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December 2013

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Show shines out in summer sunshine - but showers later

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rett Larkins is a man on a mission - he aims to bring highclass football tuition to Whittington’s young players. And he wants to see families on the touchline at matches cheering on their home side. “It’s not just about the sport,” he told ‘VM’. “It’s about what football can do for the whole community. “My goal is to use the ‘Beautiful Game’ to bring people together. Page 14.

Taking a stand: Mrs. Tina Belcher with (left) Libby Sinclair (7), Amelie Belcher (10), Esther Belcher (6), Jude Sinclair (10), and Ben Edwards (11).

The money men have plans for their village Alrewas is set to fight back See Page 8.

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Simple changes yield dramatic results

Former ‘VM’-area champ now looks to be achieving the impossible in his new top Staffordshire crime and cop job.

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ad you told police 12 months ago they would be increasing their conviction rate by one per cent they would have broken out the bubbly. Six bottles, please! So it must have been a huge shock when the ‘VM’-area’s former county councillor and people’s campaigner boosted it on his patch by six per cent. When Matthew Ellis was elected as Staffordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) few members of the public knew what these officials were supposed to do. And now Labour politicians are already vowing to have the posts scrapped right across the country. But the impact Matthew Ellis is making on the criminal justice system is raising delighted eyebrows at Number 10. And if what he has started produces similar results in other PCC areas it could become very difficult for the opposition to get rid of them. Because not only did Ellis push up conviction rates by six per cent in a special pilot scheme, he did it in just 12 weeks. The plan put together by the PCC and his team of county police HQ-based specialists was designed to break down the stumbling blocks that cause cases to falter and clog up the courts. In Ellis’s pilot area the number of people submitting guilty pleas before going to trial shot up from 61 per cent to an astonishing 74 per cent. Slashed by half The average number of court appearances per case plummeted from 3.6 to 1.8. Even in cases in which the accused did not contest the charges, the average appearance rate fell from 2.1 to 1.6. A major concern for the PCC when he began putting in the fix that has now got the result was the impact he saw the justice

system was having on the victims of crime. “Thirty-seven per cent of them are having their time wasted by being turned away from court because their cases cannot not proceed due to failures in the system!” he told ‘VM’. “That is not acceptable.” Victims matter Mr. Ellis said the stress and upset it caused victims was completely unfair. Then he added: “But look, how much does it cost the victims in financial terms - how much is all that worth? “That too must to be taken into account when you look at the costs of an inefficient criminal justice system.” He also had his mind set on far larger savings as he devised his plan. He said: “We believed that a small investment in a new and simple way of doing things would save millions upon millions for the taxpayer. “Simply cutting court appearances by half would save the state a fortune in barristers’ fees. “There will be a massive saving in police time too. “That will free up officers to do their jobs instead of spending time in court.” Seemed impossible The extraordinary thing is how Mr. Ellis and his team have done what many said was impossible. Because essentially all they have done is encourage people talk to each other. “We put the police and Crown Prosecution Service together to ensure cases are fully prepared before they are taken to court it’s not rocket science!” he said. Even so, until now the courts have been factoring in the CPS’ high failure rate in assessing their own workloads. Mr. Ellis said barristers were regularly turning up at court with three case briefs hoping that at least one of them would proceed.

He added that quite apart from victims being turned away, unresolved cases kept stacking up in the CPS system, making matters even worse. Millions in savings Mr. Ellis said: “We have already shown how an investment of a few thousands pounds can bring savings of millions in return. “Once these simple changes in management are in place they become self-perpetuating.” Close attention is being paid in Westminster as Mr. Ellis prepares to roll out his pilot scheme across Staffordshire.

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Police and Crime Commissioner: Matthew Ellis is the man many ‘VM’area residents want as their MP. But he has again very firmly ruled that out.

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Councillor John Smith: “Chairman, why are we discussing this!”

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Councillor John Smith: “Chairman, why are we discussing this!!”

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Councillor John Smith: “Chairman, why are we discussing this!!!”

Parish councillors put dog excrement higher up the agenda than handicapped kids, hospice patients, jobs and property values.

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ore than 700 villagers have protested about a rich farmer’s wind-driven cash-cow - but their councillors refused to even talk about it. Whittington and Fisherwick Parish Council (WFPC) decided to discuss dog dirt instead. Residents asked their ‘representatives’ to debate farmer Robert Gray’s planning appeal before it was too late. People had only been given until November 18 to submit objections to his bid to have a planning authority rejection of his plans overturned. Four councillors agreed there should be a new debate. But the villagers’ request still met with disdain and a contemptuous put-down. Why discuss it It was claimed that three times, ex-chaiman John Smith demanded: “Chairman! Why are we discussing this!” The residents insisted there was new evidence that needed consideration.

Chairman: “Councillor Steven Rushton gave in to bullying,” claim. “You have been told you cannot speak!” a councillor was claimed to have retorted. It was alleged that chairman, Steven Rushton, accused in October of being weak, gave in to bullying. Another councillor was claimed to have said debate was pointless since WFPC had already made up its mind. Despite every other council in the area objecting to Gray’s turbine, WFPC told the planners: “The virtues of moving towards renewable

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energy are widely acknowledged by the community and the enterprise shown by the applicant is to be applauded.” Villagers slammed that statement as, “garbage”. And now hundreds of them have backed that up by sending letters to the Planning Inspectorate in a bid to block the landowner’s development. People have also made allegations about a ‘comfy’ relationship between WFPC, the Whittington and Fisherwick Environment Group (WFEG) and Mr. Gray. Councillor Smith would not deny having given Mr. Gray’s proposal his full personal support. Nor would he deny having suppressed public debate over the farmer’s planning application when he was chairman. And nor would he deny refusing to debate new evidence put before the council last month. Conflict of interests Chairman Rushton would not deny that Gray had done favours for WFPC, paying for the labour, machinery and materials himself. Nor would he deny that the council had failed to declare a conflict of interests in dealing with the farmer’s turbine proposal. And nor would Coun. Rushton deny that the council’s claim last month that there was no new evidence was simply untrue.

New details about the threat to local businesses had emerged and St. Giles Hospice had spoken out over the impact the turbine could have on patients. Gray’s opponents also claim that the Whittington and Fisherwick Environment Group (WFEG) has been exerting undue influence on the parish council. And they claim that WFEG has been spreading pro-Gray propaganda at the taxpayers’ expense. Rushton would not tell ‘VM’ how much cash his council had given to the environment group. Propaganda - claim Meanwhile claims of hypocrisy have been levelled at WFEG. The campaign group, Residents Oppose Turbine (ROT) alleges that its ex-chairman, Michael Kinghan, has been fighting green belt development threatening his home, while supporting green belt development threatening theirs. WFEG has dismissed anyone who does not agree with its views as, “scaremongers”. At a public meeting in October, villager Ms. Jean Jackson rubbished ROT’s concerns about Mr. Gray’s turbine. But she also failed to declare that she was both a WFEG member and a marketing manager for a company with a financial interest in renewable ‘green energy’. Menace to countryside - P.12

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‘Irreversible impact’ warning Alrewas to spend thousands fighting off ‘crazy’ 151-home floodplain development proposals

Vote to fight: a sea of ‘ayes!’ and far as the eyes could see.

