Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Government Agency slammed on jobs block

A giant government agency that is blocking job creating development on the Team Valley Trading Estate in Gateshead has been slammed by local Liberal Democrat campaigners.

The Highways Agency has the power to block planning applications if it believes more traffic will be the result of a planning application being approved.

But the final straw for local Lib Dems was a decision by the Agency to block the development of the former Jockey Factory in the Team Valley Trading Estate.

A developer wants to build a number of smaller factory units on the site which has been unused since the Jockey factory closed 2 years ago.

Lobley Hill and Bensham Lib Dem Action Team Co-ordinator Susan Craig said, "At a time when local businesses are wanting to invest and create jobs in the Team Valley, this government agency steps in to stop it on the ridiculous grounds it will cause more traffic.

"But only 2 years ago there was more traffic at the site anyway as the site contained a working factory.

"The Highways Agency seems to be a law unto itselves. It should be brought back under local control and it should stop blocking job creation."

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Whickham Crossing improvement

Plans to upgrade the pelican crossing at the junction of Front Street and Rectory Lane in Whickham, Gateshead, have been welcomed by local Liberal Democrat Councillors.

“This is good news for partially sighted and blind residents of the area,” said Councillor Allison Chatto.

Call for Watergate clean up

LIBERAL Democrat Councillors for the Watergate area of Whickham are calling on officers of Gateshead Council to arrange for the site of the former Watergate Community Centre to be cleaned up.

Councillors Allison Chatto, Yvonne McNicol and Peter Maughan have been contacted by residents concerned about the state of the site which has been left by the Council since the hall was demolished.

Worries have been expressed about dumped rubbish and anti-social behaviour.

“We are pressing the officers of the Council to clean up the site,” Allison explained. “And we want them to consider proposals for the use of the site that will benefit the local community.”


Photo of Councillors Peter Maughan and Allison Chatto at the site of the former Watergate Community Centre, Whickham, Gateshead.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Action to tackle anti-social behaviour

LIBERAL Democrat Councillors in Whickham North ward of Gateshead are leading a battle to end anti social behaviour on the Rectory and Glebe estates of Whickham.

Recent outbreaks have led to a number of calls to Councillors Peter Craig, Chris Ord and Mary Wallace from anxious residents.

“These latest incidents involved school aged children in the afternoon.” said Councillor Peter Craig. "Youths have been running in and out of gardens, ruining plants and hedges, dropping rubbish, leaving graffiti and being abusive to residents.

"We are working with the Community Beat Officer Team, local schools and Gateshead Council Officers to address these issues.

"As a result, police in plain clothes have patrolled the area and interviewed some young people along with their parents. In the longer term we are all working together on an action plan to tackle anti-social behaviour in the area.”

New road crossing for Whickham

A new pedestrian crossing is to be installed on Fellside Road, near Burnthouse Lane, Whickham, Gateshead, following a campaign by local Lib Dem councillors, Peter Craig, Mary Wallace and Chris Ord.

Hundreds of children cross the road at that point each day to get to and from Whickham School and Fellside Primary.

“This is badly needed to improve road safety for Fellside children going to and from school,” said Councillor Chris Ord.

Library petition handed in to Civic Centre

Residents and Liberal Democrat councillors and campaigners from Ryton, Dunston Hill and Lobley Hill have handed in a petition to Gateshead Council to protest against the proposed closure of Ryton and Lobley Hill libraries.

Over 2300 signatures were handed over on Thursday 23rd February during the meeting of the council in the afternoon.

Ryton’s Councillor Ione Rippeth said, “The number of people signing demonstrates the strength of feeling about the plans to axe the libraries.”

Dunston Hill Councillor Allison Chatto said, “People of all ages use Lobley Hill Library. Its closure will be a blow to the area.”

Lobley Hill Lib Dem Focus Team member Susan Craig said, “We hope the decision makers in the Labour party will take note of the feelings of residents and keep open the libraries.”

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

2300 back petition to save Libraries

2300 people have backed petitions calling for Lobley Hill and Ryton libraries to stay open.

Labour councillors in Gateshead want to close the two branches to save costs but opposition Liberal Democrat councillors launched the petitions to save the buildings from the axe.

