Friday, December 21, 2007

Post Office appeals against planning decision

A VILLAGE post office in Gateshead is calling on residents to back an appeal against a decision by the Council to block a proposal for an automatic cash machine to be installed.

Sunniside Post Master Paul Mein, and the village’s local Liberal Democrat Councillor, Jonathan Wallace, are urging residents to back the appeal to ensure the branch remains open.

Gateshead Council rejected the plans for the cash machine in June, claiming the road was too busy. The planning committee also said it was not appropriate to put the cash machine in the post office as it was next to a pedestrian crossing.

But over 200 residents signed a petition backing the application and there was widespread surprise in Sunniside when the plans were thrown out.

Mr Mein said, “We have a petition in the branch so that people can show their support for the Post Office.

“The cash machine is important to securing the future of the branch and it will be a boost to the village as it will be the only free to use, 24 hour cash machine in Sunniside.

“Customers have been coming into the branch to tell us how surprised they are at the Council’s decision and we have already collected hundreds of signatures.”

Councillor Jonathan Wallace said, “This was a very odd decision by the planning committee to reject the application. There are many busy front streets on Tyneside and many have cash machines in them, next to pedestrian crossings.

“The cash machine will also help Sunniside’s branch survive. This is especially important at a time when the government has taken away so much business from the Post Office network.

“The decision taken in June defies logic. So I am pleased to be able to support the appeal and will be doing all I can to show to Planning Inspectors that the decision should be overturned and the machine installed.”

Attached: photo of Post Master Paul Mein and Councillor Jonathan Wallace outside Sunniside Post Office holding a banner backing the Post Office appeal.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Councillors’ walkabouts a success

LIBERAL Democrat Councillors representing Sunniside and Swalwell on Gateshead Council have carried out walkabouts in the two villages to look at issues and concerns raised by residents.

The councillors advertised the walkabouts in their regular ward newsletters and their email newsletter, and asked residents to send in their ideas on what should be visited on the walkabouts which were carried out on Saturday mornings on 10th and 17th November.

“We carried out a similar exercise in June in Whickham village which went very well,” said Councillor Mary Wallace. “So we wanted to extend them to Sunniside and Swalwell.

“As a result of the suggestions that came in from residents, we had a long list of issues to look into. We therefore had full mornings looking into issues such as blocked paths, unsafe structures, flower beds and so on.

“We are currently taking up the issues raised with the Council’s officers.”

Residents of Gateshead throwing away twice war time food rations!

LIBERAL Democrats in Gateshead are backing a campaign to encourage people to cut food waste after learning that 22,000 tonnes of food are thrown away each year by local residents.

Most of the food is usable but instead of ending up on the dinner plate, it ends up in landfill sites.

Environmental campaign group Waste and Resource Action Programme (WRAP) revealed that the UK bins 6.7 million tonnes of food a year – 112kg per person.

“The figures for the amount of perfectly good food we throw away are quite shocking,” said Councillor Jonathan Wallace. “They show that most people throw away more than their own body weight in perfectly good food each year.

“Liberal Democrats did some calculations to illustrate just how wasteful society now is with food. Sixty years ago, at the end of the 2nd World War, most foods were rationed.

“An adult was entitled to 200 grams of sugar, 100 grams of preserves, 200 grams of fats, 50 grams of cheese, 100 grams of bacon and 50 grams of tea a week. The total weight was 700 grams though that excludes 2 other products that were rationed but not weighed – one egg and 2 pints of milk a week.

“In a year, basic weighed rations were 36kg. That means we now throw away more than twice the basic rations people survived on sixty years ago.

“WRAP has found that nine out of ten people are currently not aware of the quantity of food they throw out but when it is brought to their attention, most want to do something about it.

“There are some basic ways to avoid food waste which WRAP recommend people adopt. For example, work out what food you need and write a shopping list, rather than making choices when going around the supermarket. People can also make more use of their fridge, freezer or air tight boxes rather than leaving food out in the open where it goes off quicker.

“Residents of Gateshead spend £133 each on food that is thrown away each year. That’s £133 each person on average throws into a landfill site.

“The amount of waste people produce is a growing problem. It costs council tax payer a large amount to collect and then dispose of the waste. And in landfill sites, waste food rots and gives off methane, a strong greenhouse gas that is causing global warming.

“We each have to play our part in protecting the environment. By avoiding wasting food, we can save money as well!”

Liberal Democrats have produced a handy list of ideas on how to cut food waste and reduce kitchen waste going to rubbish dumps. The list includes:

1)Plan what you need and make a shopping list – that way you buy what you need and avoid buying too much of what you don’t need (assuming you keep to your shopping list).

2)Store food in air tight containers or in the fridge, rather than out in the open.

3)Make meals from left over vegetables such as soups or broth. These can be frozen for later use if necessary.

4)Use unused fruit to make jams, chutneys and relishes.

5)Some left over foods can be used to make puddings, such as fruit and bread.

6)Left over cooked vegetables can be reused in meals such as vegetable curries or bubble and squeak.

7)Put peelings, cores and other waste foods that can’t be cooked into a compost bin.

MP for Blaydon denies people a vote on Europe

Liberal Democrats in Blaydon are calling on Labour MP David Andersonto explain to local residents why he voted to stop the people having their say on Europe.

Labour and the Conservatives voted together on Wednesday 14th November to deny the public a crucial vote on whether or not the UK should remain in the European Union. A Liberal Democrat amendment to the Queen's Speech laid out proposals for a referendum on the UK's continued membership of the European Union.

Local Liberal Democrat campaigner Jonathan Wallace said, “Labour and the Tories have rejected our call for the public to vote on the UK's membership of the European Union. David Anderson joined with the Labour and Conservative leadership to block the people from having their say.

“Membership of the European Union is hugely positive for Britain. Cheaper goods, better environmental protection, increased freedom to work and live abroad, and a stronger framework for tackling international crime are just some of the benefits. But the EU has changed beyond recognition since we last had a referendum in 1975. No member of the public under the age of fifty has had the opportunity to vote on the crucial cumulative changes that have taken place over the last few decades.

“The case for a referendum to endorse, or reject, Britain’s membership of this very different European Union is overwhelming and the Liberal Democrats will be proud to lead the pro-Europe case."

Councillor Peter Maughan said, “It is disappointing that Labour and Conservatives joined forces to defeat the call for the people to have a referendum. David Anderson must now explain to the people of Blaydon constituency why he has denied them a say.”

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Photos from the Whickham Remembrance Parade - 11th November 2007

Call on Labour to "clean up" their act!

Anyone remember the story that did the rounds earlier this year that Whickham School was about to be replaced with a brand new school?

It came about because Labour in the local elections claimed a new school was about to be built. No plans have been put into place yet for a new school!

Or how about the claim Labour opposed building flats on the site of Fellside Road garage? A few weeks later they voted to give planning permission for housing there.

Maybe you remember the claims that the Labour Party are supposed to be opposed to car parking charges in Whickham? (Labour made the claim after having voted to bring in the charges!)

And in the past few weeks, Labour have completely made up a story about Lib Dem run Newcastle Council, claiming a recycling scheme was introduced, immediately abandoned and millions wasted. The whole claim was a work of fiction.

These are some of the growing number ridiculous of Labour's claims in the Whickham area. So local Lib Dem councillors are calling on Labour to "clean up their act". Complete with brooms, mops, pinnies and feather dusters, Councillors Chris Ord, Peter Craig and Mary Wallace have dressed up to give Labour the clean up message!

"We thought we would give a light hearted response to Labour's unbelievable claims," said Peter. "But there is a serious point as well. Labour spin is out of control. Their claims just get more and more extreme.

"When we read the story they had made up about Newcastle's Lib Dem Council's recycling plans (see opposite) we felt it was time for them to come clean.

"So come on Labour, clean up your act now and stop making ridiculous claims!"