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ouncillors were forced to the back of Alrewas village hall as scores of residents poured in. There was hardly any standing room left as the crowd heard about the threat they faced. Worcester-based Lioncourt Homes wants to build 151 homes on an 11.66-hectare site on the northern edge of the village, off Dark Lane. Massive change Parish council chairman John Pegg told the crowd: “Make no mistake, if this goes ahead it will make a substantial and irreversible change to the village.” There was confusion over how long villagers had to submit their objections to the Lioncourt planning application. Residents had seen a notice say December 9. Pegg said he had been told December 16. He added: “Lichfield District

Council (LDC) have told us if we get the parish council’s response to them by January 6 it will be accepted.” And yet his authority is only a statutory consultee and has no power in the matter. LDC planning committee member, Margaret Stanhope, told the residents: “We cannot pussyfoot around. “These 151 houses will have a huge impact on the village. Roads swamped “Each home is likely to have two or three cars apiece and they will all have to go through Micklehome Drive. “The effect on the heritage of our village will be terrible. “The development will impact on a ‘mixed field system’ that is almost unique. “Roman sites and remains will be destroyed.” Councillor Stanhope, who lives on Dark Lane, said the development would be built on the floodplain. As it is she and many other people are already unable to get insurance because of the risk. The councillor was also concerned about the sewers. She said there was already a problem, with homes in Micklehome Drive, Dark Lane and Burton Road affected by the smell. And she said developing the fields under which a massive gas line ran could be very dangerous. Coun. Stanhope noted that the county authority had done work in the area and not even known it was there. Alrewas was the smallest parish in Lichfield district, she said: “Bit by bit we are seeing our open spaces disappear.”

Because because of her personal interest in the issue she will not be able to take part in the LDC planning debate, on January 27. But she said there would be someone there to speak for her. She told the Backs to the stage: the residents demanded to hear what meeting that the the council chairman John Pegg (above) had to say before asking questions. (left) Vice-chairman Donna Moss. people of Alrewas would be an act of insanity,” one should get in their objections resident told ‘VM’. without delay. He said that not only would the “God help us if we lose this home buyers be unable to get inone,” she added. surance, the development would The parish council voted unanintensify flooding problems up imously to spend the authority’s and downstream of the site. cash to fight the developers’ Worse to come plans. Climatologists say that it is a The money will go on hirproblem that is set to get much ing three experts: one to cover worse. flood management (£500), one Environment Agency data to cover traffic matters (£500) shows large areas of the develand one to cover planning issues opment site as prone to flooding. (£1,500). In the planning application the Defence spending developers question whether the The cash will account for nearmap, “reflects reality”. ly nine per cent of the parish’s precept for 2013/14. When Pegg asked the residents if they approved, every hand in the room shot up. But the packed audience also agreed when one resident said they should all make certain that everyone in the community knew that they had to act immediately to stop the plans. Mrs. Tina Belcher, whose home will also be badly affected by the new housing, said the moneymen simply had to be stopped for the sake of the future of the village’s children. Taking no prisoners: district councillor Margaret Stanhope. “Building on the floodplain

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EAT, DRINK & BE MERRY!

An article in a national newspaper last month claimed that the average Christmas dinner could have travelled 260,000 miles before ending up on your dining table.

Thank goodness families in the ‘VM’ area are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing suppliers of locally reared and produced food. We’ve asked a couple of them for their recommendations for a fabulously festive meal (see below and on the next page). And if you head to the local shopping meccas of Heart of the Country (south of Lichfield, on the A38), Curborough Countryside Centre (north of Lichfield, off Eastern Avenue) or Middleton Hall Courtyard (south of Tamworth, on the A4091) you can find a farm shop, cheese shop (brand new at Middleton!) and sweet shops stocking most of what you need to eat over Christmas and New Year. Enjoy!

Shenstone butcher, Russell Edwards, says there’s not much can beat a properly matured roast rib of beef as a spectacular centrepiece to a festive meal. Here’s his suggestion for how to serve it this Christmas:

Roast rib of beef, with thyme, port and redcurrants Serves: 8-10 Preparation time: 30 mins Cooking times: Rare 20 minutes per 450g/1lb plus 20 minutes Medium 25 minutes per 450g/1lb plus 25 minutes Well done 30 minutes per 450g/1lb plus 30 minutes

Roast rib of beef, with thyme, port and redcurrants.

INGREDIENTS 2.7kg/6lb bone-in rib of beef salt and frehly milled black pepper 3 lge garlic bulbs, cut in half horizontally 24 shallots, peeled

for the marinade 100g redcurrant sauce 200ml port large handful fresh thyme leaves for the gravy 25g plain flour 600ml good, hot, beef stock

METHOD Preheat the oven to Gas mark 4-5, 180-190°C, 350-375°F. In a large, shallow bowl mix together the marinade ingredients. Place the joint on a chopping board, score the fat, season on both sides and transfer to the bowl with the marinade and coat well. Cover and marinate in the fridge for up to 2 hours, or overnight, turning occasionally. Remove the joint from the marinade mixture, strain the marinade and reserve for later. Place the joint on a metal rack in a large non-stick roasting tin and open roast for the preferred, calculated cooking time. After 30 minutes cover the joint with foil. Forty-five minutes before the end of the cooking time, lift the joint and rack out of the tin, add the garlic and shallots and place the joint directly on top. Return to the oven for the remainder of the cooking time. When the beef is ready, remove it from the tin with the vegetables and transfer to a warmed platter, cover and set aside to rest. To prepare the gravy: spoon off excess fat from the tin and discard. Place the tin over a medium heat and sprinkle over the flour. Stir well with a small whisk or spoon, add a little stock and stir again, scraping the base of the pan to release any rich, beefy sediment. Add the remaining stock, 150ml of the reserved marinade and any meat juices from the platter. Season, and simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until reduced to a well-flavoured gravy. Strain before serving. Serve with roast potatoes, stuffing, seasonal vegetables and the gravy.

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COOK COCKEREL Choosing a cockerel is an unexpectedly ethical choice: not every egg laid produces a female egg-laying hen chick after all. Rearing free-range cockerels for meat gives the male chicks a longer and happy life. Bigger than a chicken, smaller than turkey or goose: a free-range cockerel might be the perfect fit for your Christmas meal. The Mercer family, of Packington Free-Range, certainly think so. The simple but gorgeous recipe below comes from their ‘Pip & Sal’s Kitchen see their website for more ideas.

