Tuesday, 30 December 2008
My views on Coca Cola's take-over are spelled out in this blog and I would have liked to rehearse them in Council - but the way the LibDems brought forward the motion and refused pointblank to discuss it beforehand when asked leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
And - why single out Coca Cola? There are enough jobs under threat elsewhere - particularly with the new (LibDem-run) unitary council (probably 15-20 times the job losses with Coca Cola)
Wednesday, 17 December 2008
Earth seems to develop negative feedback systems to return its surface conditions to a steady state when disturbed – this is the (non-mystical) basis of the Gaia hypothesis.
Forget carbon dioxide levels varying over the past thousand, ten thousand or hundred thousand years (and try to ignore the suggestion that we are about 40,000 years overdue for an ice age on past indications), we are talking about processes taking tens if not hundreds of millions of years. I’m thinking of the Carboniferous Period (354-290 million years ago) and the Cretaceous Period (144-65 million years ago). From what we can glean from the geological record (it’s called ‘palaeo-climatology’) both were marked by small or non-existent ice caps, extensive shallow seas and higher average temperatures than now.
And both Periods are named for mechanisms which absorbed carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and trapped it in the earth’s crust.
In the Carboniferous, 'trees' from mangrove swamps were buried over tens of millions of years forming coal (oil and gas were formed in a similar way - though not from trees).
In the Cretaceous, micro-organisms flourishing in the warm seas deposited chalk and limestone trapping the carbon as calcium carbonate – again over tens of millions of years. I’m interpreting this in each case as periods with high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and a negative biofeedback mechanism which trapped it in the crust and – eventually – reduced CO2 levels, the earth cooled and the sea levels dropped as ice caps grew again.
So – it’s a natural process?
Trouble is – what we’re doing, by burning fossil fuels, is releasing carbon dioxide that took tens if not hundreds of millions of years to deposit in a matter of a one or two centuries (and that’s not counting carbon dioxide released when we make cement or concrete from limestone). This is simply too fast for the earth to develop new feedback systems!
We're getting the 'greenhouse effect' – global warming, ice caps melting, sea levels rising – including dramatic weather during the (geologically brief) transition period.
And this may well be enough to put paid to what we call ‘civilisation’ – and maybe also to the human race.
But unless the process is so extreme that the earth loses a lot of its water into space (in which case Earth will become like Venus), I think we can rely on negative biofeedback mechanisms developing to remove the carbon dioxide naturally, though it make take a few hundred million years!
To summarise – even though we are releasing carbon dioxide in one-millionth of the time it took to deposit it, it’s likely that biofeedback mechanisms will develop to re-trap the carbon dioxide naturally – but over rather a long time. It is not really the earth that is at risk from climate change – it is humans and human civilisation.
Oh – and a thought about offsetting carbon emissions by planting trees. It took the mangrove swamps of the Carboniferous – hundreds of millions of years, thousands of millions of generations of trees growing over most of the planet – to trap enough carbon as coal to make a difference to CO2 levels. Planting trees will trap a little CO2 while the tree is actually growing, though not when it reaches maturity – but unless the ‘offsetters’ have plans to turn their trees into coal – its nothing like a longterm solution.
Sunday, 14 December 2008
“No business of course can offer cast-iron guarantees about jobs, particularly when there is bound to be an overlap between departments and functions” … “Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) will be considering how best to integrate the Abbey Well business within the CCE portfolio, and this integration may include job losses.” … “Our hope would be that this could lead to job opportunities for as many of Abbey Well employees as possible.”
And in a follow-up letter (28-Nov):
“The integration could mean job opportunities for many ‘Abbey Well’ employees, however we cannot rule out some job losses.” …. “We believe we have a responsibility to the local [Morpeth] community and we want to continue to make a positive difference.”
So – I guess they’ll offer a number of staff a move elsewhere in the country (world?), and make them redundant if they don’t want to move.
Doesn’t do a lot for the local Morpeth economy, does it?
Friday, 12 December 2008
Alnmouth 11:05 Acklington 11:12 Widdrington 11:19 Morpeth 11:29 Cramlington 11:38 Newcastle 11:50 Metro Centre 12:05
Wednesday, 10 December 2008
Sunday, 30 November 2008
I take your points about maintaining local employment and the local base of the company, and I hope that the rationalisation process will permit this.
However you do not address my other concerns about the profit leaving the local economy. I base my comments on the work of the New Economic Foundation 'local multiplier 3' and other work which shows that money spent with locally owned companies contribute to the local economy more than money spent with multi-nationals.
Whilst investment from CCE may support local jobs, the fact remains that the loss of a 'head office' even of a small company from the area, and the region, will be reflected in a reduction in regional GVA - the main measure which Government is using to assess the progress of the region. I don't know whether you can arrange your profit centres to retain the profit from Water & Robson in the North East?"
and he has replied:
"From early next year, water extracted at the Morpeth site will be available to consumers as ‘Schweppes Abbey Well’. By combining the track record of ‘Abbey Well’ as a quality natural mineral water, with the world famous, much-loved and iconic ‘Schweppes’ brand, we will give more consumers across Great Britain the chance to enjoy a high quality, British natural mineral water.
