Friday, September 21, 2007

Yesterday I made a promise to the Administrator of Redcar.Net and this posting will fulfill that promise. After having removed most of the dissenting voices against the Coatham housing scheme from the site, yesterday he put the Coatham topic back onto the board. He then added a posting which attacked me personally and my 'leadership' of this campaign ( Usual stuff about me being in this campaign for my own publicity, having no strategy etc) and in so doing, he broke the terms and conditions of his own site. Things that he has barred me and other people off for, but hey, in the words of the song "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to".

For the first time ever I decided to phone him and attempt to set the record straight. Which I did. And he did too.The conversation throughout was amicable. He told me categorically that not only was he not a puppet of the council, he was against the houses being built in Coatham.

I was interested by his comments on the site later on though. He stated that the scheme had been delayed by two years already, that the site has huge problems, that such a grandiose scheme being dependent on borrowing looks hopelessly ambitious and that he would put even money on it being cancelled or postponed. He finished with a statement that I laughed at. He said " does the council have a back up plan incase this goes"

I laughed for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because it would seem that everyone, even the Administrator of Redcar.Net, a person who has been critical of me and this campaign throught, can now see that this housing scheme in Coatham is just one big dead duck in the water. But I also laughed for another reason.
I laughed because he criticises me by saying that this campaign has no strategy, that I have been in it only for self publicity,that I haven't been able to build alliances and that I've been useless as a campaigner and have been negative constantly, but then states that the housing scheme has been delayed by two years, the site has huge problems, a scheme being dependent on borrowing is hopelessly ambitious and that he would give even money on it being cancelled or postponed?

These things would suggest to me that our campaign has had a strategy. It would suggest to me that our strategy, which has always been to stop the building of those houses on our coastline and expose the truth about the underhanded way this council has behaved over Coatham and in turn, how it has behaved underhandedly all round, has worked. It would suggest to me that not just me, but scores of other people too, haven't been useless as campaigners. I told him that I believed telling the truth and exposing the truth was very a positive thing, not negative at all.

I started this campaign in August 2004. I have, over three years, been joined and supported by scores of people from all over Coatham, Redcar, the wider borough and even from other groups and organisations from around the country. I may have started this campaign but hundreds of people felt the same way and WE ARE THE FRIENDS OF COATHAM COMMON. We may not have a committee, committees are too easily divided, but we run everything past each other and we seek each others advice. We support each other both inside the campaign and out. We have attacked on every front possible in order to obtain the truth and stop this housing development, from involving the HSE, EA and Serious Fraud Office, to hand delivering leaflets in their thousands, petitioning, standing in elections and putting on exhibitions of fine art and photography, the likes of which has never been seen in this borough before.

WE have worked tirelessly and have gone way beyond what any any members of the public should have ever gone to, in order to research the truth and present that truth to the public. If people know that the site is contaminated and that there are UXO and Gas there it is because of our efforts not because the council offered the information willingly. If everyone knows that there is no funding for the leisure, that there is no agreement between Persimmon and the council for Persimmon to provide any leisure facilities, that what little leisure there may be was always going to be paid for by the council borrowing money then it is because of our efforts not because the council offered the information willingly. If everyone knows that the area is a high flood risk area and that there has to be a £14,000,000 sea defence built then thats because of us informing people not because the council has offered the information willingly.

If this housing estate being built on our coastline and on the last open space in Coatham now looks doomed, then it is because of the efforts of the Friends Of Coatham Common, not just Chris Mcglade and Im proud of OUR achievements. Had we not stood up to be heard, none of the real facts would have ever been known and this disastrous, botched and tainted scheme, to quote our MP and leader of the council, would have been well on the way to being finished.
We still have choices. We still have the choice to decide what is best for that area, so that the whole town and borough can benefit, not just Persimmon homes. This choice would have been lost long ago had we not dared to challenge and continued to challenge for three years, the powers that be.

We didn't want confrontation with the council. I started this campaign partly to help our ward councillor Josie Crawford who told me on Coatham Rd in June/July 2004, that she had cried in front of council officers because they would not listen to her pleas not to build in Coatham. But rather than try and represent the people who tried to help her, because like her, they didn't want the area to be covered in houses, she turned her back on us and has never once stood up in support of us. Instead she released a downright untrue 'newsletter', that claimed she had been spat at in the street by a protestor and received threatening emails, but a year down the line these claims are still unsubstantiated. Probably because they're nothing more than a tissue of lies.

We wrote to Colin Moore and asked for dialogue at the very beginning, Charlie Davis stated that "jaw jaw was better than war war", but he ignored us and the number of houses was increased! I had Councillors Abbott and Fitzpatrick deliberately start an untrue smear campaign that I was a member of the BNP in order to try and marginalise me and our group. We have been smeared and threatened and attacked as liars and scaremongerers and yet, still we have not caved in and still they have not stopped us from exposing their lies and deceit and hypocrisy over this issue. And all the things we have said, far from being hollow rhetoric lacking in substance, have been backed up with all the documents and all the facts and the truth.

Yesterday, I pointed all of these things out to the Administrator of Redcar.Net. I then asked him to come and join us. He said he didn't have the time. Exactly, not a lot of people do, most people these days don't. Most are apathetic and say "The council will just do what they want anyway". Well for once they haven't just done what they wanted because a large group of people who care about the truth and who care about democracy and who care about the place they live in have actually taken their caring thousands of steps further than just moaning about things or being apathetic and for over three years have stood up and been counted so that the people of Redcar and Cleveland can see the truth and can now make an INFORMED DECISION.

Its taken ordinary people, united by this issue and now united in friendship, a long time and a lot of effort and heartbreak to get to this point now and I think that we have ALL done just great!

And unlike all the councillors in Redcar And Cleveland Borough Council and all the senior fat cat officers who we pay, quite literally, hundreds of thousands of pounds to, to be open and transparent and to tell us the truth, the people who have supported this campaign and who have worked so hard to bring you the truth, have done it for absolutely nothing.

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