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Malcolm Robinson

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Everything posted by Malcolm Robinson

  1. https://www.northumberland.gov.uk/coronavirus/Northumberland-Communities-Together.aspx
  2. Had to wet the brush to rub it in............. I was still getting a little bottle of milk or orange juice at school at the time! One thing I do remember........quite a few kids used to pass out at assembly and I asked my old man why? "Poor buggars haven't got enough to eat!". Nostalgia isn't always rose tinted!
  3. h Hells bells Canny lass......I almost remember that. Little round tin with pink powder in........
  4. Big shout out to a company with a big heart.I was asked on Tuesday if I could try and help as one of our schools was running out of hygiene supplies. At work on Wednesday I went to see the factory manager. After explaining the situation his reaction…………..”if we have it take what you need!” Hats off Sir you are a gentleman.Left work with a car full of supplies! The company………..Greggs! One of our biggest local companies helping our small community! When this is over we will remember…………….
  5. I need some help. I hope and expect we will soon see a community response to this dangerous time we find ourselves in at present. Lots of local people and organisations have been working to put a network together so the most vulnerable in our community have the support they will need. There is one group which particularly worries me. These are elderly people who have been living independently and therefore not necessarily on any list of vulnerable adults. I want to make sure these individuals are included in our efforts! Please if you know any elderly folks within my ward (Bedlington West…..Bishops Meadow, The Chesters estate, Meadowdale estate , West Lea, Red house Farm, Hazelmere, Netherton Village and Shields Road) who might not have needed help previously and were able to look after themselves but may find the current and ongoing situation difficult please let me have names and addresses. Do not post publicly but rather send me their/your names and addresses to: [email protected] or phone me on 07779983080.
  6. I have been pressing NCC for information about how council intends to tackle this viral infection threat. We now have an extraordinary all members meeting after the council’s emergency committee meets tomorrow. I hope this will give some answers to some of the questions I am getting. I have also asked about what might happen if our schools have to close, especially in respect of school meals and exams. Here is the initial response off our cabinet member for Children’s Services, for which I thank him. There is no HM Government directive YET to close our schools. This may happen in the next week or so but as it stands – they remain open. I have been involved with Children’s Services on Continuity Planning and asked for detailed plans to be put in place on some key areas of work with children. If schools are ordered to close we are developing plans for how we offer online learning portals. We are looking at how we can offer food/ meals to the most disadvantaged pupils who may be impacted over the loss of the school meals service. This detailed work includes how we can open kitchens, work with supermarkets and restaurants. We are awaiting information from the Dept. for Education on exams and how these are managed. Coms work is being prepared to manage messages over the coming week.
  7. Next event at Plessey Woods...............
  8. February 2020. Just into February and already meeting times and dates are clashing. I had to be at Whitley Bay for 11am so I had to give apologies for a planning site visit this morning at Widdrington. I then had my monthly surgery and again quite a list of things to do resulted. I had another Fell-a-Ship meeting today about men’s mental health. Again quite a few representatives turned up all dedicated to promoting good mental health in men. We now have enough groups enlisted to support initiatives within Bedlington. What we need now is for people to come forward to put those initiatives in place with the full backing of this group. Hopefully when people see this sign and banner they will recognise it for what it will stand for. Strategic planning tonight and with only one application on the agenda it might be presumed to be a short meeting. But this is planning and this single application took nearly 2 hrs. This was the Widdrington application and going through the paperwork I did have several questions. In fact as the meeting progressed I had even more! At one point I had to say planners had done their usual and pulled out the trump cards to curtail me getting reasonable answers to my questions! It annoys me when they do this, use seemingly arcane planning law which we don’t know about to answer quite open and honest questions. In the end I agreed with the application because this development was aimed at and costed for first time buyers. I had requested a visit to the old council offices in Bedlington and I had the guided tour today. I really wanted to see just how bad the state of the building is in so I have a better idea of what usage it might be put to. There is a huge problem which seems to have put everyone off this building and seeing it first-hand I can understand why. However it’s not insurmountable in my view, although it will be costly and fraught with legal and technical problems! Yet another grim legacy from the days of WDC! Meetings galore today but first off a MOT for my car. The rest of the day was spent trying to sort out some of the concerns residents have passed to me and for once a few resolutions after I insisted on face to face meetings with the appropriate personnel. I also had the Plessey Woods event to tie up any loose ends. Saturday and the Superheroes were at Plessey Woods. Again it’s another event I can’t attend for work commitments but I’m more than happy to make these things happen especially as it was enjoyed by so many of our kiddies. I have even arranged for canopies and seating in case it rained, thanks Tony! It didn’t and the afternoon was another great success, thanks Charmaine, Danny and the ground staff. Another busy day today with a Scrutiny meeting at 10am kicking it off. One of the main items was the proposed budget and once again Jeff Reid and myself raising most of the questions. I had further questions about the proposed rail link as this was another agenda item. The full cost of this will be in the order of £160+M and we are looking for around £100M off the government through one of their funding streams. Other funding will come from other applications with NCC putting in nearly £30M. Listening to the officer things are now proceeding in the right direction because we have built up a good tail wind with support from most if not all bodies which