ISSUE 39-40_REVENGE ON RED TAPE _PETER DUNN _REPRODUCTION SUBMITTED BY LIN HO _SUBJECTS_ # . DEAR ARCHITECTURE SCHOOL... _In Durham Jail, a few weeks before his trial, Albert Dryden was up one minute, down the next, sometimes laughing, sometimes going a startling shade of purple and bursting into tears. The long Victorian beard, as familiar as the antique six-shooter with which he killed the council planner Harry Collinson on television on 20 June last year, had been trimmed. He looked warily fit, a lean man of 51, but the hands that built the bungalow in its hole in the ground near Butsfield village were seizing up with the enforced idleness of prison life. e held them out for inspection. "The doctor's very worried about us," he said. Dryden had spent the morning listening to other prisoners telling him about their sentences. He was very alarmed. "There's a man robbed the Bradford & Bingley in Newcastle with a replica knife he bought from Woolworths for 99p," Dryden told his three visitors adding in a tone of appalled incredulity: " got three and a half years!"Prisoner CK 0635 wanted to know if the trees he had planted around the bungaIow were being watered. When Jill Hall, organiser of SAD (Supporters of Albert Dryden), said they were, he brightened visibly. Did we know, he said, that the best way to pollinate apple trees was to dust the blossoms with a rabbis tail tied to a stick? When I asked him about the shooting Harry Collinson and the wounding of a policeman and a television reporter, Dryden's manner became confused. He described seeing red stains appear on Collinson's chest and giggled slyly, like a child suddenly made privy to a conjuring trick. "After that, the police dragged us along a corridor and said I'd shot a man four times," Dryden said. He began to weep. Jill Hall put a comforting arm on his and Dryden raised his tear-stained face. "Me and Harry were like that," he said, holding out two crossed fingers. On that fine summer's morning last June, standing outside the Dryden compound, screened by trees from the nearby A68 road to Scotland, Harry Collinson had looked very much in control, a balding man in a blue mac who seemed to epitomise the face of taciturn officialdom. Dryden's chickens scratched in the sunlight alongside the brick bungalow, which he had buried deep in Northumbrian soil in the belief that what could not be seen did not need planning permission. Many com-mittees had decided otherwise over a three-year period, including a public inquiry. Preliminary skirmishes in the media — a crucial influence in the increasingly theatrical style of both principal players — had raised expectations of a colourful and newsworthy showdown. The small gathering of reporters, three policemen and friends of Albie Dryden anticipated a circus; no one, at that stage, seriously expected a performance of Pagliacci. Some weeks earlier, prodded by an eager reporter, Dryden had said on television that he would dynamite the bungalow rather than let the council bury it. Just before he set out for Butsfield with his council machinery, Collinson had seemed equally determined that the time for compromise had gone. "The planning problem," he explained to a local radio report-er, "is obviously a question of `If he's allowed to build in open country, why can't other people? Why are we allowing Albert Dryden to get away with blue murder, as it were?'" Michael Peckett, 34, had been one of the first to arrive at the site, just before 8am. A dark-room technician at The Northern Echo in Darlington, hoping to become a full-time staff photographer, Peckett noticed that Dryden was tense, and spent some time talking him down for a preliminary picture session. "I'd called in on my mother on the way," he says, "and she'd told me, 'He's a bit of a head case — be careful.' I hate to make comparisons, but my mother's an eccentric in a mild sort of way, so I felt I could understand Albert. He gave me the impression that he had some sort of auto-matic weapon, and sort of warned that anyone who stayed on the site might get hurt. I said to him, 'Don't forget — I'm the one in the blue jumper.' That may have saved my life ... I don't know." Peckett saw Collinson and his crew arrive, and watched him talk to Dryden across the site's gate before moving off along the perimeter fence. Dryden had pointed to a letter he had received from the Department of the Environment, which he thought (mistakenly) opened up the option of a final appeal. He had said to Collinson, "Give us five more weeks," but the planner, after consulting briefly with a council solicitor, had turned him down. "Collinson's attitude was very strong — very positive that they'd come to do it," Peckett said. "When they started to move the digger, Albert changed distinctly. He got very upset about his chickens in the bungalow and told Collinson that if any were injured it would be an RSPCA job." The onlookers began to drift away to a hill to get a better view of the machinery at work, but Peckett kept his eye on Dryden and watched him retreat to a caravan. Through a telescopic lens, he saw him strap a holster to his leg. "I went down to meet him and I was walking backwards saying, 'You don't need a gun, Albert — you'll be in big trouble,' but all the time he came towards me, saying basically nothing. I thought, 'This is not the guy I was talking to this morning. Something's gone.' "I followed him down to the fence at his shoulder, and you could hear trees crackling with the machinery. I saw Collinson through