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Letter from Transport Secretary of State.

The following letter to the editor of The Journal, concerning Article 14 Directions issued by the Highways Agency in the North-East, was received from Alistair Darling, the Secretary of State for Transport. While the introductory paragraphs have been removed, the rest of the letter appears as it was received.

THE Highways Agency has a statutory duty to look at the wider impact of any development on the trunk road network. Identifying any safety issues that arise and improvements that might be needed to deal with the extra traffic generated.

The Agency has 21 days to respond to a consultation by a planning authority over a proposed development. It frequently finds that insufficient information is supplied by the developer for a substantive response to be made in that time.

It then has a choice. It could simply direct that the application to be refused. That really would be blocking the process. Instead the Agency chooses to issue an Article 14 which gives it time to work closely and constructively with the developer to find a solution.

During the past 18 months 237 planning applications have been referred to the Agency in the North-East and in almost every single case either, there were no problems identified or improvements to the road network were made, allowing planning permission to be given.

Only four times out of those 237 applications, has an Article 14 been implemented all the way to the refusal. None has involved a place of employment. One was for a cattery, one for a sign and two were for access to domestic property.

A good example of how the process works is the recent application to redevelop the Corus Pipe Mill near the A19 trunk road at Stockton-on-Tees. This was a complicated project with two other applications already ongoing at nearby sites ( clearly, not an issue easily resolved in 21 days. An Article 14 direction was issued to Stockton Borough Council. The Agency then worked closely with the council and developer on the improvements needed at the adjacent A19 Portrack Interchange. The article 14 direction will remain in place until the necessary legal agreements have been signed. That should be completed in a matter of weeks, but is with the council to progress. Stockton Council has commended the Agency on their proactive and positive approach in finding a workable solution at these sites.

The agency estimated that a holding direction has been necessary in only about 12 out of the 237. At present there are four Article 14 holding directions still in place (these are set out below); all the others have been resolved and solutions found:

Corus Pipe Mill ( (see above).

Derwent West Bank ( following the application in April 2004 the agency requested further information to identify measures that could deal with the projected additional traffic. The Agency most recently met with Gateshead Council in February to see a way forward. It is waiting to hear back from the council.

A1 Fifth Avenue Business Park ( the Agency agreed mitigation measures with the developer in February this year that would allow planning approval to be given. However some of the work required would be on local roads therefore the developer is in further negotiations with Gateshead Council.

Rainton Bridge Business Park ( the application was made in January this year but without a transport assessment. The Agency is already discussing possible solutions with the developer however significant transport planning and traffic mitigation measures are likely to be needed to reach an acceptable solution.

Across the country as a whole there are 124 outstanding Article 14 directions out of around 6,000 consultations over the last 18 months. I understand the frustrations involved over the small number of cases you highlight, at the same time the Agency is working very hard to resolve any outstanding issues. We want development, we support jobs and we want to see it matched to proper planning and an integrated transport solution in the region.

I hope this letter helps clarify the situation, but if you require more information please let me know. I would be very happy to discuss this issue with you.

ALISTAIR DARLING, Secretary of State for Transport, Department of Transport, London

Is the poor taxpayer going to pick up bill?

IF the people of Stanley want a town council to control their own destiny, why do Derwentside District Council want to have another referendum (The Journal, April 12)?

If the people of Stanley had been given a fair deal by the Consett-controlled council, it maybe would not want one.

Is Alex Watson, the leader of Derwentside District Council, going to pay the pounds 10,000 to pounds 15,000 to carry out the referendum he has called for or, as usual, is the poor council taxpayer going to pick up the bill?

County Coun JOHN SHUTTLEWORTH, Independent, Weardale Ward, Durham County Council

Supporting creation of a town council

IWISH to lend my full support to the people of Stanley for the creation of a town council (The Journal, April 12), which I believe will benefit the local people in the town.

If the people of my Ward of Burnopfield and Dipton feel that a parish council would benefit our two villages, I am happy to move in that direction.

County Coun REG ORD, Independent, Burnopfield and Dipton Division, Durham County Council

Primitive notion of killing this beast

WITH reference to your article about Were-Rabbit (The Journal, April 8), it is with great sadness I note that some people of Felton allotments plan to kill what may be either a rare species or an escaped pet.

It is equally interesting to note that whilst decrying a rabbit snare as being dangerous to human beings, the same "allotment logic" has employed armed men to "shoot-on-sight".

I find the notion of killing this magnificent beast then hanging it up on a tree so folk can see it to be primitive in the extreme. Furthermore, with what right do they discharge a firearm in what is essentially a public place? Have there not been enough cases of injury involving shotguns and air guns?

LESLEY A SCOTT, Alnwick, Northumberland

A big `thank you' to the Live Theatre

IWOULD just like to say a big "thank you" to the Live Theatre in Newcastle for making my family's evening one that we won't forget for a long time.

I took my husband and mother to see their production of A Nightingale Sang at the weekend and we haven't been able to stop humming the tunes since.

It meant a great deal to my mother as she used to live on Welbeck Road, where the family in the play live, during that time and remembers the VE Day celebration like it was yesterday.

We have always loved coming to Live, with its friendly and relaxed atmosphere. We feel very at home and like it really is our theatre. We have never been to another theatre where we are made to feel special every time we visit.

Mrs VIOLET BELL, Wallsend, North Tyneside

Joyce Quin under fire over peerage

IT comes as no surprise that Joyce Quin has accepted entry to the House of Lords (The Journal, April 11).

Had she conformed to the behaviour I expect from a person of principle, she would have refused the offer.

P BENNISON, Whitley Bay, North Tyneside

Willy Poole is always an entertaining writer

WILLY Poole has taken some stick in readers' letters of late. He makes me laugh and very cross, but is always entertaining.

I profoundly agree and disagree with what he says almost in equal measure.

I can, however, forgive him as he is one of the dying breed of Englishmen who are prepared to put their heads above the parapet and say what they genuinely think and feel, as opposed to many who only say what is expected, for fear of causing trouble for themselves.

This Government is seeking to control everything and everybody and hates voices raised in protest. They would be very pleased by the intolerance of those wishing to silence Willy for his sometimes radical views. They have had people frog marched out of conferences or locked up for less.

Freedom of speech is being subtly eroded to the point where one hesitates to speak one's mind in the pub or even among friends.

I am not surprised that Willy has fled to France before he gets his collar felt at dead of night. No doubt to be dragged off to the Government's academy of politically correct thinking, to have his brain reprogrammed, so that he will only say and think what is approved of.

The best of luck in France, Willy. I passed the hound pack near Hedgley last week and they all seemed fit and well. Long may your column continue.

J HAGGIE, West Rainton, County Durham

Green brigade should make up their minds

IWISH the green brigade would make up their minds. For years they have been telling us that global warming is the greatest threat to humanity ever known.

Now we are told it is nothing to worry about and the world has more to fear from another ice age.

Professor Bob Carter, a geologist at James Cook University in Queensland, Australia, says climate change is a natural occurrence and that global temperatures did not increase at all between 1998 and 2005; a sudden natural cooling is far more to be feared. He also says the Government is being scientifically brainwashed and that politically incorrect science isn't welcome in Whitehall.

How very true; this lot would rather listen to sorcery and black magic than sound scientific advice.

Yet the Northumberland landscape is still about to be desecrated with those infernal windmills because the Government is hell-bent on complying with some mad European Union directive or other about cutting carbon monoxide emissions.

The only good reason we were given for building the useless contraptions in the first place was to cut reliance on fossil fuels which was blamed for global warming.

JOHN S PEARSON, Adderstone Mains, Northumberland
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 13, 2006
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