|Issue 3 - March 1972|
|In the one house
left standing in Marianople St, Sandyford, Newcastle (number 3), lives
Mrs Margaret Neary and her dog and cat.
She's a nice, elderly lady who lives by running a bed and breakfast service from her house. She's a gentle, homely woman who has worked hard to buy her house which is completely paid for and therefore freehold property. She's never claimed any Social Security, grant or pension which she's entitled to.
Now, Newcastle City Council want her land for their bizarre motorway scheme which will put the whole of Newcastle in chaos. The motorway itself doesn't touch her land but they say they want the land for the contractors to build from. An offer for the land has never been made in writing but the amounts suggested haven't even been enough to buy a new house from which she can carry on her bed and breakfast business.
Two years ago she was offered a house in Harrison Place, Sandyford but it would have been no use to run her business from as it's a cul-de-sac and lorry drivers, who are her main customers, could never park their lorries in such a small street.
Of course she refused; but that was not the end of it. Firstly a woman called at her house with the keys to the house she'd refused in Harrison Place - she didn't take them. Following that, two men also from the Council, turned up and told her that she had to take the keys to that same house. Again she refused. Lastly three men put a rent book and a set of keys through her letterbox.
She went after them but they drove off in a car. She took the keys back to the Civic Centre and told them again she didn't want that house under any circumstances. Incredibly, nothing else was heard about it.
When all the rest of the street was being knocked down she went along to the Civic Centre with a friend and insisted on seeing the plans. Reluctantly she was shown them by a City Engineer, Mr Tony Harris. She looked at them and said "You're going to build private enterprise shops and houses on my land". Mr Harris looked surprised and said "I didn't think you knew how to read a map, and anyway we need the land for contracting purposes; we don't want to say it's for private enterprise."
Just before Christmas she received a letter from the Council saying she had until Feb 1st 1972 to get out because on that day the bulldozers would be coming to knock her house down. The day before the bulldozers were to come the BBC got in touch with the City Planners who said they'd given Mrs Neary a time extension, although they hadn't told Mrs Neary. This suggests that the extension was given because of the BBC getting in touch with them.
After interviewing Mrs Neary I went to the City Planning Department and I asked if the motorway was going through her land and they told me it wasn't. I then asked what the land was needed for and they replied "You've got me there". I asked them if private enterprise shops and houses were going to be built on the land, and they quickly replied "No they weren't, we'll probably be building another branch of the motorway through there in 10-15 years time", and then as if an afterthought said "Anyway the land will be needed for the contractors". I asked them why they had offered such a low amount for Mrs Neary's land when it was so valuable and they said "It isn't valuable. She's claiming false sympathy there". I said that if they're selling the land to private enterprise then it must be valuable. They couldn't answer that and quickly said "Well she's had it good over the last two years, we've knocked down the surrounding houses and she's had plenty of parking space for lorries etc, we've done her a good turn and it's time she did one for us, living off the fat of the land blah blah "
In fact Mrs Neary's business has gone down; as there are no houses around her, people think she's moved so they haven't given her their business.
Mrs Neary is adamant that she won't move unless a good offer is made for her land, enough to buy a new house so she can remain independent and run her business again.
She has been trying for a public meeting for a long time but the council won't allow it; they will only hold a meeting with her and her solicitor alone. They are scared of public reaction, and earlier this month they stopped the Evening Chronicle publishing an interview with her, claiming she had had enough publicity already.
Earlier this month she noticed a black car parked at different places in the street during the day, with two men sitting in it reading newspapers and watching her house. I don't know whether they had two eyeholes cut in their papers or not but they sat there all day watching her house; what for?
Your guess is as good as mine. Perhaps the Council have called in the Mafia, or the IRA, or Interpol, or Donald Duck, which is more likely because that's nearer to the way they seem to be behaving.
On the 15th February she had a meeting with the Council at her solicitor's office but all that came out of it was abuse and threats from the Council. It is just absolute deadlock now.
Owing to the deadlock she is now going to take the case through the courts. This is how the situation stands at the moment. Watch Muther Grumble next month for the continuing episode.