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Russ Wallace

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Russ Wallace last won the day on December 7 2020

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  1. Without doubt this year has been very different to any other. As 2020 comes to an close I would like to give an update on what is happening both in my ward and across Bedlington. I particularly want to touch on why things haven’t moved as quickly as we all hoped on the town centre redevelopment. Like all Bedlingtonians, by now I had expected to see steel frames emerging from the ground, but unfortunately that is not where we are at. Coronavirus has played a large part in this. Ahead of the pandemic Advance Northumberland had both ALDI as the anchor tenant and several other retailers in place to occupy retail units on the site. However, the outbreak caused a number of these other retailers to review their plans. In one case a prospective tenant went into administration. Therefore, from a point where things were looking very rosy, we have had to make changes to the project. These changes were reported earlier in the year and I am particularly delighted that given the reduced demand for space from retailers, improved leisure facilities are now a key part of the town centre redevelopment. In my opinion, these changes are more suited to the needs of residents and will result in a much better overall outcome for Bedlington. Given the ongoing eyesore that is our town centre, along with fellow Bedlington Independent Councillors Bill Crosby and Malcolm Robinson, I am continuing to make the case to the County Council for funding to be made available to advance the revised scheme as quickly as is possible. I have again written today to the Council’s Chief Executive and Leader to remind them of this. As always, requests for funding are difficult when budget cuts are having to be made. However, this assumes all current budgets are not only spent but spent well. For instance, if the Council can invest in an ‘International Team’, it can certainly invest in Bedlington. Equally, any unspent Members Allowance funding, rather than be clawed back, should be transferred to current projects which can deliver. Returning to the retail element of the scheme, ALDI remains as the anchor tenant and I fully expect the deal to bring them to Bedlington to be signed off soon. At that point we will at last see activity taking place on site. A short build time is expected to allow the store to open well before the end of 2021. In the meantime, the leisure part of the scheme will continue to be developed and I will provide an update on the funding situation whenever I can. I mentioned above the need for the scheme to be tailored to the need of the town. With that in mind, the public consultation, in whatever form possible given current circumstances, must ensure that everyone can have their say. The second project I would like to reference is the Northumberland Line. Having taken part in a visit from a former Transport Secretary to Bedlington Station in 2019, I am increasingly optimistic on this project being delivered. After all the promises that weren’t kept and the photographs of politicians longingly looking up the track for a train that never arrived, I never thought it would happen. However, progress at last seems to have been made and this will be an excellent achievement for the County Council The key factor at Bedlington Station will be having enough parking to serve the rest of the town but if that can be provided, I am sure the project will be a great success. As someone who lived on Bower Grange for over 20 years, I am well aware of the positive impact that the increased footfall will have on the economy of the Station. There have certainly been some setbacks in 2020 but as it draws to a close, I am increasingly confident of a much better 2021 for Bedlington.
