Day Five: Saturday 18th June 2011

Andrew Clarke’s Blog; Associate Director at TY.

And so we reached day five.  After a busy and intensive week, we are reaching the conclusion of the Design Enquiry.  It feels like a very long time ago indeed that we all boarded the coach to visit the site on Monday.  This really is only ‘the end of the beginning’ so to speak and through the course of Saturday it was the intention of our team to help attendees identify the way forward and how they can contribute to the process from here on in.

Having had a fantastic and consistent level of attendance I might have expected that on a sunny Saturday morning, at the end of a tiring week, people might have fancied a break or had other things to do.  But, as has been the case all week, the full group arrived early and with enviable levels of energy and continued interest.  And so we commenced Day 5.

So what happened in the final session?

The day began with a review of week’s activities culminating in reflections on the four scenarios / options from Thursday.  The group was asked to provide one word that captured their feelings about the week and this included the following.  Comments included; stimulating, creative, intensive, complex, idealistic, committed, partial, incomplete, good-start, and useful.  This hinted at the theme which had emerged throughout the process with people wanting information which at present does not exist and wanting to be involved in the project as this information and design thinking moves forward.

People were then invited to revisit the 4 options / scenarios created and presented on Thursday.  Working in small groups people were asked to use post-it-notes to pin up their positive and negative thoughts on these options.  Whilst these 4 options were not the key output from the week – the intention was not to arrive at a single masterplan – they did form the basis of the main ‘spatial planning’ output for the site.  As such, it was important that everyone had an opportunity to feedback on these ideas following the design review panel’s comments on Thursday night.  All of this detailed information will be included in the report of the event.

And so ideas turned to how all of this good work so far could be continued and fed-into the planning process for the site.  The group were invited to have a quiet moments thinking time considering their priorities for action and the way ahead.  The group’s ideas were then collected around the group to generate a detailed log of comments.  People’s views were wide-ranging but themes included the following; this must not be the end of the process.  The Design Enquiry ‘team’ needs to reconvene at key moments in the future and continue to be involved.  That missing information needs to be collected as appropriate and gaps in information filled.  Key issues for example levels of affordable housing need to be reviewed with the two Councils.  The planning document(s) for the two Councils need to be aligned.  People’s appetite to keep involved and to see the vision through to implementation was evident for all to see.

Throwing the Doors Open!

At 12noon with the final session concluded the doors to the community centre were thrown open and a steady stream of local residents arrived to review the week’s activities.  This was all quite informal with the consultants, Council representatives, and – Importantly – many members of the Design Enquiry team, on hand to answer questions and explain what had gone on.  ‘So what’s the answer?’ – One lady asked me polity, but firmly.  It soon became apparent that it was not possible to explain in just a few moments the approach and outcomes through the week and I found myself touring the room with people and spending significant amounts of time with individuals and small groups showing them the outputs from each day and the week.

That there was ‘No one answer’ took some time to grasp.  But when people understood the process that had been worked through, they were comforted that the outcome of the weeks work  would support more detailed work in respect of briefing for development on the site.  The most refreshing thing for me was that so many of the Design Enquiry team stayed on to describe the work that had gone on and the four options that emerged on Thursday.  To hear the group describing the drawings and the thinking behind these demonstrated the value of the weeks’ activities and the ability of the group.  This was a highlight for me.

The Blog

This blog has been wholly written and provided by Taylor Young.  Some members of the workshop have asked for their own ‘papers and web links’ to be added.  We have agreed to include all such notes within our report.  These will be disseminated in coming weeks and be available alongside all other information provided during the week.  We hope the blog has provided a helpful and informative narrative on the workshop and has helped give people a flavour of what has been happening.  We are always keen to receive feedback on our work and if anyone has comments on the blog then please get in touch.

Next Steps

Our next step is to write up our report based on all the information received throughout the week.  This is a big job.  When we have worked through this the report will be issued to the two Councils and to the Design Enquiry group to agree as an accurate record.  There will then be a public meeting and presentation.

