Latest Castle Ward planning applications

It’s a new year, and so we have the first applications with a 14 at the start.

131463: New foot/cycle bridge, Castle Park.
132074: Listed building application to repair windows.
132799: Ground floor front extension, Causton Road.
135833: Listed building application for new wheelchair access, Head Street.
136189: New fire door, Culver Square.
136196: Garage extension and new boundary fence, Durham Square.
136228: Extension to form new garden room, Topfield, Popes Lane.
136240 and 136241: Change of use of first floor to drinking establishment (A1), High Street.
140003: Construction of fire escape, Red Lion Yard.

You can make a statement in favour or against any of these applications on the Council website, or if you want to discuss it further with one of your councillors then please contact me or my ward colleagues Bill Frame and Jo Hayes.

Latest Castle Ward planning applications

Apologies for not updating these in far too long, but here are the latest applications for Castle Ward that are still open for public comments:

132174: Change of use from dental studio to flats, St Botolph’s Street.
132209 and 132210: Garden room at rear of property, East Street.
132236: Replacement windows, Castle Road.
132243: External door and window replacement, East Stockwell Street.
132312: Change of use to gymnasium, Moorside.
132314: Creation of extra teaching space, North Hill.
132323: Garage extension, Bury Close.
132325: Internal alterations and reduction in room numbers, Osborne Street.
132338: Installation of new pipes, Castle Road.
132350: Replacement windows, Castle Road.
132801 and 132802: Alterations to relocate CCTV centre, Town Hall.
132472: Extension and alterations, Oaks Drive.

You can make a statement in favour or against any of these applications on the Council website, or if you want to discuss it further with one of your councillors then please contact me or my ward colleagues Bill Frame and Jo Hayes.

50

It’s October 1977. I’m five years old, and on the TV screen a virus is growing into something much much bigger than a virus has any right to be, and a professor is introducing his robot dog. The Invisible Enemy is that month’s slice of Doctor Who, but the reason I mention it is because those scenes are my first proper memories of watching Doctor Who. It’s not the first of it I’ve ever watched, but the first that I can remember watching. I’m sure I watched plenty of Who since I was born in the gap between The Time Monster and The Three Doctors, but it didn’t lodge in my head in the same way.

Today, that TV series I watched back then, which had already outlived all expectations by surviving for nearly fourteen years, celebrates its fiftieth anniversary, and not just as ‘hey, some TV show was first made fifty years ago’ but as a national institution.

It used to be hard to explain to people just what an institution Doctor Who was in the 70s. By the 90s, it was headed firmly into the ‘cult sci fi’ box, and yet the series I first encountered was nothing of the sort. It was a fixture of Saturday night TV, watched by millions with Tom Baker one of the most recognisable people in the country. Watching Doctor Who wasn’t something weird or cult, it was what great swathes of the country did in between Grandstand and the Generation Game. (Juke Box Jury had originally been the latter half of that scheduling sandwich, but Who had already outlasted it)

I’ve got plenty of memories from that time after The Invisible Enemy – a bizarre chase through mismatched rooms that were all part of the TARDIS, an old man giving the Doctor a mission, a spaceship hidden in orbit above a stone circle, Tom Baker jumping in to stop a wedding, a man with six copies of the Mona Lisa bricked up in his cellar – all permeated through a blue box that was impossibly larger on the inside and a curly-haired fool with a grin like danger and a scarf that seemed to have a mind of its own.

Then as I got older, I learnt that there was more of this, more that I hadn’t seen (and obviously never would, because who would make old TV programmes available to watch again?) but was available in a huge series of books, most of which were written by a man named Terrance Dicks. Like so many others of my age, Dicks may be the most responsible for my love of reading, and once I’d finished all the local library’s limited Doctor Who collection (and filled my Christmas and Birthday lists with wishes for more), I started picking up other books from the shelves around the Doctor Who.

(In my head, a man with a name like Terrance was obviously posh, and I had an image of Dicks as a retired schoolmaster who enjoyed writing science fiction, so was shocked when I finally discovered he was an Eastender…)

I found other friends who were into Doctor Who, and we pooled our books and our knowledge to know more about what had come before, poring over copies of Doctor Who Weekly magazine and my friend James’ much-treasured yet much-read copy of The Making Of Doctor Who. When one of us got a new book, or heard that the library was getting new stock in, we’d trade them around in between our games of Doctor Who Top Trumps.

