In this edition of eFocus - greenbelt building plans, news about quarries at Blaydon and Crawcrook, heritage plans for the Derwent Valley, upgrades for A1 and much more. Feel free to forward eFocus to others who will find it useful.
Councillor Christine McHatton at one of the greenbelt sites in Ryton which Labour wants to use for house-building.
There is growing anger over the decision by Labour councillors to open up the greenbelt in Ryton, Crawcrook and Chopwell for house building.
Despite a huge level of opposition from local residents to the loss of greenfields and countryside, Labour councillors forced through their draft Local Plan on 19th December. Labour want the countryside in western Gateshead to be used for hundreds of new private homes, not the affordable houses that are badly needed.
Labourâ€™s greenbelt building plans have to go to a public inquiry later this year. The Labour Party are expected to put in a strong defence of their plans at the inquiry.
â€œWe are very disappointed that the greenbelt building plans have taken such a big step forward,â€ said Ryton Councillor Christine McHatton. â€œLocal roads are already congested and cannot cope with more traffic. Local services will be stretched to breaking point.
â€œPeople are angry that Labour decided not to go ahead with developing some brownfield sites in central and eastern Gateshead where the new homes are needed. Instead, they have opted to build on the greenbelt instead.â€
Lib Dem campaigner in Crawcrook and Greenside ward, Tom Hancock, said, â€œAll of this has occurred while Crawcrook, Ryton and Chopwell have 8 Labour councillors. They have completely failed to impact the decisions affecting our area. No matter what the issue, the Liberal Democrats would fight for Crawcrook and give our community the voice in the Council that itâ€™s sorely missing.â€
Path Head Landfill Site
Lib Dem European Spokesman for the North East of England, Angelika Schneider joins Cllr Christine McHatton outside the Path Head landfill site.
Residents are continuing to raise concerns about Path Head quarry near Blaydon. Councillor Christine McHatton has received several complaints from residents from about foul smells.
Complaints either direct to the Environmental Agency on 0800 80 70 60 or via Christine are then reported to the Path Head Liaison meeting, with SITA, the site operators, in attendance too, and each complaint is discussed.
Councillor McHatton will continue to represent the views of concerned residents on this panel and fight for decent air quality and peaceful enjoyment of your homes. Please email Christine if you require any further information.
Crawcrook Quarry Landfill Plan
Angelika Schneider (Lib Dem European Spokesman), Cllr Christine McHatton and Tom Hancock meet up to discuss the Labour Council's plans to consider Crawcrook Quarry as a landfill site.
Buried deep in the Gateshead Councilâ€™s core strategy document are long term plans to use Crawcrook Quarry as a landfill site.
The vast majority of landfill sites in Tyne and Wear exist in Gateshead and despite exceeding our regional commitment, the Gateshead Council seem intent on using Crawcrook Quarry too.
Crawcrook residents need only go visit their neighbours in Ryton, Crookhill and Stella to understand the impact of a landfill on their day to day lives. Those in the vicinity of Path Head Landfill are forced to continually suffer foul odours, rubbish and vermin in their area.
Local Campaigner Tom Hancock commented â€œThe Labour Council are once again ignoring the wishes of our community by taking us one step closer to an unnecessary landfill. We need to have a real debate about this instead of hiding it at the bottom of a reportâ€.
Derwent Valley â€“ â€˜Land of Oak and Ironâ€™
Local history societies in 2013 arranged for the installation of information boards about the Butterfly Bridge over the Derwent River. Now plans are being drawn up to promote the history of the Derwent Valley on a bigger scale.
The Derwent Valley landscape partnership â€˜Land of Oak and Ironâ€™ project has been awarded a grant of Â£155,980 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The partnership project is made up of the charity Groundwork North East, Gateshead, Northumberland and Durham Councils, the Durham Wildlife Trust, Gateshead Voluntary Organisations Council, North of England Civic Trust, the Environment Agency and Natural England.
The Derwent Valley was at the forefront of the industrial revolution but whilst many other areas have capitalised on their history, many feel that the Derwent Valley needs to catch up by highlighting its coal, coke, steel, rail and manufacturing past.
The Lottery grant will now mean the Partnership can start to make this happen. The plans also include protecting natural assets as well as identifying long lost waggonways and the remains of the once extensive coal mining, coke producing and steel making industries would be protected
Over the next year, the grant will be used to develop plans for the Derwent Valley. If all goes well, the plan will be used to bid for Â£2.4 million of Heritage Lottery funding in 2015.
Affordable Homes for Ryton
After the demolition of the aged personâ€™s sheltered housing scheme on The Lonnen at Crookhill, Ryton, Lib Dem Councillors past and present called for the site to be used for affordable homes for rent. Working with officers and developers a scheme has now been put forward for 8 two bedroomed semis, 10 three bedroomed semi detached/terraced homes and 2 four bedroomed houses to be built on the site.
