Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Review of Ashton Hayes Theatre Club’s production of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens adapted & directed by Yvette Owen

Review of Ashton Hayes Theatre Club’s production of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens adapted & directed by Yvette Owen

I attended this production of the Dickens’ classic at Tarvin Community Centre on the final Friday of the run. The cast played to a full house in a well laid out seating and staging arrangement.

Yvette Owen’s adaptation is set in the 1920’s with sharp but very effective emphasis on the styles and clothing fashions of the time. We are taken seamlessly through the 80 years that make up Pip’s life reflecting the form of each period throughout the play, of particular interest was the addition of, often vibrant, colour to both men’s and women’s wardrobes of the time.

Though some of the larger than life characters provided opportunities for humour, however 'Great Expectations' is not a bundle of historic fun. It is often poignant, sad and not a little depressing at times. But that is what makes this a compelling story, and the audience on Friday seemed hypnotically engaged by both the story, the music (yes music in a Dickens play) and this meticulously-directed and worthy adaptation of a much loved classic novel. I admit I had reservations about the period setting for the first few scenes of the play, but those quickly passed and I found the story and its setting totally absorbing too.

The play is set in the same Kent countryside and London that that Dickens originally set this, his the thirteenth novel, first published as a serial in Dickens' weekly periodical ‘All the Year Round’, from 1 December 1860 to August 1861. The coming-of-age novel by Charles Dickens was originally set almost one hundred years before our adaption here in the Tarvin Community Centre. The main location, most of us will recall, is Miss Havisham's house where the set is both evocative and impressively detailed with everything encapsulated in time, here we find the remnants of a wedding which never happened and a bitter jilted bride. This set forms the centre piece on stage both literally and from the set design and layout perspective. To the left of stage is the set that Pip’s sister and her husband Joe inhabit as part of Joes’ blacksmiths shop. To the right of the stage is a set more adaptable to hosting the numerous other facets of this stage play. These three distinct areas of set have one thing in common, they are designed and laid out with simplicity but with great attention to detail and reflect the period very effectively, in turn introducing this atypical period setting easily to the audience and embedding it as intrinsic part of this adaptation from the very opening scene.

Phillip Pirrup, nicknamed Pip, played by Charlie Auckland-Lewis (young Pip), Dan Aynsley and Mike Melville (old Pip) is an orphan living with his ‘at best unwelcoming’ sister and her blacksmith husband Joe. Each of the actors brought their own personal touch to Pip’s character, Auckland- Lewis plays an engrossing scene early on in the play alongside Stuart McNeil as Magwitch, Aynsley’s excellence was in bringing the emotional and romantic element of Pip alive and Melville was simply outstanding with his silvery delivery of the narrative as we passed from scene to scene throughout Pip’s 80 years. Melville opens with “The human heart is a wonderful organ. If nurtured the heart has the capacity to bring great happiness to anyone brought under its wing. But mistreat or starve it of love and it may shatter into a thousand pieces and leave a swathe of destruction in its wake.” These opening are scenes set on the Kent marshes and were given authenticity through the cleverly supporting sound effects of curlew calling along with other marsh birds transporting the audience to the very edges of those imaginary reed beds.

Pip’s unplanned and violent meeting with Magwitch is in these opening stages of the play at the graveyard and is significant in as much as the small unsolicited act of kindness in bringing Magwitch some cake is an abiding memory for its recipient.

Pip first encounters Miss Havisham and her adopted daughter Estella, whose beauty and haughtiness is brought alluringly to the audiences attention by Grace Owen’s skillful acting, in the time capsule that is Miss Havisham’s house. She makes no bones about clearly telling Pip that he is coarse and common. However Pip is already in love with her and keen to point out (in a move away from the original) that he has his own expectations of becoming a recognised writer. When a mysterious benefactor allows Pip to move to London and become a gentleman, he hopes to win over Estella and achieve a wealthy, enviable life through his writing. This ambition is a golden thread that weaves though this adaptation very neatly and provides Pip with a little more purpose than in the original novel.

For me the play brought the topics of rural poverty, love and in particular the human approach to our emotions of guilt and forgiveness to the fore, particularly the need to forgive one’s self.