And then things changed. The time tunnel became a star field, the weird howling of the theme tune became electronica and suddenly the BBC were actually showing old episodes again – The Five Faces Of Doctor Who meant we could actually see Hartnell, Troughton and Pertwee, preparing us for that time when the curly-haired (but greyer and limper than it used to be) grinning man would disappear and someone else would take his place. And as if that wasn’t enough change, the biggest of all was soon to follow – in shock, we learned that we wouldn’t be able to watch Peter Davison between Grandstand and Larry Grayson on a Saturday night, but that Doctor Who would now appear on Mondays and Tuesdays (and every other day except Sunday for the rest of that decade).

Suddenly, the programme had slipped from being part of the national consciousness to just another midweek TV programme. They moved it back to Saturdays eventually, but then something had been lost, seemingly never to return. A couple of years before they’d effectively suspended Children In Need for a couple of hours to show The Five Doctors, but now they were cancelling – no, not cancelling, ‘delaying’ – the next series, and what had once been fixed now seemed unexpectedly vulnerable. I was still watching, but it was harder to find anyone else who was.

And then I went away, off to America for a year, where I remember watching The Pirate Planet on late night PBS one night and remembering that this was by Douglas Adams. Would there have been a Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy without Doctor Who? Would his imagination have fired the same way if he’d not watched it in the 60s? I don’t know, but what mattered then was that when I came back to the UK, it was common knowledge that Doctor Who wouldn’t be back on the TV. There were more books then, ones with strange titles that didn’t match up to anything that had appeared on TV, but by then I was off to University, and didn’t have the time or the cash for them.

By then, Doctor Who was diminished, reduced to speculation of David Hasslehoff and rapping TARDISes in the paper, something those people in the Cult TV Society watched. There was talk of movies and TV series, but all we got was Paul McGann reciting infodumps in a bad wig, and then nothing. That felt like a low progress towards an end, circling a plughole as it was gradually forgotten, the keepers of the flame wandering off to other things as it spluttered out, filed away with the Tomorrow People, Blake’s 7 and all the others that meant so much in the 70s, but nothing now.

Then one day the news came that it was coming back. I was wary at first – sure, that bloke who wrote Queer As Folk and The Second Coming was writing it, but the press appeared to think the series would consist of Alan Davies running around corridors doing a weak Tom Baker impression. Nostalgia TV, looking back and not making anything new, but something that might amuse for a while. Not the sort of thing you’d expect serious actors like Christopher Eccleston to appear in.

That was shocking news, and something that built up hope, but surely this would just be some dark and gritty reboot, targeting the cult TV fans at 9pm on BBC Two for a couple of series, then never to be heard of again. After all, who watched TV drama on Saturday nights any more? Surely that was the home of Celebrity Wrestling, not Doctor Who? But millions of people can’t be wrong, and what had seemed like a crazed gamble, a sure sign the BBC didn’t know anything about what people wanted to watch, turned into the TV event of the year.

“There was a war, and we lost.” That’s the line that turned me from regular viewer back into fan. One small scene, ending with two people going for chips, but one that changed everything. It was still the same show, a wild adventure with a man in a blue box, but was ready to shock and confound your expectation, not just tell the same old stories in the same old way.

I said last week that what distinguishes Doctor Who from other series is that it wasn’t created as a story, but as a way to tell stories. Like King Arthur, Robin Hood or Sherlock Holmes, it’s a way to tell stories that speak to us wherever and whenever we are, a character who can change but always remain the same, something that may have had a beginning back in November 1963 but resolutely refuses to have an origin and something which can end a story with a finale, but will never have an end.

I don’t know what story they’re going to tell tonight, and I’m sure that all of them who created it fifty years ago (and like all good myths Doctor Who could never have one creator) never expected it to still be telling stories fifty years later. If I’m lucky I might be here in fifty years time to see it reach one hundred, but I’m sure now that won’t be the last anniversary to be celebrated. Doctor Who will outlive all of us because it’s bigger than all of us and yet belongs to all of us – from now to the universe, whenever people tell stories, and however they tell them, there’ll be someone telling a story that starts with a blue box appearing somewhere, and someone stepping out of it.