gaps in the fence, talking to the TV crew. Albert was waving the gun and I heard Collinson tell the TV crew to get a shot of it. It was at this point that I saw him straighten his arm and take very careful aim. When the gun went off, I jumped a foot in the air with surprise. To be honest, it was no noisier than a cap gun, not like you hear on TV. "A girl behind me was just screaming in hysterics, and next time I looked round there was no one else there. The speed they went, they'd have won Olympic medals. Albert turned towards me and I thought, 'Good grief, he's going to shoot me,' so I just let my hands go to my sides and said, 'There's no need to do that — I'm on your side,' and then I think at that point he shot Collinson again. "Next thing, he'd gone over the fence and up the road. I'm sure he was looking for the council solicitor. I don't honestly think he meant to shoot anyone else. I saw him by the transporter and climbed on the fence to take some pictures of him reloading. I can't say I felt brave. When he turned towards me, I just thought, `I'm not going to run and get it in the back. If a rabbit's running, you shoot it. If it's standing still, you don't.' "When I got over the fence, I looked down at Collinson and he was still moving. I took two photographs. He was lying along the ditch surrounded by flowers and thistles, and he'd grabbed grass with both hands and they were coming up across his chest. It was a bit surreal, like nature's grave. I suddenly felt very sad, because I've got three kids of my own and I wondered whether he'd got a family.” "There was a policeman down the road screaming at me to run away, and I thought, 'In my own good time.' I got a glimpse of Dryden coming back down the road, and I thought, `If he sees me with the body, he'll not be too happy with me,' so I moved out into the road in full view of him. I felt safer that way. The policeman down the road was still giving me some earache. I can't remember doing it, but the police video actually shows him levelling the gun towards me and I crouched down and thought, 'He's going to pop me.' But he came past me and shot the truck twice. Then he aimed at me, but he changed his mind and shot a red Ford Fiesta. "He went back to Collinson, and I think he shot him again. I took some pictures of him heading back to the bungalow, and then I sprinted for my car. A policeman was going bananas, shouting that he was going to arrest me, but I drove off and phoned the office from a farmhouse and said there'd been a serious incident, that I thought I'd got some good pictures and I'd better get them back." Harry Collinson's death in the line of duty was a tragedy that revolved around one of the most contentious issues of modern-day planning — the determination of individuals to live according to their own philosophy in an environment in which the historical shape of windows, the colour of stone walls, the continuity of landscape, is protected by law. In County Durham, the shooting of Derwentside district council's principal planning officer created, in Albert Dryden, something close to a folk hero, an eccentric whose single ambition (apart from building Britain's longest car) was to invest his £15,000 redundancy money from British Steel in a subterreanean retirement home for his mother. Last Christmas, as he sat in Durham jail awaiting trial, he received 83 cards from well-wishers. Collinson, on the other hand, has become a symbol of intractable bureaucracy, an object of pitiless and rather frightening abuse. It is very difficult to find, among the soft voices of County Durham, any to echo the affectionate sentiments of the obituary published in the news-letter of the Royal Town Planning Institute, which Collinson had joined in 1970. It described him as a private but friendly person, with local farming roots, educated at Newcastle University and with 17 years' loyal service on Derwentside, "countryside which he so dearly loved and worked so hard to protect". This is not often the perception of him on his home ground, where his austere respect for the law opposed the slightest deviation in environmental standards. Some of his enemies are influential members of the community —among them powerful Labour Party barons and councilors — far removed from the wilder fringe of SAD, one of whom once threw a live chicken at Collinson in his office. "The guy was famous far and wide," says one regional newspaper editor. "Anyone who knew anything about that authority and about Harry Collinson knew him as a very, very diffi-cult man. The slightest diversion from your planning application and he was down on you like a ton of bricks. Even the leader of Durham county council, who lives on his patch outside Consett and had trouble over some windows at his house, suffered at his hands. Collinson could be an absolute Tartar." Even his boss at Derwentside, Peter Hunter, recognises that some people found Collinson difficult. "I didn't know him a great deal," he says. "I knew he lived in Durham, that he was divorced from his wife and two kids, who went to live in Hull. Mind you, he was devoted to his children. A quiet man. He always came to the Christmas lunch, but I wouldn't say he was the life and soul of the party. "I've heard that he was deeply disliked by some people. Whether that was the way he handled them or not, I don't know. It wouldn't surprise me. He was very much by-the-book, oh yes, but it's a difficult subject, planning, you know. A lot of people, if they don't get their way, then