But for now, we have reached the end of an exhausting week.  We are grateful to the energy, interest and enthusiasm of all those who attended.  Its only when you run and participate in events like this that you are reminded just how demanding they can be and how much progress can be made with the right level of inputs from all.  Certainly there are learning points for our team and the feedback forms from the event, once analysed will no doubt help us to improve.  But from my own personal perspective and from speaking to people on the final day, I feel this was a successful process.  A process which offers a direct and tangible example, of how localism and positive planning, can be delivered in an innovative way.

Until we meet again…  Thank you and good afternoon!


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Day Four: Thursday 16th June 2011



Adam Broadway’s Blog; Facilitator

Today’s blog has been written by Adam Broadway, a member of the Taylor Young facilitation team.

So we have reached Day Four. It has been a long week and I have been delighted about the energy everyone continues to show.  The TY team remain focused and set a new record today for setting up a room!

Day Four was a day of fruit…….literally. While yesterday we spoilt everyone with cream cakes, it was now time to freshen everyone up with fresh fruit. But important it was also the day when we asked everyone to pull everything together and show the fruits of their labours.

Our day started early with a really interesting visit to Poynton High School, where we spent a morning session with a group of fourteen year old, Year Nine students. With the students we asked them what they liked and didn’t like about their area and then asked them to work in small groups to outline what they would want on the site.

We took this opportunity as we felt that young people’s views are often not captured and also the exhibition attendee data confirmed that those under 35 only represented 5 percent of the total.

The results were interestingly balanced and sensible. While clearly wanting youth activities such as sports, theme park, paintball, there was also recognition to keep open space, provide improved public and sustainable transport connections. Drawings were made available during the afternoon session.

We started Day Four with the now traditional previous day review, which drew no immediate issues. However in our first session we asked everyone to review the vast amount of information supplied in the resource boxes and comment on the various technical presentations made at the close of yesterday’s proceedings. It was during this session that a number of the group raised concerns that sometimes the information may be lacking or potentially conflicting. For example around the percentage of affordable housing, the new information that there are possibly a number of oil/diesel storage tanks.

Our now four groups were asked to review the information and provide a list of key issues, concerns and questions. Each groups duly responded to the task and a range of important and valid points were recorded. Officers from SBMC and CEC agreed to take these away and report. A key question raised was how the results of this intense week would be reported back. TY re-confirmed that they will be producing a summary report supported by an accurate record of points raised. In addition a presentation to members of both authorities and the wider community will follow, dates for these are yet to be confirmed however it is likely the public feedback will be in mid July. Following this question, it was agreed to consider how the group could feedback on the draft content prior to circulation.

Understandably there are vast amount of technical data and reports required before the re-development of Woodford Aerodrome can commence due to its existing use and scale. It was noted that some key tasks had either started, such as traffic modelling, but other important surveys such as ecology, ground investigations, environmental impact assessments had not yet been commissioned.

Having spent an hour or so asking lots of detailed questions the event switched back to concept proposals. Those following the blog will know that each attendee was asked to sketch out some high level ideas about how the whole site could be developed yesterday. Key features such as access, areas to be developed and areas to be open, green spaces were plotted on site plans. The TY team examined these during the morning and it seemed to us that there were four themes emerging. So for this afternoon session we asked attendees to form working groups based on the theme they felt most aligned to.

The four themes were:-

  1. Those who only wanted to develop within the existing MEDS (major existing development site)
  2. Those who only wanted to develop same amount of land defined by the MEDS but consider other locations in the Stockport Council area only
  3. Those who only wanted to develop same amount of land defined by the MEDS but consider other locations across the site (including Cheshire East)
  4. Those who wanted to be free thinking and develop the whole site without the MEDS constraints

After a fruit and refreshment break we asked the attendees to sit on a table which represented one of the above themes. Interestingly everyone obliged though by far the majority headed to group three.

The task now was to agree as a group a draft plan for the site, within the constraints know/set.  The purpose was to achieve a consensus and agree a project vision and set of key objectives to support their proposal. Each proposal would then be presented to a Design Review Panel. What has consistently surprised me is how everyone has risen to a challenging task with commitment and eagerness. Each group in their own way set about drawing and defining their proposal.

The final session was fascinating. All four groups pinned up their outputs and in turn were asked to present their proposal to the Design Review Panel, who consisted of Stephen Gleave TY and panel chair, Paul Lawrence from Stockport Council, Adrian Fisher from Cheshire East Council and Richard Cass from Cass Associates.

