Monday, July 10, 2017

Woodfest at Chopwell Woods

Yesterday, I headed over to Chopwell Woods for the Woodfest hosted by Land of Oak and Iron. Lots of woodland skills on display, especially for those like me who are aiming to be self-sufficient.

Marley Hill Funday

Marley Hill Community Centre July 17

In between two visits to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital on Saturday to visit my friend who was on the emergency assessment ward, I managed to get up to Marley Hill Community Centre to call in on the funday. The centre has been transferred to the Vineyard Church. They will continue to run it as a community centre but they will also invest in the building and use it as a base for their own activities. They already appear to be making a good job of it.

The funday had been organised to bring people into the centre and introduce residents to the people now running the centre. There seemed to be a large number of bouncy castles at the event. I resisted the temptation to try one out!

Blue light and siren

I thought when Dad died in May, I wouldn't be visiting the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead for a while to come. How wrong I was. A friend who has been in poor health has been staying with us recently to help him recover. Last week he deteriorated significantly. On Friday, I called the 111 service and by the end of the call, an ambulance had been ordered. I went with the ambulance to the QE Hospital, blue lights flashing and siren sounding. I spent four hours supporting my friend on the emergency assessment ward but at 10.30pm I returned home. It now looks like I will be visiting the QE every day for some time to come.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Getting ready to reopen Whickham Library

Jonathan Wallace Whickham Library July 17

Whickham Library has been closed as a facility directly provided by Gateshead Council. It is to open instead as a volunteer library on Monday. I have joined the volunteers and have become a trustee as well. We had a meeting of the volunteers last week. Today, we met up to look at some of the practicalities of the building. We are all set for the launch on Monday morning (doors open at 10am).

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Renovated in time to be demolished

Chase Park entrance renovation Jul 17

It was good to see renovation work taking place on the entrance to Whickham's Chase Park yesterday. The Heritage Lottery Fund is investing £1 million to bring the historic park back up to scratch. The renovation work includes restoration of the entrance and stone gateposts on Rectory Lane. All great stuff. But.......

Some of this renovation work could be in vain. Labour in Gateshead are eager to sell part of Chase Park for housing. They have declared the former depot and stable blocks as surplus to requirements. They've thrown into the deal the entrance to the park as well.

This is a prime location in the heart of Whickham and it is unlikely that there will be a lack of interest from developers. The key to any development is the entrance. Without that, the development will never happen. The entrance is a single lane so it will have to be widened. That's why Labour are flogging off the verge to the right of the lane, right up to the high boundary wall on the right of the entrance - see photo above.

That means the lovingly restored gatepost on the right will need to be demolished. This is a conservation zone as well and the gateway is an historic part of the area.

Lib Dem councillors are fighting the plans to sell off the people's park and stop Labour's heritage vandalism. The issue is relevant across the whole Gateshead. If Labour get away with selling Chase Park for housing, other parks will come into their sights as well.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Don't pour water on a burning chip pan!

When I visited the Swalwell Fire Station open day yesterday, there was a demonstration about what not to do with a burning chip pan - never pour water on it! I filmed the demonstration which rather brings home the message.

Blaydon Bridge repaired

Blaydon Bridge replacement Jul 17 (2)

Last year a lorry hit the Blaydon Footbridge. A section of it had to be removed. Yesterday, the replacement section was installed, resulting in the eastbound A695 being closed for much of the day. I had a look at the site in the early afternoon. Work was coming along well. Fingers crossed that the bridge will be open for use in the near future.

Dunston Festival

Dunston fair July 17 (2)

My second visit yesterday was to the Dunston Festival at Dunston UTS football ground. Richard, my friend who accompanied me, won 2 prizes on the tombola - both makeup remover. Not the most useful of things! Nice to bump into the mayor, Pauline Dillon (in whose ward Dunston football ground is based).