Go tell your stories.

On Doctor Who, stories and ‘canon’

(Or, ‘Nick’s writing complicated posts about Doctor Who again, so look away now if you’re only here for the politics)

First up, if you haven’t already, go read Teatime Brutality’s post ‘Canon and sheep shit: Why we fight‘ which explains why there’s no such thing as a Doctor Who ‘canon’. Second, if you haven’t seen The Night Of The Doctor yet, you probably should before you read further, as there will likely be spoilers.
Read more »

On open letters

As I see it, open letters take one of two forms. The first one is possibly useful:

Dear (insert name of recipient),

Hey, I’ve lost all your contact details, and as you’ve got a pretty common name, googling you isn’t helping me find them. I’m hoping that you look at this site and remember me, and if you do, would you send me your details so we can get back in touch?

Thanks, and hope to talk to you again soon,

Open Letter Writer

(Note, that I said possibly useful – done wrong, or for the wrong reasons, and it’ll stop being useful and start being more stalkerish)

Sadly, the more common form of them is this, which is not much use to anyone

Dear person in the news who’s the ostensible recipient of this letter but is unlikely to ever read it,

Why don’t you agree with me on everything? You really should, because then everything would be great. And by ‘you’ I actually mean everyone reading this, not the ostensible recipient of it, who’s unlikely to see this, given that they’re far too busy to trawl the media looking for people who write letters to them but can’t be bothered to track down their details and send the letter to them.

Anyway, you should definitely agree with me on everything. And possibly send me money too.

Yours,

Open Letter Writer

So, now you know the secret of open letters, let’s hope you never feel the need to write one.

On Jumbo

As you may have heard by now, Colchester Borough Council’s Planning Committee voted last night to reject the latest proposal for Jumbo. I was at the meeting and spoke against the plans, so I’m glad the committee agreed with me, but I thought I would expand on my views here.

Firstly, I would recommend reading this blog post by architect Hana Loftus on the proposals, which sets out some very good arguments against them.

We always have to be careful about falling into what Yes, Minister called the politician’s fallacy: Something must be done, this is something, therefore it must be done. I think everyone agrees that we’d like to see a new use for Jumbo, especially one that opens up the water tank and belvedere as a public space, but that doesn’t mean that any plan that does that in some way is necessarily a good one. My problem with this proposal was that the public access and usage that was proposed seemed very much an afterthought, and was not the centrepiece of the scheme.

As proposed, the scheme would have glazed the arches between the legs, allowing the open space there to be filled in with offices, apartments and a restaurant, while the tank would have been converted into a museum space. The problem for me is that while the application talked about creating a restaurant and museum, there was very little detail on what they would be, and what detail there was wasn’t very convincing. To quote from English Heritage’s response to the proposals:

If the establishment of a museum is to be regarded as a public benefit, It must be more thoroughly defined than this, and it must be secured by legally enforceable means.

However, instead of detailed plans about what could go into the space and information about groups and people who’d be interested in running the museum space, there were only vague promises and a sketchy business plan based on assumptions that hadn’t been scrutinised or challenged. Further to that, the application was only guaranteeing 90 days public access a year to that space and the space itself would not become a public or charitable asset, instead remaining in the possession of the owner of the building. If the plans had been approved last night, there would have been nothing to stop a future owner of Jumbo coming back to get permission to turn the public spaces into further apartments claiming public use was now ‘unviable’ – and with the principle of development already conceded, those proposals would have a good chance of succeeding.

The problem for me is that we were being asked to surrender the iconic status of Jumbo by filling in the legs in return for what might only be a fleeting benefit, if it was of any benefit at all. A Jumbo that’s open to all and a community asset is one thing, and quite different from one that’s become effectively a block of flats.

What I have been cheered by is that the proposal and the discussion its caused in the local community does seem to have emboldened people to take some action and start talking about other visions for Jumbo and how it could find a genuine community use. The important fact is that Jumbo is not in danger of falling down any time soon – indeed, it stood up to Monday’s winds much better than some other local buildings did – and the Council now needs to ensure that the owner meets his responsibilities for a listed building and keeps it maintained.

I want to see Jumbo being used as an asset for the community and Colchester, but I want it to be with the right plans, not simply the plans that have been submitted right now.

