Your Letters

History points to the future

Letter of the Week: Mark Griffin, Batley

Dear Sir,

Well done Batley History Group. If you ever thought history was something just for the classroom, think again.

Last January the group coordinated the ‘Protect Batley Library’ campaign and their first Batley Town Hall meeting of 2014 (Batley Variety Club memories) broke the news of the potential redevelopment of the Frontier. There’s only one Malcolm Haigh!

The news of the potential development of the site by Sara Battye is surely good news for Batley alongside Richard Binks at Blakeridge Mills.

Both are renowned for innovative and high-quality regeneration initiatives in the town.

Talk of a contemporary reworking of the Batley Variety story is welcome. James Corrigan saw an opportunity to bring the big stars to Batley because (seems incredible today!) you couldn’t see them in Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield etc.

A man ahead of his time. Since then culture, arts and regeneration have become economic drivers throughout the world – just look at brand Leeds over the last quarter of a century.

Batley may have missed out. Possibly it’s a bit of confusion over the Kirklees name (my view, as per Humberside) but other reasons too no doubt.

The coming of the Arts Council England £2 million Creative People and Places Programme to Batley and Dewsbury (2014-2016) presents an opportunity to engage in the arts and, hopefully, for the programme to act as a catalyst for developing Batley’s cultural assets.

The story of the Variety Club is one such asset. It is the stories told by the folk that went there that will make for living history – let’s hear their voices.

All around West Yorkshire interactive museums and attractions have been built shouting, ‘come and visit our town and spend some money’.

If you’ve visited Zucchini Restaurant you’ll have seen how well a tribute to the Variety Club can be done.

I believe Batley today possesses a unique cultural, artistic and creative diversity for such a small (big to us Batley folk!) town. Where else can boast the Yorkshire Dialect Group and the Gujarati Writers Forum?

But too much of this is achieved through volunteering. Let’s hope that when the Lawrence Batley Theatre launches the Creative People and Places Programme this year there’s room for local people to get involved on a paid basis as well as volunteers.

Then we’ll see some sustainable arts activity that also stimulates the local economy.

Well done Batley History Group, keep it up!

Mirfield station parking issues

From: Michael Hutchinson, Mirfield

Dear Sir,

Last week’s report in The Press about Mirfield Railway Station mentioned improving car parking facilities there.

It was unclear what the issues were and I should be happy to clarify the position.

It seems Coun Bolt and I both had the idea, separately, of providing parking near the railway station on the former Rogan and Dawson Engineering Works site at the junction of Back Station Road and Hopton New Road.

I understand he wanted to achieve this through a land swap and blamed Kirklees Council when his idea did not proceed.

However, I have discovered that the Environment Agency sees the site as being on the flood plain.

Because of this, the Environment Agency would require any car park to be raised above the flood level it expects. The cost of this would have been so high that Metro could not have afforded to pay for it.

Fortunately the building is now being renovated. This is removing an eyesore and we must assume and hope the projected use of the site can go ahead in spite of the flood risk.

I have written to Metro about using other land at a higher level for car parking and hope it will eventually be provided. I will also continue to press for improved access to the east-bound railway platform.

Ollie was a football hero

From: David A Wood, Heckmondwike

Dear Sir,

Thank you to The Press for the story on the passing of Oliver Conmy.

As a young lad watching the first team one week and the reserves the other, ‘Ollie’ quickly became a firm favourite of mine in the Huddersfield Town Central League team.

Though he played just five games for the first team, his debut came against the manager who signed him for Town, Bill Shankly’s Liverpool.

Along with the likes of Peter Dinsdale, Stuart Holden and Mike O’Grady he lit up my Saturday afternoons at Leeds Road. I can but endorse the comments of his teammate Mr John Jennings when he says what a wonderful player he was.

He was indeed and to me a boyhood hero who I have never forgotten and someone to whom along with his family I would like to pay my deepest respects.

Pit closures all had agendas

From: David Honeybell, Heckmondwike

Dear Sir,

I would first of all like to thank Derek Cartwright for reading my letters, it’s the first time I’ve had proof that anyone takes any notice of them.

I’ll accept what he calls “some simple numbers” as fact. I don’t think he would make them up.

Here are some more facts to consider.

As Derek says, pits were being closed before Thatcher’s days in office, but for different reasons.

In the early part of the 20th century, the pits were all privately owned.

When the owners decided they could no longer make enough profit, or they were just too dangerous, they shut them down with no redundancy pay, no severance pay or no help for the workers in any way.

Unfortunately greed and profit came before the workers’ safety and many pits were kept open until they collapsed, killing and maiming the workers.

The coal industry was nationalised in 1946 with the formation of the NCB, at a cost of £338 million. The previous year, 1945, the NUM was created from the Miners Federation of Great Britain, which was itself established in Monmouthshire in 1888.

Thatcher, and her government, closed pits for very different reasons.

They shut them to try to crush not only the NUM, but the whole trades union and labour movement.

Because of that wicked woman (I’m being very polite) and her American advisor, Ian MacGregor, we are having to import coal to fuel our power stations that still burn it.

Some 40% of our electricity is still generated from coal, but the vast majority is imported.

There are millions of tons of top-quality coal crying out to be mined right under our feet, but for purely Tory political ideology, it will stay there.

From a health point of view this may not be a bad thing, but that’s the last thing the Tories were interested in when they produced the pit closure hit list – the hit list Thatcher lied about both to Parliament and the British people.

The Tories had the advantage of North Sea gas and oil revenue, but instead of building for the future,they wasted it on tax cuts for their friends in the city.

Men women and children have lost their lives in mining accidents, many of which could have been avoided in the early days, but pit owners’ greed came before workers’ safety.

Thank goodness for the trades union movement, and especially in this instance the NUM, who not only fought for a living wage but just as importantly ensured all mine workers had as safe a working environment as was humanly possible.

Charity should begin at home

From: Bryan Gibson, Dewsbury

Dear Sir,

Every day we are seeing pictures of the Somerset Levels flooding and the people who are suffering because of them.

But unlike when we see floods in some far-flung country we are not being bombarded with adverts from charities requesting donations to help those people.

The government continues to help with foreign aid to India, Pakistan and the like when their economies are stronger than ours.

Surely we could divert some of this money, that probably ends up in some official’s back pocket instead of being used for the intended purposes, to use for the good of this area.

We should start to look after this country’s needs before we help others.

Where are Oxfam and the Red Cross when people here need help? Surely they are not set up just to help people overseas.

I thought charity began at home.

School parking is a nightmare

From: Jack Bunn, Hanging Heaton

Dear Sir,

I think it is about time someone did something about indiscriminate parking outside Hanging Heaton School at tea time.

Complaints have been made to councillors, police, letters to local papers, even a demonstration on the High Street, but it appears everything has failed.

At times, the High Street is blocked, and I am sure that if, or when, an accident does happen, someone’s face should be red.

Myself and my neighbours are just about fed up with these drivers, some who only live a good stone’s throw from the school, constantly day after day blocking the High Street. Also, more to the point, the authorities, whose job it is, all are failing in their duties.

I think I can recall a van being fitted out with recording discs at considerable expense to deal with parking outside schools.

I suppose this will be too busy at Huddersfield schools to come to the forgotten village of Hanging Heaton.

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