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  1. Residents are being given the chance to have their say on the future plans for Northumberland’s Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS). The service has produced a draft version of its four year plan, setting out its priorities up to 2021. Among the priorities are enhanced collaboration and partnership working, expanding and enhancing its community 'Safe and Well' visits, revising its school's education programmes and providing increased resilience with neighbouring services. NFRS Chief Fire Officer Paul Hedley said: “We have a fire and rescue service to be proud of and are committed to making the county an even safer place to live, work and visit. “This four year plan outlines the main risks to the communities of Northumberland and how we will use our resources efficiently to reduce those risks. “We must ensure we continue to provide high quality prevention and protection activity to those most at risk while providing a well-equipped and highly trained workforce to respond to incidents.” Northumberland continues to be extremely safe and the plan highlights that over the past ten years the number of fire and rescue incidents has dropped by 31%. And over the past five years the number of accidental house fires has dropped by almost half. However the service continues to be very busy and in 2016/17 received around 6,200 calls and attended 3115 incidents. Councillor John Riddle, the County Council’s Fire Authority chair, said: “We want to ensure decisions about our services take into account the views of residents, employees and communities of Northumberland. “We know we must aim to maintain our focus on regularly reviewing risk to ensure we are using our personnel and resources where they can have maximum impact and do all we can to prevent fires and other emergencies from occurring in the first place. “By taking part in our survey people can help us understand what they think of our future plans and ensure our services are targeted in the most effective way.” The draft plan and survey can be viewed by going to http://www.northumberland.gov.uk/NFRplan The eight-week consultation opens on July 10th and closes on September 1st 2017 and a final version of the plan will be approved by Northumberland County Council later in the year.
  2. Children are being encouraged to turn detective and sign up to this year's Summer Reading challenge at their local library. The Animal Agents Summer Reading Challenge asks 4-11 year olds to borrow and read any six library books during the summer holidays, collecting incentives and rewards along the way. And it’s a fun, free way of keeping children occupied during the school holidays, which is top news for parents ! Those who complete the challenge will be presented with a certificate and a medal at a special ceremony in their local library at the beginning of the new term. This year’s theme is Animal Agents, based on a detective agency staffed by all kinds of clever animals – furry, scaly and slippery – who are out to crack a case at the library with a little help from their friends. To take part in Animal Agents, all children need to do is to head to their local library where they will be given a collector folder to keep a record of their reading journey. As children read at least six library books over the summer, they collect stickers which will help them crack the clues and help the Animal Agents find out what's really been going on behind the scenes! There is to be a whole programme of fantastic family events and activities planned at Northumberland libraries over the summer to celebrate the Summer Reading Challenge. These include animal handling sessions with ‘Creatures Up Close’, lots of fun, games and activities with organisations including ‘Dogs Trust’, Cats Protection’ and Blue Cross for Pets. Cramlington Library is excited to be welcoming Northumbria Police Dogs - so you can go along and meet a real life dog detective! There will also be ‘Animal Agent Crafty Fun’ sessions at many libraries. For a full list of events, including dates, venues go to: www.eventbrite.co.uk and search ‘Northumberland Libraries’ . You can also book your free ticket from this website. Northumberland County Councillor, Cath Homer, Cabinet member for Culture, Arts, Tourism and Leisure said: “Reading is a vital life skill, yet it is a skill that can take second place to the excitement of computers, television and electronic games. “ It is one of our aims through the challenge to prove that books can be exciting too and introduce children to one of the best free resources for their minds that they have on their doorsteps – the local library.” Over 2,000 children across Northumberland took part in last year’s Summer Reading Challenge in libraries and it is hoped that even more children visit their local library to join ‘Animal Agents’ this Summer. Children's reading can 'dip' during the long summer holidays if they don’t have regular access to books and encouragement to read for pleasure. This can be a problem for schools to put right in the new term, and The Reading Agency’s annual Summer Reading Challenge really helps by getting children into libraries over the summer. There is no other free reading activity that involves so many children, introduces families to their library, encourages children to choose books freely and independently and is endorsed by parents, teachers and the Department for Education. Sue Wilkinson, CEO, of The Reading Agency, a leading national charity inspiring people of all ages and backgrounds to read for pleasure and wellbeing said: “At The Reading Agency, we believe that everything changes when we read and we know from our research how much fun families and children have when taking part in the Challenge. This year we hope the wonderful characters created for us by Tony Ross will inspire more children than ever to take part and make use of their local library throughout the summer and beyond." For further details about ‘Animal Agents’ or our Summer events, please visit our website www.mylibrary.co.uk, follow Northumberland Libraries on Facebook & Twitter or contact us on: 01670 620250. ·
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    Area councils boundary changes agreed

    Boundary changes to Northumberland’s new five local area councils have been agreed. The new councils cover North Northumberland, Ashington and Blyth, Castle Morpeth, Tynedale and Cramlington, Bedlington and Seaton Valley. Each area is responsible for issues such as planning applications, road spending and petitions - bringing decision making back to a more local level. Since they were set up in May, local members have been consulted on the boundaries. At full council members agreed to move Stakeford Electoral Division into Castle Morpeth from Cramlington, Bedlington and Seaton Valley and also move Bothal Electoral Division from Castle Morpeth into Ashington and Blyth. Councillor Richard Dodd, the county council’s Business Chair, said: “These councils are all about giving more power back to our communities and enabling decision making at a local level. “In the past we have had decisions made about towns and villages without people from those areas involved. “We have previously said we would review the boundaries in the next six months to a year and make changes if necessary. We’ve listened to local members in Stakeford and Bothal and are happy to make these changes.”
  4. The Duchess of Northumberland has helped to celebrate the very best in community and voluntary environmental work across the county at a special LOVE Northumberland awards event. Nineteen groups, organisations, schools and individuals were honoured with winner, runner-up or highly commended awards across eight categories. Representatives of all shortlisted entries attended the event at The Alnwick Garden, which was hosted by local historian and TV presenter John Grundy. Best new project went to Prudhoe Local History Society for their work on ‘St Mary Magdalene Cemetery restoration’; best urban project to Transition Tynedale for ‘Edible Hexham’; and best coast or countryside project to Allendheads Trust Ltd for ‘Isaac’s Tea Trail’. The best young people's project category was won by Prudhoe Community High School for ‘re-populating bees in the North East’ and the best children's project by Josephine Butler Primary Academy for ‘Let your light shine’. The award for an individual whose efforts or commitment help to enrich the environment of Northumberland was presented to three winners this year: Derek Martin, a volunteer litter picker from Haltwhistle; Lindsay Thompson, a volunteer with Groundwork North East; and five year old Oliver Jackson, a young environmental champion from Blyth. The Grace Darling Campus of the Northumberland Church of England Academy won the category for the Best School Recycling Project and the School Sustainable Travel Award went to Shanklea Primary School. The annual awards were developed by Northumberland County Council through its LOVE Northumberland campaign, with the aim of promoting the work of the council and its many partner organisations, community groups and volunteers who all help to preserve and enhance the environment in the county. Councillor Anthony Murray, civic head of Northumberland County Council, welcomed everyone to the awards evening, saying: "All of the shortlisted entries should be very proud of their work and I sincerely hope that they enjoyed this event, in the inspirational setting of The Alnwick Garden. “The LOVE Northumberland awards are all about celebrating the work that individuals and groups do, largely in a voluntary capacity, to keep their local areas green and clean right across Northumberland day in and day out. “Her Grace the Duchess of Northumberland has been very generous in giving up her time each year to present prizes to the winners, and we are very grateful to her for this support.” Main sponsor of the awards again this year was The Banks Group and development relations co-ordinator Jeannie Kielty said: “Our company has had a long history with these awards - having been pleased to support them since 2012. All of the groups and individuals do an amazing job for their local communities and I have never failed to be impressed by the range and standard of new applications received each year. “We want to make a positive difference in the communities we operate in Northumberland, and this sponsorship is just one of the ways that we feel we can do this - recognising the contributions made by local people in enhancing the county’s environment.” Other sponsors and supporters of the awards this year have included Marmax Products for their colourful recycled benches and seats; local company Origin Designs who have provided wooden plaques for all of the winners; Jewsons for litter picking equipment: and the Go Smarter scheme for bikes and helmets. Each winning entry received a £250 prize, each runner-up £100 and highly commended finalists £50, with the money to go