they've got a grudge, haven't they? Planning's called development control, and if you use the word 'control' you'll be saying 'No' to people, won't you?" Terry Batson, a town councillor for Tow Law outside Consett, former chief landscaping officer for Newcastle and a vice-president of the Durham association of parish and town councillors, is scathing about the dead man. He and his father had spent 20 years wrangling with planners, including Cohinson, over a housing project they wanted to develop straddling the borders of Wear Valley and Derwent-side councils. "If there was any way to obstruct you, Harry would find it," Batson said two weeks after the shooting. "My immediate reaction when I heard the news was that Albert's done Derwentside a favour. The man wasn't murdered. He was just obliterated. "Bearing in mind that I'm a member of the Labour Party, Wear Valley planning officers told me they'd been sent letters from Collinson on two occasions saying he'd gone to his dis-trict council and asked for stop notices to be put on our development. On both occasions Harry was turned down. May you bloody well rot in hell, Harry, after what you did to my father. Believe me, hate's not the word for Harry Collinson. It's pity. And what do you feel about someone you pity? Nothing." Denise Bullivant, a Tory on the Labour-dominated Derwentside district council, has bitter memories of her own family's dealings with Collinson. After the shooting, when the council decided to proceed with the demolition of Dryden's bungalow (a decision deferred at the request of Dryden's lawyers), she was the only councillor to vote against. "We had a large house at Maiden Law with a small but thriving bed-and-breakfast business," she says. "We wanted to convert the guest accomodation in the yard into a bungalow, so we could live there, and renovate the big house for guests. Of course, they turned it down, saying there wasn't a business plan for the area. Harry Collinson was the officer who dealt with my planning application. He objected to the red tiles we wanted to use, although they're traditional in that part of the world. "Harry was a very quiet man, not very open, certainly a good officer for the council, and he did love his trees. If you asked him a question, you'd never seem to get the right answer. They just didn't seem to consider the human element. They say you have to stick to the rules, but it changed the whole course of our lives. Mother had to sell the big house and ended up in Lanchester. "That's what's happened on Derwentside. It just happens all the time, and people are fed up with it. A less rigid approach with Dryden might have been helpful. People said he was eccentric. Surely if you want to live in the countryside and have a few hens, that doesn't make you eccentric." Albert Dryden, a bachelor aged 51, had been a familiar figure around Consett all his life, still living on The Grove, an estate of old steel company houses, now partly boarded up alongside the green mounds that mark the grave of British Steel. There, and at the bungalow, he collected old American cars. He might have had difficulty with spelling, but his reputation for technical ingenuity, self-taught, was widely acknowledged. He told Terry Batson that he was converting one of his old jalopies into the longest car in England, and that he fancied becoming a private detective in a pink Chevrolet he was doing up. He has cared for his mentally handicapped brother Alan since their mother, Nora, died two years ago, aged 83. It was a traumatic loss. Each morning the brothers would wander along to Ben and Pat Roberts' café in Consett. Albert would take Alan home and then leave for work on the bungalow site at around 11.30. "A lot of people came in here to ask his ad-vice," Ben Roberts says. "There's others com-plained about Mr Collinson. Like Colin, who's a signwriter and says shopkeepers have paid hundreds of pounds for him to paint signs, and then Collinson comes along and says, 'I want them down.'" Dryden's reputation for handling old guns and explosives — police brought the Army in after the shooting, to check the bungalow for booby traps — goes back 20 years, to when he was known in Consett as "the Rocket Man". At the time of the American moon-shots, he built his own missiles and launched them from Stanhope Moors. They went so high they were picked up on government radar screens, and he was taken to court and told to stop. "Albert built them purely for scientific reasons," his sister Elsie says rather sharply. "There was no malice about it at all." "Everyone called him Santa Claus, because of his beard," says Maureen Callaghan, a neighbour of Dryden on The Grove for 23 years. "I think his brain must have snapped, because he wouldn't hurt a fly. I think the council provoked this poor lad. He went to work on the Thursday and said to Alan, 'I'll be back home for my tea,' and he just got to the site and that planning officer came. My heart aches for Albie. He used to keep his cars locked up behind the house. He said to me one day two years ago, 'Look, Maureen, no one's coming near my garage, they'll get shot. I've got guns." Consett is full of people who say they have known Albert Dryden for 50 years. Few of them, by his own reckoning, were as close to him as the man he killed. Dryden told me he was a regular visitor to Collinson's office — 51 times in the 13 months before the shooting. The two men, both loners in their own ways, both constantly wound up inside their own taci-turnity, developed