Tagged: Morpeth

Morpeth guerilla gardeners stage protest at historic Northumberland properties

Guerilla gardeners who risked prosecution in order to tidy up eyesore sites have staged a protest.

A group of people who live at Morpeth last year trespassed onto the grounds of Northumberland County Council’s derelict 19th century Willows and Beechfield properties to carry out an impromptu clean up.

They have now staged a protest at the sites to call for the cherished buildings not to be bulldozed as part of new development planned, and for more consultation with local people.

The buildings, which are on the same site on Gas House Lane, date from before 1860. They were bought by the county council in 1930 with Willows subsequently used as a centre for the unemployed.

During the Second World War, Beechfield housed a first aid centre and air raid precautions headquarters while Willows was used by the Red Cross.

After the war the buildings were used by the employment committee and school grounds department, and in 1952 became the County Library headquarters.

Willows is a former care home.

However, both sites are said to have stood derelict for more than 10 years, with their grounds becoming overgrown.

Residents led by David E. Clark, of Morpeth Town Council, and friend Garry Featherstone, a building surveyor and Master Builder with a special interest in historic buildings, decided to take matters into their own hands in September last year.

They sought legal advice on the laws of trespass and gained access to the grounds to carry out a clean up.

Since then, the county council has unveiled plans for a riverside development at the sites, as part of a blueprint for the town and Northumberland as a whole.

The gardeners arranged a protest on Tuesday afternoon through Facebook group Morpeth Matters. Thirty people turned out at just 24 hours notice.

Coun Clark said protestors were motivated by desire to retain the cherished buildings in some form and a lack of involvement of local people in what is to happen at the sites.

He said:

“Thirty people turned up just to demonstrate their anger and frustration at the fact the county council have not even consulted with the general public, they just seem to take these decisions without any kind of consultation and they are here just to knock down our heritage.

“Morpeth has lost lots of old buildings. Once they are erased, they are gone forever. These buildings should be retained in some shape or form.”

The protestors have been backed by county councillor for Morpeth David Bawn.

He said:

“I am sure I am not the only person in Morpeth with some disquiet about the masterplan released by Northumberland County Council regarding the re-siting of various facilities in Morpeth, which to my mind goes against the spirit of the emerging Neighbourhood Plan.

“With specific reference to the attractive Victorian Willows building, I agree that this area of the riverside and corner of the town desperately needs to be redeveloped, but we must do all we can to protect our town’s historic built environment.

“It is self evident that any redevelopment must incorporate the existing historic buildings rather than demolish them.”

A county council spokesman said:

“The council believes that the existing library site and adjoining buildings at The Willows and Beechfield could form a site to be used for a landmark riverside development for the benefit of the town.

“These proposals are obviously at an early stage and are subject to a number of factors.

“We will be working with the town council and the neighbourhood plan group as we develop future proposals.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 14 May 2015

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Will makers of film Suffragette starring Meryl Streep portray Emily Davison’s death as suicide?

Campaigners have expressed concern about how women’s rights activist Emily Wilding Davison might be portrayed in a forthcoming blockbuster movie.

The film called Suffragette is due to be released in September and boasts an all star cast including Meryl Streep as Emmeline Pankhurst, Helena Bonham Carter and Carey Mulligan.

It also features Natalie Press as Davison, who is buried in Morpeth, Northumberland, following her death after being hit by the King’s horse during the 1913 Derby.

The ‘Emily Inspires’ group, which is based in Northumberland and has the backing of Davison’s descendants, became concerned after a website revealed details of a film about Emily which appeared to suggest she had committed suicide that day.

Emily Wilding Davison who is buried at St. Mary's Church in Morpeth.
Emily Wilding Davison who is buried at St. Mary’s Church in Morpeth.

Its Chair, Andrew Tebbutt, explained:

“We’re concerned because we understand there has been blurb for it talking of her throwing herself in front of the horse.

“A letter has been sent to the makers about this but we’ve heard nothing back yet as far as I’m aware.”

We tried to contact award winning writer Abi Morgan who penned Suffragette to clear up the matter.

However, on her behalf, we received a statement from Pathe, which is co-producing the film with Film4 productions, which said:

“Abi Morgan won’t be doing any interviews about the film until much closer to the release in the Autumn.

