Wednesday, March 28, 2007

“Give us a sign” – in Lobley Hill

LIBERAL Democrat campaigners in Lobley Hill, Gateshead, have written to the Highways Agency – the government body responsible for main roads – to ask for signs to be installed showing the route to Lobley Hill.

The suburb, which sits next to the A1 and straddles the main road to Whickham, Sunniside and Consett, has no signs to tell people they are in Lobely Hill.

Campaigner Susan Craig is hoping that Highways bosses will give a sign and put Lobley Hill on the map.

“There are no signs on the A1 to show where Lobley Hill is,” said Susan. “Many people visiting friends and relatives in Lobley Hill often end up in Swalwell, Team Valley or even Gateshead.

“Having a sign at the Lobley Hill turnoff from the A1 would solve many of the problems.”
Photo: the sign at Lobley Hill makes no mention of Lobley Hill

Speed survey in Dunston

A SPEED survey on a busy residential road in Dunston, Gateshead, has been carried out by Gateshead Council, at the request of the area’s Liberal Democrat Councillor, Yvonne McNicol.

The road is part of a 20mph zone but residents have raised concerns about the speed of traffic coming through the estate, particularly down the long stretch of road on Knightside Gardens.

"Very recently one car came down Knightside Gardens so fast that it left the road and ended up with part of it on the pavement,” said Yvonne. “Fortunately no one was hurt but it does show that breaking the speed limit holds potential dangers, especially in built up areas"

"The survey will allow Gateshead Council to consider if any further steps are required to support those currently in place to tackle speeding."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Lobley Hill and Dunston bus survey

Many thanks to everyone who filled in the survey about the 95 and 96 bus services Liberal Democrats recently delivered to houses in Lobley Hill and Dunston Hill. We have had back about 250 replies and we are busy sorting the results.

Local campaigners, Susan Craig and Councillor Yvonne McNicol, who helped organise the survey, held a meeting with Go Ahead Director Martin Harris in February to discuss some of the early replies. Another meeting is expected to take place in the next few weeks.

Gateshead News will give you a fuller picture of what people told the Lib Dems about the bus services shortly but we did find that the places people most want a direct service to (where one doesn't exist at the moment) is Central Station, Newcastle, Sainsbury’s, Washington Galleries and Retail World, Team Valley. We also found that there are many concerns about the state of the service after 8pm.

Meanwhile, 49% of those taking part want the frequency of services improved.

"Many issues have been raised in the survey and we will be taking them up with Go Ahead North East at our next meeting with them," said Susan.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Lib Dems hand Gateshead “Save Our Post Offices” petition to Downing Street

A petition in Gateshead calling for Post Offices to be saved from closure has been handed in to Downing Street by Liberal Democrats.

Party campaigners collected the signatures in protest at government plans to close 2500 Post Office branches. They handed on the petition to the Liberal Democrats Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Susan Kramer MP at the recent party conference held in Harrogate.

Petition Co-oordinator Councillor Jonathan Wallace then teamed up with Mrs Kramer to hand over the petition to Downing Street. They also handed over thousands of other signatures collected by Liberal Democrats across the country.

Jonathan said, “Many residents of Gateshead are concerned about the future of the Post Office network. We have already seen the closure of 6 branches in the area in recent years.

“We ran the petition so that residents of Gateshead could raise with the government their concerns. We are pleased therefore that we have been able to hand in the petition to Downing Street.

“We are waiting to see the results of the government’s consultation on its Post Office closure plans. Liberal Democrats will continue to argue for a strong Post Office network as a vital asset in local communities.”
Photo: Susan Kramer MP and Councillor Jonathan Wallace (both front row) handing over the petition to 10 Downing Street.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Lib Dem Councillor to hand in Post Offices petition to Downing Street

A LEADING Liberal Democrat Councillor in Gateshead is to hand in a petition to 10 Downing Street calling for Post Offices to be saved from closure.

The government announced in December that they are to close 2500 branches throughout the country. But a campaign in Gateshead led by Councillor Jonathan Wallace has collected over 3000 signatures against the closure plan.

Dr Wallace will join the Liberal Democrats’ Shadow Secretary of State for trade and Industry, Susan Kramer MP, and many of the party’s MPs and members who have carried out similar petitions throughout the country to hand in the signaures to the Prime Minister.

The petition will be handed in on Monday 19th March at 1pm.

“Many residents of Gateshead are very worried about the government’s plans for Post Offices,” said Dr Wallace. “There was a great deal of interest in the petition.

“Gateshead has already lost 5 branches in recent years. Residents don’t want others to disappear.