  2. After what seems like a lifetime since the Market Place development first came under discussion – it was 2015 – I am delighted that Tolent have actually started the work. There are a series of phases with completion is due in late 2019/early 2020. Inevitably there will be disruption, noise, parking issues etc until the project is completed but I hope that the town will now get firmly behind the development and crucially, when it is complete, support the businesses that have invested in Bedlington. These retailers have chosen to come to Bedlington in what are difficult trading times and will need our support. I am aware that Achieve Northumberland (formally ARCH) have done their best to attract investment in the development and when the shops open it is then up to us to use them. Elsewhere in the town, two issues, anti-social behaviour and road and pedestrian safety continue to cause real concern. Along with other Independent County Councillors I met with the local area police Inspector and two of the Bedlington Police Team. During our discussion we made sure that they were fully aware of residents’ fears, frustrations and concerns – and importantly the impact that this is having on the town. At present he Bedlington Police Team are particularly concerned over the amount of youth anti-social behaviour in the town and stressed that they are doing everything they can with the numbers of staff they have at their disposal to deal with the issue. However their main message was quite clear – please report every crime. The team fully accept that staffing levels mean they are unable to deal with every single incident and they are aware of the frustrations that may be experienced when calling 101, but ask that we keep trying – or alternatively report incidents online, anonymously if you prefer. The problem for them is that if a crime is not reported not only will it not be dealt with, but also recorded crime figures remain artificially low and as a result no extra resources will be allocated to Bedlington. So it’s up to us to support our local police team by reporting crime and hopefully securing more resources. The new traffic signage, road markings and improved lighting at the crossing points on the Front Street marks the first stage in improving road and pedestrian safety in the town. In addition traffic speed surveys have been undertaken on both Hartford Road and Church Lane. I very much hope the results will show the need for further traffic calming in these areas. Funding is already in place to implement any measures on Church Lane. NCC Highways are also looking at the area around Morrisons/Lidl in order to make both the roundabout and the pedestrian crossing points safer. I will continue to push as hard as I can to ensure these projects turn into reality as soon as possible. Finally, with Winter on the way I have been working with NCC, West Bedlington Town Council and the other Bedlington Independent County Councillors to review the siting of grit bins in the town so that they are placed where they are most needed. If you wish to discuss any matter please do not hesitate to contact me at russ.wallace@northumberland.gov.ukon 07779983775 or by my Facebook page http://bit.ly/RussWallaceBedlingtonCentral. My next Surgery is at 6.30 on Thursday, 6thDecember at Bedlington Community Centre. Thank you for reading. Russ
  3. As a member of Bedlingtonshire Golf Club I became aware that since the Acres development had been completed problems started to emerge which were making the practice field no longer fit for purpose. Although preventative measures had been taken, golf balls continued to land in the adjacent properties. The course is of championship standard and as such is used for regional events. Therefore, the provision of quality practice facilities is essential for the club to retain this status. The club had been approached by developers with a view to purchasing the land, subject to Planning permission being granted. With the support of members, the Board then undertook a process of due diligence to review all options. The Golf Club is a registered not for profit organisation and therefore any monies received from the sale of land would be reinvested in the club and its facilities. In late 2017, as a member of the Golf Club I was asked if I would join the Board – a voluntary and unpaid position. Before accepting I reflected at length over any possible conflict. In the end I decided it would be better to be ‘on the inside’ and therefore be in a position to influence any possible development so that it would be in the best interest of the town. I also made it clear to the Board that as a Bedlington County Councillor my major role would be to ensure that any potential development met the needs of the town and specifically, if the proposed housing was yet more of the ‘executive’ style that I have fought against for several years now, I would immediately resign and actively oppose any application. Although for reasons of commercial confidentiality I cannot discuss the situation regarding the style of housing currently proposed, the preferred developer actually appears to be listening. In addition to enhanced golfing facilities, which includes unique opportunities for young people, the current proposal provides 12 full time equivalent jobs, with that number expected