“Unfortunately I must ask you to wait to see the film before commenting on how Emily Davison is portrayed. The one thing I can tell you now is that she is a supporting character in the film, so is not the focus of the story.”

For many years it had been said that Davison did, in effect, commit suicide by steeping in the front of the horse, Anmer.

Recently, however, modern historians have ruled out the suicide theory. In 2013 analysis of newsreel has supported the idea that Davison was reaching up to attach a scarf to the bridle of the King’s horse.

Analysis of the newsreel also indicated that her position before she stepped out onto the track would have given her a clear view of the oncoming race, further countering the belief that she ran out in a haphazard way to kill herself.

1913 Suffragette derby
1913 Suffragette derby

Mr Tebbutt said: “If you re going to some sort of historical documentary, do it properly and tell the truth.

“She was quite happy to die for the cause of getting women the vote, but that is not what she intended to do that day.

“She was preparing to go see her nephew and niece in France afterwards – she had a return ticket. So her intention was not to die that day.”

Emily Inspires said another movie called Emily: Deeds Not Words had spoken of her as a “terrorist” and a “martyr”.

They said it was possible this film had been confused with Suffragette.

Davison was born in London the daughter of Northumberland parents. She was a militant activist who fought for women to be given the vote in Britain and was jailed on nine occasions and force-fed 49 times.

Davison died four days after the Derby incident from the injuries she suffered.

Her funeral was organised by the Women’s Social and Political Union and thousands of suffragettes accompanied the coffin while tens of thousands of people lined the streets of London.

After a service in Bloomsbury her coffin was taken by train to the family grave in the church yard of St. Mary the Virgin, Morpeth.

Source –  Sunday Sun, 29 Mar 2015

> The events were captured by newsreel –

Northumberland charity accuse UKIP of ‘sabotaging’ youth event

UKIP has been accused of attempting to “sabotage” a charity event intended to get young people interested in politics.

Northumberland youth charity Leading Link blamed the UK Independence Party for its decision to reschedule a Question Time-style event.

And the charity said police were even drafted in to cover a replacement event on Thursday night, in case of disruption.

The question-and-answer event has been held by the Bedlington-based charity for the last four years, and sees a debate between local schoolchildren, members of the public and guests.

It was due held at County Hall in Morpeth on Thursday, and young people had invited representatives from the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour parties to attend.

UKIP were not invited, which the party claimed was “undemocratic”.

Leading Link said it was contacted by a string of regional and national UKIP representative demanding to know why the party had not been invited, with one claiming the charity was contravening various acts.

Charity bosses say they explained that attendees had been selected by the young people and made it clear the event was not linked to May’s general election.

But then, the charity says, several tickets were acquired online in the names of local UKIP figures.

And the organisers took the decision to postpone the event until after the general election.

In place of the cancelled event, a replacement just for the young people was organised with just the current Wansbeck MP, Labour’s Ian Lavery.

And the charity said it had arranged for Northumbria Police to attend, in case of any disturbance.

Charity assistant manager Jonny Hall said:

“The reason why we were holding it was to give these young people a real experience of debating and making a positive change.

“Because we now feel that the spirit would be completely lost and it became a politically-motivated campaign, we have since cancelled it and moved to this closed session instead.

“The whole thing has been completely blown out of proportion. The fact a school debate is having to be cancelled speaks volumes.”

Mr Lavery hit out at UKIP for “jeopardising” the chances of young people getting engaged in politics.

He added: “Lyn (Horton, charity manager) said she has never known anything like this. It is sad we have not had the original event.”

The media officer for UKIP’s Wansbeck branch, said it was “blatantly untrue” to claim the event was not political given the attendance of the other parties.

Why invite three politicians? And how do you educate the young people if you do not invite all political views?” he said. “It is totally undemocratic.”

He added:

“I think they have cancelled because they knew we would get it advertised to the public in Wansbeck. We had kicked up a bit of a fuss.”

Asked if anyone from UKIP would be attending the event, he added: “Nobody knows where it is.

