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Malcolm Robinson

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Malcolm Robinson last won the day on December 11

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About Malcolm Robinson

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  • Birthday 09/09/56

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  1. Councillor Robinson - November 2017

    November 2017. First of November and a mad rush from getting up. I asked work if I could start and finish 30 minutes earlier because I have full council meetings at 3pm when they are on and finishing work at 2pm in Newcastle is cutting it pretty tight to get home, shower, change and get to Morpeth for the meeting. They agreed so I was up at 5am for a 6.30am start. Somehow and don’t ask I was 3 minutes late? I rushed home got ready and was up at County Hall for 2.45pm. I had two questions tabled for this meeting of full council and Bill had one too. Mine were: “First let me say how disappointed I was to read the about the actions we are taking with regard to the Arch investigation. Not because of what has happened but because we as members were not informed prior to the press being informed. I don’t think that is correct procedure and I would have thought anything which might impact onto the reputation of this council should be given to members at least at the same time as a press release! I am not asking for the full information to be relayed only the action being taken in our name! My question therefore is, shouldn’t members be informed about such actions before any press release? “ And my second question was: “One of the reasons I voted to withdraw the Core Strategy was that it lacked any real economic guidance, hopefully that will be addressed when we see the revised version! The lack of a clearly defined business strategy for the County seems apparent unless we have one and its hiding somewhere? My question is do we have a holistic business strategy for the County, if so where is it, if not is anyone working on one and who would fulfil that remit. “ The meeting as quite ill-tempered because as usual each of the main parties were trying to score political points off each other. A less than edifying spectacle at the best of times but in full glare of the public even more so! The business chair moved member’s questions to the end of the meeting for reasons quite plain to see. After the normal precursory items and public questions we had two motions to consider. Both presented by councillor Ledger, latterly vice chair of the council and chair of Arch. First one, quite surreal, was asking of NCC would write to the various Secretary of States, Chancellor, etc asking to make sure we get included in any UK structural funding post Brexit. Seemed like a no brainer to me, isn’t that happening anyway, but what do I know? An agreement and the motion passed and quite a few puzzled faces like mine were apparent. His second one was about the Local Government Pension Scheme; I serve on the Panel for this so I know more than most about it. Seems he doesn’t want the cost saving move we are working on to happen saying it will be detrimental for any face to face meetings members might want with the administrators. That would seriously impact onto costs for members and the whole country is looking at mergers and pooling by way of reducing fees and overheads. It was shown that what is being proposed is actually enhanced services for members and at much reduced costings so this motion as thrown out. We then had various reports by cabinet members and then a decision about the way these meetings are structured. At the last meeting we had over 20 questions by a single member and she took up over an hour asking them, mainly about her ward affairs? This it was felt by the majority was appropriating member’s question time for her own political ends. So the decision was agreed that members could ask a nominal 2 questions, this question time would be limited to 20 minutes at the start of the meeting and if more time was needed it would be added at the end of the meetings. And a set time for submitting questions prior to the meetings. I agreed just to move these full council meetings along better and stop the normal grandstanding by some. We finally got to Member’s questions and Bill’s was first. He asked about facilities in Bedlington or the lack of them and in her reply the cabinet member for Leisure services and Active Northumberland said there was only 12 members for the Bedlington Sporting Club at the High School! Can’t see that maintaining its present offer if we don’t see new members, in a world of extreme pressure on budgets! My questions were 4th and 5th. The answer to the first came off the Cabinet member for Communications and he stated the Arch press release was not a NCC one! In fact they had only been asked to corroborate the story, so someone else leaked this one. Couldn’t argue with that so I then went onto my second question about a countywide business strategy which was taken by the Leader. He said he agreed with my take on the old Core Strategy as far a business went and they are pulling another one together which will include proper business guidance. His anticipated delivery time was next year. Still didn’t answer my question about who was doing it but they know I’m after whoever has the remit, first stop cabinet member for economic development. We were then enthralled by another set of lengthy questions by the member who seems to set her sights on taking the floor for the maximum period. This really presented itself when she completely lost the plot when asking one of her questions. She had the book with them written down just read it out! There was a lot of argy bargy during her stint! The previous Leader of the Council, Councillor Davey, then asked a question and the reply astounded me never mind him and his cohorts. He asked the present Leader to justify his comments about Councillor Davey’s conduct with regard to a particular incident involving a huge sum of money and a housing development at Ponteland. The current Leader said he couldn’t because it was now part of an active investigation but he was still more than willing to show the opposition party the evidence! Sharp intake of breath on that one! We then ended up with another opposition member firstly bating the cabinet and chair and then shouting them down altogether. My God anyone would think there is to be a leadership election in the Labour group, all the front runners made their voices heard at this full council meeting! I have picked up a bad cold somewhere and have to take a bottle of water with me to any meetings I attend! First one is a Pension Panel one and they usually go on for hours. Armed with my bottle of water I took my place at this pension panel. Firstly the head of pensions for NCC gave us a run through of what was going on, just in case someone had been asleep and missed it looking at one of the motions at the full council meeting!!!!!! I don’t even think the member knew he was being admonished! Anyway there were several questions I needed to ask and I got full and explicit answers as normal. No problems agreeing to all the advice we received and making decisions based on that advice. We ended the meeting at lunchtime. I nipped home had a cuppa and then it was back to County Hall for another meeting this time with the Head of Planning. This was ostensibly about the Community Infrastructure Levy associated with the proposed 500 houses north of the Chesters. Bill and Russ were there as well as were the lead planning officer and the countryside officer. After some heated debate we agreed a way forward. Whereas my ward and WBTC were not previously included in any Community Funding regarding this development we now are! How on earth we weren’t going to be included when the development is actually taking place in my ward and the WBTC area I am at a loss to explain but after some harsh words we are! I had other resident’s inspired business to ask the head of planning about so I stayed and went through that. I also mentioned the fact that I was getting more and more concerned about the level of information members of the strategic planning committee, especially, are getting in the run up to making planning decisions. He promised to look into it all. Well no work this weekend instead my youngest son got married! Congratulations to them both and a lovely service and day for us all. Monday and my monthly surgery tonight. I can hardly speak but I cried off the last one with toothache so I was determined to make this one even if I was on my deathbed or suffering with Man-Flu! It took about 30 minutes extra for my surgery tonight because of the questions and concerns raised. I now have several further areas to try and get to the bottom of and pass on residents’ concerns! Tonight Strategic Planning and for once there doesn’t seem to be anything too contentious on the agenda. That’s maybe my naivety of course! Well it took nearly 2 hours to hear the two applications and neither was particularly contentious. The first yet more housing for Amble. I listened to the various presenters and the planning officer but I did