to rise. Also included are facilities that are much needed in the town such as a high quality area specifically designed to hold community events and functions and provide leisure and fitness areas. A huge issue for me over the Acres was the absolute destruction of hedgerows and other wildlife habitat. The preferred developer has given assurances that if the development goes ahead the hedgerow bordering 20 Acres will remain intact. Also, the tree removal essential to the new driving range has been subjected to a full ecological survey and, as it will subsequently provide a suitable habitat, is fully supported by the Red Squirrel Society. A public presentation of this information was given at a West Bedlington Town Council meeting earlier this year, where several questions were raised – the minutes of this meeting can be accessed via the town council. The project is extremely tentative at present – the pre-planning process has not yet been completed. Therefore, any actual application for planning permission is far from definite and could be months away. Finally, I am not a member of the NCC Strategic Planning Committee who would make any final decision and, as a member of the Golf Club I have a declared ‘interest’ in the matter. Therefore, if any Planning Application is made, I rightly will be excluded from playing any part in the decision making process. If you wish to discuss this or any other matter please do not hesitate to contact me at russ.wallace@northumberland.gov.ukor on 07779 983775. Also, my next Surgery is at 6.30 next Thursday, 2ndAugust at Bedlington Community Centre. Thank you for reading. Russ
  4. I am delighted to learn today that NCC have released £6.5m to allow the Bedlington Market Place development to move to its next stage. This is not the big publicity announcement of the various retailers – that will come later, but the release of this money allows the development of the site to go ahead. Building will begin later this Summer and hopefully be completed by late 2019. Bedlington has been Northumberland’s forgotten town for far too long and this project represents an important landmark in ensuring our town thrives for generations to come. I have been involved in this development since it was first proposed over three years ago and since our election last May the Bedlington Independent Councillors have been pressurising the administration to get the development underway I am therefore particularly pleased at this news and confident that Bedlingtonians will give the development their full support. The full NCC press release is copied below. Thank you for reading. Best wishes Russ Bedlington Redevelopment Progresses Plans to give Bedlington the vibrant town centre that it deserves are moving to the next stage following funds being released by the board of Northumberland County Council’s regeneration company for a multi-million pound redevelopment. The scheme when completed will include a new store for a well-known food retailer, additional retail units, car parking and a number of new apartments which aim to transform the town centre economy. It is projected that up to 200 jobs could be created by the scheme once completed. In total the next stage of the works are expected to cost just under £6.5m with other funds previously having been agreed for land acquisition and other preparatory works. The regeneration company is already in the process of discharging planning conditions for the scheme and tenders from contractors for the construction are due back within weeks, subject to agreeing contracts construction work will start later this summer. Speaking about the news the Chairman Cllr Richard Wearmouth said, “The new council administration said from the outset that doing right by the residents of Bedlington was a key goal for us. These proposals have the potential to be truly transformational for the town, giving a boost to the high street by pulling in additional footfall and generating new jobs for local residents. I am hugely looking forward to the start of work on the ground later in the summer.” The three independent Bedlington county councillors, Malcolm Robinson, Bill Crosby and Russ Wallace issued a joint statement saying, “This is very welcome news for Bedlington and something which collectively we have been working towards ever since our election last year. Bedlington has been Northumberland’s forgotten town for far too long and this project represents an important part making sure our town thrives for generations to come. We are delighted at this news and confident that residents will now give the development their full support.”
