Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Operation Goldfinch in Chopwell

Operation Goldfinch was successfully carried out in September by the police and Gateshead Council to clamp down on crime and anti-social behaviour. As a result, a Neighbourhood Plan has been drawn up for the River Streets area to identify local priorities and the action needed to tackle problems.

Chopwell housing application

A decision on plans to build 19 bungalows on Allotment Gardens, South Road, Chopwell, has been deferred until after councillors visit the site.

Blackhall Mill housing decision

A decision by Gateshead Council's Planning Committee on plans to build 7 houses on land next to Derwent Street in Blackhall Mill has been put on hold. This will allow councillors to visit the site before taking a final decision on the planning application.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Crime survey in High Spen

LIBERAL Democrats have launched a survey of residents in High Spen, in western Gateshead, about crime.

The survey is being co-ordinated by Andrew Graham who lives in the village and is a member of the Lib Dem Focus Team for Winlaton and High Spen ward.

“Many residents have raised with us concerns about crime and anti-social behaviour in High Spen,” said Andrew.

“The survey is giving us a picture of the concerns of residents throughout the village.”

Promoted and published by Noel Rippeth on behalf of Andrew Graham, all at 11 The Ridge, Ryton

Bus petition handed in to Go Ahead North East

LIBERAL Democrats in Lobley Hill have handed in a petition to Go Ahead North East Headquarters in Gateshead calling for improvements to bus services in the area.

The petition was launched by Susan Craig, Leader of the Lib Dem Focus Team in Lobley Hill, and Councillor Allison Chatto, whose ward includes part of Lobley Hill.

“Much of Lobley Hill is without a reliable bus service after 8pm,” said Susan. “So we wanted to bring the concerns and difficulties of residents to the attention of Go Ahead North East.

“Over 300 signatures have been collected and we are hoping to make progress with the bus company.”

Photo: Susan Craig hands in the petition signed by 300 residents of Lobley Hill to Go Ahead North East on Monday 24th April 2006.

Promoted and published by Noel Rippeth on behalf of Susan Craig and Allison Chatto, all at 11 The Ridge, Ryton

Friday, April 21, 2006

Call for Saltwell Housing Vote

Liberal Democrats in Saltwell, Gateshead, have called for residents in areas proposed for demolition to have a vote on the plans to pull down houses.

Liberal Democrats argued – at the all labour Council cabinet, and at the full Council meeting on March 23rd – that the final say on demolition should be taken by a residents’ ballot, carried out block by block. This was rejected by Labour Councillors from across Gateshead who felt that they knew what was best for the people of Saltwell, and voted against the Liberal Democrat amendment.

“Liberal Democrats believe that local decisions are best taken by the local people. That wasn’t allowed to happen here” said Norman Spours, Lib Dem campaigner in Saltwell. “It is not too late to reverse the Council decision and let local people have the final say on this matter.”

“We welcome the millions of pounds that the Bridging Newcastle-Gateshead initiative can bring to improve Saltwell, Bensham and other areas, and many of the proposals are welcome, but the case for demolition is not proven, and if they go ahead on the current plans, some residents will face years of uncertainty about their future.”

“In addition to the question of demolition or renovation of homes, Labour policies mean that the future of local schools and post offices are under threat and Liberal Democrats want to see an end to the Council’s one party cabinet system, and proper engagement with local people to work for the good of the whole community.”

Promoted and published by Frank Hindle on behalf of Norman Spours, all at Room 311 Aidan House, Tynegate Office Precinct, Sunderland Road, Gateshead, NE8 3HU

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Post Office petition launched

LIBERAL Democrats in Gateshead have joined with colleagues from throughout the country to launch a petition calling on the government to reverse its decision to stop pensioners getting their pensions through post offices.

The government has taken the decision to end the Post Office Card Account (POCA) by 2010 and force pensioners to get their pension through banks instead.

Many post offices rely on the payment they receive for paying out pensions to stay in business. The loss of the income is expected to lead to many post office branches closing.

“We have launched the petition as we believe that post offices are important to local communities and pensioners should have the choice of using a post office or a bank to collect their pension,” said Councillor Jonathan Wallace.

“Over the past four years, a fifth of the post office branches in the North East have closed. The loss of the payment branches receive for handing POCA will be the death knell for many.

“There is not even a saving to the taxpayer as the banks will be paid to handle the cash instead.

“The government have made it very difficult for people to open a post office card account. Nevertheless, 5 million have done so. They opted to use the local post office rather than a bank as, in most instances, they are more convenient.

“Post office closures will be the inevitable result of this government decision. And that means whole communities will be worse off.”