towards their project or other work within the local community. To find out more about LOVE Northumberland go to www.northumberland.gov.uk/love The winners were: Best School Recycling Project Rewarding achievements in school recycling and waste minimisation Winner: Grace Darling Campus of the Northumberland Church of England Academy Children from Grace Darling Campus have been very busy working on a range of waste minimisation and recycling initiatives for their entry to the Best Recycling project. Following a whole school assembly delivered by Northumberland County Council and workshops in Y3, the school council met and discussed the range of activities and strategies which could be completed around school. Each member of the school council then completed waste audits around school identifying the main waste items both inside the school and in the school grounds. Findings from this were then shared with the rest of the school and recommendations to minimise waste were made. Each class from Nursery – Year 6 then completed activities to raise awareness and share information with others to increase the understanding of the learners. Here’s a taster of some of the things Grace Darling Campus have done- Nursery read the story Big Bear, Little Bear by David Bedford and Jane Chapman and the children made icebergs and bear caves for bears from recycled materials. Recycling stations have been created in the classrooms Posters were displayed to encourage less food waste in the school canteen area Children have learnt about Earth Day and its meaning and completed personal pledges A new area called ‘be whatever you want to be’ has been created which is completely made of recycled materials. The school now use old and unused exercise books at break times in the yard, allowing children the opportunity to draw and colour and minimising the waste caused by old books. Following a clear out of the school archives and loft space, unwanted books and resources were donated to the Sri Lankan schools projects. Children have completed litter picks within the school grounds and on the paths which lead into school. Some of the children also assisted in the Great British Spring Clean with St. Bartholomew’s Church. School Sustainable Travel Award Awarded by Go Smarter Northumberland to schools that have gone the extra mile to promote sustainable transport for the journey to school. Winner: Shanklea Primary School The winner of this years Schools Sustainable Travel Award is Shanklea Primary School in Cramlington, Head Teacher, Helen Brown and her staff have enthusiastically embraced the sustainable travel message, ensuring that they take every opportunity to incorporate active travel into everyday school life at Shanklea. Their school council have become Junior Travel Ambassadors and they pro-actively use their expertise and student voice to initiate community change. Here are just some of the fantastic projects which the school has delivered this year: A group of pupils- ‘The Bike Crew’ led on a project to landscape some wasteland beside their cycle shed, decorating the bike shed and installing more cycle storage and a seating area, the pupils involved have a great sense of pride in their achievements and they have also enthused the rest of the school. The school has an annual residential cycling trip to Kielder Forest, with pupils taking part in various cycling activities during their stay. Two members of staff have been trained in bike maintenance in order to support the many cycling initiatives which the school take part in such as: Riding Without Stabilizers, Bikers Breakfasts and Bike Maintenance sessions, Bikeability Training scheme and establishing the pupil Bike Crew Champions within the school. The school has appointed Sports Leaders to ensure that healthy, active lifestyles and sustainable travel are promoted throughout the year. Each year the school holds a Road Safety enrichment week, where activities such as assemblies, competitions, Be Seen, Be Bright activities, visits by the local School Crossing Patrol staff and the Police take part. Shanklea Primary also takes part in Northumberland’s Child Pedestrian Training scheme which teaches pupils how to cross the road safely a vital life skill. The school has successfully lobbied for installation of new path and traffic calming measures near their school to improve safety for those walking and cycling. This year the school also achieved gold in the National Modeshift STARs accreditation scheme, after working through bronze and silver levels in only one year delivering in excess of 50 sustainable travel initiatives and this October they planning a school cycling trip to Amsterdam so that pupils and staff can experience the Dutch cycling culture first hand. Runner-up: Mickley First School Best children’s project Open to entrants where the majority of participants are aged 11 years and under. This includes schools and out of school children’s groups such as scouts, brownies, cubs, rainbows, boy’s brigades etc. Winner: Josephine Butler Primary Academy - Let your light shine! By focussing on the mental and emotional well-being of the children the school have created a number of areas in the school grounds. The children have built and planted a raised bed in the yard. The bed is planted with herbs and vegetables that parents can help themselves to as they pass. The areas also has a lighthouse and deckchair linked to their ethos of ‘Let Your Light Shine’. This is celebrated further in the Primary Drop off zone; the children and parents have worked together to design and make a giant stone representation of the NCEA emblem. Using local stone and learning new skills the area has been cut, and the stone placed and cemented and the school are planting plants and flowers around it in the Academy colours. They are hoping to enhance it with a daffodil island and a primrose path ready for next Spring. As a community they have also built a new rabbit hutch and pen using recycled materials donated by local families. This houses two rescue rabbits, Luna and Honeycomb. They are used as “reading rabbits” in school and are petted by the children while reading, to alleviate any stress or anxiety related to reading aloud. The children have raised money to fund these projects by selling artefacts and plants that they have made using recycled materials. They set up a mini enterprise at The Grainger Market in Newcastle and sold items in the school’s Christmas Fayre and the Easter Fayre. By looking at ways to enhance the environment and benefit the community the children are truly letting their Lights Shine in an innovative and creative way. Runner up: Newsham Primary School - Newsham Love Northumberland Highly commended: Morpeth All Saints First School - Outdoor Learning Best Young People’s project Open to entries where the majority of the participants are aged 12 to 25, including schools, colleges, youth groups and other organisations. Winner: Prudhoe Community High School - Re-populating bees in the North East For the past two years the pupils of the school have been meeting twice a week working on the problem of the decline in bee populations due to pesticides, habitat destruction and the various mite parasites. They have been researching into what ways they could help. Firstly they collected data scientifically by watching the number of bee visits to each type of flower in the area. They then calculated if there was a statistical difference in the number of bee visits to each flower to determine which flowers the bees preferred. They designed a garden habitat which incorporated these flowers and designed bee houses for solitary bees and made models of them. They researched the cost of hives and equipment for a colony of social bees and are looking at ways of raising the money to buy this equipment. They have raised awareness within the local community and given advice as to what flowers are best for the bees in their gardens and producing advisory leaflets and spread this word by hosting coffee mornings, producing a bee song and music video, and even appeared on BBC News representing the North East They have travelled to Northumbria University for the Big Bang Science Fair regional competition and travelled to Birmingham for the National event, spreading the word even further and promoting the County. Best Urban Project This award is open to entries where the project or activities benefits a more urban area, where a lot of people live. Winner: Transition Tynedle - Edible Hexham This group have been together for 4 years and they were inspired by the ‘Incredible Edible Todmorden Project’ in Yorkshire which has been credited with inspiring to live more sustainably and to foster a feeling of community cohesion and pride in their town. In Hexham they do the same, but on a smaller scale. In small neglected areas of land a growing number of planters have been planted with fruit and vegetables and are kept maintained. All the produce is available for the public to harvest and eat. To date they have 16 planters and 5 planted areas and most of the planters are maintained by local businesses or the community groups. Their aims are many – to demonstrate to the public how easy it is to grow your own at home and encourage gardening, to work with as many local groups as possible and connect people through gardening, and to enhance the Hexham Environment with beautiful and interesting displays. By replacing modern bedding plants and council plantings with fruit, vegetables and particularly herbs and edible flowers, they are replacing sterile, non-nectar producing plants with a source of food for many more insects, in so doing this is increasing biodiversity within Hexham. Plants of any kind are proven to enhance local environmental quality and this group aim to have as many areas as green as possible. In the past Hexham was a famous local fruit growing area and they hope to replicate that heritage too! Runner up: Seaton Sluice Community Association - Seaton Sluice in Bloom Highly commended - Friends of Berwick Castle parks - Berwick Parks Project Best Coast or Countryside Project Open to entries where the project or activities take place in more sparsely populated or rural areas of Northumberland. Winner: Allenheads Trust Ltd - Isaac’s Tea Trail Isaac’s Tea Trail is a community based long distance footpath running though South West Northumberland created and maintained by volunteers. It runs over the moors and rivers around Allendale Common in an area of exceptional beauty and follows in the footsteps of the legendary itinerant tea seller Isaac Holden. Since its inception volunteers have worked with Northumberland County Council’s Countryside Team. They have responded to many challenges over time but since 2008 with the administrative support of Allenheads Trust Ltd have successfully attracted walkers from near and far. From a rudimentary trail created partly to support local youth hostels, it has become recognised nationally and featured on the radio 4 “Ramblings” programme with