The cast and storytelling were further enhanced by the four well chosen, modern and professionally sung songs at key points of the play. The choristers came from three local choirs and collectively sung beautifully with a well balanced cast of sotto voce and orotund voices. The scene at the society ball supported by the lyrics of Moby’s “Be the One” was very emotive and worked tremendously well for me.

The story progresses through as we would expect with many short scenes delivering as much to the audience of the original novel as you can reasonably expect to get in to an 80 minute play. None were too short I would suggest to those who were familiar to the novel, but may have been for those who were not able to relate it to past exposure to Great Expectations. The second half of the play was trumped by the excellent scene of the revelation of Pip’s benefactor played brilliantly by McNeil, Magwitch loves Pip with a simple heart, and, having had a chance to return to the basic tenderness that was always within him, is able to die with dignity and peace knowing he had done his upmost to repay Pip for his kindness all those years ago in the graveyard.

Meanwhile Pip’s originally unrequited love is beginning to bear fruit as Estella slowly reveals a softer, more affectionate side after all the years of callousness ingrained in to her by Miss Havisham. As Estella realises her true feelings towards Pip, an emotional heart gripping line is delivered by Owen ‘My heart maybe broken in to many pieces but I love him with every single one of those tiny pieces.’ We know now that Pip’s unfaltering love for Estella is finally going to bring the two of them together.

The closing scene of the play is very simple in its design and execution but quite brilliantly pulls each of the raw threads of emotion we have been experiencing as an audience together in a coming to consciousness about the numerous mistakes we are all apt to make within our own lives. Old Pip and old Estella along with young Pip and young Estella both appear as couples centre stage in a warm embrace with each other, succinctly summarising their long and tortuous path of love and despair with just about every other human emotion in between.

The cast of 18 (not including the singers) all delivered their own excellent personal performances to bring each of the characters acutely in to focus and collectively delivered what was an outstanding evening’s entertainment and a very professional performance of an adaptation of a classic novel which should never have worked on paper, let alone the stage. But it did, and did so brilliantly. Maybe this production should make its way to our new theatre ‘The Story House’ in Chester as its next stop!

Reviewed by
Hugo Deynem
17th March 2017

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Household Waste Recycling Centres face reduced opening hours

Regrettably CWaC are reducing the numbers of days that our Household Waste Recycling Centres are opening, I say regrettable set against the context set out below.

Cheshire West Council run by Labour have increased your council tax this week by 4% (despite a highly credible and peer reviewed lower alternative budget put forward by the Tories), over each of their last budgets they have gone for the maximum tax increase they can realistically get away with.
In contrast, the previous Conservative administration implemented over £50m worth of reductions during their administration whilst protecting front line services in every area. It is more than disappointing that the same old Lab mantra of 'tax & spend' persists, even in light of the outstanding example set by the Tories here in CWaC and across many other Conservative run councils of delivering more for less.

Labour here in Cheshire West will have you believe that they are not cutting font line services and continue to deliver an acceptable level of customer service handed over to them by the Tories.

You will see terms in their literature such as:

"We're modernising the Household Waste Centres" or this is
"Your refreshed Household Waste Recycling" service. Centres
They are clearly not maintaining service levels, they are now clearly cutting services by reducing the numbers of days these important sites are open and accessible to residents. The details of the reduced opening hours can be found via the link here:

CWaC Reduces Household Waste Service

Please feel free to share these changes with those you think might be interested or you know use these facilities.

If you would like to be kept up to speed with political and council events that may affect you feel free to drop me an email and I will keep you posted of any interesting or related stories.


Cllr Reggie Jones resigns his Labour Council seat

Cheshire Conservatives will miss the antics of Cllr Reggie Jones from Blacon, who resigned this morning (Fri 3rd of March), hours after supporting Labour to raise Council tax by almost 4%. Had he quit last Friday as planned or even yesterday, residents would be paying a lower council tax

At the budget council meeting last night (Thurs), Cheshire West Conservative Councillors put forward alternative budget plans for 0% change to council tax but were voted down by the Labour Administration to increase council tax by 1.99%, the maximum rise without triggering a borough referendum.