The petitions will be handed in to Gateshead Council on Thursday 23rd February by Councillors and campaigners from both Lobley Hill and Ryton.

Ryton's Councillor Christine McHatton said, "This is the biggest petition we have ever collected in Ryton and it shows the strength of opinion on the ground. People want the library kept open."

Councillor Allison Chatto, whose ward covers part of Lobley Hill, said, "The loss of the library would be a devastating blow to Lobley Hill if it were to close."

Lobley Hill Lib Dem campaigner Susan Craig said, "We are battling hard to keep the library. With so many signatures collected we hope the Council will take notice."

Dentist survey

LIBERAL Democrats in Gateshead and Washington have launched a survey of dentists throughout the area.

The move was sparked by concerns about the future of the service once new contracts for dentists are introduced in April.

The survey is being co-ordinated by Low Fell Councillor Frank Hindle who fought the Gateshead East and Washington West constituency at the last general election.

"With the advent of the new NHS contract for dentists from 1st April," said Cllr Hindle, there is concern over the future level of services that will be available through the NHS.

"We are trying to get a picture of the likely situation in the area in the near future."

Blaydon Bank Housing

Planning permission is being sought to build 2 houses and 25 apartments in a 2-3 storey block on the site of the former Rex Bingo and Social Club on Blaydon Bank, Blaydon.

Winlaton Housing

Gateshead Council have received a planning application from Nomad Housing to build a pair of semi-detached bungalows with assisted living facilities and a pair of flats at Council Yard, next to Manor Terrace, Winlaton. The application has been welcomed by Councillor Brenda Osborne.

Bleach Green Housing Plans

Haslam Homes are applying for planning permission to build 40 houses, 4 bungalows and 4 flats at Bleach Green, Blaydon.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Clelland accused of hypocrisy on smoking

LABOUR MP for Tyne Bridge, Dave Clelland, has been accused of hypocrisy by Liberal Democrat opponents after he backed a Parliamentary motion welcoming the ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces.


Mr Clelland signed the Early Day Motion the day after Parliament voted for the ban.  During the debate on the ban however, Mr Clelland repeatedly intervened to call for clubs to be exempt from the clamp down on smoking.


The apparent sudden u-turn by Mr Clelland was discovered by Gateshead Liberal Democrat Councillor Dr Jonathan Wallace.


Dr Wallace said, “On 14th February, Dave Clelland was leading the call for private members’ clubs to be exempt from the ban.  On 15th February, he welcomes the full ban.


“And in a second motion he signs the same day he expresses concern about the effects of second hand smoke on staff in the House of Commons Smoking Room, which is exempt from the ban.


“Why he took a stronger line to protect House of Commons staff than he did for his own constituents who work in clubs in his own constituency is beyond me.


“However, his u-turn is welcome, even if we did have to smoke out his views!”


Nevertheless, Mr Clellands website carries a headline warning “Clubs under threat from Smoke Ban”.


The Parliamentary motions Dave Clelland MP signed:


EDM 1650 – signed 15th February


That this House welcomes the momentous decision to achieve a total ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces; believes that this House should practise what it preaches and apply the ban throughout the House, including the Members' smoking room; and believes that, in recognition of the founder of the National Health Service the Members' smoking room should be renamed the Aneurin Bevan room, forthwith.


EDM 1646 – signed 15th February

That this House notes that right hon. and hon. Members voted to ban smoking in all public places including private members' clubs on 14th February 2006; further notes that the will of the House may not apply in the House itself since it is a royal palace; further notes that this means that staff working in the Smoking Room could still be exposed to the harmful effects of second-hand smoke; and calls for this anomaly to be rectified by the House authorities as soon as possible.



Monday, February 20, 2006

Over 1000 back "Save our Library" campaigns

LIBERAL Democrats in Ryton and Lobley Hill, in Gateshead, have collected over 1000 signatures in two weeks on their petitions calling for the libraries for the two villages to be kept open.

Labour run Gateshead Council want to axe the libraries to save costs. But oppostion Liberal Democrat councillors are fighting to stop the closure decision going ahead.

Lobley Hill petition co-ordinator Susan Craig said, "We have had a great response from the people of Lobley Hill. They clearly want their local library to be kept open."

And in Ryton, Councillor Christine McHatton said, "We are still getting lots of signatures sent to us. Residents are appalled at the thought the library could be closed down."

