Letters, Monday, March 14th 2012

Have your say

We are united against landfill

THE following is from a cutting I kept from the Echo a number of years ago: “Houghton’s dramatic limestone cliffs provide an awe-inspiring backdrop to the surrounding countryside. The site of a limestone quarry, the cliffs are as rich with wildlife as they are in history. The area is part of the nationally important magnesium limestone grassland habitats in Sunderland, which provide a variety of unique plants and flowers.”

Unbelievably, this beautiful place was allowed to become a disgusting landfill. In the past 15 years, the eastern end of the quarry has disappeared under a mountain of waste and now the people who live so close to this horrendous site are being threatened with another 17 years of misery and health worries for their families.

 In the past, the Rats group were the only ones who spoke up for the people of Houghton against the landfill, but I think now everyone is united in telling the planners we have had more than enough. You must listen to the public this time.

 Apart from that, when reservoirs around the country are drying up, the aquafer lying beneath Houghton landfill is in danger of being destroyed forever.

Joyce Dixon,

Cathedral View,


Experienced Rats

RE the letter from Clair Smith “Ending the tip should be a common goal”.

 Firstly – and it is an important point – it is planning permission for another 17 years for which Biffa has applied to the council, not a lease.

 Secondly, I have previously written to the Echo saying that I welcome support from anyone. If Labour has had a change of heart, I’m delighted. However, Rats have held a public meetings about the planning applications, two public meetings about Biffa’s proposal to blast Houghton Hill, and more than 20,000 leaflets about the application have been printed and delivered by us.

 Thirdly, I find it odd that she claims never to have had information from the Residents Against Toxic Site as we regularly deliver information leaflets throughout the Houghton area. Indeed we have written, paid for, printed and delivered well over 300,000 over the last 15 years, all with contact details on.

We have held regular public meetings and exhibitions. We have researched and written 18 reports. We have printed and distributed more than 1,000 copies of the Poisoning People? book. We have appealed to local and national governments ombudsmen as well as the European Ombudsman, who found in our favour. We have a frequently-visited website email address and Facebook group.

 We have sent 15 years of details research to both the European Commission environment enforcement department and the European Parliament petitions committee. Coun Colin Wakefield and I have been to Brussels twice to speak to the Parliamentary Committee. Europe will shortly by taking “infraction proceedings” against the UK Government in the European Court of Justice because of what has happened here in Houghton.

Coun Wakefield and I have appeared on television and radio on several occasions, pleading the case for the protection of Houghton and its residents.

 The Rats committee has a wide range of expertise: A retired police inspector and another retired highly-experienced police officer, a computer expert, a retired senior manager in the defence industry, a retired mining engineer, two electrical engineers, an accountant, a local businessman, a consultant geologist and subsidence expert who was formerly the North East Group Geologist for British Coal, an indomitable lady in her late 80s with a lifetime’s experience of Houghton, an undergraduate at Durham University and myself, and English specialist. Rats supporters have an ever-wider range of occupations and life-experience.

 Over the last 15 years Labour – who put the tip here in the first place – has repeatedly accused us of being loud-mouthed, scare-mongering and with no local support. Please forgive us if we find it odd that after 15 years of concerted attacks, now that an election is coming round and having previously been defeated on five occasions by independents, they now panic, stand on Newbottle Street with a petition and claim to be Rats supporters.

 Rats secretive? Unapproachable? Don’t work hard enough? Obviously you don’t recognise the dogged determination, hard work and personal sacrifice that come form the Residents Against Toxic Site.

Sheila Ellis,

Secretary, Residents Against Toxic Site


Better buses

AS a public transport user, and a transport enthusiast with an excellent model and photograph of Nissan’s first car, the 1932 Datsun, kindly supplied by them in Tokyo in 1992, I am certainly glad to hear about Nissan’s new model for 2013.

Trevor Mann’s excellent public lecture in Newcastle’s University Business School very recently gave no indication in his speech touching on the volume of cars made in 2000 and 2011.

I sincerely hope that 99 per cent of production will be for export.

Bridget Phillipson MP is concerned about the shortage of bus services within the area.

