Tag Archives: Derby

East Midlands Trains | Frustration at Derby Station

I travel to London a lot. The only way to go is by train really and I make the trip 1-2 times a week typically. The service is average at best with a mix of new/ old trains and weak/ slow WiFi connectivity (which is over priced), to name just two frustrations with the service. A standard open return ticket to London is £185.50. You can fly to Europe for that! Interestingly the equivalent ticket to Manchester (which is also a similar journey time) is £55.20.

I park at Derby station (well try to). Rather than a proper multi-storey (like Nottingham and other Cities) Derby’s car parking offer is fragmented into three surface car parks. The main one on Railway Terrace serves multiple functions; it’s a general customer car park, a short stay drop off, parking for the Police, disabled parking and first class parking. The daily charge is £14. There are two other car parks I could use, but one is on Pride Park and the other is behind the Post Office (which I’d rather not leave my car in, especially overnight, due to security concerns).

Most of the parking bays are marked out, although some are vague and some old ones have been partially removed, but are still visible. When the car park is full, the entry barrier continues to allow cars in (as that’s the drop off circuit). There’s no indication that the spaces have run out, other than driving around. Furthermore the signage advising that 30mins entry/ exit is free, is not clear. I assumed that once I was in, I’d be required to pay £14, or some portion of it, if I then exited to park elsewhere. I suspect others are the same.

Because of the unconventional layout, there are areas outside of bays where you could feasibly park without disturbing other vehicles and there’s nothing to discourage you from doing it. It seems that a lot of people use these areas, as did I one day when running late to catch a train.

When I returned I found a parking notice for £70 on my windscreen. My offence was stated as “Causing an obstruction” and “Failing to park correctly within a marked bay”.

There is a single sign which states the regulations for parking, this is by the entry barrier in small font; not exactly an ideal place to be able to read it, either in a car or on foot. The entry into the car park is badly designed/ dangerous too!

Accepting I wasn’t in a marked bay, I had actually parked with some consideration to other vehicles and know for a fact that I wasn’t causing an obstruction on the one-way road. I disputed the charges and also pointed out the inadequate signage, poor use of the entry system and photos of four other vehicles parked ‘illegally’ but without parking notices. One of which was a Police van, which is located there daily!

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My appeal was rejected (twice) and I was advised that other vehicles/ cases could not be discussed due to “Data Protection” (that classic catch all). I wasn’t asking for names and addresses of people! I was simply pointing out a blatant inconsistency in how they manage their policies.

The very next day I parked in the same car park. The photo below is how I found my car when I returned. The white car is clearly completely obstructing my black car in the middle. However there is no parking notice and in fact all three cars are parked in marked bays (although the white car is in an old bay which has been poorly removed).

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Whilst in dialogue with the Appeals Department, I pointed out that my return train on the day of my parking offence was delayed by 34 minutes (there’s that average service again). As stated on the website I am eligible to claim 50% of my journey cost back as I was delayed, this would be £46. I therefore suggested that my parking fine (which is reduced to £35 if paid within 14 days) could be dropped and I wouldn’t pursue a claim for the delayed train (which incidentally I’ve never claimed for previously). That wasn’t an option for them. I’ve now paid my fine and have made a claim for a part-refund of my delayed journey. I will be doing this in all future delay occurrences as well.

I’m not suggesting for a minute that I’m completely innocent here, I accept I didn’t park in a bay. But I do feel aggrieved by my experience of this episode, which has been poor to say the least! The policies East Midlands trains have imposed are badly managed and poorly communicated to customers. Surely better signage and perhaps a warning notice on my car could have been an option before prosecuting me (as I genuinely didn’t know I’d be causing an offence). Why are there no yellow lines on the roads? That would make it much clearer.

My final point is this; why are the Police permitted to blatantly ignore the parking regulations and consistently park in the marked ‘Drop off’ bay and partially on the pedestrian footpath, causing an obstruction to vehicles and compromising safety of pedestrians? If they need easy access to their vehicles, for genuine emergency activity, then they should have clearly marked adequate spaces.

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East Midlands trains, I think you you need to urgently review your parking strategy in Derby and significantly improve how you communicate to your valued (?) customers…

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Local resistance to 400 New Homes in Allestree

Last week I wrote a blog in response to a proposal to build 400 new homes in Allestree…well, actually they would be in Quarndon. Click here to see it.

