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 j.wallace@libdems.org.uk. 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.