Morpeth Today - Letters to the Editor

THIS COUNCILLOR WAS LISTENING

SIR, - May I answer Mr Robson of Widdrington (Herald letters, May 3).I believe he is not a member of the Labour Party.

I attended both public meetings at Widdrington Community Centre and at Grange View First School and I listened.A lot of questions were asked, but for me there was one very important and crucial one asked by a woman in front of me - when will the burial site be closed as the people of Widdrington have had enough? Needless to say, this question, which was also mine, was not answered.

I then decided to listen, which politicians are often asked to do. There were many questions and the local MP proposed a liaison committee.I have to say that more talk is not what is needed, but action. The valuable work is being done on the picket line.I have been there only once, but I mean to go as often as I can - so do not try to put me off, Mr Robson.

Incidentally, I was on Radio Newcastle a fortnight ago indicating that although Dr Dobbie believed what he said, that there would be no leakage from the lorries, I was very sceptical, knowing the condition of some lorries and the care that some drivers take or do not take.Even Mr Robson will admit I was correct.

It is a pity that politics and trying to score points became part of his letter.Surely County, Borough and Parish councillors and, indeed, everyone, should be working together.We should be attacking MAFF for the paucity of its information, particularly at the beginning when I certainly had no idea that there was to be a pyre at Hemscott Hill.

I go regularly to the Cabinet meetings at County Hall and I can assure your readers that my objective is to have the burial site closed as quickly as possible. By the way, at the last public meeting the County Council was accused of making money (from the crisis) - nothing could be further from the truth.Many of our staff are devoting a lot of time in assisting in this emergency and the County has not been recompensed.

On a healthy, hopeful, note, I know that the County Chief Executive Alan Clarke and Borough Chief Executive Peter Wilson are working together closely and I earnestly hope that councillors of every persuasion can do the same (without destructive criticism) and just maybe we might get some compensation for the people of the Widdrington Ward - after all their suffering they deserve it.

So, my advice to Mr Robson is be informed, be honest in your comments, and above all do not misinform other people - we have plenty of misinformation from other bodies.

Finally, I am hoping to get the chips moved from the entrance to the car park to the side - it should be done on Friday or Saturday.

On a brighter - and totally different note, can I point out that Northumberland County children have moved up to fifth place in the table of tests for seven-year-olds.Thats fifth out of 150 auithorities.As spokesperson for Education and Childrens Services, which is quite an active job, I thought I would give everyone some good news and accurate information. JOHN MORRIS

County councillor Chevington House Red Row Morpeth

SMOKESCREEN OVER PYRES AND BURIAL PITS?

SIR, - I would like the opportunity to reply to Jim Wrights letter (Herald May 3). In his opening lines he writes of the acceptance of the needs of the emergency by locals - there was no such acceptance, except perhaps by himself and Stan and Jean Elliott.

I was surprised to read it was not surprising that people in the village had strong feelings. He certainly seemed surprised that we were not willing to sit back and take it any longer so as to save his face at County Hall. He could not know the feeling of demonstrators because he was decidedly noticeable by his absence, unlike neighbouring County and Borough councillors who came down and gave their support.

MAFF was not the only organisation to leave local people out of negotiations - our County councillor forgets to tell the reader (local people like you and me) that it was in fact the County Council who gave MAFF a list of sites to choose from in our area. The decision to use Hemscott Hill was taken after MAFF had consulted this list because when the MAFF official made a site inspection the farmer whose land it is was already burning his own animals there and the wind was blowing out to sea.

The open meetings the councillor speaks of were not organised by the communities as he suggests, they were hurriedly put together by the councillors in question to stem what they could see was becoming a revolt by local people, and were attended by invited experts who were given a green light to talk down to us for as long as they liked while we, the villagers, were told we could not make even a short statement and the few questions we were allowed to ask were not even answered properly. The meeting at Ellington Institute only served to fuel peoples frustration that we could be treated so badly by the people we had voted to act on our behalf.

The Borough Council may indeed have become involved with these sites too late. He says it should have used its legal right to have the burning stopped. By the time it was invited to hear public opinion at a special foot and mouth meeting of Ellington and Linton Parish Council it was too late. I am not the only person in this Borough who would have been up in arms if the Borough Council had spent £40,000 serving and implementing notices on MAFF when the protesters had already got agreement from MAFF that the burning would stop on the 26th. If Jim Wright had any concern for our village he would have kept himself up to date with the facts.