  5. After a reasonably quiet Easter break, things are moving apace. Firstly, the latest update from ARCH on the Market Place development timescale – we will get there! Pre-work onsite is underway Board approval expected on 28th April Contractor tender returns due on 11 May Clarification/evaluation of tenders complete by 30 June Building due to start by late August Completion late 2019/early 2020 I probably feel the frustration of the time this has taken more than most – it was 2015 when I first sat on the original Bedlington Steering Group. Since then I have gotten to know the ARCH team involved in the project and I am well aware of the work that has been put into attracting retailers to Bedlington which, fair to say, hasn’t been the easiest of tasks…but at least things are progressing. Another recent proposed development is at the Golf Club. My opposition to housing developments in Bedlington is well known and, as I have done with previous proposals, I will speak against wherever the projected development is debated. However national housing policy means it is well possible that the development will receive planning approval – we just need to look at The Acres, Slaley Dene and Broad Oaks which have all gone ahead despite strong local opposition. As both County Councillor for the Ward which includes the Golf Club and a member of the Golf Club, I am following the proposed development extremely closely. Fellow Bedlington Councillors Bill Crosby and Malcolm Robinson and I will be doing all we can to ensure that if the development does gain planning approval Bedlington will gain the maximum benefit from the levies imposed on the builder. I will also do everything that I can minimise the impact on wildlife and the environment – we are all aware of the damage caused during previous developments, especially to hedgerows, which was outrageous. You may have noticed rubber lines across the road at the 30 mph sign as you come into town from Hartford Bridge and then another set half way up Hartford Bank towards the Red Lion roundabout. These measure the average speed of vehicles as they enter and leave town and the results will dictate whether the road qualifies for the installation of speed enforcement cameras. I’ll let you know whenever the results are released. The initial traffic survey of the congestion at the Red Lion roundabout at peak times which took place after February half term has yet to be concluded but in the meantime, NCC are introducing “Keep Clear ” road markings at key points on the roundabout. Hopefully this will go some way to reducing the congestion. This work will take place overnight – to avoid disruption! My surgeries are held at Bedlington Community Centre at 6.30 pm on the first Thursday of the month, with the next surgery on 3 May. You can also contact me on 07779 983775 or at russ.wallace@northumberland.gov.uk. If I can be of any assistance please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you for reading. Russ
  6. On 20th February at our Local Area Council meeting, representatives from ARCH gave a positive and optimistic progress report on the Market Place development. The presentation included an up to date timescale with the construction phase beginning in August and completion towards the end of 2019. We were also given a firm indication of the major retailers involved in the project. More information is available from Wednesday, 21st February at http://www.investinginbedlington.co.uk. Like many, I have expressed concern over the timescale of the project. However it is important to realise that in the current economic climate retailers will only invest where and when they certain the conditions are right for them to do so. I am aware that this has involved the ARCH team in hard and protracted negotiations in order to get to this point. Councillors Bill Crosby, Malcolm Robinson and I are in regular contact with both NCC and ARCH over the development. We will keep Bedlingtonians up to date with progress. Monday, 19th February saw NCC begin their traffic survey on the roads feeding into the Red Lion roundabout. The results of the survey will enable NCC to review ways of reducing congestion at the roundabout. Although it is naïve to expect the daily school run queues to disappear, £20k has been allocated from next year’s Local Traffic Plan fund to support improvements to the traffic flow at the roundabout – a very welcome and much needed investment for Bedlington. Apparently there has been some local confusion regarding the Member’s Small Schemes Fund. This is a £15k per year allowance which “County Councillors can use to fund local projects in their area”. For openness and clarity, to date I have spent the following: contribution to accessible footpath at Bedlington War Memorial £2022 planters on Front Street, Bedlington (joint funded with WBTC £1000 contribution to a Yurt at Stead Lane Primary School £2000 a CCTV system at Whitley Memorial School £1445 In the pipeline is support for: the installation of drop kerbs on Front Street East traffic improvements at the Red Lion roundabout the refurbishment of the dining area at West End First School Cllr Bill Crosby and I jointly supported the purchase of a Yurt at Stead Lane Primary School. We will be supporting a similar development at Whitley Memorial School later this year. With this exception, all spending falls within the Bedlington Central Ward. Potholes continue to cause concern in the town and beyond – over 8000 were reported across Northumberland in the first three weeks of January alone! Hoßwever NCC have now employed four additional teams in order to deal with the backlog as quickly as possible. Please go to http://mapreport.northumberland.gov.uk/ where you can report both potholes and street lighting faults, or let me know at the email address below. My surgeries are held at Bedlington Community Centre at 6.30 pm on the first Thursday of the month, with the next surgery on 1 March. You can also contact me on 07779 983775 or at russ.wallace@northumberland.gov.uk. If I can be of any assistance please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you for reading. Russ
