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North Heaton Liberal Democrats welcome New Year with first edition of ward eFocus

January 11, 2015 6:29 PM

Only the Lib Dems look after local issues in North Heaton!

January 2015 e-Focus 1 - Happy New Year!

A number of residents have expressed interest in receiving our regular FOCUS newsletter - if you're one of them, thanks and welcome to the first edition!

We've also taken the liberty of sending this edition to other residents who have been in touch with us in the past by email about local issues. We're conscious that you may not wish to receive this. If so, apologies. We're also aware that we may have some duplicate email addresses, or people who have moved. If you don't want to receive this, please use the unsubscribe link at the end of the email.

We will continue to distribute our usual FOCUS door-to-door to 4500 houses in the ward, but if you'd rather not receive a paper copy in future, please email us and we'll update our distribution lists.

We intend to use this primarily for stories from the print edition Focus,and occasional bulletins about relevant local matters: we don't intend to use it to pester you with national political content (we're conscious that people have different political views, but we know that lots of people tell us that they appreciate how FOCUS keeps them informed on local issues). However, we would like to use it to send out a message at local election time.

As ever, we're happy to hear from you if you have any feedback about North Heaton, Newcastle, or national issues. Please feel free to get in touch if you'd like to raise any issues or concerns with us.

Best wishes,

Cllr Greg Stone and Cllr Doreen Huddart

Council road safety go slow

Regular FOCUS readers will know that we've pressed the council to take more action to enforce 20mph speed limits (introduced when the council was under Lib Dem leadership) in areas where speeding remains a concern - including parts of Cochrane Park and Newton Road near Heaton Manor school.

Our efforts to get new flashing driver feedback signs for key locations have been repeatedly rebuffed by the council. Over the last year we've been told that the council has put any further speed reduction work on hold pending an evaluation of the council's 20mph residential streets policy. After months of no progress GREG has asked the council's senior management when this evaluation will be completed - we have now been told it is expected by summer 2015.

To make matters worse, the council has also refused our requests to enhance road safety on Newton Road near Heaton Manor. GREG, DOREEN, and the school want safer crossings and enhanced school safety zone warnings.

The council has told us the most we can expect is a few extra 20mph signs - we don't think this is good enough. Under Labour council control, road safety does not seem to be a priority. The highways department might be on a go-slow but that's not going to satisfy concerned residents.

[We have managed to get agreement for some better signage at the Newton Road pedestrian crossing near Dean and Daniela's, following concerns that visibility is not great for motorists due to parked cars]

Labour's Broken Parking Promise

GREG and DOREEN have been asking the council highways department for action to tackle parking congestion at the north end of theHolystone / Weldon estate for some time, and had secured agreement to look at this area next following the Jesmond Park West scheme extension.

The council has carried out a survey of parking levels but to our frustration they have refused to proceed with a scheme as they do not consider the parking levels exceed the 85% threshold in the area as a whole, although some stretches and side streets like Duxfield Road are already over this limit. This is a broken promise after Labour canvassers told residents action would be taken to address parking problems under a Labour council.

We are not letting this rest and will continue to press for action.Our request for measures at Etherstone Avenue to combat UNN-related parking has also been declined as highways officers do not consider it is justified. We will continue to monitor the problem.

Still no progress on pavement repair budget

GREG has also been pressing the council for info on when it will release the annual funding for North Heaton's road & pavement maintenance programme.

Under Lib Dem control North Heaton received an allocation of £200-£250,000 per year for road and pavement resurfacing - not a fortune, but enough to tackle 5-6 streets per year. This year, for the first time anyone can remember, no money at all has been forthcoming from the council and our requests to see the annual highways condition inspection surveys have not been granted. To add insult to injury, it is being suggested that schemes to be funded will be approved by the council's Labour Cabinet rather than devolved to wards, so it can be spent on their priorities, not those of local residents. As usual North Heaton's invisible local Labour councillor is silent on this issue.

In the meantime, resident complaints about potholes, broken kerbs, and cracked pavements continue to escalate. We have also been told by the council that they will now no longer allow painting of "advisory" white lines across driveways in areas experiencing problem parking - we have put in a lot of these at the request of residents at minimal cost. We feel this is a spiteful step from a Labour council that just isn't bothered about "pavement politics" in our area

Opposing Street Cleaning Cuts

Despite a drastic deterioration in the standard of street cleaning under the Labour council administration, even more Labour cuts to street cleaning look likely in the coming financial year. The Labour cabinet member for neighbourhoods is on the record as saying residents "should do more themselves" to clean up their streets and back lanes. Meanwhile, the state of our streets is getting worse. 92% of respondents to our residents survey in the North Heaton terraces area agree that litter is a problem on their street. Labour's latest wheeze is to remove more litter bins from the streets to replace them with fewer larger bins "which require less frequent emptying". Doreen and Greg have asked repeatedly for a limited Saturday service to sweep up in and around our main shopping areas (Chillingham Rd & Newton Rd) but the council simply aren't listening. The alternative budget proposals of the Lib Dem opposition called for £1m extra investment in street cleaning and neighbourhoods, to be funded by savings on the council's energy bills and management costs. Labour councillors - including North Heaton's - voted this proposal down.

The council is still seeking to introduce communal bins for the back lanes and terraces in Heaton off Chillingham Road - where a clear majority of residents want them. We have advised the council that residents appear to be strongly opposed in most streets, but we are prepared to consider a consultation for Chillingham Road and its back lane only at this stage - we're conscious this back lane has a particular problem with bins being left out and dumping. However, it will only proceed if residents are clearly in favour.

Dr Wendy Taylor MBE for Parliament!