have some questions of my own. First the Town Council had suggested a much better access route from what I could see so I asked why this hadn’t been used? Not our land came the reply. Hmm pity, I could see exactly why the Town Council had suggested it because that would give an access road at the north and south of the sites. My second question was about the obvious overdevelopment of Amble. I have sat on this committee since the election and we have put through outline planning for nearly 1000 houses for a smallish place like Amble. It’s going to be a Metropolis soon! So I asked when enough was enough and the answer, basically there isn’t enough in planning terms! If the various bodies, like education, health etc, say they can accommodate the housing population then overdevelopment doesn’t feature! That’s quite a bleak thought given the performance I have witnessed form our education and health sector! We were told about a proposed through road the developers were looking to put in which would alleviate town centre traffic and also passing traffic. Many members and planners waxed lyrical about this proposed road and how it would benefit the Town but I stood up and said the only reason developers were looking to build this road was to make their houses more attractive to sell, simple, nothing more altruistic than that! What I was concerned about was that it looked like the funding for this road would come out of the proposed community funding and that would be something I would not be in favour of. Other members then questioned this too and the officer reluctantly agreed this was in fact the case! So that comes back to us separately unless the developers want to fund it themselves out of their own monies! The housing was passed unanimously and in my case because of a lack of objections to it. Next up was the anaerobic digester for Lynemouth. Sounded fine and looked OK on the old Alcan site but I did have a question about odours. I asked if the officer was so convinced there would be no problem with odours that he hadn’t inserted any environmental conditions in the application. He had difficulty understand what I was saying so another member explained. He said environmental conditions could easily be attached and linked to the Environmental Agency to be jointly policed. We insisted that happen! Again the project was passed unanimously. Just back from work and loads to get through. I sent a question into the planners……..why is the local ward mentioned in the varyco’s for the 14 houses at the top of Netherton Lane listed as Longhorsley? It should be Bedlington West! I made more calls and sent some emails and I got a response straightaway. Our Highways department phoned me to say the ‘Pot Holes’ I had identified for the new funding will be getting done in the next 6-12 weeks! Great and the road I had mentioned down to Choppington has been judged bad enough to get resurfaced, one half next year the other half the year after. Not the speediest of things but at least they are getting done! I also sent a message to the Cabinet member for Environment and Local services asking him to put Netherton Lane into our winter gritting schedule. I explained that we have changed the bus route into our local school and that means there are now over 15 busses using Netherton Lane to drop school children off every morning. Not only that it’s a bus route in its own right now too. He promised to look into it and get back to me. I had my eldest granddaughter to get to the dentists today and then get home to write up something for the Town Council Meeting tonight. The following was my update: WBTC update: “Jointly working with Chris on a 20 MPH speed restriction on B1331 past the schools. I have also made enquiries about getting the ring road around Hazlemere 20 MPH after complaints off residents about excessive speeding. Seems daft having a 20MPH on the main road and people whizzing around the estate at up to 60MPH! I had some complaints about street lighting at my surgery and I used the opportunity to further them along with the historic list off the Town Council to the Director of Service who promised to look into them for us. Looking at the flooding problems around Westlea especially along the Cemetery, footpath and playing fields. Don’t seem to have schematics off WDC about all the drainage here, or lack of it? Looking to do something with the changing facilities at Westlea which hopefully might include some sort of youth provision. Previously you as a council and my ward in particular were not included in the S106 funding stream from the 500 houses north of the Chesters, if or when they get built. Happily that has been resolved and we are now included, but it will be a long drawn out affair potentially up to 10 years! I am getting more and more concerned about a lack of full planning documentation certainly in the packs which accompany the Strategic Planning committee applications. I have made the head of planning aware of my concerns! I took part in the countywide community chest decisions and please tell any groups about this one as well as the more localised Local Area Council one. That’s the NCC Community Chest Scheme. I also raised the point about these LACs taking on much beefier agenda items and I hope you will see this month that’s exactly what’s happened. Nice to see the usual committed contingent from WBTC at these meetings, it doesn’t go unnoticed!” One thing which did puzzle me at tonight’s meeting was the updates off Russ and Bill? Seems Russ and Bill will run the Bedlington 18 gig but pay nothing into it and myself and Geoff use our smalls scheme and the two councils (EBPC and WBTC) pay up to fund it??????? Russ said they had better things to spend their funding on? Well I might just have better things to support in my ward than your event guys! One council is already imposing conditions and the other working on some! Looks like a classic case of pulling defeat from the jaws of victory there boys! What should have been an easy no brainer looks now to have turned into a right old headache! Today the county council held its Remembrance Service. I went up and took my place for the service. I can’t get to the Bedlington one because of work but I can get to this one. Very poignant and moving it was too. I came home grabbed a cuppa and then it was back to County hall for a meeting with our Comms team. They wanted me to do a video promoting our LACs and highlighting the fact that there is a now a Facebook page for them too. Not the best of ideas with a heavy cold but we had put it off for a week already so it had to be done. That done and after quite a long chat with the Comms team I then returned a call off one of our officers. This was about the flooding problem around the Westlea Cemetery. I have told our officers I would like to look at curing the flooding problem in the cemetery and in so doing get the pitch and footpath drained properly too. I spoke to our flooding expert and we are meeting up for a site visit next week. Like many people in Bedlington I’m getting a bit concerned about the lack of information reading the Marketplace Development, so much so I asked the Chair of Arch for a meeting to update us. Like it or not the future of our Town is now inextricably linked with Arch as a development company and seeing the Chief Executive and Director of Finance both suspended pending investigation does not inspire confidence! We really need to be driving this development forward as much as possible and ASAP if it is to happen! Thankfully the Chair agreed with my arguments and a meeting is being arranged. One slightly brighter note is that the Arch representative has asked for a slight delay because they are busy getting even more signatures and letting the ink dry out on contracts regarding the Bedlington redevelopment. Lots going on and all sounds very positive, fingers crossed! I couldn’t make it to the Bedlington Remembrance Sunday service but I had asked to pay for a wreath myself and then asked two of our young people to deputise for me. Again a huge turnout for this solemn act of respect. I would like to thank the two lads who laid my wreath, Callum Appleby and John Strasenburgh, sterling work and very respectfully done by all accounts. You have done yourselves, family and school proud lads! I have just been forwarded the numbers concerning the small road improvement scheme or Pot Hole Fund. Out of the 12 councillors 5 put in their (up to 3) suggestions and there are to be 13 approved schemes. Not sure why all of us didn’t apply, still getting the roads fixed in my ward is my priority and there will be another bite at this cherry because of the underspend, which I of course welcome! Had a bit of an easy week this week with only a single meeting. Looks like that’s going to be made up for next week when I have at least one meeting a day and in one case three! Well might not have had meetings to go to but plenty of intrigue! NCC issued its councillors a notice which told us about Arch being scrapped and why. I immediately asked if I could make this public but the secretary didn’t know. I sent her a message later saying it didn’t matter the Chronicle had published most of it! Well at least someone