Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Anger at mast application

AN APPLICATION to install a phone mast on a busy housing estate in Dunston, Gateshead, has met with an angry response from residents and local Liberal Democrat campaigners.

The application to install the mast next to the Masonic Hall on Holmside Avenue has sparked a petition that was signed by over 100 people over the weekend.

The petition is being coordinated by resident Christine Craig who asked Lib Dem councillors to help defeat the plans.

Councillor Peter Maughan is leading the battle on the Council to have the application rejected.

“People here are very concerned about having a mast built right next to their homes,” said Christine. “There must be better locations than in a busy housing estate.”

Lib Dem campaigner for Dunston and Teams, Michael Ruddy, said, “Mobile phone companies need to be much more sensitive about where they locate masts. This seems to be too close to the homes of a great many people.”
Photo: Councillor Peter Maughan with Kirsty Craig and mum Christine outside the Masonic Hall on Holmside Avenue, Dunston, where an application has been lodged to build a phone mast.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Nearly 9 out of 10 unhappy with library service at Lobley Hill

A SURVEY of residents of Lobley Hill and Dunston Hill, Gateshead, has found that nearly 9 out of 10 residents are unhappy with the library provision for the area since the branch library was closed in 2006.

The survey was carried out by Liberal Democrat campaigners and the findings have been sent to Gateshead Council in a report called Closing the Book: Observations from Lobley Hill and Dunston Hill Residents about Library Services at Lobley Hill.

Survey forms were sent to hundreds of residents in November and December. 89 replied with detailed answers.

Amongst the findings were:

1)86% of residents are unhappy with the replacement service following the closure of the branch (a much more limited service has been provided in a room in Lobley Hill Community Centre);
2)56% of those previously using the old library have given up using library services in Lobley Hill;
3)residents have complained of the new services being too crowded and too small with not enough room for parents with prams or people using wheelchairs;
4)people are upset that the photocopier service has gone, audio book services have to be ordered in advance and internet access is limited;
5)residents expressed their concerns about the lack of facilities for after school craft clubs and school holiday activities.

Survey organiser Susan Craig said, “Residents of Lobley Hill are upset at the loss of the branch library and clearly they do not feel the new service in the Community Centre is an adequate alternative.

“It is worrying that so many people have given up completely on using the slimmed down replacement service and it is understandable why. The new library in the Community Centre is little more than a cupboard.”

Councillor Yvonne McNicol, who represents Dunston Hill and part of Lobley Hill, helped organise the survey. She said, “We are taking up the results of the survey with Gateshead Council.

“We feel that the service needs to be expanded and residents should be involved directly in the decisions about the library service.”

Photo (left to right) Susan Craig, Councillor Peter Maughan and Councillor Yvonne McNicol reveal the level of unhappiness with library provision in Lobley Hill and Dunston Hill, outside Lobley Hill Community Centre (location for the reduced library service).

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Call for inquiry into MP’s use of Parliamentary mail

A LEADING Liberal Democrat Councillor in Gateshead is calling on Parliamentary authorities to investigate the use of Parliamentary stationery and mail system by Labour MP, Dave Anderson.

Dr Jonathan Wallace, Councillor for Whickham South and Sunniside in Mr Anderson’s Blaydon constituency, is making the call after he was sent a copy of a party political mailshot sent by Mr Anderson to Labour members and supporters.

The letter is on House of Commons notepaper and was sent in a first class, prepaid House of Commons envelope.

In the letter, Mr Anderson wrote:

“Locally we need to give support to our [Labour] candidates in the council elections [to be held in May].” He goes on to say that “we need to combat the negativity and political opportunism of our opponents. They do not deserve to represent our people and our people don’t deserve to have second rate representatives in the council. By working together we can deliver a strong vote for Labour.”

Mr Anderson also discusses the forthcoming Labour leadership contest. He said, “Hopefully we will come out of the process with a united party that leads us forward to a fourth consecutive win at the polls, whenever that occurs.”

House of Commons rules are clear that stationery and mail, paid for by the tax payer, should not be used for party political purposes. They are provided for MPs to write to constituents who have raised issues with them. They are not meant to be used for cold call mailings, especially ones that are party political.

“This mailshot appears to be outside the rules of the House of Commons,” said Dr Wallace. “It appears to have been sent to Labour members with the intention of whipping up support for Labour’s council candidates for the local elections in May.

“I don’t know who sent it to me as they have removed their address from the envelope. However, it seems to me that the person who forwarded it to me is concerned about a possible misuse of Parliamentary facilities.

“I note Mr Anderson’s description of myself and my Lib Dem colleagues as ‘second rate’.

“I am not going to respond publicly to such a childish description other than to say that if Mr Anderson wants to engage in that sort of attack on opponents, his comments should appear only in Labour leaflets, paid for by the Labour party, rather than in Parliamentary mail, paid for by the tax payer.

