I have had a moment of despair today in Gateshead. Labour councillors should hold their heads in shame after voting against a planning application that would have secured the future of the post office in Sunniside, the village where I live and which I represent on Gateshead Council.
The Bank of Ireland want to install a 24 hour, free to use cash machine at the front of the Post Office. It will be the only one in the village. I handed a 240 signature petition into the council in favour of it. The application is well within the planning policies of the council on supporting small town centres, tackling social exclusion and supporting post offices (the Bank would pay rent to the branch for siting the machine there).
The only objection was from the Council's own engineers who opposed it because it was next to a pedestrian crossing.
I spoke at the planning meeting this morning in favour of the application and took with me Paul Mein, Sunniside's post master who spoke for it as well.
The vote split along party lines. 7 Labour against, 5 Lib Dem in favour and one honourable Labour member in favour as well.
Even the officers were talking about their recommendation to refuse being an "on balance" one. It was clearly one where a bit of judgement is needed. But Labour opted instead for the heavy handed and over zealous imposition of a rather nebulous road safety point which is not a problem at the moment - the Post Office is a news agent and there is no parking problem currently with people pulling up in their cars to nip in to buy a paper. With the pedestrian crossing outside the shop, it would be extremely difficult to park there anyway and a few bollards would solve the problem if there was a parking problem developing there (which is highly unlikely.)
So much for Labour supporting post offices. The first opportunity they have to let a branch develop business that would secure its future and they kick it out.
And it is a bizarre ruling that a business on a front street of a community can't be allowed to develop for fear of attracting people to use it. We live in a mad world.
And I still feel very angry about this decision.