"As part of our sponsorship of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, ‘Schweppes Abbey Well’ will be one of the drinks offered at London 2012, meaning fans and athletes alike will be able to enjoy a range of drinks, including soft drinks, bottled water, juices and sports drinks during the games. ‘Schweppes Abbey Well’ will also be encouraging people to get active by offering them the opportunity to go swimming for free with further details to be announced next year.
"‘Schweppes’ has a history of nurturing other well established brands, including Rose’s cordials and Malvern English Water, to grow their sales and retain investment in their local communities. The ‘Coca-Cola System’ hopes to replicate this success in the Morpeth area, using the scale and ambition of The Coca-Cola Company to deliver growth and employment opportunities for local people.
"Now the deal is complete Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), the local employer, will be considering how best to integrate the ‘Abbey Well’ business within the company. At this stage, CCE does not have any plans or proposals regarding the best way to achieve this. The integration could mean job opportunities for many ‘Abbey Well’ employees, however we cannot rule out some job losses. As a responsible employer, CCE will consult fully with ‘Abbey Well’ employees before any decisions are taken.
"I would like to thank you for your reply to my earlier email and address your other concerns.
While ‘Coca-Cola’ may be a famous global brand, we are also very much a British business.
The ‘Coca-Cola System’ operates in many areas across England, Scotland and Wales and we have developed strong relationships with the local communities where we are present. We believe we have a responsibility to the local community and we want to continue to make a positive difference. This includes Morpeth.
"Abbey Well is being integrated into our business structure and I appreciate you may have concerns. However, the Abbey Well business will remain in Morpeth and we will invest in it for growth as Coca-Cola Enterprises, as the local employer, continues to bottle the water here. We firmly believe that our investment will help sustain and build on the success of key business in the North East in the long-term.
"Our contribution to local communities goes beyond our operations. We have our own community investment activities and local community sponsorships, as well as charitable donations, employee volunteering and the provision of in-kind donations.
I hope - and expect - this will be the start of a long and rewarding relationship between The ‘Coca-Cola System’, Abbey Well and the Morpeth community and I hope you will agree that linking the ‘Abbey Well’ brand with ‘Schweppes’ opens up many more possibilities and sets ‘Abbey Well’ on course for a very prosperous future. "
Wednesday, 12 November 2008
Of course, it is a privately-owned company, and the directors have a perfect right to sell their property - but I'd have said that Waters & Robson, in some way, also belongs to Morpeth. The business has been linked to the town for a century and more. I think there's an issue of loyalty here.
And even if Coca Cola keep the business in Morpeth - the profits will go out of the town, out of the local economy.
This is what I can't understand when people look for the 'big name' multinationals coming to Morpeth: Costa and Starbucks will threaten our local owned cafes, Subway is squeezing our local sandwich shops, Next, Timpsons, W H Smiths etc will all take business from locally owned shops - and (to my way of thinking) the challenge to our local independent butchers, bakers, delis and greengrocers are Morrisons, Tescos, Sainsburys and M&S - not the markets.
Sure the 'big names' may bring more people into Morpeth (though maybe not so many, if Bridge Street looks identical to any other high street) - but those people won't spend that much in the local shops, and though the 'big name' stores may 'create jobs', their profits will go out of the town - and jobs will be lost from the locally owned shops.
Sunday, 9 November 2008
Last weekend (Sat 1st) – we had a ‘Celebration of Five Years of Fairtrade in Morpeth’ – remembering that Morpeth was the first Fairtrade town in Northumberland, being awarded the status in 2003.
It was a good turnout – with some 50 or so people from all over Northumberland – from Wooler to Wideopen. Hannah Reed came up from the Fairtrade Foundation in London, giving us a preview of their new ‘Tipping the Balance’ campaign to be launched in Fairtrade Fortnight (23rd Feb – 8th Mar) next year. Also a forewarning of the Great Banana Event on 6th-7th March….
Fiona Hall MEP came along and Denis Murphy MP thought he was coming, but his staff sprang a surprise birthday party on him. (Happy Birthday for last week, Denis!)
And the newly formed Morpeth Leos – the ‘junior Lions’ from KEVI – came along with some entertaining Fairtrade games and quizzes. I was disappointed that they didn’t do the promised facepainting though.
We collected ideas and suggestions for what might be done to promote Fairtrade further – and here’s a transcription of what people came up with:
* Raising awareness of fairtrade amongst young people – going into schools and running ‘fun’ events
* Can school ‘shops’ and canteens be fairtrade?
* Northumberland – a fairtrade county?
* Hadrians Wall – a fairtrade zone?