Campaigners plan to hand in their petitions at the Council meeting on Thursday 23rd February.

Swalwell's Station Wood extended

Cross Lane Meadows (including Station Wood) in Swalwell, which is managed by Gateshead Council, is soon to be extended. The site of the old Fire Station is to be included in the site under proposals announced recently. "This is good news for Swalwell." said Councillor Mary Wallace.

Photo: Councillors Mary Wallace and Peter Craig at Station Wood in Swalwell

Bensham retail plan on hold

Proposals to build a food retail unit and car park at Saltwell House, Lobley Hill Road, Bensham have been deferred.

Staithes housing agreed

Plans for Phase 6 of the Staithes South Bank development in Dunston have been agreed by Gatehsead's planning comittee. The development consists of 65 houses and 2 shops.

Rowlands Gill house conversion refused

Plans to convert the ground floor of a house in Rowlands Gill into a shop have been rejected by Gateshead Council's planning committee. The applicant wanted to convert Godley Holme on Station Road.

Hedgefield housing approved

Gateshead Council's planning committee have agreed plans for 8 semi-detached and 5 detached houses at the former Primrose Coaches site at High Hedgefield Terrace, Hedgefield, Ryton.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Local elections are going ahead!

A number of people have raised with us a question about whether local elections due next year are going ahead in Gateshead. The answer is, “Yes they are!”

The government have announced that they are likely to cancel the elections in shire districts – these are smaller councils normally in more rural areas which have a larger county council above them. The aim of the government is to scrap the 2 tiers in those areas. There would therefore be one council dealing with all local government functions in county areas.

Gateshead went through a similar process 20 years ago. Tyne and Wear County Council was scrapped and its functions handed down to the metropolitan district councils of Gateshead, Newcastle, Sunderland and North and South Tyneside.

This is a much better arrangement than the confusion of 2 tiers of councils. However, the shire restructuring won’t take place for a number of years so the existing district councils in the shire areas will be extended beyond their normal four years. And without elections in mid term, the government avoids the embarrassment of large scale council losses.

The local elections due in May this year have not been cancelled and will be held on 4th May.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Whickham/Dunston area planning applications

Swalwell hot food takeaway plan

Planning permission is being sought to convert the newsagent at 2 Napier Road, Swalwell, into a hot food takeaway.

Whickham house plan

Planning permission is being sought to build a detached house in the rear garden of 1 Beech Avenue, Whickham.

Clover Hill School extension

Clover Hill School in Whickham are applying for planning permission to build a resources classroom on the east side of the school.

Grange Lane housing

Planning permission is being sought to build 2 detached houses at 46 Grange Lane, Whickham.

Dunston motor store

Plans have been submitted to Gateshead Council to build a motor store and mail order distribution centre with associated workshop and warehouse on derelict land bound by Team St and Clockmill Road in Dunston.

Planning applications Ryton area

Crawcrook garage

Gsteshead Council have received a planning application for erect a 2 metre high fence and gates on the front boundary of Bank Top Garage, Greenside Road, Crawcrook.

Ryton housing application

Plans have been submitted to Gateshead Council to build four houses at Beechgrove, Beechwood Avenue, Ryton.

Ramps for Ryton Methodist Church

Ryton Methodist Church on Grange Road, Ryton, have applied for planning permission to install an entrance ramp to provide disability access. A new boundary wall and railings are proposed as well.

Folly housing plan

An application to build a detached house in the garden area to the side of 2 Cadaway House, Lead Road, Folly, Ryton, has been submitted to Gateshead’s planners.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Welcome for smoking ban

A LEADING Liberal Democrat in Gateshead has welcomed the vote in the House of Commons to end smoking in public places.

Dr Jonathan Wallace, Councillor for Whickham South and Sunniside in Blaydon constituency, said, “The vote in the House of Commons yesterday is certainly one I support.

“This is good news for staff who work in pubs and clubs and for the customers as well.

“I have seen a similar ban in place abroad, such as in New York, and the bars, restaurants and other public places are better and more enjoyable as a result.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

News snippets

Ryton road improvement

LIBERAL Democrat Councillors in Ryton have welcomed a decision to improve the road surface of High Hedgefield Terrace. The work was agreed recently by Gateshead Council. “We had campaigned for this improvement so we are pleased it is going to be carried out,” said Cllr Ione Rippeth.

