Sunday, 30 September 2007

St George's, Cottingwood Common - and English Partnerships

I gather that English Partnerships have now taken over the whole St George's Hospital site from the NHS as part of the Government's plan to develop unneeded NHS land.
]My understanding of the planning situation is that there's no chance of development beyond the 150 homes already approved until a new access road is constructed]
English Partnerships seem to be taking their responsibilities for the site seriously - and in the past week or so there has been some friction between security guards and dogwalkers etc on the St George's site. I understand that the site manager for English Partnerships has now been given instructions to allow free access (within reason) to walkers and dog-walkers.
However - it does raise issues about future access to the site. NCC have a webpage showing existing rights of way, but there are a number of footpaths and access points which are not covered by these.
There is a process whereby additional rights of way can be established by groups of people if they can demonstrate that they have used the route for 20 years or more. I'd like people who regularly walk at St George's or on Cottingwood Common to get in touch with me so that we can identify any further rights of way and points of access that need to be defined before English Partnerships get going with development plans.
I've been told that Morpeth Antiquarian Society have registered 'Cottingwood' as a Common - and I'd like to hear more about this.
I'm also aware the the Morpeth Walking Festival will include some walks up onto the Cottingwood site, and that GMDT will soon be issuing walking guides which includes at least one involving the site.
Time for some joined-up thinking....

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Good Food Shop

Sad to see the 'Good Food Shop' on Back Riggs closing today. It was perhaps the most successful business run from that shop - and was building an enthusiastic customer base.

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

David Towns on Green Taxes

My Conservative colleage in the "Unholy Alliance" - young Cllr David Towns - shows himself up a bit by displaying a profound ignorance of the nature and purpose of Green taxes in a letter to the Morpeth Herald this week (20th Sept). It's understandable - the way New Labour (and the John Major government before them) have used the term - anyone could get confused.

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."