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Columnist John Bone with his take on Newmarket's week




What the heck is going on in the construction industry?

We all live in a web of health and safety legislation. You cannot lift a finger without some inspector telling you about the risks and how to avoid them. Every moment of every day seems regulated and every building site is scrutinised from plans to completion by all manner of officials imposing a panoply of law.

So how the hell did Newmarket get a block of 'luxury' flats so dangerous that the district council insists on a constant special fire watch?

The Grosvenor, in Newmarket, which has a walking fire watch
The Grosvenor, in Newmarket, which has a walking fire watch

I know the Grenfell disaster in London has opened our eyes, but does it take deaths to open officialdom’s eyes?

What’s wrong in the Newmarket case?

I resist springing too readily to blame the owners, the architects, the inspection system or even the rules. Any or none may be responsible for this alarming situation. But if there are true errors, true dangers in the building, where else might such perils lurk? If something so huge and so conspicuous may be at fault then on what and who can we rely? What is the point of having rules if they offer us no reassurance?

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A chap seeking a job as a salesman is, according to his Journal ad, 'charismatic'. Perhaps he is and I certainly wish him success, but experience tells me that how people think of themselves is often at odds with how others see them.

Thus, anyone claiming to have a good sense of humour seldom has such a sense because the claim is itself essentially humourless. And, of course, we must never trust anyone who claims to be honest. That’s a sure sign of a crook.

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The spectacular facelift given to Ely Museum is £2.2 million well spent if it does its main job of giving local people, particularly children, a pride in place.

Most of us now live in such a whirlwind of national and international information that our local roots can seem almost embarrassingly dull. The truth is, of course, utterly different but we all need to know what was here before and how we got to where we are. Pride is the spring that drives a community’s clockwork.

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It is all very well for a Norfolk naturalist to be given permission to try to re-introduce the white-tailed eagle to East Anglia, and jolly good luck to anyone seeking to restore our region’s extinct species (even Cambridgeshire’s Great Bustard), but when will we get a really determined effort to save the Suffolk Punch from the extinction towards which that magnificent horse is still clip-clopping?

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One of the recent and wisest tributes to Dave Wright, the Newmarket councillor who has died so young at 60, came from his daughter, who remembered: “He always said there was a solution to every problem.”

That is a positive approach to life I personally envy but find hard to practise. My craven motto is “If you can’t find a solution, change the problem.”

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After 16 years heading the St Nicholas Hospice at Bury St Edmunds, Barbara Gale is retiring.

I am among that huge host of local people who have a particular family reason for thanking her and her devoted staff for their ceaselessly sensitive and professional work. Long may their fund-raisers win our support.

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I admit I found those almost weekly photographs of James Palmer in his hard hat extremely irritating. But now the former Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mayor has been given the electoral heave-ho I quite miss his curiously vacant grin gracing these pages.

Perhaps, like President Trump, he will fail to leave the scene and be glimpsed at various transport and housing schemes hovering with his hat, ever-ready to rule again.

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All crime is serious but some crimes are more serious than others. On the face of it, one of the least spectacular crimes committed around here lately is that committed by a teenager who 'threatened to set fire to an allotment'. I am not complaining.

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The phenomenal rise of the independent councillors who have pushed the Tories aside on Newmarket Town Council is a personal achievement for each of them because it is much harder to stand without party support.

Dare we hope this new balance of power will see an end to acrimonious squabbles and petty politics?

What the town needs and seems to want is good governance in tricky times with or without political allegiance. It is possible. It happens elsewhere even if under disguise. Why not here? Is this the triumph of the truly independent? We shall soon see.