Following my blog I had a lot of responses. One was from Mid Derbyshire MP Pauline Latham. Pauline asked me to attend a public meeting to explain to local residents how the Planning process works for a development like this. The meeting this evening was attended by around 250 local residents.

The initial proposal for the site can be seen in more detail by clicking here. The plan below illustrates how the scheme might look. The road to the right hand boundary is Kedleston Rd.

Allestree extension
Concerns raised so far seem to focus on the following;

  • Impact upon the historic Kedleston Hall/ Estate.
  • Impact upon infrastructure, particularly roads which, are already congested at peak times.
  • Impact on local schools (Curzon in Quarndon, Portway, Lawn, Woodlands and Ecclesbourne).
  • Lack of local medical facilities (GP surgery’s, Dental practices etc)
  • Environmental impact (green space, views, trees, wildlife and flood risk).

All of these concerns are completely valid and should be considered as part of a robust Planning application process. However, if the developer can satisfy the local authority that the proposal will be sustainable and, importantly, complies with relevant policies, then the scheme could go ahead.

You can find out more about the local Planning policies by clicking here.

The problem however as I see it, and it is a serious one, is that the site is within Amber Valley Borough Council control (not Derby City which, all of the remainder of Allestree sits in). What this means is that Amber Valley will administer and determine the Planning Application, but the greatest impact will be on residents of Allestree. Furthermore any potential financial contributions towards improving amenities and infrastructure (through a Section 106 agreement or Community Infrastructure Levy) may sit with AVBC, with Derby City Council only getting limited benefit. The same will apply to Council Tax if the dwellings are built.

Having spent some time in the last week researching this proposal a bit more, it seems clear that this site has been identified for sometime as a potential zone for the urban expansion of Derby. Both Derby City and Amber Valley have high demand for new housing supply to be built and this is reinforced by central Government.

Having considered the points people have raised in terms of concerns/ objections, I suspect most, if not all of them, can be dealt with through relevant policies.

I absolutely understand and appreciate the resistance of local residents to this proposal and the impact it will have. But most of these can probably be addressed by the developer and the relevant Local Authorities.

  • The direct impact on Kedleston Hall would be minimal.
  • The roads will be more congested and the highways may require modification’s/ improvements (Five Lamps is the big problem for me – and always has been).
  • A new school may be on the cards if the existing schools can’t handle further expansion (and that seems to be the case).
  • Further medical facilities may be required.
  • The Environmental impact can perhaps be managed – It might even be improved through more trees/ wildlife habitats, better flood mitigation control.

From my personal perspective; I’d rather this scheme was not permitted/ developed. But in my honest and professional opinion, at this stage, I predict that the odds are stacked in favour of this getting a green light from an objective Planning Policy and Strategic/ Political point of view.

The Outline Planning application is due to be submitted in September 2014. At this point all documentation relating to the proposal and its compliance with policies will be publicly available.

If the opposing residents of Allestree really want to stop this development from happening, I’d suggest that they will need to engage a suitable professional Planning Lawyer to interrogate the proposals/ application. This of course may not be a fruitful endeavour.

Change seems inevitable to me.

Allestree in Derby to get bigger?

I have lived in Allestree, Derby for most of my life. I grew up there and moved back with my family last year. It’s a great place to live in Derby, with great amenity facilities and easy access to the City and Countryside.

Demand for housing in Allestree seems very high at present. Homes are selling incredibly fast and values are pretty healthy. Family housing seems to sell well, probably due to the excellent schools.

Last week I learnt of a proposal to develop 400 new homes on the western edge of Allestree on open land, bounded by Kedleston Road. This is between Allestree Lane (the Markeaton pub) and Askerfield Avenue (before the split between Allestree and Quarndon).

Allestree

Catesby Property Group are undertaking a pre-application public consultation to inform and assess local reaction to the idea. A website has been set up which provides some information about the proposal. This can be seen by clicking here. There is also a public exhibition being held this THURSDAY 10TH JULY.  This will be between 2pm-8pm at the Royal British Legion, 39 Cornill, Allestree, DE22 2FS,

I’m sure there will be some resistance to this idea. However its important to consider this in some form of logical context.