There will be a small proportion of these homes for sale, but the vast majority will be affordable social rent properties and will be administered by Gateshead Council. It is hoped that after full planning permission is granted the site can be developed quickly.
Consultation with residents about the site was held earlier in February. Support for the plans was very positive. Assuming planning permission is granted for the new houses, building should start in March and be completed next year.
A small site off Runhead Estate has also been put forward for a smaller number of homes. However, because of the sighting of garages and access to nearby allotments, there is still a little work to be done to sort out the details of the development.
Jonathan Wallace at the saltheap site next to the Swalwell roundabout.
In 2013, Gateshead Councilâ€™s Cabinet agreed the sale of the old salt heap site, next to the River Derwent and the Swalwell Roundabout, to the charity Emmaus, subject to certain conditions being met.
Local Lib Dem campaigners took the lead in ensuring residents were informed of the proposals that the site could be used for a hostel for homeless people.
A meeting of community representatives and the Council was held at Blaydon Youth Club in July. One of these conditions discussed was that any new building on the site should be used for housing low risk individuals.
Since then, Council officers have written to Emmaus with a definition of what is meant by â€œlow riskâ€ based on statements previously made by Emmaus. They have now responded saying that they could not accept this condition.
â€œCouncil officers have therefore told local Lib Dem Councillors the Council cannot continue with the sale of the site to Emmaus,â€ said Lib Dem Blaydon campaigner Cllr Jonathan Wallace. â€œTherefore the Emmaus plans for the site are not going ahead.â€
A1 improvements on their way to Western By-Pass
Cllr Jonathan Wallace and Cllr Frank Hindle (Leader of the Opposition on Gateshead Council) at the recent consultation event on the Government's plans to upgrade the A1 Western By-Pass.
The Coalition Government has already announced plans to upgrade the A1 between Lobley Hill and Dunston.
There is now a possibility that the upgrade will be extended to include the building of a third lane on the south bound side of the road from the Metrocentre to Dunston. And there could also be a new lane added to each side of the road from Lobley Hill to the southern end of the Team Valley.
The aim is to address the heavy congestion on the road. A final decision will be taken in spring 2014.
â€œThe improvements are good news for the area,â€ said Blaydon Lib Dem campaigner Cllr Jonathan Wallace. â€œCongestion on the A1 will be reduced as a result.â€
The new lanes will be built on existing highways land so there will be no demolition of properties. Building work is expected to start in the summer.
Bus service changes
From 2nd February the following changes to bus services have been made:
Service 31/32 (Winlaton â€“ Newcastle) operated by Go North East. 0808 Newcastle to Winlaton 32 journey will terminate at Blaydon.
Service 49/49B/49C (Gateshead â€“ Winlaton) Route and timetable amended. 49A and 49B amalgamated into new 49B. Service numbers will be 49, 49B, 49C.
Service 90 (Winlaton â€“ Team Valley) operated by Go North East. Morning journeys amended to improve punctuality.
Self-Sufficient in Suburbia
Jonathan Wallace with Georgina, one of his goats. Both were stars of BBCâ€™s Inside Out programme on self-sufficiency.
Local Councillor Jonathan Wallace was recently featured on BBCâ€™s Inside Out programme. Jonathan is a keen gardener and allotment-holder and he was followed for 6 months earlier this year by a BBC film crew as he set out to become self-sufficient.
â€œThe BBC started filming in March and for the next month we thought the winter would never end,â€ said Jonathan. â€œWe set 1st August as the day we wanted finally to switch to being self-sufficient. We achieved that though sometimes we need to go to the shops for an occasional ingredient that it is not possible to grow ourselves.
â€œWe are also trying to set up a local food trading network through Marley Hill Community Centre. The idea is that people can bring in their own produce and swap it with us for our jam, eggs, Tamworth pork and honey. Some of this produce is used in our community cafe.
â€œSo far people have traded vegetables, fruit, freshly caught trout, lamb, herbs, homemade soap and hay with us. In 2014, we want to expand this so that more people can swap their produce and goods with other local people.â€
Ryton Main Road
Roadworks on Main Road, Ryton, from the Memorial at the Methodist Church to outside Ryton Comprehensive School, are due to end on 24th February. Work is taking place to renovate the water main.
The Lonnen, Ryton
Planning permission is being sought to build 20 houses at The Lonnen, Ryton.
Clara Vale Chapel
Planning permission is being sought to convert the Clara Vale Wesleyan Church And Chapel into a house. The proposal includes the demolition of the outbuildings.
Dipwood Road, Rowlands Gill
There will be temporary traffic lights on Dipwood Road, Rowlands Gill, on 24th â€“ 28th February whilst resurfacing takes place.
Redheugh Bridge Closure
The Redheugh Bridge will be closed on 16th March (for the day only) to allow for maintenance work to be carried out.
Published and promoted by and on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, 8-10 Great George Street, London SW1P 3AE