* T-shirts & badges to promote fairtrade
* Councils offer free advertising on website and in publications for local suppliers, sellers of fairtrade produce, including discount coupons for products
* Develop more of a website presence
a web-based Northumberland directory of Fairtrade outlets
* Get someone uninhibited on your committee
PEOPLE & ORGANISATIONS to get INVOLVED
* Local Schools
* Target young people - a Morpeth or Northumberland Fairtrade Facebook group
* Why just young people? Try involving U3A
* Pegswood Parish Council to persuade all community facilities (Uniun Building, Welfare, Project Centre etc) to buy fairtrade tea, coffee etc from the local Co-Op
* The large supermarkets
* Cramlington Fairtrade Steering Group seeks support
* The new Northumberland unitary Council
* Organise a motion in support of Fairtrade to be passed in the month that the new council comes into existence (April-May)
* Parish councils – and the new clusters of parish councils (formerly known as belonging communities)
* The new town councils being created in Wansbeck & Blyth Valley
* Town-twinning people: working on Fairtrade promotion with “twin” towns in Europe and elsewhere
* Churches – together with their sister churches in other countries
* Bed & Breakfasts, Guest Houses, Hotels
* Development Trusts
* Have more gatherings to bring people together – twice a year?
* Cramlington: Photo-Opp of Manor Walks security manhandling fairtrade activist distributing fairtrade leaflets outside the mall
* Fairtrade fair led by young people
* Fairtrade Fortnight 23rd Feb – 8th Mar 09
* Launch of Fairtrade Foundation “Tipping the Balance” initiative
* Bananas! Fri 6th Sat 7th Mar
Banana world record attempt held at all Morpeth schools simultaneously! Perhaps Leos could co-ordinate?
Banana Tour: An inflatable banana or people dressed as bananas visiting shops and supporters in Morpeth/Northumberland
Which building can we dress up as a banana?
* Fairtrade Question Time in run-up to European Elections (June ’09)
Traidcraft may be producing national policy briefing
OFFERS of HELP
* Morpeth Leos
Leos are visiting 7-12 year-old youth group in Longhirst to talk about Fairtrade (and take the games with them)
* KEVI Student Voice
* KEVI Student International Relations Committee
Thursday, 6 November 2008
Tesco say they will submit their planning application for a store up at Coopies Lane 'in December'. No sign of the Sainsburys application which was promised for May/June past, though. There is revised Government planning guidance on retail development ('PPS3') due out 'early in the new year' - so maybe that is determining submission schedules, as well as the transition to the unitary authority.
Novera hopes to submit their application for the Tod Hill wind farm (reduced from 6 to 4 turbines in the recent exhibition) 'by midDecember'
Network Rail is finally expecting to bring forward a planning application for their proposals for provide more car parking at Morpeth rail station 'before Christmas'.
And - further afield, RWE is expected to submit the planning application for the new so-called 'clean coal' power station at Cambois very soon. This will be determined by the Secretary of State, not local councils - though the rumour is that RWE are keen to get the application in before the shift to the unitary, because they think they'll get a more sympathetic hearing from Wansbeck DC
So - there shoud be plenty of paperwork to read through over the Christmas break!
Wednesday, 29 October 2008
He wants to do this using pictures, videos and descriptions contributed by the public.
- Stait Photography, 51 Newgate Street, Morpeth (who will copy photos from camera, memory stick etc onto CD free of charge)
- Castle Morpeth Council FirstCall, 28 Bridge Street, Morpeth
- New Life Christian Centre, 24 Dacre Street, Morpeth
- Or any residents' meetings
Or post to: Geoff Parkin at 39 Mitford Road, Morpeth, NE61 1RG
Geoff Parkin - who is, incidentally, a Green Party member - argued strongly against the previous Env Agency proposals for Morpeth Flood Protection, advocating a comprehensive flood alleviation system of the sort that the Env Agency is proposing now, more than five years (and two floods) later.
Sunday, 26 October 2008
Tuesday, 21 October 2008
"I've checked with the team who did the work and can confirm that three gulley emptiers and one road sweeper/gulley emptier were used on Thursday the 9th to cleanse the road gulleys in the flood affected areas in Morpeth. The areas were split up into four locations and each crew were given a map/location plan of their area to cleanse. The CMBC road sweeper/gulley emptier attended to the Low Stanners area and cleansed gulleys with no problems requiring further attention reported. Overall two gulleys that require further attention were reported , one o/s Roch Catering in the Newmarket and one in Phoenix Court. We hope to resolve these two in the near future."
I also raised the question of the blocked storm drain at the end of Olympia Gardens:
"With regard to Olympia Gdns. we are aware of the blocked road gulleys and have a job sheet in the system to replace the existing gully pots with new ones with rodding eyes as at present we are unable to access the pipework to jet clear the blockage."
Perhaps the most important message is how best to report problems in the future:
"Any specific concerns relating to individual gulleys are best dealt with from now on by residents calling the Highways freephone number 0808 100 8 9 10."
