Saturday, October 14, 2006

Appeal allowed on phone mast

A decision by Gateshead Council to refuse planning permission to increase the height of the 12.5metre high phone mast on land next to Go Gateshead, Garth Farm Road, Blaydon has been overturned by Government Planning Inspectors.

Cooks Field, Greenside

Local Liberal Democrats are delighted to report the renovation of Cooks Field playground has gone ahead. It was not long ago that Gateshead Council seemed set to remove Cooks Field from its list of maintained playgrounds.

The renovation of Cooks Field and Folly playgrounds, and the newly equipped skate park and five-a-side pitch in Greenside park bring to fruition a campaign for improved play facilities by Crawcrook and Greenside’s Lib Dem Councillors Derek Anderson, Noel Rippeth and Sally Danys.

Road news

Chainbridge Road level crossing closure

The crossing near Blaydon will be closed from 9pm on 13th January to 3pm on 14th January and from 9pm on 27th January to 9am on 28th January.

Stannerford Road, Clara Vale

Liberal Democrat Councillor Derek Anderson is backing a petition by local residents on Stannerford Road, Clara Vale, calling for road signs to be made more visible and correctly orientated to help better enforcement of the speed limits on the road.

Greenside Road closure

Greenside Road, Crawcrook will be closed on 12th and 19th November to allow work to take place on resurfacing.

Beweshill Lane closure

Beweshill Lane (between Stargate Lane to Path Head Roundabout) will be closed from 9th to 19th November for repair work to take place.

Gateshead Warm Zone

A year ago Gateshead Council agreed to set up the Gateshead Warm Zone which aims to reduce fuel poverty by increasing household energy efficiency. It also aims to improve social inclusion and health and well-being of Gateshead residents.

Staff are now in place to assess each property in the Borough and survey those that may need energy efficiency measures. They also order contractors to carry out work to install cavity wall insulation and loft insulation. A small team of benefit screeners and assessors has recently been set up.

By the end of July 2006, 13,614 assessments had been conducted in Felling, Saltwell, Dunston and Teams, Bridges, Lobley Hill and Bensham and Deckham wards. The next ward to be tackled in October is Pelaw and Heworth. Eventually, the whole Borough will be surveyed.

This work has resulted in 3,519 insulation measures being installed including 1036 cavity wall insulations and 2248 loft insulations.

New road markings in Winlaton

New "give way" road markings have been put down near the centre of Winlaton after complaints from residents about the danger to pedestrians trying to cross the road from Back Street to Winlaton to access the bus station and shops.

CAB News

The Citizen’s Advice Bureau will be providing a Drop-In advice facility at Chopwell Community Centre from 10am onwards to coincide with the ‘Flu Jab Day’ on Tuesday 17th October.
CAB in Blaydon

Well done to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau which has helped 129 residents with 312 different issues during the past 6 months from the weekly, Tuesday Drop-In sessions at the Gateshead@Blaydon. The majority of residents helped come from Blaydon itself and from Winlaton. However, about 15% came from Ryton.

Rowlands Gill wins garden award

Rowlands Gill has won a medal in the 2006 Northumbria in Bloom competition for Best Urban Community. The announcement was made at the awards ceremony held in Alnwick Gardens on Monday 11th September. Congratulations to everyone involved.

53,000 residents of Newcastle and Gateshead to lose Post Office service

THE Government’s decision to axe the Post Office Card Account will see over 53,000 residents of Newcastle and Gateshead losing their right to receive their pensions and benefits through post office branches.

The Government’s decision, taken earlier this year, is expected to lead to thousands of Post Offices closing across the country as many are already struggling even before they lose the business handling pension and benefits money brings.

53,000 residents of Newcastle and Gateshead use Post Office Card Accounts at the moment. They will now be required to open bank accounts to receive their money even though the banks are not required to provide them with banking facilities.

Liberal Democrats in Gateshead launched a petition against the government’s decision earlier this year. They have collected over 3000 signatures calling on Ministers to reverse their decision.