Roast Cockerel with Butter & Herbs Serves: 8-10 Preparation time: 10 minutes plus resting Cooking time: 2 hours 30 minutes approx 1x 4kg (approx.) Packington Free Range Cockerel 2 tbsp chopped mixed herbs (thyme, rosemary & sage) 2 cloves of garlic 2 tbsp butter 1 lemon Salt & Pepper 400ml Chicken stock 50ml red wine or 20ml marsalla METHOD Remove the cockerel from the fridge 45 minutes before cooking. Preheat oven to 180. Mix together the chopped herbs and butter, season and rub all over the cockerel. Place the garlic cloves and lemon (cut in half) inside the cavity. Place in a large roasting tin and put in the oven for 16 minutes per 450g/1lb, plus an extra 16 minutes or until the juices run clear. (If the cockerel is browning too much place foil lightly over the top. Once cooked, remove the cockerel from the oven and place on a serving plate – cover with foil to rest for 20-30 minutes. Make the gravy by placing the tray over a low heat – adding the red wine/ marsalla and the chicken stock. Allow to come to the boil and reduce slightly. For added smoothness add 10g of butter to the gravy. Carve the cockerel and serve with the gravy, roast potatoes, roast sweet potatoes, red cabbage, parsnips and streaky bacon rolls. Roast cockerel with butter and herbs.

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Countryside under attack

Countryside facing growing menace

Farmers boast about being ‘guardians of the countryside’. Yet when there is big money to be made at their neighbours’ expense that idea seems to go out of the window. But are rich landowners about to find themselves in a bit of a Pickles?

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pponents of wind turbine schemes threatening the ‘VM’ area have at last received some encouragement. The secretary of state for communities and local government demanded that the impact these machines have on the countryside must be taken into account in any planning decisions. Eric Pickles said councils and planning inspectors had not been following the guidelines brought in last July. People come first They said that no longer could the need for renewable energy automatically override residents’ concerns about the visual and environmental harm turbines cause. This has made little impact on Whittington farmer Robert Gray’s campaign to site a vast machine on his land, at Hademore. Nor have Pickles’ words affected the Mease Valley’s unpopular

and unelected MEP, twice-failed parliamentary candidate and ousted local councillor. Philip Bennion’s business associates have renewed their attempt to site two gigantic machines on the locally reviled politician’s land at Hoggs Hill, near Haunton.

Taxpayers paid around £90,000 for the wasted process. Then Bennion’s business partners put in plans for two turbines on the same site. Fight back That was also kicked out after hundreds of residents rallied together and spent thousands of

Hundreds of residents from Clifton Campville, Haunton and Harlaston mobilised is a bid to stop the rich landowner industrialising the Mease Valley. First he was involved in a planning fight to get four gigantic wind turbines put on his land. Public paid £90,000 When it seemed the planners might not approve the scheme it was withdrawn at the very last moment.

pounds in a desperate bid to stop the huge turbines being built. Villagers were overjoyed when planners rejected that scheme too. But now an appeal has been lodged with the planning inspectorate and the local residents will have to relive their nightmare. Among those under threat are elderly villagers, people seeking respite in a convent and residents in a care home. Bennion, is estimated to make around £10,000 a month at the European trough. It was suggested that he would earn around an extra £80,000 a year in subsidies from the tur-

Bennion’s back

bines on his farmland. He has steadfastly refused to come clean about exactly how much he will take off ordinary consumers in subsidies should he get his own way. He said he wanted turbines on his land so he could, “help save mankind”. His neighbours gave that claim as much credence as his ‘green credentials’ over his bio-mass crops. Fume spewing While growing miscanthus for use as a ‘green’ fuel, he was also sending fume belching HGVs hundreds of miles to lug the material to his cash paying customers. It is alleged that the truth is that Bennion is only interested in the money.

Countryside under attack

Wigginton turbine plans Farmers cannot milk cows, but

they can milk energy consumers

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‘VM’-area farmer says the subsidies they take off hard-pressed energy consumers will give their business a boost. Mr. and Mrs. Calcott want to install a 113ft-tall (34.5 metres) wind turbine on land off Main Road, Wigginton. Their hope is to cash in on the ‘feed-in’ tariff available to people with enough money and land to install these machines. Money-maker In their planning application, the Calcotts say: “It should be recognised that developments such as this provide a vital and sustainable income stream to supplement overall farm incomes particularly in relation to this farming business, which has had to dramatically change its structure from predominantly dairy farming to arable farming. “In this respect, the proposed

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wind turbine would provide a valuable form of environmentally sustainable farm diversification via the feed in tariff.” Fuel poverty The subsidies the family is keen to cash in on will not benefit the six million Britons who cannot afford a turbine who are now in ‘fuel poverty’, thanks in part to the massive subsidies they are forced to pay the machines’ owners through their bills. The Endurance E3120, 50kW turbine would be sited on land at Wigginton Fields Farm. The applicants defend its visual impact on the landscape by comparing it to already existing electricity pylons. Architectural experts say this comparison is invalid - pylons are ‘skeletal’ and stationary. But they say turbines are solid and moving and constantly attract people’s attention.

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Countryside under attack

Clifton ‘factory’ farming

Officials’ administration of inquiry had been an unfair farce - allegation

John Davison: his unpopular bid to ‘industrialise’ the Mease Valley has seen everything from stolen posters and threats being made, to whoops and cheering in planning meetings as his plans were kicked out.

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lifton Campville residents claim it looked as if officials were rigging a public inquiry. Massive protest Hundreds of people are angry about a rich farmer’s plans to build six vast poultry sheds, on the edge of their village. John Davison’s scheme was originally kicked out by the local planning authority. Then he appealed to the Plan-

ning Inspectorate (PI), who set up a public inquiry that is due to be held this month. But the villagers have slammed Lichfield District Council’s (LDC) handling of the event as an unfair farce. Misled residents First, development control manager Claire Billings told residents in a letter that the inquiry would only last one day. A few days later her colleague rang Davison’s opponents to say Billings had got it wrong. It is claimed the official then told them to ring round everyone else to pass on the message. Ms. Billings and her chief executive, Ms. Diane Tilly refused to say why this extraordinary request had been made. But, as if by magic, it then seems a second letter was hurriedly sent out saying the inquiry would last four days - not one. Residents were also told that new documents had been submitted - but people who wanted to see them would have to travel all the way to Lichfield. Unfair farce - see Page 22

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Dan’s daughters’ FC (left) Matilda (9): with a scything hack at her dad’s shin, Dan Downes’ nine-year-old daughter produced the match-winning sound of splintering bone. The ball stayed where it was. Her father left the park hobbling. (right) Tabitha (7): Dan and Verity Downes’ youngest child looks after the team’s kit. She and her big sister are massively proud of their place on the pitch with their sporting heroes. (below) Brett Larkins: the girls’ sporting icon.

