Saturday, 29 December 2007
Well - for reasons best known to themselves - NCC and Astley Coaches who run the service are keeping it a secret. The bus destination boards and the bus stop timetables just show it as the 'Stobhill bus' not the 'station bus'. John Earl writes:
"I was once again on the M3 bus to the station in Morpeth this week, and it seems ludicrous that this bus runs around almost empty, partly because no-one has seen fit to label it clearly as the station bus. If the inhabitants of Lancaster Park knew that it was a direct link with the station, for the same price (i.e. £1) as going to the centre of town, and therefore a quarter the price of a taxi, I`m sure that more people would use it and it might mean a few more leaving their cars at home. Could you contact the people who could label this correctly on the timetables (at present it is only labelled to Stobhill)?"
Wednesday, 19 December 2007
The Hall has been on the market since the summer and I understand that an offer has been received at the asking price.
Since the two elderly sisters living in the ground floor flat have been given notice to quit by 31st December, it's likely that a sale will go through early in the New Year.
One thing that surprises me is that the Brethren are not looking to rehouse the sisters themselves - but are expecting Castle Morpeth Housing (the newly created housing association that has taken over the Borough Council housing) to find somewhere for them. In fact I've been lobbied to chase up Castle Morpeth Housing on this.
Now I know that the Brethen are focussed on the 'rapture' associated with the Second Coming almost to the point of disregarding conventional Christian 'joy of creation' in this life - but you'd think they would find the resources to rehouse two elderly women themselves rather than depend on the state - especially given the amount of money they'll be getting for the site.
Friday, 14 December 2007
The North Eastern Tile Company of Pickering in North Yorkshire can now supply a complete set of tiles for a North Eastern Railway Map of the type still seen on the walls of Morpeth station.
The Craven and Dunnill factory of Ironbridge which made the originals has been defunct since the Second World War, but the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust has started up a tile museum through which limited production of the originals is now possible.
They are all hand glazed, and to quote from the brochure
"the glazer`s skill still dictates whether or not all the map tiles have exactly the same glaze tint, and they still work to a metronome`s rhythm to achieve such perfection."
A three quarter size map is recommended for the average house, though no doubt you could get the original size in a large bathroom!
The address is Foundry Cottages, Wrelton, Pickering, York YO18 8PF.
Wednesday, 12 December 2007
They have also issued a 'Madonna and Child' design for first and second class only. Post Office staff have been instructed to only sell this design if people specifically request it, but obviously people can't request it if they don't know it exists! If people don't buy these stamps, Royal Mail will claim there is no demand for religious Christmas stamps and not produce them in future.
Sunday, 9 December 2007
About 17.5 million plastic carrier bags are used worldwide each year, with the majority ending up on landfill sites. Discarded plastic carrier bags block gutters and drains, choke farm animals and marine wildlife and pollute the soil as they gradually break down. Plastic bags clogging the drain network was a contributing factor to the recent floods in Mumbhai (formerly Bombay).
A plastic carrier bag can take between 500 to 1000 years to break down and many of the ‘degradable’ bags (eg photo-degradable) actually only breakdown to inert plastic dust.
Unlike Modbury, neither the Town nor the Borough Council can actually ban the use of plastic bags – and while certain stores are promoting “bags for life” as an alternative to a plastic bag, the chain stores are very unlikely to adopt ‘local Morpeth’ practice, especially when they use plastic bags for advertising.
However consumer and peer pressure can be very powerful. Both Councils can encourage shoppers refuse plastic bags and help traders provide alternatives.
A starting point is to make the Wednesday Market plastic bag free. The two Councils are planning to provide 3-4 months-worth of both re-usable cotton or sisal bags and genuinely biodegradable bags (made entirely from cornstarch and fully compostable) to market traders from February. Whether the initiative expands or carries on after that will depend heavily on the response from shoppers, market traders and shopkeepers.
From a Green point of view, the immediate impact of reusable shopping bags is fairly minor - removing plastic bags from our lives won't make us a sustainable culture anymore than saving the polar bear will stop global warming - but it is a powerful symbol. The disposable plastic bag is the icon of our unsustainable lifestyles. Campaigns to ban them help people to start questioning how and where products are made, how they are transported and where they go when we're finished with them. It makes us look at all consumer goods in a different light.
Friday, 7 December 2007
The existing planning permission for 150 houses (including re-use of existing buildings) and employment land is apparently not economically viable. Unexpected costs include connection to mains sewage, higher than expected refurbishment costs to existing buildings - and the Borough Council is asking for a higher proportion of affordable housing.
- Of course the Hospital has a private sewage network which might cope with 200 houses - but EP are thinking ahead to Stage 2 of the development which will add a further 250 houses.
- It's a shame too that the NHS Trust has been so strapped for cash over the last ten years or so that they haven't been able to afford even minumum maintenance on the empty buildng - so they've gone to wrack and ruin. A classic case of pennywise, poundfoolish - as in so much of government these days.
- And - emerging Council policy on affordable housing requires 50% of new housing developments to be affordable - so there's some interesting horse-trading to come.
- This will apparently involve widening the junction, putting in a righthand filter and possibly a min-roundabout. It isn't clear yet whether they intend taking a bite out of Tommy's Field, the Easter Field or the garden at the end of Thorp Avenue (or all three).
- It's not clear too that NCC Highways are taking into account traffic flows from whatever development appears on the site of the Mount retirement home - currently being marketed for NCC by DTZ
The second stage development of 250 houses, a small retail centre and employment provision is planned for the site of the remaining hospital buildings, but this depends on the Northern Link Road (from A1 across Fulbeck and Bluebell Woods to Whorral Bank) being built.
