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First victory in opencast campaign – but bigger battle ahead
The battle to beat plans for opencast mining in our local countryside has taken a first move in the right direction. Gateshead Council has rejected the application to opencast quarter of a million tonnes of coal from a site at Birklands, near the Stanley Road, to the south of Sunniside and Marley Hill.
The proposals had had a slow journey through the planning process as the applicant had taken a considerable amount of time to submit all the information needed to support their plans. It therefore took nearly three years before Gateshead Council’s planning committee could take a decision.
A late change in the plans would have sent the opencast lorries along the Stanley Road to Sunniside and then down Watergate Bank to Lobley Hill and the A1.
Councillor Jonathan Wallace, a prominent critic of opencast mining, represented residents at the recent planning committee that considered the application. He warned that the extra heavy lorries on local roads would be a danger to residents. He also warned that the country lanes to and from the site were too narrow for the lorries.
After this, the committee added transport problems to the list of reasons for rejecting the Birklands application.
“I know how relieved people are that the proposals have been rejected,” said Jonathan. “However this is not the end of the story. The applicant can appeal against the decision. And there is an even bigger application at Marley Hill.
“UK Coal want to opencast one million tonnes of coal there and send it down the same route to the A1. A decision on that application is not expected until May.”
Lib Dem campaigner Kevin McClurey, who has been running petitions in Dunston Hill and Lobley Hill against the opencast plans, said, “Though we have one victory under our belts, we have to continue the campaign to defeat the Marley Hill plans.
“If they are given the go-ahead, the heavy lorries will be add a large amount of traffic to Lobley Hill Bank.”
If you have not yet signed the petition against the Marley Hill plans, you can do so on-line on this link..
Council tax frozen again
This year’s Council Tax bills have already landed on people’s doormats – and it’s good news for local residents.
For the fourth year in a row the Council has accepted a government grant to stop Council Tax from going up. This is very different from what used to happen here in Gateshead.
Years of successive inflation busting rises saw the Labour led Council push our bills up to one of the highest levels in the whole country.
But ever since the general election in 2010, with help from the Coalition government, Gateshead Council has managed to freeze its Council Tax. However, there is also bad news - services are being cut, and Labour councillors have decided to cut the street sweeping budget.
Lib Dem Councillors suggested that it would be better to cut Gateshead Council’s magazine,  Council News - making it available by email or the Council website and at Council libraries instead of printing and delivering tens of thousands of paper copies.
But Labour councillors disagreed and voted to keep Council News, and reduce street sweeping instead.
Cllr Peter Craig said, “More and more, we are finding issues with street cleaning and this can only make things worse. We reminded the Council leader and his colleagues that time and again local people have said that street sweeping is one of things that really makes a difference to an area, and that the service isn’t working well enough at the moment.
“But Labour Councillors seem determined to keep using taxpayers money to produce Council News.”
Sunniside Orchard update
The Kingsway Community Orchard in Sunniside has been the beneficiary of 6 fruit trees donated by Chris Bowers, a nursery in Norfolk. In exchange for a link on Cllr Jonathan Wallace’s food and gardening blog, Chris Bowers donated the trees to the community project.
The trees were planted in February by residents, your local councillors and by police cadets. You can view a video about the orchard on this link.
“We are very keen to expand the orchard,” said Cllr Marilynn Ord. “If anyone would like to donate a tree, please get in touch with us by replying to this efocus.”

Marilynn is pictured above helping to plant the trees in February.
Marley Hill Easter Market and Cafe
The next craft market and cafe at Marley Hill Community will be on Easter Monday, 21st April. The cafe opens at 9am and will be serving breakfast, lunch, cake, biscuits and sandwiches. Wherever possible, the ingredients have been grown on local allotments. The craft market opens at 11am.

If you are needing eggs for Easter, you can buy them at Marley Hill Community Centre on Thursday 17th April, 3pm - 6.30pm. Hen eggs are £1.30 a half dozen, duck eggs £1.50 per half dozen.

Also on sale will be Tamworth pork leg joints and dry cured bacon from pigs raised at Bill Quay Community Farm. Leg joints are £7 per kilo and bacon is £9 per kilo.