Councillor opposes further conservation zone sign application

A PLANNING application for a giant “for sale” billboard in the heart of Whickham’s conservation zone in Gateshead is being opposed by local Councillor, Peter Craig.

The sign has been standing outside the Chase Court development on Rectory Lane without planning permission for three years.

In a controversial move last month, Gateshead Council gave permission for a similar sign on the other side of the development to be renewed, despite having stood there since 2002.

“Most of the flats have been sold and we should be very careful about what goes into a conservation zone,” said Councillor Craig.

“The whole point of a conservation zone is to preserve the character of an area and that means no billboards, which effectively is what this is.

“Many residents of nearby Viola Terrace are fed up with having to look at this gigantic advert for McCarthy and Stone, the developers, from their front rooms.”

The decision on whether or not to grant planning permission for the sign will be decided within the next few weeks.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Labour claims “promising future” for school they are planning to close

A LABOUR Councillor in Gateshead should explain himself to parents, pupils and staff of Windmill Hills School after claiming the school has a “promising future” at the same time as the Labour Council are planning to close it, say local Liberal Democrats.

Labour Councillor for Lobley Hill and Bensham, Kevin Dodds, makes the claim about the school’s future on Gateshead Council’s website. Windmill Hills School is one of three in the borough that Gateshead Council are planning to close down.

Bensham Liberal Democrat campaigner Susan Craig is calling for Councillor Dodds to explain why he is making the claim when his own Council group are planning to axe it.

“This is either a monumental gaffe or an absurd attempt by Councillor Dodds to daydream his way out of an unpopular school closure,” said Susan Craig, who is fighting Councillor Dodds in the local elections for Lobley Hill and Bensham ward.

“I think he should explain himself. The school closure is upsetting many parents in Bensham. Many feel that Labour’s words don’t match their actions.”

The link to the comments by Cllr Dodds is:

Lobley Hill and Bensham ward is a target for the Liberal Democrats in the local elections to be held on 4th May. The council have just voted to close a library in the ward and are planning to demolish houses in the Bensham area.

To add to Labour’s problems, former Lobley Hill Labour Councillor Margaret Duddin is standing as an independent against Labour.

Promoted and published by Noel Rippeth on behalf of Susan Craig, Liberal Democrat candidate for Lobley Hill and Bensham, all at 11 The Ridge, Ryton.

Welcome for Swalwell roundabout improvements

LIBERAL Democrat Councillors in Swalwell, Gateshead, have welcomed plans to improve safety at the Swalwell roundabout, in the centre of the village.

The roundabout is a main junction for roads feeding onto the A1 and to the Metro Centre. It is also the junction for Hexham Old Road, the main road through Swalwell, and for Hood Street, which overlooks the roundabout.

Now plans have been passed by Gateshead Council to increase the size of the traffic island at the centre of the roundabout and to lengthen some of the islands on the roads approaching the roundabout.

Councillors Peter Craig, Chris Ord and Mary Wallace have campaigned for the improvements and are delighted they have been agreed.

“This is one of the busiest junctions in the area with thousands of vehicles using it every day,” said Peter.

“As a result of so many roads meeting at one point, it is also a very dangerous junction and residents have reported many near misses to us.

“The extended traffic islands will assist the traffic flow and make the approaches to the roundabout much safer.”

Photo left to right Councillors Chris Ord, Peter Craig and Mary Wallace give the thumbs up to safety improvements that have been agreed for Swalwell roundabout.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Road Closures

A number of roads will be closed for repairs in the near future. Please try to avoid them! They are:

Lobley Hill Road/Victoria Rd: lane restrictions and temporary traffic lights. Work will end in May.

Sunniside Road, Sunniside: the utility company work started on 20th March and will not be completed til mid May.

Scotswood Bridge, 11pm to 6am, 10th – 12th April

Haugh Lane, Stella, Addison level crossing, 11pm on 11th April to 6am on 12th April

Liddell’s Fell Road, Blaydon Burn, 29th May – 2nd June.

Phone mast decision deferred

A PLANNING application for a phone mast next to Burnthouse Lane in Whickham, Gateshead, has been deferred so that councillors can visit the site.

The move was welcomed by Liberal Democrat Councillor Marilynn Ord who represents the area on Gateshead Council. She opposes the application.

“I want councillors to see just how close the location is to people’s homes,” she said.

U-turn by Highways Agency welcomed

A decision by the Government’s Highways Agency to stop blocking a planning application for factory units on the Team Valley Trading Estate has been welcomed by Gateshead’s Liberal Democrats.

The Highways Agency, which is a government appointed body, has the power to block planning applications where it believes granting the plans would lead to additional traffic in the area.