- The road is currently earmarked in a regional funding programme - likely to come forward in the next five years or so. But private sector funding is also required - which would come from this Stage 2 development. And - although NCC have plans for the road - they have not yet even applied for planning permission.
- They have shown a willingness to consult - I hope this extends through the pre-application and application process into the preparation of the Development Brief.
- They say that they have no intention of building on the open land (cricket field, common, race course) in either Stage 1 or Stage 2 (and that will probably take us through to about 2015).
Wednesday, 5 December 2007
The idea came forward (well OK - I suggested it) during the consultation on the broader traffic calming scheme (which proved very popular) - and NCC Highways, understandably seeing it as an 'add-on' only consulted the immediate residents (Howard Road, Howard Terrace, Greystoke Gardens - and possibly Maritime Place).
Unfortunately - a lot of people in the streets to the north of Howard Road (who were consulted on the original scheme) also use that crossing. Many of them apparently use it to get to Dark Lane - walking to Morrisons, the Library and - with children - Goosehill School.
Following the outcry - NCC Highways have decided they do not have enough data on traffic and pedestrian flows, so they are shelving the idea of moving the crossing until they can collect that data. Of course, they can't do that until everything has calmed down after the town centre development finishes.
So - the main traffic calming (including a 20mph speed limit) is going ahead - probably in March. Traffic calming in Dacre Street will be put in place at the same time. But - the zebra crossing definitely won't be moved - until the idea is reconsidered in about 18 months time.
Friday, 30 November 2007
Of course, other people in the area use that zebra crossing – in particular parents taking children along Dark Lane to Goosehill School – so you should also have views on the plans to move it. It may be that there’s a need for two crossings on the road.
The formal consultation is over, but if you have strong views please contact John Mather (tel 533978 JBMather@northumberland.gov.uk) at the County Council and/or me urgently.
Tuesday, 27 November 2007
Sunday, 25 November 2007
"English Partnerships is proposing to redevelop the former St. George’s Hospital site [which it has 'inherited' from the Dept for Health]. This site represents an excellent opportunity to provide a sustainable mixed-use redevelopment within Morpeth.
"On behalf of English Partnerships, David Lock Associates are holding a public exhibition about the development process and give an opportunity to local people to influence the redevelopment of St. George’s Hospital.
"The public exhibition will be held at: The Corn Exchange in the Town Hall on Wednesday, 5 December 2007 from 11am - 7pm
"There will also be opportunities during the day for tours of the site at 12 noon & 2 pm (meet on site at Cottage Row, near security compound)."
Stakeholders - like me and other councillors - are invited to an evening presentation with subsequent Answer and Question Time. I'd be happy to receive and suggestions for questions!
Saturday, 24 November 2007
This annual event is the hidden star of Morpeth's fairs and jumble sales. It lasts all week - this year from Sat 17th - Sat 24th Nov - and completely fills the Boys Brigade Hall (an old chapel) on Manchester Street.
You can get everything from glass & china to gadgets to prints & pictures to toys to electrical goods, not to mention books, cds, videos and computer games. If you can imagine Smails having a sale of surplus stock - but allowing customers to rummage through the stock rooms - you'll start to get the picture.
It's a great social event (and I usually get a fair bit of my Christmas shopping done there). But for me the best thing is that it promotes re-use and repair of things which is better than recycling.
It's one of the 'greenest' events in Morpeth - and its been going since 'green' was just a colour between yellow and blue in the rainbow [no political metaphor intended].
And now - you can get the same thing all year round with 'Freecycle' - a web-based exchange of unwanted goods. The Morpeth Freecycle™ group (currently with over 1800 members) is open to all who want to "recycle" [actually re-use] unwanted but serviceable items rather than throw them away. Whether it's a chair, a fax machine, piano or an old door, feel free to post it. Or maybe you're looking to acquire something yourself. Just one main rule: everything posted must be.
Friday, 23 November 2007
One new stall I'm particularly excited about (well - I don't get out much) not only sells Ecover products - but has barrels to refill bottles from.
Although Morpeth has a great reputation for recycling, we shouldn't forget that re-use (and repair) is better than recycling....
Sunday, 30 September 2007
Saturday, 29 September 2007
There is a growing demand for locally sourced produce in Morpeth building on our monthly farmers' market - and though our butchers, greengrocers, delis and local farm shops do all stock and promote local produce - Phil's enthusiasm for food and knowledge of local producers was something special.
He struggled a little bit when having to choose between imported organic produce and local non-organic produce - but generally went for local produce.
I understand that Phil doesn't want to make a big fuss about the Trading Standards and Food Standards Agency inspections that made life so difficult nor about the reluctance of the landlord to fund the improvements to the building that the inspectors required - so I won't go on about them.
Though I will comment in a general sort of way that it seems to me that absentee landlords and sky-high shop rents which is inhibiting the success of local businesses far more than car parking charges.
Sunday, 23 September 2007
Ever helpful - I've submitted a letter clarifying what Green taxation is about - and here it is (just in case the Morpeth Herald don't have room for it):
"Cllr Towns (Morpeth Herald letters 20th Sept) fundamentally misunderstands the nature of Green taxes, but he’s not alone. A well-designed Green tax should be revenue-neutral because people should switch from the activity being taxed to the Greener alternative. Investment up-front (eg in the rail network) should ensure that adequate alternatives are in place before the tax is imposed and any initial revenue would be ringfenced to subsidise alternatives (eg bus services) until usage levels make them commercially viable. I’m as frustrated as he apparently is that New Labour have brought the idea into disrepute by mislabelling some of their stealth taxes as ‘Green’ – and that so-called ‘Green taxes’ imposed by successive Conservative and Labour governments have not been sufficiently punitive (nor linked to resourcing alternatives) to change behaviour. The LibDems are confused too, if they think that Green taxes can be used to reduce income tax. In fact, the only UK example of a real Green tax that I can think of is the London congestion charge, brought in by Ken Livingston (at the time an Independent) with the backing of Green Party members of the Greater London Assembly."