Lobley Hill barn conversion

Gateshead Council have received an application to convert the barns at Greens Farm, Consett Road, Lobley Hill into two homes.

Lighting and Path Improvements in Ryton and Crookhill

The lighting to the rear of Dene Terrace in Ryton is to be improved by Gateshead Council.

“We have been pressing for these improvements for some time,” said Cllr Christine McHatton, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Ryton, Crookhill and Stella. “We have also asked the council to look at improving the front footpath to Dene Terrace.”

Liberal Democrat councillors in Ryton have also welcomed the decision to improve the front paths of Simpson and Coronation Streets. The work will be carried out in consultation with residents.

Rowlands Gill shop application

An application has been received by Gateshead Council to convert the ground floor at Godley Holme, Station Road, Rowlands Gill into a shop.

Greenside Road house plan

Gateshead Council have received a planning application to build a house on land at the rear of Oakworth House, Greenside Road in Crawcrook.

Phone mast agreed

Gateshead Council have granted planning permission for an 18.5m high phone mast near the footbridge at Woodside, near Ryton.

Permission sought for organ removal

Planning permission is being sought to remove the organ from St Hilda’s Church, Hedgefield, Blaydon. The church is a listed building.

Work to take place at Greenside Park

WORK to improve the surface of the tennis court and boundary fence in Greenside Park, Greenside, in western Gateshead, is due to go ahead in February.

The improvements came about as a result of a campaign by the villages three Liberal Democrat councillors Sally Danys, Derek Anderson and Noel Rippeth.

The improvements will allow for a skate park at one end of the park.

“We are pleased that at last this improvement is to go ahead,” said Sally. “We have fought for this for some time and at last we managed to persuade the council to stump up the cash for it.”

Campaign for path improvements

LIBERAL Democrat councillors are campaigning in the village of Greenside, near Ryton in Gateshead for improvements to the path at Ellison Terrace and Lister Avenue.

A petition by local residents calling for improvements was handed in by Councillor Noel Rippeth to Gateshead Council in November.

Cllr Rippeth, and his two ward colleagues Sally Danys and Derek Anderson are pressing for money from the Ward Based Scheme, a special fund to support local projects, to be used to upgrade the paths.

“We are hoping to secure the funding to ensure the path is improved,” said Sally.

Swalwell Roundabout Improvements

Following a meeting between Whickham North Councillors Peter Craig, Chris Ord and Mary Wallace, and Council Officers, improvements have been made to the white road markings at the roundabout near the River Derwent on the junction of Hexham Old Road and the road to Rowlands Gill.

"In the longer term a complete review of the traffic at the roundabout will take place" said Councillor Peter Craig.


Blaydon Labour MP Dave Anderson has been accused of breaking a manifesto commitment by voting to make identity cards compulsory for anybody applying for a passport.

Jonathan Wallace, a Liberal Democrat councillor in Blaydon constituency, said, "Mr Anderson was elected last May on a manifesto pledge to introduce voluntary identity cards. Last night he broke that pledge.

"The only way in which people will be able to opt out of the system is by giving up their right to travel abroad.

"The Government's ID cards plans are now completely discredited. They will not help to fight crime or terrorism.

“The terrorists who attacked New York in Sept. 2001, Madrid in March 2004 and London in July 2005 all carried valid identity documents.

“Nor will they help tackle most illegal working and benefit fraud. Employers in industries with high levels of illegal labour are already required to check identity documents.

"But they are a dangerous threat to our liberties. A detailed picture of our daily lives will be created on a huge central register and our personal data will be shared without our consent.

"ID cards are an expensive way of achieving very little. The Government should abandon their plans and use the savings to put 10,000 more police on the streets. This will be more effective in tackling crime and the terrorist threat."

The Liberal Democrats have pledged to continue the fight against compulsory ID cards when the Bill returns to the House of Lords.

Labour's 2005 general election manifesto said: "We will introduce ID cards, including biometric data like fingerprints, backed up by a national register and rolling out initially on a voluntary basis as people renew their passports."