“We are hoping the government takes note of the concerns of people and will reverse their policy of Post Office closures.”

The real cost of Labour on Tyneside

Council Tax bills in Labour Gateshead continued to soar above Liberal Democrat Newcastle as budgets were fixed this spring. Once again, residents in Newcastle will face a below inflation Council Tax increase (2.7%) while people in Gateshead again pay more (3.5%)

The result is that Gateshead residents now pay nearly £75 more for life under Labour than Newcastle residents pay under the Liberal Democrats, a reverse of the situation three years ago when Labour was last in power on both sides of the river and people in Newcastle paid more.

Newcastle Council’s budget supremo Councillor Peter Allen said, “For the third year in a row the rise in Newcastle's council tax is below inflation. In 2004, Newcastle had one of the highest council tax rates in the country. Next year we will be 76th highest - this is one league table we are happy to be dropping down.”

Gateshead however has the fourth highest Council Tax in England.

MP Dave Anderson has put nuclear talks at risk – Lib Dems

Liberal Democrats in Gateshead have expressed their disappointment that Blaydon MP Dave Anderson voted with Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron in the House of Commons to replace the Trident nuclear submarines.

The vote on Wednesday 14th March saw Labour split between those who wanted a decision on building new Trident submarines put back until after international talks aimed at cutting nuclear weapons in 2010 and those who wanted an immediate decision on replacing the submarines.

The government’s decision to press ahead with a decision was supported by the Conservatives but 94 Labour MPs voted against.

“I am disappointed that Mr Anderson voted with Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron whilst so many of his colleagues took a principled stand against the government,” said Councillor Jonathan Wallace, who represents Whickham South and Sunniside in Blaydon constituency.

“There are crucial international talks coming up in 2010 that could lead to cuts in nuclear weapons throughout the world and stop countries developing their own weapons.

“But taking a decision now to replace the Trident submarines will send all the wrong signals to other countries.

“If Britain is prepared to spend billions on a new nuclear weapon system now, it will encourage countries such as Iran to press forward with development of their own weapon systems.

“Liberal Democrats voted against the government because we believe the decision to replace now could undermine the international talks.

Lib Dem Councillor Peter Maughan said, “Once those talks have taken place we can see whether there is sufficient progress during the next decade towards nuclear disarmament to decide if Britain needs to continue as a nuclear armed country.

“By voting now for replacement, Mr Anderson and his colleagues have put the talks at risk.”

Councillor Wallace was one of the key figures in the Liberal Democrats who worked at the recent party conference to persuade members to vote for a policy of taking the decision on renewing Trident in the next decade.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Complacent Labour "very happy" with reduced library

The row about the huge cuts in library services in Lobley Hill boiled over at a meeting of Gateshead Council on Thursday 8th March.

Readers of Gateshead News may recall that last year, the Labour council decided to axe the library at the top of Lobley Hill. As an alternative, they offered a slimmed down version dubbed a "wardrobe" by many residents because it is tucked away in a tiny room inside Lobley Hill Community Centre.

A survey of residents by local Liberal Democrats has since found that 86% of people are unhappy with the new service.

But at the meeting on 8th March, the Labour Cabinet proudly announced Gateshead Council was applying for government cash for the Central Library.

"What about Lobley Hill?" asked Lib Dem Councillor Jonathan Wallace.

This drew an angry response from Cabinet member and Lobley Hill Councillor Catherine Donovan.

"We are very happy with the facilities. We are happy with the way things are going. We are moving positively on in Lobley Hill."

Local Lib Dems don't agree and think it’s time for Councillor Donovan to come to Lobley Hill and speak to residents and explain to them why Labour are "very happy" with slashing the service here whilst looking to improve them elsewhere. Perhaps Labour then may not feel so complacent about the way they have treated Lobley Hill.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

For sale: church with excellent views

The landmark St Cuthbert's Church in Bensham is up for sale after a bid by a Roman Catholic group to take over the historic building was withdrawn.

The building, unused for 16 years was designed by famous North East architect John Dobson and is only one of two churches designed by him to be left standing largely unaltered.

Now Gateshead Council is working with English Heritage and the Church Commissioners to try to find new owners for the building.

Lib Dem campaigner Susan Craig (pictured outside the church) said, "St Cuthbert’s Church is part of the history of the area and it would be terrible to lose it. As a child I used to play nearby and I know how much residents want the building to have a future."

Rectory Lane - Double Yellow Lines

Double yellow lines have been painted onto Whickham's Rectory Lane opposite Chase Park. This followed complaints by residents that they couldn’t drive along Rectory Lane because parked cars on both sides of the road were blocking traffic. The problem was particularly bad in the summer.

