Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Hiroshima Day - Weds 6th August

The Town Council will once again hold a short memorial service in the Amnesty Peace Garden of the Chantry, Morpeth, to commemorate the tragedy of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on 6th August 1945.

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

Considerate Constructors

The early signs are that the contractors (Maunsell), the County Highways Team, Dransfields, the Borough Council - most people involved in the Town Centre redevelopment are prepared to be flexible and try to minimise disruption.
A first indication of this spirit occurred yesterday: Maunsell have built their compound in Lumsden Lane car park and according to the plans, have left a hammerhead turning point for lorries and kept Lumsden Lane itself, leading into the Market Place, open for pedestrians.
Then on Friday, M&S suddenly realised that their delivery lorries might block the pedestrian route and create health & safety problems. On Monday, Maunsell reviewed possibly safety problems to pedestrians with their deliveries to the compound. The immediate maximum safety solution was to exclude pedestrians altogether by closing off Lumsden Lane - and the request to do so went into Highways.
And here's where the thoughtfulness and flexibility comes in - Highways delayed implementation a couple of days to sound out other views.
So - yesterday, I, together with the owners of Boulevards and Jewellers Guild (who depend on Lumsden Lane for passing trade) persuaded Highways (thanks!) to investigate a less drastic option: keeping the Lane open but monitoring problems. I hope M&S will work with us on this.
I also hope that lorry drivers and pedestrians are sensible and alert to the dangers - I don't want this new-found flexibility to lead to injury or worse!
Contact phone numbers for Maunsells and for Highways have been issued against any problems arising.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

BUG at County!

I gather a 'bicycle users' group' (or BUG) has been launched by staff at County Hall to promote cycling and lobby for better provision for cyclists. Main contact is Paul Martin, the red bearded librarian in Morpeth Library.

I'll post more information when I get it - meanwhile more power to their knees! (?)

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Post Office in confusion

Nice point made by Cllr David Parker at the public scrutiny meeting on proposed post office closures at County Hall yesterday (Friday)...
All the consultation on the proposed Network Change closures assumes the Morpeth Main Post Office is in Back Riggs - so post office users from Mitford or St Mary's Field are being referred to Back Riggs as their 'nearest'. Unfortunately - the Back Riggs Post Office is due to close at the end of October, and even if it is 'saved', it will be somewhere else in the town. So as David says - the consultation is flawed and should be withdrawn.
Personally - I think the consultation is also flawed because there seems to be no requirement to have a 'sustainability appraisal'. Government legislation requires all local authority plans and strategies to have an appraisal - I'm surprised that the Post Office Network Change strategy doesn't. Such an appraisal would immediate flag up things public transport access, and how other community activities and local businesses depend on the local post office.
Any delay in the closure programme would be useful - because it might give the new unitary authority a chance to get it's act together and 'do an Essex' to save the post offices. Or at least work with parish councils, community groups etc to provide 'Plan B' alternatives if the Post Office goes ahead with closures based on a very narrow concept of what a post office is about. It's reminiscent of the flawed analysis Beeching used when he just looked at ticket sales to determine which rail stations to close.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Dransfield start work!

Finally, the Town Centre development has got underway - well, the works compound has been constructed, and work on the new bus station should start next week (Mon 21st). For a while there, I was horribly afraid they'd stop with what they've got so far - the filling station and car park (which wouldn't have got planning permission on their own).
Dransfield are holding a 'prestigious ceremony' to launch the work - with 'local dignitaries, stakeholders and retailers' on 24th July - at the Comrades Club. Don't know if they'll give Irene Brumwell, the Castle Morpeth Mayor a pneumatic drill to 'cut the first tarmac' - I'd like to see that! Oh - of course, I got an invite - unfortunately, I'm 'not available to attend'. Such is life.
I don't think they'll starting on Back Riggs or the Sanderson Arcade proper till November or December, because the Main Post Office there isn't due to close till October. And I'm sure they'll ease up in the Morpeth Christmas shopping jamboree... after all, this is a private sector development, and it's in their interests to keep Morpeth a 'vibrant shopping centre'

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Sharing Green Bins?

The Council's 'green bin' scheme for residents needing to dispose of a lot of garden waste is proving very popular, and the cost seems acceptable to most.
However, there are a number of people (like me, and my neighbours in Olympia Gardens) who have small gardens and don't generate enough garden waste to merit a bin. We can, of course, take one-off loads of waste up to the Amenity Site at Whorral Bank - but that really only works if you have access to a car. You can get to the Amenity Site by bus (35 or 518 from Morpeth) - well, you'd need to walk down from the bus stop at the Pegswood roundabout - but you can't really carry that many bags of rubbish on the bus.
So - I wonder whether there's a demand for groups of neighbours to share a 'green bin' - and how easy that'd be to organise? I guess this is about 'community leadership' again...

Friday, 4 July 2008

Campaigning against Post Office closures

Good rapid response from the LibDems in starting a petition again closure of St Mary’s Field Post Office. And – of course, we should all be campaigning to keep all our post offices open. They are a community service not a business and should be considered as such.

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

Shining at KEVI

The 'Shine Event' open day at KEVI today (Thursday) showed the huge range of activities - both lessons and extra-curricular - undertaken at the school. Besides the KEVI Gnomes and the Dark Knights - I was particularly impressed by the blues band, KEVI radio - and the very dynamic Classics group (who are apparently planning to branching out into Egyptology and archaeology next year).
But most of all - I want to know the secret of how the Student Voice organisation has grown from just three to over a thousand active participants in just two years. If I could only do that with the credit union, with the markets oe even with Morpeth Green Party....
Oh, and special thanks to Tim Murrey - my personal tour guide.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Chewing Gum - What can be done?

I’ve had a complaint from a local resident about the discarded chewing gum which speckles our streets. He compares us unfavourably with Denmark (where he has been living till recently), correctly saying that not only is it unsightly but also a health hazard. He was under the impression that the Borough Council is doing nothing about chewing gum – which is not the case. So I’ve got this update from Andy Rutherford at CMBC Green & Clean:

“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.”