listened and members did get slightly advanced warning of this press release! Course we now have everyone pronouncing their particular take on the news, everything from the Bedlington regeneration project scrapped to every Arch employee out of their jobs. It’s all in the press release in reality, its business as usual for most of the company and the company will get a new name and focus. By far the most interesting bits for my money are the following sentences: “In an email to members, the board said the review had uncovered “failings in relation to the operating principles and fundamental purpose of Arch”. It added that “financial probity” had not been at the level required and that decision-making had been “inconsistent”. Some big adjectives and nouns there, mostly nebulous, and I will be asking questions about their meaning! Another matter popped up and took me by surprise recently. Seems there has been a falling out between the various football club managements and the one which they are supposed to operate under. I have been asked to help one out and I will. I have brokered a meeting between them and a local community group to see if we can get them to use a green space the community group have registered for community usage. Fingers crossed it would seem to tick a few boxes that one. Took a call off the NCC Business Chair asking if I would chair the LAC on Wednesday. I said of course I am the vice chair but asking about why Christine couldn’t chair it I was told she had been taken to hospital. I sent my best wishes. Wednesday and after coming home from work I showered, changed and then went over to Cramlington for the LAC. There had been quite a few apologies talked about so I read the terms of the meeting quite closely, good job I did! If there had been a normal turn out of public but a less than ample turn out of councillors I would have mentioned it but as it happened only about 4 apologies were entered. One member has consistently failed to attend and only came to one planning meeting to talk about his supposed support of residents for which he got a round of applause. Unbelievable! Anyway we had a lead petitioner and I knew all about the reasons behind this one so I spoke to the lady and asked if she wanted to be on first so she didn’t have to stay for the whole meeting. She agreed so I opened the meeting and put agenda item 5 to the front. This was a petition for traffic measures on a stretch of road in Bedlington which has recently seen this lady’s daughter involved in a fatal crash. Obviously very emotive and we all wanted to help, some wanted to help directly and some wanted to use the situation to further their own concerns. I think we had the right balance at the end. After the lady left we returned to the business of the night. We had a very good smattering of big shots at this meeting with the Ceo of NCC, Business Chair, Environmental Services manager, Highways manager, Technical manager, cabinet member for environmental services, Deputy Leader, vice business chair. I called on most to answer questions directly! Public questions and as far as I am concerned if we want to engage with the public we must give them a stake in the meetings so I allowed them as many questions as they wanted to ask. I was to pay for that later! Anyway a lively exchange as normal which I had to curtail when it started to become a debate instead of a question time. Onto the meeting and several items of interest none more so than a presentation about the Ashington/Blyth /Tyne railway line. Looks like we now have a timetable counting down to 2022 at the latest for the introduction of passenger trains, if we can reduce the £200M costs that is. Meeting closed about 8pm. Today I had a Corporate Scrutiny Group meeting and it was in the Chairman’s dining room. As I walked in the business Chair shouted for me so I went to his office and asked what he wanted. I had been working all morning with Democratic Services to get the Bedlington update on our Town Centre retail development heard in Bedlington. It was down to be talked about in Seaton Valley, not the best of ideas! Anyway the business chair started to admonish me for the way I handled the LAC, specifically the amount of time I gave the public. That soon became an extremely heated two way street! I think the best thing to say is that we agreed to disagree on this point! I also took the chance to get his backing to move the Bedlington update and as luck would have it the deputy Leader was there and he backed my idea. So with that move firmly on the cards I went into the scrutiny meeting. Two of the items on the agenda had me perplexed. We went through the meeting and got to the ones which intrigued me. One was for a loan to an animal charity and the other a loan to a swimming pool. We went through the applications and they were both unanimously supported. Personally I would rather use our financial backing to back genuine community projects like these rather than give money to a group to buy an outdated shopping centre! I was one of two members who cross examined the business cases pretty thoroughly and they both seem worthwhile and securely backed. This does beg the question however, what the hell were our last councillors doing because we saw PAWS in Bedlington having to close and the small pool at St Bennies close because of the need for some cash! Almost identical projects and for the sake of pretty small cash injections (compared to what we had just agreed) they could both still be open to the Bedlington public! I despair! When I left I was again shouted on and had to go in to see the business chair. This time the Bedlington update was the main reason and it seems Democratic Services had some new information after speaking to one of the main presenters. Again after some further discussion about several topics I left the business chair and went to see Democratic services. Seems the Dec meeting which we can have in Bedlington is still a bit soon for a full update so back to the Jan one at Seaton Valley. That’s no good so we settled to hold the Feb meeting in Bedlington and having this update and the Local Transport Plan as the only real agenda items. Well I got my way and we now have the Bedlington update in Bedlington but it cost me a month so February instead of January. As it happens we have been told there will be even more information available then so maybe not such a bad thing. I have been asked about the Core Strategy time and again so here are my views. The Core Strategy came out of the Local Development Framework or LDF, and to my mind is a legal gentleman’s agreement. That is to say it identifies policies and strategies for NCC but in reality these could still be challenged by those wanting to, for instance a developer. If the Core strategy said we only wanted housing in areas A, B, C and D but not in X and Y but a developer wanted to build in X then they could challenge the decision right up to the Secretary of State. And how many times have we seen that being applied successfully by developers, more often than not! It would be in any developer’s advantage to work within it of course because of the extras a body such as NCC can add to the mix, such as schools, roads, leisure etc…all of which makes selling their houses that much easier! All this bandying around of pointing the finger saying we now have an open season for ruthless developers, well the plain fact is that there was never a Core Strategy in place, it was a collection of documents which the Government was going to sift through and see if it stood their examination before it came back to NCC for proper adoption as a policy. The papers had only just been sent off to London! Fact is that neither the Lib Dem administration, who started it, nor the Labour administration who are mendaciously pointing fingers about it brought it in under their watch, 8 years in total. Therefore all this absolutely terrible free rein which has somehow been given to developers was already freely available to them over the past 8 years! What has happened is that Labour wanted to close the door after the horse had bolted but the Conservatives want to put extra locks on! The real point is that the horse is out there as it has been for years! Not only do I agree we should have extra locks on we should have a much better door and barn too! Well good meeting with the football club Chairman and the community group. Hope that gets resolved pretty soon. Still no meeting with the flood officer, that’s a phone call tomorrow. Just heard Netherton Lane won’t be classed as a primary route for gritting but it will be classed as a secondary route. Had an initial meeting with an architect with reference to getting something done with the abysmal changing facilities at the Westlea pitches. Trying to squeeze in some sort of youth facility too. Almost weekly contact with our planning department and enforcement these days. Two of my pot hole suggestions have already been done and the other is getting a complete resurface. Now looking for others to list. As my December update will not be due until January can I wish everyone reading these pages a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
  2. Merry Christmas

