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In the papers today: 25.01.08

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Today’s big news is the post-Hain Cabinet reshuffle, with Andy Burnham replacing James Purnell as Culture Secretary, but more intriguing reports concern a castle in Surrey.

Farmer Robert Fidler has been told to tear down a castle that he built without planning permission and hid behind a stack of straw for four years, says the Telegraph . Fidler erected a shield of several hundred straw bales, and spent two years building his new family home behind it. ‘I can’t believe they want to demolish this beautiful house,’ he says. Not content with a mere castle, Fidler has also built a go-karting track on his land.

In other news, the Cutty Sark in Greenwich, ravaged by fire in May last year, has been given a heritage Lottery grant of £10 million, writes the Guardian . Henry VIII’s warship the Mary Rose has also been given £21 million in the last grants before the fund is diverted to help pay for the Olympics.

The residents of Windsor and Maidenhead have turned their noses up at their neighbours in Slough by getting hoity-toity about their SL4 and SL6 postcodes. The more salubrious towns are demanding the creation of their own postcode, and have even set up a Facebook group: ‘Lose SL – give Windsor and Maidenhead a WM postcode!’ The people of Slough say the idea shows ‘an unpleasant snobbery,’ with the Independent suggesting that behind the row lingers ‘the stench of white, middle-class snobbery and racism.’

Also in the Independent, a Swiss insurance company – the sixth largest in the world – is seeking to take advantage of the government’s eco-towns competition to finally win planning for a 12,500-home settlement in the Hampshire countryside. The scheme – which would net Zurich Financial Services a £1 billion profit – has been turned down four times by planning authorities, but now the group intends to relaunch it as an eco-town in order to nudge it through planning. Winchester City Council leader George Beckett has written to Communities Secretary Hazel Blears slamming it as a ‘cynical rebranding exercise’.

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