an affinity that seemed to strengthen as the bungalow affair became more complicated. Collinson was even rumoured to have helped Dryden to measure out the plot and to have told him he could have a house three feet high — which is why it was built in a deep hole. According to Dryden, he and the planning chief would have tea from the office trolley. Collinson, he says, would unburden himself about Derwentside's office politics, and often expressed bitterness about being turned down for the top environmental job when the council reorganised itself three years ago. Collinson was, indeed, one of four candidates interviewed for a new post, chief of environment services, on 3 August 1988. When the job went to Peter Hunter, then the authority's chief environmental officer, Collinson was furious, although he seems to have hidden his feelings at work. Dryden maintains that Collinson said to him later: "Look what they've done to me after all these years' service, Albie. If I'd got the job, we could have worked something out. But Peter Hunter's a hard man, and I'll have to crack down on you now." Derwentside's chief executive, Neil John-son, cannot bring himself to accept Dryden's version of an intimate relationship, and he made it clear it would not form part of the council's ongoing inquiry into the affair. "There were only two parties to those conversations. One of them's dead and the other one killed him, full stop," he said. Hunter said he was "astounded" to hear that Collinson had been annoyed over losing the top job: "I thought he'd only put in for it because two colleagues, junior to him, had also applied." Dryden also says that Collinson was angry with him for his behaviour during the public inquiry (which Dryden lost) into the bungalow affair in January 1990. Dryden had run his own case — "better than a West End show", ac-cording to one reporter. He kept calling the inspector "Minister" and referred to Collinson — mysteriously absent from the proceedings — as "Harry". Collinson was alarmed by the hint of an informal relationship. "You'll get me on the dole, like you," he said to Dryden. Jill Hall, the leader of SAD, lives a short rural ride from Dryden's bungalow. A farmer's wife, a quiet woman of steely character, she walks heavily on sticks after a serious operation two years ago. Her own family has a history of planning rows with Collinson. "My heart bleeds for Mr Collinson's two children and their mum," she says, "but it also bleeds for Albert and his family. Everyone around here, all the farmers, liked him. We were in awe about him building the bungalow without help from anyone. He just wanted to live in the countryside — peaceful, harmless." John Graham, a 39-year-old building site worker, is one of the most active members of SAD. It was he who took the live rooster into Collinson's office. Jill Hall says he did so to prove Dryden's claim that he was keeping livestock on the property. She says he didn't throw it at the official; it just escaped and ran around the filing cabinets, causing panic. Graham says that after being made redundant, Dryden had tried to buy a piece of land on The Grove from British Steel, but had been turned down. "His family had been with the company over 100 years," Graham says. "When he got refused, he must have known about this other bit of land in open country. He got virtual agreement to build that summer-house from the man that was shot. He told us once that Collinson had joked to him, 'You can have a house three foot tall,' and that's why he built it in a hole. "Peter Hunter was often aware of Graham's censorious presence during talks with Dryden. "He'd come to meetings all the time," Hunter says. "I even said to Albert on one occasion, It's you that has problems here, not this fellow. He's just winding you up.' "Another of his supporters rang me on a Sunday morning when I was away last year. My son took the call and I don't know yet who it was, but he sort of threatened that my knee-caps would get knocked off and I'd end up in Mountsett crematorium if I didn't get off Dryden's back. I told the police, because I was rather concerned about it." Two ironies have occupied the waking hours of the police and council officials in the somewhat acrimonious aftermath of the show-down at Butsfield. One is that Dryden had actually started to demolish the bungalow a fortnight before the killing; the other is that on 20 June he was on site two or three hours earlier than his usual time because a local reporter, Garry Willey, innocently anxious to trade information, had tipped him off that the council was planning to move in at 9am. Ted Armstrong, a lorry driver and boyhood friend of Dryden, remembers visiting him to-wards the end of May. "He said to me, 'We've lost. I've had enough. We may as well start taking it down.' He wanted to do it himself, to save the materials being smashed. He took off 170 roofing tiles and I burrowed them away and stored them. "I went away for the weekend, and next time I was up there Albie said to me, 'Have you noticed anything?' and he just pointed and the roof was back on. I said, 'Oh, my God. What the hell are you doing, Albie?' and he showed me a letter from the Department of the Environment suggesting there might be another inquiry. He'd misunderstood. There'd already been a public inquiry, but that was the letter pinned to his gate when Collinson was shot." Reporters who knew Albert Dryden in the North-east say he could be a difficult man to deal with when he was in one of his moods. Garry