Northumbria Police confirmed that officers were attending. A spokesperson said:

“Members of the Neighbourhood Policing Teams regularly attend community events to continue to build on the strong links already in place.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 05 Mar 2015

Newcastle Unites: Thousands turn out for counter-march against Pegida protest in Newcastle

Newcastle stood united against hate as thousands of anti-Pegida protestors marched through the streets of the city this morning.

Anti-fascists, trade unions, religious and community groups, and politicians all turned out to oppose the German “anti-Islamisation” group’s first visit to Britian.

“I wish this wasn’t necessary,” said Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah, one of the speakers on the march.

“What we’d like is for Pegida to have Newcastle Unites: Thousands turn out for counter-march against Pegida protest not picked our great city to march in.

“But to see people of all cultures and backgrounds, from across the political spectrum and including many football fans, turn out really shows Newcastle is united against these outsiders.”

Charlie Trotter, 21, a waiter from Morpeth in Northumberland, was among a group carrying a Morpeth 4 Peace banner.

“I came down to help make it known that the people of the North Eats are comfortable with immigration and people of different backgrounds and to show that we need to stand up to the far right,” said Charlie.

Gateshead MP Ian Mearns said the number of people at the Newcastle Unites march, which travelled from the gates of the city’s Chinatown, down Gallowgate, and down Newgate Street, was “fantastic.”

“It really shows the solidarity among the people of Newcastle and the North East, and from the perspective that the Pegida protest only had numbers in the low hundreds, and the counter protest had thousands it’s very encouraging,” he said.

But what I can’t understand is among the Pegida rally there will have been British Nationalists demonstrating alongside proud Europeans – it doesn’t make sense.”

Among the speakers who took to the Newcastle Unites stage was German MEP Arne Lietz, who travelled from Gelsenkirchen.

“For me it is very important to show solidarity and that we are together as Europeans against hate,” he said.

This Pegida protest will have attracted other groups or individuals who will call themselves Pegida, but many of whom are right wing and nationalist, and who’s hate speak we don’t want to see in the European Union.

“I come from East Germany when I grew up we were singled out for being Christians under the Communist regime. I now want to ensure that we live in a fair Europe with the liberties denied to my own parents.”

The Newcastle Unites march on Newgate street and the Pegida protest on the Bigg Market were kept around 100 yards apart by police cordons and scores of uniformed officers enforcing a “sterile zone.”

It is not yet known if any arrests were made at either protest

> I had hoped to attend myself ( the Newcastle Unites rally, in case you were wondering !) but  the effects of bronchitis made worse by a heavy cold dictated otherwise.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 28 Feb 2015

> Pegida supporters (for today, anyway – back to EDL tomorrow). As one comment for this video put it: “Never seen so many inbreed sister fuckers in one place, look like scum sound like scum tramps get a life..”

Rail fares increase hits the pocket of North East train commuters

Passengers using trains in the North East will be hit in the pocket again in 2015 as rail fares rise.

The fares increase comes into effect on Friday and regulated fares – including season tickets – have risen by up to 2.5%,

A season ticket on the Morpeth to Newcastle route was £1,040 but that increases to £1,056 in 2015.

The Campaign for Better Transport’s (CBT) Fair Fares Now say an annual season ticket to travel from Newcastle to York now costs £5,788 for the 79-mile journey – which they say is 30% of the average salary in the North East.

The CBT say the cost of a Newcastle to Middlesbrough season ticket, which is now 2,324, has risen 26.3% since January 2010.

The rail industry has said that this is the lowest annual rise for five years but campaign groups and trade unions have pointed out that the annual rises in fares have far outstripped the rises in wages and that Britons pay some of the highest rail fares in Europe.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“This year’s fare hike will hit passengers particularly hard because wages are rising so slowly.

“Rail fares are now consuming a huge proportion of people’s wages, leaving precious little for other bread and butter expenses. On average passengers are now paying £600 more for a season ticket and yet seeing no change in their pay packets.”

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said:

“The scandal of Britain’s great rail fares rip off continues with today’s hike far outstripping average pay increases, and it will once again hit those at the sharp end of the austerity clampdown the hardest.”

The government say fares are crucial to funding rail modernisation.

 

 Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:

“We are investing in the biggest rail modernisation since the Victorian era and fares have a crucial role to play in funding these improvements. This is because building better infrastructure helps create jobs, building a stronger economy for us all.

