Sunday, 21 June 2009

Accident and Emergency

A specialist A&E Hospital at the Moor Farm roundabout in Cramlington is being proposed by the Northumberland & North Tyneside Health Trust (NNTHT). The formal consultation is running through till next month.

Their argument is that for serious ‘blue light’ emergencies, a concentration of specialist care is better for patients that having that care spread across three (local) general hospitals. The general hospitals will still offer ‘walk-in’ A&E care, and patients will normally decanted out to these more local hospitals after 2-3 days, but the specialist hospital will have consultants available 14 hours a day, seven days a week.

Newcastle Hospitals Trust (NHT) points out that their new regional trauma centre and other specialist hospitals are only eight minutes away (by ‘blue light’ ambulance) from the proposed site, and there is a risk of duplication of function.

NNTHT need a catchment area of 0.5million pop to provide enough accidents and emergencies to make their new hospital viable both financial and in providing sufficient professional challenge for the concentration of consultants. That’s why North Tyneside was added onto Northumberland in the first place. And that explains the choice of location, which is a population-weighted mean – it’s the place that’s nearest most people. So – as usual, sparsely populated north and far west Northumberland miss out.

I’m concerned about transport access: Moor Farm roundabout is already one of the most congested points on the Northumberland road network and walking, cycling and public transport access is poor. As far as I can tell, there has been no assessment of traffic impact, and the Trust has only just thought about talking to the Highways Agency. Even disregarding the need for car-free access, there’s a serious risk that ‘blue light’ ambulances will get snarled up in congestion of the hospital’s own making.

Then – there’s the standard climate change question: I’ll (generously?) assume they’ll go for a low carbon operation, but will they design and build to cope with the inevitable climate changes that will occur within the 50-60 year planned lifetime of the building?

As usual – watch this space….

Friday, 19 June 2009

Nothing to do with us!

According to NCC Public Transport team, the new Morpeth Bus Station is nothing to do with them. Apparently it is an integral part of the Sanderson Arcade shopping centre, so is owned and run by Mason Owen, in their local guise as the new Centre Manager. This - so I'm told - has come as a bit of a surprise to Mason Owen.

NCC has magnanimously agreed to include the bus apron in their gritting schedule, but that's about all.

I gather both sides - bus operators on the one hand and developers & contractors on the other - are keen to establish communication channels at the right level, but haven't quite done so yet. Seems a little late in the day...

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Supermarket Sweep

Mark Dransfield and his team hit Morpeth yesterday - talking to residents of Staithes Lane, and then the Town Council - don't know who else besides.

Essentially, he's worried about his investment in the town centre development if Sainsbury's or Tesco's get permission for an out-of-town supermarket. [When he talks about Morpeth as 'our town' - think of it as ownership as well as identification]. So he's bringing forward a planning application for a supermarket on Low Stanners in the hope that this will stymie planning permission for the out-of-town supermarkets.

Essentially - the Highways Depot will become an extension of the existing car park with bridges over the Cotting Burn, and the supermarket will be roughly where Robson Prescott's (the vets) is now. The car park will be two storey, with the lower level half underground - with flood water storage tanks below that. Delivery lorries will access along a widened Staithes Lane - which will require the Red Bull pub to be demolished.

He has backing from the Chamber of Trade and he was lobbying the local residents and the Town Council yesterday. And he's doing a very complicated dance with the County Council: they have their eye on the site for a new library, info centre and health clinic (replacing the Cottage Hospital). He is now trying to convince them that the NHS/NCC land along Gas House Lane (Terrace Car Park to The Willows) could be used for this. (He suggested the Willows could be relocated to the Easter Field, next to Easterfield Court - obviously doesn't know the history of that site)

Anyway - the timing is very tight: for this scheme to have any bearing on the Sainsbury decision, the planning application has to be in before the Sainsbury application comes to committe. I thought that was Thurs July 2nd - but Mark assures me it is now Thurs Aug 6th. BTW - our two 'local' Morpeth councillors on the ten-member Northern Area Planning Committee are Cllr David Woodard (lives in Ulgham) and Cllr David Moore (lives on the west edge of Morpeth).

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

518 bus success

Back in 2005, NCC in partnership with Arriva got some money from government ('Kickstart' programme) to put on an extra #518 bus from Newcastle to Widdrington Station to give a half hourly service. It was unfortunate at the time for Northumbria Coaches who had introduced a parallel service out to Widdrington Station backed by their own money, just four-five months earlier.

However, apparently, the route is now a commercial success so Arriva will be running it without subsidy. And - NCC & Arriva have been awarded Kickstart 2009 funding to extend the half hourly service out to Amble, while out of the own pockets, Arriva will take the risk of funding the rest of the route Amble-Alnwick.

So - a half hourly #518 service from Newcastle to Alnwick via Widdrington and Amble starting from April '10.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009


You knew (roughly) what Crime & Disorder Reduction Partnerships (CDRP) were about... the clue was in the name. But LMAPS?

Local Multi-Agency Problem-Solving partnerships apparently....

If it takes two traffic wardens 45 min to patrol three streets, how many traffic wardens does it take to patrol Northumberland properly?

Monday, 8 June 2009

"It was a good result for us"

Just in case you didn't hear... the Green Party got just over 34,000 votes in the North East in the Euro-election, up from 4.8% in 2004 to 5.8% of the vote this time. Best results were 6.9% in Northumberland and 7.5% in Newcastle. The three existing MEPs (one each Lab, Con & LibDem) were re-elected.

Nationally, the Green vote went up by 44% (relative) to 9% with our two MEPs being re-elected - and we missed out by a couple of thousand votes on getting MEPs elected in the North West and East of England.

Thanks to everyone who voted Green - and stick to the habit when it comes to the General Election!

Monday, 1 June 2009

What is this Euro-election about?

What is this Euro-election about? How are you going to use your vote?

With the media full of the MPs’ expenses scandal, there has been little or no coverage of any European elections. And what coverage there has been has been rather hi-jacked by the Euro-sceptics who are still fighting the 30-year old battle about membership.

Votes in the Euro-election on June 4th will determine the political make-up of the European Parliament for the next five years. In the lifetime of the next European Parliament, we need to:
  • restructure our economy to start reducing carbon emissions – starting with the Copenhagen Summit in December
  • deal with the global recession
  • prepare for peak oil – and water shortages
  • develop immigration and aid policies that can cope with the impact of climate change on the developing world
  • revise the Common Agricultural Policy to adapt it to the impact of climate change

So – are you going to use your vote to protest about MPs expenses, or to whinge about EU membership, or maybe not vote at all because nobody has told you what it’s about?

Or are you going to vote for MEPs who will take the work of the European Parliament seriously and face up to the real challenges that we face?

Look at what the real issues are – and vote Green