Whickham Police and Community Forum

The next meeting of the Police and Community Forum will be held on Tuesday 20th November at 7pm in Whickham Library. Residents are welcome to attend to raise crime and policing issues with the Area Commander and other senior police officers.

Fellside Road, Whickham

The tragic accident earlier this week on Fellside Road has focused attention again on the dangers of this road and how they can be reduced.

The accident, on the evening of Tuesday 6th November, happened between The Woodmans and the entrance to the Golf Club.

The road currently has national speed restrictions (60mph) in place from the edge of Whickham to the Pack Horse at Burnopfield.

The accident record of the road - 22 accidents involving injury over the last 5 years, 4 of which resulted in a fatality – had already led Gateshead Council to review the road conditions.

A traffic and speed management review of Fellside Road has been underway for several months. Proposals being looked at include extra signing and roadmarking to raise awareness of the Golf Club and farm entrances and better warning signs of bends. Where possible it is also intended to install reflective verge marker posts to mark out the edge of carriageway around the outside of certain bends.

The review is also looking at the existing speed limit, taking into account national guidelines, the character of the road, the traffic and speed survey information and the accident history.

In recent years various measures have been introduced along the road including renewal of roadmarkings, upgrading of bend warning signs and the introduction of two sections of anti skid surfacing onto bends which were considered particularly vulnerable.

Your local councillors have raised on a number of occasions (including by Councillor Marilynn Ord in October) the need to look at safety on this road and the introduction of a lower speed limit. We are continuing to raise this matter and will keep residents in touch with progress.

If you have any concerns you wish to raise with us about this road, please feel free to do so by replying to this email.

Remembrance Day Parade Whickham November 2007

The Remembrance Day Parade and Service in Whickham was held on Sunday 11th November. Wreathes were laid by Councillors Jonathan Wallace, Allison Chatto and Peter Craig, and by various uniformed organisations.

Elysium Lane housing plans

Gateshead Council have received a planning application to build 20 houses on the site of the former Social Club on Elysium Lane in Bensham.

Bensham’s historic church sold

The landmark St Cuthberts Church on Bensham Bank has been sold by the Church Commissioners to the American based St Stephen The Great Charitable Trust.

The historic landmark has been sold for £100, reflecting the state of the building which is suffering from structural problems and vandalism. The building needs considerable investment to bring it back into use.

The nineteenth century church was designed by the famous Victorian North East architect John Dobson.

The Church Commissioners were keen to see the building continue to be used as a church. Work on restoring the building is expected to take a year.

The sale of the church has been wlecomed by local Liberal Democrat campaigners Susan Craig and Peter Andras.

Photo: Peter Andras and Susan Craig outside St Cuthbert's Church in Bensham. They have welcomed the sale of the church as a way of saving the landmark.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Tyne View School to become children’s centre

Gateshead Council’s decision-making cabinet has agreed to convert Tyne View Primary School into a children’s centre.

The centre will include early years services, play facilities, family centre staff, a food co-op and an adventure playground.

It will also provide services for disabled children including pre-school childcare for children with special needs.

The work to convert the building will cost £1.3 million. Closure of the school was controversial in the Teams but the new facility is expected to open by the end of 2008.

Gateshead Town Centre demolition begins

The first stage of demolition to make way for the redevelopment of Gateshead town centre has started. The old telephone exchange on Lambton Street was demolished on 6th November.

The original demolition date for the “Get Carter” car park was November though this has now been moved back. The Gateshead Indoor Market will now close on 11th January 2008.
You can view our video about he demolition of the car park on the following link: Get Carter Car Park to be demolished

Lobley Hill sign

Liberal Democrat campaigners in Lobley Hill are to write to Gateshead Council to raise again the issue of there being no sign to show people they are entering Lobley Hill. Earlier this year they had written to the Government’s Highways Agency to ask for Lobley Hill to be signposted, so far without success.

“People visiting Lobley Hill often miss the A1 turnoff or drive straight through Lobley Hill without realising they are here as there is no sign,” said Peter Andras.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Lib Dem Christmas Fayre

Liberal Democrats in Gateshead will be holding their Christmas Fayre on Saturday 1st December 10:00 am -1:00 pm at Whickham Community Centre.

Stalls include crafts, local art, home made jams, jewellry, tombola, cakes and more.

Refreshments including mince pies, tea and coffee available.

Adults 20p, children 10p (free if you're wearing a Santa hat!)
All welcome!

Contact Susan Craig, 0191 4880787, for further details.

One year on and pollution still threatens Gateshead - Liberal Democrats

LIBERAL Democrats in Gateshead have given the government one out of ten for their environmental record and have warned that local residents will suffer from more extreme weather if action is not taken to tackle pollution.

In a message from Liberal Democrats to residents in Gateshead to mark the first anniversary of the publication of the Stern Report – a major study into the dangers posed by pollution leading to global climate change – Councillor Jonathan Wallace said,

“Last year the Stern Report highlighted the huge dangers we face if action is not taken to cut the pollution we are causing.

“One of the biggest causes of global warming is carbon dioxide. Changing weather patterns have a huge impact on our local environment, leading to serious problems such as the severe storms and the record rainfall we have experienced in our area this year. Yet we are producing more and more carbon dioxide all the time.

“The response to the Stern report by the government was at first positive. But ministers have failed to carry through any big policies needed to tackle climate change and global warming. And in some areas they have gone into reverse.

“Since Gordon Brown became Prime Minister, the government have watered down plans to generate more energy from clean, green sources. One of his first acts as Prime Minister was to downgrade the importance of a top cabinet committee on the environment.

“Meanwhile Brown has seen a coalition of important green groups, which includes Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and the World Wide Fund for Nature, pull out of the government's nuclear consultation, claiming that the ministers were distorting the evidence and that they are considering taking the Government to court again on the issue.

“And a decade under Brown as Chancellor saw the overall tax burden on pollution fall whilst that on incomes rose, making it cheaper to pollute.

“This is a sorry record on the environment from Labour. The Stern Report, praised by Mr Brown last year when it was published, is now gathering dust. The call for action is not being taken seriously by the Prime Minister or the Labour government.

“The situation however could have been much different. Mr Brown could have led the call for change to save the environment. His failure to do so will mean that areas such as Gateshead are likely to suffer as the freak weather and damage seen this year becomes the norm in the future.”

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Dunston Rocket set to go

Dunston’s landmark Rocket is facing demolition. News that the landmark 29 storey block could be pulled down was revealed in late October when it emerged that Gateshead Council, owners of the Rocket, were considering the radical step as a solution to the problems plaguing the building.

One other possible option is to sell the block, officially called Derwent Tower, to a developer. The Rocket opened 35 years ago and was the region’s first skyscraper.

It was designed by Owen Luder, the same architech who worked on the Gateshead Multi-Storey car park which is also facing demolition.

There are 196 flats in the Rocket but only 40 are now occupied. The building has suffered from problems with flooding, broken lifts and failing water supplies. Crime has also been an on going problem.

Dunston and Teams campaigner Michael Ruddy said, "The state of the building means it needs a radical solution. It would be great if a developer could buy it and revamp the whole block. But in the absence of that, the building will have to be demolished."

Dunston Hill Councillor Peter Maughan was born and raised in Dunston and remembers the Rocket block being built. "As a teenager we watched as it got higher and higher.

"At the time it seemed to be a great idea and was a symbol for Dunston. But it has suffered from major problems since and letting the flats has become more and more difficult."

Peter has fond memories of the area before it was developed in the late 1960s. His aunt had a drapers shop called Crutes which is on the site now occupied by the Rocket. "It was a very well known shop in Dunston at the time," said Peter.

Photo: Councillor Peter Maughan at the bottom of the Rocket. Gateshead Council are now looking at plans to demolish the 29 storey block.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Historic path visited in Sunniside

Whickham Councillors have carried out a site visit to one of the most historic routes in the Sunniside area.