Friday, 31 August 2007
This “LM3” study showed that money spent on procurement with local businesses benefited the local economy by three times as much as money spent with businesses outside the area.
And yet, proposals for the new unitary authority suggest outsourcing service delivery to a joint company shared with Cambridgeshire and Hampshire, likely to be based in Hampshire.
Outsourcing may possibly save money for the council but if it exports jobs and drains money from the county then its going to cost the local economy far more than is saved.
In fact, I’m surprised that the NE Chamber of Commerce is supporting proposals which could do so much damage to the local economy quite so strongly.
The County Council have a good reputation for local procurement and supporting social enterprise. The District Councils have some very good teams in place delivering high quality services, which are likely to be broken up in the restructure.
If we’re going ahead with the restructure, and if outsourcing is a must – then surely it should be possible to create local businesses to deliver services saving jobs and supporting the local economy in the process rather exporting jobs to the south.
Thursday, 30 August 2007
Wednesday, 29 August 2007
Engineering works are being carried out on the ECML every weekend from 15/16th September through to 3rd/4th November.
No trains will run north of Morpeth on these dates.
GNER services to Edinburgh will be diverted via Carlisle and there will be coaches connecting Newcastle with Morpeth, Alnmouth Berwick and Dunbar.
On Saturday 27th October and Saturday 3rd November, the Newcastle – Cramlington - Morpeth trains will be replaced by coaches.
Meanwhile, construction work seems to have started already at Morpeth: The northbound platform is currently being moved back 3 inches, to allow greater clearance between the tracks.
Tuesday, 28 August 2007
Morpeth Station was particularly highlighted.
It has seen an 8% growth in passengers in the last year with Virgin XC and GNER InterCity services stopping and is increasingly popular with commuters.
However, the car park is full by 8:30am and there are no cycle storage facilities at all.
And the northbound platform is notoriously inaccessible for wheelchair users.
Dennis Fancett, the Chairman of SE Northumberland Rail User Group said:
“The southbound platform has a bus turning circle marked ‘bus only’ but no buses call there; buses only serve the main road which is a short walk away. There are no sign posts to the bus stop. To get a bus into town you have to cross the main road with no pedestrian facilities. We’d like to see the bus company working to get the buses actually into the station complex.”
Meanwhile Northumberland CC has reportedly got bus operators to work to the train timetable, and even take account of delayed rail services at the newly refurbished transport interchange at Prudhoe Rail Station.
Saturday, 25 August 2007
I have, of course, written a rebuttal letter for the Herald – but I can develop some of the ideas more here.
Transport does generate about a third of CO2 emissions in the UK, but it is the only sector where emissions are growing – and growing fast. And of course, air travel is the most damaging because not only does it generate high levels of CO2, it emits them in the upper reaches of the atmosphere where the ‘greenhouse effect’ occurs. So policy needs to focus of emissions arising from transport.
Mr Bateman is quite correct is saying that the first focus must be on reducing the need to travel. We should be decentralising our provision of health, education, shops, work, leisure etc facilities. And we should be insisting on local produce whenever possible. If we’re serious about planning ‘sustainable communities’ – then we should be providing far more than just houses – even if they are ‘eco-friendly’.
And Mr Bateman is correct in saying that current fare structures militate against using lower emission modes of transport. It is ridiculous that short hop air fares are cheaper than rail fares; that a shared taxi is cheaper than travelling by bus or that road freight is more cost effective than rail freight.
Unfortunately, Mr Bateman then succumbs to the popular usage that spending on rail infrastructure is ‘subsidy’ while spending on roads in ‘investment’. In fact, the train operating companies actually pay the Government for franchises to operate and pay Network Rail for use of the track. It is these payments and the notion that the trains should be run to make profits for shareholders that keeps train fares up, while the road network is almost entirely operated as a state-funded public service with the result that the real cost of operating a car has decreased by around 10% in the last ten years.
He also comes up with some curious ideas about discounting fuel tax on heavy lorries and increasing Vehicle Excise Duty. Since the real problem is vehicle use, not vehicle ownership – it would seem a better idea to minimise Vehicle Excise Duty and maximise fuel tax. But – not before investing in public transport – bus and rail - to make it an adequate alternative to car use, and making it easier and safer to travel by bike or on foot.
Unfortunately at present, Government policy on transport – be it aviation, rail or road – is totally at odds with Government policy on climate change and reducing CO2 emissions.
Sunday, 19 August 2007
There'll be public meetings - in Morpeth Town Hall - on
Weds 5th Sept at 2pm (with a publicity stall on the market too)
Mon 10th Sept ar 6pm
Deadline for comments is 5th October.
