There is a light at the end of the tunnel but we can't let up our efforts yet

Posted: Monday 8th February 2021

This is my first blog of 2021 but in many ways, as we begin another month of national lockdown, it feels a bit like Groundhog Day.

Staying at home, not seeing friends and family and for many of you, doing your best to home school your children was hard enough last spring, but can seem doubly onerous in the short days and long nights of winter. There’s no underestimating the challenge for us all, but as a Council we continue to do our best to try to make things easier for Trafford residents.

Maintaining access to education is hugely important and a real positive has been the fantastic response to our Laptops for Learners appeal, which has seen over 300 laptops and iPads donated by businesses and individuals across the borough. For those children without devices at home to complete their lessons, this will make a huge difference in allowing them to take part in lessons and make sure they are not left behind.

The vaccine rollout also gives us cause for cautious optimism. Everyone in Trafford in the top four priority group has now been offered a vaccination ahead of the government target, but we must be sure not to let our guard down too quickly. The vaccine takes several weeks to offer protection, and even then is just the first dose of two, so it’s really important that vaccinated or not, we all continue to follow the rules to keep the spread of infection to a minimum.

As if Covid-19 wasn’t enough to deal with, we have also had a busy time with Storm Christoph, which brought flooding to some parts of the borough. It was a worrying time for residents in affected areas but the agencies involved in the flood response rose magnificently to the challenge and it was all hands on deck to keep people safe during what was a very unpredictable 48-hour period.

Following on from the floods, January ended with another serious incident when we had to react at speed to evacuate residents in Streford after guns and grenades were discovered during police raids. Once again there was an incredible partnership response from all involved; the emergency services, the military, who stood up a Covid test centre at very short notice, Trafford Leisure Trust, Trafford Housing Trust, councillors, volunteers and of course our brilliant council staff. ‘Team Trafford’ did itself proud.

One thing I am also proud of is our approach to providing affordable housing in the borough which is one of our corporate priorities. I was pleased that a planning inspector backed our refusal to give permission for properties to be built on land at Warburton Lane, Partington, due to the absence of any affordable housing.

However we have backed plans for more than 400 homes at two sites in Partington as a large proportion of these homes are earmarked for affordable housing. Since 2018, developers have paid £38m towards the funding of affordable housing in Trafford and we will continue with this approach because we believe in providing homes people can afford in the borough.

We also have some other exciting developments in the pipeline. We’re currently asking for views on two major schemes; development of the Civic Quarter in Old Trafford and the next stage of the Stretford masterplan. Both aim to revitalise these neighbourhoods with high quality and sustainable residential, commercial and community space. Our pledge is to be a listening administration, and we hope as many people as possible will take the opportunity to give their feedback and ideas to help shape the future of these key areas.

We would also like to get Trafford residents’ thoughts on the Trafford Local Plan, which looks forward all the way to 2037 and will designate land for specific uses, identify opportunities for development – and protection - and propel a vision of the type of place Trafford will be in the future.

As we head towards the spring, it has never been clearer that where Covid is concerned, we are all in this together. The experience of the last year has taught us that unfortunately this is a disease that thrives on social interaction, and much as we yearn to get together, it is only by following the rules and staying at home that we will bring the number of infections and hospital admissions down. The sooner we can do this, the sooner we can all start to move out of lockdown.

Once again I thank all the people of Trafford who are bearing the restrictions with such resilience to help us get to a point where we can all begin to live our lives more normally again.