Sandy Lonnen is a continuation of Hole Lane and extends from the junction of Hole Lane and Burnthouse Lane to Fellside Road.

Councillors Marilynn Ord, Mary Wallace and Jonathan Wallace visited the route on Friday 2nd November with Gateshead's Rights of Way Officer to look at issues about the state of the ground, flooding, fly tipping and general access.

The path is popular with people visiting Sunniside Park.

Photo: Councillors Mary Wallace, Marilynn Ord and Jonathan Wallace on Sandy Lonnen.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Residents surveyed on housing site

RESIDENTS of Whickham, Gateshead, have been asked for their views about the future of a garage site which is on a main road leading into the village.

The Whickham Motor Company site has been unoccupied for some time and now developers McCarthy and Stone have expressed an interest in using the site for housing for older people.

The company put their initial proposals on display in Whickham for residents to view on 16th October.

Local councillors Mary Wallace and Peter Craig are keen to encourage residents to give their views about the use of the site. So over the weekend they carried out a survey of residents living nearby.

Councillor Wallace said, “We felt it important that residents had the chance to tell us about the sort of development they would like to see there.

“Clearly the site cannot be left as it is as it will just deteriorate if left unused. This is a very prominent site in the village, near the top of Whickham Bank. So it is important that we have a quality development, in character with the area that people living nearby find acceptable.”

The replies received over the weekend are currently being analysed by Councillor Wallace.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Mast appeal rejected

An attempt by two major mobile phone companies to prevent an order requiring a phone mast to be removed has been thrown out by Planning Inspectors.

O2 and Vodaphone had built the mast at the Glebe Sports Ground, in Whickham, Gateshead, without the correct planning permission. They had appealed against an order from Gateshead Council to remove the mast.

But last week, Government Planning Inspectors reached a decision that the mast was a "dominant and overbearing structure" particularly for those living close by. The two companies now have four months to take down the mast.

“The decision that the mast must be removed was the right one,” said local Liberal Democrat Councillor Mary Wallace. “It was too big a structure to be so close to people’s homes and it was built without the proper permission.”

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Labour sharpens axe for Post Offices

Labour have started to sharpen the axe as the government finalises plans to close one in every five Post Offices. No area of the country will be save from Labour's Post Office massacre.
The closure plans were pushed through by Labour ministers despite claims that Labour support keeping branches open.

Officials will be deciding which of our local branches here in Gateshead are to be axed in the spring next year.

Liberal Democrats throughout Gateshead have collected over 3000 signatures on a petition to the government calling on ministers to abandon their plans.

But in a sign of things to come, Labour in Gateshead have already been making life difficult for local Post Office branches. Shortly after this year’s elections, Labour councillors voted to stop a Post Office in the borough installing a cash machine. The postmaster has informed us that as a result, the future of the branch in doubt.

Lib Dem campaigner Susan Craig said, "Post Offices are at the heart of many communities but Labour are demolishing the network branch by branch. Next year Labour will announce which branches are to close in Gateshead. Liberal Democrats will continue to fight these closure plans."

Photo: Lib Dem campaigner Susan Craig opposes Labour's plans to close every 5th Post Office.

Lobley Hill safe from coal lorries - for now

LIBERAL Democrat councillors who fought plans for a huge opencast mine that would have seen 100 heavy coal lorries a day passing through Lobley Hill have welcomed the decision of the applicant to withdraw their appeal.

Halls of Durham had applied for planning permission to opencast a site at Skons Park, next to the historic Gibside estate.

If granted, 100 heavy lorries would have travelled to the site every weekday.

But the planning application was refused by Gateshead Council after a huge campaign by residents, campaign groups and local Lib Dem councillors.

Halls had appealed to the government’s planning inspectors to overturn the decision and a public inquiry was due to take place in the autumn. But now the appeal has been withdrawn, the inquiry will no longer go ahead.

Lib Dem campaigner Susan Craig said, "It is likely that Halls must have seen that their appeal would not survive the scrutiny of a public inquiry.

"It is unfortunate that Halls have put local councils and the planning inspectorate to such trouble. After all that, they have now accepted that their planning application was inadequate and lacked necessary information.

"However, that was always obvious to those who campaigned against this application and to Gateshead Council’s Planning Department.

"This however is not the end of the story. It is likely that Halls will submit a new application later this year. Those who fought this application last time are, I am sure, ready to do battle again."

The campaign against the opencast plans was led by local Liberal Democrats. Councillor Jonathan Wallace wrote the petition against the application and handed in thousands of signatures to Gateshead council opposing the application.

There are concerns that Labour may back more opencast mining in the future. A debate in Parliament led by the Labour MP for Blaydon in 2005 resulted in the government minister expressing concern that not enough coal was being dug out by opencast companies.
Photo: Susan Craig, left, joins Lobley Hill resident Nigel Evans, North East England Lib Dem Euro MP Fiona Hall and Councillor Yvonne McNicol from Dunston Hill, to warn about the dangers of opencast lorries at the top of Lobley Hill.

Government ‘smash and grab’ plan on Gateshead schools slammed by Lib Dems

LIBERAL Democrats in Gateshead have warned that a proposal by the government to take away cash reserves that local schools have built up will damage children’s education.

The government have put out for consultation a proposal to siphon off 5% of the cash held in reserve in school budgets. Many schools build up reserves to invest in new equipment or as cover for a rainy day.

Dunston Hill and Whickham East Councillor, Peter Maughan, said, “Frankly, I am amazed the government can even think of doing this. Taking money from school budgets in this way is little more than a smash and grab on careful schools that have planned for the future. The effect could be felt by many school children in Gateshead.

“The government claims the money will be given back to councils to spend on education. My fear is that all they want to do is claim they are spending lots of new money on education when the reality is the government is spending the same money twice.

“This proposal by the government should be dropped immediately. The money built up by schools in Gateshead should stay with the schools for the benefit of children.”

Monday, October 22, 2007

NHS dentistry "rotting away"

NHS dentistry is rotting away under Labour and thousands of residents in Gateshead are finding it extremely difficult to access an NHS dentist, claim local Liberal Democrats.

Councillor Jonathan Wallace met Shadow Health Secretary Norman Lamb MP at the party’s recent conference in Brighton and told him about the problems some residents were having with the lack of NHS dentists.

"The conference debated the neglect of NHS dentistry by the government," said Jonathan. "I have found this is a strong issue for many people when I have been out campaigning. Many residents are unable to access an NHS dentist, despite Labour’s promise eight years ago that everyone would have access to one.

"I was pleased to be able to meet Norman Lamb MP and raise local residents’ concerns with him."

Liberal Democrats agreed a package of reforms that would make it easier for people to get access to an NHS dentist. The plans would also see more done to prevent oral health problems. Liberal Democrats also voted to scrap dental check up charges.
Photo: Jonathan Wallace and Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for the Health Norman Lamb MP with a giant bad tooth representing the decay of NHS dentistry under Labour.

Whaggs Lane, Whickham

Following calls from residents, local councillors have intervened to ensure that the cut between Larksur Road and Whaggs Lane is kept neat and tidy.

Cllr Mary Wallace said "The area has been tidied up considerably last year, and has been strimmed again recently. We also have a new bin which I am very pleased to see people using, rather than dropping litter into the nearby bushes."

Rose Avenue, Whickham

Lib Dem councillors in Whickham North have coordinated a programme of work for the area at the bottom of Rose Avenue. Residents had complained that although the centre of the village looked beautiful again this year, there were one or two areas of Whickham that appeared to be have been temporarily forgotten.

Following this, local councillors investigated the situation to see what could be done.

"We are now pleased to report that Gateshead Housing company are to repair the fencing and Gateshead Council’s Local Environmental Services department are to cut back vegetation." said Cllr Peter Craig. "Work is due to start at the beginning of November."

Clean up for Rectory Hall Estate

Councillors have asked for the Rectory Hall estate in Whickham to be cleaned up after a recent visit which was accompanied by Council officers.

