Saturday, August 07, 2010

Residents unite to protest about company's antics

Around 40 residents from Rockwell Pastures and Albert Hill came together this morning to express their anger regarding Albert Hill Skip Hire Ltd in Nestfield Street.

We had decided to organise a mass walk by the river to have a look at the site for ourselves. Led by our local MP Jenny Chapman, we had an excellent turnout, especially given the cloudburst immediately before we were due to meet.

Jenny summed up the mood of the protestors at what we saw - there was still a shocking amount of waste piled high, with broken fences which presumably could allow children to enter whet is clearly a very hazardous place. After the walk, petitions were eagerly taken away by residents, keen to achieve the 1,500 signatures we need to trigger the first council debate under the new arrangements.

We've had 2 other pieces of good news; firstly, after pressure from the campaign, the Environment Agency has agreed to issue a number for residents to call about any concerns they might have - if the particular issue should be dealt with by the Health and Safety Executive or the Council, for example, then the phone operative will record the complaint and pass it on. This is a fine piece of joined up administration, which I applaud.

The number is 0800 807 060.

Secondly, the Council issued a new, tougher stop notice against the company on Friday relating to the company's operating hours and the height of the waste, I have been told. The maximum fine if a successful prosecution is achieved is up to £20,000! Maybe that will finally make the company's bosses think twice before operating at all times, as they do at present.

As Jenny told the protestors, both the company and the enforcement agencies need to knnow that local people are in this for the long-haul, and will not simply "go away" in time. The quality of life of too many people has been adversely affected for too long for that.

Friday, August 06, 2010

A walk by the river

Does this look like a scene from a responsible operator? (photo taken by a resident last Sunday)

The campaign against the activities of Albert Hill Skip Hire moves up another notch tomorrow morning, when local people will be taking part in a campaign walk along the riverside between Albert Hill and Rockwell Pastures.

Since the fire, residents have reported continued breaches by the company of the hours of operation set down by the council. Unasnwered questions remain, although I've been reassured by the extent to which the various agencies responsible for regulating companies like this one are now palpably working together. I'll have more on this shortly.

If you've been affected by the fire, or the previous transgressions by the firm, please do come along - we're meeting by the Hutton Avenue footbridge at 10am. The walk will be led by our local MP Jenny Chapman. The media (Tall Ships providing) have been invited along. It will be great to see you there!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The last Sure Start?

Haughton Sure Start Centre - work begins

Cllr. Nick Wallis | MySpace Video

The Sure Start initiative was one of the last Government's projects that I was most proud of. It invested significantly in the families of children under 5, whilst enabling key workers (health visitors, social workers and the like) to work together rather than in their professional "silos".

One facility is being created in my ward in Haughton West - in the former children's home on Salters Lane South.

The Tories of course, never liked it, and had to be dragged away from a position of complete hostility before the last election. It's not clear what if any commitment they have to the initiative now.

That means that the Sure Start in Salters Lane South could be one of the last to be built - that would be a tragedy for those communities who haven't yet benefitted from such a facility, and not just in Darlington. It's vital that the pressure is kept on the ConDems to continue with this fantastic initiative.