Saturday, 28 April 2007

Housing Need Survey

Some 11,000 households across the Borough have received a housing needs survey from the Council.

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

Interactive Leaflet 8 - Climate Change

As the Greens have been saying for the last twenty years – climate change is not only real, but the biggest threat we have to face and we’ve got to do something about it. That includes both reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for the floods, storms, droughts and heatwaves we can expect.

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.

What's going on at the Morrison Road junction?

Back last November - NCC carried out a survey on traffic calming in the Hood Street -Fenwick Grove area which I helped publicise...

I found out the results of the survey in January and posted them on my 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

Interactive Leaflet 7 - Fairtrade Morpeth

Both Ron and Nic are strong supporters of fairtrade and are proud that Morpeth was the first town in Northumberland to achieve Fairtrade status back in 2003. See the Fairtrade Foundation

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.

Getting around town...

Have you seen the proposals from Gateshead Council for a ski lift to carry people between Gateshead town centre and the Baltic on the Quayside?

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

Interactive Leaflet 6 - Development in Morpeth

The next few years are going to see massive changes in Morpeth.

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

Interactive Leaflet 5 - Local Plan

Nic was first elected to the Borough Council in the aftermath of the catastrophic failure of the last Castle Morpeth Local Plan.

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

Interactive Leaflet 4 - Rail Services

Both Ron and Nic are strong supporters of the SE Northumberland Rail User Group (in fact Nic was involved in setting it up) and we’re very impressed by what it has achieved. Again, if elected we’ll work to make sure that both Town and Borough Councils actively support SENRUG in its campaigns and projects.

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Interactive Leaflet 3 - Greater Morpeth Development Trust

In our view, GMDT is the last, best hope for Morpeth as a market town.

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

Go Green ....... Vote Green!

Nice of the Newcastle Journal & Evening Chronicle to launch their 'Go Green' campaign in support of our local election campaign...

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

Interactive Leaflet 2 - All-Party Coalition

For the past two years, the Borough Council has operated under an all-party coalition and as a result it has been more effective, wasting less time on trivial inter-party squabbling.

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

Morpeth Freecycle Network

Here’s a good idea…..

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

Interactive Leaflet 1 - Markets

I'm going to post text from our leaflet to give blog readers a chance to comment on what we've said - one section at a time - starting with Markets:

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

Green Candidates standing on May 3rd

We’re concentrating on the new Morpeth North Central ward – where there are three Borough Councillors to be elected and five Town Councillors. We’re asking for one of your three Borough Council votes and two of your five Town Council votes

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.

After the Gathering

So - been out and about over the weekend at the 40th Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering. It looked a great success - and the weather was - errmm... too hot for me if anything.

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

So when are the threatened redevelopments and roadworks going to start?

Apart from the Back Riggs redevelopment, Northumbrian Water are planning major refurbishment of waterpipes in Morpeth over the summer - and the County Council want to resurface our roads.

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

Ashington-Blyth-Tyne line - petition to no. 10

SENRUG (South East Northumberland Rail User Group) has set up an online petition to 10 Downing Street through the 10 Downing St website, to campaign for the re-opening of the Ashington Blyth & Tyne Railway Line.

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

More development in Manchester Street?

Rumour has it that up-market pizza chain “Pizza Express” has made an offer for the Boys’ Brigade Hall in Manchester Street.

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.