Cllr Chris Ord said, "We have asked for the flower beds to be weeded, for some attention to be given to some of the trees on the estate and for the sign on Rectory Hall itself to be repaired."
Photo: Rectory Hall Estate

Whickham Mast Appeal Awaited

PLANNING inspectors have now carried out the inquiry into the appeal over the installation of a phone mast at the Glebe Sports Ground.

"Our thanks go to the planning officers from Gateshead who put the case of the council and local residents opposed to the continued presence of the mast," said Councillor Mary Wallace.

Residents may recall that the mast was not built to the original planning permission granted by Gateshead Council.

The appeal will decide whether or not the mast can remain in place. However, a result is not expected for up to seven weeks following the appeal.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Call to withdraw “inaccurate and misleading” recycling claims

Liberal Democrat Councillors in Gateshead are calling on Labour to withdraw allegations they have made about Liberal Democrat run Newcastle Council.

Labour council candidates Peter de Vere and Elaine Dobson have circulated a leaflet in the Whickham area which lays into their Lib Dem opponents, claiming millions have been wasted on a recycling scheme that had to be abandoned across the river in Newcastle.

They allege, “In a classic case of putting the (waste) cart before the horse, LibDems in Newcastle rushed through a policy which they have had to reverse after committing huge resources and wasting millions.”

But City Council leader Councillor John Shipley, in a special message to the residents of Whickham, has stated that Labour’s claims are incorrect.

Councillor Shipley said, “Labour are wrong - there has been no reverse and no cost to the Council at all.”

And he went on to explain, “Under the Liberal Democrats, Newcastle will have weekly ordinary waste collections from all homes plus a fortnightly recyclable collection (paper, cardboard, plastic, tin, fabrics and glass in a single wheelie bin - glass in a separate drawer to avoid breakages) from most homes plus garden waste from half of homes fortnightly.”

Whickham Councillor Jonathan Wallace is leading the charge against Labour’s claims.

He said, “Liberal Democrat Newcastle is introducing a recycling scheme that is light years ahead of Labour Gateshead.

“There have been no policy reverses resulting in millions being wasted. Labour have simply made the story up.

“At a time when Labour are mired in controversy over spin, in Gateshead Labour are spinning out of control. I have written to Mr de Vere and Ms Dobson to ask them to withdraw their claims.

“I have even offered them the opportunity to have a retraction included in our Focus community newsletters. I await their reply.”

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Deans Close

Councillors in Whickham have handed in a petition on behalf of Deans Close residents, relating to a cut between nearby garages. The area is being used as a gathering place for anti-social behaviour and the residents have requested that the path be closed.

Cllr Mary Wallace said "The cut is classified as a Public Right of Way at the moment, and we are awaiting a response from Council officers."

Swalwell roundabout

After a long delay due to officers' concerns about utilities under the site, work on Swalwell roundabout has now been completed.

Cllr Mary Wallace said: 'For a long time, we have worked to get something done about this multi-junction roundabout to improve its safety and flow of traffic. We are pleased that the improvements have now taken place.

“However we will continue to press for more necessary measures here and in other parts of the Whickham area to ensure the safety of residents and those passing through.”

Your councillors have also successfully objected to the erection of advertising hoardings near the Swalwell roundabout and had them removed along Hexham Road.

'These were a dangerous distraction for drivers turning out from Whickham Bank' said Cllr Peter Craig.

Mary, Peter and Councillor Chris Ord are pressing in particular for safer crossings points to be installed on Whickham/Swalwell Bank. They are hoping to meet with
safety officers soon to pursue this matter.

Congestion in the area is big problem. At Swalwell Bridge roundabout it is particularly bad. “We realize that improvements here will be very expensive,' said Mary. “However we will continue to press to have this work done to benefit people in the west of the Borough as well as Whickham/Swalwell area.”

Sunniside and Swalwell walkabouts

The Sunniside walkabout with Councillors Jonathan Wallace and Alan and Marilynn Ord will take place at 10am on Saturday 10th November. If residents would like to join them on the walkabout, please meet outside Jonathan’s house, 7 Laburnum Grove, Sunniside at 10am.

You can tell the ward councillors what you want them to look at – you can do so by emailing Councillors will put together a schedule from the suggestions people send them.

The date of the Swalwell walkabout has been fixed for 10am on Saturday 17th November. If you would like to join Councillors Mary Wallace, Peter Craig and Chris Ord, meet next to the Swalwell roundabout. You can also send them suggestions about what you want them to look at - email them on at the above address.

Councillors press for funding for villages

Since June, the nine Whickham Liberal Democrat councillors have been working hard to secure extra funding for Whickham village. This follows concerns from residents that although other areas in Gateshead seem to be improving, Whickham is gradually falling behind in terms of funding.

On Saturday 23rd June, the nine councillors held ward walkabouts in Whickham Village. They had previously asked residents (by email) to suggest areas that they should concentrate on, mainly in the centre of Whickham. They also invited residents to join them on the walks. On the walks, they made notes of issues and then followed these up with council officers.

More recently in September, ward councillors from Whickham met with the Council’s Chief Executive, Leader and Deputy Leader in the centre of the village. At the meeting, they requested funding in three main areas; paving, street furniture and some redesign of the centre area.

There are a number of uneven, loose and broken flagstones and the area is badly in need of repaving after many years of patching, mainly by utility companies. There has been another beautiful floral display this year, but councillors have also requested extra funding for street furniture as it is badly in need of replacement.

Finally, they have asked for some limited redesign to be carried out to deal with some aspects of anti-social behaviour. All of these requests will rely on budget, but the requests have now been added to a list of specific requests for the Whickham area, known as ward based schemes.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

New Scholars’ Bus Services

New scholars’ bus services have been introduced to relieve pressure on existing services. The new 898 and 896 services are for school children travelling to Whickham School from Dunston.

The 898 service starts from Park Terrace at 8.35 am, goes via the Dun Cow (8.40am), top of Knightside Gardens (8.43am) and arrives at Whickham School at 8.50am.

The 896 will start at Whickham School at 3.15pm and travel via Kingsway/Gladeley Way, Sunniside (3.25pm), Sun Street, Sunniside, (3.30pm), Lobley Hill (3.35pm), top of Knightside Gardens (at 3.37pm), Dun Cow (3.45pm) and Dunston Road (at 3.50pm).

A new scholars journey, service 894 began operating on Monday 1st October, starting at Winlaton Bus Station at 07.45. It will assist students to travel to both Whickham School and Emmanuel College travelling via Parkhead, Blaydon Bank, Blaydon Bus Station, Swalwell, North View, Whickham Front St, Lobley Hill to Emmanuel College.

It will also have the advantage of freeing up the 69 service for residents travelling to work at that time, as around 40 school children are currently using the service.

"These scholars services will take a lot of the pressure off existing bus services," said Cllr Peter Maughan. “I am pleased we have made some progress with the bus company though we are continuing discussions on a range of problems with other bus services."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Government forcing up council tax in Gateshead - Liberal Democrats

LIBERAL Democrats in Gateshead have warned that council tax could rocket over the next three years because of the government’s decision to squeeze the cash given to councils.

For every pound spent by councils, on average, 75p of it comes from central government as part of a cash grant to help pay for local services. But the government’s spending plans for the next three years, called the Comprehensive Spending Review, will slam on the brakes and massively restrict the money Whitehall based ministers give to councils.

Liberal Democrats in the borough have warned that Gateshead Council may be forced by the spending decision of the Labour government to increase council tax well above inflation.

Whickham North Councillor Mary Wallace said, “Labour’s spending plans are based on council tax rising at double the rate of inflation over the next three years. That will mean big council tax increases for resident of Gateshead.

“Labour have no plans to reform council tax, the unfairest tax in the country. The Conservatives will also keep council tax. But Labour are making a bad situation worse by forcing up council tax by more than inflation.