Clare Balding. The trail is free of charge with the way marks and logos maintained by volunteers and the income raised from the sale of the trail guide is reinvested in signage and leaflets which makes the trail sustainable. Hexham Ramblers provide a stewardship role, renewing signs and clearing summer vegetation with the help of other individuals and groups. The Allen Valleys Landscape Partnership project has refurbished Isaac Holden’s hearse house into a roadside shelter and information point and a ramp for disabled access has also been installed. It is also used by Duke of Edinburgh groups and local school groups have integrated Isaac Holden’s life story into their teaching lessons. Older age groups from the University of the Third Age and others from Church and Methodist walking groups have all enjoyed walking the route. The trail falls within the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and passes in Monks Wood and Haggs Bank which are designated Sites of Special Scientific interest. It gives walkers the chance to see at close quarters, especially in Spring time, the flower rich hay meadows and ensures they leave only the gentlest of footprints with the minimum of disturbance to the wildlife and moorland birds. Whether full trail walks or those doing short walks they make a significant economic contribution to support local services and accommodation providers. Runner up: Longhorsley Parish Council - Longhorsley Community Woodland Highly commended: Longhoughton Parish Council - Boulmer Meadowland Project Best New Project This category is open to activities and projects that have started within 12 months prior to the launch of the annual call for LOVE Northumberland award nominations. Winner: Prudhoe Local History Society - St. Mary Magdalene Cemetery Restoration The start of this project could by titled ' the lollipop lady, the lime tree and Local Services'. Overhanging branches from the old churchyard in Prudhoe were causing a problem with the school crossing patrol, and when Local Services removed them, a contact was made between Eddie (the lollipop lady's husband) and the council officer. He then worked with the Local History Society and the council to set up an ambitious project to tame the wilderness in the site which had been closed in 1909 and overgrown since the early 1980’s. The Prudhoe and District local history society had been keen to transcribe the headstones within the churchyard for years, but unfortunately the extreme vegetation cover meant they had never been able to get in and see them, it was like something out of Indiana Jones! With help from the council, support from the church, and grants from the Town Council and Land of Oak and Iron Project, volunteers started work on site in January this year, removing tonnes of fly-tipping and a vast amount of undergrowth. Things sped up dramatically by the addition of some mechanised help by Neighbourhood Services for a few days before the grass cutting season, but after this 6-12 regular volunteers have met at least twice a week on site to clear it by hand. Now that the site is open and accessible, people from the town are now coming in to see graves of relatives. Some fascinating stories of previous residents and heroes are being discovered and family trees are being completed. It has reached out and involved the school next-door, the WI, the library, the University of the 3rd Age and other groups. The site is showing evidence of a wide diversity of bird life, small mammals, bats and deer have all been spotted in the cemetery. The restored site will provide an environment for all of this wildlife to flourish, a local conservation group has already shown interest in using the cemetery to study the wildlife and plants situated there. There is still an amount of work to do, research into history, some very uneven areas of ground to make good and some fallen monuments to raise and read, but this is a dramatic improvement in the town, a truly 'monumental' achievement in just 6 months, so well done Prudhoe and District Local History society! Runner up: Friends of Lyne Dene/Groundwork NE - Discover the Dene Highly commended: Ponteland Community Partnership - Old Railway Line Bridle Project Outstanding Individual Awards A category where we have invited people to nominate an individual whose efforts or commitment help to enrich the environment and the lives of residents in Northumberland. This year we have recognised three special individuals. Winner: Derek Martin . Unfortunately due to a recent illness Derek was not able to be at the awards, so Councillor Ian Hutchinson kindly took his award to him at hom. Derek has steadfastly and faithfully carried out a volunteering role for 14 years in Haltwhistle. He picks up litter around the town almost every morning, throughout the year, in all weathers. He is out for at least 4 hours every day with his litter picker and barrow and clears the street before some people have even woken up. He reports any large items to the Town Council, and sometimes gets an earful off residents thinking he works for the Council, as he is such a familiar sight not realising that he does this as a volunteer. He was nominated for his dedication and the pride he has in the work that he does. Apparently there have only been two occasions when Derek was unable to do his litter picking due to an injury and illness but after each illness he has returned to his duties. Haltwhistle Town Council is very grateful for Derek’s volunteer work and recognises the enormous difference he makes to the cleanliness of the town, making it a far nicer, cleaner place for residents and visitors alike. It helps to make a good impression and encourages visitors to enjoy their stay and return. They are delighted he will receive the recognition that they feel he deserves. Winner: Lindsay Thompson Lindsay became a volunteer with Groundwork North East six years ago and from being a person who hardly knew which end of the spade to dig with has grown from strength to strength, overcoming her own nerves and anxiety. Her knowledge of tools and environmental management has evolved so much that she now leads tasks for groups of volunteers and keeps everyone else right. From an environmental improvement Lindsay has spent over 2,000 hours improving green spaces across Northumberland for both people and wildlife. Working on a huge array or projects to help manage a wildflower nursery, developing gardens at care homes, schools and hospitals, hand raking acres and acres of wildflower meadows, footpath work, building picnic tables, planting trees, installing interpretation and signage. Removing literally thousands of redundant tree guards. She has set up a Forest Schools project, been involved in removing Himalayan Balsam along the Wansbeck, and also involved in the Growing Well Garden at Wansbeck General Hospital which achieved one of our awards in 2015. She has worked from Berwick to Hexham, including Bedlington an Ashington and most places in between. So many fantastic environmental projects have been able to take place because of the hard work Lindsay has put in helping with the initial set up and infrastructure. If this wasn’t enough in 2015 Lindsay cycled, with support from a Groundwork member of staff coast to coast along the John Muir Way to raise awareness of the importance of looking after our natural spaces and to raise funds for a Dementia Gardening Project based in Bedlington. By the time of these awards Lindsay would have also completed a walk coast to coast across the Highlands to raise funds for an Older Persons Active Green Living Allotment Project. She is incredibly brave and committed to improving the environment and enriching the lives of residents in Northumberland. Winner: Oliver Jackson Our final award this evening is to recognise a very special young boy who is an aspiring Environmental Champion. Five year old Oliver’s mum contacted us to tell us about his outstanding efforts at the end of the Northumberland LIVE Event in Blyth. Oliver was appalled at the amount of rubbish left behind by the public and decided to set about picking up the litter. Such a display of community spirit is something that we would love to encourage and reward, so as a way of saying thank you we have some gifts for Oliver – our very own “little litter picking champion”.
  5. Plans to revise and re-launch a much valued community funding scheme are currently being considered by Northumberland County Council. One of the key improvements to the scheme will be a new grant aimed specifically at the under 18s. Proposals for the future operation of the Northumberland Community Chest Scheme will be put before the five new local area councils to seek their views. Under the new plans there will be a ‘Help For You’ scheme for young people. Grants of up to £200 will be available to help those under 18 in pursuing a particular ambition. It is proposed that both the local and countywide elements of the community chest are retained. For local schemes, there will be a £5,000 upper grant limit with a maximum award of 75% of the cost of any proposal. For the countywide element, the pot has been doubled to £60,000. There will be no upper grant limit, but the maximum grant award will be 75% of the project’s costs. The community chest fund has been in operation in Northumberland since 2009 and over its lifetime 1,450 awards have been made to voluntary and community groups totalling £2.6million to develop projects that enhance the environment, improve health and wellbeing and strengthen communities. Leader of Northumberland County Council, Peter Jackson said: “We know how helpful and appreciated the community chest fund has been and how it has benefited so many communities across the county. “We have been reviewing the scheme and feel there is some room to improve it. One of the most exciting aspects is our plan to widen the appeal of the fund to the younger generation. We are proposing to introduce a grant dedicated to individuals under 18s, called Help For You, to help them pursue their ambitions whether they be sporting, musical or academic.” “ We also want to ensure there is a consistent approach in assessing projects across the county. As part of this, we propose that the community chest budget will be managed and allocated locally with funding allocations for each area council , based broadly on the population living within that area.” In future it is proposed that each local area council will have the flexibility to identify particular priority themes which are seen as particularly relevant to their communities. As part of this, both the Ashington & Blyth and Cramlington, Bedlington & Seaton Valley local area councils will have the scope to ring fence an element of their allocations to specifically support the social welfare centres within their areas. Once all local comments have been taken into account, the scheme will be re-launched at the end of July. The deadline for the first round of applications is scheduled for Friday 29 September.