will input into this. I did have several questions about finance and ownership not least. Also the fact that these new stations, or newly used stations, could and should be attracting economic regeneration in their own right and this was generally acknowledged and agreed. I had a further question about the actual rolling stock which will be used, particularly how it would be powered, given that we have called a climate emergency and we are supporting a huge infrastructure in green energy production. I said not using our own green energy and relying on old diesel rolling stock was such an obvious own goal I hope this won’t be the case? The officer responded by saying electric seemed the way forward and we could very well see the pantograph raised near Newcastle but then lowered in Northumberland where battery power could take over. Sounds like a plan to me! The last order of business was the proposed new arm’s length trading entities NCC want to initiate. Possibly up to 5 new trading companies all controlled by NCC. I wanted clarification as to what was going to be included in any business models (looking at the last time this was done and the associated ‘indiscretions’!) and the fact that it said these would be looking at new income generation, NOT SAVINGS on existing service deliveries! The CeO replied to my questions and assured me she was going to make sure safeguards were in place this time and only trading outside of our existing service provisions would be considered. Given what I have seen of her ridged insistence on proper governance at Advance board meetings I was happy with the answers. This might go some way to respond to my calls for the biggest employer in Northumberland (NCC) to seek out contracts within the private and public sector to generate income and not to solely rely on putting up tax rates year after year. I expect this will be used to create more discord for political reasons but as I was the only member to question this item in its details then once again disingenuousness would seem to be the order of the day. Having now seen the political manipulations in the press it seems my prediction was spot on! Instead of getting to grips with this stuff at committee where changes could possibly be made some are happy to sit on their hands only to wring them in public later! This meeting closed then it was a dash to get back to Bedlington for some tree planting. I was struck at the previous scrutiny meeting where the new urban tree planting initiative was discussed that this should be opened up to our youngsters to get involved with. So I contacted the schools and youth groups in my area and arranged for them to come down, with the environmental portfolio holder, and help plant these trees on the 20 Acres. 29 sites have been identified within the urbanised SE to be used for planting new trees. The ambition is to give every young person in the county a tree to plant so they can identify with it as it grows and matures. That is the bigger countywide initiative as well as planting up a new ‘People’s Forest’. It was a very cold windy day but we had a good turnout of young people to help and they seemed to enjoy it. This is only the first batch which will be going into Bedlington so I’ll do the same for the next lot which are going in behind the Hartlands. I have been asked what sort of trees were used and I now have the list….5x Acer campestre, 5x Alnus cordata, 5x Crataegus laevigata Paul’s Scarlet, 4x Malus tschonoskii, 6x Populus tremula, 5x Prunus padus and 5x Tilia tomentosa. So 35 in all and they are semi mature not the usual wisps. I had to be up at County Hall today for my LAC community chest meeting. I chair this one and again insisted we held this extra one to use up every last penny in the budget, given that is all goes to community groups and voluntary sector. Once again after going through all the new applications and doing a bit of jiggling we spent everything in the budget! As I left I had the chance to collar cabinet members and press them to attend a ‘talk’ I have organised. There is another ‘talk’ being held about councils, democracy and environment with some of our young people, thanks to the help from Leading Link! It’s something I have always been keen to support and I normally go myself and talk to any of the youngsters interested in politics, with a small ‘P’. This time I have invited most of the big shots in NCC and failing to get our first choice of chair I have agreed to chair it myself. It will therefore be something like a Question Time. Great chance for our youngsters to put their questions directly to the movers and shakers up at County Hall and given who will chair it there will be no hiding places!!!! Another Friends of West Lea Cemetery tonight and again a good turnout. This time I had invited the officer responsible for cemeteries within the county and he duly attended. It was good to see how each side can help and interact with the other to get our cemetery not only up to expectations but surpass them! The group has designs on the old building there and this is something we are starting to look at in greater detail. The officer responded to all the questions and concerns which were put to him and in fact sorted some out as he sat there. I had pushed Advance to hold regular Bedlington Business meetings and our second one was today. Good turnout but I still would like to see more Bedlington business making use of the help and advice on offer. Been putting together the funding for the new fence and hedging for the front of West Lea Cemetery and I expect to see work starting very soon. I think this will tidy up the whole of the front of the cemetery, which was the first ask from residents who live opposite, and provide a bit more security. Thanks go to WBTC for agreeing to a contribution for this cemetery project, I’m hoping it’s somewhere we can all take a renewed pride in soon. I have a full council meeting coming up, it’s the budget one, and going through the reports and papers one stands out as inconceivable. It’s the report into the county council planning function. Once again like the Active report and the Arch one we read previously, the more exasperation and incredulity took over. Here is the link……… http://committee.northumberland.gov.uk/Meeting.aspx?MeetID=9674 When anyone reads statements like this you know something is very wrong………. “There is now significant evidence that appears to suggest that attempts were made to subvert these functions in respect of a major planning application, namely the application for Dissington Garden Village. This is clearly of significant concern and is explained in detail further below.” Also…… ” The independent investigation report found that, in respect of the specific planning application (which was for a large residential development of some 257 hectares on a green field site), decisions and conduct in