Should the Houses of Parliament Move to Saddleworth? East of the A627

West Riding instead of Westminster? Bring it on!

The Mother of Parliaments’ HQ is starting to show her age. Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben is starting to crack under the strain. No prize for whom they are billing? Yes folks, it’s us and you wonder why there isn’t a cheaper way? Guess what? The answer lies on our doorstep east of the A627. I shall tell you this for free as I have paid for the ninth drink on my coffee shop loyalty card.

It is a location at the heart of George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse®, of short distance to Leeds or Manchester. Its river is erroneously misspelt the same way as London’s; its equivalent to the South Bank is Yorkshire Building Society on Melbourne Street, Stalybridge. Our answer to Thames’ (late great) Teddington Studios is Cavendish Mill, Ashton-under-Lyne.

Dear Mr. Cameron,

Whilst the Houses of Parliament is being renovated I would like to propose Saddleworth as a suitable alternative location. Your Right Honourable Friend for the Tatton Constituency may see a move to the Pennine foothills as a tribute to the effectiveness of his Northern Powerhouse. Saddleworth is close to Manchester and Leeds, and George’s plans for HS3 may justify a new railway station in Uppermill.

The place I suggest in question is the former W.H.Shaw works (which if you read any railway magazines, is seen in the distance with BR Rail Blue Class 45s) in Diggle. It has a clock tower (just like Big Ben); it also assuages concerns about the relocation of Saddleworth School for citizens in the Oldham East and Saddleworth constituency. Saddleworth School could stay in Uppermill so long as Your Honourable Friend from Loughborough is willing to cough up for a new building.

The temporary move of the Houses of Parliament could bring millions to the Saddleworth economy. The Hanging Gate, up for sale at the moment, could be the new Commons’ Bar. Failing that, there’s a good chippy adjacent.

I understand your sojourn may mean considerable changes to Saddleworth’s buses and trains – which for its residents and visitors may be for the better. For a start, we really could do with an evening service on the 184 from Huddersfield to Manchester. Which at present has no evening connection north of Diggle.

I remain your obedient servant…

With greater talk of devolution, decentralisation and taking power away from Westminster, moving the UK parliament to a Pennine location could be logical. It is one that demands great improvement in road and rail infrastructure. It is one likely to see a change in attitude, though perhaps unlikely.

Is it? East of the A627 muses over the possibility of moving Westminster lock stock and barrel to the West Riding of Yorkshire.

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Inside HOPS

From April 2017, the Houses of Parliament will make a historic break with London.

The plans to move the Houses of Parliament to Saddleworth will be known as HOPS. The acronym is so called to reflect 1): its new temporary home; and 2): as a tribute to one of Saddleworth’s famed exports, real ale.

The former W.H. Shaw works will be converted to house both the House of Lords and the House of Commons. At odds with its present abode on the banks of the River Thames, it is accessible by road, narrowboat and the 184 bus from Huddersfield to Manchester, via Uppermill. Its attractive setting offers a real change on the urban sprawl of Westminster and the South Bank. There will also be full access for people with disabilities.

Whilst the former W.H. Shaw mill is being fitted, temporary facilities – if construction works overrun – may be sought at Uppermill Civic Hall. During then, The Commercial Hotel would assume the guise as The Commons’ Bar with the Cross Keys being used for the House of Lords’ bar. The Strangers’ Gallery – would be the balcony of the Civic Hall.

Transport

Ministerial cars may be parked in the forecourt of the premises. To keep expenses to a minimum, Greater Manchester MPs may be encouraged to buy System One CountyCards and use First Greater Manchester’s 184 service. West Yorkshire MPs will be encouraged to buy season tickets from their constituencies up to Greenfield railway station.

Frequencies on the 184 service will be dramatically increased with an new evening service running every 20 minutes throughout the full route.

Food

All food for the HOPS scheme will be locally sourced. Oven bottom muffins will be sourced from Buckley’s bakery; beer from Saddleworth, Greenfield and Millstone breweries; bacon butties from Wilberrys on High Street, Uppermill. Caffeinated beverages will be sourced from Taylors of Harrogate or Dark Woods Coffee. All MPs and peers will be given full access to takeaway menus covering Saddleworth (though must be mindful of delivery charges and each takeaway’s respective radii).