Thursday, 16 October 2008
Wednesday, 15 October 2008
I'm livid that the Government is backtracking on the Minister's (John Healey's) promise on Monday 8th Sept that Morpeth would receive 'all possible help' from the Government.
Now Government is saying that there won't be any emergency flood funding - we'll get 85% of money spent by the council (eventually) under the 'Bellwin' rules - but there'll be no extra money, and the 'Bellwin' period runs out within a couple of months.
The excuse given is that they've blown all their money supporting the banks - and there's none to spare to make a decent job of flood recovery, and maybe use the refurbishment process to make improvements, in energy efficiency, better design against future flooding, improved drainage etc - so-called 'resilience'.
Is it just me who thinks that investing in flood recovery is more important, and will probably have a longer lasting effect than throwing money at the gamblers who run the global economy?
Anyway - there's an 'adjournment debate' on the Morpeth flooding in Parliament on Monday. Let's see what those great champions of Morpeth - (in strict alphabetical order) Peter Atkinson, Sir Alan Beith and Denis Murphy - have to say in our support.
Tuesday, 7 October 2008
There should be notices going out beforehand to warn people to move cars etc to clear the streets.
Monday, 6 October 2008
Thursday, 25 September 2008
After the trial, Northern told SENRUG (off the record) that it had been successful [despite the extended opening not being advertised or promoted in any way]
The ticket office not only serves the purpose of selling tickets (including advance purchase fares), it provides a staffed enquiry point re train running information (there is no other form of passenger information available at Morpeth) and gives access to the toilet and the waiting room. None of these services are available when the ticket office is closed.
If you want to support the extended opening hours, you can write to Wayne Dixon of Northern Rail (Area Station Manager North, Room 44a, Central Station Offices, Newcastle NE1 5DL). SENRUG would appreciate copies of any letter submitted.
For Information: Northern Rail sell tickets for their own services on their trains. Thus they themselves do not get extra ticket revenue from having the ticket office open, as generally the conductor has no problem reaching all passengers on the afternoon trains. However, if they sell tickets for other operator's services (eg National Express or CrossCountry), they get a commission. If the extended opening hours means that more intercity tickets are sold, the extra costs incurred could be recouped by the extra commission. Not everyone has internet facilities at home for buying intercity tickets, and if you need to travel the next day for instance you can not use the internet as there is insufficient postage time. So far, Morpeth residents are denied the discounted "advance purchase" tickets, available up to 6 pm the day before, simply because the ticket office is not open and you cannot buy them.
Sunday, 14 September 2008
Planned maintenance work on the East Coast Mainline mean that no intercity trains will be running direct between Newcastle and Edinburgh on weekends from Sat 27th Sept to Sun 2nd Nov inclusive
That's on weekends 27th-28th Sept, 4th-5th Oct, 11-12th Oct, 18th-19th Oct, 25th-26th Oct and 1st-2nd Nov:
National Express East Coast services will be diverted between Newcastle and Edinburgh via Carlisle on an hourly service. Coaches will replace trains between Newcastle and Edinburgh via Berwick-on-Tweed.
Northern Rail only runs services on Saturdays (though I hope they'll be running Sunday rail services through December like last year). During these planned works, they'll have buses replace services between Morpeth and Chathill every weekend. Trains between Morpeth and Newcastle will run normally except on Sat 18th Oct when they'll be replaced by buses.
CrossCountry services: Coaches will replace trains between Newcastle and Edinburgh via Berwick-on-Tweed
All the information is on the National Rail timetable website if you look hard enough.
Saturday, 13 September 2008
I must say the burst water main at Mafeking roundabout (13th) was dramatic - but quite frightening for people in Middle Greens affected by the floods last week. Almost as if some crazed tourist impresario had decided to make flooding in Morpeth a weekly event.
NWL will return during the October half term to complete the work at Goose Hill. Two way traffic will be maintained at all times - we're told.
No other roadworks are planned for the next three months (clear to Christmas) apart from the Back Riggs redevelopment and some repairs where the floods lifted the road surface (Gas House Lane, Chantry Place etc)
Monday, 8 September 2008
As I understand it, the approach being followed will be to keep information flowing - about what has been done, what is going to be done next and giving indicative timescales.
It's also too early to determine what went wrong and what went right. The 'lessons learned' bit comes later - but we do need to collect evidence. And since everyone is bursting with their 'flood stories' (plus photos and videos) - I think it'd be a great idea to start collecting and recording them. Then later - we'll have a broad picture of what happened from lots of different angles.
Meanwhile - I don't think it was helpful for John Healey, the Minister who visited Morpeth to start talking about the refusal of the Env Agency's flood defence proposal a couple of years back. It's almost as if he is trying to blame the people of High Stanners for being flooded out.