Allestree has around 13,000 residents at present so an increase of 400 homes might increase that number by circa 10%. Allestree covers a total area of around 300 hectares. The proposed site area is around 18 hectares, so a 6% increase in land area would be developed.

Allestree is heavily constrained in terms of zones for any meaningful growth. The southern and Eastern edges are bounded by Markeaton Park, The University of Derby and the A38 dual carriageway. The northern edge is largely bounded by Allestree Park and an important greenbelt strip dividing Allestree and Quarndon. The northern boundary of Allestree is also the divide between Derby City and Amber Valley Local Authorities.

Any suggestion that this scheme would negatively impact upon the Kedleston Estate are pretty tenuous in my view. The Hall is not visible from the site and in fact the sites visibility is pretty minimal generally. However its interesting to see that the Kedleston Road boundary hedges have been left to grow to some height in the last year, whereas historically they have been cut quite low.

A strong and negative precedent to enable this development has been set by the poor Planning control of the large mansion houses which have been built on Somme Road.

At this early stage I am open-minded to considering this idea. This potential development is of a fairly large scale and will have an impact on Allestree, but provided the infrastructure can support this growth (roads, schools etc), then I can see how it might work.

The importance of local architecture | A look at Derby

I’m a life-long resident of Derby, although for most of my career as an architect I’ve worked in Nottingham, Manchester and London. In my experience people in the past have been quick to criticise Derby, but that view has changed in recent years. Derby appears to be standing out more and promoting a strong message. The external perception is very much that Derby is going places.

I’m in no doubt that buildings, and more specifically; quality architecture, define and characterise our cities. Derby has lacked high quality modern buildings for many years and therefore perhaps it’s lacked definition.

Whilst Pride Park brought many positives to Derby in the mid 1990’s, it also did some damage to the city centre and there isn’t much quality architecture to speak of. Likewise many have been critical of the Eagle Centre redevelopment and it’s impact on the retail centre, but ultimately I think it brings more positives to the city experience and economy than negatives. I’m still disappointed in the grey box planted on top of the centre which accommodates the Cinema. It’s very noticeable as you approach the city and it’s appearance lacks imaginative design.

In the last 5-10 years we’ve seen a number of good buildings emerge and this can only be a positive thing. These are the sorts of buildings which stand out and characterise the city.

The Jury’s Inn building may not be architecturally outstanding, but it offers an important and previously lacking hotel offer for business and tourism. It also has some decent height to it which I think is positive – although it’s positioning between St. Mary’s church and the Cathedral seems uncomfortable from some angles. The Riverlights/ Bus Station development again offers important modern functions for the city, but architecturally I think it’s a little disappointing.

velodrome3Images above/ below: The Velodrome/ Derby Arena.

The Derby Arena which is currently being built is a quality building. I recently had a private tour of the new Velodrome and it’s as impressive inside as its shiny metallic facade outside…

velodrome

Noteworthy buildings, which the city should encourage more of, are the likes of The Quad, Friar Gate square, Sadler Bridge Studios and of course the shiny new Velodrome. The latter being a strong destination building – and a memorable one at that. I also think the council have undertaken an impressive transformation of the Council Houses; providing a modern working environment, within a bold, historic and carefully restored building in the City.

Friar Gate SQImage above: One Friar Gate Square.

Cities need diversity to function properly. Encouraging City Living is important to this as the needs of people living in the centre are wide ranging and can expand upon a basic retail, food and drink offer. I think Derby should encourage more people to live in the centre.

Derby markets itself extremely well economically, better than any other East Midlands city in my view. The ‘Trains, Planes and Automobile’ story is compelling and positively encourages further inward investment which is critical to the City’s economy and diversity.

I think Derby has made great progress in respecting and promoting its cultural heritage, whilst focusing on the modern day needs and demands of the City in taking it forward. More quality high architecture will add to that story and further help in defining and characterising what is a great city – with outstanding connectivity.