Lots of kids get to run out on the pitch as mascots for their favourite football clubs. But Whittington United FC’s two biggest fans are out there with their sporting heroes every second of each and every match helping them to slam in the goals.

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wo young Whittington Primary School pupils were thrilled to bits to have a place on the back of their sporting heroes’ shirts. Dan and Verity Downes made their family business truly inclusive when they added, ‘& Daughters’ to the company logo. Young-stars And when mum and dad bought some kit for their village footballers, Matilda (9) and Tabitha (7) were given pride of place on match days. From now on every time Whittington United FC scores a goal their two young daughters will be right behind them. A small copse of Downes & Daughters ‘for sale’ signs quickly sprang up in nearby villages when the family opened their estate agency, on Whittington’s Main Street. Now it has turned into a rapidly expanding forest of boards spreading out right across the ‘VM’-area and far beyond.

It is clear more and more people are discovering that no one knows the local housing market like Dan and Verity. “It’s a wonderful area to live in and bring up a family,” said Mr. Downes. “In every village people have formed close-knit communities they are proud of and are keen to contribute to. “And that is why we were so eager to support WUFC. “As well as enjoying their sport, the team is seeking to bring new people into their family. “Manager Brett Larkins will be setting up coaching lessons for local youngsters. Family affair “He is determined to get families along to watch their village side on match days too. “Brett is also working on developing the clubs’ social life. “Basing his team at the Dog Inn was a very smart move. “Whittington is ‘United’. The club is all about community.”

WUFC: (back left) James Ballinger (Ass.t Mngr), Brett Larkins (player/Mngr), Matt Harris, Ben Stephens, Adam Joyce, Dan Gair, Jon Larkins, Richard Finnigan, Josh Craven (player/linesman). (front left): Jamie Larkins, Jack Whelan, Rich Eason, Chris Wilcox, Nick Rovetto, Kristian Raine-Thrall, Brett Aucott, Charlie Hardy.

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A

‘VM’-area motorist claims he had a real shock when the milkman came to town. Driving through Whittington, he met a lorry coming towards him, headlights on full and blinding him. He pulled over and stopped behind a parked car to let it pass. Then, he alleges the wagon inched towards him at a snail’s pace with its blazing lights still on full. He said: “When the driver’s cab was level with the back of my car, he stopped, trapping me between his vehicle, the kerb and the parked car in front. Anxiety “I wondered what on earth he was going to do when he got out and came striding towards me. “I wound my window down and he accused me of having my headlights on full beam. “He was right, I did have them on full and I accept I shouldn’t have. And nor should he have retaliated. “I had dipped my lights before he stopped his lorry. “Even so, he still seemed determined to have a go at me. “When I saw his lorry I asked him if he was the man who kept double parking his vehicle outside the Tamworth Co-operative Society’s shop, in Main Street.

Wisely driven?

Lorry driver played a blinder in Whittington - it is claimed

Police investigate: Warburtons won praise for their policy of never double parking. “Our reputation is very important to us”, their driver said.

“He said he was and seemed to think it was funny. “I didn’t. Nor did I find it funny when he blinded me with his headlights, trapped me and tried to tick me off for bad driving.” Defence Managing director of Muller Wiseman Dairies, Carl Ravenhall, told ‘VM’: “The lorry driver has

an exemplary record and a reputation for reliability and good service to customers.” Blinded He said his driver had been forced to stop because he was blinded by the car’s lights. He added: “He (our driver) was unable to resolve the issue by sitting in his cab, or reversing

his vehicle and felt that the most sensible course of action was to leave his cab and simply ask the driver to dim his headlights so that he could move his vehicle through the narrow lane.” The resident stuck to his claim that it would have been impossible for the lorry driver to see his lights when he stopped. Mr. Ravenhall said he had, “analysed”, the resident’s claim, that his drivers were double parking outside the Co-op. He said: “Our drivers know that it is important to park their vehicles safely wherever possible. “We have redoubled this guidance for the avoidance of doubt.” Doubts The resident felt Mr. Revenhall’s answer implied that when it was not possible for his drivers to park safely, they were at liberty to do otherwise. Police have investigated complaints about dangerous parking outside the village’s Tamworth Co-operative Society shop. They also passed on to residents an assurance from the store company that the double parking and blocking of Blacksmiths Lane, which runs down the side of the store, would be stopped. That was in March, 2012. The problem has since appeared to continue unabated.

Double parked - but why? There was pleny of space at the kerbside for the lorry.

Blacksmiths Lane hemmed in.

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Risky exit from Chapel Lane.

Double parking at night.

Traffic head-on round blind bend.

Double parking in daylight.

Blacksmiths Lane blocked again.

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21


Now set for May

Mark William Lewis.

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here has been yet another delay in bringing a former Fradley businessman to trial. Mark William Lewis (50), who lived in Barlow Drive, Fradley South, is facing 30 counts variously of fraud and obtaining money transfers by deception. Not guilty plea Lewis has pleaded not guilty to all the charges. His trial was supposed to have begun last month. During a hearing, from which the press and public were excluded, Lewis was released on bail having served the maximum amount of time allowable in custody on remand. The trial date was put back until mid-February, next year. Now it has been rescheduled again, to May 6, 2014. £millions The total sum involved in the alleged offences exceeds £2.2 million. In the cases of alleged fraud against private individuals, the sums range from £1,000 to £179,000. The alleged offences involve the sale of property investments and investments in solar panel equipment. The sums involved in the alleged offences against businesses range from £50,000 to £356,000. Lewis was 47 years old when he was originally arrested on suspicion of fraud, on February 8, 2011. Since then two of the alleged victims have died.

22

Countryside under attack

Clifton ‘factory’ farming (left) LDC exec. Tilley: she would not acknowledge the villagers’ questions.

From Page 13 The ‘VM’ contacted the Planning Inspectorate (PI) asking if LDC had done the right thing in telling the opponents in a planning dispute to get in touch with people to correct the council’s misleading error. Misleading - inaccurate A, ‘stakeholder engagement officer’, said: “If there is something misleading or inaccurate in the local planning authority’s notification letter it should be brought to the attention of the relevant (PI) case officer so that we can get the authority (LDC) to rectify the matter as soon as possible.” But then the PI refused to say if LDC’s misleading information had been reported. Instead, a spokesperson said that neither the people whose lives might be badly be affected by Davison’s development, nor their parish councillors, were “main parties” in this matter. She seemed to imply that it did not matter if they had been misled. She also said LDC’s letter was nothing to do with them - anyone who did not like it should go to the Local Government Ombudsman. Beyond belief One Clifton resident, said: “It’s incredible! First LDC misleads us about the inquiry. “Then they tell people to spend their time and money telling the rest of us about their official’s blunder. “What did the official think was supposed to happen about the people whose address details residents didn’t have? “Then to top it all, LDC tell us to travel to Lichfield if we want to see the newly submitted documents! “How were these documents produced - quill on parchment? “Why for heaven’s sake did LDC not just put them on-line. “Government is forever telling us we’ve got to do things over the internet. “Does LDC really not know about the huge level of public concern over these plans? “And is LDC also completely unaware there is no direct public transport between Clifton

(far right) PI chief executive Sir Michael Pitt: his people refused to answer the residents’ questions too.