In essence the proposals are:
i) close the Cottage Hospital on its current site
ii) build a new NHS outpatient clinic in Morpeth - with increased capacity and more equipment (MRI scanner, X-rays, ultrasound, echocardiography) than currently at the Cottage Hospital
iii) provide patient beds for end-of-life care and for 'slow stream rehabilitation' in an existing nursing home in Morpeth
iv) transfer the stroke rehabilitation and other in-patient beds at Morpeth Cottage Hospital to a 'dedicated unit' at Wansbeck General Hospital
Monday, 30 July 2007
Highways works incl widening Dark Lane, two new roundabouts and a 'pedestrian crossing facility' (do they mean a footbridge?) - due for completion midDec
Longstay car park on site of Retreat and south end of Geoff Brown's field - 115 parking spaces - due for completion 16th Nov
If all goes to schedule - the roadworks shold be finished and the new car park will be available for the run-up to Christmas
New petrol station will be built on the north end of Geoff Brown's field - starting 1st Oct, completion 29th Feb '08
Through the summer - there'll be preliminary work in Back Riggs to install new gas, water and electric services before the main development starts
Next stage will be construction of the new bus station (behind M&S)
Contact numbers for the contractors:
Thorntons (demolition of The Retreat) 01670 860335
Lumsden & Carroll (highways works) 0191 377 4500
Turtons (petrol station) 01924 477324
Monday, 23 July 2007
Car Sharing in Northumberland
A car with 2 people in it is twice as efficient as a car with one person in, takes up half as much road space and emits half as much CO2.
Northumberland Car Share is a free and simple to use internet service provided by Northumberland County Council to encourage people to share their journeys.
Sharers can find potential matches by becoming a member of Northumberland Car Share at www.northumberlandcarshare.com. The site has been built and designed for every possible user, whether they are a driver/passenger or would simply like to find an alternative to getting out and about. The system tells them if anyone is going in the same direction, leaving it up to the user to make contact through e-mail or telephone to arrange to share the journey and cost.
Registering with Northumberland Car Share also allows members to search and be included on the national Liftshare database which has over 110,000 members and 20 million trips.
The scheme has been designed to be as safe and secure as possible, and no personal information will be revealed on-line. In addition, women can choose to travel only with other women, and men with other men.
For more information check out the http://www.northumberlandcarshare.com/ website.
Thursday, 21 June 2007
5th July: No signs yet - but contractors are drilling holes in Wellway, in preparation for installation of storm overflow tanks to stop the road and the Cotting Burn flooding. This will involve a 7m deep hole being dug all the way along Wellway. I'll certainly be taking more care on the way back from the Tap & Spile while its on.
Meanwhile - NCC are starting the resurfacing of the A197 from Makeging Roundabout to County Hall on July 8th - 24 hour working for three weeks. The road won't be closed, but there'll be a 10mph speed limit for the duration.
All lining up nicely for the Britain in Bloom inspection on 16th July!
Wednesday, 13 June 2007
As far as I'm aware (don't frequent supermarkets much myself) Morrison's and Lidl's trolleys don't wander because a deposit system is used, while Co-Op customers are just too community-minded to go off with trolleys.
So - why don't M&S introduce a deposit system - or are they making so much money in Morpeth they can afford to lose the occasional trolley?
Saturday, 2 June 2007
Improvement of what you might well ask? Well - it used to be called "Corporate Governance" but that was considered too obscure for the public to understand.
So, the name was changed to "Improving the Council" - as in "Executive Member for Improving the Council". But that was quickly abandoned either because it seemed too heavy a burden for one councillor - or because it gave cause for too much public ribaldry (and we can't have that!)
Perhaps it's best described as the bits left over from the other (more obvious) Executive Member - Environment, Economy, Communities - I dunno?
So - Improvement? What do you think needs improving?
Friday, 1 June 2007
You have to feel sorry for the LibDems though. They've been 'in power' at the Borough Council - as part of coalitions with the Independents, with Labour, with everyone - for over eight years, and now when they have a huge election triumph with their highest ever number of seats, they find it's their turn to be in opposition.
Of course it didn't help that they went around before the election saying they couldn't work as part of an all-party coalition again - and their 'no holds barred' approach to electioneering seemed to overlook the point that they'd need to be working with at least some of the other parties after the election. You'd have thought that a party committed to proportional representation would have worked out a more integrated approach to coalition-building - and that holds true for their recent performances in the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly.
So - I've backed the "Unholy Alliance" because I think that the Tories and Labour need more help with their "Green" policies - and that the LibDems will make an effective opposition.
I sincerely hope we won't revert to inter-party squabbling and that we aren't in for a year(s)-long election campaign for a future Unitary Authority.
Wednesday, 23 May 2007
Of course, slowing climate change is about reducing carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gas) emissions, not purely about changing energy sources.
We could reduce CO2 emissions by
- reducing road traffic levels and aircraft use,
- building more energy efficient housing
- and by using energy more efficiently in industry.
And that's all before even thinking about social changes towards a lower energy lifestyle (see Transition Towns). Even when you consider electricity generation, the technology exists for lower powered computers, fluorescent lighting etc, not to mention uses (like heating) where electricity is simply inefficient.
So – when a Government is prepared to spend just £18M a year in energy conservation grants but several billion pounds on replacing nuclear weapons (which are contingency against a less certain threat than climate change) and several hundred billion pounds maintaining a military operation (partly) to safeguard oil supplies – you have to wonder at its priorities.
What I'm getting at is the suggestion that we need nuclear power to counter the threat of climate change is cr*p - I won't get into the arguments about nuclear waste, the threat of accident, the threat of terrorism, the impossibility of insuring nuclear power stations or even the fact that uranium extraction from its ore generates significant levels of CO2 - let's just say there are other alternatives in the timescale we've got.
As to security of supply – sources of high-grade uranium ore (eg West Africa, Siberia) are not exactly politically stable, any more than sources of oil and gas. And current nuclear power stations are designed to produce weapons-grade nuclear fuel by reprocessing. That’s one of the reasons why the Americans doubt the Iranian civil nuclear programme so much. Development of entirely ‘civil’ nuclear power stations will take much longer than the 20 year window we’re told we have.