The Agency had been blocking plans to build a number of small factory units on the site of the disused Jockey factory on the Team Valley in Gateshead. But the Agency backed down this week and allowed Gateshead Council to approve the plans.

Lobley Hill and Bensham Liberal Democrat Action Team Leader Susan Craig said, “At last the Highways Agency has seen sense and has ended its road block on jobs.

“The factory units will help local businesses create badly needed jobs. I was amazed that the Highways Agency could stand in the way of development when the application would have resulted in fewer vehicles on the roads than when the Jockey factory was open two years ago.

“Liberal Democrats continue to question where an unelected body like this should have powers to block the decision of a council that is accountable through the ballot box to local people.

“It is time to bring the Highways Agency under the control of local councils.”

Photo: outside the Jockey factory on the Team Valley Councillor Frank Hindle (Low Fell) and Lobley Hill and Bensham campaigner Susan Craig.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Call for safety review of Rowlands Gill junction

LOCAL Liberal Democrat campaigners have launched a petition calling on Gateshead Council to carry out an urgent review of the Station Road/Burnopfield Road junction in Rowlands Gill.

The call is being made following three accidents at the junction earlier this year. Residents have contacted the Liberal Democrats asking for help to have safety at the junction improved.

Local Lib Dem campaigner Ray Callender said, "We want the council to look at improvements that could be made."

Axwell Hall renovation

WORK has started on plans to renovate and restore Axwell Hall. Last year, DARE (Northern) Ltd of Penrith, Cumbria, were given planning permission to convert Axwell Hall into 23 apartments and to build 18 further houses and 9 apartments.

The rear annexe of the hall will be demolished and renovation will take place to the balustrade and terrace. 18 houses will be built at neighbouring Clavering House, Axwell Park. The walled garden and historic estate parklands will also be renovated. The former Clavering House educational institution will be demolished and Axwell Bridge will be repaired.

"Axwell Hall itself has been standing empty for a number of years and there is a need to bring it into use or otherwise it will continue to deteriorate," said Mark Gardner, Lib Dem campaigner in Axwell Park and Shibdon.

"This scheme will help restore a once great building to productive use and renovate an important historical site. It will hopefully mean that people here will not have to live with a derelict building on their doorsteps."

Axe still hangs over Ryton Library

Special report by Councillor Ione Rippeth

We were all shocked when recently told that there were proposals to close Ryton Library. This sparked our "Save Ryton Library" campaign which was very successful. We collected over 2000 signatures on our petitions with many people offering help and writing letters to the council.

Local Lib Dem councillors met with council officers to discuss the matter and put forward a number of ideas. We are very pleased to say that the Library is to remain open, although unfortunately on a reduced number of hours - 22 a week.

THE THREAT HOWEVER IS STILL THERE because the Council is still looking at selling the building. However, we are looking at a number of ways to remove this threat.

Councillor Christine McHatton said, "The Library is very important to local residents and borrowing books is only one aspect. Removal of the Library would be a devastating blow to Ryton.

Photo: Councillors Norman Callender, Christine McHatton and Ione Rippeth launch their campaign to save Ryton Library from closure.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Good news on bus service

The daytime and early evening frequency of the 639 bus service in Gateshead is to be doubled from hourly to half hourly.

The service runs from Winlaton bus station via Blaydon bus station, Swalwell, Whickham, Lobley Hill to Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Wardley.

The additional services are being paid for by the Department for Transport's Urban Bus Challenge Kickstart fund and will start on 8th April.

The extra services have been welcomed by Liberal Democrat Councillor Allison Chatto who represents the Dunston Hill and Whickham East ward on Gateshead Council.

"I am very pleased that after so many bad news stories about cuts to bus services, we have at last a good news story," said Allison.

"It is unfortunate however that the government are refusing to cover the £5 million shortfall in Tyne and Wear's buses budget caused by the introduction of the free off peak pensioners travel scheme."

Drains unblocked in Whickham

BLOCKED drains on the Glebe Estate in Whickham, Gateshead, which were flooding a road have been cleared following the intervention of a local Liberal Democrat Councillor.

Residents of Glebe Rise contacted Councillor Peter Craig to ask for help after building work on a house in the area caused sand and cement to block up the drains.

“Officer from Gateshead Council have now been out to remove the sand and cement that was causing the blockage,” said Cllr Craig. “They have also swept away gravel and other debris left on the road surface.”

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Action to prevent illegal motorcycling in Whickham and Swalwell

GATESHEAD Council engineers, police and councillors in Whickham, Gateshead, are looking at ways to prevent illegal motorcycling on a public footpath that runs past a popular school.