Tamworths are a traditional breed of pig and the meat is regarded by many as far better than the mass-produced pork and bacon available in supermarkets.
Swalwell Community Centre opts for transfer
At a meeting in February, Swalwell Community Centre Management Committee voted in favour of moving forward with an Asset Transfer of the centre from Gateshead Council.
Gateshead Council are giving up the management of community centres in the Borough and those that are not taken on by their management committees may have to close.
“Thanks to this forward looking decision by the Management Committee, Swalwell Community Centre will continue to be a huge asset to the local community,” said Cllr Sonya Hawkins (pictured above with Cllr Peter Craig.)
Whickham and Marley Hill Community Centres are also undergoing asset transfers to their management committees. Lobley Hill Community Centre has been transferred to environmental charity Groundwork.
Whickham in Bloom Spring Show
Whickham in Bloom held their 33rd annual spring bulb show on Saturday 15th March. As always, the event was a great success. You can view photos of the show on this link.
Among those visiting the show were Focus editor Kevin McClurey and Fiona Hall, North East Lib Dem Euro MP.
Chase Park Fair
Friends of Chase Park Fair held their first Easter far on Saturday 5th April. Whilst the rain in the morning threatened an early end to the event, at 1pm, the official opening time, the rain stopped and the visitors arrived.
A number of local organisations had stands. There was an “animal gazebo” with Bill Quay Community Farm, who brought ducklings and rabbits, and Cllr Jonathan Wallace, whose 21 recently-hatched quail chicks proved a hit with children.
Let’s hope this becomes an annual event.
Whickham Photographic Club 2014 Annual Exhibition
Whickham Photographic Club will be holding their annual exhibition on 10th May (10am - 4pm) at the Community Centre, Front Street, Whickham. Entry is free and everyone is welcome to call in.

You can visit the Club's website or on Facebook.

News Snippets
Planning permission is being sought to convert the ground floor of Garden Cottage in Gibside into a pub. The plans include building a small wooden beer cellar in the garden.

Marley Hill

Planning permission is being sought to demolish Sandygate Barn, St Cuthberts Road, Marley Hill and build a house on the site.
Whickham Church Chare
Planning permission is being sought to build 6 houses to the north of Rose Cottage, Church Chare.
Staiths South Bank
Planning permission is being sought to convert the former sales office on Autumn Drive to to two flats and one bedroom house.
Swalwell housing refused
Planning permission to build 12 apartments on the car park opposite Swalwell Social Club on Brewery Bank has been refused.
Hot food takeaway
Planning permission has been granted to convert part of the shop at 18-20 Knightside Gardens, Dunston, into a hotfood takeaway.
Dunston Staithes
Planning permission is being sought to install a 2.9m high security fence at the Dunston Staithes. The application needs listed building consent.
Dunston Riverside Primary School
Planning permission is being sought to extend the school to take 210 more pupils. Funding for the extension is coming from the Coalition government.
Dunston House plan
Planning permission is being sought to build a 3 storey detached house with rear dormer window at 27 Percy Gardens, Dunston.
Sunniside house plan
Planning permission is being sought to build a house on plot 2 to the rear Of Atholl, Hollywell Lane, Sunniside
Whickham house plan
Planning permission is being sought to convert the Old School Building, School Lane, Whickham into 4 flats.
Swalwell flats
Planning permission is being sought to build a 4 storey block of 8 flats on Clavering Road, Swalwell.
Sunniside house conversion
Planning permission is being sought to convert the outbuildings at the rear of 7 Granby Terrace, Sunniside, into a detached, 2-bedroom house.
Gibside Hub
Planning permission is being sought to create an enterprise hub single storey building at Gibside to provide an meat preparation area, a bakery and food storage and distribution area, an education area (in food preparation). The aim is to be a retail distribution hub for local produce from the Gibside Estate.

Whickham flat to shop conversion
Planning permission is being sought to convert the first floor flat at Ostlers Lodge, 3 School Lane, Whickham.

Published and promoted by John McClurey and the Liberal Democrats on behalf of Marilynn Ord, Kevin McClurey, Peter Craig and Dave Fawcett, all at 5 Burdon Park, Sunniside, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE16 5HA
Copyright © 2014 Councillor, All rights reserved.

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