Saturday, 31 March 2007

What do you think of the market so far?

There’s a survey about the Morpeth Wednesday Market in the latest issue of the Borough Council’s ‘Gateway’ magazine. I’m hoping that people will take the opportunity to respond to it – because (if re-elected) I’m likely to be working on further development of the market.

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

Taking the credit

I was much amused as usual by the latest edition of the LibDem's 'Focus' newsletter. As always their use of partial truths to create a misleading impression is masterful and a lesson to all of us aspiring politicians.
Of course, 'Chancellor' Cllr David Parker has played a pivotal role as 'Executive Member of Corporate Governance' (which includes finance) in helping the Council's financial recovery. But he could not have done it on his own - it is the cross-party working in an all-party coalition which has made to recovery possible.
And I'm proud of my minor role in bringing the party groups together.
I take it as a sign of success of the coalition that different parties are each trying to take credit for what the Council has achieved over the past few years - rather than blaming each other for failures. I only hope the election campaign doesn't sour relationships between the parties too much - we (if I'm re-elected, 'they' otherwise) will have to work together again afterwards.
Oh - but it does rile me a bit seeing the LibDems trying to take credit for South East Northumberland Rail User Group's (SENRUG) successes. This is an apolitical lobbying group with no connections to any political party. I was involved in setting it up - but I've deliberately taken a back seat since - limited myself to being the contact between SENRUG and the Borough and Town Councils.
Election Imprint: Promoted by Nic Best, 57 Olympia Gardens, Morpeth NE61 1JQ on behalf of MidNorthumberland Green Party

Staying in touch...

Well - my website has gone down for the election period, so I hope my 'regular readers' have transferred.

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

Sardine Man is a Geordie!

The North East has apparently the worst (Durham-Newcastle) and the sixth worst (Morpeth-Newcastle) crowded commuter trains in the country.

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

Cheap Rail Travel to and from Newcastle

Northern Rail have introduced their ‘Duo’ ticket on rail services between Morpeth and Newcastle.

The Duo gives you one return train ticket, plus a second for half the price when two adults travel together.

It’s available:

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

No bus stop shelters please!

Northumberland CC have offered to provide a number of perspex bus stop shelters - some replacing the concrete and wood structures maintained by Morpeth Town Council

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.

Think you could do better than existing councillors? Council seats up for grabs!

On May 3rd – all 33 Borough Council seats and all 15 Town Council seats will be up for election.

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

Consultation on Local Plan

Another consultation - this time ‘Local Development Framework Preferred Options’ – deadline for comments 31st March.

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 Its downloadable from the Castle Morpeth BC main website .

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….