relation to that planning application were not transparent or appropriate.” “It appears that significant efforts were made by several persons in positions of authority and control within the County Council to collude with and secure a 5 number of inappropriate advantages for the planning applicant / developer in the application in question. Such advantages would not be conferred on any other planning applicant in the normal conduct of the Authority’s planning functions.” There is evidence that discussions between the previous executive / senior management of the County Council and the developer / planning applicant had been ongoing and in addition to other discussions reached an advanced stage regarding the provision of a loan, from the County Council to the planning applicant concerned. This loan, for which heads of terms and other correspondence have been obtained, offered the planning applicant an initial £34million from the County Council to fund the development with further funding of 55% of the site value “once outline planning permission was granted”. The ‘site value’ is not clear but the planning applicant has indicated that the site was forecast to “have a gross development value of c.£772million”. This correspondence was conducted by a former chief officer of the County Council, on that chief officer’s personal email account (not that officer’s County Council email account). It is now clear that senior officers within the Planning department were similarly using personal email accounts to transact County Council business in respect of this same planning application, this is further outlined at paragraph 21 below. It would be highly irregular for any local authority to enter into a funding arrangement such as this with any planning applicant. That Northumberland County Council appears to have been offering such substantial funding to a planning applicant – and that the Authority is the Strategic Planning Authority which would determine the planning application in question – may well raise valid questions as to the impartiality and objectivity with which the application would be determined. In terms of financial governance, the values concerned in turn were likely to represent a serious financial risk to public finances.” “There is evidence that the applicant and / or their advisers in the specific planning application were invited / allowed by a very senior officer in the Planning department to write and alter parts of the Planning officers’ report to the Strategic Planning Committee. This report ultimately recommended approval of the application. The applicant was also allowed to view confidential drafts of the report which would not normally be published outside of the County Council. There is therefore serious concern of undue influence / conflict of interest on the part of the planning applicant, enabled by a senior officer in the Planning department having already offered and given significant hospitality to a very senior officer.” “Anonymous Allegations – in December 2017, two anonymous letters were sent on to the County Council by two elected members. However these elected members then circulated the anonymous letters widely, not only sharing these with the External Auditor, but also the (then) Police and Crime Commissioner, many officers, and a number of elected members. The anonymous letters were clearly politically motivated and much of the content was pejorative in nature. Notwithstanding this, those aspects of the anonymous letters which were capable of checking back to facts were thoroughly examined. This involved interviews with officers and elected members, as well as gathering and analysis of all available supporting information. Following this detailed, impartial and evidence based investigation, it was established beyond any doubt that the anonymous letters were wholly without basis. However, that these letters were relied on so prominently in the legal action brought against the County Council and others, again the Authority would contend is further evidence of the spurious nature of the claims made against it in the writ and underlines the lack of any evidence to substantiate those spurious claims.” I’m going to have to question this at the meeting! Full council today and a meeting with the Leader just before to make sure we are on the same page with my sports centre proposal. I have been working on getting a small sports centre up at West Lea for about 2 years now and this is the final push. I have had planners there, sport professionals there, builders and funders and all of them have backed my ideas to change the small changing rooms there into a proper sports multi-use complex. I have negotiated half a million pounds to kick start this and I wanted to know the in’s and out’s before it was put to members in the budget proposals. Happy with what was discussed and if the budget gets approved later we can finally start the next stage in the process. Just a picture that no one in Bedlington has ever seen before! A stand along budget item for a community sports facility in the town. It’s been a lot of hard work and although not the multi millions other towns have had its something to start with and build on. Its half a million no one else has ever been able to get in writing, even those belonging to whatever political party in charge, so much for an independent member not being able to get things done! Went down for full council and I was expecting fireworks on one of the agenda items. I wasn’t disappointed. When the audit report came up and questions were allowed it didn’t take a genius to see who was on the war path and who were battening down the hatches! Several members voiced their outrage at what had happened and I was particularly keen to suggest we needed some resolution to this and previous reports if only for the reputation of the council. I expect to see more fireworks about this over the coming months! I have to say yet another debacle deriving from the last administration, surely there can’t be anymore? As we have seen Active Northumberland report……lacking any sort of competent administration, Arch……lacking any sort of financial governance at all, and now this……..and all done under the last Labour administration, what were these people thinking of? The budget came up and after the presentation and questions it went to the vote. It passed by about 38 to 1 with 25 abstentions! Now it wasn’t that long ago I was accused, very vociferously and vocally, of letting my residents down by abstaining on a vote, even though I explained my reasons why I had chosen to take that path. I was also “told” abstaining wasn’t in the remit of a decent councillor! The very same people were now abstaining en-mass. Might be worth a look at a dictionary…….. At the very least it clearly shows a political whip in play! As it now stands the video of that meeting has been taken down even though it was a live recording and available until late this morning! Also there were plenty of members of the public in attendance at the meeting so if this is an attempt to stop the information coming into the public realm it seems flawed. Two members were named in the meeting for the actions they had taken and I can only assume there has been some sort of complaint by either, both or a political party which has resulted in this public account being taken down! I will be pressing to get it reinstated so everyone is aware of what has been going on. Well the video has been reinstated with only the names edited out. Gets exciting about 22 mins in…………and why they tried to stop me from speaking I don’t know! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDto-qIHd0g&t=1329s Unless and until we get some sort of resolution to this and other past ‘events’ then I have to disagree with the legal opinion expressed in the video. I would be more than happy to abide by any verdict which resulted from a group of 12 open minded citizens which had heard evidence presented to them in a court of law. Not allowing that outcome can only result in more accusations and allegations because there is not a final and transparent result. Just had reason to look at the comparison data matrices for the main towns in Northumberland. Bedlington has a greater population than the towns of Alnwick, Berwick, Hexham and Morpeth but town centre footfall is the lowest. My argument is that there is little reason to walk down into our Town centre, comparatively, until we see the investment into our town centre redevelopment start to bear fruit. Of course we actually need the infrastructure built to enable that! Considering the downturn in the fortunes of high street retailers shouldn’t we be looking to augment that footfall with other non-retail usage? That’s why I keep lobbying to get Bedlington taken seriously as a site for an Enterprise Hub with training and mentoring and even small units for bespoke businesses to try out in. That would help footfall for the retailers in the town, new and existing, and start to make Bedlington a destination town rather than the crossroads it is at present. I hope someone has been listening to me droning on about this and I can only wait until June to see if that has happened! Local Area Council meeting tonight and only the Local Transport Plan on the agenda. We heard the presentations and then quite a few members had questions. One big bugbear came out to not just me but Russ and Bill as well. Once again it seems Bedlington, as a whole, is faring less well in terms of funding than other areas, even though we have meticulously gone through the scoring criteria to make sure our proposals were vindicated, so we have made a complaint! Getting around 1% of the budget for the 4th largest Town in the county wasn’t something we feel we can accept! Further meetings have been agreed now! I had to call into Leading Link today to talk to the youngsters about this upcoming Question Time. One of the teachers led it and we went through some of the types of questions they want to ask. Well it looks like the 5th Column are out again drip feeding their one sided views to anyone who will give them time. Have to say it’s a bit disingenuous to suggest I haven’t kept people aware of what’s going on after publishing a monthly diary of my time as a NCC councillor from the very first month. In fact the feedback told me I was publishing too much at one point! As for taking a role in Advance Northumberland, I said at the time I was accepting this poison chalice if only to get the Bedlington Town Centre development over the line and it may have taken some time but I have brought it up at every board meeting and been party to quite a few tense and terse meetings about it. As it now stands a press report is going out this week detailing the agreed timetable for the works but I don’t see why it can’t all be achieved earlier than listed and that’s a line I will be taking and pressing for! https://www.investinginbedlington.co.uk/2020/02/25/Bedlington-town-centre-redevelopment-update-on-project/ LGPS today at County Hall and again a very intense session not least because of the proposed merger with another body. We have been examining this merger and it has been worked on for the last 18 months and had been agreed at the last full council meeting but we still have months of oversight to complete. So half the meetings was taken up with the intricacies of this merger, the other half business as normal for the panel. I had to leave at noon and had already told the chair but we were just getting to the nitty gritty of a proposed new alignment in our investment portfolio so I had to stay for the vote. This meant I was running late for the next meeting at Ashington. I made it to the next meeting an Advance Board meeting just as it was about to start. Again another large agenda to get through with all of the new governance procedures in place. Advance is now so far removed from what Arch used to get up to its unreal and I feel the popular view that’s its one and the same in its conduct is unfair. New web site about to go live which if anyone takes the time to go through it they will see for themselves just how different the two companies are these days. Just one item to note will be the publication of board minutes something unheard of previously but one which can only increase transparency. Same day and the trees and overgrown hedges have been taken out for the Town centre development. Seems lots of people are saying they are distraught at this action but it had all been listed in discharge of conditions attached to the planning application. Also new trees are included in the proposed landscaping to make up for taking these out. Not only trees but shrubs and flowers are included too to soften the hardness of this commercial development. We are finally seeing some action which can only mean the real build out is a matter of weeks away. Aldi have their planning application due on 16th March after which, if successful, they will issue a timetable of works. I have already insisted the Advanced works and the Aldi works run in tandem to minimise any necessary disruption a build out of this size will inevitably result in, for Bedlington residents.
  9. https://www.investinginbedlington.co.uk/news-page/
  10. Serendipitously Alan, expect to see a press release about this very subject later this week!
  11. List of the trees that were planted........... 5x Acer campestre5x Alnus cordata5x Crataegus laevigata Paul's Scarlet4x Malus tschonoskii6x Populus tremula5x Prunus padus5x Tilia tomentosa
  12. Its all for our youngsters Canny Lass. 😉 Talking to them they are more concerned than a lot of adults!
  13. Good to see our youngsters getting involved with the NCC tree planting initiative. On a very cold and windy day too!!!!!
