Friday, July 06, 2012

Welcome for City Deal

Gateshead Liberal Democrat Leader Frank Hindle has welcomed the new City Deal for the NewcastleGateshead area, which is expected to create 13,000 new jobs on Tyneside and see thousands of new homes being built on brownfield sites in Gateshead.

In a real boost to Gateshead, one of the four sites included in the 'Accelerated Development Zone' is Gateshead Quays and Baltic Business Quarter, where the planned new international conference and exhibition centre will be built. Increased revenues from the development have been ringfenced for the next twenty-five years - meaning money that is generated in Gateshead will be reinvested in Gateshead.

Other items in the deal include the rollout of superfast broadband, £1.7m extra to help unemployed young people into work or training and £150m to redevelop Gateshead's town centre.

Commenting on the proposals, Councillor Frank Hindle said: "This City Deal is a great deal for NewcastleGateshead and the wider North East region. Liberal Democrats on both sides of the river have lobbied government and worked with Labour colleagues to back the bid that has now been approved.

"The news that 13,000 new jobs will be created on Tyneside through the City Deal is fantastic. Gateshead has a crucial part in the scheme, and having Newcastle and Gateshead Councils work together in partnership on issues like youth unemployment and housing will help to deliver real improvements for both Gateshead and Newcastle.

"Liberal Democrats have long argued that money raised through taxes locally should be spent locally, and we are happy to see the ring-fencing of business rates in this deal - as it will be for twenty-five years, it will allow both Newcastle and Gateshead to be ambitious in investing for the long term future.

"Overall, the City Deal programme is a real win from the Liberal Democrats in government. It is a clear sign that we believe in our cities and are prepared to back up our beliefs by investing and handing back powers from Whitehall.

“NewcastleGateshead being selected to be part of this programme is a real endorsement of what Tyneside's economy has achieved in recent years and of the area's potential to be an engine of growth in the future, not just for the North East but for the country as a whole."

Proposed relocation of walk-in service

Proposals have been put forward to move the Gateshead NHS walk-in service from Bensham Hospital to a new, purpose-built Urgent and Emergency Care Hub alongside the Accident and Emergency Department at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

The aim of the proposed move is to improve the service to residents by bringing various services together under one roof, making it easier for patients to access the correct service. Currently, walk-in, urgent and emergency care and accident and emergency are at different locations and people often have to travel between them for treatment.

Gateshead NHS health organisations believe that the new emergency care hub will ensure the delivery of a seamless service for patients from a single entry point. Once assessed and triaged, patients will then be directed to the most appropriate practitioner for treatment. Additional car parking space is also planned at the QE hospital site.

A formal public consultation exercise on this new proposal is being undertaken with Gateshead residents and patients from 18 June 2012 to 10 September 2012. Copies of the consultation leaflet are available at

Wetherspoons – no decision yet

Whickham Council Offices Jan 12 1

Gateshead Council’s planning committee has put off a decision on the application to convert the former Whickham Council Offices into a Wetherspoons pub. The committee members will visit the site shortly before taking the final decision.

Dunston Hill School proposed for demolition

Gateshead Council are proposing to demolish the former Dunston Hill Primary School. The building has been empty since the school transferred to the new site but since then, its condition has deteriorated.
The former school was proposed as the location for the controversial Emmaus project to house homeless people but the charity withdrew their plans after residents strongly opposed them.

A further reason for the cancellation of the Emmaus project was the poor state of the building. Council officers believe that the cost of restoring and converting the building to another use would be too expensive.

The Council are already paying management and other costs even though the building is unoccupied. Officers believe that demolishing it will make it easier to sell the site to a developer for housing, commercial or mixed use.

Councillor Peter Maughan said, “As a former pupil of the school, I have an emotional attachment to it. However, I would like to know residents’ views on the demolition proposal. Please contact me if you have concerns.”

New build for Whickham School

Whickham School has been successful in its bid for funding for a new teaching block. There will be 8 new classrooms in the new building, plans for which are currently being drawn up. It is likely that once the plans have received planning permission, the new classrooms will take only 12 months to build.

Councillor Peter Craig said, “This is great news for the school and for the pupils. Whickham School continues to be a popular school and the new building is greatly needed.”