The HOPS scheme would see the new Houses of Parliament having a regular contract with a local dairy. Occasional trips may be made to the Albion Farm Shop on the outskirts of Delph.

Recess

In addition to the usual summertime recesses, Parliament will also close for Whit Friday.

The State Opening of Parliament

At odds with tradition, The State Opening of Parliament will see our fellows led out by Dobcross Silver Brass Band.

Budget Day

The Chancellor of the Exchequer will open the budget with half a pint of Greenfield Brewery’s Silver Owl.

Prime Minister’s Questions

No change to existing times. Still Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Hours

Prior to the upgrading of the 184 service, parliamentary business will finish for 1830 hours. If in the unlikely event that speeches or bills breach the curfew, there will be a direct telephone line with Oldham and Bardsley Cars (Tariff One starting at 80p).

Entertainment

Though the National Theatre wouldn’t be on their doorstep, HOPS is of short driving distance from the Marsden Mechanics’ Institute. The 184 to Oldham returns to Diggle after 1900 hours which allows for trips to the Oldham Coliseum or the forthcoming ODEON cinema in its former town hall. By 2017, the newly reopened Hippodrome, Ashton-under-Lyne, will offer similar theatrical opportunities. As does the Millgate Arts Centre in Delph.

Uppermill Civic Hall and Boarshurst Band Club are first rate venues for live brass band concerts. The chippy on Greenbridge Lane offers the finest post-concert curry and chips.

Art loving parliamentarians cannot go wrong with the Saddleworth Museum, plus smaller galleries throughout the Saddleworth villages. Especially the Saddleworth Craft Cooperative with its charming little café.

Sport

The lure of City and United is only a short train ride away from Greenfield railway station. More equable and cheaper alternatives include Bower Fold, home to Stalybridge Celtic Football Club (train and 236/237/387 buses from Stalybridge), the Saddleworth Rangers Amateur Rugby League Club, and Seel Park (Mossley AFC’s picturesque home). Plus, there’s also the Terriers and the Giants at the John Smith’s Stadium.

Hobbies

The local brass bands are willing to welcome new players. Fishing on the River Tame and the Huddersfield Narrow Canal is possible. Where Saddleworth trumps Westminster is the amount of walking territory. Particularly Pots and Pans, Indian’s Head, Dovestones, Chew Valley and Denshaw.

Homes or Second Homes

Saddleworth is a fantastic place. One bugbear with the HOPS scheme is the effect it might have on the area’s already high house prices. Suggested is a plan to redevelop the Freehold and Derker areas – dusting down plans postponed in the previous parliament. Hartford Mill – instead of facing demolition – could become apartments.

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Infrequently Asked Questions

  1. How much will it bring to the Saddleworth economy? About £100 million per annum.
  2. Why should they have Whit Friday off? They already have enough holidays. We know that, but even heads of state should be entitled to celebrate Whit Friday.
  3. Could they cough up towards the Rushcart Festival (which is in its 41st year)? Not yet, but once they’ve decamped to the West Riding of Yorkshire in 2017 they might do.
  4. Will there be a Java in Diggle? Who knows. Thirsty parliamentarians aren’t going to be fobbed off with a mug of Nescafé.
  5. Will my journey from Greenfield to Marsden be any cheaper? Yes, if you buy a Northern Duo ticket. Then again, once the UK’s 650 or so MPs cry foul over the Standedge Tunnel Tax, things may change.
  6. What’s going to happen to Saddleworth School? If HOPS is given the go-ahead, it’ll remain on its present site albeit redeveloped.
  7. Will they bring The Beer Walk back? I doubt it.
  8. Is the Rail Ale Trail under threat? Likely to be boosted instead of scrapped.
  9. In The State Opening of Parliament, why is Dobcross Silver going to lead Messrs Cameron, Osborne et al? The bid was done by a tendering process with the winner announced at 4am on Whit Friday 2015 at the Delph Whit Friday Brass Band Contest.

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Seriously, we would love to see parliament decentralised or moved nearer to Northern England. I doubt as if they would convert a mill into one, but it would be a darn sight cheaper than redeveloping The Palace of Westminster. Never say never…

S.V., 22 June 2015.

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