Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Backing the loser!

It seems that I am not a natural supporter of either of the front runners for the Labour leadership. The VoteMatch site quiz tells me that I'm closer to Diane Abbott than any of the others. Though perhaps I'm really closer to Andy Burnham who didn't manage to get his answers in on time! Whatever, it's far more interesting than the constant Milliband Brothers show which seems to be the standard fare on most of the media.
Meanwhile the local press has managed some rather fanciful stories on what the Protect Preston Park group are hoping to see in the Park. Vague hopes have become definite plans but they do make good reading! The sooner that Stockton Council makes a decision to move away from silly plans for building in Preston Park the sooner we can concentrate on some of the important things in the borough - like how to make sure that Egglescliffe school gets a suitable building and Ingleby Barwick gets more secondary school places nearer to the children who need them.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Take to The Tees

The Take to the Tees event peaked today with the first ever River Rat Race. 750 competitors ran, swam, kayaked, splodged through mud and other joyous activities.
The wind was strong enough to cause concern over the tents and marquees erected along the riverside but the Council's events team was keeping a close eye on things and no insurmountable problems seemed to arise. Certainly the families enjoying the spectacle didn't seem to find the weather a deterrent. It was good to see so many people there. This was a complete departure from the Summer show which usually takes place in Preston Park and it'll be interesting to see how the evaluation reads. Will we go back to the traditional event in the Park next year when the events field drainage has settled or will people prefer this new format? Only time will tell.
One thing's for sure - I doubt if there will be many years when the competitors in the Rat Race include both the Mayor and the Leader of the Council! Well done to both of them. It takes Civic Leadership to a new level!
Our river is an amazing asset and one we do well to promote. Tour companies please note - Stockton is well worth visiting.
The next big event will be the Fireworks on Nov 5th, again by the river. Be there!
Amongst the various exhibitors was the RSPB, promoting their campaign to convince government ministers that cutting funding for projects to protect wildlife is a very shortsighted approach to money saving. I signed the petition and I hope you will too. I also hope that the emphasis on growing the Green economy will help biodiversity in the long term - if we are polluting less we should be able to support more variety of wildlife. Meanwhile short term thinking needs to take account of the needs of our natural environment or there won't be a very good quality of life for our next generation to enjoy. I don't want the need for financial belt tightening to overshadow the need for us to preserve and enhance our "green and pleasant land."

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Planning matters

We heard today that the Planning inspector has refused the appeal against Stockton Council's refusal of permission for further development of 15 Station Rd, including a retrospective application to add 2nd floor living accommodation to the first floor flat. The inspector considered that the proposals would "detract in a significant way from the character and appearance of the building and the Eaglescliffe Conservation Area". What a pity that Stockton Council's planning officers didn't say that about all the previous alterations! At least one can hope that no further developments will take place on it.
I'd like to see the promised landscaping at Hughenden, on the corner of Yarm Rd & Station Rd, but I sometimes wonder if I'll live long enough. There's something seriously wrong with our planning system when a developer can just ignore planning conditions and yet sell or rent out the property with impunity. I'm looking forward to the publication later in the year of the Localism bill which we're promised will give powers back to the local council. How brave will the new government be? I'd love to be able to sit on a planning committee knowing that we can make our own decisions without worrying about the cost of an appeal but I doubt if that will happen.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Holiday is Over

The paucity of postings in the past few weeks is indicative of the fact that I've dared to take a holiday! Thanks as always to my fellow councillor, John Fletcher, for keeping up the work in the ward while Alan Lewis and I took time off.
Obviously it's not something to advertise in advance, so apologies to those of you who might have tried to contact me during August. I did pick up some of the emails and Facebook messages while away but didn't work every day, spending much more time enjoying the company of our family on the other side of the world. Getting to know our grandson was far more important than anything happening in Eaglescliffe!
And now it's back to the relative warmth of a British Bank Holiday weekend, though the rain did seem to follow us home.
The rain which in other circumstances might have spoiled a holiday was a very welcome and necessary "weather event" for the local population - the end of a 10 year drought is worthy of celebration. It's hard here in the North East of England to imagine living through a drought, thanks to Keilder Water, but in Melbourne they've had 10 years of lower than needed rainfall. No washing of cars, severe restrictions on watering the garden, taking a shower in 4 minutes flat, no charcoal barbecues, are just some of the privations which have been suffered. Next month for the first time in 10 years, washing of cars will be allowed outside of automatic car washes which only use recycled (grey) water. Hose pipes will no doubt be popular purchases once again!
One issue which was raised while I was away was the appearance of a crane and various other pieces of equipment in Preston Park. The rumour mill started immediately but we have had it confirmed that the equipment is related to the construction of the new jetty and nothing at all to do with bridges, schools or any of the other things imagined by residents.
I've spent most of the day opening post and reading emails, so hope to catch up on responses over the next week.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I've been saddened this week to hear the news that Allison Trainer has finally lost her battle with cancer. Allison was an Independent councillor for Thornaby, someone who cared passionately about her home town and the people in it, especially the youngsters. She fought tooth and nail to bring better things to Thornaby than were there already - better housing choices, better youth activities, better policing, better behaviour on the streets. That same energy went into the battle with cancer, giving her years more to spend with her family and friends than had been predicted.
I didn't always agree with Allison on politics but she deserved enormous respect for her convictions and her courage. She will be missed, not only by family, friends and Thornaby but by the whole council.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Careful consideration or U-turn?

When the government announced that the Building Schools for the Future programme was being stopped in Stockton and other towns there was an outcry. People said that all the funding was being taken away, the investment so far was wasted and the new government was depriving the borough of the new schools that had been planned. Now the first stage of the reconsideration has been completed and Stockton's two academies are going ahead. So now some of the press comment is along the lines of U-turns. I get the distinct impression that some journalists can't bear the government to be right.
Now I hope that we'll see the government finding better ways of using the limited funds available to have as many of the other school projects we need funded.