Petition co-ordinator, Councillor Jonathan Wallace, said, “This Government decision is going to cause great difficulties for 53,000 residents of Gateshead and Newcastle. “And it is a nail in the coffin for many Post Offices which will close as a result.

“This decision needs to be reversed. Post Offices carry out important community and social functions. They will be lost with the erosion of the branch network.”

Over 1100 signatures on the petition were collected by Councillors Brenda Osborne and Andrew Graham in their Winlaton and High Spen ward.

"Pensioners should have the choice between getting their money through a Post Office or a bank," said Brenda.
"Labour's decision will take away that choice and puts at risk our vital Post Office network.

"Our petition has attracted a great deal of interest as branch closures affect whole communities. We will continue to collect signatures for some time to come. We will then take the petition to the government."

Path Head landfill petition gets unanimous backing in Brussels

Local residents and Lib Dem Euro MP Fiona Hall are celebrating following a successful hearing of their petition against the Path Head quarry landfill site.

The Petitions Committee of the European Parliament heard from Ryton resident Daniel Grey that water had seeped into the Path Head site during the summer, in contravention of European landfill legislation.

"Following new evidence presented by Daniel, the Commission agreed to investigate further,” said Fiona. “Other MEPs on the committee supported the Gateshead petition 100%. They said they were appalled to hear that proper attention had not been paid to the question of groundwater at the landfill site.

"There was also considerable concern about the fact that local residents face multiple exposures to health risks. I pointed out to the Committee that residents have to contend with many landfill sites in the same small area. Gateshead Council did not look into the implications of this multiple risk.

"The Petitions Committee of the European Parliament was unanimous in its view that the petition should be kept open and new evidence considered. This is excellent news for local residents, who have fought so hard to make Gateshead Council see sense."

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Opencast Appeal at Skons Park

Halls of Durham are appealing against a decision of Gateshead Council to refuse planning permission for an opencast scheme next to the historic Gibside Estate. This video explains how the appeal system works and the route the lorries will take if the appeal wins.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Coach Road traffic survey

Residents living in Lobley Hill have asked Liberal Democrat campaigner Susan Craig to help with an issue with traffic on the Coach Road.

Residents continue to be worried about the volume and speed of traffic which uses the Coach Road between Lady Park & Lobley Hill as an alternative to the A1.

In 2003, Gateshead Council consulted local residents over the introduction of a scheme to restrict the use of Coach Road by motorised traffic and to improve the highway for pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders.

Following further consultation in Lobley Hill and Lady Park in 2005, this scheme was rejected because not enough support was received to give the Council a clear mandate to proceed. However only 31 written responses were received from residents.

A petition collected by Susan Craig and local residents earlier this year has attracted over 50 signatures from residents of Lobley Hill and Lady Park and demonstrates that there continues to be widespread concern over the issue. Susan is now planning to carry out a survey of residents so that other possible solutions can be identified.

The Library, the Switch and the Wardrobe!

No it’s not an undiscovered novel by C. S. Lewis! It’s the view of angry residents who are appalled at the reduced library provision in Lobley Hill since the switch to the Community Centre Library on 18th July.

Following the closure, residents have contacted the Lobley Hill Liberal Democrat Action Team to voice their concerns regarding the new facilities. One resident said, “It’s a disgrace, no more than a cupboard.”

Action Team leader, Susan Craig said, “Several residents have contacted me voicing concerns over the reduced service, but we would like to know the views of other residents. Now that the new library provision is in place, I am conducting a survey of residents’ views”.

The survey form will be delivered to every home in Lobley Hill and will be used to compile a report that will be sent to Gateshead Council.

