My job as columnist is to cause angst on local issues - and I will

Sir Bernard Ingham
Sir Bernard Ingham

Chris Bragg, of Hebden Bridge, writing to this newspaper on January 11, thinks I am not qualified to speak on local issues since I left Hebden Bridge in the 1960s.

Actually, it was in 1948 when we moved to Mytholmroyd and 1956 when I went to live in Halifax before moving to Leeds in 1959.

Having got that straight, this seems as good a time as any to comment on as many local issues as I can ram into this column. After all, my job as a columnist is to cause angst and latterly I have been doing rather better at smoking out critics. Let’s see if I can now set the self-appointed Thought Police of Upper Calder Valley alight.

First, Mytholm Works at King Street. For reasons I have never understood, its site, one of the few level bits in the area, has been a wasteland for as long as I can remember. Now when a developer wants to build a hotel and mini-supermarket there people are up in arms.

I can understand folk being worried about retail competition but Hebden Bridge must be the only tourist centre without a hotel (as distinct from a pub with accommodation) since the old Carlton closed. Is it seriously in the business of tourism or not?

We must assume that opponents of the project prefer a demolished mill disguised by natural sylvan growth, with its attendant wild life, to an enterprise that is bringing money to the town as well as cars, though cars with parking spaces, and hotel guests who will inevitably be noisier than overgrown mill foundations.

This in turn raises questions about the modernisation of old farms on the edge of the moors. Do we prefer wrecks, sometimes held together by cement like Wuthering Heights, to homesteads that are lived in and raise communal revenue?

Life’s a bargain, as they say, and that has been amply demonstrated by the planning go ahead for an extension to Nutclough Mill for Calrec, a firm that is spectacularly successful at home and abroad. My grandparents having lived at 23 Nutclough, I know how important the whole site it as an example of industrial development. But does that mean that it has to be frozen in time regardless of today’s needs?

I can almost hear the environmentalists reaching for their pens and paper in response to that last sentence. So, Ingham, they say, how to you square that with your opposition to wind farms?

Easy, say I. Wind turbines industrialise wild and rural places from which other electricity generating methods would be banned. Worse still, not one would be erected without public subsidy even though they contribute next to nothing to carbon emissions reduction when the reek from stand-by generation is counted.

Those who support wind power automatically disqualify themselves from criticising high electricity prices and fuel poverty. They help to cause both.

This brings me to fly tipping, a national scourge. Down here in Surrey the local authority shifts the mess, usually bedding, tyres or tree trimmings, left by idle morons. Yet in Cragg Vale, according to the testimony of the land owner, both the local authority and the Environment Agency, while making suitably menacing noises, did nothing for at least 10 days to shift clinical waste.

This raises the question as to whether they know what a potential health hazard is. Perhaps these well-paid so called servants of the people will account for themselves with a letter to this newspaper instead of burying it in the nether regions of a website.

This effortlessly leads me to local anger about Calderdale’s £25 charge to residents to park outside their own homes, with the same imposition on visitors. We can expect a lot more of these stealth taxes as the Government tries to balance the nation’s books without the slightest help from many local authorities.

In my view the council has no moral authority to impose the charge so long as councillors take home £10,000 a year for just turning up at meetings.

Finally, just to get ’em really going: Calder High School and academy status. I am profoundly unconvinced that just changing a school’s status and calling it an academy will necessarily improve anything. Reading between the lines of this newspaper, the problem seems to lie, as usual, with management. And with the best will in the world, it has not latterly been up to much.

I suspect that there is not much that real leadership, the smack of firm government discipline and reverence for excellence would not cure. I rest my case.