Friday, 20 April 2018

More houses for Gretton?

Another week, another planning application.  This time for 120 homes on agricultural land behind existing homes in Gretton, with access down a narrow road that usually has cars parked both sides of it.

In fact, so bad is the on-street car parking in Gretton now it's been reported that the service bus - soon to be axed, incidentally - couldn't access its normal route last week and had to leave some passengers behind.

What if that had been a fire engine or ambulance trying to respond to an emergency call?

The applicant for this particular housing development, just off Southfield Road, is Gladman, as featured on BBC Countryfile recently.

They of course won't be building the actual houses - they will simply try to get the planning approved and sell the land on to a house builder.

So the talk in their glossy brochure sent to every Gretton resident of leisure areas, sympathetic architecture and at least 40% affordable houses is just that - talk.  They might as well promise each existing villager a pet Unicorn.

Over the last few months Gretton has lost its fantastic Post Office and Shop, the heart of the community; The Talbot Public House has had to close its doors for the final time too, and is for sale as a private house.

The Number 67 bus to Corby - a vital lifeline for those in the village who don't drive - is being axed due to NCC cutbacks.  This bus service makes numerous appearances in the developers' documentation, used as an example to highlight how well Gretton is served by public transport and how new residents will be able to use the bus to access employment, schooling and leisure facilities in Corby and Market Harborough.

The roads through Gretton are riddled with potholes that, despite being reported numerous times, just don't get fixed.

The broadband speed is woefully inadequate at times, mobile phone signal is limited, the sewerage system struggles to cope and villagers complain about lack of water pressure.  On top of this, the primary school and nursery are at full capacity.

How on earth is this village supposed to cope with another 120 houses, potentially 240 cars, and about 500 more residents when its existing facilities cannot serve the current population?

If you wish to object to this scheme, please write by 3rd May to Corby Borough Council, Planning and Environmental Services, Deene House, Corby, Northants, NN17 1GD, quoting planning reference number 18/00271/DPA

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Where's Cromer pier?!

I know a family who used to regularly holiday in a remote part of Donegal in the Irish Republic, visiting family and friends.

This particular area is beautiful, relatively unspoilt, and has a sandy beach which stretches for miles, with a magnificent mountain in the background to give additional atmosphere.

Yet this stretch of coast with its immaculate, clean beach has very few visitors - and that's because it rains most of the time.

On each and every visit, as the family sat in their relatives' houses listening to the rain pounding on the roof, watching the puddles getting larger and seeing the mountain shrouded in mist and cloud, the refrain would always be 'Ah, sure you should have been here last week - the sun was splitting the stones!  It was too hot to work!'

I was reminded of this scenario as I sat in my holiday accommodation, over the Easter break, except it was the other way round, with the television weather presenter gleefully telling me that next week I would have temperatures of up to 24 degrees and warm sunshine from the Mediterranean.

Not much comfort I'm afraid when you're sitting in the fog in North Norfolk to hear that the following week - when the children have of course gone back to school - is going to be glorious!

We put a brave face on it of course - there's no such thing as bad weather, just incorrect clothing, or so I kept telling myself.

But when I stood on a cliff top in Cromer and couldn't see the Pier, let alone the sea which was just feet below me, I was struggling to stay positive about the great British weather!

It was cold, it was damp, and visibility was down to arm's length in places.  I've never seen fog like it.

Luckily, it wasn't my first visit to the area so I knew what it should look like.

We met a coach load of Japanese tourists in Sheringham, also shrouded in the same thick fog; I did wonder what they made of it all.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Reduce, reuse, recycle - and get some money back

Back to the future - not the 1980s classic film with Marty McFly, hover boards and self-tying shoe laces - but the way we're heading in a bit to save our planet.

The deposit scheme for glass, plastic and tin cans is a step in the right direction, but it is in fact borrowing from how we used to live.

Yes, I'm old enough to remember when you could return your glass Corona lemonade bottles to the pub and get 5p back.

I have heard it said, but can neither confirm or deny, some youngsters discovered where the bottles were kept out the back of a local pub and used to gather them up and deliver them via the front door to the landlady to collect 5p deposits.  I expect those individuals are now either multi-millionaire entrepreneurs or staying at Her Majesty's pleasure!

I also remember the Alpine drinks delivery van bringing its range of soft beverages - dandelion and burdock included - down our way. 

I've always got milk from the milkman in glass bottles, a trend that is also increasing, so I hear.  It's good to know that seemingly going retro is in fact going forward! 

I'd bring back the use of paper bags for groceries etc too.  Fruit and veg keeps far better in paper than in plastic, and paper bags can be recycled.

Of course, any scheme to reduce waste, recycle and reuse resources should be applauded.

However, the proposed deposit scheme needs proper consideration and consultation, and Government or industry funding to assist in its implementation.

For example, small shops and caf├ęs don't necessarily have the resources to buy in large recycling machines like the ones they showed on the news bulletins that are in use in Norway.  They may not have the space to accommodate them either.

So while I very much welcome the news that people are actually listening to Sir David Attenborough and the Blue Planet effect is taking hold, I think some more thought and investment is needed to make this a successful solution.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Northamptonshire - we're in an awful mess, and we don't mean maybe...

As a weekly columnist for a Northamptonshire newspaper, the situation at the County Council should be the gift that just keeps on giving.

Every week I could write about the latest twists, turns and resignations, point the finger of blame, tut and shake my head - but what good would it do?  It would just depress you and me even further.

We all know we're in an awful mess and we don't mean maybe (Madonna, 'Papa Don't Preach'), so instead I'd like to ask what are we going to do about it?