Local Lib Dem councillors arranged for council engineers to carry out the work and this was completed in February.

New street signs for Whickham's Grange Estate

New street signs have recently been installed on the Grange Estate in Albury Place, Bexley Place, Chatsworth Place, Dissington Place and Arlingon Grove.

Petition for safety improvements in busy road

LIBERAL Democrat Councillors representing Dunston Hill in Gateshead have handed in a petition to the Council calling for improvements to safety on Whickham Highway, next to the new Mansion Heights development, between Dunston Hill and Whickham.

The developers of the site have agreed to pay half the costs of putting a crossing in. The crossing will make it safer and easier for people to get to the bus shelter on the Whickham bound side of Whickham Highway.

The petition was raised and collected by residents and Councillor Allison Chatto handed the petition in at the full meeting of Gateshead Council held on 8th March.

Giant sale next to conservation zone removed

A giant “for sale” sign promoting housing developers McCarthy and Stone has been removed from a site next to a historic conservation zone after a long running battle.

The sign advertising properties in Chase Court, Whickham, had been in place on the grass verge of Rectory Lane for four years even though the apartments are currently occupied. Planning permission for the sign ended late last year.

Liberal Democrat councillors in Whickham made a request to Gateshead Council’s enforcement team to start proceedings to have the sign removed, and this was completed early in March.

“The sign was next to the conservation zone in the heart of Whickham where billboard advertising is not permitted,” said Councillor Peter Craig. “With the apartments in Chase Court having been sold, there was no excuse for keeping the sign in place, especially once permission for it to be there has finished.”

Belfast trip questioned by Lib Dems

A decision by Gateshead Council's all-Labour cabinet to pay a visit to Northern Ireland has been attacked by opposition Liberal Democrat councillors.

9 of the 10 cabinet members and 9 senior officers are to make the 2 day visit in March to look at regeneration schemes in Belfast, paid for by Gateshead Council Tax payers.

Council Leader, Councillor Mick Henry, said: "Belfast's regeneration story is similar to the north east in many ways, with an industrialised ship building and port area which has been redeveloped, complete with a new concert halls complex.

"As we look to see how we will develop Gateshead over the next 20 years we wanted to see what lessons we could learn from an area like Belfast, which has reinvented itself in the past decade and now attracts 6.5 million visitors a year who bring £285 million into the local economy."

But Whickham Lib Dem Councillor, Dr Jonathan Wallace, said, "Whilst I can see some gains for Gateshead in a small group travelling to other areas to learn from them, I can't see the need for 9 out of 10 of the cabinet members and so many senior officers to make this trip.

"Surely this is something that can be done by a smaller group of people.

"In addition, Mick Henry says that the regeneration of Belfast is similar to that on Tyneside. That begs the question, why make the visit if there is nothing new to be learnt that can be applied to Gateshead?"

Labour MP David Anderson challenged over Trident

FORMER firebrand and now Labour MP for Blaydon, David Anderson has been challenged to come off the fence and oppose the government’s plans to replace the Trident nuclear submarines by a leading local Liberal Democrat.

A vote on whether or not to replace the Trident submarines will be taken on Wednesday 14th March when up to 100 Labour MPs are expected to rebel and vote against the plans.

The government is expected to win however as the Conservatives are voting with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Jonathan Wallace, who represents Whickham in the heart of Blaydon constituency on Gateshead Council said, “Mr Anderson has been strangely quiet on this matter.

“Since the general election in 2005 when he was first elected, Mr Anderson has been a loyal supporter of Mr Blair, voting consistently for government measures.

“If Mr Anderson is voting to support the government yet again, perhaps he is hoping to do so under the radar, hoping no one in Blaydon will notice.

“I am calling on him to vote against replacement now. And whether or not he is voting with the government, I am calling on him to make his views clear before the debate.

“Taking a decision on replacing the Trident submarines now pre-empts the outcome of the international nuclear disarmament talks due to be held in 2010 and could cause them to fail.

“And it will encourage countries such as Iran to continue developing their own nuclear programme.

“The most sensible course of action is to decide whether or not to replace Trident, with all the costs involved, after we have seen the outcome of the nuclear disarmament talks.

“That is why Liberal Democrat MPs will be voting against the Blair, Brown and Cameron decision to press ahead with replacement now on 14th March.”

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Whickham area planning snippets

House plans refused in Whickham

An application to build a detached house in the rear garden of 59 Broom Lane, Whickham, has been refused by Gateshead Council’s Planning Committee. Also rejected was a plan to demolish 35A Broom Lane and its replacement by a new detached house.

