Alan Castle: Finally, some sense prevails at County Hall

SANITY has been restored, it appears, in the Northumberland County Council Planning Department.

Why do I claim this? It is because the controversial decision to order organisations, from shops to football clubs and village shows, to take down signs promoting their business or events has been put on hold.

One farm shop owner at Widdrington has been told he can even restore two of his four signs, which he had been ordered to take down, and apply for retrospective planning permission for the others.

We are told that no one will be prosecuted over the signs and the heavy-handed approach by county planners has been reined in until a review takes place.

This is at the same time as the council is charging organisations to put signs on roundabouts, which some claim are of an illegal size, while telling village shows to pull down theirs.

I hope there will be a common sense approach to this. Rural businesses, village shows and sporting organisations need all the help they can get to survive. We do not need over-zealous planners and others trying to wreck that.

Most of the signs for village shows go up a month beforehand. Surely temporary planning permission can be given for a set period. Unfortunately, this will probably involve much form-filling and a large fee, which will put further strain on such organisations’ finances.

Running such events is already very expensive, with costs rising every year. These groups need all the help they can get, so no heavy-handed legislation.

IS the huge increase in rural crime down to lax security on farms or opportunist thieves who have cased the area and know that there is little chance of being caught by police?

The thought crossed my brain the other week while travelling down the A697. Once upon a time there were policemen at Milfield, Wooler, Powburn, Whittingham and Longframlington.

Coming south on the main A1 there were also officers at Belford and even Twizell, near Warenford, South Charlton, not to mention Bamburgh, Seahouses, Embleton, Longhoughton, Lesbury (who also covered Alnmouth), Warkworth and many others. The majority have long gone.

Those village policemen knew who came and went within their areas. Often they could be seen in the village after dark just standing and observing what was going on.

Crime was low in all villages, thanks usually to a timely intervention, a cuff behind the ear or straight forward fear of the local copper.

I know those days are long gone and they will never return. Instead we have police in high-powered vehicles, modern communication devices and up-to-date forensic specialists.

Do they catch any more criminals that they did in the old days or prevent crime taking place?

I think not.

WHAT is it about a British summer that insists it must rain at a weekends?

After you have slaved away in an office or on the factory floor all week, you look forward to some relaxing in the garden, watching a village cricket match or just being outdoors. Then it rains.

Why is it that Mother Nature seems to make us suffer at weekends? I went for a walk found that after a while the path I was on had turned into a stream forcing me back. Rain 1, Castle nil.

But spare a thought for Alnwick International Music Festival. Not only did it have to battle with the elements and some extremely heavy showers of rain, but a bolt out of the blue in the shape of the car which smashed into stalls.