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    New pothole scheme for local areas

    A new pilot scheme is being introduced to give local areas more say on road improvements. Extra funding of £500,000 has been allocated for a new Northumberland Local Pothole Fund, on top of the £20m already being spent county-wide through this year’s Local Transport Plan capital programme. The five Local Area Councils are each being allocated £100,000, with members of each Area Council invited to submit suggestions on their priorities for permanent repair of key areas suffering from repeat pothole failure or localised drainage issues. The money is being allocated from some of the additional funding from central Government through their National Productivity Investment Fund to help local authorities improve their highway infrastructure. The deadline for the first round of submissions is mid August, and once received, the identified locations will be inspected and assessed to identify the work needed and the potential cost. At this first stage councillors can submit a maximum of three locations per ward for consideration. It is intended that two further rounds of submissions will be invited later in the year, depending on expenditure as repairs progress. Councillor Glen Sanderson, Cabinet Member for Environment and Local Services, said: “Keeping our 3,000 miles of roads in good condition is a priority for us and this scheme is an excellent way for local areas to identify key locations for improvement. “Local councillors know their own roads extremely well and where the issues are, and we are committed to more decision making at a local level through our new Local Area Councils. “While we expect works will be carried out at the majority of locations put forward, our Area Managers will need to consider whether the scale and cost of the repair is appropriate for funding from this programme “It could be the location is already earmarked for other planned maintenance works, or would be better referred for consideration for repair through other larger capital maintenance programmes. “Either way the pilot scheme will ensure areas of concern are being flagged at both a county and local level and long-standing issues with potholes and road surfaces corrected in a timely manner.” A report on the pilot scheme will be presented to Local Area Councils next week.
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    Council unleashes green dog walkers

    A new initiative has been launched in Northumberland to stop residents and visitors falling foul of their most loyal friends. Northumberland County Council is introducing the Green Dog Walkers scheme, a community-led programme to reduce dog fouling and promote responsible dog ownership across the county. Dog walkers are now being encouraged to join up by signing the Green Dog Walker pledge. Those signing the pledge agree to always clean up after their dog and put the bag in a bin and to use a friendly approach to encourage other dog walkers to do the same. Northumberland County Council will provide a Green Dog Walkers support kit to local community groups and individuals who want to get involved. Those that sign up will be sent a green dog walkers armband to wear when walking their dog to help draw attention to the scheme. They will also be sent green doggy bags and pledge leaflets. Green Dog Walking is intended to be a friendly and non-confrontational approach to changing attitudes to the problem of dog fouling. It will complement other existing council approaches being delivered across the county including issuing fines when irresponsible dog owners are caught allowing their dogs to foul without picking up after them and also through educational initiatives promoting responsible dog ownership. Northumberland County Councillor, Glen Sanderson, cabinet member for the environment and local services said: " Failing to clean up after your dog is unacceptable. Dog fouling is one of our top environmental priorities and one of the issues most commonly raised with us by residents. Not only is it unpleasant but dog dirt can carry serious diseases which can cause blindness and liver disorders, and children are the most susceptible. “The council’s dog wardens work hard to educate the public on responsible dog ownership and our commitment to effective enforcement will continue as before with patrols in problem areas across Northumberland “ Green Dog Walkers will have the power to add to their efforts and change attitudes about dog fouling in Northumberland in a positive and friendly way.” Local ward member for Hexham East, Northumberland County Councillor Cath Homer said : “ I would encourage as many people as possible to get involved and sign the pledge, so we can work together to make a real difference and improve the environment for everyone in Northumberland.” If you are interested in becoming a Green Dog Walker, please email greendogwalkers@northumberland.gov.uk, or for further information about the scheme you can visit the council’s website www.northumberland.gov.uk/greendogwalkers
  8. A new thresholds document has been launched today, 3rd July 2017, by Northumberland Safeguarding Children Board, providing guidance to assist professionals in identifying the most appropriate level of intervention and support. This new guidance, helps to clarify for everyone who works with children, the shared agreement on thresholds which have been developed by Northumberland County Council and colleagues on the multi agency Northumberland Local Safeguarding Children Board. The importance of providing help to families at the earliest possible opportunity remains imperative for all professionals who work with vulnerable young people and their families. When concerns become more complex, or where early identification and intervention do not appear to assist in reducing risk, it becomes increasingly important that professionals are able to utilise guidance on what might be the most appropriate “next step”. A new ‘Unborn Thresholds’ document has also been developed which focuses on the specific needs of unborn babies and their families. The new documents will be be used primarily as a helpful indicator of the types of interventions that are felt to be the most appropriate for families. To help support organisations, a large A2 poster of the thresholds document has been designed for organisations to put up in staff areas for easy reference, a webinar has been produced explaining the context and purpose of the document, and case studies have been produced for training exercises with staff to facilitate their understanding of how the documents should be used. Wayne Daley, Northumberland County Council’s Deputy Leader and cabinet member for Children’s Services, said: “Providing early help means providing support as soon as a problem emerges, at any point in a child’s life. “The new thresholds documents will help us and our colleagues in other organisations to identify issues and provide help at the earliest possible opportunity .” Paula Mead, Independent Chair of the multi-agency Northumberland Safeguarding Children Board said: “It is really important for children, young people and their families, that agencies provide them with the right level of support as early as possible. “This document is a tool that helps front-line staff to identify the most appropriate level of intervention and support that children and families need. ” Further information can be found on the Northumberland County Council website www.northumberland.gov.uk/thresholds
  9. Northumbria Police and Northumberland County Council are supporting the Young Drivers Event on Tuesday, 4 July, in Hexham. The event, which is to be held at Hexham Mart, Tyne Green, has been arranged jointly by Fire and Rescue, Police and Northumberland Community Safety and follows a similar event in Alnwick earlier this month. The event is to start at 6pm and runs through until 9pm several emergency services will be in attendance and will provide information and live demonstrations to drivers to highlight key issues and concerns on our roads. It's aimed at young people aged 14-24 but all are welcome to join. The evening begins with an opportunity to view modified cars, speak to medics, Fire and Rescue, paramedics, driving instructors, as well as Northumberland Blood Bike volunteers. You'll also hear from Northumbria's specialist Op Dragoon police, a dedicated team targeting road safety. ROSPA advanced motoring instructors will be on hand to give you a free driving assessment in your own car and a local mechanic will be available to carry out free vehicle checks. Northumbria Police Inspector, Pam Bridges said, “This is a great chance for young people who are already driving or thinking about learning to drive to really understand road safety. You'll see what's involved in a live extraction from a vehicle that's been in a mock accident and get hands-on with other live demonstrations, including a simulated drive with 'beer goggles' to see how dangerous drink driving can really be. For just a few hours of your time, you could learn something that could one day make a big difference or even save your life." Councillor John Riddle, Cabinet Member for Planning, Housing, Public Protection and Fire, said: 'The Young Driver Safety events have a great benefit to drivers and the local community. The events provide a range of information and demonstrations regarding safe driving and provide the attendees with information that they can take away and put into use when on our roads, giving them further education into safe driving with benefits for everyone." The event also provides the opportunity for drivers to have free assessed drives in their own car by ROSPA advanced motoring instructors along with free vehicle examinations carried out by a local mechanic.
  10. Northumberland Archives at Woodhorn has acquired a collection which has been independently assessed as ‘probably the most important archive of Northumbrian social history’ that was still in private hands. The collection of papers from Dickson, Archer & Thorp Solicitors of Alnwick charts the history of the 200 year old practice from its establishment in the late 18th century until its closure and the death of the last managing partner in 2003. The collection has been purchased by Northumberland County Council’s Archives team at Woodhorn thanks to a series of grants, including from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF); the Arts Council England and V&A Purchase Grant Fund; Friends of the National Libraries; and the Lord Crewe Trustees, with the total purchase cost £150,000. Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, a HLF grant of £77,400 was awarded to assist with the purchase of the collection and it will also allow Northumberland Archives to engage a volunteer co-ordinator who will work with a team of volunteers to clean, package and undertake basic listing of the collection. The practice had a wide client base dealing with probate cases from families of relatively modest means to handling the business of many county families including that of the Duke of Northumberland. Practice partners were also involved in governance both county-wide and more locally. The collection comprises in excess of 400 archive boxes or more than eight cubic metres of records. Cllr Cath Homer, cabinet member for culture, arts and leisure at Northumberland County Council said: “This is a fantastic acquisition for Northumberland Archives. Once the content has been sorted and listed it will be an amazing resource for those studying family history or local history and also people interested in old wills or in criminal cases. It will give an incredible insight into the history of Alnwick and the wider community. Ivor Crowther, Head of HLF North East, added: “We’re delighted that National Lottery players’ money can support Northumberland Archives to acquire this significant record of local history. The project will not only secure the collection’s future, but also share this heritage with the community through an exhibition and exciting new volunteering opportunities.” Northumberland County Council has recently taken over management of the county’s archive and modern records service in a move that will ensure the sustainability of the collections for the people of Northumberland and further afield. The council is committed to investment in preserving its historical records, and plans are already being developed to increase public access to the collections both online and through outreach programmes. The services also play a key role in strengthening the Council's overall records management, ensuring that in this digital age, the local authority is able to control and govern the vast amount of information it owns.