  7. As 2017 has drawn to a close it is good to reflect on the year and the lessons that can be learned. Since becoming a County Councillor in May my learning curve has been extremely steep. What I have learned though is that the people of Bedlington want to be kept up to date with what is happening in their community. Through our blogs, Bill Crosby, Malcolm Robinson and I have endeavoured to make sure we have done just that. However not everyone has, or wants, access to web sites or social media. With that in mind I will be leafleting all Bedlington Central households in the Spring with an update. I have also learned that the issues we raised during campaigning – poor road infrastructure, lack of social, leisure and health facilities, school places and ongoing housing development are issues that matter to Bedlingtonians. I am also increasingly aware of residents’ desire to tackle road safety issues in the town, particularly speeding. It is in these areas I will be trying my absolute best in 2018 to facilitate improvement and as such, I will work with anyone and everyone I can to do so. I am particularly pleased that NCC have agreed to look at the congestion at the Red Lion roundabout. Clearly some things cannot be changed but, as many residents have already indicated through their specific suggestions, it can be made better. I am also delighted that the subway is to be closed as it is a real health risk. My thanks to Cllrs Adam Hogg and Jim Tyler and to West Bedlington Town Council for their support over this. Looking back over 2017 the town has much to be proud of – Bedlington Live, the Picnic, the various events in the Front Street, Remembrance Day, the Halloween Disco, the Christmas Panto, the Carol Service in the Market Place, the resurgence of Gallagher Park and of course the contribution our two Community Centres make to the town. These events do not happen without much ‘behind the scenes’ work taking place. Much is down to individual effort but the support of our two Local Councils is crucial to these successes and on behalf of all Bedlingtonians, our thanks to them – they are unpaid and do what they do for the love of our town. As Councillor for Bedlington Central I have particularly enjoyed working with West Bedlington Town Council – they really do an outstanding job! Can I close by firstly thanking the 927 Bedlington Central residents who voted for me in May and for the support so many Bedlingtonians have given to me since then. I am proud and honoured to be your County Councillor and the one promise I can make is that I will work flat out through 2018 and beyond to represent you to the best of my ability. Best wishes for 2018 Russ
  8. Along with my fellow local Councillors I am delighted to have supported the work to improve the War Memorial area on the Front Street commissioned by West Bedlington Town Council and completed by W L Straughan and Son Ltd. The area provides a fitting memorial to the Bedlingtonians who gave their lives in the service of their country as well as providing a very pleasant recreational facility. Many of the phone calls, emails and surgery visits I receive continue to highlight road safety issues in the town and in particular, speeding cars and motor cycles. I am in ongoing discussion with the Police and the County Council to review measures to reduce speed and improve pedestrian safety in the town. I recently spent time on Hartford Road alongside the Police and Community Volunteers with their speed gun. Some of the speeds recorded while I was present were hair raising! Those caught by the volunteers’ camera are sent a letter by the Police and, if caught again, receive a warning visit from the Police. I recently met with the owners of the soon to open Box Wood Tap micropub at the old Serene Spa site on the Front Street. I am aware that the idea of a new pub in Bedlington has not appealed to everyone and can understand that. However, having spoken to Andrea Johnson about her plans for the pub I look forward to its opening. It will not be offering music, wi-fi, double up offers or quiz machines. The Box Wood Tap is very much aimed at providing quality beer, wine and spirits in a quiet, relaxed atmosphere, very much like its sister pub, The Office in Morpeth. Fellow Bedlington Independent Councillor Bill Crosby and I are delighted to confirm that Bedlington Live 18 @ Gallagher Park will take place on Saturday 28 July 2018. Thanks to the financial support of local sponsors, Northumberland County Council, West Bedlington Town Council, East Bedlington Parish Council and County Councillors Malcolm Robinson and Jeff Gobin, the event will be a worthy successor to 2017’s hugely successful Northumberland Live. Bedlington Live 18 @ Gallagher Park will be an all-day event running through until 9.00pm and there will be no charge for entry. Unfortunately I am unable to hold my next Surgery at the Community Centre on Thursday 7 December – my apologies. However, I can always be reached on 07779 983775 or at russ.wallace@northumberland.gov.uk Thank you for reading. Best wishes Russ
