Friday, 25 April 2008

It's mildly annoying...

I'm slightly irritated by the way people tend to use extreme words like disgusted, disgraceful and outraged over relatively minor issues like an over-run on roadworks, or delays in clearing up litter.

If someone is outraged by a couple of days delay in repairing a water hydrant, how do they respond to a rape?

If someone is disgusted by litter in the street, how do they feel about genocide in Rwanda?

There are plenty of other less extreme words - I like peeved or miffed, and words like annoyed, irritated, worried, concerned and cross are useful. In fact quite cross is probably my favourite...

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Charter Train on Ashington-Blyth-Tyne Line

SENRUG announce that on Saturday 7th. June - a charter train will do three circuits of the Ashington-Blyth-Tyne Line - demonstrating how suitable the route is for passenger rail services.

Each train takes 2 hours to do the circuit from Morpeth to Newcastle, via Benton to Ashington and then back via Choppington to Morpeth.

The first train leaves Morpeth at 8.55 and will carry "public figures" (that'll be me then) and "press". The other two trains will leave Morpeth at 10.57 and 14.27. Tickets are £6 for adults, £4 children, under 5s to go free but there will be no seats for the latter. There are no other concessions. You can get on at Cramlington, but tickets are Morpeth to Morpeth, so we are afraid that if you want to get off at Cramlington there will probably not be a seat for you for the short distance back.

Contact Colin Patmore at 11, Campion Way, Ashington NE63 8JG for tickets

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Why can't the petrol station look like this?

Deadline for comments on the amended retrospective planning application for signage & lighting at Morrison's filling station on Dark Lane (Ref CM/20080188) is Monday (28th) - and it is expected to come to the Development Services (Planning) Committee on Tues May 13th.

Morrisons have less 'in-your-face' signage on other filling stations - as these photos taken in Fort William by Town Councillor Graeme Trotter show...

- so why can't the Morpeth filling station signage look like this?

I'll also be arguing for all lighting (incl the price sign) to be turned off when the station is closed, and latest closing should be 10pm in the evening.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Transport in Northumberland

Seems the worst thing the LibDems have against us is ‘The Greens are against dualling the A1’ – which is true, I’ve never denied it, and I’m happy to give reasons if requested. But dualling the A1 is for central government to fund, it’d be too much for regional funding let alone the new Northumberland Council. However – there are a number of transport initiatives we would like the new council to undertake:

i) Make best use of ICT to avoid the need to travel in the first place
ii) Develop and use car sharing, travel plans etc, especially for trading estates and other employment centres.
iii) Make better use of bus services to feed the trains at rail stations
i) Develop the expanding concessionary bus fare plans to facilitate realistic journeys; and include local rail services in the scheme
ii) Provide bus information points (including maps) near the centre of all towns and villages, co-located with other services where possible.
iii) A single county-wide car parking scheme as part of integrated traffic management which balances the viability of towns and retail centres
iv) Better parking provision at all stations in the County to facilitate transfer to rail for the longer part of the journey.
v) Develop a strategic road policy to make best use of the County's key roads, recognising that increased capacity generates increased traffic.
vi) Re-classification of under-used rural roads as quiet lanes, re-directing road maintenance funds to key parallel roads used to get people to work education retail and leisure.
vii) Introduce a maximum 30mph speed restriction between the name signs of all named villages
viii) Relocate 30mph signs to include all junctions etc near to the existing signs, eliminating the need for early warning signs.

I’ll post more specific infrastructure proposals later…

Saturday, 19 April 2008

LibDems in error

Slight mistake in the latest Focus – the new unitary authority councillor will be replacing just FOUR existing councillors (three Borough, one County) not FIVE – but then the candidate is new to the ward.

And, of course, there’ll still be five Town Councillors - a special mention on this blog to anyone who can name the other four (besides me).

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Green candidates back Small Businesses

Green candidates in the North East are backing the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in their ‘Petition to No 10’ asking the Prime Minister to back local shops against the multinational supermarkets.

Geoff Potts, Green candidate for Lesbury, Northumberland – who is also a member of the FSB said:
“Two thousand local shops are closing every year. At this rate, by 2015 there will be no more independent retailers in the UK. Nationally, the average person travels 893 miles a year to shop for food. And the situation is worse in Northumberland, where villages are losing facilities and there is scarcely any public transport.”