“We recognise passengers’ concerns about the cost of rail fares. This is why we have frozen them for the second year in a row. We are protecting passengers even further by stopping operating companies from increasing individual fares by up to 2% more.”

Shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher said:

“David Cameron is presiding over a rip-off railway in Britain. He has failed to stand up for working people struggling with the cost-of-living crisis and has allowed the train companies to hit passengers with massive fare rises of over 20% since 2010.

“Some season tickets have now risen by over 30% under this Government, forcing people to pay thousands of pounds more to commute to work on increasingly overcrowded trains.”

He went on:

“Out-of-touch ministers talk about ‘fair fares for comfortable commuting’, but this is a world away from the reality for millions of hard-up commuters.

“Labour would deliver a better deal for passengers and taxpayers by reforming the railways, simplifying the ticketing system and enforcing a strict cap on fares on every route.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 02 Jan 2015

How the North East’s former coalfields are coping more than 25 years on

During the heyday of coal-mining, Ashington in Northumberland was considered the “world’s largest coal-mining village.”

The town had a working pit and was part of a corner of the county where the industry thrived with sites also at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Blyth and Ellington.

However, by the end of the 1980s, things had changed.

By 1967 Newbiggin Colliery had closed and – with Margaret Thatcher in power – in 1986 Bates Colliery at Blyth was shut down with Ashington following suit two years later.

Men were left out of work with 64,000 jobs lost across Britain as Thatcher’s government went to war wth the miners.

Today, the former Ashington mine is the home of a business park with a large pond at its centre.

It looks pleasant enough.

But has the restoration of the site seen the revitalisation of the town, and Northumberland’s former coalfields as a whole?

The local MP – who is a former president of the National Union of Mineworkers,  a charity set up to regenerate Britain’s former coalfields in which 5.5 million people live, and academics commissioned by that charity, certainly don’t think so.

30 years on from the 1984/85 miners’ strike which followed the announcement that pits were to close, The Coalfields Regeneration Trust commissioned Sheffield Hallam University’s Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research to takes stock of social and economic conditions in former coalfields.

The report for the charity, set up to “champion coalfield communities, generate resources to respond to their needs and deliver programmes that make a positive and lasting difference,” revealed deprivation, ill health and poor employment, with just 50 jobs for every 100 people of working age, 11.7% of people reporting long-term health problems and 14% of adults claiming out-of-work benefits.

Labour MP for Wansbeck,  Ian Lavery, whose constituency covers Ashington and Newbiggin, says it is a familiar picture locally.

He said:

“The stark thing from the report is that it shows that despite the attention in these former coalfields towns and villages up and down the country, there is still huge problems in terms of the high unemployment, the high youth employment, the low wage economy.

“Sadly the North has got the highest level of unemployment. We have got associated problems.

“Lack of business opportunities, and there is wide scale child poverty in the towns and villages which is something we should not be looking at in this day and age.

“Some of my wards in my constituency child poverty is 40 per cent.”

Mr Lavery, who has lived and worked in a mining community all his life, has called on the powers-that-be to address what he has deemed a lack of investment in the former coalfields over the years.

There is a whole number of problems arising from that report, that local authorities and the government need to take a look into that report and make sure more investment is made.

“I believe the North East has been left behind. We have not had the resources aimed at other industries.

“I would call on the government to scrutinise what has happened in the North East. Where it has went wrong and make a pledge to put it right.

“We are a cash rich nation, to have children in poverty is a political choice. Money is being spent on different projects.

“My simple project would be to eradicate child poverty.

“We can not have kids can not go to school because they have not got enough food in their bellies.

“It is absolutely unacceptable for that level of poverty in areas in any region.

“What needs to be done is there needs to be more investment in the coalfield communities, there needs to be more job opportunities, more business investments, better skills and knowledge and more job creation.

“If we get that with decent terms and conditions, the rest will follow in line.

“The government need to look at how best to assist the North East region, to eradicate the problems which are clearly identified in this report.”

He felt Northumberland County Council is doing its best to help, given its limited financial clout.

“I think the county council the last couple of years, they are doing their damnedest.