  9. Thank you to the hundreds of Bedlingtonians who visited the drop-in at Bedlington Community Centre yesterday. The Arch team were amazed at just how many people came to see the plans and full marks to Arch for sending a seven strong team – the turnout meant they were all needed! The feedback I received on the display, which was much more detailed than the previous one, was overwhelmingly positive. For those who were unable to attend the main details were: A range of retailers have leased the five largest units. For commercial reasons they cannot yet be named, but they complement rather than rival our current Front Street shops. Negotiations are at an advanced stage to lease the other units. Work is scheduled to start in Spring 2018 and will be completed by late Autumn 2019. Construction will begin with the supermarket, who will use their own design team and appoint their own builders. This is normal practice. This will be closely followed by a start on the other retail units. The ‘family friendly’ pub will be the last to be built. Although I understand scepticism behind the “I’ll believe it when it starts” comment I heard yesterday, it is now pretty certain that the development will go ahead. This would surely be a good time to look to the future and move away from the negativity which has dogged the development to date. To help clarify the situation over the Old School site, the building is being stripped down and rebuilt. The overall delay is around five weeks with the builders confident they can make up for lost time. Thank you for reading. Russ
  10. After a very quiet August council matters are back to normal in September. Like every Bedlingtonian I was shocked and distressed by the tragic events on Station Road. I am sure you will join me in sending your sympathy and support not only to Beth’s family but also to Meg, who not only suffered serious injuries, but also lost her best friend. Recently I visited Whitley Memorial First School and could not help but be impressed by the friendly and happy atmosphere which greets you as soon as you walk through the door. A visit to the other school in my ward, West End First, is planned soon and by all accounts I will be met with the same welcoming atmosphere. Ofsted rates both schools as “good” but I do feel that Ofsted ratings are very understated these days in their description of schools that are doing well, and that “good” actually means “great”! I am aware of concern among parents about recent changes to the Admissions Policy at St Benets. If you are unsure of the situation regarding your child or simply want advice, please phone County Hall on 0345 600 6400 and ask for School Admissions. They are very keen to help. Understandably road safety and traffic congestion issues have been brought to my and fellow Bedlington Councillors’ attention recently. I am pleased that the Zebra Crossings to both the north and south side of the Red Lion roundabout are about to be refreshed in order make them more visible to road users and therefore safer for pedestrians. At present, the crossing by Catholic Row in particular can be a scary experience and I know many residents avoid it, so hopefully the refurbishment will go some way to improve this situation. A number of residents have expressed concern about vehicles speeding on Hartford Road and NCC data shows that excess speed, in both directions, remains an issue between the golf club and the Red Lion roundabout. The island crossing close to the entrance to Hartlands is of particular concern, as some drivers appear to accelerate after slowing down for the speed indicator at the entrance to the town. I have spoken to both the Highways Department and the Police about this issue and discussions are taking place to find a solution. My surgeries are held at Bedlington Community Centre at 6.30 pm on the first Thursday of the month, with the next surgery on 5 October. You can also contact me on 07779 983775 or at russ.wallace@northumberland.gov.uk. If I can be of any assistance please do not hesitate to contact me. My thanks for reading. Russ
  11. Local issues involving road safety and town parking have come to the fore over the last week or two. Potholes! All 67 NCC Councillors have been asked to nominate three potholes for filling. If you are aware of any potholes please email me at the address below. Don’t worry if they are not in Bedlington Central ward – I’ll pass the information on to other Councillors. Along with West Bedlington Town Councillor Victoria Thompson I met with Richard McKenzie, NCC Senior Programme Officer, to discuss problems on Windsor Gardens where uncontrolled parking has led to both road and pedestrian safety issues as well as creating access problems for emergency vehicles. After consulting with residents, Richard’s view is that for a trial period of 6 months the road should be double yellow lined: ie no parking, from the Front Street to the junction where Windsor Gardens loops back to re-join the main thoroughfare. This will create an opportunity to evaluate the impact on parking elsewhere in the area. If it simply moves the problem further down Windsor Gardens and beyond NCC will again consult over the introduction of a Resident Parking Scheme. I would welcome views on this via the email address below and I will also be in direct contact with the residents involved. I have asked NCC to investigate opening the Car Park behind the Council Offices for public use as at least a temporary measure. This will alleviate some the parking problems in the town centre and allow easier access to venues on the south side of the Front Street such as the Community Centre and Trinity Church. I have also requested that NCC review the crossing at the Old Police Station by the roundabout at the west end of the Front Street – it is at best tired and needs updating. Officials from St Bede’s Church and parents escorting young children to local schools have expressed concern at the frequent ‘near misses’ that occur at the crossing. I am particularly keen to hear residents’ views on all of the above. Please contact me at: russ.wallace@northumberland.gov.uk or drop into my Surgery at 6.30 next Thursday, 4 July, in the Community Centre. Thanks for reading. Russ