Whickham School was granted academy status last year. Under it, the school was made independent of council control and now gets its funding directly from the government. The money for the new building will come from the Coalition’s Academies Capital Maintenance Fund.

Welcome for new Front Street School

Front St School MO JMcC May 12

A decision by the Coalition Government to rebuild Front Street School in Whickham, has been welcomed by Councillors representing the town on Gateshead Council.

Front Street School recently celebrated its centenary but the school buildings are starting to show their age. The school straddles a road which children have to cross between lessons. Some of the buildings were put up as temporary annexes in the 1950s but still remain in use.

School governor and local Liberal Democrat Councillor, John McClurey, said, “This is great news for the children and staff at Front Street School.

“The investment in a new building was certainly needed. It is not a good state of affairs to have children crossing a road to get to classrooms between lessons.

“A site next to the school has been kept for decades as the home for the new Front Street School. And after decades of hope that the new school would one day be built, the Government is now about to make it happen.”

Pictured above: Cllr Marilynn Ord and Cllr John McClurey outside Front Street School. They have welcomed the decision to replace the old building.

Residents battle to save Dunston Hill greenbelt

Dunston Hill petition Jul 12 1

A group of residents campaigning to save greenbelt at Dunston Hill from house-building plans has handed in a petition to Gateshead Council signed by over 1600 residents.

The hand over took place and Thursday 5th July. Members of the residents’ action group are hoping to persuade Gateshead Council to abandon proposals to build 800 executive homes on greenbelt between Whickham, Dunston Hill and Lobley Hill.

Resident Steve Potts said, “Over 1000 people have signed the petition and we hope the Council will take note of the strength of public opinion against the greenbelt proposals.”

People living in the Dunston Hill area fear that the building plans would lead to the loss of large parts of the local countryside.

Resident Janet Ord said, “Watergate Park is a great place for wildlife but building 800 houses next to it will be damaging for the environment.

“There are many brownfield sites waiting to be used for housing in Gateshead. I therefore can’t see why Gateshead Council believe that Dunston Hill should be turned into a huge building site.”

Lib Dem campaigner Dave Fawcett has recently added to the total number of signatures on the petition when he collected 178 in Lobley Hill.

Pictured above: Steve Potts and local residents and campaigners with the petition calling on the Dunston Hill greenbelt to be retained. The petition has now been handed in to Gateshead Council's planners.

Cadets taking part in Olympic Festival

Teenage police cadets from Gateshead are on their marks to participate in this weekend's Whickham Community Festival.

A trio of young volunteers will join a Special Constable to support the Olympic themed festival on St Mary's Green and marshal the fun run in Chase Park.

Gateshead Council has invited the young volunteers to attend and join local residents in the community event that includes lots of family entertainment and other attractions.

Councillor Sonya Hawkins said, “Arrangements for this event have been made thanks to a partnership approach involving local business people, residents, The Rotary Club, St Mary’s Church and councillors. We’re delighted that Northumbria Police cadets are joining us and looking forward to people coming along to boost funds for the village’s Christmas decorations.

“This sort of event we hope will boost the vitality of Whickham village and encourage people to visit, shop and enjoy its facilities.”

PC Alicia Swindells, volunteer cadet leader, added: “This is another opportunity for our young volunteers to support their local community. It means they can chat with families and make sure local residents know about volunteer police cadets and the exciting activities they are involved in. It is a good way to get a positive message across as part of a fun event."

Olympics Festival in Whickham

CHILDREN in the Whickham area will get the chance to take part in their own mini-Olympics in a special fun day festival in the village on Saturday 7th July.

And proceeds from the Whickham Olympics Festival will go towards paying for the Christmas decorations for the Village.

The Festival has been organised by a group called “Light Up Whickham”, made up of local business people, the Whickham Rotarians, Councillors, local community activists and St Mary’s Church.

“Saturday will be a great day out for everyone in the Whickham area,” said Alan Nicholson, chairman of Whickham Rotarians, who has been involved with helping to get the event off the ground.

“We want to show that Whickham Village is a great place to visit. We want people to boost local businesses by coming here to shop as well.

