The latest on the greenbelt grab, Whickham wins in Northumbria in Bloom, a boost for local schools, Sunniside Park's new bench, Butterfly Bridge information boards and allotments update - welcome to eFocus for September 2013. Please feel free to forward to others who want to be kept in touch with local issues.
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Labour presses on with greenbelt grab
Labour’s hopes of building on greenbelt between Whickham and Dunston have taken another step forward despite growing local opposition to their plans. Despite claiming the house-building plans were a myth in the local elections last year, Labour have now approved a final list of sites they want used for housing.
But instead of cutting back on the number of greenbelt sites to be built on, they have reduced the number of brownfield sites in urban areas to be used for new housing.
That means Labour will take the sites on Whickham Highway into a final round of consultation. The only concession Labour have made is to reduce the number of houses on the Whickham Highway sites from 770 to 550.
Homes proposed for the Central Nursery would be “town houses” but those on the greenfield sites between the Nursery and Dunston Hill Hospital are expected to be upmarket executive homes.
Labour’s plans were challenged by local Lib Dem Councillor Jonathan Wallace at the recent Council Cabinet meeting where they were approved for further consultation.
“There is a growing need for new houses but they have to be built in the right places,” said Cllr Peter Maughan. “That’s why we are appalled that Labour have reduced the number of brownfield sites to be built on whilst keeping in place all their plans to build on the greenbelt.”
“If Labour’s plans go ahead, a huge chunk of greenbelt between Whickham and Dunston will be destroyed,” said local Lib Dem campaigner Kevin McClurey. “Local roads will become more congested and the two villages will effectively be merged together.”
Gateshead Council are required by planning rules to consult further on their plans. This began on 9th September and ends on 21st October.
Local drop in sessions have been arranged as follows:
  • Tuesday 1st October Sunniside Club 3pm to 7.30pm
  • Wednesday 2nd October Dunston Leisure Centre 3pm to 7.30pm
  • Thursday 3rd October Lobley Hill Community Centre 3pm to 7pm
 Residents are encouraged to go to the drop in sessions and give their views.
Pictured above: local Lib Dem campaigners on Whickham Highway. Labour want to build 550 upmarket houses on nearby greenbelt. Left to right - Cllr John McClurey, Cllr Jonathan Wallace, Kevin McClurey, Angelika Schneider, Dave Fawcett and Cllr Marilynn Ord.
Whickham awards in Northumbria in Bloom
The Whickham area was a big winner in the Northumbria in Bloom awards announced earlier in September. Whickham itself won a gold medal in the Large Town category but other winners include:
  • Whickham Library Garden â€“ Garden Project - gold
  • Watergate Forest Park - Best Conservation Project - gold
  • Whinnies, Sunniside - Allotment Associations - gold
  • The Birches, Streetgate - Best Combined effort of Residents of a Clearly Defined Community - gold
  • The Manor House, Whickham - Best kept Grounds of a Care Home or Residential Home - gold
  • The Bridle Path, Whickham - Best Effort for Upkeep of External Premises by a Public House or Hotel – silver 
Congratulations to everyone involved. The community has put in a great effort and been rewarded for the hard work carried out. The recently formed Planting Up Whickham community group shows what can be done when people work together for the benefit of the area.
Pictured above: Councillors Peter Craig, Peter Maughan and Jonathan Wallace help out at the planting session on Church Green in July.
Government boost for local schools
Two local schools are set to expand following an announcement that the Government are to invest in new classrooms. Gibside School is to receive a cash boost of £669,000 and Dunston Riverside will get £1.6 million.
Gibside school, on Burnthouse Lane, is the only one in Gateshead to teach children with special needs but demand for places has grown in recent years. Riverside is in an area of new housing. With more new housing due to go ahead on cleared sites such as the former Dunston Rocket, demand for places at the school are likely to rise sharply.
The Coalition launched the Targeted Basic Need Programme in March 2013 to pay for new school places where there were big increases in pupil numbers. Gateshead Council were told on 1st August their bid for money from  the fund for Gibside and Riverside was successful.
The extension is expected to be ready for the start of the school year in September 2015. The school has recently space for nursery children.
Whickham Photographic Club – celebrating 40 years
Whickham Photographic Club (WPC) will celebrate their 40th anniversary this coming season. 
Based at Whickham Community Centre,  the club has about 50 members of all ages and ability and many members have received accolades for their work, for example Port of Tyne-Reflect 2012 winner John Race and runner up George Holland.
The club are looking for former members for a reunion. Were you a member of the club in the past? Do you know any former members? Do you have any old programmes, memorabilia or any stories from the early days? If so please email the club’s publicity officer Tracey Ainsley at with WPC 40th in the subject heading or telephone 0191 4229118.
For further information about the club see their web page  or visit their Facebook page.
Looking for an allotment?
Labour on Gateshead Council have promised to look at ways of increasing allotments in Gateshead.
Frankly, we are fed up with the fact that little has happened to ensure this promise is carried out. So, we are going to try to solve this problem ourselves. We are looking at whether some unused land in the area can be used for community gardens and allotments. But we need some idea of how many people want an allotment or plot to grow food.
If you are wanting to take on an allotment, please email Cllr Jonathan Wallace at Please include your name and address.
New addition to Sunniside Park unveiled
A new sculpted park bench in Sunniside Park was unveiled earlier in September by the Mayor of Gateshead, Cllr Jack Graham. The bench, with a Roman theme to celebrate the Roman history of the area (the Roman fort at Washingwell was build decades before Hadrian’s Wall) was designed by children at Clover Hill School and is on the route many take to school through the park.
Cllr Marilynn Ord said, “This is a lovely addition to the park and it was great to involve local children in the design.”
The children also visited the workshop in Durham of the artist, Graeme Hopper, who made the bench.