  12. In a meeting with Cllr Richard Dodd, Conservative Business Chair of NCC, Bill Crosby and I raised the issue of Bedlington’s position in the Local Area Council set up, as large parts of Bedlington are part of one LAC and most of Bedlington Station part of another. Richard was sympathetic and promised a review early next year. This may lead to something or nothing but we are determined to pursue the issue. Furthermore, I recently attended an East Bedlington Parish Council meeting as an interested observer and I was pleased that the Council agreed that Sleekburn is part of Bedlington and as such should be included with the rest of the town. The main item of the recent Full Council Meeting involved the Core Strategy recently submitted to the Secretary of State for approval. Debate centred on the need to reduce the amount of new house builds contained in the submitted document and how this would be best achieved – either by modifying the existing document or by withdrawing it prior to resubmission. After voting in favour of a defeated motion to delay the decision to allow further consultation, I voted in favour of withdrawing the Strategy to allow it to be modified. My reasons for this were: excessive house building across the County is an issue for many communities and it was easily the number one concern expressed by residents during campaigning even though a delay might prolong the current free-for-all among builders, it is important for the future as a whole to take the time and get it right I felt my decision best reflected the views of Bedlington Central residents. Along with residents and County and Local Councillors, I recently met with Police Superintendent Andy Huddlestone and Inspector Trevor Oakley to discuss the recent crime issues in Bedlington. I was pleased with their agreement to fund increased PCSO presence in the town until some of the current issues have been resolved. In addition Andy and Trevor were very much of the view that the community has a crucial role in reducing both crime and anti social behaviour, highlighting the need for the Police, schools, families and the community to work together. Couldn’t agree more. It is our community and we all have a role to play in making our town the best it can be. Should we all be thinking about possible monitoring schemes such as Neighbourhood Watch? – “interested” neighbours are invaluable in alerting authorities to antisocial activities! As a standing item at the West Bedlington Town Council meeting, fellow Councillors Bill Crosby and Malcolm Robinson and I each give a verbal report to members on our recent activity. I believe this is an excellent example of good practice and fits in with our commitment both to work closely with our local Town and Parish Councils and to improve our communication with residents. As reported on local social media Facebook pages, a highly encouraging meeting took place last Friday (14 July) involving local Town and County Councillors and representatives of ARCH to discuss the Tesco site development. I gave a commitment not to comment on the content of the meeting as there is much behind the scenes work in progress – however I eagerly await the imminent ARCH announcement.
  13. Before moving to the more political, a big thank you to those behind the Bedlington Picnic held yesterday, Saturday 1 July. It was an outstanding event, superbly organised and supported by a huge number of Bedlingtonians. Vic Thomson deserves a medal for her efforts – but she was incredibly well supported by Daniel Wilkinson, Colin Patterson from Station Entertainments, Mayor Chris Taylor and the rest of West Bedlington Town Council, Allison Healy, Dave Johnson and Brian Sykes, to name just a few. Great day, thank you – and roll on Bedlington Picnic 2018! My last blog was entitled “Accentuate the Positive” and introduced “The Bedlington Show” as a way of showcasing the good things about our town. The first show was intended as a taster to highlight some of the people behind the positive aspects of Bedlington. I’m a tad overwhelmed by the response! Firstly by the positive comments from those who have listened to the show – I’m very much aware I’m no Chris Evans – but even more so by those happy to become involved in promoting our town. As a result there is another (at least one!) taster show currently in production. Keep you posted. Down to business! Like many, I am very concerned by the increase in crime in Bedlington over the last few weeks. Vandalism, threatening behaviour, robbery, car damage and arson have no place in our town. With that in mind, the