With growing pressures in social care, the Conservatives wanted to see more progress made on established plans to integrate health and care for older and vulnerable residents. Tory proposals for a 3%  rise to the adult social care precept were voted down and set at 2% by Labour. With delayed discharge from hospital running at 13,256 days this year in Cheshire West, Conservatives believe that more can be done locally to help residents and relieve pressures on the NHS.

Proposals to spend less on ICT, buildings and council staff were put forward in a package of measures to keep tax rises down for households, many of whom are just-about-managing on low and fixed incomes.

"We asked Labour to rethink the timing of introducing the local living wage which is set higher than the national living wage that comes in next month" said Neil Sullivan, Handbridge Ward Councillor. " It's really important to think through the implications and who will be paying this higher rate of pay for Council staff. The majority of older residents pay for some or all of their care and this policy will mean higher costs for them, many of whom live on fixed incomes. Low paid workers will be paying higher tax rates to fund higher wages for those in the public sector.

We also wanted to stop the taxpayer picking up the tab for Trade Union representatives as this is unfair when difficult decisions are being made about public services."

“Too many Labour plans had big budgets but no detailed plans “ commented Lynn Riley, leader of the Conservative Group at CWAC. “ the taxpayer shouldn’t be asked to pay higher tax rates to front load huge projects for ICT and new buildings that will take years to deliver, especially when the council budget is £1.5m underspent this year and mot council buildings have empty space“
Cllr Jones' resignation leaves a vacancy and a by election on CWaC for his Blacon ward seat. Cllr Jones will also no longer be sitting on the Board of Avenue Services in Blacon, a charity which I also hold a Board position. In light of his resignation the council now has no overall majority as both Lab and the Conservatives have equal numbers of seats. It will be interesting to see how Lab run the program of meetings that deliver our democracy over the next few weeks.
If you wish to be kept up to speed with local politics and council events that affect you please send me an email and I will keep you updated.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

CWaC Parking proposals for Tarvin & Kelsall 2017

I have had a number of enquiries as to what the CWaC Parking Review is recommending for Tarvin and Kelsall. Many will have seen the supporting document that was circulated with the councils consultation document recently, this was an abridged version of the full consultants report.
However there is a more detailed document entitled Cheshire West & Chester Parking Study that is still available in full on the CwaC website, you can read it in full here.
Parking Strategy Review

The two screen shots below are taken from the full document and are the recommendations for both Tarvin & Kelsall.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

West Cheshire NHS proposals to stop providing certain treatments

West Cheshire NHS Consultation
– On proposals to stop providing certain treatments

The West Cheshire NHS Clinical Commissioning Group has launched a new consultation today which runs until the 17th of January 2017. They are consulting on which services, if any, it should cease to fund. West Cheshire CCG is consulting whether to cease funding or make available on a more restricted basis the following list of procedures:

  • Surgery for the correction of asymmetrical breasts
  • Surgery for breast reduction
  • Surgery for Gynaecomastia
  • Hair removal treatments
  • Surgery to remove benign skin lesions
  • Desensitising light therapy using UVB or PUVA for PMLE 
  • Ear wax removal including microsuction
  • In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) with or without Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) 
  • Surgical Sperm Recovery (Testicular Epididymal Sperm Aspiration (TESA)/Percutaneous  Sperm Aspiration (PESA) including storage where required
  • Donor Oocyte Cycle – depending on outcome of consultation relating to IVF
  • Donor Sperm Insemination
  • Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) unstimulated 
  • Sterilisation (male & female)
  • Arthroscopy – Shoulder, (document explains includes knees and hips) 
  • Dupuytren’s Contracture – surgical and nonsurgical interventions
  • Knee replacement 
  • Hip Injections (excluding bursitis)
  • Erectile Dysfunction 
  • Percutaneous posterior tibial nerve stimulation (PTNS) for urinary and faecal incontinence.