Each group were given ten minutes only to present their task and all delivered perfectly to time. A series of testing and challenging questions from the panel were equally defended in support of their proposal by the group representatives.

Taking an overview there seemed to be some consistency in each theme. For me these were:-

  • Desire to protect the green space, make valuable use of views and vistas
  • Make good use of the Woodford area due to access/connections.
  • All groups suggested a range of housing, two stressed inclusion of an older persons village. One group did focus on high value/larger homes rather than affordable
  • Mixed uses through-out…ie inclusion of employment and housing.
  • All wanted to ensure a sustainable development.
  • Plenty of ideas around use of cycling/pedestrian access.
  • Desire to retain and reflect the site’s history in various ways.

The week has been quite a journey. As expected there have been lots of highs and lows. Upon reflection yesterday was a clear high. It was the culmination of lots of really hard work. It also served well to bring a range of people together under a common objective, many of whom are now on first name terms. I’d personally like to wish everyone very good luck for the next stages.

Adam Broadway

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Day Three: Wednesday 15th June 2011

Andrew Clarke’s Blog; Associate Director at TY.

After a really creative day yesterday we were keen to keep up the enthusiasm, interest and energy levels!  People were keen to get their ideas out and the format for today was designed with this in mind and to allow people to explore their own ideas for the site.

At the same time people’s appetite for more information, evident throughout, should be satisfied on Day Three with an expert panel presenting on a wide range of topics including planning, health, education, heritage, open space and transport.

So what happened?

The day began with a review of the objectives for the Design Enquiry, in response to a question the previous evening.  This underlined that the process was not about getting to a single solution or finished masterplan.  There might be many different ideas and that’s fine.  Equally if there is agreement on how best to respond to the challenges of the site that’s fine as well.

The issues of MEDS (Major existing developed site), a planning policy area within the Stockport Council part of the site, was raised again with people questioning whether these areas set key constraints for development on site.  Our team’s response was that this is a planning policy which can be interpreted in different ways.  It is possible to think about an option which restricts development within the MEDS.  But there could also be another option which takes a more flexible approach to where development might go.  There is then the question of what development happens on the Cheshire East part of the site.  The group have different views on these issues.  But one thing that was agreed on was that the site needs to be designed as a whole.

Mick Timpson then gave a presentation to the group on ‘The Magic and Mystery of Place Making’.  This aimed to help attendees understand what makes a good place and the qualities that successful places exhibit, all of this through a series of his favourite paintings.  This novel approach provided an inspiring and thought provoking talk.  There was much which could be applied to the site including the need to create a sense of place and belonging.  To create spaces where people feel at one with nature, where there is both distinctiveness and also belonging and where there is beauty, fun and a rich experience of place.  Mick’s message was that a place-making approach is about much more than laying out houses or the architecture of buildings.

Following that brief flirtation with art history and high culture the discussion started to refocus on the site itself.  And I provided some thoughts about both the scale of the site and the layers of thinking which need to be included in any site brief or masterplan.  Clearly it’s a big site.  So much so that at the same scale on a plan, two local villages Mottram St. Andrew and the core of Adlington are easily accommodated.  Showing the group these superimposed plans, brought home the scale of the site and the opportunity.  The village scale is one which the group is keeping in mind and has been a recurring theme so far.  One attendee suggested we think about whether we are extending Woodford village, and maybe bringing new facilities and a village green?  Or creating a new village altogether

I also described my own approach to designing sites of this scale, and how I try to think about different interlocking layers to development including the natural landscape, the connections to be established, the buildings and their arrangement and the activities that go on in a place.  The dominant layer on this site, now and in the future is the landscape layer! Everyone seems agreed on that.  But that was enough of us talking about design.  At that point we handed over the felt pens to the group and got them designing for themselves.

The task was for attendees working individually to start to layout the site and to establish clear design ideas.  We wanted cartoons of the site which set out the routes and connection – drawing using the black felt pen, the development areas – using the red pen, and the green spaces – you guessed it using the green pen.  It was not long before people were asking for a blue pen as lakes; wetlands and the like began to be considered.  At first the room was quite as people worked quietly deep in thought.  Then the room came alive as people began to look at each other work and debate their ideas.  So we have 40 different plans for the site.  All were pinned up and reviewed as a group.  I was struck by the quality of the thinking.  All these plans will be pinned up on Saturday from 12-2pm.  There were many creative leaps and I particularly liked the idea of retaining striking views towards the peaks and creating new wetland and water spaces.

