Wednesday, 20 February 2008

How Green are you? The Government speaks…

We’re all Green these days – so the Government has decided to grade us in shades of Green.

Almost a fifth of the population of the UK are a deep shade of green with a high level of concern for the environment and a commitment to doing whatever possible to tackle climate change. This finding comes a DEFRA-commissioned survey of attitudes and behaviours towards the environment in areas such as transport usage, including cars and planes; use of water and energy and views on waste.

As well as the ‘deep green’ group, the survey found that two other groups of people amounting to 28%, described as ‘concerned supporters’ and ‘sideline supporters’ are also able and willing to change their behaviour. These groups do need motivation for example by engaging them through communications, community action and targeting individual opinion leaders. Barriers such as lack of information and facilities also need to be removed. (ie local and national government have got to get their finger out!) Putting the three groups together means that almost half the population have a high potential and desire to do more for the environment.

The survey also identified a ‘waste watcher’ group and a further group of ‘cautious participants’ who were ‘willing to do a couple of things to help the environment, as long as they saw others were doing something’. These two groups amount to almost a quarter of respondents.

The third cluster of groups, amounting to under one fifth of respondents include the ‘Stalled starters’ with the attitude of ‘I don’t know much about climate change’ and the ‘Honestly disengaged’ who take the view that: ‘Maybe there’ll be an environmental disaster, maybe not. Makes no difference to me’.

Now all we need is some politicians at local and national level working to removed the institutionalized ‘ungreenness’ of government and economy, so they people can really live to their green aspirations

Vote for me – vote Green Party!


Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Replacing the Gas Main - UPDATE

Balfour Beattie on behalf of Northern Gas Networks is replacing the gas main in Thorp Avenue between 25th Feb and 17th March.

The contact for enquiries is 0845 634 0520 email:

Update: Balfour Beattie say that the maximum time the gas could be off would be 8am (more likely 8-9am) through to 5pm (more likely 4-5 hours total) - the 9pm switch-on is for people not in during the day.

They say that 24 hours notice will be given - and they will provide heaters on request, if people call the contact number (above). And they'll have some spare heaters with them on the day, in case...

Age Concern Morpeth and Morpeth Town Council have been alerted

Balfour Beattie also say they sent a letter to NCC Social Services about all this a month ago - but so far I haven't been able to find out what has happened to that letter.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

M3 Bus Service

You’ll recall the suggestion that the M3 bus serving Lancaster Park might pick up more passengers if it was identified as the ‘Station Bus’ rather than having Stobhill on its destination board.

Well I’ve had a response from Northumberland CC, Richard Burley (Acting Network Officer Integrated Transport Unit) wrote:

“We are not sure it would be useful to market this service as a "station bus" as it doesn't go to the station (the turning circle by the station entrance has been unused for years [my italics]). If it did it wouldn't connect with the trains very well, and the bus doesn't run at commuter times, which is when we might possibly expect people to want to connect into the trains. We would be vulnerable to complaints if we ran a "station bus" in these circumstances. Also the M3 is no more a station bus than Arriva's 447/8 which runs along the same road from Kirkhill, more frequently.

“If a budget and other resources were available, we could perhaps prepare a leaflet to show all the town routes in Morpeth to promote buses more generally, taking into account possible changes to timetables at short notice. A simpler possibility might be to prepare a leaflet just for Astley's contracted services, mentioning that they go quite close to the station. In the longer term, consideration is currently being given to improving the junction between the station and A192 which might encourage commercial operators to provide better links to the station.”

Not really very encouraging!

Meanwhile note that the M3 bus more often than not now just has the signboard ‘Astley’ with no destination information. I’m told that Astley’s are interested in picking up more passengers – but don’t really want to engage NCC bureaucracy and who can blame them. However – I think they’d do very well to change the route by actually turning in to the station and marketing it as the station bus. I’d be more happy to ‘engage council bureaucracy’ in that cause!

But, the real prize, as Richard Burley suggests, is to get Arriva's buses to turn into the station. Apart from Town Centre and bus station, the 447 / 448 would also serve Kirkhill, Hepscott Park, Nedderton and Bedlington, the 343 and X18 would serve Guide Post etc. Perhaps this would be more appealing to Arriva if and when the Coopies Lane junction improvements are made.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

What are the markets for?