The text below is taken from the NHS press release:

In September we launched “Our Savings Plan” to start a frank conversation about the challenging financial position facing the local NHS and the savings we must make in 2016/17 to help ensure a sustainable, high-quality health and care system in West Cheshire – both now and in the future.
There are many reasons for the financial challenges we face, not least that we have a fast-growing, ageing population and more people than ever are being diagnosed with long-term conditions.
This means that demand for local health and care services is rising faster than our budget. We simply do not have enough money to continue to buy all the services we currently do in the same way as before. If we did, in 2016/17 alone we would spend £13m more than our budget.

As this challenge is similar in many areas, the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) for West Cheshire, Eastern Cheshire, South Cheshire, Vale Royal and Wirral, have come together in partnership to ask the public for their views on proposed changes to some services that we currently commission.

A consultation has been launched which is asking the public and other stakeholders for their views on the proposals, building on work already undertaken to engage with local people about the challenging financial position facing the local NHS and proposed changes to services.

Dr Andy McAlavey, Medical Director, NHS West Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group comments: "This is the first time that CCGs in this area have come together to seek the views of the public and stakeholders as we continue with our programme of changes. Our aim is to ensure that the services we provide are effective and sustainable whilst we continue to encourage people to lead healthier lives. It is important for us to make the best use of our resources and we are encouraging people to have their say."

Consultation Cheshire and Wirral Clinical Commissioning Groups are undertaking a formal consultation on the proposals detailed in the consultation documents below to explore them in more detail and obtain feedback from patients and the public. The consultation will run from Tuesday, October 25, 2016 to midnight on Tuesday, January 17, 2017.

How to share your views
As part of the consultation we need your views on the proposals and to understand the impact they may have on you. To hear what you think about the proposals you have a variety of opportunities to give your feedback. You can fill in the questionnaire included in the consultation document below and submit by post to, SRP consultation, NHS West Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group, 1829 Building, Countess of Chester Health Park, Liverpool Road, Chester CH2 1HJ

By email – send your completed surveys to: enquiries.wcheshireccg@nhs.netIf people are hard of hearing, have sight impairment, English is not their first language or they require the information in an alternative format, please contact 0800 132996 or email: enquiries.wcheshireccg@nhs.net'

Copies of the consultation documentation and surveys can be obtained from West Cheshire CCG.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Winnington Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Plant Opened

Winnington Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant is officially opened.

Tata Chemicals Europe has recently officially opened a new steam turbine, hailed as one of the most efficient in the UK. The £5.5 million turbine is housed at their Winnington Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant which is operated by Business Heat and Power Solutions (BHPS), and is now one of the most efficient plants in the country, capable of providing energy for 200,000 households – an area roughly the size of Liverpool!
Working together to maximise the energy efficiency of this site is proof of the great relationship between Tata Chemicals Europe and E.ON.

Taking advantage of heat energy as steam and using it more effectively means we can help reduce this site’s carbon footprint while making sure a chemical works (which has been operating since 1874) continues to go from strength to strength in such a commercially challenging time.

The project - backed by a £2.5 million European Regional Growth Fund grant from the UK government - has taken 2 years to complete. It’ll help provide energy for Tata Chemicals Europe’s sites across Cheshire, local businesses in the area, and also for the National Grid. The steam used to generate electricity is a by-product of industrial procedures at the Tata Chemical plant, recapturing spent energy and reducing overall energy demands.

Generating this electricity means it doesn’t have to be generated elsewhere on the grid - saving 71,000 tonnes of CO2 in the UK, and going a long way to help the government meet decarbonisation requirements of a 75% reduction by 2030. The government is seeking to achieve nearly 60% reductions in carbon emissions by 2030 - this type of initiative is a crucial part of making this happen.

Peter Houghton (Tata Chemicals Europe’s General Manager for Energy) said: “This has been an unbelievably good project, and a really complex one that underpins our energy business moving forward. It simply could not be more important to the business.”

This new turbine is a great example of the way that EON's Business to Municipalities (B2M) works hand in hand with customers – their success is ultimately our success so the relationships are crucial.

