Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Morpeth Wednesday Market is the greenest

Morpeth Wednesday Market has just won a national competition for ‘Greenest Market’ organised by the National Market Traders’ Federation and judged by FoE.

The entry was put together by the traders – with photos of all the stalls and write-ups from each of them – with just the finishing touches added by the market manager. I hope the press coverage will include the stallholders, but there were a lot of bigwigs (including me!) appeared for the photo call this morning.

The entry covered the obvious things like recycling waste, biodegradable bags and composting the street sweepings. Then there were less obvious things like minimising the use of generators, the predominance of local traders selling local produce (a carry-over from the farmers’ market) and even led lights in the Christmas Lights display.

But for me – it is also ‘green’ that the traders support the market so well, and the Markets Partnership (which I admit I do chair) helps engage local people in addressing problems and developing new ideas. Although it is run by the remote County Council, you feel the decisions are taken locally. I gather the Council are looking to create local Markets Partnerships for the markets in Blyth and Berwick, and perhaps in Ashington and Bedlington where I understand they are planning to take back in-house the markets licensed to Spook Erections.

So – congratulations to the stallholders who won the national award for the Morpeth Market!

Sunday, 13 December 2009

A Christmas Carol for Morpeth?

A nice press release (which I've edited down a bit) from my employers, CPRE:

CPRE is encouraging people to spend their money locally when buying Christmas lunch this year. Charles Dickens’ three visions of Christmas are a useful reminder of how we have changed our food buying habits in recent years, and what future Christmases could look like if we don’t reconsider how and where food money is spent.

Christmas Lunch Past
Bought from a variety of local shops owned and run by knowledgeable traders, stocking distinctive produce that bolstered the local economy. Little packaging and virtually no waste.

Christmas Lunch 2009
The same big names in cloned towns and high streets and retail sheds spreading across the country. The model of ‘big and cheap is better’ retail is concentrating our food shopping into the usual few chains. Job cutting efficiency combined with excess packaging and needless waste.
[though Morpeth is luckier than most in still having a variety of local shops not to mention an award-winning Wednesday Market and an excellent farmers’ market]

Christmas Future?
If we don’t support the shops and markets the future could belong to the retail giants. In their relentless expansion they could squeeze out remaining local traders and any real choice of where to shop. We will forget what fresh, seasonal food tastes like.

In contrast, local food can offer incredibly good value and it doesn’t need to be the expensive option. Local food bought from farmers' markets, farm shops, pick-your-own farms and box schemes also tastes superb with wholesome, fresh seasonal foods aplenty. The variety on offer is the spice of the season.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

A tale of two consultations

An interesting contrast in consultation approaches in the last few weeks between Northumbria Police and their proposals for a new Morpeth police station on their existing site and the Primary Care Trust with their superclinic proposal on The Mount site.

The PCT are going for planning permission by March ’10, so they can get construction underway before the money is taken back by Government. So – they wanted to identify and head-off all problems as early as possible. So they put up a single draft proposal and sketch plans, as a basis for discussion. And they had some of the people who’d actually be working there talking over the plans and listening to what people said.

And the proposal itself is probably the best redevelopment of The Mount site, given that it will be redeveloped. The proposal doesn’t sprawl out over the Easter Field, and the building - though probably not very pretty – won’t be highly visible.
Scope for energy efficient buildings, grey water systems – and possible a ground source heat system under the Easter Field. Cleaning up the Easter Field and returfing it – it was left in a mess after construction of Easter Field Court – would be a possible community gain bringing the field back into use for children. Some concerns about bus and pedestrian access, especially the distance from the bus stop to the entrance - though I was told there’d be facilities for cyclists. And a 95-space car park which may be available for park and ride at weekends. There’ll need to be some work to the junction too – I’d like to see (pedestrian-friendly) traffic lights there.

Compare the mess the police made of their consultation: they want to sell off a chunk of land to pay for a new or refurbished police station – which will actually have a very small footprint. However they put forward four options – two of which involved building on Goosehill School – with very vague suggestions as to how the land sold off could be developed, housing, a supermarket or a hotel were all mentioned.
Then they had stiff in-house project managers and planners at their consultation who explained the development options and answered questions but didn’t really talk with people.

Being Morpeth – this approach obviously raised a real storm which focussed on a perceived threat to Goosehill School and inappropriate development on the edge of the town, in the flood plain. So – I don’t think the police got any real feedback on the proposals for the police station – which was what they really wanted.