Letters, Friday, March 16th 2012

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Busting the myths over quarry claims

I want to bust a few myths peddled by “Independent” councillors in Houghton and Copt Hill accusing Labour councillors and supporters of jumping on bandwagons and not taking an interest in residents concerns about the Houghton quarry.

Fortunately, as a Labour councillor representing the Shiney Row ward since 1998, I have a better memory than councillors Ellis, Smith and Wakefield.

What they have chosen to forget is the level of help and support given to them in the past by Labour councillors.

When Rats appeared to be a genuine community pressure group, I well remember attending public meetings attended by Labour councillors and officers of Sunderland City Council, along with others with an interest in Rats, asserting that Biffa was not managing the quarry as well as they might be.

Labour councillors in positions of influence persuaded the leadership to make resources available to commission an independent expert report on the quarry.

At a Planning and Highway Committee, in March 2004, the report was presented which did not uphold Rats assertions.

It was at this point Rats’ campaign became more political. Not wanting to accept the findings of the independent report, we saw the first Independent candidate in the local elections – Coun Wakefield – was going to have the quarry closed!

Coun Wakefield soon found out it was not in the gift of the council or any councillor to close the quarry.

So here we are, years later. The quarry is still operating and Biffa is applying for an extension to the original planning consent.

This is something the council, as a planning authority, has some control over, albeit within the confines of planning law.

The time is right for the whole community to work to try to bring an end to the operations in Houghton and it is disingenuous for Independent councillors to claim this campaign as their own.

It is time for them to cease their spiteful campaigns against Labour councillors and Labour party members.

Coun Anne Hall

Shiney Row ward

Why not Houghton?

There seems to be some jockeying for position here in respect of Houghton Quarry

The real situation is the hell that was generated in Houghton for some years now with this tip – Posh name “landfill” – by the people that have the power to inflict this on the residents.

One of the results of these powers, I am being led to believe, is from the “approved” Hendon waste transfer station issue .

I am not jockeying for any votes, but trying to remind these letter writers of the situation these residents are in.

There is a planning application in waiting for the council to approve landfill at this site for another 17 years.

It is the councillors that have this power to vote for the approval. Yes, they may be advised by the officers of what it’s all about[reams of papers and facts then just summarised]. Then at a meeting they make that decision which could make life hell for another 17 years.

But hang on a minute: the councillors have just approved to take all Sunderland’s garbage down to Teesside to burn it.

So I try again to ask the question: You’ve approved two major changes in the garbage handling policy – to burn it at Teesside. So how can you approve 17 years of Hell, tipping at Houghton??

But in the article in Echo, March 5, with council leader Paul Watson, accepting the Houghton residents’ petition against this application in waiting, Gemma Taylor said: “Not one Sunderland City Council lorry or wagon visits or uses the landfill.”.

Could someone in the garbage section or Coun Watson explain in the Echo just what happens when the binmen empty our bins and take the rubbish away when it doesn’t go to Houghton?

Eddy Moore

Hendon

On the wrong road

I refer to the report of Kevin Clark (Echo, March 2) stating that the vacant Vaux site is “too important to get wrong”.

So says Janet Snaith, the council’s head of business investment team and Paul Finch, Chairman of Sunderland Business Network.

This judgement is irrefutable.So the first requirement is an acknowledgment that the master planner, Mr Piers Gough, appointed by the Sunderland Area Regeneration Corporation (arc) has got everything wrong. How can a London-based sociologist, knowing nothing of the history of our city, be relied upon to get anything right?

The arc plan’s worst feature is to disconnect the Vaux site from the city centre, with a six-lane road and by blighting a potential improvement of the blue route new bridge to the SoL area.

Considering that with the demise of the brewery 11 years ago, it was surely incumbent upon the city council’s planners to ensure that a direct link road from the east end of the city to the west end of European Way should be restored. It is, after all, the only reasonable main road option available to conform with Government planning policy guides, to provide a direct route to the Metro railway underpass to Claxheugh.

