Letter to an Editor

I wrote a small screed to our local newspaper concerning a proposed Development Plan for our whole County, and I thought I might reproduce it here. As I may have mentioned before, I have taken a deep and critical interest in local politics recently, so, as this Plan is so important, I thought I might stir up some effluent.:- (Note; the words in Red are quoted straight from the Plan).

To the Editors,

I am writing to advise your readers of a book that they simply must read. They won’t have to buy it, because it is free to those who wish access, either online, as a download, or as a normal printed book. It is a work of non-fiction, but there is, by this observer’s thinking, a great deal of both fiction and wishful thinking in this book of 301 pages. It has a really zingy title, well chosen for both brevity and accuracy; namely… The County Durham Plan (Pre-Submission Draft Local Plan). See what I mean? The words roll off your tongue like treacle spread over honey! It is a great pity that the contents don’t live up to the title, as there is planning, but not the type which most of us would accept as the result of neutral thought and open discussion. No, this document, which purports to be the Plan under which this whole County, along with all its residents, will be steered towards a happier, more productive and informed existence than they do at present; is in fact the worst sort of Socialist thinking in terms of the old-style attitude of ‘We know what is best, so shut up, pay your taxes, and we’ll let you know when its finished!’

Allow me to expand and explain. The book states, in great detail, The Plan as it purports to lay out the master-plan for regeneration, re-industrialisation and re-vitalisation of the County in which we live. I was not expecting to read a funny book, but there are pages which will generate laughter in the reader, but the laughter will not be of a humorous nature; but instead will be acid, sarcastic and derisory. The excerpts which will generate the laughter are entitled ‘Vision’, and explain, in great and glorious detail, how we shall all be living, some twenty years down the timeline, in a ‘Workers Paradise’, reminiscent of the Stalinist billboards which featured strong, muscular, chisel-featured  men and beautiful women, gazing forth into a rising sun, as they set forth to build that same ‘Paradise’.

We are told that Durham City’s traders and businesses will flourish, aided by the newly-built “relief roads”which will remove excess ‘through’ traffic from its overburdened main roads. Tourists will “flock’ to see the Cathedral and the ‘sensitively optimised heritage and cultural attractions’, whilst staying in the newly-provided ‘quality accommodation’. Major new ‘communities’ will have developed to the North, East and South of the City proper, and the inhabitants of those ‘new communities’ will all be leading fruitful lives in harmony with everyone else. To the East of Durham City, Seaham Harbour is lauded as a new generator for wealth and activity, with most of the new wealth coming from the ‘Marina and Harbour’, the only one in County Durham, and the visionary Centre for Creative Excellence. Peterlee is not forgotten, as the Plan states that it will have a ‘vibrant’ regionally important employment base and new rail access via the new rail station at Horden.

For the South of the County, the planners wax lyrical with the ‘strong success’ of Aycliffe Park and Amazon Park, and Hitachi shall be the home of train manufacturing in the UK. Bishop Auckland has not been forgotten, as it is described as having a consolidated retail centre and well-supports the ‘visitor experience’, what ever that may be. Newton Aycliffe and Spennymoor will no doubt be encouraged to learn they will have viable housing strategies, and Crook will still be the ‘gateway’ to the Durham Dales. The West of the County, Barnard Castle, Stanhope and Wolsingham will be delighted to learn that accessibility will have been improved, and broadband access will bring creative and service industries flocking to their environment.

All this will be achieved through ‘Sustainable Development’ and a ‘Spatial Approach’ (no, I don’t know what that means either!); but a big hint is in the choice, by these same Planners, of where and how the major new ‘Communities’ will be sited and built, and then bought by the future occupants of these ‘sustainably built’ and ‘spatially planned’ houses and estates.

The  Durham City Green Belt is proposed, under this Plan, to be de-registered and then raped, in three major areas. To the North of Durham City, a huge new development north of the Arnison Centre, a second huge estate complex surrounding  Sniperley to the North East, and a third, smaller housing development South of  Sherburn Road. The two afore-mentioned ‘relief roads’ shall funnel the extra traffic generated by the occupants of the new developments, mostly riding on public transport and fewer in those nasty, evil private cars, away from the main thoroughfares and trunk roads of Durham City proper, and all in this new-found ‘Garden of Eden’ will be so, so happy!