Of course if photovoltaics, wave or tidal power could have been used to create weapons of mass destruction, they’d have been fully developed by now.
And I guess it is coincidence that the Government have published planning reform for major infrastructure projects and a strategy identifying the need for new nuclear power stations across the country.
Friday, 18 May 2007
It's a shame the all-party alliance has folded - but aggressive political campaigning during the election made it near inevitable. In some ways, returning to a conventional administration-opposition arrangement may lead to more debate in public - which will be a good thing if it casts more light than heat.
However with the possibility of Unitary Authorities looming over us - we'll most likely to have a full year's election campaign - and that won't do anyone any good when what we may need a well-managed transition.
Sunday, 13 May 2007
The charter steam train listed in the diary (over there) is coming up from Cleethorpes and is due to be at:
Newcastle Central: arr 14:05 dep 14:07
Benton North Junction 14:16
Hepscott arr 14:47 dep 15:17
Morpeth arr 15:26 dep 16:29
Newcastle Central arr 16:50 dep 16:53
Friday, 4 May 2007
The Town Council now has 13 LibDems 1 Labour and 1 Green (Nic) - but I'm sure there'll be no party politics played
The Borough Council has 12 Conservatives 12 LibDems 6 Labour 2 Independents and 1 Green (Nic) - and with 17 councillors needed for a majority coalition - we can expect to see Labour 'courted' by both Conservatives and LibDems - could be interesting. And who is going to be the next Mayor now that Geoff Proudlock has been voted off the Council?
I expect my Councillor Website will be re-activated soon - but I'll keep this blog going for the bits I'm not allowed to put on the website.
Tuesday, 1 May 2007
There's a consultation of 'key stakeholders' going on at the moment - that doesn't include the general public or any community organisations - deadline 22nd June - with the Government announcing what we're going to get in July.
Of course - its outrageous
- its outrageous that the government is imposing this change without any sort of referendum, but then we did give them the 'wrong answer' on regional government, so we can't be trusted
- its outrageous that the County Council pre-empted any discussion by declaring they'd be bidding for a single unitary authority within hours of the Government announcement, and brought their Cabinet up to speed a few weeks later - and then fudged the full council decision
- its outrageous that the District Councils 'played the game' by counter-bidding with a two unitary model, again without any real consultation (though as a loyal member of CMBC Executive Board, I'm of course fully behind the two unitary bid)
- its outrageous that Government 'bottled it' and did not choose a single option for consultation, thereby blighting any chance of co-operative working between County and Districts for another six months
But outrage won't get us far... Some parties are suggesting a private referendum - but this would take £120,000 of tax payers money with no guarantee that the Government will pay it heed.
So - we must try to get the best out of what is on offer...
As we see it, this change is all about
- more cost-effective centralised services
- meeting the different needs of urban and rural Northumberland
- and local accountability.
As a party, we feel that local accountability is most important and we’ll be looking to maximise this in all options under consideration.
And, whatever the outcome, the Town Council will become far more significant under unitary government so the results of this election are really important.
Saturday, 28 April 2007
Unlike most consultations and surveys - this one is important because it'll be used by the Borough Council to claim money from central Government to help fund affordable housing schemes - and we have a real problem with house prices in Morpeth.
So - if you get a form, please fill it in and return it - even if you don't think 'housing need' applies to you - the Council needs to get a full picture of the situation.
Although the survey is several pages long and rather intrusive - it is fairly easy to fill in because it is asking for facts rather than views and opinions.
Deadline for returning the forms is Weds 2nd May
Friday, 27 April 2007
Yesterday evening (April 26th) the (Conservative) Leader, (Labour) Deputy Leader, Chief Executive and councillors from all parties signed up to the Nottingham Declaration on Climate Change, which is an agenda for local action in response to the global issue. It is a bit waffly – but does commit the Council to working on climate change through all its activities – preparing an Action Plan within the next twelve months.
If re-elected, I’ll work to make sure this carried into real action even if climate change stops being ‘flavour of the month’ with the mainstream parties.
I found out the results of the survey in January and posted them on my councillor.info website -
NCC Highways had 80+ responses to their consultation. The responses were almost unanimous in support of the changed priority and raised junction at the intersection of Morrison Road with Fenwick Grove, but some 26% were opposed to proposed modifications to the junctions of Hood Street, Olympia Gardens and Fenwick Grove with Howard Road
They are therefore only going ahead with the changes to the Morrison Road - Fenwick Grove intersection, which is what is being done now.
Speed monitoring in the area showed average speeds under 20mph in Hood Street, Olympia Gardens and Morrison Road and just 21.8 mph on Fenwick Grove. With this evidence, I think that the police would agree to making the area a 20 mph zone without further traffic calming measures.
Following lobbying from Howard Road, Terrace and Greystoke Gardens residents lead by Peter Allan - NCC Highways are likely to consult on traffic calming proposals for Howard Road in the next financial/municipal year (ie after April - probably in Oct/Nov again) - which may well include proposals for such a 20 mph zone.
Thursday, 26 April 2007
The Town and Borough Councils committed themselves to supporting fairtrade as part of that process – but have really done very little towards deepening that commitment since.
If elected, Ron and Nic will work to get real ongoing support for fairtrade from both Town and Borough Councils.
It set me thinking that we could do something similar in Morpeth
- how about a ski lift down from Lancaster Park?
- or maybe a cog railway or funicular alongside Curly Kews?
...they'd certainly be an attraction to the town.
Wednesday, 25 April 2007
The Town and Borough Councils are going to need to work together to keep Morpeth going during the various redevelopments.
