May 2014 edition of eFocus. We report on the return of the iconic butterfly flower beds in Whickham, reach 500 signatures on the petition opposing opencast mining, save honey bees in Sunniside for a community project, outline improvements to a nature reserve in Swalwell and much more. Please feel free to forward eFocus to those who may find it interesting and useful.
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Whickham's iconic butterfly beds to be restored
In yet another success story for Planting Up Whickham, our famous butterfly beds are to be replanted again this summer. The beds, opposite the Gibside Arms in Whickham Village, were removed 2 years ago by Gateshead Council to address concerns about the health and safety of workers maintaining the site.

But now, due to the efforts of volunteer group Planting Up Whickham, a sponsor has been found for the project and five beds will be in place this summer. Hodgson Toyota, Metro Centre have donated the £1,950 needed to plant and maintain the beds opposite the Gibside Arms. The central bed will display the Toyota logo and the other four will be planted in the shape of butterflies.

Rae Beckwith from Planting Up Whickham has designed the beds and the group will plant them up on Wednesday 28th May. A local contractor has been engaged to prepare the site and maintain the grassed area. You may have noticed that this work has already started.

Cllr Peter Craig (pictured below), founder of the group, said, “This is great news for our village and many thanks go to the members of Planting Up Whickham who have made this possible. The butterfly beds are part of our historic floral heritage and many residents will be pleased to see them back in place.” 
Planting Up Whickham are looking for help. It would be great if you could a make small donation. Many people have signed up to contribute £1 per month – could you join them?

Or you can contribute your time, by joining one of the regular planting or maintenance days. The next two are:
  • Wednesday 28th May – stripping the beds on Church Green
  • Wednesday 4th June – summer planting. 
For both events, please meet on the Church Green at 6:00 pm. Contact Cllr. Peter Craig on 0191 4880787 for further details.

Swalwell residents too are setting out to plant up their village as well. Swalwell Community Group are restoring flowerbeds beside the William Wallace plaque and the war memorial.

Anyone interested in helping to plant can join the group at 6pm at the William Wallace memorial on 4 June. 
500 sign petition opposing opencast plans
Over 500 people have now signed our petition against plans to opencast a million tonnes of coal at Marley Hill. The petition will be handed in to Gateshead Council shortly.

One of the leaders of the campaign to reject the application, Kevin McClurey, said, "This is a good number of signatures but we want even more people to sign. We need to demonstrate to Labour councillors that this application is unacceptable.

"At the moment, Labour are refusing to come off the fence though their local election candidates in the area are suggesting there are advantages to letting the plans go ahead."

"Residents can rely on local Lib Dem campaigners to fight these plans," said Cllr Marilynn Ord. "We need Councillors who take a lead to protect our communities from these dangers. Our area cannot afford to be represented by people who sit on the fence."
Anti-social behaviour survey
Since last summer, your local Lib Dem councillors have been carrying out a survey across the Whickham and surrounding area and the results are in!

One of the key issues we asked about was anti-social behaviour. Almost 40% of people surveyed think that anti-social behaviour (ASB) is not as bad as it was 2 years ago.
And just over 2 years ago was when we put our anti social behaviour strategy in place.
We worked with Gateshead Council and the Police to set up a group led by local ward councillors with representatives from the Community Beat Police Team and council officers from Youth Services, Community Safety, Community Based Services, Local Environmental Services and Trading Standards.
There will always be ‘hot spots’ of ASB, and we are dealing with some of those at the moment in one or two areas of Whickham, but overall we think that the strategy is starting to work.