“This is bad news in particular for the elderly residents of Gateshead who have fixed incomes or who saved all their lives and as a result are refused council tax benefit.

“Council tax is a rotten system and needs to be replaced with by a fair system based on ability to pay, not used to bail out Labour’s Whitehall cash black hole.”

Election’s off, but Liberal Democrats in Gateshead promise to keep on campaigning

LIBERAL Democrats in Gateshead have announced they will carry on with their local campaigning despite the decision of the Prime Minister not to hold an election this autumn.

Local Liberal Democrat campaigners have been delivering newsletters and calling on local residents throughout the summer and early autumn. They have recently delivered over 4000 survey forms about recycling as well as over 20,000 copies of their regular Focus newsletter.

Jonathan Wallace, Councillor for Whickham South and Sunniside, said, “The Liberal Democrats are not just around when there is an election coming up. We campaign all year round.

“Gordon Brown ramped up expectation of an autumn election and only backed off when he realised his majority in Parliament would disappear.”

Dunston Hill and Whickham East Councillor Peter Maughan said, “The Liberal Democrats will keep on campaigning. While the other parties close down for the winter following Mr Brown’s announcement, the Liberal Democrats are already hard at work writing our next community newsletters to keep residents in touch with what is happening in Gateshead.”

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Dog Fouling, Fellside Field, Whickham

Problems with dog fouling in the Fellside Park, Whickham, area could soon be a thing of the past. Many dog walkers using the school field act responsibly and bag the dog waste. However, due to the lack of bins in the area, some dog walkers have been throwing their wrapped waste into nearby bushes.

This has led to concerns by those residents who live close to the area. However following intervention by your local councillors, dog wardens have been patrolling the area recently advising people of the health issues and warning them of the penalty; which could be a fine of £50.

A bin has also been ordered for the area, between Parkway and Corsair.
Photo: two of the locations around Fellside Field where dog fouling has been a problem.

Over 800 replies to recycling survey

Over 800 replies have been received so far to the Liberal Democrats survey on recycling - and there are still a few hundred homes that have not yet received their survey forms!

Councillor Peter Maughan said, "We are currently analysing the replies and will publish the replies when the survey is completed."

The survey has been carried out so far in Dunston, Teams, Streetgate, Marley Hill, Byermoor and large parts of Whickham and Sunniside.

Photo: Councillor Peter Maughan with some of the replies to the survey on recycling Liberal Democrats are carrying out.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Whinnies Community Garden Restoration, Sunniside

Councillor Jonathan Wallace interviews Brenda Cawton, manager of the Whinnies Care Home in Sunniside, about the restoration of the nearby allotments and their conversion into a community garden for people with learning disabilities.

Councillor backs Sunniside community garden

A project to renovate derelict allotments in Sunniside and convert them into a community garden for people with learning disabilities has been welcomed by the village's local councillor, Jonathan Wallace.

Jonathan visited the allotments at the Whinnies, a care home for 3 gentlemen with learning disabilities on Sunday 7th October. He was shown around by the home's manager Brenda Cawton.

Brenda is hoping to encourage Sunniside residents to help renovate the three allotments and plant bulbs and flowers. She has already gained some funding from local charities and Gateshead Council.

The Probation Service has also been involved in clearing the paths and much of the site.

Anyone wanting to become involved can call Brenda on 0191 4960418.

Top photo: Councillor Jonathan Wallace and Brenda Cawton on the restored garden. The other photos were taken around the garden.

Photos from the unveiling of the plaque in Lotties Wood, Sunniside

The plaque marking the discovery of two bell pits on Lotties Wood, between Sunniside and Streetgate, was unveiled on Saturday 6th October. Councillors Alan and Marilynn Odd and Jonathan Wallace attended as the ward councillors for the area.

Unveiling of plaque marking bell pits, Sunniside

A plaque marking the discovery of two bell pits at Lotties Wood between Sunniside and Streetgate was unveiled on Saturday 6th October.

Friday, October 05, 2007

"Buy It Naked" say Gateshead Lib Dems

Liberal Democrats from Gateshead have welcomed a motion passed at the party’s conference in September to tackle excess packaging.

They say that Liberal Democrat plans to help consumers and retailers to ‘Buy It Naked’ would dramatically lessen the growing waste burden.

Britain’s total domestic waste is up 21% since 1997, while household recycling has increased from 6% to 23%. Packaging from food products and other household items accounts for 17% of the average home’s food budget.

While the Government has failed to meet the demands of an EU Directive passed to set targets for waste reduction, the Liberal Democrats have been labelled by an independent body as the greenest party in UK politics.

North East Euro MP Fiona Hall said, "Packaging accounts for around 5 million tonnes of waste per year. Considering total domestic waste in Britain is currently around 26 million tonnes per year, it is plain to see that packaging makes up a very significant contribution to the UK’s waste problem."

Councillor Jonathan Wallace said, "There is as much packaging used in the distribution process as there is from the shop to the consumer, but this is hidden because the consumer never sees it: the shop has to dispose of it."

Commenting on measures such as these that help customers to ‘BUY IT NAKED’, Fiona Hall said, "Supermarkets give away more than 17 billion plastic bags each year. Simple action to reduce the amount of plastic bags given away would have an immediate positive effect."
Photo: instead of using disposable carrier bags, Lib Dems Jonathan Wallace and Fiona Hall MEP want shops to make it easier for people to use reusable bags and cut down on packaging.

Mast at Whickham Glebe Sports Club, Whickham

When this mast was erected it was found it did not comply with the original planning application granted for the site. Council planning enforcement officers asked the companies responsible to dismantle the mast after complaints from both your councillors and residents.

However a retrospective planning application was then made for “the removal of an existing floodlight tower and erection of new 20 metre high telecommunications mast to accommodate 4 floodlights, 3 Vodofone antennae and 3 O2 antennae together with two equipment cabins at the base”.

This application was turned down by the Council at a meeting on 18th October 2006 and the council again prepared to take enforcement action.

However councilors have been informed that an appeal has now been lodged with the Secretary of State against the council’s decision by O2 (UK) Ltd and Vodafone Ltd. The Glebe Club have also appealed.

The Appeal is being dealt with by way of an informal hearing before a Planning Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State. This will be held on Tuesday 9th October at 10:00 a.m. at Room 3, Development and Enterprise, Civic Centre, Regent Street, Gateshead.

Residents are entitled to attend the hearing. Facilities for the disabled are available.
Photo: Councillors Mary Wallace and Peter Craig next to the mast over which an appeal has been lodged.

Illegal Swalwell signs removed

Your councillors have also successfully objected to the erection of advertising hoardings near the Swalwell roundabout and had them removed along Hexham Road.

'These were a dangerous distraction for drivers turning out from Whickham Bank' said Cllr Peter Craig.
Photo: Cllr Peter Craig next to the sign in Swalwell that has now been removed.

Play equipment at Crookhill and Stargate, Ryton

The wooden climbing frame has been removed from the playground because it has become unsafe. As the area has very little in the way of outdoor equipment, local Lib Dem councillors are pushing hard for replacement equipment to be installed.

Morrisons given go ahead in Blaydon

Gateshead Council has given the go ahead to plans for a giant new Morrisons store in Blaydon.

The plans will see big changes to the existing centre. The library, council offices and health centre will be demolished and rebuilt at no cost to the council. They will be rebuilt on the bank overlooking the car park, currently home to some trees and grassed area. There will also be a refurbishment of existing shops in the precinct.

There will also be a new petrol station built on the site of the old one next to the site.
Whilst the refurbishment of the town centre is welcome, the sheer scale of the new store has raised concerns - it will be of similar size to the giant Asda store at the Metrocentre.

Firstly, there are worries about whether there will be sufficient car parking.
Secondly, the impact on smaller shops such as those in Winlaton could be considerable. There needs to be a balanced approach and if one major development leads to another town centre being sucked dry, little overall has been gained.