announcement that the Bedlington Police Station Front Desk is to close overnight, is at best an own goal! Fellow Town and County Councillors, along with community group members have been in dialogue with the Police and will be formally meeting with officers in the near future in order to express residents’ concerns and hopefully bring improvements to the current situation. My interpretation of conversations so far is that the Police are as frustrated and concerned as we are, but remain hamstrung by the financial constraints under which they have to operate. In the last week I attended two meetings that are worth highlighting. The first meeting of the ‘Family and Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee’ took place at County Hall. Due to its direct link in dealing with children and educational issues I am delighted to serve on this group. What pleased me most was the complete lack of politicking and point scoring which is part and parcel of so many meetings. All members, Tory, Labour and me, as the single Independent, were completely focussed on matters in hand. The result was a highly productive and constructive meeting. This week also saw the first meeting of our Local Area Committee. The agenda in truth was not contentious and once the meeting was underway it was completed quickly and efficiently. The beginning of the meeting was thought provoking. A Labour member began by expressing concern over the value of such a committee, citing previous style groups as being less than effective. Malcolm Robinson got his hand up first to express our disappointment and disagreement at that point of view. It was good to see so many Bedlingtonians present in the audience. They far outweighed any other group. They led the open session with a series of pertinent and focussed questions to committee members. The answers given to questions were full wherever possible and a promise of a prompt personal response given when they could not be answered there and then. I was therefore disappointed to then read on a local Facebook page that all one audience member decided to refer to the committee’s ‘snazzy Tory name’ rather than praise, or even mention, the full and positive responses received to his questions. There is a full Council Meeting on Wednesday. The agenda shows changes made to other Local Area Committee boundaries but confirms there are no changes affecting Bedlington. Disappointing, as this means the town remains split in two when local decisions are being made. Although I support the Local Area Committee principle and will do all I can to ensure its success, I cannot in all conscience vote in favour of something that splits my town in two! Thank you for reading.
  14. Bedlington has been my hometown for over 40 years. During this time it has changed enormously – not always necessarily for the better – but there is nowhere else I would rather live. I have always been aware that Bedlington has many positive features, eg a fabulous, tree lined, Front Street and stunning walks along the river at Humford. However we regularly hear of what we do not have and what we need – and I agree with many Bedlingtonians over this – but what is often played down and disregarded are the numerous good things about our town In order to ‘accentuate the positive’ Radio Northumberland, a local community radio station, has agreed to broadcast ‘The Bedlington Show.’ This is a non-political, one hour show which highlights some of the many positive aspects of our town – and the people behind them – through music. The first show is currently being broadcast at: 5.00 pm Friday 30 June 3.00 pm Saturday 1 July 9.00 am Sunday 2 July 10.00 am Monday 3 July 7.00 pm Tuesday 4 July 10.00 am Wednesday 5 July You can tune in at Radio Northumberland by clicking one of the carriers at the bottom of the home page. If you can, please listen in – and find out who is included in show one and discover their choice of music! The presenter is working on his skills – but would very much welcome feedback and, hopefully positive, suggestions. Normal ‘blog’ service will resume shortly, thanks for reading!
  15. Completely unacceptable behaviour yet again in in Bedlington Market Place last night. This incident occurred at 3.00 am this morning. Given the current financial constraints it is clearly unrealistic to expect a 24/7 police presence in the town. It is also right to point out that Bedlington is fortunate to be served by an outstanding Police team who have our full support. As County Councillor for Bedlington Central I wrote to the Chief Superintendent earlier this week to request that Northumbria Police reverse their recent decision to discontinue the presence of Police Officers in the town centre after 10.00 pm in the evening, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. I have written again to the Chief Superintendent to ask for an urgent review of both the current situation and measures that can be put in place to prevent this level of wanton, mindless vandalism becoming even more common. Having spoken to shop owners this morning, they are determined not to give in to this form of behaviour. I will be talking to other shop owners next week to gather their views. We need to give them all the support we can. View on Councillor Wallace's Blog
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