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    Help stop the spread of measles

    Northumberland County Council is reminding parents of the importance of the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccine, as a very effective way to prevent infection and stop measles from spreading. Measles is caused by a virus which can spread quickly through coughing and sneezing, person-to-person contact, or by touching a contaminated surface. The illness is highly infectious and can cause a rash and high fever. It can also cause serious health complications such as lung and brain infections, especially in babies under a year, teenagers and adults. There are currently large outbreaks of measles across some areas of Europe and with the summer holidays approaching and increasing travel there is a risk of measles being brought back to the UK by people who have not been completely vaccinated. In the last year, there have also been measles cases linked to music festivals and other large public events, mainly in teenagers and young adults. Elizabeth Morgan, Interim Public Health Director, said: “Fortunately, the MMR vaccine is a very effective way to prevent infection and stop measles from spreading to people who can't have the vaccine. Whatever your age, if you think you or your children may not have received two doses of the MMR vaccine, or you are unsure, speak to your GP - it's never too late to have the vaccine and measles can still be serious in adults. “ Northumberland County Councillor Veronica Jones, cabinet member for Adult Care and Public Health, said: “We would encourage all parents to have their children vaccinated against measles. It is important that we raise awareness of health issues and the danger of measles, so parents can make an informed choice about the vaccine.” Dr Alistair Blair, a GP in Morpeth and Clinical Chair at NHS Northumberland CCG, said: “Measles is highly infectious and children and adults who haven’t been vaccinated or had the infection before are at risk if measles is circulating. “There is no treatment for measles but it can be prevented by the MMR vaccine and two doses are required to ensure the best protection. “If anyone has missed out on MMR in the past it’s always possible to catch-up as the vaccine can be given at any age. Just contact your local GP.”
  12. Landowners who may be experiencing problems with unauthorised encampments are encouraged to call on the expertise of officers at Northumberland County Council. At this time of year the county sees an increase in the number of unauthorised traveller and non-traveller sites being established on private land. For a fixed-negotiation charge Northumberland County Council is now offering support to landowners through its fully rounded, professional service, which would ensure a quick resolution and smooth move-on of the group from the site. The council has a dedicated Liaison Officer, who works with traveller and non-traveller communities, who can be called upon to begin negotiations with the group, or take up any welfare concerns. A landowner could also be given support from the council’s legal and public protection teams, should court action be required to remove the encampment. John Riddle, Cabinet member for Planning, Housing and Resilience at the council, said: “Where a landowner may not want to conduct negotiations with an unauthorised encampment themselves, they can approach us to help with the move-on process. “Our officers have years of experience and knowledge of working with traveller groups, and often know the families who travel through the county on a regular basis. “Landowners are encouraged to take advantage of this expertise to ensure the smooth removal of a group from their land. “In most cases there are no issues with these types of encampments, but where a landowner feels they need some extra support the council can help.” A fee of £200 would be levied to a landowner for officer time in visiting and managing a move-on of the encampment, this would increase to £400 if court preparation papers or attendance at court by an officer, was required. Any further costs, such as bailiff costs or exceptional court costs would be agreed with the landowner first.
  13. Archaeologists working for the National Lottery funded Peregrini Lindisfarne Community Archaeology project have made exciting new discoveries which may well have turned a long held belief about the Holy Island of Lindisfarne on its head. The remote and beautiful island holds a special place in history. Known as the ‘Cradle of Christianity’ in the North East, it was here that St Aidan established a monastery in AD635 and set out to convert the pagan Northumbrians. The monastery developed into an international centre of learning and craftsmanship and it was during this Golden Age of Northumbria that exquisite items such as the Lindisfarne Gospels were produced. All this came to a crashing end with the arrival of the Vikings in the late 8th Century. Many in academic and ecclesiastical circles have long maintained that the close linear arrangement of the the Parish Church of St Marys with the Priory church is evidence of the original locations of the two Anglo-Saxon churches on Holy Island. This close linear relation is evidenced at other early Northumbrian monasteries such as Hexham and Jarrow. Until this summer the assumption has been that the original Anglo-Saxon churches stood down in the shelter a high rocky ridge known as of the Heugh in the area now occupied by the Parish Church and the Priory. But excavations during the last four weeks up on the Heugh suggest a very different configuration. The excavation has revealed the stone foundations of a small rectangular building with a chancel type configuration at the east end. The crude and unmortared walls, very simple window arches and positioning of a possible alter stone all suggest an early date which has led to speculation that this is a church building which could date from the 7th century. The Venerable Bede, writing in c.731, records that St Aidan arrived in Northumbria from St. Columba’s monastery on Iona in 635AD at the request of King Oswald and was gifted the Holy Island of Lindisfarne to establish his own monastery. The parallels between the islands of Iona and Lindisfarne are remarkable and it is easy to understand how this was a suitable location for Aidan to evangelise and convert the Northumbrians, especially given the close visual relationship between the island and the royal court of Oswald at Bamburgh. Contemporary historical sources refer to at least two churches on Lindisfarne, a small timber one built by Aidan and later one built by Finian which was dedicated to St. Peter. Richard Carlton, the director of The Archaeological Practice running the community archaeology dig on behalf of the Peregrini Lindisfarne HLF Landscape Partnership Scheme said: “This second year of investigation on the Heugh has exceeded all my expectation. And with work still to be done to revisit the watch tower structure identified last year and work in the Lantern Chapel building there is potential for the Heugh to yield more of its secrets.” Excavations last year further west on the Heugh revealed a massive foundation wall that archaeologist are now speculating is a foundation for a ‘watch tower’. The Venerable Bede, in his ‘Life of St. Cuthbert’, made reference to a signal from Inner Farne being seen from the watch tower on Holy Island to mark the death of St Cuthbert. Sara Rushton, Conservation Manager at Northumberland County Council, said: “This latest discovery of a potential church building on the Heugh cements Holy Island as one of the most significant early medieval sites in Britain. It is incredible to think that we have uncovered two very significant buildings associated with the early Christian foundation of the priory that provide tangible links to both St. Aidan and St. Cuthbert.” The monastic tradition on Iona, where Aidan came from, was much more dispersed than the patterns that developed at Hexham and Jarrow. The Irish monastic tradition was for small chapels and ‘turas’ type buildings defining the monastic precinct. The scatter configuration of buildings on Heugh certainly seems to have parallels with Iona where there were at least six chapels and this new discovery could be one of a number of chapels within the monastic complex. In addition the close visual relation between the buildings on the Heugh and the castle at Bamburgh, which the priory does not have, is significant and supports the early date. The Peregrini Lindisfarne project is a Landscape Partnership Project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) thanks to National Lottery players and has been developed to conserve, enhance and celebrate the natural and cultural heritage of Holy Island and the wider shoreside landscape. The project is hosted by Northumberland County Council’s planning department. Cllr John Riddle, portfolio holder for planning at the council said: “Community participation is at the heart of the Peregrini project and this Community Archaeology has been a brilliant opportunity for people to get hands-on experience of absolutely fantastic archaeology which illustrates how wonderful the cultural heritage of our beautiful county is.” Ivor Crowther, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund North East, said: “The North East is full of incredible heritage and this find shows that there is still so many stories left to discover. Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players we’re delighted to support this project which is putting communities at the heart of celebrating the history of their landscape and creating strong partnerships to ensure its bright future.”
  14. Northumberland County Council is about to embark on a major refurbishment within Hexham’s historic Queen’s Hall to create a fantastic new facility that will provide an integrated library, customer and visitor information centre all under one roof. The investment scheme will breathe new life into the library area which has not had any major refurbishment work done to it for over 35 years. It has been designed taking customer needs into account and will create a convenient, modern and accessible service area for residents and visitors. Unfortunately while this work is taking place there will be some brief disruption to the library and tourist information services. These services will be temporarily relocated into the former Tourist Information Centre in the Wentworth Car Park for a twelve week period. A range of normal tourism and library services will continue to be provided here including four public access computers. The possibility of locating additional public computers into the foyer of the Wentworth Leisure Centre is also being explored. To allow for the organisation of this move the library will close at the Queen’s Hall on Saturday 1 July and reopen at Wentworth on Monday 17th July. Customers are currently being informed of the arrangements through social media, posters, fliers and via the website. Alison Elsdon, Director of Corporate Resources at Northumberland County Council said: “ It is great news that part of this wonderful historic building is to be given a new lease of life and the town will receive enhanced, joined up local services. “ We appreciate there will be some disruption to these services while the work is taking place and we are working hard to minimise the impact. We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused, but I hope residents bear with us. “ Families can be reassured that the children’s Summer Reading Challenge will go ahead as planned and we are making arrangements to hold summer library activities in Wentworth Leisure Centre.” When the library is closed for two weeks, members will be able to renew or reserve books, 24/7 on the library website www.mylibrary.co.uk or through the library customer service line on 01670 620250. There will also be a book drop-off point at the Queen’s Hall. Corbridge TIC and Library is open six days a week, Monday - Saturday 10am - 4.30pm (closed 1-1.30pm) for those who wish to and are able to travel. A tourist information leaflet point will also be present in the foyer of the Queen’s Hall and staff will also be on hand to answer any enquiries that come in on the Hexham Tourist Information phone line. “ We are reviewing the plans for the layout of the new library with the aim of giving the best level of service to our customers. No definitive decisions have been made regarding the location of the local history collection.” added Cath Homer.
