A private affair
Brass neck of the month award might just go to Manchester Airport, which announced plans to open up a private terminal for passengers – not for private plane-bound super-rich, but for reasonably well-off punters so infuriated by the scrummages at security and packed-out bars in the main terminals that they’ll pay upwards of £50 to avoid it. To be fair to the airport, it is undertaking a huge redevelopment without reducing flights, a logistical nightmare. But like the parking charges that sent passengers into fume-mode in 2018, the timing looks a bit clumsy.
Why don’t you come on over, Valerie
Another month, another high street name in administration. Although blame for Patisserie Valerie’s downfall was laid squarely by its directors on a fraudulent former FD, it’s fair to say the company wasn’t in the rudest of health, with administrator KPMG immediately culling 71 loss-making stores, more than a third of the estate. Maybe you don’t get people queuing out of the door for boxes of pretty macaroons in all weathers after all, even if the chairman’s a media darling. Surely there’s a player in the game to pick up North West institution Philpotts though?
Everything’s gone green
Liverpool City Council has approved the redevelopment of Bixteth Street Gardens, paving the way for the £200m Pall Mall scheme. A petition was always likely to land for this kind of proposal, and following well-publicised splits in the Labour leadership in 2018, councillors are feeling vocal, with eight of them speaking out against this project. While Bixteth got through, the council had to concede defeat this month with an end to Redrow’s controversial Calderstones Park housing. Is Joe Anderson’s power base weakening? The coming months might see others start a long run-up for the Labour 2020 mayoral nomination. Nick Small, ousted as assistant mayor last year, was vocal over Bixteth, and might be one to watch.
Was it really worth it?
Andy Burnham’s big Greater Manchester Spatial Framework relaunch hasn’t exactly gone down like a lead balloon, more like something that’s received a few shrugs and a “is that it, then?” There aren’t many surprises as the document heads to consultation. Trafford’s Labour leadership got what it wanted, with the Flixton Green Belt protected – unlucky, Timperley – but after that, it seems to lack any huge ambition. Has Burnham lost his nerve, or realised the deliverability of this is way beyond his scope, especially in the short-term?
Is it a tram? Is it a train?
If there is, it might be transport. Do tram-trains work well, or is this just a relatively cheap way to sort out the rail network’s capacity issues? For all its faults, to be revealed by a cursory check of Twitter at rush hour, Metrolink is a relative success in the context of UK urban transport networks: this might be the lesser of many evils, but even so. Some experienced voices have raised questions over safety, pointing out the inherent dangers of putting tinny trams on the same lines as hefty trains. Feasibility studies are being carried out, but for now it’s hard to not suspect at least a tiny bit that GMPTE are just doing something, anything, to get punters off those dismal Pacer trains Northern keeps inflicting on passengers.
So solid, Crewe
Cheshire East has inched forward its big masterplan for the area around Crewe station, on the off-chance that this peak era of all-party Westminster idiocy doesn’t crash the economy, and leaves cash to make HS2 actually happen. Tarting up the station front and a few bus stops – “a transport interchange”, if you please – are a given, along with an office quarter, because what is life without ambition? The plans for a new road bridge south of the station, spanning the tracks to link Weston Road and Gresty Road, look an interesting solution, and hats off to CEC for getting ahead with the plan. Who doesn’t love a funky new bridge, at the end of the day.