Both Nic and Ron are committed to keeping the ‘special character’ of Morpeth, supporting locally owned shops and the markets, improving bus and rail services and taking a sensible approach to car parking.
We'll try to keep you updated on reports on progress (or even start) of the Back Riggs development - and all the other works planned for this year. It'd be helpful if others could share what information they have through this 'blog'.
We understand that delays in the Back Riggs development have been largely caused by the late arrival of a separate Morrisons negotiator joining discussions.
Tuesday, 24 April 2007
This time round, he is at the heart of the Council’s preparation of its new Local Development Framework (LDF).
The LDF is a 20 year plan setting out where housing and industrial developments are going to be, mapping out the new Green Belt around Morpeth and defining policies to protect the landscape and wildlife.
It’s probably the most influential policy the Borough Council is responsible for.
So, we’ll certainly need one or two Greens on the Council to make sure it comes out right this time.
Monday, 23 April 2007
Saturday, 21 April 2007
Three years ago, Nic said that a ‘community-led solution’ was needed for the Chantry and Town Hall.
The Trust is that solution and, potentially, much more.
We must protect Morpeth’s assets and keep them in the hands of local people, but not be afraid to use them to boost the local economy.
If elected, Nic and Ron will encourage both Borough and Town Councils to continue working through and with the Trust.
Friday, 20 April 2007
Of course - the campaign is flawed from the start if it assumes that individuals can transform things just by 'doing our bit' in recycling, saving energy and reducing car use. Individuals can only take things so far - and even consumer pressure has its limits. We need local and national government to start changing too
And of course the only way to get our politicians to react is to vote Green - that way you either get elected Green politicians who understand what needs to be done, or at the very least, pressure the other parties to take on Green policies (even if they don't really understand them)
So - to restore meaning to the Conservatives' new slogan - If you want to Go Green - Vote Green!
Thursday, 19 April 2007
Nic was closely involved in creating the coalition, and has been on the Council’s Executive Board since it was established.
As a lone Green councillor - he has no political claim to the Executive - but the whole Council voted him on in recognition of the contribution he makes.
The Green Party generally works through consensus-building and co-operation.
If re-elected, Nic will continue to encourage cross-party working.
Wednesday, 18 April 2007
The Freecycle Network is a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns. Each local group is moderated by a local volunteer. Membership is free.
When you want to find a new home for something -- whether it's a chair, a fax machine, piano, or an old door -- you simply send an e-mail offering it to members of the local Freecycle group.
Or, maybe you're looking to acquire something yourself. Simply respond to a member's offer, and you just might get it. After that, it's up to the giver to decide who receives the gift and to set up a pickup time for passing on the treasure.
There’s a very active freecycling network with over 1100 members centred on Morpeth – see www.groups.yahoo.com/group/MorpethFreecycle/Morpeth
Nic has championed Morpeth Farmers’ Market from its launch in 1999 and we think it is one of the best things the council runs. And of course, it’s ‘green’ both to buy local (low foodmiles) produce and to support local businesses.
As Chairman of the Castle Morpeth Markets Partnership, Nic has overseen the major investment in the Wednesday Market and its transfer onto the Market Place. We’d like to see lots more done to develop both markets so by re-electing Nic, you can help make sure he’s there to carry on the job.
Monday, 16 April 2007
In Morpeth North Central:
Nic Best – standing for Castle Morpeth BC and Morpeth Town Council
Nic has served for eight years as a Borough Councillor and ten years as a Town Council for Morpeth North ward – and he still wants to be re-elected. Most recently, he has been a member of the Borough Council’s Executive in the all-party alliance and Chairman of the Markets Partnership. He is also Chairman of Northumberland Credit Union Ltd and a governor at Stobhillgate First School and he still finds time to do his ‘day job’ working for the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
And: Ron Forster – standing for Morpeth Town Council
Ron is Northumbrian born and has lived in Morpeth for nine years. He’s the minister of St George’s Church, is married to Shirley and has two sons, one at university in Edinburgh, and one in his final year at King Edward VI School. He was involved in the Morpeth Churches Action Group to save the Mount, is active in the Wansbeck Music Festival, on the Morpeth Gathering Committee, the Fair Trade Campaign and has been a school governor at Goosehill First School. In his spare time he enjoys drumming, playing in a ceilidh band and supporting Newcastle Falcons Rugby.
In Ponteland West: Peter Snowdon – standing for Castle Morpeth BC
Peter is a freelance documentary maker and his films include work on Palestine, on the foot & mouth crisis and on windturbines.
And in Stannington & Mitford: Paul Lawrence – standing for Castle Morpeth BC
Paul has travelled extensively in Iraq, Iran, Kazakhstan and Kyrgistan. He has a particular interest in Green social care policy and works at TyneMetro College.
The Calvalcade was a highlight - and I particularly liked Lord Greystoke's choice of a green feather in his cap. The horses are still missed though...
The concerts were great - and there seemed to be more entries for the competitions this year. Perhaps there's more prestige in winning at the 40th Anniversary? But for me, the musicians' sessions and singarounds in the pubs were better than the concerts - and that's not just because of the beer - Northumbrian music is more music for sharing in than performing?
One gripe - the cafes and tea rooms, not to mention the shops, were nearly all closed on Sunday - with people wandering the streets looking for somewhere to eat. I know when you are running your own business you don't want to work seven days a week - but it did seem like a lost opportunity.
And lastly a word of astonishment - I really don't know how Kim Bibby-Wilson does it - and survives! I hope she feels the success.