Please let us know your views. We can also provide a survey form if you have not yet had an opportunity to complete one. It covers a wide range of topics that are current within Whickham.
Sunniside neighbourhood watch
Residents of Sunniside are looking to set up a neighbourhood watch scheme and are looking for interested people to take part. If you are interested, please contact Colin Reay.
Honeybees saved from Sun Hill demolition
PLANS to start a community beekeeping project in Gateshead have been hatched following the successful rescue of three honeybee colonies from a building being demolished in Sunniside.
Sun Hill Aged Person’s Unit was closed in January after the residents moved out into a brand new building next door. But three honeybee colonies that had lived in the roof of the building for seven years needed to be found a new home so that the old Sun Hill could be demolished. If they weren’t rehoused, they would have to be destroyed.
Sunniside Lib Dem Councillor Jonathan Wallace, who is a beekeeper, decided to save the colonies himself. After negotiations with the building’s owners, Keepmoat, he was able to enter the building last week. 
“The colonies had lived side by side with the residents for years without any problems,” said Jonathan. “I remember the day the first swarm arrived at Sun Hill. Residents watched as it landed on the roof of the building and then moved into the roof space to set up home.
“That was 7 years ago. Since then, another two colonies have appeared in different parts of the building.
“I couldn’t go into the building to rescue the bees until it had been cleared of asbestos. When I did go in, all the ceilings had been stripped out and I got my first look at the colonies. They were all very large.
“I was able to cut the honeycomb from the roof and put it into hives with the bees. I have now moved them to one of the sites where I keep our own hives.
“Next year I will move the hives to Marley Hill Community Centre where we hope to set up community gardens on the unused land next to the building.The beekeeping project will be set up as part of this.
“I want as many people as possible involved with this project and I will be asking schools to take part as well.”
One of the honeybee colonies in the roof of Sun Hill before it was rescued by Cllr Wallace.
Cllr Wallace filmed the week long rescue of the bees and the video can be viewed on this link.
Anyone interested in joining the project can contact Jonathan.
Jonathan gave up his job nearly 5 years ago to concentrate on growing his own food and becoming self-sufficient. He learnt beekeeping to be able to produce his own honey.
Pedal power in Swalwell
Cllr Peter Craig with Vickie Gowland outside the new Pedalling Squares coffee bar in Swalwell

A new cafe has opened in Swalwell, but this one is a bit different! Proprietors Vickie Gowland and Eric Murphy have set up a cycling coffee bar in The Old Brassworks, Quality Row Road, Swalwell (just off Derwent Walk cycle path).


It is ideally sited for cyclists (who can take their bikes in), dog walkers (yes you can take your dog in as well!) and in fact, everyone else is welcome also. Products sold in the cafe will be locally sourced and there will be opportunities for local crafters to sell their work. The cafe can also be used by local groups to meet.


For more information visit their website or call 0191 230 4334.

Cross Lane Meadows improvement

Cllr Chris Ord at the Station Wood entrance to Cross Lane Meadows

Work has been carried out to improve the nature reserve at Cross Lane Meadows in Swalwell. The area has now been fenced off but access to the site for local residents has been preserved by creating gaps in the fencing and kissing gates.


The work has been done with a grant and by taking advice from Natural England - the government body that advises on nature conservation. The fencing became necessary to allow grazing to take place. There were concerns that without this, the future of the flowers that grow on the site would be at risk. It is important to safeguard these, because without them the site may lose its status as a nature reserve.


It was this status that helped in the summer of 2011 to save the area from initial proposals in the Council’s Strategic Land Review to use it for new house building.


When we reported this in Focus residents of Swalwell raised major concerns about the loss of greenbelt. Lib Dems led the battle to stop the land being designated for house-building. Eventually these proposals were dropped from the Review, saving Swalwell’s greenbelt for future generations.

Lobley Hill junction closure
The south bound junction onto the A1 at the Lobley Hill roundabout is to be closed for the next few weeks whilst work is carried out to improve access into and out of the Team Valley Trading Estate. There will also be detours for traffic on the A692 Lobley Hill Road/Bensham Bank with vehicles being rerouted via the Team Valley.

People are strongly advised to avoid the area if they can whilst the work is being carried out.
Marley Hill Community Centre cafe and craft market
The next community cafe and craft market at Marley Hill Community Centre will be on Sunday 25th May. The cafe opens at 9am and the craft market at 11am.

The menu uses as many locally produced foods as possible. There will be Sunday newspapers to read, a 2nd hand book sale, children's play area, and the snooker and darts rooms will be open. Locally produced hen, duck and quail eggs, bacon and pork and preserves will be on sale.

All welcome.
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