A smaller Morrisons local Lib Dems feel would have been more appropriate.

New school building opens in Highfield

A new building housing both Highfield Community School and Highfield St Joseph Roman Catholic School has been completed and is now open.

Though the two schools will remain separate, they will share some facilities such as the information technology and reception areas.

The building was opened by the Mayor Councillor David Lynn and by the Right Reverend Kevin Dunn, Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle.

High Spen: Chopwell Wood Road

Councillors Brenda Osborne and Andrew Graham arranged a meeting with officers and residents to discuss concerns about traffic on this road. Since then, officers have measured vehicle speeds on the road.

Possible solutions include replacing the current 30mph signs with larger ones and adding “No Through Road” signs as sat navs are directing drivers along the road - it is not a through route! Speed humps will be discussed with Friends of the Woods and Forest Enterprises.

The separation of pedestrians and horses from the road via a link to the “right of way” east of Chopwell Cottage and joining the footpath south of Beechwood will also be considered.

Residents and landowners will be consulted and officers will look at ways of raising the funding needed to pay for the improvements.

Taxibus service for Winlaton Mill

Following the ending by Go North East bus company of the 41 and 42 bus services between Winlaton Mill and Winlaton, Tyne and Wear public transport body Nexus has stepped in with a replacement Taxibus service.

Called the TBxx, it will operate between Winlaton Mill and Blaydon via Winlaton Bus Station and the High Axwell area of the Hole in the Wall estate.

The taxibus will stop at bus stops and other safe places on the route. You just have to hail it to pick you up.

“We were concerned when the bus company announced the end of the 41 and 42 bus service to Winlaton Mill,” said Councillor Brenda Osborne.

“I’m keen that the new taxibus is a success for residents so please use it!”

Future Library Provision in Ryton

Following the closure of Ryton Library by Gateshead Council , work to secure alternative provision is continuing. Apart from the mobile library, it is hoped to make some library provision available at the Lanehead Methodist Church.

The Council has now looked into this and will be completing details with the Church soon. Local Lib Dem councillors are grateful to the Church for their co-operation and help in making all this possible. We hope everything goes well!

Councillor Ione Rippeth is arranging a meeting in the near future for the residents who were interested in being kept informed of developments.

Stella South Power Station site future

Plans for future developments on the Stella South Power Station site will be on display at Stella RC Primary School on Friday 5th October. At 6pm.

There are a number of traffic concerns about the development, particularly traffic on the B6317. Local residents and local Lib Dem councillors fought hard to avoid the alternative of industrial development on the site – and won! Many residents would have liked to see the site restored to grassland but unfortunately this was not an option.

However, Lib Dem councillors have asked for traffic lights, particularly at peak times, at the Blaydon roundabout, to ease congestion. This is now under consideration.

European Parliament call for Path Head dumping to be suspended

A campaign by Ryton and Blaydon residents to close down Path Head landfill site next to Blaydon is drawing nearer to success after a hearing in the European Parliament.

Labour run Gateshead Council gave the go-ahead to rubbish dumping at the site despite strong local opposition and concerns about the health risks and the impact on local water courses.

A petition by local residents against dumping at the former Path Head Quarry was handed in to the European Parliament last year. The petition was backed by Liberal Democrat North East Member of the European Parliament Fiona Hall.

As a result, the European Parliament has recommended that dumping be suspended until representatives from the European Commission and the Environment Agency have visited the site.

Residents Against Rubbish campaigner, Daniel Grey was at the hearingof the Parliament’s petitions committtee that considered the Path Head issue. He said, “The petition received unbelievable support in the parliament. I explained that there have already been three breaches of their permit.

“Groundwater on the site is still a serious issue and this was fully recognised by the Parliament in their decision to recommend a suspension of work on the site.

“I look forward to hearing the findings of the European Commission and Environment Agency following their visit and to taking the campaign forward.”

Liberal Democrat MEP Fiona Hall has expressed continuing concerns over the safety of the site. She said, “There was strong evidence against the landfill site being allowed in the first place as there was no strategic environmental assessment.

“I am pleased that the European Parliament has recommended the site be closed. It is a step towards victory for the Path Head campaign.”

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Unemployment stays high in Dunston and Teams

Unemployment in Dunston and Teams ward in the most recent figures shows the number out of work and in receipt of Job Seekers Allowance remain amongst the highest in Gateshead at 289, or 8.9% of the working population.

The figures for August reveal that only one other ward in Gateshead, Bridges, has a higher unemployment rate (293 - 10.2%).

Whilst the Dunston and Teams ward shows a fall from August 2006, the rate is more than double the Gateshead average and over three times the national average.

The figures are not the full number of unemployed. The Labour government counts only those on Job Seekers Allowance when publishing local unemployment numbers. The actual number of people out of work is therefore much higher.

"This is a worrying figure," said Dunston and Teams Lib Dem campaigner Michael Ruddy. "It shows Labour's promise to bring in full employment has not reached our area."

Meanwhile, in Lobley Hill and Bensham ward, the August figures show the number of jobless people on Job Seekers Allowance at 229, or 5.5% of the working population. There has been no drop in the figures for the ward.

"Whilst the level is lower than in some other areas, the actual number is still too high," said Susan Craig from the Lobley Hill and Bensham Lib Dem Focus Team.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Local “historic buildings at risk”

English Heritage, the Government body tasked with overseeing England’s historic buildings, have published its “Historic Buildings At Risk Register” which includes a number of locations in the Whickham area.

The Register lists historic buildings that are in serious need of repair or renovating to avoid their being lost for ever. The aim is, over time, to reduce the number on the Register by renovating buildings and, where appropriate, bring them into some kind of use.

Gibside Hall

The most famous building on the Register in area is Gibside Hall. Great strides have been made in bringing the gardens and landscape back into use and the recent work on restoring the stable block has received widespread recognition.

The Hall itself however remains a roofless shell and a huge amount of remedial work needs to be done to protect and retain what is there.

Ravensworth Castle

There are two sections to Ravensworth Castle: the medieval towers and courtyard; and the Nash designed nineteenth century house. The two towers are still standing and the adjacent stable block is complete but roofless. The clock tower is still standing (minus the clock!)

The Nash house was largely demolished in the 1930s (then the war halted the area’s redevelopment) and further demolitions took place in the 1950s. Only one corner of the house now remains and is in a poor state.

A feasibility study for reuse of the stables and consolidation of the castle and house has been carried out by the North of England Civic Trust.

(You can visit Jonathan Wallace’s video of Ravensworth Castle on: Ravensworth Castle)

Dunston Staithes

The structure, which formed one of the features of the National Gateshead Garden Festival in 1990 was badly damaged by a fire in November 2003 when 8% of the building was destroyed.

A conservation plan and feasibility study into the future of the Staithes was drawn up in 2006. It is hoped that repairs will be carried out and public access to created.

Axwell Hall

The 18th century John Paine house near Blaydon is now in the ownership of a developer who is carrying out work to restore the building and convert it into apartments, planning permission for which was granted in 2006.

Hollinside Manor

This fortified manor house was first recorded in 1317. Due to the isolated position, it is vulnerable to vandalism. English Heritage has offered a grant towards repair and consolidation work which is expected to begin during 2007.

We’ll keep you informed of any further news on these buildings.
Photo: Axwell Hall in 2005, now undergoing renovation and conversion into apartments.

Services set for squeeze

Council services in Gateshead are set to come under pressure, claim Labour in the North East, as a result of their own government's decisions on spending.

And to add insult to injury, council tax could end up rising above inflation to pay for extra duties heaped on councils by government ministers.

With the government set to squeeze the amount of cash given to Gateshead to pay towards council services, Labour run Gateshead Council could turn to council tax payers to fill the spending gap.

Concessionary fares for the over 60s, increasing demand for social services for older people and a rise in the number of looked after children has left Gateshead Council with bigger bills to pay.