  14. January 2020. Have to start over again after my computer went into melt down and it had to be overwritten. So Jan 2020 and it’s going to be quite a year! First Monday and I had a site visit at Hexham and Morpeth to get to. Hexham was the new School proposal and Morpeth was the Northgate development. Loads of questions about both with most answered at site. Today is the Strategic planning meeting hearing the applications we visited yesterday as well as others so it was always going to be an extended one! The School one at Hexham was pretty straightforward but there were as always ancillary concerns to address. Mine were to do with accessing the new site especially considering the new intake of pupils it will have. One suggestion was about a drop off and pick up point for parents who took their kids to school privately. This was dismissed by our head of planning, as was my suggestions about staggered start and finish times, but he did say it was a delicate balancing act. I took exception to that and said I had suggested the exact same for the new school at Morpeth, across the road, but had found out later we actually have a policy in place which stops any drop off and pick up points in schools. I asked how on earth it was a delicate balancing act when we had this policy in place? I suggested this was actually discriminating against parents who for whatever reason have decided their children are safer getting to school that way. This especially considering the access road which looks to be akin to the Kevi one at Morpeth. Having said all that and argued back and forth with the planners, in debate I said I was happy to endorse this application because the school children in Hexham, as in the rest of Northumberland, deserve the best facilities for learning we can give them and this would at least give first class facilities, as the head and chair of the board of governors had told us. I also had a bit to say about the design which I felt let the unique heritage of the Hexham Hydro building down, as I said it looks like you are allowing a series of concrete Lego blocks to surround it! Next up was the Northgate application and again this was actively debated. In fact one member was told if he had bothered to turn up to the site visit his would already know the answer to his questions! Again it was passed if only to make sure the facilities for mental health patients were up to date and available locally. The very next application I had to declare an interest in and the chair said with only a small revision in the last one members declaring interest in this one could leave. Next day and its full council so another mad rush to get in from work and then a quick shower and a shave then up to County Hall for the meeting. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0LydhIKT_s&t=4696s It was a WBTC meeting tonight and I had a request on their agenda, would they part fund the new fence and hedging for the front of the West Lea Cemetery. I had been contacted by residents who live opposite this hedge line asking if I could do anything about it appearance and the fact that all sorts of people (and motorbikes!) are treading straight through the gaps. I originally wanted to take the hedge out and replace it with the same fencing which is at either side of the entrance. Given the costs involved I had asked WBTC to help fund that but they declined after another resident objected to the removal of the hedge citing loss of wildlife habitat. This time the project is to replace the gaps with mature hedging, so the full hedge gets to a decent condition sooner and also install new metal fencing at the front of it right along. When this came up there was quite a bit of misunderstanding by WBTC members, one even tore up his papers, so I stood up and gave them chapter and verse of what had actually happened and the proposed project. They eventually agreed and I thanked them. Now I just have to put it all together as a scheme and sort out who pays what and when. I was disappointed about one issue which came up, that, the Advance reply to questions about the development and especially the loss of parking provision in the town. In fact it was the lack of reply which concerned me! I said I would see what I could do with regard to that. Monday and an Advance Audit meeting today. As usual a lot to take in and a lot of serious questions asked and answered. We did have a quick look at the draft internal audit into the company and this initiated a few questions from me through the chair! Going to be an interesting board meeting at the end of the month! Fire Fighter’s pension meeting this morning and while it was quite long it wasn’t as long as they normally are because we have gone from 2 per year to 6. Still a lot of complex issues to get through, not least how class actions nationally impact onto us and our scheme. Thursday and a morning meeting with like-minded community groups who want to address men’s mental health issues. This was Maggie’s idea, our excellent LAC Locality officer and one I feel we are very lucky to have! In the end quite a few representatives turned up and we all agreed to input our own specialities into the new effort. Looking forward to seeing what can be achieved by us all working together. Stop Press: Just learnt that Lindsey Jordan has become our new Bedlington Youth Coordinator. Lindsey is real livewire and I’m certain will quickly become a valued member of our protracted community associations. Well done WBTC for seeing the bigger picture and agreeing to part fund this position! Well after requesting the CeO of Advance comes and talks to the Mayor about the Advance development and associated problems he agreed to do just that! Today we had that meeting and it seemed to me like Christine, the Mayor, got some of the answers she wanted and needed. We certainly had a full and frank meeting! Local Area Council meeting tonight and beforehand a brief meeting with our Local Services manager to put the new Cemetery fence and hedges into play. I also had the chance to talk to the head of service and after the site visit he agreed with my statement that the middle road in the cemetery needed resurfacing ASAP and he is also looking at costings for a proper drainage system inside the cemetery! The meeting itself had several presentations with the Budget leading the way. The Leader of NCC, Councillor Jackson, gave his update and said that the administration was very serious about investing in all towns in the county and went on to say there was £500K in this year’s budget for the small sports facility I have been working on for over a year, at West Lea! He went on to say that our Town Centre development would see work commencing this Spring and he expected it to underpin a Town Plan. Well after decades of our local need not being recognised it seems my constant lobbying and actually working up costs for schemes including already getting agreements in place from various departments and even manufacturers and construction companies we have finally managed to get a sum of money included in the proposed budget! He also spoke about the need to develop more and better skills so I questioned him about the Enterprise Hubs which will be created and said Bedlington is the ideal location for one in the South East! Seems we should be getting to know more about this around June this year and having already laid down a claim for our Town I will continue to lobby all those involved to make sure it’s taken seriously and given adequate consideration. I went on to say that given most people will have multiple occupations throughout their working lives now it’s important to include new skills training for older people as well as our young people. That was generally acknowledged and agreed. Our Care apprenticeship scheme gave the next presentation and then Healthwatch. Take the Healthwatch survey……… https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/HealthwatchSurvey2020?fbclid=IwAR0QGT1KJQqMNuc0AEQahWdksJVY5v7L3U9xRv4jaGRPDP0jU6Wggc_9Je0 With most of the current cabinet and the CeO of NCC attending it was too good an opportunity to miss and I spoke to several about various concerns and opportunities residents and others had reported to me. Last formal meeting of the month was another Advance Board meeting. Again quite a packed agenda and some very interesting things thrown up. I am still pressing for some resolution to, what shall we say, past indiscretions, without which there is certainly residual reputational damage which needs to be properly cleared up!
