Sunday, July 25, 2010

"Boycott Albert Hill Skip Hire" say angry residents

Jenny Chapman addresses the packed meeting yesterday

Yesterday morning we held the residents' meeting in the aftermath of the Albert Hill Skip Hire fire. I estimate between 80 and 90 people were there, from both sides of the river.

The mood was predictably very angry. The company (and its predecessors) have been making local people's lives a misery for as long as I've been a councillor in Haughton West. There was a palpable sense that the company has got away with murder, and used various ruses and trickery to evade proper scrutiny and enforcement. To a man and woman, the meeting wanted the company's operations to be stopped.

Our new local MP Jenny Chapman chaired the meeting (brilliantly, I thought). After resident after resident had spoken about the terrible impact of the fire on the communities, and the years of noise/dust nuisance - and lots of questions had been posed about the roles and responsibilities of the various agencies - we looked ahead and devised an action plan so this could never happen again.

Jenny had brought along a letter of apology from the company's MD which (completely unsurprisingly) the meeting formally refused to accept - after all, actions speak louder than words, and this company has broken every promise ever made to the statutory authorities and local people.

There was also unanimous agreement that we would not be using Albert Hill Skip Hire as individuals, and would encourage other Darlington residents to boycott the company. Other ways of applying financial pressure to the company to clean up its act were also discussed, which will be explored in the coming weeks.

There will be a big walk around the Skerne beneath the company to see what impact it is having on the local environment, and keep an eye on what's going on inside the plant. And most importantly, pressure will be applied to the agencies who are responsible for regulating the business - unanimously, local people want it shut down, although this may be legally difficult, as one resident who has worked for the Environment Agency told me afterwards.

On a very positive note, local residents were queuing up after the meeting to volunteer to be part of the steering group that will take the protest forward. And I had a very useful chat with Gill Cartwright, the Tory Councillor for Harrowgate Hill in ASDA yesterday (where all the best politics is done!) and we discussed how we could also involve the residents who suffered so badly from the firm's antics at 630 Whessoe Road.

It was sometimes a fraught meeting, but at the end there was a clear consensus for targetting the villains (ie the comapny) whilst applying polite but firm pressure to the regulating agencies. You can be sure we'll be keeping everyone updated, including on here.


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