As an employee of EON I am very proud of the investment and commitment shown in such important developments that secure business, jobs and improve our impact on the environment here in Cheshire.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Proposed sites for Gypsy, Travellers & Showmen across Cheshire West & Chester Council

Gypsy and Travellers Site Proposals by CWaC

The first thing to say here is that there is a statutory obligation for Local Authorities to provide a suitable number of sites (made up of set numbers of individual pitches) to allow Gypsies, Travellers and Showmen to reside in their caravans.

Under section 8 of the Housing Act 1985 local authorities are required to consider the various accommodation needs of the local population. The Housing Act 2004 and Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 states councils should assess housing need for Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople in the same way they do for people in settled communities. This legislation has an overarching aim of ensuring that members of Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople communities have equal access to decent and appropriate accommodation options equal to each and every other member of society. For a number of Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople, appropriate housing means designated sites rather than “bricks and mortar” housing. The Secretary of State recommended that various methods of securing provision should be utilised and these include using rural exceptions site policies, through affordable housing provision on land allocated for housing development and through individual planning applications.

These sites should be both suitable from a user’s perspective and from the communities about them within which they would begin integrate. The needs of the site users are complex and are paramount to the sites being successful. Identifying ways of raising educational aspirations and attainment of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children, along with ways to improve the health outcomes and improving knowledge of how Gypsies and Travellers engage with services that in turn provide a gateway to work opportunities are important goals.

There is an identified need for CWaC to provide 42 additional pitches across the Borough up to 2028.

Labour run CWaC have released a report prepared for the council, by consultants WYG Planning, in to the future provision of sites across the Borough. WYG have completed three separate sifts of the potential sites (sites as opposed to individual pitches) and have arrived at a final list of 26 preferred sites. These sites have been RAG colour coded by their ease and likelihood of success in terms of delivering the required number of pitches.

There are three categories of site:

Transit sites which are used to provide only temporary accommodation for their residents. Lengths of stay can vary but are usually set at between 28 days and three months. Permanent sites are sites for residential use by Gypsies and Travellers for stays in excess of three months and are intended to provide residents with a more permanent home. Travelling Show Persons’ Yards (or plots) are mixed-use plots used by travelling show people that include residential provision and may need to also incorporate space to allow for the storage of equipment associated with circuses, fairs and shows. The sites are comprised of ‘individual pitches’ and these vary in number site by site. Transit sites and permanent sites will accommodate a number of pitches. A ‘pitch’ provides accommodation for a traveller family and typically includes space for two caravans with a utility block and car parking.

The 26 “preferred” sites are located in the following wards across CWaC:

Winnington and Castle (Lab), Elton (Lab), Witton and Rudheath (Lab),

Farndon (Con), Tarporley (Con), Davenham and Moulton (Con), Gowy (Con), Shakerley (Con), Tattenhall (Con), Malpas (Con), Ledsham & Manor (Con), Tarvin & Kelsall (Con).

Two of the preferred sites in the report are in my ward here in Tarvin, site No 22 at Church View Fm (RAG Status Red) and site No 23 at Small Holding No 10, Tarporley Rd (RAG Status Amber). Church View Fm is currently assessed as Red due to “Narrow lane, difficult access, farmhouse next to site would have amenity impacted, open land, isolated from services. Need to understand wider residential growth aspirations promoted by Parish Council”. It would be reasonable to assume that this site is unlikely to be progressed forward at any speed at this stage. Small Holding no 10 is a different matter, currently assessed as Amber with the following summary: “Potential for a small permanent site in one preferable location in NW of site on Tarporley Road. Sensitive setting (conservation area, setting of church, landscape character, amenity of existing houses) so needs good screening and careful siting. Access possible. Narrow tracks prevent land to rear being used. Very close to services.” The land here is in the ownership of CWaC and importantly the report goes on to say that such sites which are possible on council owned land should be viewed as ‘quick wins’ (para 3.34 YPG Report) in relation to delivery.

So there is a very real potential for a site to be brought forward here in Tarvin to a future planning application.

The site plan below shows the area of land owned by CwaC and forms part of Small Holding No 10 (site 23 in the report). The proposal currently suggests using the North Western corner of the plan which is between the lane and the small holding.