Some people were concerned that we didn’t have sufficient information to start to design the site.  But this concern way promptly addressed by a technical panel review covering a wide range of topics.  This started with a view from the landowner BAE Systems design team.  They made clear that generating a commercial return for the site is a priority; but that they do also value the legacy of the site and that they want to do a proper job and create a high quality place.

From education and health it was good to see the two Councils working together to present a clear agenda.  A primary school is likely to be needed with major new residential development.  In terms of health, the picture is not so clear cut with existing health centres having a key role to play.  Healthy lifestyles and general wellbeing were also underlined as important.  For example, places to play outside and to exercise and the ability to walk and cycle through the scheme, could all be supported by the design.

The landscape perspective was also set out and the need to work with existing ecology and habitats was underlined.  The development could also create improved conditions for wildlife.  As yet there have been no detailed surveys and this will be addressed going forward by the landowner.

Heritage and the special history of the site were also described.  Whilst none of the buildings on the site are architecturally valuable or protected by listings the original AVRO hanger and heritage centre were described as being important.  There will also need to be orientation and a way of telling the storey of the site even if buildings and the runway are removed.

The transport position was also described by the land owners design team and whilst there is no traffic modelling available yet the key principle is that there should be no increase in peak hour traffic (based on when the site was fully active) without investment in new or improved infrastructure.

The need for sustainable development was underline in both the planning and regeneration presentations.  The site has a development future and that was not in question.  The nature, scale and type of development, needs to be explored and this will include a requirement for affordable housing for local people.  It was noted that this is a major inward investment opportunity and that the involvement of local people in the Design Enquiry reflects the Governments Localism agenda and the Councils will take the outcomes of this very seriously.

OK… so another intensive day with a lot of ground covered.  We have lots more information and the basics of the planning and infrastructure requirements.  We have 40 different site designs and lots of great ideas.  And the intention on Thursday is to take all of this work on to the next stage.

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Day Two: Tuesday 14th June 2011

Gareth Sumner’s blog; Urban Designer at TY.

After the information bombardment of the first day, Day Two was a chance to get the creative juices flowing and start to imagine what kind of a place could be created.

But what’s the plan for the site?

Before moving on to the second day’s activities it was important to summarise and ensure that everyone was moving forward together.  There was a concern raised at this point by one of the attendees that they were going to be led down a particular route to approve a pre-agreed future for the site.  Stephen Gleave made it clear that from his point of view there was nothing agreed and that he was as new to investigating a future for the site as the attendees.  He reemphasized the fact that the objective of the week was not to produce a design solution but to interrogate all we know about the site and investigate how we want to prepare the planning system for a positive future for Woodford. be or not to be?

The day began with an interactive session.  The room was split into two and each group given 40 different images on cards.  The task was simple enough (or so we thought!), to stick each image under the headings “For Woodford” and “Not for Woodford” to help us all understand what kind of place wanted to create.

At first I thought I’d spotted a pattern – if there was green space on the image it was for Woodford, if it had any kind of building on it wasn’t!  (hmm, this could be a tough week I thought).  But as more images went on the boards, I realized it was much more subtle than.  The session ended up stimulating some really interesting debates about what fitted in the Woodford context, what was bold enough for Woodford and what was simply irrelevant.

Analyzing the boards afterwards we had a pleasant surprise that although there was disagreement between the two groups on what was “not for Woodford”, there was much more that the two groups agreed upon. Check the photos out below to see what you think…

A long term place…

Adam Broadway kicked of the formal part of the day with a presentation on Sustainability and its importance for the future of Woodford.   This is a massively broad area and “sustainability” is word that seems to be used in almost every conversation about the future.  However Adam did well to cut through it all and present a fascinating view on how a focus on sustainability was simply about making a place “sustainable” and about creating a place that was able to deal with the rapidly changing and developing challenges that the world, as a whole, has to tackle.