Call for action on Ash Path

LIBERAL Democrat councillors representing Dunston Hill in Gateshead are pressing for action to tackle anti-social behaviour on the Ash Path, which runs behind Woodside Gardens.

Councillors Allison Chatto, Yvonne McNicol and Peter Maughan have already had discussions with the police about the problems caused by a small number of youths along the path.

“Residents are concerned about the disturbance that is caused,” said Cllr Chatto. We are pressing for action to ensure the problem is tackled.”

Photo: Councillors Allison Chatto and Peter Maughan at the Ash Path, Dunston Hill.

Welcome for new Swalwell crossing

The long awaited Pedestrian Crossing has been completed on Hexham Road in Swalwell, Gateshead, adjacent to the new Lidl store.

Residents and local Liberal Democrat councillors Mary Wallace, Peter Craig and Chris Ord have been campaigning for a number of years for a crossing on what is one of Swalwell’s busiest roads. “This is excellent news for local residents” said Councillor Mary Wallace.

“Hexham Road carries thousands of cars every day and residents were finding it increasingly difficult to cross to the bus stop. With the arrival of the new store a crossing is even more important for local residents.”

Photo: Councillors Peter Craig and Mary Wallace at the new crossing in Swalwell.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Welcome for Library Garden in Whickham

LIBERAL Democrat councillors in Whickham have welcomed plans to convert a vandal ridden patch of ground behind the local library into a garden.

The area is to be fenced off and the only access to it in the future will be through the library itself. Once enclosed, the currently paved area will be changed into an attractive garden for library users.

Councillors Peter Craig, Chris Ord and Mary Wallace have given the project their backing.

“There has been a problem with anti-social behaviour at this location,” said Cllr Craig. “By fencing off the site and making a pleasant garden, we will help to cut down on the problem.

“And what better place to read gardening library books than in a garden!?”


Over 500 back call to keep library

Over 500 residents of Lobley Hill in Gateshead have backed calls to save Lobley Hill Library from closure.

The signatures were collected by local Liberal Democrat campaigners and councillors.

Co-ordinators of the petition, Councillor Allison Chatto and Susan Craig said they were very pleased with the response.

“The petition is still running and we are hoping many more people will sign the petition,” said Cllr Chatto.

“We collected over 300 signatures on Sunday afternoon,” said Susan Craig. “It is clear that the people of Lobley Hill do not want to see their library close.”

Meanwhile, in Ryton, hundreds of signatures have been collected on the petition to save the village library from closure.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Whickham trees to be replaced

TREES damaging a boundary wall in Whickham’s conservation zone in Gateshead are to be replaced.

The four trees at the top of Church Rise will be replaced in the near future. Two of them are leaning badly.

“The replacement trees have been ordered and once they have arrived, the old ones will be removed and the new ones put in their place,” said local Lib Dem Councillor Allison Chatto.

Photo: Lean on me! Councillors Allison Chatto, Peter Maughan and Peter Craig next to one of the leaning trees on Church Rise that is to be replaced.

Council tax set to rise above inflation

GATESHEAD Council are set to impose a double-inflation council tax rise following another poor cash deal from the Government.

Gateshead Council, along with the rest of the North East, was handed a below average increase in the grant from the Government that helps pay for local services. Gateshead’s increase was 2.1%, less than inflation.

The likely outcome is that the Labour run Council will increase council tax by more than inflation to make up the loss. The Council have also indicated that the rise could be more than 5%, more than twice the rate of inflation.

"Gateshead has clearly had a poor deal from the Government," said Andrew Graham, Lib Dem Focus Team member in Winlaton and High Spen. "The effect is that residents here will end up paying more council tax whilst getting no extra services.

"Yet across the river in Liberal Democrat controlled Newcastle, the council is planning a below inflation rise."

Meanwhile Liberal Democrats are continuing to press for Council Tax to be scrapped.
"Council tax is the most unfair form of tax in the country and hits many families hard," said local Lib Dem Councillor Brenda Osborne.

"The sooner it's replaced by a fairer system based on ability to pay, the better."

Photo: Lib Dem campaigner Andrew Graham is backing calls to get rid of council tax. But Labour in Gateshead are considering an inflation busting rise.

Marley Hill/Byermoor opencast proposal dropped

A proposal to opencast a million tonnes of coal near Marley Hill and Byermoor has been dropped by UK Coal, the country’s biggest producer of opencast coal.