Our Borough representatives, Stan and Jean Elliott, should have ensured the Borough Council was aware of what was happening. They will tell you they had not had any complaints - we know in fact they had. I was told I was not allowed to put a notice on the village notice board because I was not a Parish councillor. The truth was, I asked people to attend this meeting and have their say, which would have made it pretty uncomfortable for all three councillors. Our Parish Council members were told they were forbidden to go down to the demonstration by law because they were Parish councillors. It seems the Parish councillors of Widdrington are governed by different law as a number of them have joined us. Or is it just that they care more what happens in their village?

Dare I suggest - if the readers will pardon the unintentional pun - that Mr Wright attempts to throw a smokescreen over his own inadequacy by even mentioning all the problems this area has had in the past? Yes, we have had these problems, but the issue at this time was and still is the burning and burial of carcasses from other areas and the risk to our health. I would just add that it was the Druridge Bay campaign that fought and won to stop both the nuclear power stations and the sand extraction, under the lead of a women called Bridget Gubbins. As I recall the County councillors had their heads in the sand then as well!

He says Only Castle Morpeth Borough Council had the power to stop MAFF. Be this as it may, Coun Wright, but once more I tell you the County Council had the power to never have started this atrocity and chose to inflict this area with it. Why did they do this? Because the County Council has the contracts with MAFF to work these sites. The employees who worked over Easter were, Im sure, paid well over the odds for doing so - out of our Council Tax.

The activist with the axe to grind.

Mrs MARGARET SMITH 45 Cresswell Road Ellington

F & M CRITICS BEWARE: THE TRUTH WILL OUT

SIR, - With elections coming up on June 7 what better timing for Labour County councillors Morris and Wright, both seeking re-election, to write letters attacking Castle Morpeth Borough Council and its Independent/Liberal Democrat Administration?

Both councillors are receiving a considerable amount of flak from the residents they represent in Cresswell, Ellington, Linton, Lynemouth, Widdrington and Ulgham.But is the Labour-controlled County Council or the Labour Government and its Ministry officials beyond blame for their actions and all the mistakes that have been made?

After the County Council, responsible for emergency planning arrangements for the County, and Government officials located at Kenton Bar between them created the most intolerable conditions for residents to bear without consulting Castle Morpeth Borough Council, Coun Wright expected Castle Morpeth Borough Council to step in and take legal action against his Council and the Government in order to bring matters to an immediate stop.

As a result of complaints received and investigated, legal action was considered by the Borough Council and not ruled out, but if this route had been taken there was no guarantee of success in a reasonable period of time. More so when claims of a serious risk to public health were being refuted by health experts.

The Borough Council therefore took the first opportunity to negotiate with officials at the Newcastle Disease Emergency Control Centre and achieve an immediate run down of deliveries to Hemscott Hill, an earlier cessation of burning, and the opening of the public areas around the burning site in time for the May holiday weekend.

The Borough Council then insisted upon, after an inspection of the Widdrington burial site, necessary improvements in the unsatisfactory arrangements on this site and then negotiated, with further help from Alan Beith MP and local Parish councillors, an end date for burial and a restriction on deliveries.

The letter you published from the lady from Ellington was far more sensible than Coun Wrights.The local protests helped those who were truly working to bring an end to the misery achieve what has proved to be possible.I realise that residents will think the Borough Council might have acted sooner and could have achieved more, but for my part I can only applaud the efforts of the Chief Executive, Environmental Health Officers and Coun David Hall, who, as a Borough councillor for the Ulgham Ward, was asked to take a leading role by the Administration much earlier than Coun Wright wants residents to believe.

I will resist the temptation to be dragged into all of the muck-raking and false claims made in Coun Wrights letter.His claim that Castle Morpeth was unable to play its part at Easter because it was a public holiday is not only untrue but particularly offensive to those officers who were at work visiting the area and dealing with calls from the public.

Councillors Morris and Wright, who currently represent the area on the County Council, should be wary because the truth will come out, hopefully with the help of a public inquiry, and residents will have confirmation of who made the various decisions which had such an appalling impact on their environment and which Council, and which of their elected councillors, has made a real effort to act in their interests at a very stressful and difficult time.
DAVID WOODARD Deputy Leader Castle Morpeth Borough Council The Kylins Morpeth