MAGISTRATES are said to be calling for a specific offence of driving while using a mobile phone, with a £60 fine and a three-point penalty.

Criticism of the practice is already having an effect. This week on the trans-Pennine A66 a car pulled up, half on the verge, while the driver answered his phone. In Darlington, a car pulled in to the side of the busy A68 for the same reason. Luckily, no-one was following too closely behind either car as both manoeuvres were sudden and unsignalled.

On the other hand, in a long, wide and straight residential road noted for speeding, a driver was nonchalantly executing a three-point turn with one hand while holding his mobile to his ear with the other and chatting avidly. There's always one.

I see

Darlington Borough Council's decision to alter its local plan to protect Elm Tree farm and Muscar House farm from being targeted again by developers is to be commended as a victory for common sense - but not, unfortunately, for plain English.

An extract from the council's official notice reads: "Notice of intention to adopt and of proposed modifications to proposals for the alteration of a local plan...The council propose to make modifications to these proposals. A list of the proposed modifications (other than modifications which the authority are satisfied will not materially affect the content of the proposals), with the authority's reasons for proposing them, are available for inspection at the town hall." Clear as mud!

Fit for the bin?

Bins ain't what they used to be, parish councillors at Egglescliffe have discovered.

The council spent £3,000 on some spanking new steel litter bins for the village to mark the millennium. Unfortunately they don't appear to have much chance of lasting a couple of years let alone a decade.

Complaints to the manufacturers have met with a somewhat dusty response and the offer of some primer paint and sandpaper to touch up the bins. But councillors fear the labour costs of doing that will be more than company's offered paint and materials.

The main problem is corrosion caused by dogs relieving themselves. The company says that's not its fault and responsibility lies with the council to protect the bins or keep painting them.

It seems the council has a case under the Sale of Goods Act. Were these bins fit for the purpose? Manifestly not.