Considering the legal rulings today over the performance of Corby Borough Council - NB NOT British Steel - judged to have failed to responsibly supervise remediation of a large industrial site, I am left wondering where this could leave Rochdale MBC. Over the enormously slapdash effort to date, and the Turner Brothers Asbestos/Turner and Newall Works at Spodden Valley STILL NOT properly remediated.
They apparently (still) want to let a favoured developer build 600 family homes on the asbestos-ridden site. Perhaps a playground, a sports pitch or two, and a nursery school?
Just to rub in the Rochdale Lib Dems' "bananas" approach to minding the twin Ps of planning and poison.
And what's more, having received a planning application for a £100M development with a fee of just £5,500 - about £9 per dwelling, staggeringly low even for outline permission - in December 2004, right plop in the middle of Paul Rowen's last year as Council leader and within his campaign to become MP, it was the Council that picked up the tab for an essential environmental report. A report the need for which the developers later admitted that they had pretty much tried to falsely kick into the long grass. In their developers’ Environmental Statement (at para 5.30) they had concluded disingenuously:
“Of particular note is the absence of any asbestos contamination”
Lying bastards! But on discovering this ... Why would Paul Rowen MP's council have agreed to pick up this tab rather than requiring the putative developer to do so? As is absolutely usual in such cases. That developer actually being a consortium of national company Countryside Properties, locally based poison-land specialists MMC Estates, and the offshore Rathbone Jersey Limited. Why on earth would the people of Rochdale be paying a pound each to pay for these disparate interests to get their own land checked out?
By the time this disgraceful conspiracy and equally disgraceful funding arrangement - originating from Rowen's regime at the helm - came to light in the Manchester Evening News of almost exactly three years ago (28 July 2006) Cllr Allen Brett had tipped the Lib Dems out of office with a cheeky partnership with the Tories. So perhaps new boy Councillor and Sheik's bagman Elwyn Watkins didn't realise the vulnerable Lib Dem toes his size tens would be trampling on?
"The Council is having to cut services to subsidise developers. The developers should be picking up the bill; it is their site."
Quite right too. A Lib Dem error being slammed by a Lib Dem muppet. As it should be. Don't know what it is about Rochdale and tropical fruit. But that was another occasion when bananas were taken into battle against Rowen and his pals. The story doesn't appear to be in the MEN archive. But here's the excellent Indymedia report, including a good radio four link. The MEN one has been remediated perhaps? Click to enlarge (when I slot it in, soon come). And clearly the Old Boys network thought - but only after this protest and the associated media - that they could escape criticism with yet another U-turn, here in their own words? Does anyone know what happened in the end? The trail appears to be a bit cold. They didn't make a fuss and then let it go did they?
Paul Rowen has continued to tap dance like a herd of clumsy pink elephants around the issue of this possible redevelopment. And old Cyril and his w. bro Norman have also been "keeping an open mind" about this idea. In other words backing it without actually saying so. The story peddled by the developers and their friends in high places is that it will only be by building family homes that the site will get properly cleared.
As if it is not possible to clean or seal the bloody site up anyway? Or resolve to seal the site and never again disturb the tons upon tons of asbestos waste dumped there? Enough to cover a couple of football pitches to a metre's depth I think it was. With every minute fibre capable of causing pleural plaques or full blown cancer or both.
Although councillors and MPs of all stripes have been involved with the lucrative world of the magic mineral in Rochdale down the ages it is of course Sir Cyril Smith MBE who is most closely identified with Asbestos in Rochdale. Nice one Cyril!
Because, as the horror story of the ticking time bomb of mass death through asbestos exposure unfurled, with most right-thinking people only too aware what a menace the stuff was, it was Sir Cyril who took his instructions and even the actual warm words of his orations from the polluters themselves.
Smith bought shares in the company too. Claiming that this was the only way he could keep tabs on what he seemed to think was some kind of golden goose. For the Town.
So, the local MP and Liberal whip is a shareholder. He gets his instructions, in brown or white or blue or damn it all yellow envelopes, doesn't matter, from the asbestos bosses. He has them to slap up dinners at the Houses of Parliament. He gets them ring side seats. He crashes on and delivers a speech on a substantive (Tory) motion. When the Speaker has chosen the Labour amendment, trying to bring some sense and safety first to the party.
Here's a question: Were links between Cyril Smith, the Liberals, and successor parties and the Turner team as deep and wide as they appeared to be? And still appear to be in some regards? Vide the Rochdale Observer postbag when Cyril was rightly under attack for his complicity in asbestos un-health and un-safety.
Cyril worked up a bit of a double act in one of the big asbestos debates with the then David, now Baron, Waddington. Stalwart of the masonic lodges of East Lancashire and beyond by all accounts. Cyril sadly having been black balled. Never mind. The pair combined - here's Wadders talking of "lust repression" (Hansard, sic) - in a Lib-Con pact, dragging parliamentary feet over Health and Safety.
They were nominally on different sides in another matter. A legendary sex crime. The rape and murder of a young girl. Cyril pressed for conviction, had grandstanding tantrums about lost time, and even called for the death penalty for the wrongly accused and convicted Stefan Kiszko. While Sir David was supposed to be doing his utmost as Kiszko's defence barrister.
Waddle took the "hurry up" message to heart and failed miserably to do his duty. Leaving 8,000 pages of evidence unread. Failing to ask for time to do this background reading. And not discovering that forensic evidence existed, albeit possibly suppressed by police officers, which categorically cleared his client. Instead he entered a "diminished responsibility" defence, apparently without the direction or consent of the client.
In one extraordinary coincidence Kiszko's appeal was first launched on the very day on which Waddington was installed as Conservative Home Secretary in 1989. He was gone soon enough in 1990.
And in a second extraordinary coincidence it later emerged that the true culprit for the Lesley Molseed sex murder and other sex crimes was the scion of a Rochdale Liberal family, the Castrees, specifically noted for their support for Cyril Smith. By the Manchester Evening News.
And in a third extraordinary coincidence young Castree was growing up in the Liberal/Lib Dem milieu of small town Rochdale at pretty much the same time as young Rowen, whose mother was another liberal politician. Can't say I know whether they ever even met, never mind delivered smudgy Smithy propaganda together. It would be interesting to find out, wouldn't it? Did they both perhaps learn their politics and life skills as teenagers at Big Cyril's larger-than-life fat knees?
Until very recently, to all intents and purposes still, Cyril's fan club on the ground, Paul Rowen MP and his rather sleazy secret agent and banana herder Dave Hennigan stuck up for Sir Cyril and his ridiculous denials, cover ups and attempts to deflect blame unto the dead and dying. Even using his "ownership" of Rochdale Online - using taxpayers' money to give them a lucrative contract - in launching vile smears against your faithful blogger.
Even these last few years we have seen Paul Rowen MP twisting and turning over the web and weft of asbestos. No asbestos danger in schools! he would say. Just a couple of years ago. Now he's trying to take the credit from the stalwart campaigning of volunteers, achieving recognition and success despite the attentions of the Rochdale Lib Dems.
Will he now try to pull another fast one and pretend to be the one safeguarding the asbestos killing fields of the Spodden Valley from development as family houses?
FOOTNOTE: The fully Corby judgment can be read HERE. Warning: There may be descriptions here of digging, dumping, burying, transporting, failing to log, spilling, dripping, noxiousness that reminds those of nervous disposition of activities closer to home. The first photo is from the indispensible Northamptonshire Streetlighting" website.
And here's that more recent outburst of tropical fruit in an unrelated Rochdale protest. This time it's Labour ripping the piss out of Rowen for his unsavoury food choice.