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Mark Andrews on Saturday: Odd skills, vegan rock stars and a strange aversion to retail investment

By Mark Andrews | Opinions | Published:

Read today's column from Mark Andrews.

Kinga from Big Brother: odd skills?

Dominic Cummings, special advisor to Boris Johnson, is calling for ‘weirdos and misfits with odd skills’ to come and work at Number 10.

While I’m all in favour of political leaders making promises they might actually deliver, I’m not entirely sure more weirdos and misfits is really what we need.

And Kinga from Big Brother had some pretty odd skills, but I’m not sure I would want her in charge of the health service.

Sarah Sands, editor of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, says she felt ‘awkward’ sending presenter Mishal Husain on a return flight to Stockholm to interview Greta Thunberg about climate change.

Fortunately Greta was in a forgiving mood, and refrained from locking herself in her room or whatever it is teenagers do when they feel slighted.

Mrs Sands explained: “Greta is not actually judgmental towards individuals, accepting that other people will not all conform to her high standards and asking only for people to do what they can.”

Glad to hear it, but isn’t that kind of missing the point? Flying to Stockholm apparently produces the equivalent of half a ton of carbon dioxide per passenger, so given the climate emergency it might have been wiser to have conducted the interview over the telephone. Or find a truculent teenager nearer by, they’re not hard to find.

Anyway, I’m sure we’re all waiting with baited breath to hear the pearls of wisdom and expert scientific knowledge that only this grumpy 16-year-old can provide.

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Meatloaf – vegan

Meanwhile, veteran rocker Meatloaf has decided to do his bit for the environment by turning vegan for a few weeks. Which presumably means he is now Nutloaf.

I will be more convinced about this conversion when I see him swap the Harley for an electric scooter in his next video.

Let’s be honest, there aren’t many reasons to shop in Dudley these days. And I speak as somebody who does just that every Saturday, out of a probably misguided loyalty and desire to support my home town rather than any rational reason.

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Beatties now part-occupied by Iceland. Debenhams now part-occupied by J D Wetherspoon. A fried-chicken shop in part of where the old Cook’s department store was.

BHS is now a pound shop, Woolworth’s an indoor market, Dorothy Perkins a building society. So you would think that if a developer wanted to invest millions bringing a giant superstore to the town, the council would snap its hand off.

Apparently not. Council leader Patrick Harley says the council is pausing plans to redevelop Cavendish House – which at the moment looks like a relic from Chernobyl – because the retail aspect might be too ambitious.

No rush: council is pausing redevelopment of Dudley's Cavendish House

"If we had ploughed full speed ahead we may well have had Cavendish House down by now but we would be stuck with a cinema, large supermarket and underground car park,” he says. Sounds terrible, doesn’t it?

“We want the right development for the town," he adds. "We are not going to rush.”

And one thing no-one can accuse Dudley Council of is rushing. Plans for a new shopping centre, to counter the threat from Merry Hill, were first put forward in 1988. And rejected, lest they obscured the view of the castle.

Then in the mid-1990s, a developer drew up plans for a retail park featuring a large branch of Sainsbury’s, but gave up after a decade or so, having been frustrated at every turn.

Now, when it looked like something might be moving finally, the council has asked the developer to scale back the retail side of its scheme, and focus more on student accommodation instead.

Which I’m sure will have people flocking to town.

Mark Andrews

By Mark Andrews
@MAndrews_Star

Senior news writer for the Shropshire Star specialising in in-depth features and commentary, investigative reporting and political matters.

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