 

Connectivity Progress | Digital vs Transport

Facebook has turned 10 years old this week. I know this mainly because they have launched a feature which captures your ‘best bits’ in a mini video with music – Facebook is currently full of them! It’s quite phenomenal to consider the evolution of social media in just ten years and how it now influences and affects our lives in so many ways in modern culture. I am a big supporter of social media; it goes way beyond keeping in touch with people. I have many experiences of how these channels can be incredibly impactful in business. Social media is here to stay and there’s no telling how it will evolve further in the next ten years. But it will.

Thumb up hand with like text on button. Isolated on white.I’m currently ordering a new mobile phone and am pondering whether to opt for 4G. I suspect its probably necessary, but the rapid development of super-fast WiFi/ Broadband and mobile networks further supports our ever expanding need for faster connectivity and increased data usage. I heard this week that 90% of online stored data in the world was created in the last 2 years, this is due to Cloud technology. The digital world continues to move at an incredible pace.

My Dad worked for BT for over 27 years. I remember in the late eighties/ early nineties he’d bring those green phonecards home (which I used to sell at school! Sorry Dad, not sure I’ve ever told you that). He also brought home a sample of fibre-optic cable (or photonic crystal fibres to be precise) when that first came out. I was amazed that this hairlike tube could apparently carry millions of phone calls (not to mention ‘data’ which was a lesser know concept at that time).

In contrast to the digital revolution, it seems to me that our ability to move around the planet is regressing. This is confusing to me. From the mid-seventies, for some twenty seven years, it was possible to fly around the world at supersonic speed thanks to Concorde. Myself and a colleague, Jason Ainsworth, were lucky enough to go on Concorde once, admittedly though it was firmly on the ground at Duxford! Concorde could get from London to New York in around half the time we can now. It’s now over ten years since Concorde retired and planes have become more efficient, bigger and marginally faster, but its surely still a sizable step backwards.

ConcordeLikewise, after years of debating whether motorway speeds should be increased to 80mph, the Government have recently announced plans to trial 60mph speed limits on the M1 in Derbyshire? This is apparently to improve air quality in these (rural) areas. I wonder if/ how the Government have factored in the rapid progression of car engine designs to their plans? New engines are increasingly quieter and more fuel efficient, with substantially less Co2 emissions. The 60mph idea would also provide; “reduced congestion, increased capacity and improved journey time reliability for users of the motorway”. The M1 was built in the late 50’s. More lanes to increase capacity is the solution. I’m not sold on the 60mph idea just yet. Mainly because it will affect me personally.

East Midlands TrainsAnd finally our trains. Britain pioneered the railway – and then, its seems, many other countries overtook us. For sometime I’ve been frustrated with our ageing trains. Some of the trains I regularly catch down to London are older than me! And don’t even get me started on trying to use East Midlands Trains WiFi “service”. However, we have all been sold the dream of the forthcoming HS2 network which promises benefits to business and the UK economy. Phase 1 will be live in 2026, with Phase 2 becoming live in 2033. So that’s between 12-19 years from now?! And lets be honest; there’s every chance these dates will slip a bit. The big benefit we will all realise though is faster journey times to the capital. Well, actually we wont.

According to the HS2 website the current journey time from the “East Midlands Hub” (presumably East Midlands Parkway?) to London is 91mins. In around 15 years from now the HS2 journey time will be just 71mins. Very good. That’s a 20 minute reduction. But they are locating the (new?) station between Derby and Nottingham. Therefore most people who might be using these “super-fast trains” will have to travel extended distances to get to/ from the station. I reckon the journey time from central Nottingham and Derby respectively to somewhere around Toton is approx. 20-25mins (totaling around 96mins). You can see my point now perhaps?

Interestingly my current journey time from Derby to London is 89mins. HS2 will, it seems, be slower for me (and I rather suspect a lot of other people too potentially). The only people who will benefit are those who travel from centre to centre (i.e. with no additional travel at either end).

The point here is that modern lifestyle and business needs fast and effective travel more than ever. The Digital world has boomed in ten years, but more needs to be done to provide long-term solutions to our travel infrastructure. The ideas being discussed seem to be more like sticking plasters to an already struggling system.

Digital development; *Like*
Our ability/ prospects of getting places quicker? I’m not convinced we are progressing.

One final mention must go to Bombardier in Derby. I live in Derby and the city’s “Trains, Planes and Automobiles” is a convincing one with fantastic heritage. Bombardier’s recent contract is great news for the local economy.