Pam Woolner, Green candidate for Prudhoe West added:

“Small businesses put more of their profits back into the local community than the big corporates - but too often they get muscled out by the giant supermarkets and chainstores, leaving us with identical high streets up and down the country.”

“It’s happening in Berwick, Alnwick and Hexham, and could soon happen in Morpeth with the expansion of Morrisons and the possible arrival of Sainsbury's”.

And it isn’t just local shops, as Cllr Nic Best, Green candidate for Morpeth North says:

“Northumberland County Council know the value of investing in local businesses. Their ‘LM3’ work with the New Economics Foundation showed that money spent with local businesses is worth three times as much to the local economy as money spent with a multinational.

“So – if the new unitary authority must outsource services – then it should be looking to place contracts with local firms rather than relocating the jobs to Cambridgeshire or Northants.”

Nationally, Greens are lobbying to change planning laws to help our unique and irreplaceable local businesses to compete against the multinationals. Just as is dome for affordable housing, we want to see all new large business developments have to provide at least 50% of the total trading space as affordable premises for small enterprises.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is the largest business organisation in the UK. It represents over 210,000 businesses that collectively employ over 2.5 million people. Small businesses in the UK employ 58% of the UK's private sector workforce.Together they contribute half of UK GDP and employ more than 12 million.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Green Party Election Broadcast

Just in case you missed our election broadcast yesterday...

Saturday, 12 April 2008

On-Street Parking

The issue of on-street parking has been raised with me while I’ve been out canvassing…

Illegal parking is a major problem in Morpeth – almost to the point where double yellow lines are ignored. And it’s not people ‘just popping’ into the shops on Bridge Street or Newgate Street – it’s people parking in the residential streets around the town centre from Allery Banks and Middle Greens to Low Stanners, High Stanners and north of Howard Road – let alone the chaos of parents parking whilst they drop kids off for school.

There are reportedly, just seven active traffic wardens in the whole of Northumberland – and they visit Morpeth on the first Tuesday of the month. I did try to take a photo of a traffic warden on Oldgate, but it didn’t come out – almost as if it was an illusion.

The Borough Council has been trying for four or five years to get their car park attendants authorised to put fixed penalty tickets on cars parked illegally on-street – but has met resistance from the County Council for some reason. One of the good things about the new unitary authority (and I am looking hard to find them) is that we might get this sorted out finally.

Parking on pavements causes problems for people with buggies, wheelchairs and shopping trolleys – and can force pedestrians onto the road. There’s also a lot of damage to pavements caused not only by cars but also by wagons unloading from the pavement. Have you noticed how pavements around pubs and clubs in particular have been damaged by beer wagons unloading?
The council is responsible for repairing pavements and is liable to be sued if people trip – but unless we can stop pavements being damaged by cars and lorries, it’s an ongoing drain on council tax.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

What's the competition like?

Interesting range of candidates standing in Morpeth North.

Of course, I shouldn't bang on about being the only candidate living in the ward - given the coverage that the Morpeth Herald has given to my fellow-Green, Peter Snowdon (Ponteland West), on account of his Brussels address - though it is tempting.

What does surprise me is that both LibDems and Labour are bringing in candidates with no track record in the ward - as if the party name is enough, who the candidate is doesn't really matter.

I think the Tory might well be in with a chance - he has worked the ward in several elections.

And then, John Beynon beat me by 12 votes in the Borough election last May. But that was for three seats - and everyone voting for me or John had two votes to give to someone else. So the question is - where people voting for me as their 'first choice' last year or did I get mainly 'also-ran' votes. Logically - they should have been 'first choice' votes - because the LibDems, Tories and Labour were encouraging people to vote by party bloc.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Where's the 'bring' recycling centre gone?

The Borough Council have moved the recycling bins (glass, clothes etc) from next to the Co-Op by Morpeth Bus Station!

I've seen a number of people turning up with carrier bags full of bottles, or parking up, opening their car boot - and then looking round in a rather puzzled manner.

In fact - there is a sign saying the bins have been moved to the Terrace Car Park (by the library) - but it is rather small, and you have to get quite close to the map to wirk out the new location...