“They have tried to put a lot of things in place.

“They are absolutely cash strapped because of the cuts to local government. They have not got the finance they once had.

“A lot of the service Wansbeck (District Council) provided are not being provided any more.”

Since 2011, the trust has created and safeguarded 911 jobs and secured full or part-time employment for a further 2,921 people living within the coalfields communities throughout England.

Since it was established 15 years ago, programmes delivered by the trust have benefited hundreds of thousands of people in the British coalfields, including helping more than 21,000 people into work and over 187,000 to gain qualifications and new skills.

Chairman of the charity Peter McNestry said:

“We welcome Ian’s support and absolutely agree that additional finances are required if we are to make a difference in these areas.

“We have come a long way in the last 15 years but the recession had a disproportionate effect on the people living and working in the coalfields meaning they continue to need our support, guidance and funding.”

He added:

“The coalfields simply want the opportunity to get back on their feet. An entire industry ceased to exist, which employed directly and indirectly most of the people living within these areas. We cannot just turn our backs and walk away. “These towns and villages could thrive and make a positive contribution to the country if we give them the chance.”

The government said its investment in the trust is proof of its support for former coalfields, with over £200m given to the body over the last 15 years, and money ploughed into the areas from other sources.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “Long term economic planning has helped to secure a better future and deliver much needed growth.

“We have given over £220 million to support to the Coalfields Regeneration Trust since 1999.

“They have been moving to a self-financing model and the trust now has a strong portfolio of investment and an opportunity to concentrate on the areas where they really add value.

“Regeneration is essential to building a strong and balanced economy, which is why we have given extensive support to many of these areas with the £1.4billion Regional Growth Fund, Local Enterprise Partnerships and City Deals.”

The county council said it is working to improve the former coalfield areas, drawing in investment from elsewhere in addition to spending money of its own.

The authority said its top priority, along with the hoped for dualling of the A1 North of Morpeth, is to secure around £65m to re-open the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne rail line to passenger services.

Furthermore, the council is leading the project for a new £30m South East Northumberland Link Road.

In addition, Arch, the authority’s county development company, is leading creation of a ten year investment plan for Ashington.

This could see a potential £74m ploughed into the town and bring 1,000 high-quality jobs.

Arch is also leading the delivery of a new £20m leisure and community facility at Ashington while the council is proposing to move its headquarters from Morpeth to the town.

The authority furthermore cited its support for the opening of a new £120m Akzo Nobel factory at Ashington.

It also highlighted the new £8m Blyth Workspace building being led by Arch, the first part of the town’s Enterprise Zone.

The council has furthermore secured £600,000 for preparatory work on the former power station site at East Sleekburn which could host 500 new jobs.

The authority also highlighted the £1m being invested at Lynemouth by the Big Lottery Fund and its setting up of a poverty issues task and finish group.

Coun Dave Ledger, deputy leader of the county council, said: “The council is putting former coalfield communities at the heart of our future plans for growth as part of creating a balanced economy across the county.

“I believe there is real cause for optimism in the former coalfields and increasingly we can look to a future that is not defined by but always remembers and celebrates the legacy of our industrial heritage.”

Source –  Newcastle Journal,  17 Nov 2014

Coalfield areas still feeling effects of pit closures, report says

 Effects of the closure of the region’s pits are still being felt more than a quarter of a century on, according to a new report.

Research shows the employment rate in coalfield areas is lower than elsewhere, with fewer jobs per people, more than 25 years after the pit closures of the 1980s.

More people in those areas also report long-term health problems and more claim out-of-work benefits.

Now, an MP in the region has claimed the coalfields “haven’t recovered from the devastation of the ideological attacks of the eighties and nineties” and blamed “recent government policies” for making matters worse.

Dave Anderson, Labour MP for Blaydon joined a body set up to regenerate Britain’s coalfields in calling on the government to invest in former pit areas.

Yet Conservative councillor David Bawn defended the government, insisting employment in the region overall is actually on the up.

The ‘State of the Coalfields’ report was commissioned by the Coalfields Regeneration Trust and carried out by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University.

It found the employment rate in the largest UK coalfields is between 2% and 7% lower than the average for England and Wales, and between 5% and 10% lower than the South East.