(centre) Wealthy farmer John Davison: he turned his back on questions about his neighbours’ fears for their children’s safety, their village and the threat they say his money-making plans pose for the environment.

and Lichfield? “How can it be a fair public inquiry if residents are effectively denied access to the evidence?” New evidence Clifton Campville Parish Council’s vice-chairman David Lodge said LDC had in effect barred every working person from seeing the new evidence. He said: “The council offices are open from 8.45am to 5pm. “No one who has to work 9am to 5pm will be able to drive over to Lichfield to view the documents. “Nor will people who work nights. They will be asleep!” Councillor Lodge also felt that staging a public inquiry in the week before Christmas was tantamount to rigging it in Davison’s favour. “At this time of year we’re all

Victory for sanity LDC OFFICIALS made it impossible for residents to see new public inquiry evidence they adamantly refused to put it online to give people access. Villagers bombarded them with complaints - the material is now available online. So it was possible to do it after all - so why did they not do it in the first place? And why did they leave it so late? See the new evidence for the poultry unit inquiry at: http://planning.lichfielddc. gov.uk/online-applications/

under pressure looking to our families,” he added. “It will be impossible for a lot of people to attend.” Another person alleged to have misled people is the farmer, John Davison. In his planning application he stated: “The current contract with the operator of the proposed poultry units is with Moy Park (an Ireland-based processing giant).” But his lawyer said that was not a claim that Davison actually had a contract in place. Last March Moy Park refused Davison a contract. Deadly danger The company has also stopped spreading chicken litter on farmland because of the lethal threat of botulism poisoning associated with it. Yet it seems Davison intends spreading thousands of tonnes of the material on the fields near people’s homes. Residents also fear pollutants from his sheds leaching into the nearby River Mease Special Area of Conservation. Local populations of endangered wildlife species could be wiped out if it did. A district councillor told planners he had lived near similar poultry units. He said he would not wish the stench that came from them on his worst enemy. Moy Park has been fined several times because of nauseating smells coming from its sheds. Cruel farming Many high-profile animal welfare campaigners say this form of industrial farming is cruel. The birds are grown unnaturally quickly in crowded indoor conditions. Some chickens suffer deformities, pain, disease and death as a result. The public inquiry into Mr. Davison’s planning appeal will take place at LDC’s Lichfield offices, in Frog Lane. The four-day hearing will begin at 10am, on Tuesday, December 17. Anyone wishing to speak during the inquiry must be there when the proceedings open.

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‘Mystery Mile’ row reignited Countryside under attack

Whittington farmer Robert Gray wants to put a distribution depot down a one-track lane in the same place planners stopped him building a children’s day nursery.

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hittington farmer Robert Gray is again seeking to change the use of a barn down a narrow country lane. The single-track road was dubbed the ‘mystery mile’ when he applied to build a children’s day nursery there, in 2010. That was because of confusion over who owned Fisherwick Wood Lane. Residents who lived along the road were concerned about the congestion that would be caused by the extra traffic the farmer’s development would create. Safety fears There were also fears about the safety of children walking along the pavementless and unlit narrow road. This time the farmer says he wants to turn Park Barn into a non-agricultural storage and distribution base. He says that even as it is, he could use the barn to store 1,200 tonnes of grain. That, he argues, could involve a total of 200 tractor and trailer, and 86 HGV, movements along the lane every year. HGV traffic He estimates that, if he is allowed to change the barn to non-agricultural use, it might generate around eight HGV movements in any 12-hour period. Precisely what non-agricultural use he has planned for his barn is unclear. Residents in Elford feared

that an attempt to build a depot there with improved access was the precursor to later applications for a larger scale development of the land. Mr. Gray is asking the local planning authority for ‘prior approval’ to take his barn out of agricultural use. Regulations Under rules brought in last May, people with barns of less than 500 square metres are able to use this mechanism to change their use without having to submit a full planning application.

Robert Gray

Battle joins Mr. Gray’s barn has a floor space of 447 square metres. Residents living along Fisherwick Wood Lane have told ‘VM’ they will fight the farmer’s plans.

(above) Single track: there is not enough room for two cars to pass each other along Fisherwick Wood Lane. Farmer Robert Gray hopes to operate a distribution centre sited 120 metres down the track that will be serviced by HGVs. (below) Industrialisation: some people already believe that vast arrays of solar panels like these are ruining the countryside. Just beyond them is the barn farmer Robert Gray aims to turn into a distribution centre.

Fright for driver in leviathan’s path A

Whittington resident claims he had to drive his car up a steep bank to avoid being crushed by a gigantic machine. While driving through the village on a dark night he was blinded by a large tractor with its headlights full on. Evasive action He said he pulled hard over to the left of the road to get by, but could see nothing that lay behind the vehicle. Then, he alleged, he was suddenly confronted by a gigantic

red machine coming at him from out of the blackness. He said he had nowhere to go except up a steep bank in desperate bid to avoid the huge vehicle, risking damage to his car in the process. He alleged that the massive farm implement had no running lights to warn people just how wide it was. Monster vehicle He added that he had never seen a machine like it before.

From his description of its size and asymmetric wheel configuration, it seems the machine could have been a Dewulf crop harvester, or something similar. Two car widths These vehicles are as wide as two Ford Mondeos parked side by side. They weigh nearly 19 tonnes, are 13ft tall and 42ft long. It would certainly have been impossible for the saloon car and

Car driven up bank to escape gigantic farm machine - claim.

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one of these machines to pass each other on a village street without one of them pulling off the road. No local farmers would lay claim to the vehicle involved in this alleged incident working on their land.

Monster: a Dewulf RA3060.