  15. Northumberland County Council has announced steps to take forward a project that will secure new schools and leisure for Ponteland. The council has carried out a review of previous plans, aimed at to ensuring that investment will provide the best long-term solution for students and the local community. The original outline planning application for the construction of a new Ponteland High and primary school, alongside a new leisure centre, has been reviewed and the County Council is working hard to address concerns raised by residents. The four Ponteland County Councillors asked officers to look at all possible options in detail that will not only provide new schools, but also provide for the long-term interests of the whole community. In order to facilitate the design changes, Northumberland County Council is to withdraw the outline planning application originally submitted in December 2016. A detailed planning application will now be developed and will be brought forward as soon as possible. The submission of a detailed application will also ensure that educational provision for the students on roll at the schools is secured by enabling the construction of the buildings to take place along the shortest achievable timescale. This will mean any requirement to provide temporary accommodation at the school sites will be kept to a minimum Cllr Wayne Daley, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Children’s Services at Northumberland County Council said: “While we remain committed to the investment of £57m into local education and leisure in Ponteland, we have to be sure that this is going to deliver the best possible educational environment for pupils across Northumberland. “We are working hard to ensure we address all of the of concerns raised by parents and residents in Ponteland to achieve the best possible educational outcome for the young people there.”
  16. Extra payment options for post-16 transport are being introduced as the new administration looks to make the charge easier for households to manage. The county council is now looking to carry out a comprehensive review of the policy which sees over 100 students in the county having to pay an annual sum of £600 for travel organised by the authority, and other Post 16 students who are able to use public transport having to pay for their own travel' While it was not possible for the administration to bring in any changes to its Post 16 Transport Policy ahead of the statutory deadline for the 2017/18 school year, it has implemented a new payment system which allows families to spread payments more evenly. Over the past year 127 students paid for post 16 transport. Of these 25 paid the fee as a lump sum and 102 choose to pay in instalments. Previously the £600 charge could be paid as a lump sum or as a payment of £200 followed by eight monthly payments by direct debit of £50. In a bid to help ease household budgeting, students will now be offered a third payment method from September 2017 - eight payments of £75 via direct debit. Deputy Council Leader Wayne Daley, who is also Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “As a council we believe the current post 16 travel charges are unfair and we are committed to overhauling this policy. “While statutory deadlines meant we couldn’t make any major changes for the coming school year we were keen to find a way of offering increased flexibility for those students and families who have to pay the charges. “Many people find it easier to spread bills evenly in smaller amounts rather than pay lump-sums or larger initial instalments. “We hope this new system will make things a little easier for some households while we carry out a root and branch review of the whole policy.” The £600 travel charge for students attending their nearest educational establishments where public transport is not available was introduced by the previous council administration.
  17. At its meeting on 5th July Northumberland County Council will consider a motion to withdraw the Northumberland Local Plan Core Strategy from Government and to carry out a review of some aspects of the document. Members of the council’s conservative group have submitted the motion which is also asking officers to undertake a full review of the housing and employment numbers, and strategic land use allocations, for the plan period up to 2031. In the motion members stress their support for economic and housing growth to support communities, as well as their commitment to the ambitions of the North East LEP strategic economic plan and North of Tyne devolution agenda. They question however whether the housing numbers contained within the current core strategy are required to meet these ambitions, and wish to undertake a review and any required public consultation as soon as possible. The proposed level of new housing in the County, at 24,320 by 2031 plus the inclusion of up to an additional 2,000 houses at Dissington Garden Village over and above objectively assessed need, are seen as significant issues. In response to the motion a report to full council by Geoff Paul, the council’s director of planning and economy, sets out the key issues raised by the motion, and what the process for withdrawing the Core Strategy would be. It highlights an opportunity to review the housing numbers required for Northumberland to deliver sustainable economic and housing growth through a recent refresh of the North East Strategic Economic Plan, expected revisions to national planning policy and recent and anticipated national publications on housing and population projections. Coun Peter Jackson, Leader of Northumberland County Council said: “Our group has long questioned some of the assumptions which were used by the previous council in drawing up the Core Strategy. “Information currently available, and anticipated for release by the Government later this year, suggests to us that the requirement for housing in our county may very well not be as high as has been proposed previously. We want to use this information from Government and take into full account the latest regional plan in the form of the NE Strategic Economic Plan, to review the need to build on acres of Green Belt land. “The new council which we are leading is determined to support and protect our communities and to plan for a sustainable and prosperous future for our county and the wider region and we therefore wanted to propose a review at the first opportunity. “I can promise that the most up-to-date available evidence will inform our review and that the new plan for our county will be produced as soon as possible." Cllr John Riddle, cabinet member for planning, housing and resilience at Northumberland County Council added: “We have listened carefully to our communities and want to implement this review of the core strategy to ensure that it is truly fit to address the future housing and economic needs of Northumberland, whilst respecting the environment and protecting our beautiful county.” Advice has been sought from the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and the report states that a local planning authority can withdraw a submitted plan at any time prior to adoption, at which point it would publish a statement about this and send notification to consultation bodies. It would also need to determine at which stage in the plan-making process it would need to go back to in order to make any necessary changes, and discussions are currently taking place with DCLG in an attempt to arrange a Ministerial visit to speak to the council leadership about the potential scenarios relating to the strategy. Members have said that they would wish the work to be done as quickly as possible, so that the strategy can be re-submitted to Government as soon as is practicable. Risks raised within the council report include the possibility of Government intervention in preparation of the plan due to the delayed timescale, and also of speculative or unplanned development in the county whilst changes are made to the plan. There could also be the increased likelihood of planning appeals where the council has used the draft plan to resist development proposals. Some current applications may also require re-consideration by committee. The full council will consider the motion and the report at its meeting at 3pm on Wednesday 5th July in County Hall, Morpeth. More about the Core Strategy The Northumberland Local Plan Core Strategy sets out the proposed strategic planning policies of the council to guide future development and planning decisions in Northumberland up to 2031. In line with national planning policy, the council must provide a positive planning policy framework that supports and grows the economy. One of the main premises of the currently submitted plan is that without positive policy intervention Northumberland will not have the working age population to support delivery of the Council’s Economic Strategy, or the ambitions of the North East LEP Strategic Economic Plan. A draft plan was submitted to Government on 7th April 2017 for independent examination.
