on you for positive support and vigilance once Acocks Green’s long-awaited Conservation Area is finally in place?  See this AGFG post on the Conservation Area for further info (Note: a small part of Oxford Road leading away from Sherbourne Road is now also included, although not indicated in the boundary lines shown here.)

A I am fully in support of the Conservation Area and am very much looking forward to it being in place so that the beautiful buildings and trees in this area can be protected. I certainly will be vigilant when I am in the Conservation Area, ready to point out any potential infringements.

 

 

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