Pictured above: Cllr Jonathan Wallace, the Mayor (Cllr Graham), Cllr John McClurey, the Mayoress (Mrs Graham) and Cllr Marilynn Ord at the unveiling of the new bench. 
We need friends!
We are looking for people to set up two local groups: “Friends of Sunniside Park” and “Friends of Kingsway Community Park”. We are also looking for people to help run Marley Hill Community Centre.
Local facilities run by local people: we will be able to do so much more, create better local assets and gain more funding from charitable bodies if they are run by the local community for the benefit of local people. If you feel you can help run local facilities, please get in touch. We are looking for people who can be a member of a local organising committee or plant trees or help keep our new orchard or local parkland in trim. If you can help, please get in touch with Cllr John McClurey at
If you are interested in helping set up a Friends group or have issues you want to raise about Sunniside Park, join us for a walkabout on Sunday 29th September at 10am – meet in the car park on Burnthouse Lane.
Butterfly Bridge information boards installed
Three information boards about the history of the Butterfly Bridge over the River Derwent and the Derwenthaugh area have been installed. The boards explain the history of the area, from the use of the site as a river crossing point under the Romans to the Crowley ironworks of the Industrial Revolution and the heavy industries of the twentieth century.
Local history societies in Sunniside, Whickham, Swalwell, Winlato Mill and Winlaton carried out the research for the boards and won funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the project. A DVD is also being produced about the history of the Butterfly Bridge and Derwenthaugh area. For more information on it, contact Noel Adamson on One of those appearing in the DVD is Cllr Jonathan Wallace’s father David who reminisces about walking to the Butterfly Bridge from Lobley Hill as a 4 year old boy in the early 1930s with his father John.

Photo above: Mayor of Gateshead Cllr Jack Graham and Colin Douglas, chair of the Sunniside History Society, unveil one of the information boards near the Butterfly Bridge in Derwenthaugh Park. Below: one of the information boards.
Fly-tipping in Swalwell
Fly tipping is currently becoming a big problem in parts of Swalwell. The problem has been at its worst in the terraces area of Swalwell and ward councillors have had to intervene recently to have rubbish removed from several back lanes as well as a huge pile of rubbish cleared up at the site of the old Swalwell Club, which we now understand to have been sold for housing.
Cllr Chris Ord said, “If you have any information about this which you wish to pass on, please let us know. Your call (488 2545) or email ( to us will remain anonymous. You can also report problems  directly on 0191 433 7000.”
The Council has a team of people who actively investigate all reported incidents and are trained in evidence gathering and incident reporting to help catch those responsible. There have been several convictions in Gateshead already this year.

Rocketing rent rise grounded
Proposals to treble the rents on allotments rented by residents from the Council have been dropped after local Lib Dem Councillors intervened.
As part of the Council budget for 2013-14, Labour were considering trebling the rents paid for allotments. But when allotment tenants were told of the proposed rise, many contacted local Lib Dem Councillor Jonathan Wallace, a leading advocate of the grow-your-own movement in the area.
Cllr Wallace then intervened with officers and following this, the plans were pulled from the Cabinet agenda the next day at which the budget was debated so that consultation on the planned rent rise (which would have been 100 times the rate of inflation) could take place. The Council Cabinet agreed instead to consult on the rent rise.
Cllr Wallace then  arranged two meetings with allotment holders as part of the consultation. Following this, the Council Cabinet decided to abandon the rent rise and to ask for views on how Council allotments should be run and what sort of rent level should be paid. This is what Cllr Wallace asked should happen in February when the row first broke out.
“The Council is now consulting on how allotments should be run,” said Jonathan. “I will be working with residents who rent their allotments from the Council to ensure their concerns are heard. I will also be helping to pull together a set of proposals that transfers the running of the allotment sites from the council to the allotment holders themselves.”

Jonathan on BBC1
Cllr Jonathan Wallace is known for his support for allotments and local food production. His interest came to the attention of the BBC and for the past 6 months they have been following him as he aims to become self-sufficient and grow all his own food. The programme – Inside Out - will be broadcast on Monday 30th September at 7.30pm on BBC1.
You can also follow Jonathan on his allotment blog.
Marley Hill Community Centre – Halloween theme on 27th October
The next Sunday in the Centre at Marley Hill Community Centre will be on Sunday 27th October from 10am to 3pm. There will be a Halloween theme and the cafe will be serving up pumpkin pie and pumpkin soup. There will also be a Halloween lantern competition for children. There will be craft stalls, Sunday newspapers and a 2nd hand books sale. The snooker and darts rooms will also be open.
The cafe uses locally grown food so if you have produce from your garden or allotment that you want to swap for local honey, free range eggs and jams and preserves, please bring it to the Community Centre on 27th October or email Jonathan Wallace on
Dunston sub-station
Planning permission is being sought to build an electricity sub-station on land to the north of Dunston Social Club on Ravensworth Road.
Useful links
If you run a local community organisation that has a website, why not include a link in future editions of eFocus. Our email newsletter goes to nearly 2,000 homes in the Whickham area so including a link will be a good way to reach a bigger, local audience. If you are interested, email Jonathan Wallace on
Aiming to grow all my own food in Sunniside:
Whickham Mobi for business and local information:
Whickham Fellside Football Club:
Sunniside Local History Society:
Blaydon Rugby Club:
Woodland Trust:
Fiona Hall MEP:
Swalwell Juniors Football Club:
Whickham FC:
Whickham FC:
Our Gateshead (includes discussion forums)
Village Dental Practice:
Whickham Clavering Rotary Club
Whickham Photographic Club, namely
Swalwell Taxis
Whickham Bridge Club
Copyright © 2013 Councillor, All rights reserved.

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