Tuesday, 10 April 2007
We'll post any information about when and where that we can glean - watch this space
The current word is that:
Dransfield will be starting work 2nd week in May (plus/minus a week)
- starting with the new car park and petrol station on Dark Lane (Geoff Brown's Field) and a new roundabout at the end of Dacre Street. This is scheduled to take 12 weeks - so that'll take till early August
Work on constructing the new bus station and on the Sanderson Arcade would then start in September.
Northumbria Water are proposing to start work in early June - starting on Spelvit Lane. They've told the County Council Highways people that they'll keep off the main roads
There are also going to be major works on Wellway - installing water-holding tanks to reduce run-off rate and liability to flooding. This will involve very deep pits. I'm told this work will progress along Wellway in 7 metre sections - starting in August after the Dark Lane/Dacre Street roadworks are completed.
Meanwhile the County Council are planning to resurface the road between County Hall and Mafeking Roundabout - this will either start in the next couple of weeks - or be delayed until Feb/March next year
We're told that all security fencing etc used on these works will be robust enough to take hanging baskets towards Morpeth's entry in Britain in Bloom!
Wednesday, 4 April 2007
They reckon they need 200 signatures to be taken seriously, and perhaps 1,000 for government departments to really take note of what we are doing. The petition is open for a year until April 2008, but it would be good to exceed the above numbers quickly.
SENRUG also have information that there are now two studies going on into different aspects of the ABT re-opening:
- A study into re-opening the Morpeth - Choppington - Bedlington Station section to passenger services, led by the North East Assembly and Wansbeck District Council. This should report back in May 2007 and SENRUG are involved as a non-funding partner in the study.
- A study into re-opening the Ashington - Bedlington - Northumberland Park section led by NEXUS and using the same consultants.
Sunday, 1 April 2007
I gather that an earlier offer from J D Wetherspoon to turn it into a chain pub was refused point blank because of the building’s history within the temperance movement.
Now I enjoy a good pizza as much as most (as though who know me will agree) – but in my view we have enough pizza outlets in Morpeth - and some very good ones too. And they have the added advantage that they are locally owned, so money spent there stays in the local economy. Money spent at a Pizza Express (or any other chain) would mostly go out of the area – on national or regional procurement, on national office admin and on profits to shareholders.
We don’t appreciate how lucky we are with Morpeth’s wealth of locally owned shops and businesses (though ‘wealth’ might not be the right word in some cases) – they make Morpeth special, keep our local economy going – and we should support them.
Saturday, 31 March 2007
I’ve been on the Castle Morpeth Markets Partnership – which includes Morpeth Town Council, Morpeth Chamber of Trade and the Greater Morpeth Development Trust – since it was set up – and I’ve been chairman for the last five years.
So – I’m one of the ones to praise or blame for the transfer to the Market Place and the investment in new stalls etc. Of course, I think it’s a big improvement – though it could be even better – and I think we’re bucking the trend which is seeing markets across the country in decline. But – complete the survey or get in touch with me direct to tell me what you think…
If you haven’t seen the survey – and it’s only one page – get in touch and I’ll send you a copy.
I’ve also been responsible through the Markets Partnership for Morpeth farmers’ market – which I’m immensely proud of, and think is one of the best things the Council runs. There should be survey about Morpeth (and Ponteland) farmers’ markets in the June issue of Gateway – but you needn’t wait till then to tell me what you think about it.
If you’ve not been yet – do come along and see what Morpeth farmers’ market is about – Sunday 1st April and Sunday 6th May.
Election Imprint: Promoted by Nic Best, 57 Olympia Gardens, Morpeth on behalf of MidNorthumberland Green Party
Wednesday, 28 March 2007
It'd really boost my confidence if people could either respond on this blog or email me direct to let me know this is reaching you.
Tuesday, 27 March 2007
If only Northern would put the finally-being-cascaded 158 units on at peak times every time, but they don`t. Why not? It seems as though the 158s will go everywhere else before being allocated to North-East routes.
There’s an opportunity to complain loud and long at the joint Northern Rail and Virgin XC passenger forum on Morpeth station next week - April 4th, 3pm-6.30pm
Transport 2000’s national survey results are on their website
Tuesday, 20 March 2007
The Duo gives you one return train ticket, plus a second for half the price when two adults travel together.
Monday to Friday - outward 09:30 onwards - return any train same day except for trains timed to depart between 16:01 -17:59 inclusive
and on any trains on Saturdays, Sundays & Bank Holidays (except that normally Northern Rail does not run trains stopping at Morpeth on Sundays and Bank Holidays).
Price of Duo: £6.90
Price of Two Adults: £9.20
Duo Saving: £2.30
Friday, 9 March 2007
The Town Council have consulted on a variety of locations - with a split in views between people who want the shelters and immediate neighbours who have fears of 'unruly gangs of youths' congregating at the shelters
So - without any clear policy in place - the Town Council have just deferred any decisions, so no new shelters for the time being!
Update 5th April:
Characteristically - the County Council have largely ignored the Town Council's dithering - and the bus shelters are being installed.
No agreement about maintenance yet. The Town Council's contractor cleans the old style bus shelters.
Get your nomination papers now! They’re available from 14th March from Annie Howliston, the Borough Elections Officer – tel Firstcall on 535000 – and need to be returned by 4th April.
There’s no deposit or charge to stand in the local elections (though you may want to spend some money on a leaflet) – and you need just ten people from the ward to sign your nomination paper for the Borough – and two signatures to stand for the Town Council.
And – recent legislation means that 18-year olds can now stand as candidates.