There are only 50 jobs for every 100 adults of working age in the coalfields, where more than 5.5 million people are said to live, significantly lower than the national average of 67%.

It also claims 11.7% of people living in the coalfields report long-term health problems compared to 8.6% nationally. Some 8.4% of adults claim incapacity benefit, 2.2% higher than the national average and almost double the South East England average.

The report also claims that 14% of adults in the coalfields are on out-of-work benefits, 4% higher than the national average.

Mr Anderson, chairman of the Coalfield Communities All-Party Parliamentary Group, said: “This report confirms what those of us who still live in the coalfields know only too well, that as always it’s the people at the sharp end of society who get hit the hardest in times of austerity.

“The coalfields haven’t recovered from the devastation of the ideological attacks of the eighties and nineties and this report shows that recent government policies have only made matters worse.

“Now more than ever we have to champion the work of the Coalfields Regeneration Trust and demand that it is properly funded on a sustainable basis.”

Chairman of the regeneration trust Peter McNestry added: “We have come a long way in the last 15 years but the recession had a disproportionate effect on the people living and working in the coalfields, which means they continue to need our support, guidance and funding.

“The coalfields simply want the opportunity to get back on their feet. These towns and villages could thrive and make a positive contribution to the country if we give them the chance.”

Yet Conservative Mr Bawn, a Northumberland County Councillor for Morpeth, said some of the data is out of date and “the periods quoted vary between 2011 to 2013 and therefore make meaningful comparisons difficult.

He added: “However, if you refer to the lastest figures released by the Office for National Statistics showing the figures up to April this year you will notice that employment in the North East has increased by 1.5% and is one of the largest increases in the country just behind the South West on 1.6%.

“We are not out of the woods yet, but the Government’s long term plan is working. The economic indicators are getting better all the time, and the main thing that could derail our recovery is the prospect of Ed Milliband in Downing Street.”

Source –  Newcastle Journal,  29 July 2014

Meeting called to debate Northumberland ‘teenage transport tax’

With pressure mounting to reverse a decision to axe free transport for students, Northumberland County Council has agreed to hold an extraordinary meeting in Morpeth next week.

 Angry parents and opponents of the Labour administration at county hall have been urging the county council to reverse its decision to reintroduce transport charges for students over the age of 16.

They say it discriminates against parents in the north and rural parts of the county and that the consultation was inadequate.

They have also been highly critical of county council leader Grant Davey for avoiding a meeting to raise the concerns.

But an emergency meeting has now been called. It will take place at County Hall in Morpeth on Friday at 9.30am.

The motion to be debated has been put forward by Conservative group leader Peter Jackson.

He is requesting the suspension of the decision and the introduction of a new consultation process.

Mr Jackson said: “The leader of the council Grant Davey can run but cannot hide from the electorate.

“He has been doing everything in his power to avoid public accountability. Labour have made a huge mistake with this teenage tax and we are asking them to revisit this decision which will be discussed at an extraordinary meeting of the council.”

But Mr Davey, leader of the council and the Labour group, accused the Tories of playing politics:

 “The extraordinary council meeting could end up costing the council tax payers over £40,000, which is a very expensive way to play gesture politics after their own government has raided Northumberland’s budget to the tune of £130m.

“It’s cynical, hypocritical and it goes to show that local Tories would rather spend than save money.”

Protestors met senior county council officers on Wednesday to express concern about the lack of engagement with the public.

Leading protestor Allison Joynson said: “Whilst I appreciate the officers taking the time to meet with us, and the fact that finally a dialogue has begun, it became quickly apparent that the Labour administration is not prepared to seriously consider revisiting this discriminatory policy.

“It was evident from the discussions that the council had no real appreciation of the huge impact on the people of Northumberland especially those from rural areas.”

The county council voted to scrap its free transport scheme for pupils over the age of 16 last month in a move which will save £2.4 million.

From September 1 students will pay the full cost where public transport is available, or £600 a year to travel on council contracted school transport.

Council bosses say they were forced to bring back charges as they have to remove £32m from the authority’s budget in 2014/15 and a further £100m over the next three years.

But furious parents in the rural north of the county say their children are being penalised for staying in education, and are calling on the administration to change its mind.