  3. Arch to go........

    Ill take that bet rosco.........
  4. Arch to go........

    Were you not around during the election then? I spend months asking the same questions! Its the same answer essentially...... its the way this project has been made to stand on its own feet for funding. Unlike EVERY other Town in the county prior to the election. You can see that the way most have been cancelled outright by the new administration! Its the way this deal has been put together....... You know while I think its unjust given the way other places had money thrown at them by the last administration , this at least will show a commitment by businesses coming in, towards Bedlington and this development, which should make ours sustainable.
  5. Arch to go........

    Who says it not going ahead Rosco?
  6. Arch to go........

    Update coming soon Canny lass. On the agenda for Jan LAC meeting is an update on the Bedlington Regeneration project.
  7. Arch to go........

    Course it does Canny lass............
  8. Arch to go........

    http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/northumberland-county-councils-firm-arch-13918326
  9. Councillor Robinson - October 2017

    You are right there Vic.......it sometimes takes weeks and months to get things done! Not sure how much of a difference but I'm trying as I said I would!
  10. Councillor Robinson - October 2017

    October 2017: After a hectic weekend at work I made sure I had either talked to or sent e-mails off to the people I needed to speak to about what is now getting to be backlog of constituency work. I have picked up yet another three meetings in the next couple of weeks, two for committee meetings and the other for additional training. When I said October was going to be hectic I really meant it! First off the block was a strategic planning meeting. One of the applications was the redevelopment of the Alcan site and I had some questions to ask about that, not least about contamination issues. I was assured none of the relevant agencies had reported any concerns. Well that sounds hunky dory except that none of that documentation had been included in our packs? This is something I am getting a bit concerned about, lack of full disclosure in planning applications! Anyway that application, like all of them that night was passed unanimously. One which I do want to remark on was the application again up in Amble this time for 272 houses. The developer came in and explained everything he was prepared to do and give by way of community payback and we even had councillors asking us to agree this application because of the level of payback this particular developer was prepared to give to the community. In effect for 272 houses a potential sum of up to £5M had been agreed. I immediately compared this with the 500 houses earmarked for Bedlington and my ward and the figures we can probably expect pales into insignificance. Same planning officer leading this too! Wasn’t too long ago, a month or so, we heard an application for 500 houses for Amble and again the negotiated community payback funding was into many millions of pounds! Why the disparity? This whole planning system is an absolute joke and needs fixing from top to bottom and I can’t even blame our planners because they have to function under the system as is, which in many cases isn’t what they might like. I feel I really need to start and highlight the inadequacies and downright inconsistency the current system is producing for the likes of my ward! Very next day and back at County Hall for another training session. I had gone to work at 5.30am come home at 2.20pm had a quick shower and then back up at Morpeth for this training session. This one was a master class in ‘chairing skills’ and it was something I wanted to do anyway. As I anticipated I have been doing it all wrong, well not really but I did learn some tricks of the trade which was exactly why I wanted to do it in the first place! Thought I had a rare day off today but not so there was a Gallagher Park Steering Group meeting to attend. That went quite well with everyone pretty positive until I was told the Community Gain funding or S106 funding for leisure emanating from the 500 houses we could very well see just north of the Chesters has been ring-fenced for Gallagher Park only. It would seem to me that the area which has to put up with the loss of amenity etc should be the area which sees the vast majority of payback, that as a minimum! Again I came home and fired off a missive to the head of planning informing him about this and saying I thought this money should be retained within the ward for the residents. As I write this up still no reply! Another day another meeting to attend this time the Pension Panel. We had a few presentations off fund managers who had come up from London to deliver them and one off an adviser who had travelled up from Leeds. Interesting presentations and they threw up some pretty interesting questions! I sat next to Liz who I am doing the further pension panel training with next week down in London and said I will meet her at the train station in Morpeth at 5.00pm. She corrected me and told me its 3.00pm! Heck just as well we chatted about it! I came home and spent nearly 4 hours getting some answers to further concerns expressed by residents and in a couple of cases trying to get their cases dealt with sympathetically. I still have my original list of concerns which still haven’t been answered or dealt with so I think it’s going to be a pretty uncomfortable meeting with NCC officers at the next Local Area Council. Well after another hectic weekend at work I did make it to the train station for 3.00pm on Monday. On the way down neither of us could work out how to use the other tickets we had, one for the underground but only for tomorrow? Anyway needn’t have worried we asked one of the underground porters and he waved us through! Up at 6.30am and after a cuppa and a quick shower it was off to the next venue for the training. Again we more or less walked straight there just in time for enrolment. As Liz said this was quite a complex session especially if you didn’t know the terminology. I asked each one of the presenters several questions, some they answered, some they deferred but against a room of over 40 people from all over the UK everyone knew there was a contingent from Northumberland present! This may not help my ward directly but it is one of the job requirements to make NCC as well run and professional as possible. In fact I would say this sort of activity takes up to around 70% of my time. I did enjoy the afternoon session and had a continual banter with that presenter! So that was the Pension Panel training over and it was then a trek back to Kings Cross. We got there early and tried to change our tickets to a train which was still in the station but we were told the ticket would have to be bought again so we declined. The problem we had was that the train we were booked on had a change in Darlington and the departure time for the train we needed to catch there, was 5 minutes after the arrival time of the first one! In the end it wasn’t a problem because it was actually on the same platform so one had to leave before the other came in. Got back to Morpeth for 9.00pm so quite a long day. Not to have a rest I had to take today off work because of meetings. First one was the joint chairs of the LAC’s and I had plenty to say there. First up was the county wide community chest scheme and we had about a dozen countywide applications and the funding was well oversubscribed. As we progressed through the list we examined the applications and questioned the officer. Some were taken out for further information and reflection as to the new rules, others passed, and some passed after quite heated debate! Next onto the normal business of this group. I had to chair our last LAC meeting because the usual chair had to have a minor medical procedure and several members of the public wanted some of their concerns addressing further up the food chain! Two in particular, one that the meetings timings were daft and the other that the agendas were as thin as water! I firstly mentioned the times of these meetings where planning is usually at 4.00pm and the LAC proper starts at 6.00pm. It seems all the other LACs have no problems with those times but I repeated what the floor of our meetings had said the times were crazy. The chair of this group said he delegated all the organisational procedures to the various LAC chairs so Christine can set her own meetings when she wants. She said she will be asking people what they prefer. The second issue I raised was the content (or lack of it) on the agendas. This was actually agreed by other members. I did say conversely looking at the November agenda it was very much beefier and contained several big topics, such as the NCC Budget. I said I hoped on behalf of residents these sorts of agenda items continue and make these meetings well worth attending. Next up a training session for the Fire Fighters Pension Board which I have been delegated to serve on. This has come right out of the blue! Listening to the briefing myself and the other delegated member were given it would seem as board members we have almost no say in the running of this scheme but we are responsible for the safe and correct way it is administered. No wonder there are no administration members present!!!!! Anything goes wrong myself and Ian are in the firing line, the administration members have insulated themselves from