And the decision has been welcomed by local Lib Dem councillors Marilynn Ord and Jonathan Wallace.

The area in question lies along the border between Gateshead and Derwentside. 17 years ago a bigger application was rejected by Gateshead Council and later by Government inspectors for the same site.

"Despite the decision of UK Coal not to proceed with a formal application for this site, we have to remain vigilant," said Marilynn. "But the company has not ruled out an application in the long run.

"This site is very close to the villages of Sunniside, Marley Hill and Byermoor and access to it would affect thousands of people.

"Of greater concern however is the attitude of the Government. They have now made it clear that they are concerned that there is not enough opencast mining and my fear is that the rules on applying for new sites will be relaxed.

"If that were to happen, much of the North East will be in the front line of opencast mining."

Photo: Councillor Marilynn Ord with some of the replies to the petition opposing plans for an opencast site on Fellsdie Road, Whickham. Now UK Coal has withdrawn proposals for another opencast site near Marley Hill.

Fellside Road opencast plan reconsidered

The planning application to opencast the site at Skon's Park, on Fellside Road, near Byermoor, is to return to Gateshead's Planning Committee in early March to be considered again.

The council is looking again at the application because some organisations, which by law have to be consulted, had not submitted their responses in time for the meeting in October when the plans were first rejected.

The responses have now been received. Officers of the council believe the application needs to be considered again in the light of the responses.

"Marilynn Ord and I continue to oppose this application," said local Lib Dem Councillor Jonathan Wallace.

"The case we put in October still stands. We believe that the environmental damage, noise, dust and heavy lorries should be reason enough to throw out these plans."

Photo: June 2005 - Councillor Jonathan Wallace is joined by Fiona Hall, Lib Dem Member of the European Parliament for the North East and local residents on Fellside Road to protest about proposals to opencast the site.

Delight at by-election result

LIBERAL Democrats in Blaydon constituency have welcomed the result of the Dunfermline by-election.

The contest resulted in a shock gain for the Liberal Democrats in what was previously a safe Labour seat. The result has sent a shock wave through the political world.

Dr Jonathan Wallace, a councillor in Blaydon constituency, said, “This was a fantastic result. It shows that in Labour’s heartlands, only the Liberal Democrats can beat Labour.

“The same swing in Blaydon constituency would easily see the capture of the seat by the Liberal Democrats from Labour.”

Thursday, February 09, 2006

New London station leaves North East in a siding

LIBERAL Democrats in Blaydon constituency in western Gateshead have called on the government to give the Tyne Valley railway line a better deal following the announcement of £68 million for a new station in London.

Kings Cross/St Pancras is to get a new Thameslink station as part of an overall strategy for improving public transport in the capital.

But at the same time, the government are considering closing half the stations on the Tyne Valley line including Blaydon and Dunston.

Lib Dem Councillor Jonathan Wallace, who is campaigning to keep the stations open, said, “Kings Cross is the terminus for trains from the North East and is a major transport hub for London.

“Within a couple of years, Eurostar services to the Continent will run from there as well. So it will benefit people of the North East to have the investment at Kings Cross.

“But I am concerned that at the same time the government are carrying out a review of the stations on the Tyne Valley line and could close up to half of them.

“It appears that the government are treating the capital in a far more generous way than the North East.

“The government have put public transport in the North East into a siding.”

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Campaign for better buses

Liberal Democrats in Lobley Hill, Gateshead, have launched a petition calling on bus companies to improve the service to the area.

Residents of Lobley Hill contacted nearby Liberal Democrat councillors about problems they are having with local buses. Following recent changes, residents on the Norwood Estate in Lobley Hill have been left without a reliable bus service after 8:00 p.m.

This estate has the 96 service which runs from Newcastle to the Metro Centre via Lobley Hill. Unfortunately this service ends at 8:10 p.m. and the 96a (Metro Centre to Lobley Hill circular) takes over.

However, this is often unreliable and creates difficulties for shoppers or workers returning home from the Metro Centre. After 8:10 p.m. there is also no service to Newcastle or Gateshead except for one late bus at 11:13 p.m.