A sustainability protocol…

Adam proposed putting sustainability at the heart of Woodford’s future by setting up a “Sustainability Protocol” focused on 4 key areas:

  • Character & identity
  • Movement & linkages
  • Landscape & green infrastructure
  • Uses & activities (social infrastructure)

The room was a little quiet at the end of the presentation, but why? It turned out it wasn’t a lack of caffeine, but because it “was difficult to disagree with” said one attendee.  Great! We thought.  Although this wasn’t quite the universal view with a few attendees pondering whether we really need to bear more of the pain for climate change than we were responsible for.


But hold on, what are we calling this place? The question was raised what area we were talking about, or at least what were we calling it? “Woodford”? “Woodford Aerodrome”? “The Site”? “AVRO”? we settled on (for now) “AVRO” as the historic name for the area in question.

Visionary thinking…

We all then recharged our caffeine levels and after the break begun to try to articulate a vision for the site.  Four tables, five cards each, 5 words needed.  Specifically, 5 adjectives that would describe a vision for the future of AVRO.  The groups got to work trying to work out what a describing word was before, in lightening speed, coming up with 5 surprisingly similar, but at the same time, diverse sets of 5 words.  Sympathetic, bold, achievable, individual, diverse, appropriate, un-ignorable, natural, integrated and village-like were all included in a brilliant display of creative words.

Back in to your groups…

Next up, each group was asked to focus on a different area of the sustainability protocol.  The groups were given 30 minutes to come up with the top 5 priorities in each area and present them back to the group.   The results were really positive with a diverse range of views on each area.

The character & identity group wanted to create a bold forward looking place that referenced the past but created a 21st century “model village”.  “AVRO Park” was suggested as a name and the runway as some kind of central, special place.

The movement and linkages group were careful to consider both the situation now and in the future, looking at improved public transport connections, providing links across the site (breaking down the barrier of the runway) and creating a place in which people could walk around.

Use & activity was an interesting one and came up with a multitude of diverse uses including different types of residential development and numerous recreational and other uses for the green space.  All connected by sustainable modes of transport.

Finally, the group focusing on Landscape started by clarifying that the site today was not a natural landscape but a managed and man-made one.  Importantly the question was asked “what kind of green do we want?” The group outlined the potential to improve biodiversity through wetlands, the potential of a lake or water feature and the opportunity to produce links across the site that made the most of the landscape.

The discussions concluded after another successful day with a good buzz in the room and a desire to make the most of the remaining days ahead.

Tomorrow will focus on place making and Future Woodfords technical parameters…

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Day One: Monday 13th June 2011

Becky Mather’s blog; Landscape Architect at TY.

So Day One………………………………….information, information, information

There’s a certain level of apprehension and excitement around this project for all involved. The site is local to our Handforth office and knowing the high levels of interest in Woodford aerodrome we were expecting a good turn out and some lively discussion.

We weren’t wrong, before the doors opened delegates started to arrive and quite quickly the hubbub of conversation built around the room. Approximately 38 people attended.

The first task of the day was to focus on our feelings around participating in the workshop and the future of the site.

As you can see from the responses the was a great deal of optimism in the room however it’s fair to say a number of people are still to be convinced that public consultation works!

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After some team introductions, the delegate group introduced themselves and their interest in the site. A show of hands confirmed that roughly half of those in the room represented residents of Cheshire East and half resided in Stockport.

In terms of interest in the site approximately half the group were attending as local residents and the other half were councillors or representing other key stakeholders.

There was a brief introduction to the site and the decommissioning programme.

Ian Harrison and Simon Styche from Stockport  Council and Stuart Penny from Cheshire East’s Spatial Planning team  gave the current position with regard to their planning frameworks and how this site and the design workshop would sit within their strategies.

Stockport Council are working towards a Supplementary Planning Document and a draft of this for consultation is expected in the autumn, Cheshire East will be starting a series of placemaking consultation events in their main towns, including Poynton, to gauge public opinion on local amenities, what makes a each a good place to live and where improvements might be considered.  Each authority is clearly at a different point in their planning process, we hope the outcomes from this workshop will influence these plans.

To help local authorities with these tasks the role of this workshop group is to listen to and question all the relevant site information, raise areas of concern and consider the opportunities for this site within the parameters and context of the location, local need and impact of development.