Willey, who had covered the story for two and a half years from the Consett office of the Newcastle Evening Chronicle, was no exception. Regional television could rely on simple pictures of a colourful figure with a beard defying a bureaucratic Goliath, but newspaper reporters had found life with Albert to be more complicated. In Durham jail he seemed startlingly angry about Willey's well meant tip off. The news filled Willey with renewed apprehension. Everyone I spoke to later wanted to know, with varying degrees of alarm, whether Albie had mentioned them by name. “Albie says daft things at times," Willey says. "At the same time, he's very cleverly hung on to that bungalow for years. The story got so complicated that we'd almost reached a stage where we didn't dare write about it any more. Everyone who's ever had a grouse against any council has been coming out condemning Derwentside — even though they are, without a shadow of a doubt, the most open bunch of officials I've ever come across. "Albert's talked in the past about loading `The Yank' (one of his old cars) with explosives and ploughing it into the civic centre and taking 80 or 90 with him. After his mother's death, The Northern Echo rim a story saying basically that Albert thought the fuss over the bungalow had killed her. Albert claimed later the story wasn't for printing, and came storming in here absolutely livid. "I went to see him on the Friday before the shooting. I remember him standing on the doorstep, dry-brushing his teeth all the time we were talking — and, yes, I accept that I told him what time the council would be there. Obviously he'd only been told the date, but I'd refute any suggestion that I'd stoked him up. When I got to the bungalow at 8.18, he was already there. "At his home, he'd shown me this big bullet casing. He said he'd been on the moors practising with machine-guns and everything. But he'd said these things so many times before —it was just another threat. I even joked about it on the phone to Harry Collinson, one of the most low-key men you could ever meet. I cracked a joke about taking flak jackets, and he said, 'It'll be a damp squib.' " Willey, who locked himself in his office the day after the shooting, has now been transferred to other duties in Newcastle. "The thing that puzzles me about the aftermath is that it's been so much in Albie's favour," he says. "It's as if people have had selective amnesia. At best it's been fifty-fifty. Albert's a nice guy, but he knew what he was doing." Derwentside is, as Willey suggests, an open council. Eleven days before the shooting, its senior executives, including Collinson, rejected police advice to carry out their demoli-tion after dark, when Dryden would have been tucked up at home in Consett. Chief executive Neil Johnson indicates, however, that there was more on the official mind this time than open government. He told me that Dryden, or one of his friends, would have descended on the council chamber after-wards and machine-gunned its occupants. "Doing it otherwise might be a policeman's operational advice to fit the bill from a police-man's point of view," he said. "But it was no bloody solution to the problems we'd have had as a result of it. If we'd gone in at dead of night, would the police have then put a cordon round all the public buildings and officers' homes until such time as Mr Dryden's reaction — incalculable as that may be — was guaranteed not to be foisted upon us? Some of the people around Mr Dryden have threatened and actu-ally assaulted officers of the council. There've been threats of 'We'll smash your car windows' and 'We know where you all live'. "I think the media should now reflect on any contribution that was made to the state of Mr Dryden's mind. I'm quite convinced that some journalists were aware of his threats. In giving him unbridled access to sensational journalism, they were adding to his belief that he was right and that his view should prevail. And yet, over an extended period of time Mr Dryden was seeking to do something for which we were making very clear to him that he would not get planning permission. In the pub, in the club where his greatest guardians go, do you think I'd have been listened to about this with any desire to be believed? "There's got to be bridge-building in this community, and I've got some sympathy with Albert's family. But I'm chief executive of a team of officers who've lost a good friend. It's a little bit perverted that a guy kills someone who's doing his job and then it's suggested he's some kind of latter-day Ned Kelly fighting the Establishment." Alex Watson, a works convenor and leader of Derwentside council, has known the Dryden family for 30 years. "It's a good family and everyone respects that," he said. "Obviously there was a lot of winding-up. Harry was totally convinced that at the end of the day he could persuade Albert to do the right thing. He was sort of pushed into doing something that was out of character with the man I'd known for so long. "I'd have to agree that both Harry and Albert were swept up by events. There was a lot of friendship there. I keep saying to myself, 1 wish I'd talked to the lad' — but whether he was past that sort of thing, I'm not sure. "We've got to learn from our mistakes. The problem here is that we allowed it to drag on too long because of our sympathy with him. I think the general feeling is it created a time bomb as far as Albert's concerned. This sort of thing hasn't got to happen again." . . .