"The government is expecting councils to do more," said Councillor Peter Maughan, "but ministers are not giving Gateshead sufficient money to pay for these additional services.

"Even Labour councillors say their own government needs to change the way ministers share out cash to local councils."

"The Labour government's spending plans for the next 3 years however are likely to make matters worse here in Gateshead," said Dunston and Teams campaigner Michael Ruddy.

"Liberal Democrats have called for a review of the way money is shared out to ensure there is a fairer allocation when the government forces councils to run more services."

Cutting your "carbon footprint"

Radical plans to cut pollution that is leading to damaging climate change were agreed by the Liberal Democrats at their recent conference in Brighton.

Local Lib Dem Councillor Peter Maughan travelled to the conference to meet the party's shadow Secretary of Estate for the Environment, Chris Huhne MP. They discussed the plans to cut people's "carbon footprint" - the amount of pollution each person produced each year which is leading to climate change.

"This year we have suffered floods and extensive damage as a result of extreme weather," said Peter. "If no action is taken now, the freak weather will become the norm. We can't afford to let that happen."

Photo: Chris Huhne MP and Peter Maughan show that Lib Dem policies will lead to a smaller "carbon footprint".

One in five post offices in Gateshead to close under Labour

LIBERAL Democrats in Gateshead are warning that one in five local post offices will close if Labour wins a snap general election.

Labour have drawn up plans to close a fifth of all post offices. The plans were announced by government ministers earlier this year but as yet, they have not said which branches will be axed in the Gateshead area. However, the rolling programme of closures has already been announced for elsewhere.

Gateshead Liberal Democrats have been campaigning against Labour’s closure plans and have already collected 0ver 3000 signatures on their petition calling for branches to stay open.

Councillor Jonathan Wallace said, “Post offices are vital to local communities but under Labour they have been closing at an alarming rate. In the past five years alone, branches have been closed in Swalwell, Bleach Green, Dunston and Chowdene.

“Earlier this year Labour ministers announced they are planning to close 2500 branches in addition to the 4000 they have already axed since they came to power. And these are on top of the 3500 closed by the last Conservative government.

“But so far they have not announced which branches will be closed in Gateshead. If there is a snap general election this autumn, Labour will be storing up the bad news until after people have gone to the polls.

“Liberal Democrats are campaigning to keep post offices open but we are calling on Labour to publish their hit list of branches they want to close before the election is called.

“Our communities have suffered already from Labour’s previous post office closures. Now that Labour are demanding more closures, residents of Gateshead have a right to know which communities will lose their branches. Labour should end the secrecy around its hit list.”

Gateshead Liberal Democrats travelled to party conference in Brighton in September to meet Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Lembit Öpik MP, to discuss Labour’s plans for post office closures.

Photo: Jonathan Wallace meets Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Lembit Öpik MP, at the recent party conference to discuss Labour’s post office closure plans.

Refreshed and ready for action – Gateshead Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrat campaigners have returned to Gateshead from the party’s conference in Brighton with a spring in their step.

And they are already taking their message to the people of Gateshead with a campaign of door knocking and Focus newsletter delivery.

“Liberal Democrats had a great conference,” said Councillor Peter Maughan. “We have agreed policies that put the Liberal Democrats way ahead of the other parties on the environment. We voted for radical changes to the tax system to cut national income tax for hard working people.

“This will be paid for by shifting the tax burden onto those who pollute – for example by increasing car tax on gas-guzzlers and raising the duty paid on the most polluting aircraft.

“And we will tackle head on Gordon Brown’s policies that have led to greater dependency on benefits for some and a bigger gap between the rich and poor than there was even under Margaret Thatcher.

“We are taking our message of greener policies, fairer taxes and a better society to the people of Gateshead.

“As Ming Campbell said in his leader’s speech, British politics is now one against two. With Labour and the Conservatives agreed on so many of the big issues, from Iraq to taxes, we are the only alternative to the cosy Lab-Con consensus.

“Liberal Democrats in Gateshead are ready for that challenge. And we are ready for the general election – whenever Gordon Brown calls it. The sooner the better!”
Photo: Ming Campbell gives his conference closing speech at Brighton.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Hermitage Lane

Whickham has a new address - Hermitage Lane. Over a year ago, the lane
between the Hermitage and Whickham Community Centre was resurfaced to aid access to the Community Centre and the Whickham Community garden.

Recently, it was decided that the newly resurfaced lane should have a name. Formerly it was known as 'the back of Fellside Court'. So, members of all of the groups that meet at the Community Centre were asked to suggest a name for the lane. A shortlist was then prepared; to get onto the shortlist names could not be similar to other exisiting street names in the area.

The winning name was announced by Councillor Peter Craig last Saturday at a special 'Lane Naming' fayre organised by the Community Centre groups. This was organised to coincide with an event held in the Community Garden for Heritage Weekend.
Photo: Councillor Peter Craig announces the new name of the lane at "the back of Fellside Court" - Hermitage Lane

Call for Halls to pay cost of abandoned opencast appeal

HALLS of Durham should pay the costs clocked up by Gateshead Council over an abandoned opencast planning appeal, claims the Liberal Democrat Councillor who fought the plans.

Halls wanted to opencast half a million tonnes of coal and fireclay from a site near Whickham, next to the historic Gibside Estate.

The plans however were rejected by Gateshead Council in 2005 and the company lodged an appeal with government planning inspectors to have the decision overturned. But nine months after lodging the appeal, Halls withdrew it.

Councillor Jonathan Wallace’s ward of Whickham South and Sunniside contains the location of the proposed opencast mine. He said it was time for Halls to cover the costs incurred by Gateshead’s council taxpayers in fighting the appeal.

“The costs of preparing for any planning appeal can be considerable, especially those on the scale of the one that was expected to go ahead for this application,” said Councillor Wallace.

“Halls have now walked away from the appeal but they should not be allowed to walk away from the costs. Gateshead Council taxpayers should not have to pick up the bill for this.”

You can see our latest video, filmed in August 2007, about the opencast proposals on the following link: Opencast news

Flying the nest – Derwent Valley kite update

Good news from the Derwent Valley where the project to re-introduce the red kite has resulted in 9 offspring being raised in the valley this year. One pair even nested close to the Tesco store in Rowlands Gill.

The Northern Kites project is run by the RSPB and Natural England in partnership with Gateshead Council, Northumbrian Water, the National Trust and the Forestry Commission.

During the summer, 9500 people visited the Derwent Walk Countyr Park to view the nesting birds.

Red kites have been absent from the region for about two centuries.

Whickham North and Swalwell ward tour

Councillors representing Whickham North and Swalwell on Gateshead are to carry out a tour of the ward with senior council officers to look at problems, issues and concerns. Councillors Mary Wallace, Peter Craig and Chris Ord will carry out the tour on 18th September.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Lib Dems in Gateshead head for conference

Brighton is bracing itself for the arrival of thousands of Liberal Democrats for the party’s conference next week and amongst those attending will be local campaigners from Gateshead.

Councillor Peter Maughan will be heading to Brighton along with the Gateshead Lib Dem campaign team to take part in the debates and brush up on skills in training sessions.

Amongst others going are Councillor Jonathan Wallace and Councillor Ron Beadle.

“The theme of our conference is the environment,” said Councillor Maughan. “The big debates will focus on the need to cut down on pollution and to shift the burden of tax from income and onto greenhouse gas emissions.

“Our plans will mean national income tax will be cut from 20p to 16p in the pound and council tax will be scrapped. We will pay for these by shifting the tax burden onto the most polluting, gas-guzzling cars and onto aircraft that cause environmental damage.

“Over the next three weeks, people in Gateshead will see all three party conferences in action. What is different about ours is that members take real decisions on policy. The Conservatives have discussions but no votes whilst at Labour conference, the Labour leadership either ignores votes or has stopped debates from taking place.”