Importantly, the outcome of the workshop will not be a masterplan; BAE systems (the site owner) have an appointed team of masterplanners CASS associates to do the design work.

The group then headed out to the site, here we all are lined up ready for the magical mystery tour.

Magical Mystery Tour

Andy Darlington the site manager at Woodford Aerodrome directed the tour of the site, members of the group marked up notes on plans and questions to Andy ranged from uses/ heritage to built structure on site including the runways.

On returning to the workshop venue delegates were split into 5 groups and asked to consider the top 5 issues for the site. The views of the groups will feed directly into the visioning work on Tuesday.

Following a short break Richard Cass from Cass Associates presented the first cut through the findings of a very well attended Public Exhibition. There is some further work before the final report is ready for issue however delegates got a good flavour of the responses. Richard pointed out that over 1000 people participated and of these around 70% returned a questionnaire, interestingly  of those who were able to come along the proportion of attendee’s under 35 was negligible.

This was followed by Richard’s presentation of the site constraints and a question and answer session where the group were invited address any information which they felt hadn’t been answered in the presentation.

The evening was wrapped up with group sessions, delegates noted any areas where they felt further information was still needed. Technical parameters will be picked up in more detail on Wednesday.

I think the day went very well, it was a long day and there was a lot of information and spin off questions in the room. The delegates seem fully engaged and excited about the process so there is real optimism in the TY team that this will be a very successful week and provide some real food for thought for both local authorities.

Many thanks to everyone who gave up their time today, it is very generous, and much appreciated.

So Day 2…………………………….. vision, opportunities, the future of Woodford Aerodrome…………………………….?

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Welcome to the Woodford Aerodrome Design Enquiry

Aerial photo of site

Thank you for taking the time to read the Woodford Aerodrome Design Enquiry Blog.

This blog will be updated daily to summarise the activities and outcomes of the week-long Design Enquiry for Woodford Aerodrome.  This is your way of staying in touch with the evolving work and ideas throughout the week.  Before the Design Enquiry gets going on Monday 13th, we wanted to provide some basic information to help people understand what is going on.  Please visit this site again through the week to hear more about the Design Enquiry…

So what is the Design Enquiry all about?  Basically this is a chance for selected local people and interest groups to get involved in a series of hands-on workshops, which focus on the future of Woodford Aerodrome.  This is not about drawing up a definitive plan for the site; rather the workshops will explore the key issues and principles.  Throughout the week workshops will build up a picture of the site and the various constraints and opportunities it presents.

Who is running the Design Enquiry?  The Design Enquiry has been organised and funded by Stockport Council and Cheshire East Council who are working to develop planning documents embracing the site. The event will be facilitated by Taylor Young, an independent national urban design consultancy based locally.  Taylor Young will organise and manage the workshop and prepare a report once the week is over.  This report will help all participants learn from their experience and explain what went on.

Is this Design Enquiry related to the recent public consultation?  The recent public consultation event was organised by the landowners BAE Systems and their masterplanners Cass Associates.  Stockport Council and Cheshire East Council are working closely with the landowners and were involved in the run up to this consultation.  The Design Enquiry provides another open-ended forum for local people and stakeholder to have their say on the site and this is a Council rather than landowner initiative.  It will consider the feedback from the public exhibition and will take forward the ideas raised here for the site.

Will there be more public consultation in the future?  Yes there will be more consultation in due course as the planning agenda for the site moves forward.  This will include further consultation via Stockport Council and Cheshire East Council, as they prepare planning documents for the site.  It will also include more detailed consultation via the landowner and their design team as the masterplan for the site takes shape.

What is the outcome from the Design Enquiry? The intention is to develop a comprehensive list of issues, constraints and opportunities, along with development principles and options for the site.  It is important to remember that nothing will be decided or agreed within the workshops.  The workshop outcomes will be written up and presented through a report and public meeting later in June.  The outcomes of the Design Enquiry will feed into planning documents for the site and wider areas.

Workshop Outline

OK, so here we go… a week of no doubt engaging debate and discussion!  The team at Taylor Young are excited to part of this process and as independent facilitators all views will be welcomed.  Keep an eye on this Blog for further information thorough the week.

Taylor Young

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