Coalway Lane path runs from Coalway Drive in Whickham, past Swalwell School and down to Clavering Road in Swalwell. It is a footpath with wide grass verges on both sides but there is no road.

Residents have raised a number of concerns about the dangers posed by people illegally riding motorcycles and in some cases cars on the footpath. People are worried there will be an accident and are fed up with the noise from the bikes.

Councillor Chris Ord, Liberal Democrat member for Whickham North and Swalwell toured the area with the police and officers on Thursday 30th March.

“It was important that the engineers and the police saw the path to understand the problems residents are facing,” said Cllr Ord. “We will be investigating possible solutions that stop motorbikes getting access.”

Call for Dunston Hill tidy up

LIBERAL Democrat councillors in Dunston Hill, Gateshead, are calling for the entrance to a prominent new development to be brightened up.

The development of the former Dunston Hill Hospital is currently underway but the entrance to the development, off Whickham Highway, has an unmade pavement surface running along a large length of the boundary wall.

“Whickham Highway is a main road and thousands of people travel along it every day,” said Councillor Allison Chatto.

“So the entrance to the estate is seen by many people. It is untidy and not a good advert for the new development. We want the developers to tidy and brighten it up as soon as possible.”

Promoted and published by Noel Rippeth on behalf of Allison Chatto, Liberal Democrat candidate for Dunston Hill and Whickham East, all at 11 The Ridge, Ryton.

Labour civil war in Gateshead

A LABOUR civil war in the Lobley Hill and Bensham ward of Gateshead is likely to cost them the seat in the local elections, claim local Liberal Democrats.

Lobley Hill and Bensham ward is a top target for the Liberal Democrats in the local elections next month.

But former Labour councillor for Lobley Hill, Margaret Duddin, who was dumped by her party 2 years ago as candidate, is opposing Lib Dem campaigner Susan Craig and senior Labour councillor Kevin Dodds in the battle to be councillor for the ward.

Lib Dem campaign manager for Councillor Jonathan Wallace said, “Labour are in big trouble in Lobley Hill and Bensham. The closure of Lobley Hill Library has been deeply unpopular.

“The plan to close Windmill Hills School and demolish houses in Bensham have also made people very unhappy with Labour.

“Our candidate, Susan Craig, has been campaigning in the ward for some time. We are already confident that she will do very well. But with an ex-Labour councillor standing as well, Labour’s vote looks set to be split.

“And that could help the Lib Dems to win Lobley Hill and Bensham.”

Promoted and published by Noel Rippeth on behalf of Susan Craig, Liberal Democrat candidate for Lobley Hill and Bensham, all at 11 The Ridge, Ryton.

Monday, April 03, 2006

High Spen Housing Proposal

Gateshead Council have received a planning application to build a house on the site of the former stable/store building at the Olde Potting Shed Co, Collingdon Buildings, Collingdon Road, High Spen.

Winlaton housing plan

Planning permission has been granted for a pair of semi-detached bungalows with assisted living facilities and a pair of flats at Council Yard, North Street, Winlaton. The plans have been welcomed by local Lib Dem Councillor, Brenda Osborne.

Call to end Milton Road Mess

LIBERAL Democrat councillors in Whickham North ward in Gateshead are pressing officials of Gateshead Housing Company to clean up Milton Road where work on renovating houses has wrecked grass verges.

The road runs between Whickham and Swalwell. The grass has been churned up by contractors’ vehicles and in some places is now nearly knee deep in mud.

“This is quite a mess for residents and we are pressing for action to clean up the mud and, once the equipment has been removed, to have the grass verges restored,” said Councillor Peter Craig.

Photo:Councillors Peter Craig, left and Chris Ord, next to one of the damaged grass verges on Milton Road, Whickham.

Promoted and published by Noel Rippeth on behalf of Peter Craig, Liberal Democrat candidate for Whickham North, all at 11 The Ridge, Ryton.

Body blow to Post Offices as BBC changes licence payment

POST Offices in the North East have been dealt another body blow following the decision of the BBC to end the payment for tv licences through the network of branches, claim local Liberal Democrats.

Dr Jonathan Wallace, from Blaydon constituency, and a councillor in Gateshead, said, “Many Post Offices are already struggling to survive. The government decision to end the payment of pensions through Post Offices was bad news enough for the branch network.

“So the recent decision by the BBC to end payment of tv licences through the Post Office is yet more bad news. Firstly, it makes it harder for Post Office branches to survive due to the lost business.

“Secondly, many, especially older, people, who do not have bank accounts and can’t pay by direct debit will be inconvenienced by not being able to pay through their local Post Office.”