Friday, September 07, 2007

Gateshead Town Centre consultation

Consultation of residents of the borough about the future of Gateshead Twon Centre are to be carried out on the following dates and locations:

Wednesday, 19 September –
· 12.00pm – 2.00pm, Foyer, Civic Centre
· 1.30pm – 7.30pm, Trinity Community Association Church Hall, High Street

Thursday, 20 September –
· 11.00am – 3.00pm, Pioneer Centre, Derwent Street, Chopwell
· 5.00pm – 8.00pm, St Nicholas Church Hall, Ellison Road, Dunston

Friday, 21 September –
· 11.00am – 3.00pm, Wrekenton Methodist Church, Springwell Avenue, Wrekenton
· 5.00pm – 8.00pm, Athletics Hall, Gateshead International Stadium, Nielson Road

Residents are encouraged to give their views about the plans to redevelop the area.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

MP criticised for praising herself

A LEADING Liberal Democrat in Gateshead has criticised a Labour MP in the borough for writing and promoting a Parliamentary motion praising herself.

Dr Jonathan Wallace, Councillor for Whickham South and Sunniside, is calling on Sharon Hodgson MP to explain why she used the Parliamentary device of an Early Day Motion to welcome her own actions.

Motion 1386, proposed by Ms Hodgson, attacks the customer complaints procedure of no frills airline EasyJet. But is also includes the line: "welcomes efforts by the hon. Member for Gateshead East and Washington West to ensure that the rights of online consumers are incorporated in the Consumer, Estate Agents and Redress Bill."

Ms Hodgson is the Member for Gateshead East and Washington West!

“Whilst people have come to expect a degree of self-promotion from MPs, this one beats just about everything else I have seen,” said Councillor Wallace.

“Early Day Motions are a device for raising in Parliament issues of concern to MPs and their constituents. Sometimes they are used by MPs to promote and praise the work of local community groups and constituents.

“So it is rather surprising to find an MP using one to heap praise on herself.”

In December 2006, the Gateshead Labour Party adopted Dave Clelland as their candidate for the new Gateshead Constituency, leaving Ms Hodgson to search for a Parliamentary seat outside the borough.

A full copy of the motion can be found on:

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Street lights to be repaired in Streetgate

Street lights on the main road leading up to the the village of Streetgate, near Sunniside, Gateshead, are to be repaired following concerns raised by the area’s Liberal Democrat Councillor, Jonathan Wallace.

The stretch of lights from Fugar Bar, next to Washingwell Woods, up to the village, have not been working for a number of weeks, leaving the entire stretch of road in the dark.

Councillor Wallace raised his concerns about the lights with officers who have now checked out the situation and have agreed to the repairs.

The road is the main Gateshead to Consett route and is used by thousands of drivers each day.

“I’m pleased the repairs are to be carried out and the lights on this main road will be back on again shortly,” said Councillor Wallace.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Skons Park Opencast Appeal Withdrawn

This is the video I shot for residents about the decision by Halls of Durham to withdraw their appeal over the refusal to grant planning permission for an opencast site at Skons Park next to Gibside.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Lib Dems survey on recycling

LIBERAL Democrats in Gateshead have extended a survey they are carrying out on recycling to the villages of Marley Hill and Byermoor and the Watergate Estate in Whickham.

The survey was launched following the decision by Labour run Gateshead Council to reject a call to set up kerbside collections of plastics and cardboard for recycling. The survey includes a petition calling for a collection scheme to be introduced.

The survey was carried out by Councillor Jonathan Wallace in Byermoor and Marley Hill and by Councillor Peter Maughan in Watergate. It will be extended to other villages in the area shortly.

“The survey so far shows that people have been disappointed with the refusal by Labour in Gateshead to extend kerbside collections to plastics and cardboard,” said Councillor Wallace.

“We already have a large number of signatures on the petition and are looking forward to collecting more.”

Councillor Maughan said, “Our thanks to everyone so far who has taken part in the survey. We will be looking into the issues raised.”

Gateshead Summer Flower Show July 2007

Gateshead Summer Flower Show was held at the Central Nursery and Watergate Park on 27-29 July 2007.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Lotties Wood, Sunnside

This video was made to show the transformation of the fields next to Lotties Wood, between Streetgate and Sunniside. The Woodland Trust ploughed the field in December to kill the weeds. It has now become a meadow rich in wild flowers.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Opencast appeal withdrawn

LIBERAL Democrat councillors who fought plans for a huge opencast mine in western Gateshead have welcomed the decision of the applicant to withdraw their appeal.

Halls of Durham had applied for planning permission to opencast a site at Skons Park, next to the historic Gibside estate near Whickham, Burnopfield and Rowlands Gill.

But the planning application was refused by Gateshead Council after a huge campaign by residents, campaign groups and local councillors.

Halls had appealed to the government’s planning inspectors to overturn the decision and a public inquiry was due to take place in the autumn. But now the appeal has been withdrawn, the inquiry will no longer go ahead.

Councillor Jonathan Wallace, one of the leaders of the campaign against the opencast plans, said he was delighted the appeal had been withdrawn but warned that there may be a new application to opencast the site shortly.

“It is likely that Halls must have seen that their appeal would not survive the scrutiny of a public inquiry,” said Councillor Wallace.

“It is unfortunate that Halls have put local councils and the planning inspectorate to such trouble. After all that, they have now accepted that their planning application was inadequate and lacked necessary information.

“However, that was always obvious to those who campaigned against this application and to Gateshead Council’s Planning Department.

“This however is not the end of the story. It is likely that Halls will submit a new application later this year. Those who fought this application last time are, I am sure, ready to do battle again.”

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Campaign against Wylam Bridge closure

Plans by Northumberland County Council to close Wylam Bridge for up to five months are being opposed by Wylam’s Liberal Democrat Councillors Nick Appleby and Tom Appleby.

The closure will not only have an impact on the people of Wylam, local businesses, and emergency services but will also deeply effect the people of Throckley, Newburn (Newcastle), Crawcrook, Ryton, Clara Vale, Greenside (Gateshead), Ovingham, Horsley, Heddon, and Prudhoe (Northumberland). Crawcrook residents have already started their own campaign.

A protest meeting is to be held by residents on Friday 27th July at 10.30am at the Old Station Car park in Wylam.

Concerns have been expressed by Wylam’s district councillors about the refusal of the County Council to discuss the closure with them.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Labour hold Dunston and Teams by-election

The Dunston and Teams by-election, on Thursday 5th July, was held by Labour. The votes cast were:

Labour 793
Liberal Democrats (Michael Ruddy) 285
BNP 131
Conservatives 69

Majority 508

The seat was the top target for the BNP in the North East but their performance must be leaving them wondering why they bothered.

Meanwhile the Conservatives broke their own record for the lowest vote they have ever achieved in a ward in Gateshead.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Repairs to historic wall welcomed

Liberal Democrat Councillors in Whickham, Gateshead, have welcomed repairs to an historic wall that had been left crumbling for years.

Councillor Peter Maughan had raised concerns about the damage to the stone wall around the former Dunston Hill Hospital, on Whickham Highway.

He had pressed the company developing the Dunston Hill site for housing to repair the wall which is seen by thousands of local residents every day.

“The wall was a mess with crumbling stonework and in some cases complete stones had been removed and not replaced,” said Peter.

“But at long last, the developers have repaired the wall and it is now in a much improved condition.”

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Gateshead residents asked about “Get Carter” car park demolition

GATESHEAD residents are being asked whether or not they support the demolition of the landmark “Get Carter” car park.

An on-line poll has been set up on the party’s local news blog, Gateshead News. Residents are asked whether or not they support the Council’s recent go-ahead for demolition.

The car park was made famous as one of the venues for the 1972 film classic “Get Carter” starring Michael Cain. Gateshead Council took the decision in June to demolish the car park by November.

Councillor Jonathan Wallace, who supports the demolition of the car park and the redevelopment of Gateshead town centre, said, “We thought it would be useful to let people give their own views by voting on our on-line poll.”