23


Child safety is not our responsibility The Fradley files

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radley and Streethay Parish Councillor (FSPC) Lynn Beaumont claimed her authority could not be held responsible for child safety. Her extraordinary claim followed the shock revelation of dozens of potentially dangerous defects at three play areas. Among the threats waiting for youngsters at the councilrun sites were head traps, finger traps, sharp edges and bolts that could slash skin and defective equipment that could crush children’s bodies. Monthly meeting The authority’s November meeting was told that the sites were at Burton Road, Streethay, and Hay End Lane and Worthington Road, Fradley. In all, 60 separate defects had been found by a safety inspector. But Councillor Simon Roberts said he had known nothing of the problem until residents came to him complaining that pieces of play equipment had suddenly disappeared. Officer upset Clerk Clive Bennett seemed to become very agitated when asked why councillors had not been told what was going on. He had taken it upon himself to remove items without reference to the elected members. And he had not bothered to tell the councillors what he was up to at the sites in their areas. Coun. Roberts worried how much taxpayer money Bennett

Danger: FSPC ignored safety warnings.

24

The Fradley files

Emergency removal of play equipment as a shocking list of park dangers is revealed

Bennett, said: “These are not was spending. the sort of things he (our safety “I have not seen a quote,” he said. inspector) picks up. An apparently shocked Ben“Our man would only spot nett, said: “Why do you want to things that are easily spotted.” see it?” Kids at risk “Why have we not seen it?” Among the defects mentioned replied Roberts. in the report were rotting timHe added that residents had bers, unstable equipment and come to him complaining about poorly maintained playing surthe situation. faces. “We told you why the equipCoun. Robment was being erts felt that removed,” insince there were sisted Bennett. so many de“But we did fects, 60 in all, not receive the at least some of safety report the finger traps until after you and rotting had done it,” timbers should Roberts pointed have been spotout. Tetanus: found last winter waiting to Bennett, who slice through a child’s soft-soled trainers. ted during the regular weekly appeared to safety checks. be becoming increasingly agiCoun. Lynn Beaumont astontated, said: “I have just done it ished people in the public gallery (showed you the report) - is that by saying: “Little fingers do get clear!” trapped. “But,” said Roberts, holding “We cannot be (held) responhis ground, “You did the work sible for little exploring fingers.” before the councillors knew In a report, U.S. children’s about the report.” play experts identified finger Don’t blame me and head traps as key dangers “I cannot be held responsible in badly maintained equipment, for that!” exclaimed Bennett. saying they can lead to very se“Anything (needing) urgent rious injuries. action I deal with myself!” Both hazards were found Roberts said: “But councillors among the many defects in need to be told what is going on FSPC’s facilities. in their parks.” Coun. Roberts, said: “A lot of “Why did you not contact finger traps and splits have been me?” demanded Bennett. found in wooden supports.” “I tried to,” explained Roberts. Bennett, said: “If we start That, for Bennett, appeared to filling up the splits we will lock be the last straw. moisture in the timbers. The meeting heard that it was “The thing to do is leave them FSPC policy for the three play aras they are.” eas to receive a safety inspection But Roberts said that since every week. the professional safety inspector Coun. Roberts, asked: “How is it recommended that the splits be none of these defects was spotted?”

filled, they should be. Coun. Beaumont claimed the equipment manufacturers recommended that they should not be filled in. Nonsensical - claim “But how do we decide which should be filled and which should not?” asked Roberts. Beaumont, said: “It is common sense. “If filling them in is going to compromise safety you are not going to do it.” But Roberts was still worried in case someone’s child got a finger trapped and suffered a serious injury. “What do we tell the parents then?” he asked, “Do we say we were warned about the danger but we did nothing?” There have been serial failures by the parish council to properly maintain its recreation areas. One Fradley South resident with health and safety qualifications became so fed up with FSPC that he did his own inspection. He found rusty six-inch nails sticking out of fences and up through broken planking lying on the ground where children ran and played. Appalling traps There were numerous other dangerous defects and botched repairs. The resident acted after months of sending futile requests to clerk Bennett, and chairman Warburton, pleading with them to make their play area safe for children to use.

Razor: this would tear through a child.

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The Fradley files

‘VM’ greeted by Wall of praise T

he Fradley grannie who ‘thinks big’ has drenched the ‘VM’ in glowing praise. Self-styled Councillor The Lady Cecilia Siekierska of Wall tells women they can enlarge their breasts with mind-power. She has made the news for a variety of other reasons too. Broke the rules She broke local authority rules by not declaring her business interests on Fradley and Streethay Parish Council’s (FSPC) register. She posted on the internet a bizarre ‘screen test’ for the TV programme, ‘Big Brother’. She claimed never to use her, ‘title’ in her council role - but does it all the time. She caused ripples at a meeting by parking her car in front of a fire exit and trapping another motorist. She accused a fellow member of FSPC of appearing to commit, ‘espionage’ . . . twice! She publicly accused ‘VM’s editor of threatening her. Then, in October, Wall called for FSPC’s open public meetings to be held in secret.

Brick-bats to praise

port the claims she makes. She demanded that the counNo evidence cillor who ‘leaked’ information And nor is it known what from an open public open meetmight happen to men if they lising should, “own up”. tened to her CD by mistake. And she wanted every memThere is speculation that Simon ber to swear it was not they who Cowell might have alhad done it. ready done so. But at FSPC’s NoThe councillor Wall vember meeting Wall accused of looking as was in far a sunnier if he was committing mood, this time lav‘espionage’, refutes the ishing praise upon allegation. the ‘VM’. The ‘VM’ refutes her Uplifting claim that its editor She looked to the threatened her. editor and thanked On December 11, him warmly for 2012, Wall told ‘VM’: spreading the news Grateful to ‘VM’: Wall. “At Parish Meetings I use my asabout her mind-powered mamsumed name of Cilla and no time maries. have I used my Title for Council “Thank you,” said Wall. “Thank Business.” you for all the sales of my CDs!” Then she wrote: “I have not ‘VM’ is grateful for her testicommunicated with others using monial as to its power as an unmy Title.” rivalled advertising vehicle. On her parish council declaraHowever, ‘VM’ stresses that it tion form she calls herself: “Lady does not endorse her methods. Cecilia Siekierka of Wall known Nor does the paper know of as Cilla Siekierska.” any credible evidence that sup-

Under ‘employment’, on her declaration form, of July 17, 2012, she wrote, ‘none’. It later turned out that she in fact made a living as a consultant nurse, senior nurse advisor, a company director and company secretary. She told ‘VM’ that when she bought her, ‘title’, the deal was overseen by a “Senior London Barrister of the Inner Temple.” She added: “When was the last time you saw something with those legal credentials? “Probably the last house move you did by a High Street solicitor.” Wall later confirmed the name of her, ‘barrister’. Feudal association The Bar Council, said there was no barrister by that name. Wall also said: “I belong to the ‘Grand Council of Feudal Lords and Barons’. “I will however be in ‘Who’s Who’ soon, it is just late being entered.” The ‘VM’ is unaware of Wall ever making it into the pages of ‘Who’s Who’. Residents of Fradley South have her as their public representative.

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25


Make authority more accountable There’s nothing like open democracy, says Eric Pickles. And what some people are getting in the ‘VM’ area is nothing like open democracy.