Planning permission to convert offices to beauty salon

Planning permission is being sought to convert The Knowles on School Lane, Whickham, from offices to a beauty salon.

Application for Sunniside house

Planning permission is being sought to build a bungalow in the garden area to the north of 4 The Crescent, Sunniside.

Lobley Hill Bank roadworks

The roadworks to replace the mini roundabout with traffic lights, which began on 14th January, will continue for three months. Lobley Hill footbridge itself will be demolished on Sunday 1st and Sunday 15th April. As a result, Lobley Hill Bank will be closed to traffic on those two days.

New street signs for the Grange Estate

New street signs have recently been installed on the Whickham Grange Estate in Albury Place, Bexley Place, Chatsworth Place, Dissington Place and Arlingon Grove.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Whickham Spring Bulb Show March 2007 part 2

This is the 2nd part of the presentation of awards at the Whickham Bulb Show held on 10th March. The Mayor of Gateshead, Councillor Maureen Goldsworthy, presented the awards.

Whickham Spring Bulb Show March 2007 part 1

The Whickham Annual Bulb Show was held today, Saturday 10th March. It was attended by local Lib Dem councillors and Fiona Hall, Lib Dem member of the European Parliament for the North East. Awards were presented by the Mayor of Gateshead, Councillor Maureen Goldsworthy.

Dog Fouling on school field

Residents have complained that there has been an increase of dog fouling on Whickham School field. Most dog walkers are very considerate and clear up after them, but a small number have been causing concern to residents. Another issue is that a small number of owners are throwing wrapped dog waste into nearby bushes, rather than disposing of it in a bin.

Local Lib Dem councillors have responded in 3 ways:

1)Local Environmental services have been asked to clear up the mess - this has now been done.

2)The Dog Warden team has been asked to make extra patrols in the area.

3)An extra bin has been ordered for the corner of the school field next to Corsair / Parkway.

Fellside Trees

Residents in Fellside Road in Whickham have been in touch with local Lib Dem councillors regarding trees at the back of their property which are blocking the light and making a mess with leaves. The trees are located in Tindale Drive and are managed by the Two Castles Housing Association.

Lib Dem councillors contacted the Association and a meeting between the residents and the Association was held in early February to discuss the issues. Discussions are currently ongoing between Fellside Road residents, Tindale Court residents and the Housing Association.

Giant Sign Removed at Last

The giant McCarthy and Stone sign on Rectory Lane in Whickham has been removed. It was initially put on the grass verge on Rectory Lane to advertise Chase Court, but had been in place for four years. Planning permission for the sign ended late last year.

Councillors in Whickham made a request to Gateshead Councill’s enforcement team to start proceedings to have the sign removed, and this was completed early in March.

"The sign was next to the conservation zone in the heart of Whickham where billboard advertising is not permitted" said Councillor Peter Craig. "With the apartments in Chase Court having been sold, there was no excuse for keeping the sign in place, especially once permission for it to be there has finished."

Rectory Lane - Double Yellow Lines

Residents in the Rectory area of Whickham may have noticed that double yellow lines have been painted onto Rectory Lane opposite Chase Park. This followed complaints by residents that they couldn’t drive along Rectory Lane because parked cars on both sides of the road were blocking traffic. The problem was particularly bad in the summer. Local Lib Dem councillors arranged for council engineers to carry out the work and this was completed in February.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Gateshead Liberal Democrats hand over Post Office petition

Liberal Democrats in Gateshead have handed over a petition of over 3000 signatures to the Party’s Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Susan Kramer MP, calling on the Government to save Post Offices from closure.

The petition will be handed in to the Government along with thousands of other signatures collected by Liberal Democrats throughout the country.

Members from Gateshead travelled to the Party’s spring conference in Harrogate to meet Susan Kramer and tell her about how well the campaign to save Post Offices from closure is running in the borough.

The Government recently announced a minimum of a further 2500 Post Office branch closures. Consultation on the closure plans is due to finish during March.

Gateshead Liberal Democrats have submitted the petition as part of the consultation to show how strongly people feel about Labour’s closure plans.

“There has been a great response to the petition from residents of Gateshead,” said Councillor Jonathan Wallace who organised the petition. “Post Offices are seen as vital community assets and people are genuinely worried about the way the Government has treated the network.

“In the past four years, five Post Office branches have closed in Gateshead.”

Susan Kramer MP said, “I was very pleased to meet Councillors Jonathan Wallace and Peter Maughan from Gateshead and to discuss concerns about Post Office closures.