The Sunderland Strategic Transport Corridor (SSTC) is a plan to create a massive traffic diversion to a useless high/low level bridge where the only plausible motive is to enhance land values at the bridgeheads of an inappropriate and exceedingly-expensive location.

The planned SSTC does not have a solitary feature to commend it – and more to the point, as a product of Amendment No 2 to the 1998 Sunderland Unitary Development Plan (UDP), it is contrary to the Town and Country Planning Act.

On June 7, 2006, the public notice of amendment of the UDP was announced in the Echo in which no one was invited to make representations of support or objections to the proposals.

Such was the secrecy involved that the general public were even made aware of them until years later.

Ron McQuillan

Sunderland

Make owners pay

I agree with J Rowell (Echo letters) regarding dog fouling.

We have the same problem in Ryhope. I personally asked the council to supply and erect dog bins on the burn behind Tecaz. This they did. I asked the council last week to put up a camera to try to catch the dog owners who did not clean up after their dogs but I was told, because of cuts, this wouldn’t be possible.

May I suggest that the council brings in dog licences. If every dog owner paid £5 for a licence and made it law that dogs should be microchipped, this licence fee would pay for dog wardens.

Although I have been told the council does employ dog wardens, I have lived in Ryhope for 12 years and I’ve yet to see one.

They must come out at night, because my neighbours and myself have never seen one

Scott Andrews

Ryhope

Make owners pay

I refer to the article “Let Tony carry the Olympic torch” (Echo, March 6).

While Tony Jeffries’ achievement is to be applauded, there is a glaring inaccuracy in your reporting and in some of the comments on the online petition.

For example “Tony is the one and only ever medal winner from Sunderland” and “Tony is the only Olympian from Sunderland”.

The article header states “hundreds sign petition to back City’s only Olympic medallist”.

There are other medallists from Sunderland. However, as Paralympians they seem to be overlooked.

Nicola Jarvis won bronze in the 1996 Atlanta games, Hazel Robson won Gold in Sydney 2000, two silver in Athens in 2004 and two bronze in Beijing.

She hopes for gold in 2012. Both of these athletes attended Barbara Priestman School and as much as I agree it would be fitting for past medallists to carry the Olympic flame, we should not forget the achievements of these two amazing girls who put as much effort into their training as other participants.

Val Milnes

Chair of Governors

Barbara Priestman School

Sunderland

Time to leave

Opinion Polls suggest 55 per cent to 25 per cent of the British public believe we should leave Afghanistan now

However, we do not need to read opinion polls to come to that conclusion, we just need a government to read history.

Every attempt by the British to prop up a “friendly” government in Afghanistan has lead to inglorious disaster.

The longer we are in the country, the greater the current leadership is alienated from their own population and identified as allies of foreign invaders.

We make no apologies. We should have left the Afghans to decide the future of their country and not directly intervened.

The sooner we bring our troops home the better.

Steve Radford

President of The Liberal Party

Gracious thanks

I WISH to acknowledge the continuing support of people for the Grace House Hospice appeal.

On Saturday, February 18, a heart-warming sum of £384.18 was donated by customers at Asda in Peterlee.

Then £242.73 was given on my monthly visit to Sainsburys at Fulwell and this was followed on Saturday, March 10, by £301.12 at Asda Pennywell.

 As well as expressing my heartfelt thanks to you all, I also wish to thank Karen Bell at Peterlee, Peter Cornwell at Fulwell and David Sullivan at Pennywell for their hospitality.

 The above collections where made by my “sidekick” Coco the Clown, but his days may be numbered.

He is getting ideas above his station but he should remember that without my help with the make-up and letting him use my wheelchair, he could not exist. His days might be numbered.

 The next four Saturdays I am collecting at Stockton, Asda in Durham, Dalton Park, then Clay’s Garden Centre on Easter Saturday. If you see me or my sidekick, please say hello.

Jeff Coxon

Lawnside

Seaham