  15. Great shows on again at Plessey Woods this Saturday. Two shows, 2.00pm and 3.30pm.
  16. Having seen some of the threads and replies to the news about the new rail link I’m a bit surprised at what is being talked about but not shocked, being as most has a political bent. Having been promised this for many many years it must come as a shock to some to see the current NCC administration actually starting to deliver it. Most of the professional people I have spoken to about this see it as the biggest opportunity for socio/economic regeneration this area has seen for decades and that would be my take on the subject because I see this as a conduit not just for easier access to central Newcastle and nationwide, but to get people/visitors into our Town. Of course we now have to build up our own USP’s and actually compete for any new opportunities this will create and for that we need innovation and a clarity of thinking, not political dogma! Whilst I cannot claim any credit for the impetus this has now built up, apart from backing and promoting it at every opportunity, I will claim that the Bedlington Independent councillors have made sure Bedlington gets its station in the very first tranche! Also the people who should be thanked for their consistent lobbying and promotion of this project are SENRUG. It’s a rare opportunity and we should be grabbing it with both hands not talking it down. Of course there is some downside but measured against a huge potential upside that pales into insignificance in my book. The insincere angst some have created about the finances beggars belief because they know full well the £1.5M is only to help with making the business case and detailed planning needed to bring the project to fruition. On top of this NCC have put something like £34M into the medium term budget to make this happen. With a total costing of around £100M it would seem a determined statement of intent!
  17. December 2019. After taking the lads on holiday it was straight back into the thick of things with an Advance Board meeting. We have eventually got through all the new policies which needed to be put into place and now there is just a few agreed amendments to make. Its been a long hard slog with meetings lasting well over 6hrs sometimes but it really needed to be done to make sure the excesses of Arch never happen again! Once again I raised the sore point about the Bedlington redevelopment and the parking problems. Scrutiny meeting today and along with the normal cabinet scrutiny there was one special item, the Climate Emergency strategy. It emerged that there is special provision within the SE of the county for tree planting. With up to 29 sites identified I asked for a map and was assured one would be forthcoming! Friends of West Lea Cemetery tonight and again a well attended meeting. Similar sorts of problems came up and I said I would invite the manager and head of service along to our next meeting so things might get resolved face to face. A phenomenal amount of funding has been raised by the dedication of this group and a few very hard working members! Well done Issey, Sarah and Susan! WBTC Christmas meeting tonight with most getting into the spirit of the season early! Site visit Hartford Bridge with head of service, cabinet member for housing and a couple of officers. Pleased to say they are responding to my requests and I hope a solution has been found and agreed. I had a meeting with cabinet member for local services and the head officer to ask about some requests we have for the cemetery. It was agreed head of service would attend a site visit and see what could be done about my specific requests. The cabinet member did remark that there were other cemeteries in equally parlous states or even worse but I replied that whilst I might agree they aren’t in my ward! LAC Meeting at Concordia tonight. I chaired the last one and had been asked several questions which I said I would have to find the correct answers to add report back. I had done so and gave the answers to the meeting when we went through the minutes. This one was mainly planning and one application in particular about extending opening hours of a take away in Seaton Delaval. I did have some questions about this and the one which I still find curious was that a 12 month trial would be conducted with a 6 month review after close monitoring. I had to ask again who would be doing the monitoring because the answer was the applicant? So the applicant who wanted the increased hours would assess any incursions which might not allow that to happen. A farce would be too kind a description! Anyway it was agreed by majority. The rest of the month I was chasing stuff up for residents so we could get closure before the Xmas holidays.
  18. https://www.local.gov.uk/our-support/purdah/what-purdah-means-practice
  19. Not allowed to Bedlingtonian. As a councillor we are under Purdah and there are quite strict rules regarding this. As a private individual thats different.