What actually happened - as I recall - was that the Env Agency were just talking about flood defence in Morpeth Town, and a 3m bund along the river at High Stanners. The Green Party (led by then Town Councillor Geoff Parkin - a hydrogeologist by trade) argued for a more comprehensive scheme of flood protection and flood prevention - including upstream holding ponds etc. And with a public perception that a bund would destroy the character of High Stanners - the Env Agency withdrew their proposals.
And as a matter of interest - their new Wansbeck catchment strategy sets out a far more comprehensive approach including both preventative and protective measures as the Green Party argued for last time. I hope they'll accelerate their detailed proposals for Morpeth now.
And - for the record - I gather that the 'hundred year flood' we experienced over the weekend would have overtopped a 3m bund on High Stanners even if it had been built.
Sunday, 7 September 2008
i) we may be getting a visit from the relevant Minister - John Healey MP - tomorrow (Monday).
ii) people who have been flooded out and are on the official list for rehousing should here from Castle Morpeth Housing by the end of this week. (Get in touch with your local councillor if they haven't)
iii) The FirstCall office on Bridge Street was flooded and is unusable - but the 01670 535000 number will be answered - and the Town Hall is being converted into an temporary information centre
iv) the wall that collapsed near the Leisure Centre was not part of the flood defence
v) there'll be newsletters published daily
and vi) there's a risk that we may have more flooding from Weds onwards
And so - the official advice:
IMPORTANT We are advised that mains water is safe to drink and use.
Please wash your hands after handling flood damaged material.
RETURNING TO YOUR PROPERTY - Advice from the Environment Agency
§ Take care as there may be hidden dangers in the flood water like sharp objects, raised manhole covers and pollution.
§ Flood water could have caused structural damage to your property.
§ Ring your buildings and contents insurance company as soon as possible
§ In almost all cases the insurance company will send a loss adjuster to look at your property. They will confirm what repairs and replacements are needed and covered by your policy.
§ If you rent your property, contact your Landlord and your contents insurance company as soon as possible.
§ If you do not have insurance, your local council should be able to provide information on hardship grants or charities that may be able to help you.
ELECTRICAL ADVICE from CE Electric
IF YOUR HOME HAS BEEN FLOODED, PLEASE DO NOT SWITCH ON YOUR ELECTRICITY UNTIL IT HAS BEEN CHECKED BY NEDL 0800 668877
As a safety precaution, CE Electric would like to offer householders the following advice:
- Switch off your power supply at the fuse box if your electrical installation is likely to be affected by water.
- Do NOT operate equipment which is in water or while standing in water. Stay away from any live equipment submerged in water.
- If your internal wiring or appliances have been affected by water, please have them checked by an approved Electrical Contractor before switching your power back on.
UTILITY ADVICE Gas leaks should be reported to 0800 111 999
HEALTH ADVICE from the Health Protection Agency
Infection problems arising from floods in this country are rare. Usually any harmful bugs in floodwater become very diluted and present a low risk, but there are a few precautions to be aware of when dealing with flooding which should prevent unnecessary additional health problems:
Wherever possible, try to avoid coming into direct contact with floodwater. If you have to go into the water, wear waterproof gloves and rubber boots and remember to be careful of potentially concealed hazards.
Wash your hands — this is the most important way to get rid of harmful bugs. Use warm, clean water and soap, then rinse and dry your hands after going to the toilet, before eating or preparing food, after being in contact with flood water, sewage or with items that have been in the water. Use cold water to wash if warm is not available. If there is no clean water, use disposable soapy, wet wipes to carefully clean all parts of your hands and dry them.
Use waterproof plasters.
Keep children out of the water
Don’t eat any food that has been touched or covered by floodwater or sewage.
What if I start to feel unwell?
If you feet unwell this does not necessarily mean that you are suffering from any infection. If you are concerned, then call NHS Direct on 0845 4647 or visit your family doctor.
Both the physical stress associated with overexertion in cleaning up premises and the mental stress caused by temporary relocation may make you feel unwell. Remember that tiredness, difficulty steeping and anxiety are normal in these circumstances and may go away with time. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, contact friends, relations or your family doctor. And keep warm — cold can lead to hypothermia.
What Castle Morpeth Borough Council’s doing now:
• CMBC Green and Clean teams have started to clear debris from streets in the affected areas in Morpeth
• Skips are being placed near to homes in affected areas for residents’ use
• The Council is currently assessing what needs to be done to assist residents and will be working with all key agencies to do this
• The council will continue to offer advice through FirstCall Castle Morpeth on 01670 535000.
• If you’re worried about what to do after a flood or about safeguarding your property if there is more rain, check the environment agency website on http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/
What Northumberland County Council is doing now:
• The County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service are pumping out water from streets in Morpeth. • Alternative accommodation is being found for those who need it.
• Highways officers are inspecting bridges, roads, signage, ditches for damage and to ensure that roads and transport links are safe for use by the public.
• A clean up operation has begun — council staff are removing sludge and debris from the roads and pavements.
• Northumberland Care Trust and the County Council are assessing needs of vulnerable people to see what help and support can be offered.