Castle Ward planning applications, up to 20th October

Apologies for falling way behind on these, but these are all the planning applications in Castle Ward that I’m aware of since the last update.

131739: Conversion of shop to residential flat, North Hill.
131855: Listed building consent to widen a fire door, High Street.
131868: Advertisement consent for new signage, Culver Street West.
131905: Listed building consent for internal alterations, Church Street.
131943: Replacement of access gate and fire escape, St Peter’s Street.
131948: Advertisement consent for new signage, Headgate.
131971: Retrospective consent for change of use from A1 to A3, St John’s Street.
131972: Listed building consent for 131971.
131996: Public realm works, Red Lion Yard.
132014: Change of use from A1 (retail) to D1 (non-specific), St Johns Street.
132017: Removal of car parking condition on previous application, Rosebery Avenue.
132037: Listed building consent for entrance alterations, North Hill.
132045: Change of use to include D1 (educational) use, North Hill.
132056: Listed building consent for 131996.

You can make a statement in favour or against any of these applications on the Council website, or if you want to discuss it further with one of your councillors then please contact me or my ward colleagues Bill Frame and Jo Hayes.

David Blunkett and the Nazi propaganda

So, David Blunkett thinks we should censor the internet, because Nazis. No, that is his argument:

Drawing a parallel with Germany before the rise of the Nazis, he suggested a loose moral climate had fed the paranoia and fear that had allowed Adolf Hitler to flourish.

“In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Berlin came as near as dammit to Sodom and Gomorrah. There was a disintegration of what you might call any kind of social order.”

Except Berlin didn’t come close to Sodom and Gomorrah, or a breakdown of the social order. The 1920s in Berlin are known as the Golden Twenties, because of the incredible cultural and economic flowering that occurred in the city during that time – major industrialisation was occurring, the city was one of the world’s cultural capitals (Berlin Alexanderplatz and Metropolis are both from this time), and Einstein was also working in the city at that time.

Of course, there were some people who resented this cultural progress within the city and denounced the ‘degenerate art‘ this period produced. They were, of course, the Nazis. Using myths of depravity and exaggerating the supposed threat caused by what they saw as a breakdown of the social order, they were able to come to power – by creating the myths that David Blunkett now happily parrots in his attempt to keep pandering to the Daily Mail tendency. Effectively, Blunkett is trying to use Nazi propaganda uncritically to threaten the rise of Nazis in an attempt to get his way – it’s like watching Godwin’s Law eat itself.

Castle Ward planning applications, up to 20th September

I’ve fallen a bit behind on these, not helped by there being a big flurry of them in the past few days when I was away at party conference. But anyway, here are all the latest applications:

130472: Listed building consent for internal partition, Town Hall.
131580: Change of use from B1 offices to residential, Chapel Street North.
131737: Listed building consent for new canopy and chimney, North Hill.
131758: Advertisement consent for new signage, Moorside.
131787: Advertisement consent for new fascia, High Street.
131799: Refurbishment of buildings and new link bridge, Colchester Institute, Sheepen Road.
131805: Advertisement consent for replacement signage, North Station Road.
131807: Creation of tea area in garden of listed building, Trinity Street.
131808: Listed building consent for 131807.
131809: Removal of condition regarding opening times, Middleborough.
131819: Change of use from offices to flats, Bank Passage.

Worth Reading 113: Begin the Hallel

What the Royal Parks is doing to a charity softball league should matter to us all – David Allen Green on public space.
Can you solve Slate‘s gerrymandering jigsaw puzzle? – The bizarre world of US political boundaries, and what happens when they’re set by politicians.
On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs – “Why did Keynes’ promised utopia – still being eagerly awaited in the ‘60s – never materialise? The standard line today is that he didn’t figure in the massive increase in consumerism. Given the choice between less hours and more toys and pleasures, we’ve collectively chosen the latter. This presents a nice morality tale, but even a moment’s reflection shows it can’t really be true. Yes, we have witnessed the creation of an endless variety of new jobs and industries since the ‘20s, but very few have anything to do with the production and distribution of sushi, iPhones, or fancy sneakers.”
Branded to death – How marketing-speak is damaging higher education.
Myths Over Miami – Fascinating account of the stories homeless children in Miami tell of a war between God, the Devil and the Blue Lady.