But the twist in this Planners’ plot comes along when the Plan reveals how all of this will be paid for. Because the bill will be immense! All the industrial parks, the new ‘relief roads’, access roads, sewerage, power lines and cables will have to be provided, but not by the County Council; because the Council doesn’t have any extra taxpayers’ cash of its own. Or does it? No, it will all be paid for by the Community Infrastructure Levy, which is just another name for yet another ‘Stealth Tax’ which states that every house, every shop, store or supermarket, every development within the list will have to shell out huge sums of money to fund these huge bills, and the end users of the houses would have to realise that the inflated prices being asked for these ‘sustainably and spatially’-built homes would be paying, through the veritable nose, for the privilege of living in one of these so-called ‘vibrant’ communities. Just to give you some idea of the range of charges under this Community Levy, the proposed Levy charges for new homes within the Green Belt land would be around £250.00 per square metre, for large retailers (supermarkets) the Levy would be around £400.00 per square metre, and for student accommodation the charge would be £50.00 per square metre. So if Tesco wanted to build another ‘Extra’ around the same size as the Dragonville site, they would have to shell out, on top of all the other building costs, 40,000 * £400.00, or some £16 million quid! The Council really want to attract new investment into County Durham!

So, in winding up this small diatribe, I would end with one piece of advice, and one comment. The advice is simple, grab yourself a long, cool gaze at this bureaucratic wet dream, and then make your objections, if any occur to you, known to the Council, either on the web-site, or by letter.

The comment is the truth that we, as a community, get exactly the Local Government we deserve. An Exhibition on the Plan were held at Framwellgate Moor on the afternoon and evening of Wednesday 23rd, and the room was thronged with interested people. A similar exhibition was held at the Laurel Avenue community centre in Gliesgate on the 24th, the  following Thursday, and only two people, one of whom was myself, signed in by 7 p.m.


Mike Cunningham

The missing headline.

In a review of newspaper headlines this morning, I note the following:-

  • Comments on the alleged shut-down of America; or not, as the case may be
  • The Home Secretary in a row over who said what about some other lying politician who refused to dismount his bike whilst leaving Downing St.
  • Caroline Lucas gets her name up through her ‘fracking’ arrest.
  • Lots of chatter about some weird football game and trophy.
  • More talk about Jimmy Savile, and how he got away with everything.
  • A New Zealand novelist winning a literary prize.
  • Crisis, once more, in the NHS Mental Health services.
  • No strike in Grangemouth, Union backs down!
  • Mark Duggan executed whilst holding gun which strangely enough, subsequently appeared over thirty yards from car.
  • Iran’s nuclear ambitions continue, as do the ‘talks’.
  • Labour Party female MP defends decision to pose topless when 15 years old…”I needed money for some clothes!”


But strangely enough the number 445 does not feature prominently in most news organisations web screens. Is it an important number? Yes, I believe it is, because it tells the story of how a bunch of weaselling, lying politicians failed our Armed Services in the worst possible way, and how they continue to lie, which is why yet one more British soldier’s blood garnishes the sands and soil of an ungrateful Afghanistan.

My father served in the British Army throughout WW2, as did many thousands more. My uncle died in Northern France days after D-Day, and thousands more Allied troops died after him in the weeks and months that followed. But they, the living and the sadly-dead, fought  in a just cause, to defeat the Nazi war machine of Adolf Hitler. As the late King George VI said in his famous speech on the day war was declared, ‘Such a principle, stripped of all disguise, is surely the mere primitive doctrine that might is right ‘, and the politicians, who guided our Nation and our Armed Forces through the storm to fight against the very nature of the Nazi machine, were worthy of that task.

Compare them with the bunch of weasels in charge now, and then determine if we are still well served!

Caveat Emptor

If I, whilst running a British-based company making garments for example, initiated or allowed unsafe working practices to occur, I would be guilty of offences against Health & Safety Law. Similarly, if the company I ran overloaded a factory floor-space with machinery, to the extent of some 200% of the safe working load to which that same factory floor was designed, and if a structural collapse happened, with deaths resultant from that overloading, I would be guilty of manslaughter.

However, if I ran a retail company specialising in fast-moving clothing priced at low market prices, and sourced all those clothes, dresses, coats etc. from a company in, say, Bangladesh; all my responsibilities would be made towards ensuring that I was getting the products ordered, on time and in good order; so that my shops would be stocked with clothing which my customers wished to buy.  I might wish to ensure that the clothing stocked in my shops were not produced using child labour, or manufactured during unsafe or overlong hours; but my responsibilities would be to my own company, or the shareholders if the company were publicly owned.