  18. Northumberland County Council has made a £1.75 million commitment to providing great opportunities for young people, with a recruitment drive for 160 apprentices. The ‘We’re Making it work’ recruitment campaign has started for the county council’s Apprenticeship Programme, which offers apprenticeships from entry level to Degree level. Over the last five years the council has taken on more than 1000 apprentices, with schools in the county taking on over 200. Apprenticeship Coordinators will be supporting new apprentices, providing mentoring and advice to assist them through the learning process, along with a dedicated lecturing team. Daljit Lally, Interim Chief Executive of Northumberland County Council, said: “We support hundreds of apprentices each year and they are incredibly valuable to the council and to businesses across Northumberland. “Our current recruitment drive will see us take on 160 new apprentices this year, with the commitment that by 2020 we will be supporting up to 400.” Wayne Daley, Northumberland County Council’s Deputy Leader and cabinet member for Children’s Services, said: “Apprenticeships are an excellent option for all ages. They provide people with the opportunity to develop skills and knowledge while working towards achieving nationally recognised qualifications. “They aren’t just for young people either - they also suit adults who may be out of work or looking for a career change. “There are some great opportunities across the county for people to gain the skills, and experience necessary to enter the world of employment.” Over the last two weeks an apprentice recruitment roadshow has taken place across the county, giving people the chance to go along for a chat, to ask questions and register interest in becoming an apprentice - 230 people have signed up so far. There is still time to go along - the Roadshow will be at Sanderson Arcade in Morpeth on the 27, and 28 June, and at the entrance of Willowburn sports centre in Alnwick on the 29 and 30 June. For information about apprenticeships with Northumberland County Council go to http://www.northumberland.gov.uk/Education/Learning/Apprentice.aspx or email: apprenticeships@northumberland.gov.uk
  19. Northumberland County Council’s Trading Standards service is urging owners of Hotpoint fridge-freezers to check their model numbers for safety reasons after one was identified as the initial cause of the tragic Grenfell Tower fire in London. Residents who believe they may own a Hotpoint fridge freezer model FF175BP (white) or FF175BG (graphite), should call Whirlpool Corporation’s freephone hotline on 0800 316 3826 or visit www.hotpointservice.co.uk/fridgefreezer to register their details for further updates. The council’s trading standards service is encouraging residents to follow this guidance as soon as possible, to help keep themselves, their family and property safe from harm. Hotpoint manufactured these units between 2006 and 2009. It has not been subject to a product recall but current testing by technical experts to establish the cause of the fault, will establish whether any further action is required. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has ordered an immediate examination of the unit but has added there is “ no specific reason” for people with one of these fridge-freezers to switch them off until a full investigation is carried out. Hotpoint is expected to give customers further updates about what action it will take, and customers are advised to follow standard safety advice by not overloading plugs, ensuring sockets are not damaged, and checking cables and leads are in good condition. Paul Hedley, Chief Fire Officer with Northumberland Fire And rescue Service said: “ The safety of Northumberland’s residents is our priority. The device is currently being subject to immediate and rigorous testing to establish the cause of the fire. We urge residents with this model of fridge freezer to log their details promptly so if there is a product recall, this can be done swiftly.” Northumberland County Councillor John Riddle, Cabinet Member with responsibility for public protection added: “Sadly fires in the home can and do happen and smoke, the silent killer, is responsible for over half of all deaths in house fires. “ One of the easiest way to protect your home and family is by installing smoke alarms on every level of your home and making regular checks to ensure they are all in working order. “ With a simple push of the test button and you can check both the power supply and the detection mechanism; it should be carried out as a vital part of any household routine. A working smoke alarm can buy you valuable time to get out, stay out and call 999.” People with concerns about product safety can also call the Citizens Advice consumer service line on 03454 04 05 06 or the Government helpline on 0300 123 1016. The Government website on product recalls, which will be updated should further action on the product be necessary, can be found at www.gov.uk/productrecall.
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    County Council ready to respond

    Northumberland County Council is providing reassurance to residents that it is fully prepared to respond should a major incident occur within the county. The council regularly carries out reviews of the emergency procedures that are put into action for major events such as serious flooding, severe winter weather and other incidents. Cllr Peter Jackson, leader of Northumberland County Council said: “Following the tragic Grenfell Tower fire, and aftermath, the council is acutely aware of the importance of a swift and robust response to such an incident from the local authority. “We would like to reassure residents and communities that Northumberland County Council has detailed plans in place to respond to major incidents, which are regularly tested. “Over the last week we have been looking at a number of issues with the aim of providing reassurance that suitable procedures are in place and that we have confidence in our processes.” The council regularly reviews and updates its plans, including how it works with partner agencies to resolve emergency issues and restore normality as soon as is possible. To test arrangements, the council undertakes exercises and trains for these scenarios - including planning how people would be rehoused if their homes were lost or damaged. This planning ensures the council is ready to act when such a situation arises, as was the case early in December 2015 when Storm Desmond hit the region with devastating effect. The county council’s emergency severe weather response plans were activated and a multi-agency control room was established at Northumbria Fire & Rescue Service’s HQ at West Hartford, where Police, Fire and Rescue, Environment Agency and County Council staff converged to put in place a co-ordinated response to the incident. Departments across the council have been working proactively following the Grenfell Tower fire, to provide reassurance that safety procedures are in place and that there is every confidence in processes. Whilst Northumberland does not have any residential tower blocks of the type involved in the Grenfell Tower tragedy, there are residential low rise premises of up to four storeys. There are also premises within Northumberland which are fitted with external cladding and the council is working to establish the type and make of those panels. As part of a wide range of measures, the county council will also be liaising with external partners and contacting premises across the county to provide an offer of support, advice and guidance on fire safety matters and asking that they take steps to satisfy themselves that there are no safety concerns for the premises for which they are responsible.
  21. Scores of the county’s communities are to get a grandstand view of some of the world’s top cyclists after route details of the UK’s largest and most prestigious cycle race were revealed. The Ovo Energy Tour of Britain will travel through the heart of Northumberland on Monday 4 September, passing through 26 communities and covering 117 miles. The race will start in Kielder Water & Forest Park at 10.15am and head out through Bellingham and Otterburn before heading towards the coast via Elsdon, Rothbury, Alnwick, Eglingham, Chatton, Belford and Bamburgh. It will then head down the stunning Northumberland coastline passing through the communities of Seahouses, Beadnell, Embleton, Longhoughton, Lesbury, Hipsburn Warkworth and Amble. The race will then travel through Widdrington, Widdrington Station, Longhirst, Ulgham, Morpeth, Guide Post Choppington and Bedlington before passing through the finish line in Blyth to take in Seaton Sluice and Seaton Delaval before culminating in an exciting finish in Blyth, scheduled for around 3.30pm. This will give spectators at the finish line in Blyth the chance to see the riders pass twice. The Northumberland stage of the race will also incorporate three intermediate Eisberg Sprint sections and three SKODA King of the Mountain hill climbs which are expected to prove particularly popular with spectators. The Eisberg Sprints will take place at Seahouses, Warkworth and Seaton Delaval and offer fans the chance to see riders sprinting for points and bonus seconds. Riders will also tackle three categorised SKODA King of the Mountains climbs at Elsdon, Rothbury and Alnwick, gathering points for the best climber’s jersey. Northumberland County Council has worked with race organisers Sweetspot, finish sponsors Blyth Town Council and start sponsors Northumbrian Water to bring the Tour back to the county. It was last here in 2015. Councillor Peter Jackson, Leader of Northumberland County Council said: “It’s going to be a really exciting day for spectators as the cyclists race through the county’s towns, villages and hamlets and we will be keeping local residents fully informed of the race details as plans progress. “ The race will travel through some fantastic scenery and pass iconic landmarks including Bamburgh Castle and Alnwick Castle along its route. The Tour is to be broadcast in over 120 countries and we look forward to providing a warm welcome to the competitors and supporters and showcasing our beautiful county and communities to an huge global audience.” In 2015, The Tour of Britain swept through the county creating a wave of excitement as some of the world’s top cyclists including Sir Bradley Wiggins cycled through our communities. Residents and businesses dressed the route in the distinctive red and gold colours of the Northumberland flag and thousands of spectators lined the route to cheer on the cyclists and give them a fantastic welcome. This year, the eight stage race will begin in Edinburgh on Sunday 3 September and finish in Cardiff in Wales on Sunday 10 September. Northumberland is hosting stage two on Monday September 4, after which the pro-cyclists will re-start in North Lincolnshire on Tuesday 5 September. Subsequent stages will take the race to the Cotswolds, the Malvern Hills and The Wye Valley. The route through the county was announced at the Northumberland School Games Festivals at Cramlington Learning Village where over 1,000 young people were competing to become county champions in a range of sports. Northumberland County Councillor, Cath Homer, Cabinet Member for Culture, Arts and Leisure said: “It is fantastic that we were able to announce the detailed route of the Tour of Britain at the Northumberland School Games. It would be great if the race inspires more people to get on their bikes and explore our beautiful county.” “ Cycling is a sport that is relatively cheap and accessible and we have some excellent cycling routes here in the county, including Sustrans Route 68 and the Coast and Castles.” Mayor of Blyth Town Council, John Potts said: “In 2015 when the cycle race came to Blyth the town was buzzing with excitement. The Town Council supported the event and the velodrome in the market place was very popular with children and adults alike. We will be supporting the event again this year and hope the whole Town gets involved in decorating the streets to show Blyth at its best. This international event generates a huge amount of publicity which can only be of benefit to all of us.” David Hall, Head of Leisure, Strategy and Transformation at Northumbrian Water said: “Northumbrian Water works hard to support events that benefit the economy of the North East and as the Tour of Britain passes through what we consider one of the best cycling counties in the UK, it will help to boost regional tourism and showcase Northumberland to the rest of the world. “As a business, we have a long association with cycling, both in terms of supporting races and providing opportunities for leisure cycling at our sites and we’re delighted to be able to help bring this elite sporting event right here to our region.” Mick Bennett, Race Director of the Ovo Energy Tour of Britain said: “We are delighted to be returning to Northumberland this September. Two years ago the reception that the county gave the race was outstanding, so we are looking forward to more of the same this September. To see the routes decorated in the county’s colours of red and yellow was fantastic, and with this year’s Stage Two route reaching new parts of northumberland, we are sure to see even more of this fantastic support.” Full Northumberland route details can be found at www.nlandtob.com, or for further information about the National Tour, please visit: www.tourofbritain.co.uk/home.php
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    New long stay parking for Hexham

    A new parking area has been established to help alleviate issues for motorists in Hexham. Land at the former Fire Station at Tyne Mills has been opened up and spaces marked out to provide all-day parking for people who work in the town. Northumberland County Council and local county councillors are working with the town council to find long term solutions to car parking issues in Hexham, and have reaffirmed their commitment to long-term improvements. Alongside work on permanent long-term car parking solutions, the council has been looking at sites that could be readily available - and further sites in addition to the fire station are also being considered. The temporary car park at the fire station is available now and provides up to 50 spaces. Parking will be free and there will be no restrictions or controls in place, although it is aimed primarily at all day parking for those who work in the town. Cllr Cath Homer, county councillor for Hexham East said: “I am very pleased that these interim arrangements are now up and running, and hope that they have a positive impact in alleviating some of the parking issues. “I am also pleased to say that the council is actively looking at both short and longer term solutions to the car parking issues we experience here in Hexham.” In relation to longer term solutions the council is assessing the suitability of a number of sites in the town - including the potential for a multi-storey car park or more extensive surface parking. Due to the historic and compact nature of the town centre, options to significantly increase overall parking capacity in the town are limited, however a small number of potential options are being explored. Sites that could have potential are being considered in relation to access and traffic impact, and where not owned by the county council discussions are taking place with landowners to allow options to be appraised. Cllr Glen Sanderson, cabinet member for environment and local services at Northumberland County Council said: “We are committed to making progress on improving the car parking situation in Hexham. We have identified some potential options and will be assessing these as soon as possible and consulting the local community.”