8am Water had cleared from the New Market, the Chantry, Terrace Car Park – but the Library and Gas House Lane still under water. Road surface ripped up by floods in Chantry Place and Wellwood Gardens.
8.20am Wellwood Gardens, Staithes Lane and the new Low Stanners Car Park still under water.
10am Phone call: “why are they pumping out the Waterford, when Staithes Lane is still under water? Priorities?”
10.30am Checked out Staithes Lane – water retreating but still there, and still getting run-off from Dark Lane. Water level in Low Stanners Car Park is same as river level. Car park was designed to soak away water and that is working, but the water level is too high – which is why there’s no pumping going on. There’s nowhere to pump to.
3pm Debrief for emergency team
4pm Briefing for Morpeth councillors…
Saturday, 6 September 2008
4.30pm Vet arrived to evacuate animals from surgery. No boat available for humans (or animals). River Wansbeck effectively flowing past the Red Bull with water up to window sills. Stanley Terrace becoming impassable. Decided to cancel the farmers’ market!
5-5.30pm Fire crew requisitioned a skip from Morrisons and used it as a substitute boat to start evacuation.
6.30pm Finish phoning round the farmers’ markets producers.
8pm Peak of flood. Reported 14 ft deep in some houses. Nearly all residents evacuated from Staithes Lane, though people left in Wellwood Gardens overnight.
Saturday, 30 August 2008
Cllr Irene Brumwell has been teasing me about my beard since she came onto the council five years ago – and, in a moment of weakness, I agreed to a sponsored shave in her mayoral year. And last Thursday at Full Council, she announced the deal which is that I should appear at the next Full Council (25th Sept) clean-shaven.
So – if anyone wants to sponsor me, please just get in touch.
I’ve had a beard of one sort or another continuously since I was eighteen. I grew it then to make me look older, and it seems to have done the trick. Unfortunately, I’m not sure it is reversible!
Actually, I’m relatively happy about losing the beard (apart from risking a cold chin) – G K Chesterton reckoned that shaving off a beard was a better disguise than putting on a false one – so with luck I’ll cast off my public, recognised, image as my term as councillor comes to an end.
Thursday, 28 August 2008
It’s the ‘Strategic Housing Land Area Assessment’ – and that’s just a way of assessing what building land is out there and how suitable and ready it is for development. Our vey busy strategic planners have consulted and collated and assessed a huge list of potential development sites in Castle Morpeth.
The list is on the Castle Morpeth BC website – available for anyone to see what is listed in their local area, and express their views back to the strategic planners.
So why not have a look....
But this is just an assessment to see what is there. Just because a site is listed, it doesn’t mean that it is Council policy for it to be developed. It’s just ‘evidence’ not policy.
And the assessment in terms of housing is just a way of measuring the land – it doesn’t mean that houses will be built on the site if it is developed.
Sunday, 24 August 2008
lamb with broad beans & mint: simple enough - using neck lamb fillet (from Jimmy Bell 'the lamb man') thin sliced and stir-fried, broad beans from Craigs of Tritlington - with shallots, mint, lemon and Feta cheese - and eaten with sourdough bread from Auroan. Very much an Eastern Med style
Romanesu cauliflower - that's the lime green, pointy one (again from Tritlington) with poached duck eggs (from Haydon Bridge), streaky bacon (from Moorhouse Farm) - and shavings of parmesan
and - Strawberry and Raspberry Vanilla Mess, a variant of Eton Mess with raspberries and strawberries (from Tritlington) - the latter macerated in Ponteland heather honey - with double cream, yoghurt and meringue.
All delicious - and all made in 10-15 mins using local ingredients available on the market. Dave is back again at Pont for a last time this year next month (Sept 27th) - I wonder what he'll give us then?
Dave is available through ExpoChef and his recipes can be found on his blog
Friday, 15 August 2008
Thursday, 14 August 2008
Wednesday, 13 August 2008
- up at Coopies Lane
Apart from planning restrictions which would not (as far as I'm aware) allow food retail on Coopies Lane (even the car show rooms had to jump through hoops to set up there) - IMO, a supermarket (whether it is Tesco's or Sainsbury's - or [Govt forbid!] both) on the edge of the town - would kill Morpeth town centre stone dead, in the teeth of anything the Dransfield development achieves.
And again - a retail consultant's report commissioned by CMBC identifies (after the Morrison store expansion takes place) that there is no demand for additional 'convenience' (ie foods etc) retail floorspace at all until 2025 and beyond.
Tuesday, 12 August 2008
His main point (IMO) is that Greens (and Govt) should define the acceptable CO2 emissions (and other enviro-costs) for energy generation - then let the experts develop the technologies to meet these targets
Monday, 4 August 2008
Saturday, 2 August 2008
"The household waste recovery centre at Whorral Bank will shut temporarily in September for work which will substantially increase its size. The site will close at 7.30pm on Friday September 12, and is scheduled to re-open at the end of February 2009.