any liability here! Never mind just have to make sure nothing goes wrong under our tenure but again quite a responsibility. We went through the constitution and workings of this group and made sure we realised the difference in responsibility we had compared to the LGPS. This is a defined benefit unfunded scheme so no investment decisions to make! It took well over an hour to go through this stuff and only then were we informed that the next board meeting is actually next week! Because this is quite a small group, to quorate the meeting we need just about everyone there so if one of us can’t make it the meeting cannot proceed and that wastes time for everyone! Talk about being thrown in at the deep end! Much nicer time today! I had been asked to take part in the Democracy Week NCC hold every year for the school children of the county and today was Bedlington schools turn. Not only Bedlington but other schools around us too. 4 councillors and the Business Chair turned up to welcome our young people and take them up for lunch. They had been up there for some time but our first job was to take them for lunch in one of the committee rooms. Gave me the chance to talk to them because I knew quite a few that had come from St Bennets. After lunch they had the chance to ask us questions across the council chamber. They were given an hour to throw as many questions at us as they wanted and boy did they do just that. So we had to field the full gambit of questions from Brexit to School transport, from additional educational learning to inclusive disabled education, from gang culture to teacher’s pay and everything in-between. Of course the Conservative Business chair on my left and the Labour Party Whip on my right went at each other like dogs at broth which gave me the perfect illustration as to why I was an independent and resulted in plenty of laughs in the audience! One of the questions was about proportional representation and the two party members gave their positions. I asked why not instead of having party references just vote for the person you think best represents your position, but both party members rounded on me and told me you had to be in a group to get anything done. Really well I’m sitting here the same as you gentlemen! Oh and one other thing, didn’t we just agree that gang culture was wrong and had no place in our schools or indeed society or is that just a case of do as I say not as I do? I hope the young people got something out of it all, even if it was just a sense of county hall not being so remote and the people who make the decisions are just human beings as well, with all the frailties that entails. I hope I have convinced one or two of the young people who always take such active roles in most of the times I have worked with these young people to lay a wreath at Remembrance Day, deputising for me. I can’t be there because of work commitments but I do want to show my respect so I have asked to buy a wreath myself and hope to get these young lads to lay it on my behalf. Well what a nightmare work was this weekend. I had to stay late on the Sunday night to make sure the production lines were running normally at switch on and that was after a 12hr shift so I was pleased to get home! Monday and a rare day this month, a day off! Time to catch up on my correspondence and get in touch with the people I needed to speak to. My environmental training was cancelled this morning but I was at the dental hospital anyway! Ended up rushing back to chair a meeting at 2.pm. This was the NCC Community Chest Scheme for our local area. Hopefully more groups and associations will apply in future but as it was the funding was about equal to the applications. We really would like to fund every application which comes in but there are strict rules and regulations we have to follow to make sure everyone gets the same chance, irrespective of how big and professional their group is. That done and seeing as I was in offices adjacent, I took the opportunity, or in reality barged into the office, to ask cabinet members several questions on behalf of constituents. I even managed to squeeze into a director of service office and ask him directly some questions! I also had the opportunity to speak to one of the planning officers! I have also been speaking to the temporary local area manager I have been trying to get answers out of. He agreed to meet with me and I will take him around the ward and show him the concerns residents have been in touch with me about. Hopefully we can come up with some resolution! So not only have we dished out about another £50K to worthy groups in this area I have also been able to put into place some determination of residents’ complaints! Now I just have to make the best case for each! Wednesday and rushed back from work to get to the LAC in good time because there was a planning brief beforehand. As this is in my ward again I really wanted to be there right at the start. Got there in time to help putting the chairs out! First up a brief planning update about the applications we had tonight and then straight into the applications. First one was certainly contentious. Members of the public were there to put their views so after we heard the planning officer present the case it was time for public address. I do wish anyone speaking would refer to and take on board the rules and regulations we have to follow. An address can be as emotive as possible but in reality it can’t be considered if there are no lawful reasons to object! Whilst the public objectors had the sympathy of the panel we couldn’t dismiss the application because it followed all the rules, in fact I seconded it for exactly that reason! Several of these members of the public felt obliged to shout at us on their way out blaming us for passing this application. If only they realised it was in fact their inability to make a case using the lawful planning terms and conditions which made the outcome so one sided. Next up an application for the nursery in the West End school here in Bedlington. I proposed acceptance and when the highways and parking issues were raised I said it was so bad now that nothing could possibly make it any worse! That again was passed unanimously. Next up was the Town and Parish Councils section. This is so Town and Parish councillors can get access to the various NCC department managers such as Neighbourhood Services, IT Infrastructure, Democratic Services, Highways and Planning who were all there tonight. There was the usual contingent from WBTC, all Independent councillors (!), so with them and the two Bedlington County Councillors once again Bedlington was well represented. In fact there seemed to me to be a feeling of really getting on with business tonight. The officers were more than open and took notes of everything raised and we should see some actions resulting. I know my items were all written down for further action and asking other members, theirs’s were too. Today I had two meetings on at the same time. Treasury Management training and the Fire Fighters Pension Board. The Board had to take precedence because as I said if one of us misses a meeting then there isn’t a quorum. Plus the fact that this was the main 6 month meeting. Again quite a complex issue but then pensions are. Updates done and questions asked the Chair then took us through the rest of the agenda. This took 2 hours and I was pleased about the level of training I have done for this subject or I just wouldn’t have a clue. Friday and I had a meeting with our Neighbourhood Services area manager, something I have been chasing for some time! I had about a dozen items which needed to be resolved so once we met up I took him around to each and showed him the problems. I have to say this guy is extremely approachable and accommodating, so much so that because he has been transferred as soon as we get a replacement both the Town Council and myself asked his boss if he could stay looking after our area and his replacement move elsewhere. That can’t happen we were told! So after driving around for an hour looking at all the concerns brought to me by residents we now have agreed ways forward. That’s all I have been after for about 2 months now! Once home I had several emails to sort out, some giving updates to residents but one other laying out the evidence to back up what I said at a recent meeting, something which had been disputed. I have also been invited to a meeting by the head of NCC Planning about the housing development to the North of the Chesters. Seems there are some anomalies to clear up! It would seem there are quite a few anomalies where planning is concerned. We currently have a variation to a planning application which was originally turned down but got through on appeal and one of the variations to the permission is to build the houses in completely different styles. I have asked planners about this and they have said it is a correct way of doing it. How can that be right?????? For instance you get permission to build a bungalow and instead you build a three story townhouse and the change isn’t even consulted upon. Absolutely nuts but that’s the National Planning Framework for you! I wanted to get some questions in the next full council meeting so I contacted the person who sorts that out and she said I still had time. I wrote one about Arch and another about the Northumberland business landscape. I will list them in next month’s diary complete with the answers which I get.
  11. Already cast my vote Eggy??????
  12. Who will loose seats in North East