Councillor Peter Craig, Chairman of the Lib Dem Focus Group on Transport in the area said, "Following major changes to bus services in August 2004, we have been successful in several recent campaigns to improve bus services in the area."

"Recently we successfully campaigned for the 97 service to be extended to Newcastle. This is now benefiting residents of Lobley Hill and Bensham as well as people in Whickham and Swalwell."

"At the same time, the 639 was re-routed to allow people in the Milton Road area access to services in Whickham. Earlier in the year, we led successful campaigns for the X7 to be re-routed along Dunston Bank and for a bus service (41 and 42) to be returned to Market Lane Swalwell."

A copy of the petition is being delivered to every house in Lobley Hill. Further copies of the petition are available from Councillor Allison Chatto on 4602134 or Susan Craig on 4880787.

Photo: Councillor Allison Chatto and Susan Craig at the bus stop on Malvern Gardens, Lobley Hill - they have launched a petition for better bus services.

Whickham lighting to be improved

LIGHTING in the St Mary’s Green shopping area in Whickham, Gateshead, is to be improved following representations by local Liberal Democrat Councillors Peter Craig, Chris Ord and Mary Wallace.

New lighting will be installed at the front of the shops and on the two alleyways leading from the car park. Subject to money then being available in the budget, lighting will be installed in the St Mary’s Green car park as well.

“This is good news,” said Cllr Craig. “This area has a history of anti-social behaviour and improved lighting here will help us tackle this problem. It will also improve security.”

Councillors Mary Wallace, Peter Craig and Chris Ord in St Mary's Green, Whickham

Alan returns to Council

Whickham South and Sunniside Liberal Democrat Councillor Alan Ord has returned to Gateshead Council for his first meeting since being taken seriously ill with food poisoning.

Alan was struck down by the bug in October last year and underwent a major operation as a result. He came out of hospital just before Christmas. On Thursday 26th January he attended his first council meeting.

"It was great to be back and I'm looking forward to getting into the full swing of things," said Alan.

Photo of Alan Ord taking his seat as deputy leader of the opposition in Gateshead Council chamber with leader of the opposition Noel Rippeth, left.

Northern Rail “blames God” for cancellations

DEPARTMENT of Transport figures show train operator Northern Rail blamed “Acts of God” for 2,179 of the 12,884 services it cancelled last year.

But Liberal Democrats in Blaydon constituency have expressed concern at the high number of cancelled services and the excuses used.

More than 100,000 rail services were cancelled in total across the UK in 2005. According to the figures provided by train operators to the Department of Transport, cancellations were caused by strikes, breakdowns, staff shortages and “Acts of God.”

Most “Acts of God” were weather related but Northern Rail topped the list of companies blaming the Almighty for cancelled services.

“This is a case of letting the train take the strain, and when the train is cancelled, letting God take the blame,” said Dr Jonathan Wallace, a Liberal Democrat Councillor for Whickham in Blaydon constituency.

“Some say God moves in mysterious ways. Some trains however, don’t move at all.

“I’m not sure Acts of God are a reasonable excuse but it is time the rail industry and the government got their act together to ensure services are more reliable.”

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Campaign launched to save libraries

PROPOSALS to close Lobley Hill and Ryton Libraries in Gateshead are being challenged by opposition Liberal Democrat campaigners.

The closures have been put forward as a way of balancing the books by Labour on Gateshead Council.

But Liberal Democrats have reacted angrily to the closure moves. And they have launched petitions in both Lobley Hill and Ryton calling on the libraries to stay open.

The Lobley Hill campaign was launched outside the Library on Saturday 4th February by Councillor Allison Chatto and Lobley Hill Lib Dem Action Team member Susan Craig.

The Ryton campaign was launched outside Ryton Library on Sunday 5th February by Councillors Christine McHatton, Norman Callender and Ione Rippeth.

“The Library is a vital resource for many residents of Lobley Hill,” said Cllr Chatto. “It’s closure will mean the loss of an important facility in Lobley Hill.”

Susan Craig said, “Many residents will have to travel to Dunston or Whickham to get to the nearest library. That will create a lot of difficulties for older people in particular who rely on public transport.”

Cllr Christine McHatton said, “The library in Ryton is an important learning centre for children and young people. Closing it will have serious consequences for education.”