"The nearest alternative public tip is on Castle Island Way on North Seaton Industrial Estate. This site is open seven days a week between 8am and 7.30pm (the site will close at 6pm between November 1 and March 31)."
CMBC is offering up its garden waste (green bin) and bulky waste collection schemes as alternatives - though they cost. I've blogged before about the possibility of sharing these with neighbours
BUT - this is also an excellent opportunity to find out about Freecycle (which I've also previously blogged):
Freecycle is a web-based network of people giving away things they don't want and seeking things they do want. A bit like e-Bay but without money changing hands, and locally-based.
As the website says:
"It's a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns and thus keeping good stuff out of landfills."
The Morpeth network currently has 2,571 active members
Tuesday, 29 July 2008
The format will be the same as in previous years:
assemble at the Chantry at 8:00 am and walk to the Peace Garden where there will be a brief address followed by a one minute silence at 8:15 am - to mark the exact time the atomic bomb fell - and finally the laying of paper origami cranes on shrubs.
Breakfast will then be served in the St George’s Church Hall.
The Rector or Morpeth, Reverend Robert Mclean has kindly agreed to lead the service this year.
Hiroshima Day is not a formal occasion, but a very sincere and simple acknowledgement of what happened and should never be allowed to happen again. Indeed, in the light of terrorist atrocities around the world, remembering tragedies such as Hiroshima may eventually make all nations realise the need for peace. The service has now become a respected observance in the town, and the Town Council welcomes all wishing to attend.
Friday, 18 July 2008
Sunday, 13 July 2008
Saturday, 12 July 2008
Friday, 11 July 2008
Thursday, 10 July 2008
Friday, 4 July 2008
However – I’m going to nitpick about the LibDems’ approach:
i) We need to campaign to keep all our post offices open. If we campaign heavily to keep a particular post office open – then Post Office plc will simply close another one whose supporters are not so loud. And often, it is the more deprived communities who fail to put together an articulate protest – and so lose out.
ii) I’m all for ‘community leadership’, but somehow it strikes me that councillors should be supporting and facilitating community campaigns rather than initiating them. But then, the LibDems got elected to the unitary authority, not me – so maybe I’ve got it wrong.
iii) And – it seems odd, that the political group in power is leading a campaign calling for action to be taken – that’s far more the action of an opposition political group. Maybe the LibDems haven’t yet got their heads round the fact that they are in power.
No sign of the LibDem-run unitary preparing a ‘plan B’ to take on the post offices (like Essex CC) if Post Office plc decides to close them – nor any sign of the unitary intervening in the imminent closure of Morpeth Main Post Office. These are the sorts of things I’d expect the political group in power to be doing – not raising petitions
Thursday, 3 July 2008
Wednesday, 2 July 2008
“Since the middle of February 2008, both the Morpeth Market Place and Merton Way shopping centre have been cleansed of chewing gum using the ‘gum buster’ machine. However we recognise that this machine is very slow and very labour intensive, so a rethink has been required to try and improve the performance and overall output. In addition to those issues the machine is becoming very unreliable with much time being spent in the workshops as many of the parts have become corroded over time.
“Green and Clean have now purchased a towable machine that removes graffiti and chewing gum as well as doubling up as a water bowser too. The machine enables a jet blast of bicarbonate of soda and very small aluminium particles to apply to hard surfaces ranging from sandstone, brick, metal or general masonry to effectively remove paint or gum substances. [Nic says: Hope the Market Place yorkstone flags can withstand the abrasion!]. Once the machine has been delivered there will be another program of gum removal in Morpeth Market Place and the main pavements in Bridge & Newgate Street
“Green and Clean are also going to pilot a product called ‘Gumm Shield’ which is a clear gel that can be painted onto pavements or sandstone and stops things such as chewing gum from sticking to them. It is hoped that this will provide a more permanent solution to the problem in future. However, we will see how effective this product is before we purchase any bulk quantities to apply to all high profile footpaths in the centre of Morpeth and Ponteland.”
Sunday, 29 June 2008
My favourites included:
- a salmon, crab and coconut curry - a South Indian style dish made (in fifteen minutes) with coconut milk, chillis, mango and lime
- a Thai-style hot & sour beef salad - flash fried strips of beef with a salad of spinach, coriander, tomatoes, avocado and spring onions - with a dressing made from peanut butter, fish sauce, soy sauce, rice vinegar and chilli
- and - strawberries softened in melted honey and dusted vanilla salt!
Dave is coming back to Ponteland Farmers' Market on Sat August 23rd amd Sat Sept 27th with all-new recipes. Can't wait!
All Dave's recipes are on his website.
- a homelessness strategy (which will be taken up by Castle Morpeth Housing, and hopefully outlast the Council)
- launch of a consultation on a programme of grants for private sector housing renewal
- a planning policy to involve artwork in development schemes
- a statement on the overall financial position of the Council
- and the decision to sign of the North East Declaration on Fuel Poverty
Saturday, 28 June 2008
Frustrated or baffled by the planning system? Then this is for you!