The pressure group opposing the plans has already staged a demonstration outside the Duchess Community High School in Alnwick and has circulated a petition demanding a rethink.

Source –  Berwick Advertiser,  05 July 2014

Northumberland could suffer in East Coast franchise shake up

The next East Coast trains operator must be stopped from cutting Northumberland rail services, county council bosses have said.

Northumberland County Council has joined a growing number of groups to express concern that the new East Coast franchise could see operators allowed to axe stopping services in the county.

In the council’s formal response to the rail consultation, Northumberland councillor Ian Swithenbank warns of service cuts to and from London which would hit the county if a new big-money operator is not forced to match current standards.

He points out that the new franchise would let operators choose to drop the early morning service from Berwick, Alnmouth and Morpeth, which then calls at Newcastle and straight on to London, bringing a business market to the capital.

The return journey faces similar peril. Mr Swithenbank said the consultation document had: “no mention of any requirement to maintain the existing Friday-only 7.30pm from Kings Cross calling, among other stations, at Morpeth, Alnmouth and Berwick, thus removing an important link from London for weekend visitors and county residents returning late on Friday from the capital.”

There is also no mention of any requirement to provide an evening Monday-Friday departure to Morpeth significantly later than 4pm.

Further service cuts could come on Sunday services to capital. The Government has no requirement for a direct train from Morpeth to London and the number of trains from London to Morpeth is reduced from five to four, a 20% reduction in provision in train service to the county town, which the council says will reduce journey opportunities both for visitors to the county and residents returning from the South.

Backing the council is Berwick Labour candidate Scott Dickinson. He said: “I welcome the intervention of councillor Swithenbank on this vitally important issue for North Northumberland in particular.

“The reprivatisation of East Coast and the decisions taken on the tender specification by the coalition government effectively relegate this important transport link for Northumberland. This will seriously damage our economic prospects.

“The minister needs to answer the questions. My real worry is that the decision to re-privatise East Coast after two private sector failures will end up costing the tax payer more and will lead to a second class service in Northumberland.”

The Department for Transport is set to decide on who should take over the state owned railway this autumn. Bidders include west coast operator Virgin Trains with Stagecoach and a joint bid from Eurostar and French state-backed firm Keolis.

Labour has called for the profitable route to remain in public hands.

Source – Newcastle Journal, 24 June 2014

Hundreds turn out for the 150th Northumberland Miners’ Picnic

Hundreds of people turned out to enjoy the Northumberland Miners’ Picnic on its 150th anniversary.

It took place at Woodhorn Museum, Ashington, and the crowds enjoyed a packed programme of entertainment to mark the special celebration, including Glenn Tilbrook from chart topping band, Squeeze.

Also in the line up were local folk legend Johnny Handle, as well as traditional music and dance, street theatre and entertainers, the Ashington Colliery and Bedlington Youth brass bands, Werca’s Folk, and the Monkseaton Morrismen.

The day started with a memorial service and wreath laying.

Woodhorn’s own comedian-in-residence Seymour Mace added a touch of humour to the day as he, his fellow comedians John Whale and Andy Fury, and staff from the museum who have been working with the project, put their own entertaining twist on a guided visit to the museum.

Extracts from the Pitmen Painters were read out as Woodhorn is the home of the Ashington Group’s main collection of paintings and has a close bond to the story.

Original cast members, Chris Connel and Phillippa Wilson, recreated scenes from Lee Hall’s award-winning play.

The first Picnic was staged at Blyth Links in 1864 and over the years it has moved around the county – from Blyth to Morpeth, Bedlington to Ashington, Newbiggin, Tynemouth and even Newcastle’s Town Moor.

Keith Merrin, Director of Woodhorn, said: “150 years on and this event is still about bringing the whole North East community together, to strengthen bonds and have fun. It’s not just about Ashington, but about the whole region as so many have a link to coal.

“The Picnic is the perfect opportunity to come together to remember and celebrate an industry and the people that helped shape the North East and create the proud communities that exists today.”

This year’s special Picnic has been made possible thanks to Northumberland County Council, Ashington Town Council and the NUM working with Woodhorn to develop a fitting tribute to the event’s history.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  15 June 2014