  23. Detailed investigation work is getting underway ahead of proposed improvements to a world famous bridge spanning the River Tweed between England and Scotland. Northumberland County Council, Scottish Borders Council and the ‘Friends of Union Chain Bridge’ are working together on an ambitious £8m project to safeguard the future of the Union Chain Bridge near Berwick - the world’s oldest single span suspension bridge still open to traffic. The internationally significant bridge, constructed in 1820 and spanning the River Tweed on the Anglo-Scottish border requires urgent conservation and engineering repairs to secure its future. It has been on Historic England’s ‘Heritage at Risk’ Register since 2013. A funding bid for the restoration is now being prepared for the Heritage Lottery Fund, with a maximum of £5m available towards the bulk of the work. The County Council’s Cabinet will next month consider recommendations to contribute funding over three years towards the scheme, with both Northumberland and Scottish Borders Council ultimately contributing towards the project. Other stakeholders will also be making significant contributions. Ahead of this, site investigation work is getting underway on the bridge from June 26 for up to four weeks, which will mean the road will be closed to vehicles from July 3 on weekdays for a fortnight. The investigation work is important in providing a greater understanding of the status and condition of the bridge - and allowing a more robust bid to be submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund. There will be local diversions in place for traffic during the week, the bridge will be open to pedestrians and cyclists at all times and to vehicles at weekends. Engineers have already spoken with local parish councils, nearby businesses and other key stakeholders and are speaking to the Hutton and Paxton community council this week. Councillor Glen Sanderson, Cabinet member for environment and local services, said: “The Union Chain Bridge is of international significance but its condition has been of growing concern for a number of years. “Along with our colleagues in Scotland we are committed to safeguarding its future and status, both as a key transport link and as a contributor to the local tourism economy. “The site investigation work is vital ahead of any major project starting and engineers will be working to keep disruption to a minimum throughout.” The bridge itself is a single suspension span of 137m of timber construction supported from wrought iron chains by wrought iron hanger bars. If these vital repairs are not undertaken, the bridge would ultimately close to vehicles, losing its World status as the oldest surviving suspension bridge carrying traffic, causing serious loss to the local community. Councillor Gordon Edgar, Scottish Borders Council’s Executive Member for Roads and Infrastructure, said: “I am pleased we are seeing progress in the bid to retain the Union Chain Bridge as the world’s oldest single span suspension bridge still used by traffic. “The iconic crossing has provided a vital link between Scotland and England for almost 200 years, and we want that to remain the case. “The short-term closure of the bridge to vehicles will cause some inconvenience but will provide important information for its long-term future.” Robbie Hunter, Chairman of the Friends of the Union Chain Bridge said: “The Friends of the Union Chain Bridge are delighted to hear of the continued significant financial support from both Northumberland County Council and Scottish Borders Council towards the restoration of the bridge, which is a unique part of the UK's engineering history. “However, the success of the project is reliant on receiving HLF funding and the Friends with their large community support, on both sides of the Border and internationally, will continue to lobby hard to ensure the success of the project, with the aim of restoration underway in time for its Bicentenary in 2020. It would be an unforgivable tragedy if we failed to save this engineering icon.” Northumberland County Council’s Cabinet will discuss the report on the bridge on July 11.
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    Making the county greener and cleaner

    An ambitious programme of extra verge cutting and weed spraying is getting underway as the county gears up for the main tourist season. The county council is drafting in extra resources over the coming weeks to carry out additional grass cutting along highway verges across the county. The work is vital to ensure that vegetation does not restrict visibility for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. In addition to the road safety benefits, these works also improve the look of an area and keeps the network in better condition by preventing plants taking hold on the side of roads. As well as bringing in more staff the council is leasing two more tractors with special cutting equipment over the summer. Weed growth on pavements and kerb edges is an on-going problem across towns and villages in the county, especially during periods of warm wet weather when weeds grow very quickly. In order to improve the appearance of the county extra weed spraying is being done on pavements and kerb edges, so that residents should notice weeds dying back before being cleared away. Councillor Glen Sanderson, Cabinet Member for Environment and Local Services, said: “One of our priorities as a new administration is to improve the condition of the road network and invest in improvements that benefit everyone. “Our county brings in millions in tourism each year and it’s important our streets and highways are well maintained, both for safety and the overall look and feel of the place. “We’re committed to reversing the previous administration’s cost cutting on highway verge maintenance and weed control and have taken immediate steps to improve these key areas of activity to ensure Northumberland is looking its best ahead of the main tourist season.”
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    Duchess views final plans for LOVE Awards

    Her Grace the Duchess of Northumberland has been hearing about the final plans for the seventh annual LOVE Northumberland awards, which she is due to present to winning groups and individuals on Wednesday 5th July. During a visit to the Alnwick Garden the Duchess heard about some of the great entries that have been received for this annual celebration of initiatives that improve and enhance the environment of Northumberland. Her Grace also chatted to local historian and broadcaster John Grundy, who will be the presenter who announces the winners this year, and to Jeannie Kielty, representative of main sponsors The Banks Group. Applications have now been judged and individuals and representatives of shortlisted groups are being invited to the awards event, which is set to be held in The Alnwick Garden pavilion. Jeannie Kielty from the Banks Group said: “We have been very pleased to support these awards since back in 2012, and I am continually impressed by the range and standard of new applications we receive each year. There is a wealth of groups and individuals out there with some fantastic stories to tell about how they help to improve their local areas. “The spirit of the LOVE Northumberland Awards matches our own commitment to supporting the communities in which we operate, and we’re very pleased to be able to help to recognise the contributions made by local people in enhancing their county’s environment in the last 12 months.” New cabinet member for environment and local services at Northumberland County Council, Councillor Glen Sanderson, was unable to attend the visit due to other council commitments, but said afterwards: “I am very much looking forward to being involved in the LOVE Northumberland Awards this year. It is very good to be able to celebrate all the excellent work done by local people right across the county. I very much look forward to hearing about all the great applications - and wish the best of luck to all shortlisted entries who are coming along to the ceremony on 5th July.” Nominations for awards were invited from schools, community and voluntary groups and individuals in seven categories for projects that preserve and enhance the environment or that address local environmental issues or problems. The judging panel was made up of representatives of the council and sponsors and supporters of the awards.
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