Saturday, 30 April 2011

Campaign Diary: Mostly chickens

On a sunny but breezy afternoon we went up to Harecroft, a little hamlet between Cullingworth and Wilsden - about 150 electors but mostly good Tories so worth the visit. Lots of friendly folk on the doorstep - plenty of 'come inside, sit down, have a cup of tea' responses (this may have a little to do with the howling gale blowing outside). And much discussion of chickens and not in a good way!

Harecroft features a large chicken factory - a place where, after a brief prayer, a lot of chickens are slaughtered. And it smells. Not all the time but often enough to upset and annoy the locals. Now without boring you all with loads of detail (and we should note that the factory's been there a long time), we should note that the firm running the unit has been prosecuted successfully by the Council at least once. However, the locals - quite understandably - would like it closed, which of course isn't something the Council is able to do (certainly not permanently).

We have the same problem in Cullingworth - I remember being photographed by the local paper gingerly holding a slightly whiffy chicken foot that had fallen from one of the waste wagons. And, since I lived on the street with the factory, I also witnessed the occasional break for freedom - two or three chickens making a run for it down the road!

There isn't a magic solution to these problems - I can't promise anything other than my best efforts to local residents. I am as frustrated as local residents by the seeming inability of environmental health officers to deal with persistent problems be they smells, dust or noise. I understand the limitations of the law but worry that, as with many other areas, there is little the Councillor can do is make a lot of noise, insist on actions being taken and generally getting on the case. None of this is of any comfort the the people whose life is a misery because of noise and dust from Bingley Stone or these poor folk in Harecroft who live sometimes with a permeating stench of rotting chicken.

In times past there was a sub-committee of council concerned with environmental health where these issues could be brought by councillors - or through petitions the public. And this committee had teeth, it could require action of officers, it could insist reports are brought back to a future meeting and could hold those delivering to account. Now we have area committees with no substantive executive powers in these areas, pointless and powerless scrutiny committees and a "portfolio holder", a single councillor, whose deliberation of such matters takes place in private with officers. So much for modern local government!


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