- which will be OK for people with car loads of recyclables, but more difficult for those of us walking whilst struggling with carrier bags.

I guess it is all part of preparation for the Town Centre redevelopment - can't quite remember if the new lay-out for Back Riggs included a recycling centre. I rather feel it should...

Monday, 7 April 2008

Town Council Survey

The latest Morpeth Town Council ‘Town Cryer’ is a special issue.

It’s a survey to try to find out how people in Morpeth rate the things the Town Council does at the moment – and what sort of services it should consider picking up during the imminent free-for-all that is local government re-organisation.

I’ve had a couple of people complain to me that it looks a little like electioneering, but I’ve been assured by the LibDems who currently run the Town Council that nothing was further from their minds.


It is actually very important that people respond to this survey: if we are going to retain any sort of local control in Morpeth, the Town Council needs to take responsibility for a number of things that the Borough Council does at the moment, and which could go to the new unitary authority, or be abandoned altogether if nothing is done. (allotments, grass-cutting, the market charter spring to my mind)

Trouble is – the LibDems running the Town Council are cautious about raising and spending Council Tax even when we are talking about relatively small sums of money – so they are looking to this survey to give them a mandate.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Making Morpeth a plastic-bag free town

Bit of a premature leak to the press about plans (following on from my post here in December) to make Morpeth a plastic-bag free town. I was hoping to hold back till after the elections – but well, might as well give a proper preview…

There’s no real co-ordinated plan, that’s the problem:
- of course, the farmers’ market was ahead of the game, with cotton shopping bags produced some 5-6 years ago (and many people are still using them).
– and now, several shops are already making people request plastic bags rather than give them out automatically
- the Borough Council are planning to buy-in some 50,000 compostable corn-starch bags which we hope to sell to the market traders to give out at the Wednesday Market. We reckon they’ll last 4-5 months. We’re also looking at longer lasting cotton shopping bags, which if printed up with ‘Castle Morpeth Markets’ will become collectors items in a couple of years time
- the Chamber of Trade are considering buying-in more corn-starch bags to maintain the supply, if the CMBC bags go down well
- and Morpeth Town Council are also planning to come in on the act

So – overall – there’s already real popular support for the idea, and the hope is that there should be enough of a drive over the summer to get people out of the habit of using plastic bags, and generate a bit of ‘consumer demand’ for alternatives. And yes – Morpeth may well be the first ‘plastic bag-free town in the North East’

Friday, 4 April 2008

Perks of Freedom of the Borough

The Freedom of the Borough - which we are granting to HMS Northumberland and to Morpeth Pipe Band tomorrow - only carries two perks as far as I'm aware:

first - the right to march through Morpeth with bayonets fixed and banners flying
second - the right to graze your sheep and cattle on Morpeth Common and Tommy's Field between March and September

Currently, only the Royal Fusiliers and the redoubtable Isobel Smail hold the honour - and, to the best of my knowledge, Isobel Smail hasn't used the bayonet since she retired from looking after the shop, while the Royal Fusiliers only have a goat as mascot.

I'm fairly confident that HMS Northumberland won't be wanting to pasture livestock either, but I've a suspicion that Stewart Todd and the Pipe Band might take the opportunity for the occasional march though.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

An Apology?

2nd April: Ok - that was a rather wishful April Fool (though it caught a Morpeth Herald reporter!) - public agencies like the post office don't generally admit mistakes or apologise.

So - in less than six months time, the Co-Op franchise post office in Back Riggs will close - and to the best of my knowledge, there's no new franchisee - let alone a new site - in view.

There's a lot of political talk that the new unitary authority might 'do an Essex' and run rural post offices itself - but I can't see that being sorted out within the next six months.

I've also heard rumours that GMDT are talking to Business Link with a view to taking on the Post Office - but if so, they are being (necessarily) secretive about it.

So - if you've heard any rumours - or you actually know what might be going on, please post a comment here!

1st April: The Post Office has apologised and admitted that they were wrong in closing the Crown Post Office on Oldgate.
"We now recognise that a market town like Morpeth which serves a wide community needs a main post office."
Plans are in place to re-open the Oldgate Post Office when the Co-Op franchise post office in Back Riggs closes at the end of October.