Dunston fair July 17 (3)

Swalwell Fire Station open day

Swalwell Fire Station open day Jul 17 (1)

Yesterday, Swalwell Fire Station had an open day so I popped down to have a chat with people and watch some fire safety demonstrations. The most shocking one was the effect of pouring water on a burning chip pan. Fortunately that was carried out at a distance!

I also bumped into Liz Twist, the Labour MP for Blaydon who expressed her condolences about the loss of my Dad during the election campaign. We had a chat about offices in Westminster and the joy of not having to be based in the actual Houses of Parliament building. It brought back all my memories of working in Westminster a decade ago.

Swalwell Fire Station open day Jul 17 (2)

Saturday, July 01, 2017

From EU fans to Hard Brexiteers in just over a year

In February last year, Labour on Gateshead Council moved the following motion:

“Council notes the upcoming referendum on our membership of the European Union, which will occur before 2017 but which could be as early as June 2016.

Council welcomes the benefits that Gateshead residents receive from UK membership of the European Union, in particular:
  •          Job creation
  •          Investment in the North East
  •          Protecting consumer and workers’ rights
  •          Supporting peace and security in Europe
  •          Improvements to the environment

Council notes, with concern, the risks involved in leaving the European Union and the impact that leaving would have on jobs and investment, as well as social and consumer rights.

Council requests that the Chief Executive explores ways in which the Council, working with partners, can further promote European investment in local projects, organisations and businesses.”

The Lib Dem group supported the motion. Then came the Brexit referendum result in June 2016. Move forward to February 2017 and Gateshead debated the following Lib Dem motion:

“This Council notes the results of the referendum on the 23rd June 2016. This Council further notes that many leading supporters of the leave campaign backed calls for the UK to remain in the single market, even if there was a decision to leave the EU. Furthermore, this council notes that proposals to withdraw from the single market were not included in the referendum question.

This Council notes that significant numbers of Gateshead’s residents are employed by businesses that trade directly with the single market.

This Council calls on the Government to negotiate to keep the UK in the single market and calls on Gateshead MPs to oppose the triggering of Article 50 in Parliament until assurances are given that the Government will negotiate for the country to remain in it.”

Labour voted against. The journey towards hard Brexit was underway. And then last week, new Labour MP for Blaydon and still a councillor in Gateshead, Liz Twist, abstained on the amendment to the Queen's Speech. Her literature had avoided any mention of Brexit during the election. The only mention of Brexit that I am aware of made by her during the campaign was at the Rowlands Gill hustings when I actually put the point to her that she had said nothing on the issue. Her answer still threw no light on her position. It was a clear as mud.

Nevertheless, no matter how much mud under which Liz, and indeed the rest of the Labour Party in Gateshead, attempts to their obscure views on Brexit, it is clear that the positions held by Labour and Conservatives nationally are almost identical. And the local Labour party appears now to be following this hard Brexit lead.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Video - Gateshead's Energy Centre

A short video of the Gateshead Energy Centre which I shot yesterday.

Visiting the Gateshead Energy Centre

Gateshead Energy Centre June 17 (3)

One of the first acts of the Lib Dems in the Coalition in 2010 was to allow councils to set up energy companies. I'm pleased to say that Gateshead was one of the first councils to take up this new freedom. The Gateshead Energy Centre has been built. It is a combined heat and power plant and will sell electricity and heat to public and private sector buildings in the central Gateshead area. The Gateshead Energy Company has been set up to run the plant and sell the electricity and heat and it should be running at a profit in the near future, once the plant is up and running and the network of wires and pipes is completed.

I visited the plant yesterday to have a look around. I'm looking forward to proposals for new plants elsewhere in Gateshead.

Gateshead Energy Centre June 17 (5)

Gateshead Energy Centre June 17 (6)

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Avoid the Blaydon roundabout on Saturday

On Saturday the damaged section of the footbridge over the A695 will be replaced. Expect lots of disruption to the road as the east bound carriageway will be closed. The bridge was damaged when it was hit by a lorry last year. I did ask about who is paying for the repair (surely the lorry driver's insurance should cover it) at a council meeting recently but I haven't yet had an answer.