Saturday 27 October 2012

Europe, PCCs, and Leafleting

I spent most of the day at a regional conference in Durham where we got to hear about the latest news in the campaigns for the local Police and Crime Commissioner elections as well as receiving an update on all things EU from our MEP Martin Callanan.

Martin eloquently discussed some of the complexities surrounding the eurozone crisis but what really stood out for me was hearing about the EC's plans to demand an eyewatering increase in the EU budget of 6.8%. At a time when national governments are having to severely cut their cloth at home with big spending cuts all round (including, incidentally, France where M. Hollande, elected on an anti-austerity ticket, has introduced the most austere budget in French history, surpassing anything M. Sarkozy could do) it shows how out of touch Mr Van Rompuy and the European Commission are with ordinary citizens. While we at home are having to deal variously with pension scheme contribution increases, deferred retirement ages, cuts to benefits, loss of child support, etc., etc., it comes across as simply insulting that the EC thinks it can demand such an increase. When public sector workers are facing another year of below-inflation pay increases, the EC wants a whopping 6.8% increase from us all. I trust that our government will veto any above inflation budget increases.

Closer to home, it was good to hear Phil Butler discuss his vision for the role of Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria Police. Phil is a 30-years time-served police officer who now works as a forensic accountant. Phil has a track record in banging up serious criminals and he really understands how policing works. His campaign is focusing on how he would take Northumbria Police forward, and I urge you to compare his views with those of the other candidates. If you don't know much about Phil then I recommend taking a look at his web site at which you can also sign up for his Twitter and Facebook feeds. If you prefer something more paper-based, then read the 8-page booklet that has been dropping through letter boxes recently.

Speaking of which, after getting home from today's conference I nipped out to deliver another 120 or so of Phil's leaflets as well as my own campaign leaflet. Residents in Mickley should already have received theirs and many in Riding Mill will be getting theirs this weekend. Many of you in Stocksfield have already received one, but if you haven't yet, then I will be popping one through your letter box sometime over the next week or so in time for you to read about Phil before the election on 15 November. If you want to know more about the role of the PCCs, then the Home Office web page on the subject is a handy port of call.

Saturday 20 October 2012

Coals to Newcastle? No thanks.

Because it's all happening "over there" in Whittonstall, the plans to open an opencast mine might not have featured large in the thoughts of residents of the Stocksfield and Broomhaugh division. However, as the Whittonstall Action Group's web site shows us, there is plenty of scope for detrimental impact on the surrounding areas far beyond the limits of Whittonstall itself. If you want to see how the opencast mine might affect where you live, have a look at the action group's map and click on the names of nearby villages to see what could happen. Think about it. A mine produces coal. All that coal has to get FROM the mine to wherever it's going, and that is going to happen by lorries driving to and from Whittonstall servicing the site.

Furthermore, whilst the current plans are to mine at Whittonstall, if they are approved further plans are sure to follow which would see mining extended scouring the countryside around Hedley and High Mickley for some time to come.

It's not too late to stop these plans. If you haven't already done so, I encourage you to write to the County Council expressing your objections. Whittonstall Action Group have provided a handy information sheet on how to do this, so please, take a few minutes and get writing. You can even email your objections which makes it even easier.

You cannot be serious! The New Ridley housing development

Along with a number of other local residents, I attended the recent meeting at Stocksfield Golf Club about the proposal to build 55 houses in the middle of New Ridley. Since then, I have knocked on nearly every door in the village and spoken to many residents. It is clear that most local people do not want this development to happen and I agree entirely.

I was dismayed by the attitude of those promoting the development. It is not acceptable to refer to local people as NIMBYs (as it was reported to me that they did) and it is indicative of their lack of respect that the questionnaire they distributed repeatedly referred to New Ridley and Stocksfield as Longframlington!

Like many in the area, I am not opposed to any and all development, but any growth should be gradual and organic. As the local parish council has shown recently it is entirely possible to come up with a plan for low cost housing development that is in sympathy with the local environment and which has the support of the community. In contrast, this development would almost double the size of the village and fundamentally change it for residents forever and irrevocably. As any New Ridley resident will tell you, the village has insufficient amenities to support such large and rapid growth. There are problems with water drainage and mains water supply, broadand provision is poor, there are no shops, and (beyond a single weekly bus to Hexham) there is no bus service. Broomley first school in Stocksfield is at capacity. Add to all that the pressures an extra 100 or so cars will put on an already crowded New Ridley road, and I can see nothing of merit in this proposal.

Today I hand-delivered a letter to residents of New Ridley outlining my objections to the development and inviting them to sign a petition of opposition which I will submit to Northumberland County Council. If you want to sign the petition a copy is also available in the Dr Syntax Pub in New Ridley.   This is just the first step in telling the council and the developer that we do not want these houses to be built.

I am sure the parish council will also be working strenuously to oppose this development as and when formal plans are submitted by the developer to the county council.