Planning Aid North offer a free independent service of training, awareness, support and education for communities who want to become more actively engaged in the planning system and influence decision-making on developments.
This event is one of a series of introductory road shows Planning Aid North is running across the region.
Contact Clodagh McGuirk tel 0191 222 5776
Friday, 27 June 2008
It was a beautiful tree - especially in full blossom in spring.
The tree fell at around 10am - no vandalism was involved, it just seems that the ground was soft after rain, the roots shallow and there may have been a bit of rot in the trunk.
It fell across the path - fortunately no one nor any buildings were hit.
Council workman had reported the fallen tree within half an hour - and the Green & Clean 'rapid reaction' team were cutting up and removing the tree by 12noon. They had a 'chipper' but I hope some of the trunk wood was kept whole. Cherry wood can be superb for carving or woodworking.
Council policy is to replace fallen and removed trees with five new ones. The tree-planting season starts in November - and it is unlikely they'll ALL be planted in the Rotary Garden.
Friday, 20 June 2008
Rumours are hotting up that work on the next phase of the Back Riggs development is imminent - I gather that a works compound is going to be established at the bottom end of Back Riggs car park from July 7th, and work will start on the new bus station (behind M&S) from July 21st.
Refurbishment and estension of the Low Stanners car park is underway - and should be complete by early August.
Lumsden Lane will be closed - though foot access to the Market Place will remain through the Sanderson Arcade. Stallholders at the Wednesday Market will be unloading and loading from Bridge Street - and keeping their vehicles in the New Market rather than Lumsden Lane. Unfortunately, the works compound for the Town Hall is where the stallholders' vehicles were originally planned to go.
The next stage of the Back Riggs redevelopment is construction of the new bus station and the extension of Morrisons. Then demolition of the old bus station and refurbishment of Back Riggs, and finally refurbishment of Sanderson's Arcade.
Thursday, 19 June 2008
Monday, 16 June 2008
LGA research shows that bus subsides in England amount to about £2.5 billion pa and that the bus operators are making super-profits out of subsidies and concessionary fares, with a bigger return on capital investment than in any other sector (including water, electricity and gas). See current DfT consultation
Thursday, 12 June 2008
Tuesday, 10 June 2008
climate change is happening so rapidly that there is little chance of many species evolving to adapt, so the only prospect of survival is for species to migrate into new areas as climatic conditions change
he's mapped likely changes in climate (mean winter/summer temperatures, rainfall etc) across Europe - and then correlated similar habitats in present and future. He assumes that the future potential range of a given species is the future habitat which most closely relates to their current habitat - but it will become their actual range if they can move and adapt in time
he then argues that conservationists should be enabling species to make the move as their habitats shift. This means a major change in mindset from conventional conservation which seeks to protect 'native species' and existing ecosystems
Sunday, 8 June 2008
“Where, as with the Blyth and Tyne line, local and regional authorities are prepared to take the lead in drawing up a proper business case for reopening a particular line or stations and identifying funding, the Government will carefully consider the case.”
Friday, 6 June 2008
Some items came from previous councils eg Castle Ward (Ponteland) or Morpeth Borough Council - and could justifiably be returned to the relevant Town or parish council (if they want and can afford to keep them).
Some items were given in trust to the Borough Council and perhaps shoud be returned to the original donors or their families - if they can be tracked down.
Or there is a strong argument for establishing them in a (one or more) museum - if there were funding to do this.
Then there is the ceremonial - should we retain the Castle Morpeth mayoralty (aldermen, Freedom of the Borough) which dates right back to 1974 or give it up and have Town and parish councils creating mayors? Or even try to create Mayors of the emerging 'belonging communities'.
There are two ways of doing all this - either 'in-house' at the Borough Council before the end of March (when all Borough ceremonial disappears) - or by creating 'charter trustees' who will inherit all the Council's civic assets and maintain the Borough ceremonial is a sort of 'shadow' form. The snag is that government legislation is needed to create 'charter trustees' - and so we need to make a decision this month. The Civic Committee is meeting on Thurs 19th, and Full Council will be making a final decision on Thurs 26th.
And what are 'charter trustees'? From what I can gather (and I stand to be corrected):
* they will be the eleven unitary authority councillors representing area of the Borough
* they will rely on the new unitary authority for resources or they'll exercise a right to precept (raise their own council tax)
* only one of the eleven can be appointed Mayor
* while the power to appoint a Mayor of Castle Morpeth exists (even if not exercised) - the power of any parish or Town council to name their chairman 'mayor' is suppressed
On the other hand - the creation of 'charter trustees' will mean that 'division of the spoils' is not rushed.
In my opinion - most of the troubles of the Borough Council in the first fifteen years of its existence arose from a poor and unclear division of roles and responsibilities with the County, Town and parish councilsin 1974. We should at least try to avoid that mistake this time.