“The Government’s handling of the network shows they are really just wanting to wash their hands of Post Offices. They have stripped away business such as pensions, road tax, tv licences and passports.

“The crisis is the fault of Ministers, not technology or customers as the Government claims. The Liberal Democrats believe it is possible to save our Post Offices.

“We are calling for £2 billion to be invested in Post Office branches, money which will be raised by a partial sale of Royal Mail; opening of new branches where there is a need; retaining Post Office Card Accounts for benefit payments and freeing the Post Office from Royal Mail restrictions to let it develop new business.”

Photo of Susan Kramer MP, Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry with Councillor Peter Maughan, left and Councillor Jonathan Wallace handing over the petitions they have collected against the plans to close Post Offices.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Plans for extra police slashed

Plans to appoint 240 community support officers by Northumbria Police have been scrapped because of cuts by the Government in funding to the police force. Labour ministers came under attack from opposition parties and even from some of their own members for the decision to cut funding.

Liberal Democrat MP Alan Beith, whose Berwick constituency comes within the Northumbria force area, said, “This does not fit in with Government promises to tackle crime by putting more police officers and community support officers on patrol on the streets.”

If you want to protest against the government’s decision to cut police funding you can sign our online petition to ministers calling for the cuts to be reversed. You can find the petition on the following link:

Swalwell basketball courts

The basketball court at Swalwell Park is to be resurfaced before the end of March and multi-purpose basketball and football goals will be installed.

Recycling boxes for Chase Court

Recycling boxes are to be provided to residents of Chase Court in Whickham Village. The boxes for collected waste paper, bottles and cans had not previously been provided by Gateshead Council to the people living on the development.

Councillors Peter Craig, Chris Ord and Mary Wallace, who intervened on behalf of residents, have welcomed the decision.

Top marks for Whickham School

Whickham School has been awarded 23 “outstanding” grades in its latest inspection by the Goverment’s school inspectors, Ofsted. Winning the highest accolade possible coincided with news of a grant to the school of £1 million it invest in buildings.

Previously the school did not fit the criteria for funding through the “Private Finance Initiative” or “Building Schools for the Future” schemes. Despite this , the school has very impressive GCSE results.

The funding will be used to build a new classroom block and redevelop dining facilities. A number of temporary classrooms will also be removed when the new facilities are completed.

Sunniside Bus Petition

The recent changes to bus services have understandably not been well received in Sunniside where passengers are still suffering from the consequences of the cuts and changes brought in in September last year.

Lib Dems and residents in the village are therefore launching a petition calling on Go North East to look again at the changes and reintroduce some of the lost services.

You can sign on line at the website we have set up specially for the petition:

Dunston Swimming Pool Survey

LIBERAL Democrats in the Dunston and Whickham area of Gateshead are carrying out a survey of users of the facilities of the Dunston Swimming Pool.

The survey is being carried out after residents contacted them about the state of the services in the building.

Copies of the survey are being sent to a random cross section of people living in the area and people have also been invited to fill in surveys through the party’s local email newsletter eFocus.

Survey co-ordinator Councillor Yvonne McNicol said, “A number of residents have now raised with me and my colleagues the need for investment in the building and the facilities there.

“So we are carrying out the survey to ask people what they think of the current services and to ask them for ideas on what improvements are needed.

“We can then take the results to Gateshead Council to press for investment.”

Monday, March 05, 2007

Gateshead Liberal Democrats boosted by conference

LOCAL Liberal Democrats have returned to Gateshead from the party’s spring conference boosted for the battles ahead.

Dr Jonathan Wallace, who attended the Liberal Democrats’ gathering in Harrogate on 2nd – 4th March said the conference was a great success with Party Leader Menzies Campbell MP leading from the front.

Members debated a number of issues but tackling crime was the most important matter discussed. Other debates included cutting pollution from homes, regenerating communities and the future of the nuclear deterrent.

“Harrogate was a successful conference for the Liberal Democrats,” said Dr Wallace who is Councillor in Gateshead. “In sharp contrast to both the Conservatives and Labour, we are able to discuss policy, have informed debates and allow the members to decide policy.

“But it also demonstrated that Menzies Campbell leads from the front.

“The conference has been a great boost for the Liberal Democrats as we head towards the next challenge, the local elections in May. We are confident of a good result in those contests.”

Whickham Bulb Show

The annual Whickham Bulb Show will take place on Saturday 10th March at St Mary’s Church Hall, Whickham. The Mayor will be presenting the awards at 4.30pm.