  20. November 2019. First up a site visit to Hexham at 10am Monday morning. Even with the traffic I made it in time and we all stood at the site entrance. This one was about developing a bit of derelict land at the entrance to Hexham. The real crux was the listed stone wall which will have to be removed and re-sited further back for a new roundabout and access into the site. The officers took us through the application explaining what was proposed. Took about an hour to get through and walk around. I can see this will be pretty controversial tomorrow night when it comes in front of our committee. Strategic planning this afternoon but first a presentation about a possible schools project in Hexham. We heard that and asked quite a lot of questions, it actually overran by about 30mins. Next was the planning meeting and we had an application for Bedlington to discharge reserved matters on the proposed new houses next to the Chesters. First were two applications related to the Hexham application. Both were considered as one but voted on separately. The first was about the new store and hotel which is being proposed as well as possible secondary retail offers. I just thought this hotel will dominate the site and its basically a square box pity we don’t see some imaginative design for it. We also considered this listed wall and its removal. It is to be re-sited around a new curve allowing vehicular access to the site but I pointed out that most of the stone which is to be reused is shot so new stone will have to be used and it won’t look the same. I asked planners to take the aesthetics into account when agreeing materials. There are also old bricked up tunnels under this road and wall which we all hoped might come back into use for pedestrians and cyclists. This application went through unanimously after hearing it had been a blot on the landscape for 30 years! Next came the Bedlington reserved matters application. I had asked for this to come back to committee even though the developer didn’t see the need! We had the scheme outlined by the planners and then had a member of the public speak about safety issues at the proposed junction and then the spokesperson for WBTC who had tabled several objections. The problem was that most were not specific to the application! However some were and needed to be answered. We then had members questions and I waited until the end before asking mine. I did this because I could only ask about matters pertinent to the application and those brought up by the planners and highways. I had to say I was struggling to contain my questions to the application only given the history and the planners knew exactly what I was saying! Because of questions and replies given earlier I started by saying what had really happened and why and explaining some of the reasoning other members had asked about. I then asked my questions, we had heard about a speed reduction, where was that proposed, trees were to be removed where abouts, the S106 agreement and how it will be delivered and do we have a definitive settlement boundary now? Each one was taken by several officers and it took quite some time to get through as we argued and debated back and forth, especially about the S106 infrastructure funding. In the end with only my vote against the application passed. Full council meeting today and again only questions off independent members tabled to the administration! Mine was first. I wanted to know about the build quality of these new social houses are are supposed to be building and used another council’s award winning scheme to illustrate how we could be doing them. Seems we are going to look into the build quality and running costs so I spoke about the project Northumbria University are currently doing with the North East’s very own George Clark, one of channel 4’s architect building experts, and could we get the recommendations and suggestions coming out of that to use in our own builds? No commitment but at least they know about it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0ym88gG-Ng&t=1612s Again a ping pong match between the main parties each trying to score points over each other. Even the Lib Dems got into this one! Facilitated a meeting at County Hall today with a group of residents and the appropriate officer to see if solutions to their problems could be found. Hopefully they have and we will see some action soon. Remembrance Day and a full schedule today for me. I declined the NCC parade and instead attended the West Bedlington Memorial. First up was a scrutiny meeting at County Hall about the forthcoming budget amongst others. I had quite a few questions for this scrutiny meeting across all the subjects. I had read one paragraph over and over and it still seemed to me to be something other than what was promised. This was about a budget consultation but it only said the proposals would be presented and explained. It never mentioned anyone responding to the consultation would have their views considered and might ultimately influence any decisions made. As I said that’s a PR exercise not a consultation! This was disputed by the portfolio holder and I eventually gave him the benefit of the doubt, but I will closely monitor this consultation and see if anything coming up influenced any of the proposals in anyway! https://www.northumberlandgazette.co.uk/news/politics/council/call-meaningful-consultation-budget-ps10million-cuts-planned-northumberland-county-council-974817?fbclid=IwAR01_EPvFO-Mv5FzGgCZGtk7vILJsM4yWp3bNoZ1Y_j6QsZN-WLRdCJNhmQ After this meeting it was back to Bedlington for the Remembrance Day service at the Memorial and then up to West Lea Cemetery to officially unveil my new plaque. I had asked Sydney Graham to do the honours as he organises the Remembrance Day parade for our armed services and the Royal British Legion. He has also identified most of not all the war grave in this cemetery. Parachute Regiment veteran Bill Johnson came too. We had an all member Local Transport Plan meeting today and about a third of the councillors turned up for it. After an outline we then broke into LAC groups to go through each of our proposals. I registered my immediate concerns that none of my proposals had made it through into the schemes to be worked up. After checking my email trail the officer apologised and wrote them down again, this time into the approved schemes! We spent most of the allocated time with the first officer then had a swap as the technical officer came in and again I managed to get another two of my schemes into the mix. So from going from zero input I managed to get 5 schemes into the mix! I also mentioned something which bothers me personally and even though its not even in my ward I had to mention it. It was the road out of Bedlington up the Horton Bank, especially the adverse camber coming down this road towards the Attlee Park bridge. I was surprised this had never been mentioned but it was agreed this was something to be looked at especially when the officer emphatically agreed with me it is very dangerous! We then had an inclusive last session on things like plastic added road surfaces and after I had some questions about that the meeting was called over. One thing which had made it through already was my call to get the 40MPH bit of road at the bottom of Choppington Road reclassified as 30MPH. I felt it was a morning well spent but only if we see some resulting actions! LAC tonight and the chair has been in touch to say she is unwell so could I chair it. I got to Netherton Club in good time and agreed to open the meeting then hand over to the Planning chair for that part of the meeting. I had to declare an interest in the only application before us so once the planning started I left the room. Had to remind another member she had the same interest! Once the planning was over, and it took about 10 mins, we had 45mins to wait before I could restart the meeting! Daft! I reminded everyone that we were not a Hustings, we were a Local Area Council operating under Purdah so don’t try it on! Once the meeting restarted I opened with public questions and seeing as we were in Bedlington there are always some of them! Once members of the public had asked their questions and been satisfied with the responses I moved onto the agenda. We had several presentations and updates off NCC highways and local services. Good hearted meeting tonight and I allowed members of the public to ask their own questions to the officers. I might get into hot water again because of that but if I’m in charge of the meeting then members of the public can have some access! Not sure if this has been seen by many……. https://www.newspostleader.co.uk/news/local-plan-proposals-main-towns-south-east-northumberland-399418 Next meeting was the LAC chairs meeting when once again I requested more public involvement into the area LAC’s. I did this because of a specific question relating to this at our last LAC. The answer came back that public involvement was at the discretion of the chair, so at least I have some justification if needed! Several other matters were discussed and county wide community chest applications heard. I had to go back up to County Hall this afternoon to chair our area’s community chest and once again there was one application which didn’t adhere to the rules so we had to dismiss that one. Very pleased it wasn’t a Bedlington based organisation! The rest of the applications went through with just about all getting the funding they had applied for. Once again we have an underspend so an extra round in Jan/Feb was called for. Well that’s just about it for this month and as my December diary won’t be seen until January I wish all the readers of this a Merry Xmas and a very happy New Year.