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ocal government minister Eric Pickles is angry with councils that refuse to allow people to record, film and photograph their meetings. After telling them last June they should he noted that one person had been arrested and marched out of a meeting in handcuffs for blogging. Parish councils are in the unique position of being answerable to no one but the courts. And any taxpayer who is thinking of taking one to law better have deep pockets. In your pockets However, councils on the other hand do have deep pockets the taxpayers’. There has been an exponential surge across the country in the number of complaints against the first tier of government. So the ‘VM’ ran a survey to find out which of the councils serving its readers welcomed Pickles’ policy of openness and transparency. Lichfield City Council was

Pickles: he insists councils should abandon their secretive ways and open up to scrutiny. Some refuse. the first to answer on the recording of its meetings. Clark Peter Young, said: “I can see no reason why the council would not permit filming, tweeting and blogging. Open - accountable Chairman Robert Pugh, at Clifton Campville Parish Council, was completely open minded and said he would consider the issue. His authority already has a strong reputation for openness and candour. Clerk Mark Warfield, at Weeford, said: “I am sure that any request would receive a favourable response - the council is always delighted to receive the press at any time.” Clerk Margaret Jones spoke for Elford and Wigginton/Hopwas. She said Elford, “would have no objection to the use of social media at meetings and are open to the use of new technology.” At Wigginton, she said the council would, “consider amending standing orders to allow recording with prior written consent.” Clerk Ian Colclough, at Kings

Bromley and Curborough councils, said his members should expect to be held to account and should allow filming. Bloggers and tweeters were welcome. Lichfield District Council, has become renowned for its lack of openness, refusal to answer press inquiries and glacially slow response to letters. It took the council 29 days to answer a question other authorities cleared up in half an hour. A spokesman said its meetings had already been blogged and no one had tried to stop it. But he said they wanted 48 hours notice before anyone could do any filming or photography which is not a requirement Pickles calls for. Staffordshire County Council would not respond. Nor would Edingale, Harlaston, Hints, Packington or Shenstone parish councils. On the defensive In Whittington residents are voicing serious concern about their councillors’ openness, impartiality and willingness to rep-

Keep ‘em out of your house and your tele Do ads subtract from your TV enjoyment? Because if they do, you need to see the ‘VM’-area’s very own top security guy and put a stop to them.

26

N

ic (Mr. Gadget) Collins has been keeping the baddies out of people’s homes for years with his electronic security wizardry. Ad-free viewing Now the owner of Alrewasbased AES Radionic has found a way to keep the on-screen pests that drive you mad out of your

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resent their views - the council ignored the ‘VM’ survey. Fradley and Streethay Parish Council also refused to provide an answer. The authority, led by Harold Warburton, is under increasing attack over its secrecy and alleged misuse of public money and failure to obey the law. Its financial officer, Jean Burton, is also the clerk at Alrewas Parish Council. She would not say if that council would consider allowing people to film and record. Bunker mentality But her chairman John Pegg indicated that Alrewas Parish Council: 1. did not allow villagers to correspond directly with their councillors; 2. felt it acceptable for people to wait for up to two months for a reply to a letter; 3. did not allow any form of electronic recording; 4. would never allow any form of electronic recording until and unless it was forced to do so.

television too. For folk who hate it when the advertisements and trailers butt into a good film it will be a Christmas holiday godsend. Swift and efficient Mr. Collins, said: “It only takes a couple of seconds to activate the ‘advert buster’ on our new Humax T2000 HD TV and multimedia recorders. “At last you can enjoy your favourite programmes in peace.” Go to www.aesradionic.co.uk for more details.


01_VillageMarket

20/11/13

09:38

Page 1

don’t forget to treat that special person in your life on

Christmas

Celebrations at the PearTree Creperie

Christmas Set Menu available throughout December Daytime or Evening - £15.50pp

Winners, every one! V

illage Market readers have done everything from trekking all over the world to holding tea parties for their favourite charity. They gather in their hundreds to join ‘solstice walks’ to raise cash for St. Giles Hospice. Beryl Wheeler hiked up a 13,800ft tall mountain to reach ancient Machu Picchu, in Peru. Hers was among the gladdest, saddest stories of all. She met the hospice community through bereavement. Inspiration Yet from those sad days sprang life-changing inspiration. If Machu Picchu had been 13 miles high, still she would have climbed the hill. Her only thought was to give something back to the people who has given so much to her family. Just like the Barton under Needwood ‘Friends’, supporting St. Giles had become a way of life. And the family of volunteers, donors, and businesses that sup-

Example French Onion soup with bread Followed by Savoury galette of Turkey steeped in chardonnay with wild and cultivated mushrooms Plus a salad of your choice Followed by Stewed apples, sultanas and cinnamon with ice cream

Machu Picchu (gesundheit!): the money Beryl Wheeler and people like her bring in every year to keep St. Giles running is not to be sneezed at. In 2104, fund raisers will be trekking through Jordan.

port St. Giles is still growing. Innovations such as the charity’s lottery play a big part in raising the millions of pounds it takes to keep St. Giles’ centres and services running. The £1-a-week punt is a nolose deal - players may not win the cash every time, but they do ensure their community has an absolutely priceless service provided free to all who need it. Proud to punt And, of course, there is just a chance that the £1 could turn into a £2,000 jackpot, or one of the hundreds of other prizes that players win every week. Very few Christmas presents could be more valuable than a St. Giles Hospice Lottery membership. Ring 01543 434020 to find out how to get yours.

Turkey or Pork Christmas specials!! Photo shown: Turkey with extra salad.

Open extra during December We are open every day throughout December from Tuesday 3rd till Christmas Eve at 3pm.

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27


Creative cornucopia in-store Celeb slipped in to say ‘hi’ - more to follow!!!

TV

’s ‘Hotel Inspector’ found some four-star talent at Tamworth’s most inspired new shop. Alex Polizzi was in town to wish four extraordinary creatives well with their new venture. Oozing talent The artistically orientated entrepreneurs comprised a jeweller, a painter and cake decorator - oh, and a fashion designer. Under the local authoritybacked scheme they have each

been given a two-year subsidised rent deal. Exciting prospect Their new Market Street base gives them studio space and a shop window in the heart of town. The shop will be fully open to Christmas shoppers around the middle of this month. The TV star, Alessandra Maria-Luigia O Polizzi di Sorrentino, as she was known to her late father, Count Alessandro Polizzi, knows exactly what counts when it comes to business.

Creative quintet: Becky Healy (fashion designer), Sue Verity (painter), Alex Polizzi, Melody Raymond (Jewellery Designer), Becky Bennett (cake maker/decorator).

Ryan Giggs: the star she painted will certainly not be coming to Tamworth to fully open the shop to the public. Although artist Sue Verity may have some idea who it could be.