    All change ....................https://www.bce2018.org.uk/node/6486?postcode=NE22
  13. Councillor Robinson - September 2017.

    Not a great start to the month still unable to access the internet at home? I was going on holiday just after the first week so I wanted to get everything done and in place before I left. I contacted everyone I had to with the concerns and questions my constituents have asked me about and I hope to have all of them answered by the time I get back. I had a Local Government Pension Panel meeting to attend and it turned into an all-day event! Several people had come from London and elsewhere to do presentations and answer any questions. This is a very serious position so I ask a lot of questions and if I disagree I say so, maybe too vocally! Anyway this took from 9.00am until 3.30pm to get through and I felt washed out by the end because it’s pretty heavy going. Never mind holiday to look forward to starting tomorrow! I was only going for a week and I had let everyone who had contacted me and was waiting for a response, know. For the first 3 days my phone hardly stopped! When I got home I was determined to get these ongoing issues sorted. After wading through the treacle of bureaucracy I eventually spoke to the neighbourhood services director. He confirmed that the original officer had been redeployed and his replacement had only just taken up the role when he applied for and received part time retirement. In some strange quirk of fate the original manager has been regiven this area to see to until such time as a fulltime replacement is found. I therefore shot off this communique listing the problems I had been asking about for some time now and in reality to him! “The following is a list of unresolved concerns my constituents have raised with me at my monthly surgeries. Black path from Glebe Road up to Meadowdale. Glass and cans strew all over and overgrown vegetation. Loose drain cover on Dunstanburgh road in the Hazlemere estate. Been reported by resident but no response from NCC? Cars driving on path to miss speed bump in Bernard Close, Hazlemere estate. Empty plot of land Edinburgh Drive, is it designated play area as it was supposed to be? Ineffective weed killing and blocked rains reported in Westlea. “ This doesn’t seem like rocket science to me but then I don’t have to balance the budgets and man power. I had to take the LAC tonight due to the fact that Christine the chair was in hospital undergoing a procedure. At least this one is in Bedlington! There was a pre planning meeting at 3.00pm followed by the planning meeting proper at 4.00pm followed by the LAC meeting at 6.00pm. After having procedures and the legal details of the planning applications explained to myself and the chair of planning we had the planning meeting at 4.00pm. The room was filling up with people who had been told they could address the planning meeting by their ward councillor but unfortunately that wasn’t the case! Not only that they had all come from the far side of Cramlington and thought this meeting in Bedlington had been handpicked to be out of their way! So I felt it incumbent on me to explain there was no conspiracy and that these meetings are booked well in advance of any agendas so no one knew the application they had come to shout about was going to be one tonight. The meetings will be held around the areas and this was just Bedlington’s turn. Also the fact that one of the members had told them they could speak was in fact wrong, they had to pre book a spot within the 5 minutes public speaking time. I opened the LAC and shot through the first agenda items and then passed it over to the chair of Planning sitting next to me. He again explained how the system worked and then opened it up for the first applications. Just about everyone had come to complain about one of the applications and it took over an hour to hear the case. One of the opposition members’, who has never been to one of these meetings but is supposed to come to each of them, stood up and spoke against the application. That got him a round of applause. Are people really that gullible? A very young woman spoke for the application and I had to remark to the chair that the audience should be silent and give her the respect she deserves! He agreed and asked for silence. Anyway after the speakers and questions surprisingly the chair wanted to defer the application but one of the administration members proposed rejection. I spoke about the concerns I had and most agreed but I also said we were in danger of looking like every commercial application that comes in front of us is turned down and that was something I wouldn’t like to be associated with. The vote was a unanimous rejection. Next item was a change of use and refurb of a commercial property. Again unanimous vote this time in favour. We then had half an hour to wait until 6.00pm when I could restart the LAC proper. When I did restart one of the first items on the agenda was public questions and as there were several members of the Bedlington public there unsurprisingly the questions were about Bedlington. This did not suit one of the members and he made an exasperated outburst! His complaint was that there wasn’t more members of his constituency here to ask questions and vary them from being Bedlington centric as he put it. I thought that is about as ridiculous as it gets and other members said as much! One of the items brought up could have been classed as repetition but given this member’s outburst not only did I allow it I made sure it was minuted for action! We then had a police update and I was surprised to hear quite a different report from the one I heard off the Police at the last Bedlington Forum meetings? When I questioned the officer about it he assured me his report was correct. Seems Bedlington is fully staffed and there can be no suggestion of a lack of presence here. Hmmm…… Had a corporate scrutiny meeting yesterday and this time I was pretty vocal. (I really wanted to get to the last one but it had been called at very short notice when I was away on holiday. That one was about the aborted County Hall move. I did read through the associated papers and most are covered by a confidentiality clause. So I can’t say anything other than I would expect all this information to come out into the public realm at some stage so people can then make their own minds up about who was promoting the truth or not about this move!) One of the items was the budget performance for this financial year. I had gone through the papers before attending the meeting and seen the general direction we are talking so several questions needed to be asked as there seemed to be a projected slight overspend. As this ‘potential overspend’ was mainly made up of one entry I asked about these figures. I would seem to me that an overspend of about 60% was either accounted for by incompetence, which I doubt, or the base line budget figure was so out of true it skewered the resulting report. The latter seems to be the case but I was assured it is something which has been identified and is being worked on. Good. I have just been contacted by another two constituents, one who seems to have had a less than salubrious service off NCC and another who asks about a project the last councillor was supposed to be doing. I have had nothing back from our temp area manager about the list I sent so now I need to step it up and include more items! I wanted to debate some of the topics identified in that Active Citizen report I posted some time ago with the young people I did the Civic Roles with. I had contacted Lyn at Leading Link and asked if she would ask them if any of them were interested in discussing the subject and I sent the synopsis so they could look and see. Lyn said it had a good response and there were quite a few young people interested in further exploration so I booked some time to meet up with them. In the event about two dozen young people came along and we discussed all sorts ranging from Active Citizens to Brexit, from democracy to paths for young people to better access our democracy. Couple of things stood out, one was they felt they needed better educating about the subject so that they would then be able to make much better and more valued decisions and the second major item was improved transparency! Couldn’t agree more but I had to play Devil’s advocate. The discussion went on for well over an hour and I hope we both learnt some things. I will certainly be pushing their points across at next month’s Democracy Week at County Hall where I have agreed to play host to some of our young visitors. Well my contact at Management level about constituent concerns has produced an unexpected result. Saturday night and I came back from work and was just having a cuppa before getting ready for work the next day and I had two emails from the people I have been trying to get hold of for weeks. I thanked them very much for the contact and assured them I wasn’t after any special treatment but I did need the feedback, good or bad, to the concerns and queries I had raised. Hope I get a similar response Monday! That’s this month done then and it might have been a little curtailed by technical problems but I have again tried to include what’s been going on as it happens, in real time so to speak. It may be a little abridged but some will appreciate the brevity I have no doubt! LOL. October is going to be a very hectic month! I notice the Bedlington Independent Councillors have been asked which way they are going to vote on the costs of over 16 school transport issue by the Labour group. Talk about insincerity! Well not to give anything away prior to a vote but I wouldn’t have voted to abolish free school transport for over 16’s in the first place, unlike the last Labour administration! In fact I believe education like health should be free for all citizens as long as we all agree with the basic policy and agree to chip in. I look at my monthly taxations on my salary and it seems like many others I have already agreed and I’m fine with that. Just to answer one snide attack with another…..maybe we could use just 2% of this Special £25M Dividend Arch are paying back to the County Council, according to the last administration, to fund free school transport for our over 16yr olds! Ahh… but then we would have to actually find that money; it would no longer just be a soundbite in a pre-election gambit.
  14. Councillor Robinson - August 2017