You may have comments and concerns either for or against such a proposal as we have here as part of the Local Plan consultation. It is important to distinguish the difference between this consultation and any future formal Planning Application. This is your opportunity to comment on the ‘Policy’ being made here around the councils long term future approach to planning matters. It is not a planning application at this stage, that would likely follow if this proposal in the Local Plan is agreed.

The important thing is that you have an opportunity to make your views heard at this stage and any future stage. This is where the plot thickens. If our CWaC council is the open transparent and respectful one it claims to be you would expect the consultation process to be reflective of that stated approach to “doing business”. Feel free to draw your own conclusion from the following.

The only consultees to date, mentioned in the report prepared by WYG Planning, are Alison Heine (Planning Consultant working with Gypsies and Travellers) and Planning Aid. However in fairness to the consultants they do recommend to CWaC that they should undertake further consultation with “representatives of the Gypsy and Traveller community to seek their views on the preferred sites” and “engagement should also be pursued with local Ward Members, Parish/Town Councils and any Neighbourhood Plan groups whose area includes any of the site options”  the report goes on to say (on p52) “It will be important to ‘manage’ this consultation and to try and seek consensus, or at least to ‘minimise objections’, in order to allocate and deliver these sites.”

That may well be why the consultation process for the proposed Gypsy & Traveller Sites appears to be buried towards the end of the snappily entitled “Local Plan (Part Two) Land Allocations and Detailed Policies - Preferred Approach”.

This consultation process is open from the 12 August - 23 September 2016, if you do not get any comments in by this deadline they are unlikely to be included.

To save you trawling through the numerous links and headings to find the appropriate section I have attached the link below, feel free to try and locate it via the second one if you have the time and inclination.

If you do wish to comment you may want to reiterate some of the comments I noted down from the large number of Tarvin residents who attended the Parish Council meeting on Mon the 22nd of Aug 2016 that I also spoke at.

Value for money: is this best return on the land the council is able to generate on our behalf as tax payers.

This land is currently identified and has developers currently interested in bring it forward for residential use: will a permanent Gypsy & Traveller site have a negative impact on the future resident’s amenity?

Part of any residential development on this side of Tarporley Rd is likely to bring additional open space, village car parking and sports facilities with it: will the proposed site have a negative impact on this resource.

The proposed piece of land is one of the lowest topographically in the whole village and is prone to flooding in heavy rain: would this be suitable land to accommodate caravans.

The water course which runs alongside the proposed site is prone to blocking and causing flooding; how would the council propose top stop this becoming blocked by rubbish and general waste; who would pay for this water course to be cleaned and maintained.

Both Tarporley and Christleton schools are full to capacity; where would the Gypsy & Traveller children go to school if this is the case.

Getting people in to full time regular work is a key objective: there is little or no additional employment in the rural areas.

Gypsy & Traveller families often require regular and comprehensive social care and support: there is little of this in rural areas and other sites closer to services would be better suited to assisting in the delivery of such support.

The general guidance below is general guidance for anyone who might want to comment on the broader issues of the Local Plan part two, many of these may also be applicable if you are commenting on the proposed Gypsy & Traveller sites.

Matters which planners can take into account include:

1. Amenity: impact on neighbours – whether the site could have a potentially harmful impact in terms of overlooking, loss of daylight, overbearing impact, noise and disturbance, etc.

2. Visual impact – would a site be in keeping with the surrounding area or would there be unacceptable landscape harm?

3. Highways: suitability of access, parking, manoeuvring space, effect of traffic generation.

4. Policies - are there any Government policies or policies in the Local Plan which are relevant e.g. sustainability of location, countryside / landscape protection, high quality agricultural land, flooding, wildlife / protected species etc

5. Availability of land – are the sites going to come forward for that purpose?

6. Alternative sites - based on the above considerations are there better sites available?

Matters which planners cannot take into account include:

1. The intended user of the development – it is the use, not the user, which is important.

2. Whether the applicant or landowner is known/unknown, liked/disliked, trusted/not trusted, local/not local.

3. The right to a view over another person’s land (there is no such right in planning terms).

4. Impact on property values.

5. Any comment considered racist or offensive.