“Nor, I feel, should Mr Anderson be using tax payer funded House of Commons facilities to promote Labour council candidates.

“He needs to be reminded he is there as a representative of all the people of the constituency of Blaydon, including the majority who do not vote Labour.

“I am therefore writing to the Serjeant at Arms to bring his attention to the matter and ask him to investigate what appears to be a possible breach of the rules on the use of Parliamentary facilities.”

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Online poll on parking charges

RESIDENTS of Gateshead are being invited to vote in an online consultation poll about Gateshead Council’s plans to introduce parking charges in Whickham, Blaydon, Birtley and Low Fell.

The poll has been set up by local Liberal Democrats and they feature it on this news blog (see left hand column above the video links).

Whickham Liberal Democrat Councillor Jonathan Wallace said, “Many people are concerned about the future of the shopping areas if parking charges are introduced.

“With the Metrocentre so close by offering free parking, we are concerned that the charges could encourage people to shop there instead.

“Though the Labour Cabinet on Gateshead Council have voted for the charges to come in, they agreed to carry out consultation. That is still taking place.

“We feel the online poll is another way of letting people have a say.”

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Survey on bridge demolition

LIBERAL Democrats in Lobley Hill, Gateshead, are carrying out a survey of residents about plans to demolish the landmark footbridge on Lobley Hill Bank.

Gateshead Council begins work on demolishing the bridge in February. Traffic lights at the junction with Whickham highway will be installed and additional crossings for pedestrians will also be introduced.

Local campaigner Susan Craig said, “We want to get an idea of the concerns of residents to ensure the Council is fully aware of local opinion.”

320 sign garage petition

A petition in Whickham opposing plans for 18 flats on the site of the garage on Fellside Road has so far attracted 320 signatures.

Residents are concerned about the application as it eats into a valuable green strip of land and overshadows neighbouring bungalows.

Campaigning Liberal Democrat Councillor, Dr Jonathan Wallace, has helped collect many of the signatures.

“Whilst we accept that something will have to be done with the site, cramming it in the way proposed is not the right way forward,” said Jonathan.

“The site stands on higher ground to the neighbouring bungalows and many people fear they will lose their privacy.”

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Petition launched against opencast plans

LIBERAL Democrats in Gateshead have launched a petition calling on the local government minister to reject an appeal over a huge opencast application.

Halls of Durham have appealed against the refusal by Gateshead Council to allow them to opencast half a million tonnes of coal and fireclay from Skons Park, next to the historic Gibside Estate between Rowlands Gill and Whickham.

Halls have now submitted an appeal to planning inspectors though the final decision will be taken by Ruth Kelly MP, the minister responsible for local government.

Councillor Jonathan Wallace, whose ward includes Gibside and Skon’s Park, led the campaign against the plans in 2005 and 2006. He wrote the original petition to Gateshead Council which was signed by 16,000 people and helped to collect thousands of these signatures himself.

He has now set up a special website and on line petition, the link for which was been sent by email to residents in western Gateshead.

“People are very worried about this application being approved,” said Councillor Wallace. “There are great concerns about the environment, noise, dust and heavy lorries. And many are worried that there will be damage to the growing tourism industry.

“In 2005 when I launched the original petition, we didn’t have it on line but thousands of people still signed it, thanks to the work of local campaign groups, my colleagues on Gateshead Council and the National Trust who own Gibside.

“This time within a couple of minutes of the email with the link to the site going out, I started to get messages back showing people had signed it on line.

“I urge everyone who is concerned about this appeal to back the petition.”

The petition can be found at http://campaigns.libdems.org.uk/skonsparkopencast.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Byermoor garages to be demolished

Derelict and redundant garages in the village of Byermoor, near Whickham, are to be demolished in January.

Most of the garages have been unused for a number of years and have become a target for vandals.

Local Liberal Democrat Councillor Jonathan Wallace said, “The work on demolishing the garages begins on 11th January.

“Unfortunately they are no longer in use as they are too far from people’s homes. They have now become an eyesore and a danger.”

Recycle your Xmas trees

RESIDENTS of Gateshead are being urged to recycle their Christmas trees by green campaigning Liberal Democrat councillors.

They want people in Gateshead to put their Christmas trees into their Green-it bins so they can be collected by the Council to turn into compost.

Councillor Yvonne McNicol, who represents Dunston Hill and Whickham East, said, “Recycling Christmas trees by putting them into the Green-it bins for collection benefits both the environment and the taxpayer.

“By turning them into compost the Council needs to buy less commercially produced soil conditioner for local parks. It also means the Council avoids having to pay landfill tax.

“And the environment benefits by not having holes in the ground filled with landfill rubbish.”

During the winter months, Green-it garden waste bins are emptied monthly rather than fortnightly.