Elections are conventionally the time when people vote out the politicians they are dissatisfied with, though it may be difficult to vote on party lines when there’s been an all-party coalition for the past two years. On the other hand, a lot of people have expressed the view that they could make a better job being a councillor than ‘the present lot’ (and sometimes they say ‘excluding you, Nic, of course!) – so this is your chance! Why don’t you consider standing for either Borough Council or the Town Council?
Workload and Pay
I’d estimate that Borough Council work takes 12-15 hours a week what with committees and case work, and rather more if you are on the Executive, a Committee Chair or represent the Council on an outside body.
For this, you get a councillor’s allowance which will be around £3,500 before tax this coming year, plus travel expenses.
The Town Council is rather less work – two committee meetings a month plus any ad hoc working groups you volunteer for – but there is no allowance or expenses paid at all.
You don’t have to declare for a political party to be on the Town Council – but on the Borough Council, you do not have the right to be on any committees unless you are a member of a political group.
Of course, I’d be very happy to hear from people who’d like to stand for the Green Party
– but I’d better mention the leaders of the other parties who would also probably like to hear from prospective candidates:
Conservatives – Peter Jackson,
Labour – Alan Sambrook,
LibDem – David Parker
– and if you want to stand as an Independent rather than for a political party – there’s the ‘Independent Group’ – led by John Beynon.
Good luck – and I hope to hear from you!
Election Imprint: Promoted by Nic Best 57, Olympia Gardens, Morpeth NE61 1JQ on behalf the MidNorthumberland Green Party
Thursday, 1 March 2007
Don’t be put off – this is the Local Plan – probably the most influential policy the Borough Council sets – it last fifteen years and defines where and how many houses will be built, where and how much employment land will be allocated, defines the boundaries of the Green Belt – and sets the framework for all Planning Committee decisions.
The new process the Government has set up for the LDF is ‘death by a thousand consultations’ – starting with a consultation on how to consult! But it’s now getting more interesting.....
This document sets the outline high-level policies for Castle Morpeth 2006-2021 – and you’ll get one more bite at this cherry in the Autumn, with the ‘Submission Draft’ which really says “is this what you said?” bore it goes off the Government for approval. Then there’ll be various Area Action Plans (Morpeth, Ponteland, Coastal Villages), specialist Supplementary Planning Documents etc – which I’ll try to keep reported here – but this is the main strategy document.
That’s ‘Local Development Framework (LDF) Preferred Options’ – deadline for comments 31st March to LDF@castlemorpeth.gov.uk Its downloadable from the Castle Morpeth BC main website www.castlemorpeth.gov.uk .
It covers nine areas:
i) Development Strategy – where we build and where we don’t
ii) Housing – how many and where, and how we get affordable housing
iii) Employment & Tourism
iv) Retail & Services
v) Environment – including the new proposed Green Belt around Morpeth
vi) Heritage & Built Environment
vii) Energy Conservation, ICT and Transport – including rules for wind farm locations
viii) Planning Obligations
ix) and Monitoring & Implementation
Do have a look at it – and get in touch with me if there are any aspects you’d like to discuss….
Wednesday, 28 February 2007
OK – it’s yet another consultation – and because it has to fit the Government ‘Sustainable Communities’ template, and has to be ‘aligned’ with the Northumberland Local Area Agreement (don’t ask – or rather do ask – but not just now!) – it comes across as high level, vague jargon.
But don’t be put off! This little strategy and the action plan that emerges from it is going to determine the priorities for how any money is spent in Castle Morpeth over the next few years. So have a look and make sure it covers the things you think are important
The strategy and response form etc are downloadable from the main Castle Morpeth BC website www.castlemorpeth.gov.uk
Deadline for responses – 23rd March – to Ailsa Coverdale firstname.lastname@example.org
The Chairman of the Town Council gave him an official welcome - read all about it in the Morpeth Herald (with pics!)
Seriously - there actually was a traffic warden in Morpeth last week: there are eleven traffic wardens covering the whole county - one has managerial responsibilities and two are on longterm sick - leaving just eight to actually do the job.
And there is a job to do!
Morpeth is terrible for cars parked on pavements, cars parks on double yellow lines etc - we need proper enforcement of on-street car parking.
Castle Morpeth BC is working to convince NCC and the Police to 'decriminalise enforcement of on-street car parking' - which would mean that our enthusiastic car park attendants would have powers to write tickets for cars parked illegally on the road - as well as in the Borough Council car parks. But it's a long slow process.....
Monday, 26 February 2007
Obviously, I feel we should get as committed to taking action on climate change as possible while its still ‘flavour of the month’ with the other political parties. We’ll see how things go….
Meanwhile - the Local Government Association (see www.lga.gov.uk) has set up a "climate change commission" launched today (26th Feb) intended to make sure that councils are in the lead in delivering climate change policies. Everyone can give evidence to this commission and point out what local authorities should or could do.
In my view – there’s a lot councils can do to sort out our own act before taking on a self-declared leadership role:
* bypasses are a big problem: The Lancaster northern bypass supported by Lancashire County Council produces 25,000 tonnes of CO2 each year which when costed at Treasury rates over the normal 60 year life of the road comes to £44M. There are dozens of these bypasses around the country
* airports: Councils often support airports (e.g. part of Newcastle Airport is in Castle Morpeth). Councils have to be far clearer in taking on the role of saying "enough is enough" (I understand that Uttlesford DC has just done this for Stanstead)
* cycling, walking, public transport: Castle Morpeth BC adopted a green travel plan when it relocated to Longhirst Hall, but I’m not aware it has been implemented in any real sense.
* procurement: There’s a lot of scope here. Currently, it’s getting more centralised and the main pressure is to cut costs. If we’re serious about climate change, we should be including carbon counting or eco-auditing as part of the procurement process.