  21. I said I would write a thank you to the people who helped make the Commemorative Plaque at the West Lea Cemetery possible. Some might not know but West Lea Cemetery in Bedlington is a nationally recognised War Graves site and with this in mind I came up with this design for a commemorative plaque which could be attached to the entrance. With over 28 graves directly attributed to the second world war and many more annotations on family graves mainly attributed to the first world war it was time we saw a permanent memorial plaque. Taking my idea and design down to Mike Robertson and his innovative team at Barrington Metals they came up with an all metal plaque which exactly matched my expectations. After a whirlwind week it was produced and fitted in time for Remembrance Day. Thanks go to Tony and Stephen, NCC cemetery management, and also the CeO of NCC who I needed special permission off to pay for the project. I am especially grateful for the kind words and recommendations off so many people in our community when they have seen this new plaque. With a new Friends of West Lea Cemetery group I can only see this usually forgotten and neglected important local asset improve and become something we can all take pride in.
  22. I was challenged to explain S106 developer funding recently and I can now have a go. Pretty complex subject and to get it right here is the latest government guidance: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/planning-obligations Part of the question also related to what’s been achieved and what has it been spent on, in the last 3 years? I’m going to presume new house building which has been started, completed or planned for, is what this question is about. Obviously I can only comment specifically on the applications in my ward because I’ve spent quite a bit of time on them, usually onto NCC enforcement! Taking the 14 new houses on Netherton Lane, there was no S106 funding applied for! Inexcusable in my view but that was before I became the NCC elected member and it did have to go to a planning inspector to overturn the original refusal. Even the planning inspector raised eye brows and mentioned the fact that no S106 funding had been applied for. Onto the Broadoaks development now and again before my time but once again no S106 funding. Although only a Town Councillor at the time I did question this and the reason came back that adverse ground conditions mitigated the S106 funding. I made the argument that if that was the case then the community were paying for the work needed to overcome these adverse ground conditions seeing as no community funding was attached! Again inexcusable in my view! There were some ‘affordable homes’ within the development which I believe have been passed to Bernicia for affordable rents. I have a real problem with the term ‘affordable’ because in my view they aren’t for the vast majority of our young people and I have argued that point at several planning meetings! Now onto the proposed new housing on the land north of the Chesters. This has been at committee 3 times now and on each occasion I have voted against, one reason because of a lack of suitable S106 agreements. Again this scheme had been originally planned for before I became the NCC elected member but I now had the chance to sit on the committee and question it. In the first outing for this permission I saw the original £3.4M (I think!) allocation for education had been reduced to £1.3M and there was no allocation for Health. Even the Sport and recreation allocation had been agreed to go down to East Bedlington? This I challenged and managed to change so we saw a £346,500 allocation for health and West Bedlington are now included in the sports and recreation funding. ” 7.77 Objectors have raised concerns regarding increased pressure on local services and infrastructure. This matter is addressed through the Section 106 Agreement that runs alongside the outline planning permission with contributions secured for education (£1,331,000), primary healthcare (£346,500), off-site sport/recreation (£229,000) and the strategic highway network (up to £155,000).” The strategic highways contribution is going to a Highways England project at the Moorfarm roundabout at Cramlington? I did make the case that there were plenty of highways works needed around Bedlington but Highways England seem to be holding a gun to the head of Planners because in quite a lot of cases around the SE of the county this has become the norm and they will object unless its included? Maybe we should take a leaf out of their book! Having spoken to our local health and educational professionals it seems the education allocation is almost entirely going to Special educational needs and as we have little if any it will go to Guidepost. The health contributions off this and others are being rounded up and our health centre will get a share of that? How much I don’t know. At the second hearing I argued the point that the proposed development was actually outside our settlement boundary as well as the reduced S106 funding. The reply was that planners needed this development to show government an agreed land bank for new housing. This time I did manage to convince one other member to back my assertions and there were two objectors at committee this time. This week reserved matters came before committee and I had asked planners specifically to make this happen. The Town Council submitted objections and I wanted to examine the proposed site access. Again planning law has to be understood because ONLY matters in the application could be discussed and debated. This severely restricts what could be brought up because outline permission and detailed permission had already been agreed by majority vote. This was really only about site layout and reserved matters. There are some affordable units included…… “7.18 The level of affordable housing provision for this site has already been agreed as 15% under the terms of the Section 106 Agreement which runs alongside the outline planning permission.” After a lengthy and pretty protracted questioning session the application was agreed with only my vote against, citing the loss of the original £2M in the S106 agreement as the main reason! Immediately after the meeting I was told by a member of the public that he was shocked to see all the party political members voting for this apart from me after receiving a political leaflet saying I supported wholesale housing without adequate infrastructural funding. The opposite is actually the truth! The only other sizeable application I know of is the 16 houses opposite West Lea on Netherton Lane and again I believe no S106 funding has been attached? Although this never came in front of any planning committee once I was aware I did challenge the lack of S106 funding. I hope that answers the questions.
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