Petitions have been launched against the two proposed closures. Over 100 signatures were collected by Liberal Democrats in Lobley Hill on Sunday afternoon.

Photos: left Councillors Yvonne McNicol and Allison Chatto with Susan Craig outside Lobley Hill Library; right Councillros Norman Callender, Christine McHatton and Ione Rippeth outside Ryton Library.

Blaydon Liberal Democrats meet

Liberal Democrats in Blaydon constituency held their general meeting for members on Saturday 4th February at Ryton Community Centre.

And they elected Councillor Alan Ord, who has recently recovered from a serious case of food poisoning, as chairman of the branch.

Councillor Norman Callender was elected deputy chairman, Councillor Allison Chatto as secretary and Councillor Noel Rippeth as treasurer.

Debates were held on Labour’s proposals to close Lobley Hill and Ryton Libraries, the action of the Highways Agency in blocking development of a site on the Team Valley Trading Estate that could lead to more jobs in the area and the Liberal Democrat leadership contest.

“Members took part in some good debates and are pleased the Blaydon constituency branch is up and running,” said Councillor Alan Ord.

Call for action to repair stone wall

LIBERAL Democrat Councillors in Dunston Hill and Whickham East ward of Gateshead are pressing for repairs to be carried out to the historic wall around the former Dunston Hill Hospital.

The wall is now owned by Charles Church Development Ltd who are developing the hospital site for housing.

“The surrounding stone wall is part of the historic character of the area,” said Councillor Peter Maughan, who represents the area on Gateshead Council along with Councillors Allison Chatto and Yvonne McNicol.

“But the wall has been damaged and in some cases, stone has effectively been looted. So I have written to the developers to ask for repairs to the wall to be carried out as a matter of urgency and to ensure it is restored to its original appearance.”

Road safety improvements at Greenside

Liberal Democrat councillors representing Greenside, in western Gateshead, have welcomed the installation of road safety improvements on High Spen Road in the village.

Illuminating speed signs have been installed and extra fencing added.

“The fencing should remind people, especially children, to look both ways before crossing the road to reach the Millennium Green,” said Councillor Sally Danys.

Stargate Play Area Improvements

LIBERAL Democrat councillors in Stargate, near Ryton, in western Gateshead, have welcomed plans to improve the play area next to Stargate Community Centre. New toddlers swings, seats and litter bins are to be installed.

“We are very pleased this work is to be carried out,” said Councillor Christine McHatton.

Station closure concerns raised

Station closure concerns raised

A LEADING Liberal Democrat in Blaydon constituency has raised concerns about the possible closure of Dunston and Blaydon railway stations with Network Rail, the company that owns the track and stations.

Dr Jonathan Wallace, along with the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Transport Team, met with Richard Eccles, Head of Route Planning for Network Rail, in Parliament on Thursday 2nd February.

“We discussed a number of issues about the rail system,” said Dr Wallace, who is a councillor in Whickham, in Blaydon constituency. “But I used the opportunity to explain my concerns about the possible closure of the two stations and others on the Tyne Valley line.

“Closure of the stations is being considered as an option. Liberal Democrats believe such a closure would be a move in the wrong direction.

“I am hoping to have further discussions in the near future.”

No to “permanent” temporary sign

An attempt by a developer to extend the life of a large “for sale” sign in the heart of a conservation zone is to be opposed by a local Liberal Democrat councillor.

McCarthy and Stone want to extend the life of the sign for the third time to advertise properties for sale in their Chase Court housing development, on the site of the former Whickham Health Centre, Whickham in Gateshead.

But with two previous time extensions under their belt, Cllr Peter Craig believes the sign is in danger of becoming permanent.

“Whilst we accept that there was a need for a temporary sign to encourage interest in buying the flats, I feel we should call time on it now,” said Cllr Craig.

“McCarthy and Stone have twice been given permission to extend the time the sign can be displayed in what is a popular conservation zone. With a further extension I feel there is a danger it will become more than a temporary fixture.

“The developer has many ways of promoting its properties through estate agents. I believe it does not need to disfigure the conservation zone for another few months with this rather large sign.”

Residents of nearby Viola terrace have also submitted a petition against the application to Gateshead’s planners.

Pictured: Councillor Peter Craig next to the "temporary" McCarthy and Stone sign on Whickham's Front Street.