    Start of August and already loads to get through. I thought this was going to be quiet because it seems most people still choose August for their holiday time. I went through the suggestions off constituents for the Pothole Fund and sent my three suggestions off. There could well be another two rounds for this funding so I have a good start for them too. I have asked questions about our weed killing programme because some residents are mentioning this as a problem and I have seen weeds in the most unusual places which have just been left. It doesn’t leave a great impression. I have already asked the Town Council to think about getting the weeds around their new litter bins killed off but they said NCC were doing it? I was told NCC don’t do weed killing themselves but I know they were unhappy with the contractor who was doing this job. So let’s see the real tale from the horse’s mouth and maybe even think about some way to get my ward done properly! I have also responded to the Local Transport Plan. This once again gives me three suggestions as to any highways and transport problems in my ward. I have a list of all suggestions residents have written to council about over the last year and good to see the three I was thinking about well represented. First is to look at traffic calming measures on the road through Nedderton Village. This has been a problem for 30 years I know of and I favour physical traffic calming measures. Second suggestion is around the problems of parking at the top of Link Avenue. The cars parked up on that road are being hit by cars using the junction to turn around. We need to take the parked cars out of the equation and it’s also something which I looked at for residents there already. Third suggestions is to look holistically at the parking problems at school time along Bishops Meadow, Deanery Street, Westmoreland and Cumberland Avenues, Ridge Villas and the start of Netherton lane from the COOP to the CLUB. These might be several areas but there is a single root cause, school time traffic. It needs to be resolved as a whole issue rather than just displace one or two problems areas. I have sent those suggestions in too. My surgery was pretty busy this month with one after another resident coming in to highlight their concerns and ask for them to be reconciled. As I left another three got me in the corridor so all in all a very busy surgery! It took me well over half a day to speak to and message the people I needed to get to so I could try and do something about what I had been asked about last night. Some were simple others not so……. I hope most people who came to see me can see the direct response to their queries and concerns which has mostly been done immediately by our (NCC) service arm. Excellent response off them for most things! Town Council meeting tonight and here is the update I gave: • Mentioned the meeting we had with Arch at last update…..we now have a proper press release which I made public. • Thanks Christine for doing the necessary at the Westlea Play area and picking up that broken glass. • Asked for the major road works on the B1331 next to the COOP to be done in summer hols. • Had meetings with Arch about constituent’s problems…..very helpful! • Various new initiatives for our LAC, first one being a pot hole fund. • Another, new Community Chest scheme, please tell any groups you know about to apply….. • Also I was trying to get Bedlington as a venue for these Lac’s or at least our proper share. After many blind alleys we now have a Bedlington venue…….Netherton Club. • Also chasing up on the time taken for an ambulance to get to my ward! • Haven’t let the 500 house application go unchecked either. Asked about the S106 funding or lack of it and I have now been told planners have asked for leisure, highways, sport and educational contributions. I have asked to see the paperwork! It is now designated to come back to strategic planning……. • Fighting the decision about not carrying forward unused Councillor small scheme funding. • I have put forward three suggestions for the pot hole funding, these are: • Ridge Terrace, Nedderton and the bottom of Choppington road, all areas identified by residents. • I have also submitted my three proposals for the Local Transport Plan, again all identified by residents. These are, speeding issues and traffic calming measures through Nedderton, parking issues at the top of Link Avenue and a holistic view about traffic problems at school times especially around Netherton lane, Ridge Villas, Bishops Meadow and Deanery Street, Westmorland and Cumberland Avenues. • I have also had meetings about the NCC weed killing programme and it has commenced under NCC in my ward the very next day! • Well done for the recent events in the Town, the Picnic, Bedlington Live and the Carnival. Not to sit back I have challenged the Cabinet about this Smalls Scheme money. They decided re-elected members can get that funding rolled over however new members/councillors can’t? Don’t quite see any logic in that decision, the money has been allocated and budgeted for and in point of fact its only money residents have paid in anyway, so why anyone wants to stop them getting their fair share????? My opening shot was that it looks mean spirited and unjustified. For my ward its almost £20K, so well worth fighting for! I have also had to get in touch with the police again today. Seems some kids had a hell of a night ripping off door mirrors along Netherton Lane but they were apprehended. So I need to find out what has happened exactly and what the cops are doing about it. I did get a reply off the police straightaway and it was reassuring that they have arrested 4 suspects but obviously couldn’t discuss a live investigation. However it would seem we have a bit of an impasse as I’m representing residents who are sick of this type of behaviour from the same place, while the police are more intent on the good work done by such places! That’s indisputable but there has to be some responsibility taken somewhere doesn’t there or if not isn’t that exactly the wrong message to instill? I contacted residents who had reported the incident to me and told them it was being dealt with seriously. I also had a neighbour dispute referred to me. It was referred by the MP’s office? Seems he can’t get involved in these types of disputes but somehow I can. I have absolutely no jurisdiction but the problem is that everyone still sees these houses and estates as being council owned and they aren’t anymore! It’s like coming to me with a faulty pair of jeans you bought at M&S’s. I did phone up the social landlord and made some enquiries about this problem. I got some answers and reported back to the constituent, hopefully they can progress their own line of action now. While I was on to the social landlord I had another problem which I had reported to them on behalf of another resident some time ago, two months to be exact! I was told this had been resolved now. Not so sure about that I think the lady in question would have let me know, still fingers crossed. I have been trying to sort out the panel for our Local Area Council community chest so it can be up and running as soon as we get applications in. I have agreed a letter with the chair of the LAC and the officer in charge of the community chest. This will go out suggesting the panel is made up of 3 Labour members, 2 Conservative members and an Independent member. This should give maximum representation of the electors in our area. That done time to have another go at another cabinet member about my Smalls Scheme! In had to get in touch with this cabinet member because of his portfolio anyway so while I was onto him…… I had a very interesting meeting with a developer about the possibility of a Bedlington Sports Centre. This was very positive, so much so I need to get some extra information so he can cast a slide rule over the project and come to a decision! With a bit of luck there might be something to present to the Town Council soon! I have been chasing up that information and have finally been put in touch with the right person to give me the answers I need. Well it seems the Town Council are coming up with their own costed leisure centre proposal. Should I drop my line of enquiry or carry on and develop it………think I’ll carry on. I have also been chasing some information for another constituent and this again might well produce real tangible benefits for residents here so I wasn’t willing to take being put off! Been to a Bedlington Forum meeting tonight and Brian the chair was too unwell to attend. Russell the deputy stood in and did a fine job! I answered most of the questions directed towards NCC and Bill took them for his ward. One thing which was a bit unsettling was the police report. Seems we are soon to see our cops amalgamate with Ashington and parts of Morpeth; it was stated as in the parliamentary constituency of Wansbeck, which will inevitably result in a much reduced presence in Bedlington because Ashington is always much busier for our local cops! This didn’t sound right when it was explained on the night and in retrospect looks even worse for us in Bedlington because I can easily see a situation where there is no immediate cover for us in Bedlington. Hate to say it but once again Ashington is benefitting directly from Bedlington’s needs being ignored, this time as far as delegated police officers go. There is no other conclusion any right minded person can reach. Planning site visit this morning at Seaton Sluice. Old care home being proposed to be demolished and a brand new facility created. We walked around the site and I asked several questions which will help me make my mind up at the planning meeting tomorrow. Again I had access to another cabinet member and lobbied him about this underspent smalls scheme monies. He was very well aware of my intent so the others must have been talking! He did seem to sympathise and accepted that I will be fighting this in whatever way I can on behalf of my constituents! In fact he made a perfectly sensible suggestion…….let’s call this day one now and stop rollovers in future! That will do me……it would get my ward another £20K now! Speaking of small’s scheme I have agreed, along with the other Bedlington councillors, to put £2K into the upgrades at the War Memorial. When I was Mayor I bought two WW1 commemorative seats for exactly this project but to fit them we needed a new path and that took ages to get agreements on. The idea was to make a contemplative seating area behind the War Memorial. As NCC councillors we have now agreed to pay for that new path so Remembrance Day should be shown to be even more aesthetically pleasing and something the Townsfolk unquestionably respect and identify with. I had a meeting with Leading Link about putting on another access to democracy debate. The last one I did as Mayor and explained what a Town Council did. This one would take the Kirklees’s example as a marker and try to get the young people fired up about active citizenship and the way democracy, or rather its access routes, needs to change to engage more of our younger people as we go forward. This would lead onto the democracy week NCC hold where young people are invited up to County Hall to see how it works. Tonight we had our LAC meeting but it was only the planning section. With half of the members away on holiday I thought this would be over pretty quickly as we only had one application to hear. Wrong! We had an objector and her councillor speaking against the application and the owner of the property speaking for. Once the officer made the case the speakers were heard. Questions came next then the debate. We were asked for a recommendation and I had no problem proposing acceptance. Christine seconded it and we then had the debate. I gave all my reasons for deciding the proposal should go ahead and most members seemed to agree. We had heard about the possibility of Napoleonic Tunnels running under the site, this from the objecting councillor! This then took over the meeting with questions about “what if” and “suppose……” It was suggested that I change my proposal from accepting the recommendation to include some further conditions about the possibility of these tunnels. I refused saying I read the NCC archaeologist’s report and they make no mention of these supposed tunnels so I wasn’t going to have any knee jerk reactions to this supposition, my proposal stood. There is a condition contained which states if anything of archaeological merit is found then………..that was good enough for me. In the end the planning was granted by a unanimous vote. Once again I then ‘spoke’ to another cabinet member, this time the Deputy Leader about this money I’m after for my ward! He said they were taking it seriously and I will be contacted soon. I also spoke to the head of Planning and asked her to nudge one of her colleagues because I have sent two or three emails with concerns one of my residents has and as yet I have had no reply. Got back home in time to see the News Post Leader had printed my reply to a letter last week about the Dam at Humford. Someone was having a go saying the new councillors needed to step up to the plate, get to know about it and voice their concerns about this project. Hmm, my reply was that I had been to meetings about the project and was at the public presentation by the proposer but coming out on one side or the other would preclude me from voting as a planning committee member when the project came in front of us, if it ever does. So maybe not a case of not stepping up to the plate maybe a case of keeping one’s powder dry! As it stands we have 3 Bedlington councillors on planning and we are all aware of this project and local feeling. Well just got an email from NCC telling me what my smalls scheme allowance is and its reset back to this year only! Well that’s me told……….not! I now need to see what other buttons I can press! I don’t see why we should lose out just because the last councillor didn’t know what was needed and didn’t spend his allowance! The quiet word I had with the head of planning seems to have worked as I now have several emails replying to the questions I submitted on a resident’s behalf. These I can now send on. I now have to get onto several departments within NCC and seek out yet more answers to questions raised by constituents. Had to go and see one of my constituents about a problem he had outside his house. After this meeting I had to request a meeting with one of the NCC managers who I am in almost daily contact with! This will be easy or extremely difficult to sort out! I also asked about the puffin crossing which is due to go in beside the COOP on the B1331. I wanted to know and pass on the timescale or it. While I was onto highways I asked about the traffic survey which is to be carried out in Netherton Village. I have been asked to go up to County Hall for a meeting with the business chair! I should be getting answers back to my enquiries of last week because it was a bank holiday yesterday and everyone had a long weekend. Well apart from me and the weekend workers! I do have several more questions to ask now though! The puffin crossing next to the COOP is to be started during the October half term, hopefully that will minimise traffic disruption. I had asked for it to be done during the summer holidays but the paperwork couldn’t be done in time? Had the meeting with the NCC Business Chair and I think I can describe it as a full and frank exchange of views! I think both of us are in no doubt about where each of us stand on several issues and time will tell how sincere each of us are. This month’s Diary and the start of next month’s diary will inevitably be somewhat curtailed due to the fact that my Internet supplier seems to have switched me off half way through August! I have made efforts to at least describe what happened in the last 2 weeks.
  15. Bedlington Town Centre redevelopment update:

    Bedlington Town Centre - Councillors Briefing, August 2017 Introduction This report provides an update on progress on the Bedlington Town Centre, former Tesco Site and the Old School housing development. Bedlington Town Centre Summary We are making good progress with development proposals for Bedlington Town Centre, a retail led scheme is emerging that will be capable of transforming the town centre, creating exciting new places to visit, dwell and shop. Once completed, this flagship Arch development will form a pivotal focal point for the town whilst also delivering a truly mixed-use scheme with many positive economic, social and physical benefits. Discussions with prospective tenants, in particular the food anchor, are reaching fruition and a number of corporate retailers have expressed an interest in being part of the scheme. Securing these anchor tenants forms the next stage of development now that outline planning consent is secured. With commercial viability a core objective of the development, our immediate efforts have been concentrated on five key activities: 1. Demolition, site clearance, site investigations and remediation; 2. Design of a financially viable masterplan to demonstrate the capability of the site to the market and provide a balanced mixed-use development that will complement and add value to the existing Bedlington offer; 3. Obtain outline planning permission for the development; 4. Attract new investors into Bedlington to increase retail diversity and create the economic catalyst for commercial development; and 5. Introduce a new housing offer with a diversity of tenures to satisfy market demand for town centre living. Planning The pre-planning submission public consultation was held 6th December 2016 at the Salvation Army Hall. County and Town Cllrs and members of the Bedlington Delivery Group were invited to a preview. Over 150 people attended on the day with 140 providing feedback, of which 98% were generally in support of the development proposals, agreed that there is a need for more shopping and leisure facilities in Bedlington and agreed that the scheme would enhance Bedlington Town Centre. The outline planning application was submitted 9th February 2017 and approved at Strategic Planning Committee in June 2017. The design team meet weekly and are now working with Arch Developments in preparing the ‘reserved matters’ application and discharge of conditions. However, some of the detail is subject to retailers / other users’ requirements, which are yet to be defined. Tenant Profile The scheme is attracting good levels of interest in the retail market and we are confident of underpinning the development with two “anchor” stores. The primary aim is to secure a c.2,000m2 discount food supermarket and a c.1,500m2 non-food discount store, we are in direct discussions with two major retailers to fulfil these roles. Our existing tenant Greggs have expressed interest in a larger unit within the new development. General feedback is looking positive and once the anchors are secured a number of complementary retailers are also keen to take units within the scheme. Once an appropriate level of income/capital is accomplished from sales and lettings, a request for funding to commence the development will be brought forward for Arch Board approval, current target is an Autumn Board. Construction Due to the estimated build cost of the development, the construction will be subject to OJEU procurement (restricted tender). This will require a PQQ stage to shortlist interest from the market, followed by an ITT to the shortlisted contractors. We are currently targeting to commence with the PQQ this autumn with the aim of completing the procurement to enable construction to commence, subject to viability and Board approval, early 2018. Development names A naming competition (My Town My Vote) for the development was launched in February, led by Leading Link, nearly 2,900 votes were cast. The winning name was Pipers Place (947 votes) followed by The Forge (811 votes), Market Square (562 votes) and The Cross (481 votes). Ballot boxes toured local schools in Bedlingtonshire and were placed in local businesses, churches and care homes. The campaign involved the design of a local mascot ‘Bedlington Ben’ and included stickers and posters, all designed by young people involved through Leading Link youth charity. The name is yet to be adopted. Consideration needs to be given to its suitability for a retail led development and also the Council’s Street Naming and Numbering process. Old School, Bedlington Arch acquired the former Old School site situated on the corner of Front Street and Church Lane from a local developer in February of 2016. The site came with the benefit of a planning consent for 19 apartments – granted in 2009 through appeal. The intention is to develop PRS/affordable apartments on the site, targeted at the over 55 market. Arch appointed architects ID Partnership to revise the development, aligning to the PRS market, but maintaining high quality architecture. The revised development provides 18 two bed apartments, ranging from 59-65m2. A section 73 application for the proposed variations was submitted in September 2016 and the variations were approved by Planning Committee in January 2017. Arch Group Investment Committee approval was granted February 2017 for the development and appointment of the contractor NB Clark (Morpeth), following competitive tender. NB Clark took site possession in March 2017. Practical completion is currently programmed for April 2018. At present, NB Clark are currently on programme and are progressing well with ground to first floor brickwork. All underpinning works to the south and west boundary walls are complete.
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