Alan Castle: High time we were dualled and schooled

AT first I could not believe the words in front of me when I started to read my favourite newspaper and found that it was full of stories that would bring smiles to the faces of many who live in North Northumberland.

Lead story was the news that the Duchess’s High School board of governors had been given the finances to go ahead and build a brand new school which would be fit-for-purpose for the next 50 years on a greenfield site.

Slightly lower in the newspaper pecking order were reports that engineers had begun works to map out for a new dual carriageway linking Morpeth and Berwick.

Leading page three was that at a meeting in the Craster Arms at Beadnell, both sides in the harbour planning row had met and had settled the long-running feud between the fishermen and the Save Beadnell lobby. Only one house was to be built and that both sides had agreed never to write another letter to the press.

The second lead story on the page was that in future, parking would be free throughout Northumberland for all residents, no matter where they lived. County councillors had agreed to give up their council attendance allowances to cover the lost income.

On the next page, it was announced that cameras were to be installed at the entrance to the Market Place in Alnwick and any driver who passed the no entry signs would be fined and that parking would be banned at all times.

Northumberland County Councillors had also given the green light to proposals from businesses to release officers and other middle management officials to firms to see how often government and councils thwart them with petty regulations in their efforts to succeed.

The offer was to be extended to all councillors in future years.

In the last of the news pages was a report that there were plenty of homes for young couples, as the Government law to ban second homes and holiday lets came into force and it had led to a glut of housing for sale on the coast and countryside.

The letters pages were dominated by residents who were now satisfied that dog fouling was no longer a problem.

Letter of the week was from an anonymous Alnwick pensioner who praised the county council for clearing the latest fall of snow – over one foot had been recorded – before drivers headed for work or before he headed out to collect the morning paper.

The Leisure pages were dominated by news that the Playhouse had again produced superb shows throughout the year to capacity audiences and was in line along with the Northumberland Theatre Company for large grants from the Arts Council and the Big Lottery Fund.

Alnwick’s Christmas lights had been voted the best in Britain, along with the Food Festival and the International Music Festival. The county council had been able to find from reserves – without the need for with large donations from town and parish councils – the cash to plant millions of flowers in all villages and towns in the county and were now hoping that all would reap awards in Britain in Bloom.

The Government had also decided to give special cash awards to those who had been forced to stay at home, or had given up work to look after elderly relatives.

I was just turning to the sports pages when I felt the newspaper starting to shake in front of me and familiar voice came from above.

“Wake up” said Mrs C. “You fell asleep in front of the telly again. It’s time to do the dishes.”

So much for dreams. But as I returned to the real world, I realised that not one of my newspaper stories was beyond a possibility.

If there is a will, there is a way.