Come on, we're sensible people, one of us must have an idea?

No, sorry, me neither - that's surely why we elect, pay and trust these people to make these big decisions for us.  To look after our elderly and vulnerable, educate our children, provide decent public transport, fix potholes etc.

I read that a unitary authority is being touted as a possible solution to the county's current woes.

But then I heard a district councillor say that this isn't a 'silver bullet' solution.  I had to look this up because I thought silver bullets were used to kill vampires, but it turns out it's werewolves, and it's a term for a miraculous fix, like the waving of a magic wand.

The idea of a unitary authority seems sensible, on the face of it.  Instead of two layers of local government - County Council and District or Borough Councils - we would just have the one, responsible for everything. 

So, in theory, no more passing the buck and council staff saying 'that's County's fault' or 'that's your local council's responsibility'.

But what we desperately need now though is somebody to please tell us truthfully, honestly and without any personal agenda of any kind, what the pros and cons are of such an arrangement.

This county can't afford any more costly mistakes.  If there's going to be a big change, it is essential that it is the right one, and one that benefits the ordinary people of Northamptonshire.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Money, money, money...

I was quite concerned to hear about potential plans to scrap one and two pence pieces.

There was a discussion on BBC Breakfast about it, and I joined Louise Minchin's abject horror when she was told that some people just throw copper coins in the bin. 

She, like me, was aghast that people would literally throw money away.  It also made me cross, because I thought to myself why don't they just put it in charity boxes if they don't want the small change themselves?  Such a waste of resources.

I appear to be becoming more of a Luddite the older I get; I still use cash, I still carry cash - not large amounts, it's not worth mugging me before anyone thinks that - and I'd hate to imagine a world with no cash, just solemnly tapping your card or phone against a gadget to gift away sums of your hard-earned money.

The problem with not seeing how much you're spending is that you have a tendency to spend more.  If you've got money in your wallet, and you have to hand it over each time you make a purchase, it makes you think a lot more about how much you are spending.

In fact, I've heard advice given by various financial gurus to people who are trying to cut back on their shopping habits to pay with cash to focus the mind on what they're actually doing.

But also, without two pence pieces, what are we going to use in those seaside arcade games where you pop the coin in and hope to win more, along with a prize that you didn't really want or need in the first place?

I've spent many a rainy morning or afternoon in North Norfolk with my daughter feeding the two pence machine, and winning some then losing some more.  And no, I'm not rich enough (or daft enough) to upgrade to the ten or twenty pence machines. 

Please, Bank of England, don't take away our traditional wet-weather seaside pleasures!

Wednesday, 14 March 2018


It's GCSE Options selection time for many teenagers throughout the country, including Bach Jnr.

This is proving somewhat of a challenge as it's a big decision - after all, which one of us really knew aged 13 or 14 what we wanted to do when we grew up? 

Thinking back, at the age of 14, I wanted to be a lead singer in a band when I was older and then marry Morten Harket!

I talked about this at length with my friends, and it turns out that most of us are no longer doing the jobs for which we studied or trained originally either.

For example, a barrister is now an early-years teacher, a teacher is now an ordained Minister, and I'm - well, I'm not sure what my job title is these days, let's just say I'm not doing the job I thought I would be.  Things, life and circumstances change, and we just have to adapt to them.

I think the key is not to drop too many subjects which might prove useful in later life. 

With only an 'O' level in Biology science-wise to my name, I was never going to be able to go on and train to be a brain surgeon or similar.

Not that this was ever realistically an option - my Operation game proved that I didn't have the necessary steady hands required, given the chap's red nose lit up alarmingly on numerous occasions - but you get my point.

Initially, I had done well at Chemistry at secondary school, but then we got a different teacher who took to spending large chunks of the lesson in the prep room investigating the effects of nicotine on his respiratory system, and my Chemistry knowledge decreased dramatically as a result.

In fact, rather embarrassingly, it took me most of the first term to figure out that the moles he kept talking about weren't in fact little underground-dwelling furry creatures but Molecules of Elements.  Perhaps it's just as well for everybody that I didn't become a medic!

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

The 'Beast From The East'

The 'Beast From The East', or proper winter as it was called back in the day, has been and gone.

I wonder who first coined that phrase, and every time it appeared on television and in the papers did they turn to people and say "I came up with that name, that was my idea!" in a rather annoying manner? 

Even though I got my big coat out, following the advice of Northern friends on social media, I'm relieved to see the back of that weather.  It was the six foot high snow drifts that I found particularly unpleasant and a little bit scary; snow that's taller than me isn't something I relish.

We did have the discussion in our house that folk in Canada and continental Europe must chuckle to themselves when they see Britain grinding to a halt with snow amounts that they would consider a mild winter.

The best thing to come out of it - apart from the various reports of community spirit and people doing good deeds for neighbours and strangers alike, of course - were instructions from a council on how to walk on the ice.

No, this wasn't courtesy of Northants County Council, who must have been relieved that the 'Beast From The East' knocked them from the top story on both national and regional news for a couple of days.  The weather gave us a break from the endless Brexit negotiations too.

The council advice for negotiating icy pavements was to mimic the walk of a penguin.  Seems quite sensible - after all, if there's a creature that knows a lot about snow and ice it's our little feathered friends from the Antarctic.

I thought I'd give it a try.  There I was, walking outside my house, adopting the penguin walk of loose knees, toes slightly out-turned and arms out at my side for balance.

But after a severe bout of laughing, which did absolutely nothing to assist, I reverted to my usual ice walking stance - similar to John Wayne after four hours in the saddle.  Elegant it isn't, but it seems to work for me!