The responses to the Morpeth Herald article (7th Feb) on my concerns for the future of the markets were better than I expected. Morpeth Town Council is seriously looking at taking over the Market Charter, and the Chairman of Ponteland Parish Council has privately told me they are interested in looking at the Ponteland Farmers’ Market. And even the quote from NCC ‘local markets and farmers’ markets are vital parts of the community’ is positive if non-committal. I note that ‘markets’ are briefly mentioned in the blueprint for the new Unitary Authority.

However the real challenge comes in the letter in the Herald (14th Feb) from my old friend Norman Bateman: who effectively asks ‘what and who is a market for these days?’ – and this is something I’d really like feedback on.

It’s easier with farmers’ markets
i) they do support local businesses – I know several businesses that have restructured or built themselves up through farmers’ markets, and a significant number of jobs have been created or safeguarded through our farmers’ markets
ii) they do supply fresh, local food – reducing food miles and bringing people back in touch with food production and seasonality

The Wednesday market is more difficult: for some, the fact that it dates back to 1199 and is key to Morpeth’s heritage as a market town. But Norman Bateman is right – there are few if any traditional market towns, and Morpeth is more commuter town or business centre than market town. The Council’s strategy says the market is run to attract people into the town. Certainly the Chamber of Trade-sponsored bi-annual continental market does that. There’s also an argument that markets can meet a demand for lower cost produce, though maybe not when there’s a Primark or Matalan.

In fact the Morpeth Weds Market is more than half a farmers market – with local producers (Jimmy Bell, Nick Craig, Muriel Brown, Tony from DeliFarm and Janet from Northumbrian Muffins) selling (mostly) their own produce – while others, like Nicky Wall are launching a new local business through the market. Perhaps this is a way forward.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Markets in transition...

A fair turn-out at Morpeth Farmers' Market today - and the Wednesday Market seems to be surviving the usual post-Christmas decline, despite the occasional cancellation due to high winds.

However - I'm worried about the future of the markets in the transition to the unitary authority. It's a small issue relative to the massive problems involved, but I think it is of major significance to Morpeth. I really can't see the new unitary authority being interested, or having resources, to run the Wednesday Market let alone any farmers' markets.

In theory, I'd have thought that the Morpeth Market Charter would properly come to the Town Council - but I'm not sure they'd be interested in actually running the market.

Then - I can't think of any organisation who would have an interest in running both Morpeth and Ponteland farmers' markets.

Even if there is no interest from parish or town councils, partnerships or trusts - at the very least I think there needs to be some sort of community group or social enterprise running the markets to protect their ethos and objectives.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

There can only be one!

Campaigning for the new unitary authority reminds me of the slogan from the old ‘Highlander’ series of films – where, in the end, ‘there can only be one’ victor.

In Morpeth North (and) Central, the electorate has chosen councillors of a fairly wide range of political colours over the last few years including LibDem, Labour, Independent and of course Green. Under the new unitary – you will have to decide on just one councillor to represent you – instead of hedging your bets with a mixed bag of one County and three Borough councillors. And you’d better think carefully, because the way things are looking, you are going to be stuck with this one councillor for five years – that’s till 2013 – before you’ll get another election.

I’d suggest (but then I would, wouldn’t I) – that you’d be best off with a councillor with a clear political position, but one who has shown that they can work well with all political parties. Because – I reckon that there’ll need to be some serious coalition-building after May 1st.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Getting things into perspective...

They say that late January – early February is one of the most depressing times of the year, so isn’t it good of the LibDems to try to cheer us up with that whimsy of half-truths and judicious silences that is the ‘Focus’ newsletter! It is a shame that you really have to know the full truth of what they are getting at to appreciate some of the ironies fully – and yes, the politicians of the other parties are remiss in not getting their version of what’s going on out. This blog and my website still only get through to a select few – though I know the number is growing…

There are some amusing tit-bits in the recent January Focus – I particularly liked:

  • the suggestion that LibDems had any sort of influence on the Environment Agency’s schedule for flood prevention & protection in Morpeth
  • the reference to confusion over recycling as though LibDems had clarified things themselves. (Incidentally – the recent inclusion of Fawdon into the door step glass recycling in Longhirst village round was down to my intervention)
  • but most of all, the implied suggestion that the LibDems have any chance of gaining an overall majority on the new unitary council.

The most likely outcome is one of ‘no overall control’ – and two parties will have form a coalition. The LibDems campaigned themselves out of forming in coalition on the Borough Council in last May’s elections. And they are risking doing the same this May!