“We hope to have an annual festival and the Olympics was an obvious choice of theme for this year.”

Revd Barry Abbott of St Mary’s Church said, “'In the midst of the present economic climate a group of people decided it was time to put Whickham back on the map as a place to visit, shop and have a great day out.

“Local schools, businesses and residents will be taking part in fun runs, hoola hoop competitions and treasure hunts. Many local organisations, schools and businesses will be having stands on St Mary’s Green.

“The Village will be decked out in red, white and blue for Saturday. It will be a fun day for people of all ages and there will be great entertainment provided by local musicians.”

The Festival will see Whickham lighting its own Olympic flame at 1.30pm in St Mary’s Green. There will be children’s fun runs in Chase Park from 11am onwards.

Music will be provided by the Take Note Singers, the Tune Army, Catherine L’Anson Clough and Emmanuel College Singers.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ryton and Crawcrook residents reject greenbelt building plans

Residents of Crawcrook, Greenside and Ryton have rejected proposals to build hundreds of houses on local greenbelt, according to a survey by local Liberal Democrat Councillors.

Gateshead Council have published proposals for 1,000 houses on countryside around the villages but local Lib Dem Councillors are battling against the building plans. They decided to carry out a survey of residents to test opinion on Gateshead’s plans.

Councillor Noel Rippeth said, “This is a very clear demonstration of public opinion which is massively against these proposals to build on local greenbelt. The character and nature of the villages here is under threat from these plans.

“We are urging Labour councillors to abandon them rather than push ahead with grabbing the greenbelt.”

Councillor Ione Rippeth said, “We know there is a need to build new houses but we should not wreck our countryside to achieve this goal. We should be using up brownfield sites rather than sending the bulldozers into the greenbelt.”

The results of the survey are as follows:


250 survey forms delivered, 107 completed and returned.

Question: Do you agree that 494 houses should be built in Crawcrook's Greenbelt?

Answer: Yes 4, No 103

Question: Do you think 494 houses is too many for the village?

Answer: Yes 97, No 10


300 survey forms delivered, 142 completed and returned.

Question: Do you agree that 505 houses should be built in Ryton's Greenbelt?

Answer: Yes 4, No 138

Question: Do you think that 505 houses is too many for the village?

Answer: 64 replied Yes, No 0

House-building threat to historic site

Proposals to build 800 houses on greenbelt between Whickham, Dunston and Lobley Hill in Gateshead could destroy important historic sites as well as the countryside, claims a local historian.

Dr Jonathan Wallace, who is also a Liberal Democrat Councillor in Gateshead, said the site being considered for the new housing is next to the Washingwell Roman fort which was discovered in 1970.

The only evidence for the existence of the fort so far discovered is crop marks and one small piece of pottery.

“Although the site of the Roman fort is not included in the area proposed for house-building, it is very close to it,” said Dr Wallace. “Most Roman forts attracted civilian settlements and as yet, no contemporary village has been found.

“There is a strong possibility that a Roman settlement and the road connecting the fort to others along the former Roman frontier are on the site proposed for house-building. These would all be lost if the site proposed for housing is given the go-ahead.

“At a time when we should be developing our cultural and historical sites as locations to draw in visitors, and therefore boost our tourist economy, building at this location will send us in the opposite direction.”

Sunday, January 01, 2012

North East Liberal Democrats welcome scheme to tackle metal theft

North East Liberal Democrats have welcomed a new scheme to tackle metal theft.

From Tuesday 3rd January a news scheme will be introduced requiring anyone selling scrap metal to a dealer to provide proof of identity and address. The scheme is being trialled in the North East and all 240 registered scrap merchants are expected to sign up to the scheme.

Cllr Frank Hindle said “Metal theft has been a huge problem, affecting the Metro and rail systems, individual homes and businesses - and sometimes whole streets have been systematically targeted. This scheme should choke off the ability of thieves to sell the stolen metal.

"Local Liberal Democrat councillors and Lib Dem MEP Fiona Hall have been pressing for action to tackle this problem and I am pleased that the government, police and the legitimate scrap industry are working together on this scheme. We will also continue to press for other changes, such as ending cash sales of scrap metal.”