Residents have also complained that they have not received any information from their councillors about the new ‘Community Centre Library’. So, included below, your Action Team have provided the main details:

The opening hours of the new service are Tuesday 9.30 a.m. - 6.30 p.m. and Thursday 9.30 a.m.- 3.00 p.m. The library has fiction and non-fiction books for adults and children, a small reference section, daily newspapers and magazines. There is also free access to the Internet. A mobile library also visits Lobley Hill every fortnight on a Monday between 1.40 and 2.55 p.m. You will find it at Cragside Court near Lobley Hill Primary School.

Photo: Susan Craig outside the new library in Lobley Hill Community Centre dubbed a wardrobe.

Opencast appeal

Readers may recall the huge campaign fought last year against plans to opencast half a million tonnes of coal and fireclay from “Skon’s Park”, next to Gibside. The application was eventually defeated at Gateshead Council’s Planning Committee earlier this year.

The applicant, Halls of Durham, have now lodged an appeal with the Government’s Planning Inspectorate to try to get the decision of Gateshead Council reversed. This clearly brings the issue right back onto the agenda of local residents.

At this point, news is only starting to filter through. It is likely however that a public inquiry will be held which will examine all the planning aspects of the application. At this stage however, it is not definite that an inquiry will be held, but in the expectation one is held, the Inspector appointed will need to set the timetable.

We will keep you in touch with any news.

“The whole community will have to pull together to put a strong and reasoned case to the Inspector should an inquiry be held,” said Councillor Jonathan Wallace. “With my colleagues we will be working closely with local residents to persuade the Inspector to reject the appeal.”

Euro MP to hold Question Time

FIONA Hall, Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament for the North East, is to hold a coffee morning and question time for residents of the Sunniside and Whickham area of Gateshead.

The event will take place at the home of Gateshead Councillor Jonathan Wallace in Sunniside on Sunday 8th October at 10.30pm.

“We are trying out ways to help Fiona keep in touch with residents,” said Jonathan. “We have invited questions and we will be videoing the question time. Afterwards we will be putting the video onto our news blog for everyone to see.”

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The green green grass of home?

LIBERAL Democrat councillors representing Whickham North are pressing for the grassed area on Milton Road to be returfed. The call was made by Councillor Chris Ord who has been contacted by residents about the state of the green area.

The site was used to house portacabins used during recent work by Gateshead Housing Company on local houses. The work has now been completed and the cabins have gone.

“When it rains, the grassed areas look more like a battlefield than a lawn,” said Chris. “So we are asking for the area to be returfed.”

Photo: Flashback to March 2006, Councillors Peter Craig and Chris Ord at the lawn churned up on Milton Road, Whickham. Now that work has finished on neighbouring houses, they want the lawn returfed.

Off licence application withdrawn

An application for an off licence at 94 Oakfield Road, Whickham, has been withdrawn. The shop is currently used for selling fireplaces. A large number of local residents had previously objected to the application.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Bus reregulation welcomed

The government announcement that bus services will be reregulated has been welcomed by a leading Liberal Democrat in the North East.

Dr Jonathan Wallace, Councillor for Whickham South and Sunniside in Gateshead, said the reversal in policy would go some way towards addressing the problems caused by recent bus service cutbacks.

Currently, bus service levels and routes are decided by bus companies and local councils had only a very minimal control over some routes. Ministers have today announced plans to bring management of services more directly under public control.

“My own ward has suffered a large reduction in services, especially in Sunniside village,” said Dr Wallace.

“These have created considerable problems for residents, many of whom feel cut off as a result of the changes and cuts.

“We as councillors had no control over these changes. I am instinctively against unnecessary government or council intervention but on such an important service as bus services, there is a strong case for regulation to ensure a wider public service continues.

“It’s a pity it has taken 9 years for the government to do something about this. Back in 2000, Liberal Democrat MPs were battling the government to ensure there was more regulation of bus services as part of the Transport Bill then going through Parliament.

“Unfortunately, our calls fell on deaf Labour ears. Years later government ministers are having to return to sort out the mess that should have been cleaned up years ago.”

Dr Wallace has recently carried out a survey of over 1200 households in his ward about the impact of bus service changes.