And, Alex, said this one was, “fantastic”. Marketing spokesperson, Hannah McKenzie, said being torn between the artists’ food, fashions, jewellery and paintings was almost more temptation than she could bear. So tempting “Being confronted by cake maker Becky Bennett’s beerrrilliant confections when you’re on a diet is just unfair,” she added. But Ms. McKenzie refused to say which celeb might be visiting this month to swing the doors open to the public. Although the ‘VM’ can reveal that the truth might be found in a painting.

‘Grand-Blood’ ‘Dom-inator’s double & triple!

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hittington ‘tile-king’ Gordon Blood has done it again. During last month’s nail-biting finals he and fellow villager Bob Pretty lifted the Lichfield league’s dominoes doubles title. In April, ‘VM’ reported an earlier success at the table when the grey knight snatched the silverware in the individuals championship. Glorious triple But Gordon’s sporting victory was almost eclipsed when became a grand-Blood in a fabulous triple triumph. His daughter-in-law gave him a grandson on her birthday. The happy event only missed Gordon’s 80th by a whisker. A very ‘VM’ happy birthday to all.

Just doggone exhausted

Folk at a favourite ‘VM’ area local were absolutely shattered after their very first Christmas Fair!

Y We need

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uletide came early to Whittington as crowds crammed into the Dog Inn, on Main Street. Landlady Charlotte Clews said their first ever Christmas Crafts and Gift Fair was exhausting but great fun. “From now on it is going to be a seasonal tradition at the Dog.” This year’s inaugural event gave one of the ‘VM’-area’s young entrepreneurs an opportunity to get in front of the public. Charlotte, said: “Frances Wright was a great favourite with our regulars when she spent three years

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editor@villagemarketnews.co.uk If you would like to join our door-to-door delivery team you will need to be 18+ (no upper age limit) and be able to give up to five days in the first week and a half of each month.

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working behind the bar. “It was wonderful to see her doing so well with her new business, How Splendid. “Her stall packed with gifts, accessories and homeware was one of the most popular at our November fair.” People who popped into the pub to browse around were also provided with some to seasonal delicacies from Charlotte’s partner, Simon. Anyone who thought his mince pies were magical should try eating in the renowned chef’s restaurant, at the Dog.


Young Blood for Whittington ‘Whatever you are, be a good one!’ Abraham Lincoln.

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young ‘VM’-area mother picked a very special day for a very special occasion. Landlady of Whittington’s Dog Inn, Charlotte Clews, said: “We are all delighted that villager Marie Blood produced a beautiful baby boy on her birthday. “It is one anniversary she is never going to forget!” Mrs. Blood and her husband, David, have chosen a very special name for their son. Although, at 7lb 14oz, baby Lin-

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coln weighed in a smidge lighter than his namesake’s 120-tonne statue, in Washington.

‘Honest Abe’ Lincoln.

Ann’s bean brilliant!!!

ongratulation to club stewardess Ann Rowley who raised a fantastic £1,060 for ‘Macmillan’ with her 2013 World’s Biggest Coffee Morning! New Year’s Eve dance tickets are now on sale at £14 (including buffet) - 8pm until late - sway to

the sounds of Richard Keeling. December’s Monday auctions will be on the 2nd, 9th and 16th. Bingo will be played on the Tuesdays of the 3rd, 10th and 17th. Whist drives will be staged on the Thursdays of the 5th and 19th. And there will be ballroom dancing on Saturday evenings.

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29


‘Dare To Recall’ by Martin Ryan, of Alrewas. In Martin Ryan’s ongoing saga of life in County Waterford 67 years ago he recalls how life was risky - even when you try to ‘End it all’.

LIFE BACK THEN seemed to be a never ending procession of funeral corteges. But consumption didn’t get them all. It got Mrs. Gallagher. Mr. Gallagher tried to end it all by putting a rope around his neck and swinging himself off the top step of the stairs. It snapped The rope either broke, or came off of its anchor. Two days later the priest dropped in to offer the husband condolences about his wife. Imagine the shock he must have had finding Mr. Gallagher lying where he had landed. Then the priest hurtled from

30

house shouting for someone to fetch an ambulance. My mates were passing and could see the Mr. Gallagher on the floor. He wasn’t moving, but he was mumbling and trying to talk. The ambulance men might have come by horse and cart it took them so long. Departure at last But they were sure enough in a hurry when they arrived - in such a rush in fact they finished off where nature and Mr. Gallagher had failed. The poor devil had a broken neck and shouldn’t have been moved like that. Well, I suppose he wanted to die anyway. So why were people so horrible about ambulance men in those days. I think they did him a favour. Maybe he whispered instructions to them as he lay on the floor. But as one life ends, others go on. The gentry had foxes to torment. Us kids had, ‘Barmy Billy with the Dead Man’s Willie’.

If there was a hint of someone dying he would be round there in a flash. “Is she dead yet!?” he’d cry. “Is she dead yet!? Is she dead!?” Billy lived to walk in the wake of the hearses making their way through the town. And he was nearly always given the deceased’s clothes. He was small, skinny and never seen in clothes that actually fitted him. Jacket shoulders flapped half way down his arms. Trouser legs piled up on his shoes and spilled over on the floor. And the shoes themselves were more like skis on him. Ski boots Having wound him up we’d chant, ‘Billy can’t run ‘cos his shoes weigh a ton’. He would roar back things that would shame a soldier. He’d trot and shuffle after us. But he never caught us. I think maybe he never wanted to. But sometimes when he was chasing us, Billy would all of a

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Part 10 sudden come to a halt. We would too, and turn to look at him staring at us with murderous eyes. He could look really frightening. The others thought so too, although none of us would ever admit it. Kind at heart Yet we all knew he was a, ‘chatter’. He would not, and nor could he ever hurt a fly. But that didn’t stop us chasing after him, jeering and chanting to goad him into chasing us. Poor bugger. We must have caused him so much distress. I never knew where he lived. Or if he lived with anyone. Yet everyone knew him. It was strange when one day he disappeared and no one could say why. Maybe he died of malnutrition - he was terribly skinny. But despite his departure the long lines of people trailing behind the hearses continued with monotonous regularity. I heard an old woman say, ‘if they keep dying at this rate we’ll soon have an empty street’. Looking on the bright side, she added: “At least the bloody rent collectors will be out of a job!”


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‘The Village Market’, 9 - 11 Main Street, Whittington, Lichfield Staffordshire, WS14 9JU. Editor: GL Griffiths. t: 01543 432341. e: editor@villagemarketnews.co.uk. Published by Village Market Micronewspapers Ltd.

VILLAGE MARKET  

News for and from villages in the Lichfield, Tamworth and East Staffs areas, Staffordshire, UK.

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