I would not, repeat not, have to burden myself or my company’s shareholders with either the responsibility, the cost or the vast expense of paying huge death benefits or compensation if another company, on another continent, made certain choices in overloading a factory with excess machinery, or made untruthful statements to their employees, in order to make then work in unsafe or deadly conditions; because I didn’t employ the company or the workers: I simply placed a clothing order.

Ah yes, I remember it well!

User: My usual password is not working suddenly, why?
Website chat assistant: Your password has expired – you must register a new one.
User: Why do I need a new one as that one was working fine?
Website: you must get a new one as they automatically expire every 30 days.
User: Can I use the old one and just re-register it?
Website: No, you must get a new one.
User: I don’t want a new one as that is one more thing for me to remember.
Website: Sorry, you must get a new one.
User: ok, roses
Website: Sorry you must use more letters.
User: pretty roses
Website: you must use at least one number.
User: 1 pretty rose
Website: you cannot use blank spaces.
User: 1prettyrose
Website: you must use additional letters.
User: 1fxckingprettyrose
Website: you must use at least one capital letter.
User: 1FxCKINGprettyrose
Website: you cannot use more than one capital letter in a row.
User: 1Fxckingprettyrose
Website: you must use additional letters.
User: 1Fxckingprettyroseshovedupyourassifyoudon’tgivemeaccessrightfxckingnow
Website: Sorry, that password is already being used.


Thanks to my brother, who has approximately the same sense of humour as I

……..and now questions from the Public.

My political beliefs were shaped, as most of the ‘thinking’ British minority were, by a combination of my parents’ thoughts and beliefs, our own lives and lifestyles when young, my education, both in terms of formal education and the harder terms of life in the real world, as well as exposure to that same wider world. My maternal grandparents were forced to flee from their Northern Ireland home by sectarian bigotry in the early 1920’s; my father was literally shunned by his own Northern Irish farming neighbours because he volunteered to serve in the British Army on the day after War was declared in 1939. My Dad was living in England, and as he said to my own Mother, ‘what sort of a man would not join up to serve and help a Country which had given him a job?’. He was automatically deferred from conscription by virtue of his birth in Northern Ireland, but would not countenance claiming that invulnerability! My father’s politics were Labour to the core, and he just could not understand how any son of his could favour any politics but his own brand, but at least he paid me the rare courtesy of stating that I had thought long and hard about the party and politics which I supported, and while he differed totally from my own beliefs, he recognised that we were alike in some measure.

My politics are right wing, as some, but not all the writers are who post on David’s blogsite espouse, and my own political heroes are well-known. Names such as Margaret Thatcher, Enoch Powell come to mind, as well as a (well-known to some) philosopher, political and economist theorist and Nobel Prize winner called Friedrich Hayek. His writings are dry and dusty, no Tom Clancy here, but  a definitive set of thoughts laid down which, if followed, might lead to a revival of responsible capitalism which would drown, forever, the sluggish gloop of a Socialism espoused and in fact demanded by the likes of Ed Milliband, truly a worthy successor to his Marxist father Ralph.  I have seen the true face of Socialism, and the Communist’s Workers’ Paradise in action, and it was not a pretty sight. Four times we berthed in Constanta, Romania, and every time, we saw the truly downtrodden in action, with the dock-workers treated akin to slave labour, and the only perks going to the privileged few.

I have taken a renewed interest in local politics recently, and after studying in grim and exhaustive detail a series of Council Minutes, Annual Reports and multitudinous documents all filled to bursting point with Diversity, and Equality, and everything short of the old Stalinist five-year-plans; I have unearthed, through my previous knowledge of how business is actually run and written-up, a couple of really doozy questions concerning literally millions of pounds-worth of waste and bad judgement during the bad management of our own local Council, naturally enough Labour-dominated because we still live, despite the passage of many decades, in the old-style ‘Rotten Borough’ where seats are handed down to the chosen few, and votes are weighed, not counted!

So, as I stated, I will ask my questions, and hopefully hear a satisfactory reply or two from either an Executive Officer or a Council Cabinet member, but I am not allowed to ask a further question on that subject, or to debate anything at all, because we might have ‘Democracy’, but not that much.