Go-Ahead, which already has better buses, even for people with disabilities, intend spending £7million on a new workshop and depot near the MetroCentre. It is said that the price of petrol is deterring personal transport purchase.

You only have to look at supermarket car parks and estates to find the majority are newish, not old bangers. If anyone cares to travel on a public bus from Wrekenton to Sunderland, pass Nissan’s complex at about 10pm. It is considered that there are now three congested places that public buses cannot pass each other. A paper by a transport expert some years ago talked about a road user tax. Will it come to that? We do not know.

Bill Craddock,

Donvale Road,


Prospering cheats

A recent survey reported that the wealthy among us are more likely to cheat or demonstrate greed than we poorer less fortunates. Sad but how true.

The bonus debate has run its course, leaving only bankers, remuneration committee members and the CBI, who still believe that those who trouser multimillion-pound salaries are worth it.

But there is another group worthy of a good kicking.

Recently at the Emirates Stadium, during an otherwise great football match, there was a revelation of unspeakable greed and treachery when a young footballer, an athlete of tremendous ability, blatantly cheated his way to being awarded a penalty. More recently at the Tyne-Wear derby, a great spectacle and exciting match was marred by the sight of a grown man writhing around on the ground, holding his face and then feigning unconsciousness, having suffered no more than a pat on the chest.

His act, which convinced no one except the referee, who followed the script and produced a red card, altered the course of the match and would also have financial implications too.

The managers too have a lot to answer for, evidenced by the belligerent behaviour of the Newcastle manager.

What a terrible example they set for our young children, who unfortunately hold these people in such high esteem.

An oasis in this desert of greed and selfish behaviour, a group who seem to be bucking the trend of wealthy deviates in sport, is the world of golf where recently Rory McIlroy called a foul on himself and by doing so, lost the competition and many thousands of pounds. To prove that honesty does pay, Rory has since become the world’s number one golfer.

Every day, people from all walks of life play golf, darts and football for fun or money and would not dream of cheating. So why do we condone so much skulduggery in Premiership football?

Perhaps it is a case of the Premiership being morally bankrupt while we all remain infernally gullible.

Denis Gillon,


So who did it?

RECENTLY in the Echo, we saw a Labour candidate in Houghton handing over a petition against the continuation of dumping at Houghton Quarry and the Labour candidate for St Michaels calling for an end to bus-only lanes (‘How we can kick-start our city-centre’).

Quite right and proper – if only the council would listen!

But hold on. What party is in power in Sunderland (and has been for 40 years)?

Who introduced the bus lanes and resisted every call for them being scrapped?

Who introduced parking charges in the city centre and resists calls for free parking even one day a week? Why, their very own Labour party.

With their existing majority, you’d have thought Labour could have resolved these issues long ago if they cared to do so. Clearly not, but with the addition of just a few more councillors this year they will. Honest!

If you believe that I’ve got an iconic bridge I’d like to sell you.

I know we’re facing election time again, but surely it’s the height of cynicism for such people to pretend they have no link with the policies of their very own party.

Traditionally candidates stand on the record of their party, evidently this year’s crop of Labour candidates are doing their level best to stand as far from that record as they can !

Coun Tony Morrissey



Hospital heaven

AFTER my stay in the Sunderland Royal Hospital, I feel I should let you know just how much I appreciated the loving care, attention and kindness that was given to me by the staff and also to say how clean and fresh the ward was kept.

 Thank to you all.

Doreen Spedding


No fuel duty rise

Drivers are taxed five times over for the services we get. Despite record fuel prices, this summer, the UK government plans to add around another 4p a litre worth of pain at the pump.

Successive increases don’t just hurt drivers and our hard-pressed hauliers, they feed through to rising prices at the shops for everyone.

Yet the Government is already dropping hints that it has ‘helped drivers enough’ and cannot hold back.

With last year’s 1p a litre cut outweighed by far larger rises, and most of the price consumed in tax, it’s more a case of the Government helping itself

With families everywhere feeling the pinch, the Chancellor must use his Budget next Wednesday to scrap the planned rise.

Several MPs are already speaking out and saying enough is enough. We can all lobby ours, at the House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.

Brian Mooney

Campaign manager,

Fair Deal for the Motorist,

PO Box 13199,

London SW6 6ZU