Newcastle East Liberal Democrats have re-selected Dr Wendy Taylor MBE to stand for Parliament in May's General Election. Wendy slashed Labour's majority to 3,414 at the last General Election polling 33% of the vote, and is well known locally having been councillor for Dene Ward for more than 25 years, living in High Heaton, working as a cancer specialist at Newcastle hospitals, and serving as a school governor at Heaton Manor and Cragside. She chairs Newcastle's Health and Wellbeing scrutiny panel and as the council's former cabinet member for environmental sustainability has a strong interest in green issues.

Wendy says "The Coalition votes in Newcastle East exceeded Labour's vote last time, where I came a clear second to the Labour MP with double the vote of the third-placed Conservative. I will be seeking the support of voters in the constituency who are unconvinced that Ed Miliband is a credible Prime Minster and do not believe Labour can be trusted with the economy and the deficit, just as the Conservatives cannot be trusted to protect the least well off and public services. Working as cancer specialist at local hospitals for many years has given me particular understanding of the importance of safeguarding the NHS, and I will be making health, wellbeing, and adult care an important part of my campaign.

Greg and Doreen add: "Wendy is well known in the ward, having been the councillor for the High Heaton and Cochrane Park area before boundary changes in 2004. She is a highly respected local community champion and will make a dedicated and conscientious constituency MP. We're delighted her work has been recognised with an MBE in the New Year's Honours List!".

Result here at last GE: Labour 40% Lib Dems (Wendy Taylor) 33% Conservative 16% BNP 3% Green 1%

North Heaton News In Brief

Resident Surveys feedback

Many thanks to the hundreds of residents who have returned our neighbourhood surveys in recent weeks, which has provided us with very useful feedback about local priorities.To date we have covered the whole of the Heaton area south of the Coast Road, along with Denewell Avenue / Jesmond Park West area and Amberley / Hilden Gardens area, and we will be covering the rest of High Heaton and Cochrane Park in coming weeks.

We are currently "crunching the numbers" and will be writing back to residents to give feedback on results for their street and neighbourhood, and what steps we're going to take in response to issues raised. Many people have said they feel that facilities for children and for older people "could be better" and we will be considering how we can improve provision.

Strikingly a clear majority of people have expressed opposition to the idea of communal bins and think that the council's neighbourhood cleaning is deteriorating, not improving - we share this concern (see over!)

Planning: People's Theatre, Motor World, Coach Lane Campus, Melbury

The People's Theatre is submitting plans for a new entrance foyer and studio annexe on Benton Bank. We value the Theatre as an important local asset and look forward to the scheme moving ahead, but we've also asked them to take into account parking problems - we would like to see suitable conditions on any planning permission.

GREG has attended a meeting with UNN planners & Dene ward councillors to discuss concerns regarding the redevelopment of the (old) Coach Lane campus site, which has been granted outline planning permission for 181 new homes. We are asking for further planning conditions on the "detailed" planning application, including measures to manage impact on the already over-capacity Red Hall Drive and the Coast Road junction. We are also asking for a signal-controlled junction at the Etherstone Avenue junction (with pedestrian crossing), and for a contribution for new equipment and maintenance at the Coach Lane play area.

The former Motor World / Charlie Browns building on Chillingham Road has now been demolished and construction work is starting on a new Sainsburys Local and coffee shop, with flats above.

There is no progress on the vacant Melbury Road development plot at present - it is for sale, but we are not aware of any plans at this stage.

Community Involvement

We are very grateful to residents who have volunteered to help to take action to improve our area. In recent weeks DOREEN and GREG have assisted residents who took part in replanting the planters on Chillingham Road and on Stephenson Road, as well as litter clearance (see pic over). We are also liaising with Cochrane Park parents who are helping with groundwork at the Coach Lane play area, and St Gabriels residents who are helping to clear overgrown branches behind Broxholm Road.

Woodlands Update

Your local Lib Dem councillors are working hard to safeguard the future of the Woodlands Children's Centre, which is at risk of closure if the Labour council proceeds with cuts to local Sure Start provision. We're keen to secure new services to benefit the whole community. A new playgroup is planned, and Doreen has met several organisations looking to establish projects for older people. We'd like to hear from groups / residents interested in hiring the building for activities.

Cragside Closure

We've been pressing Northumbria Water for action to reduce flood risk affecting Cragside residents for some time, so we are pleased that NWL have been carrying out extensive works to create a "holding tank" under the school playing field and improvements to the storm drain system. This has caused some disruption due to the need to close the road but work is ahead of schedule and should be complete in the next few weeks. We've helped to sort out some difficulties with bin collections arising from this, and are pleased that the end of Goswick Avenue has been resurfaced following work on site.


GREG spoke on behalf of residents of the Heaton terraces in court at the appeal by Pizzaholic against the refusal of a late night hours extension - the magistrates refused the appeal, which is good news.

Bits and pieces

DOREEN is pleased that YHN have acted on our request on behalf of residents and have now installed hoops on Benton Road to protect the grassed areas from problem parking, which was an inconvenience and caused a lot of mud! She has also made representations about the "ironworks" on Newton Road near the Corner House junction, which have caused some noise disturbance to residents and tailbacks for motorists. GREG has arranged for a "dip" on Red Hall Drive which was causing traffic noise and vibration affecting residents to be re-filled to smooth the surface. He has also helped Thropton Terrace allotments to secure old broken paving flags from the council depot to create new paths on site.
Cllr Greg Stone: 07747 862582

Cllr Doreen Huddart: 07984 333804 doreen.huddart@newcastle-libdems.org.uk

Twitter: @nheatonlibdems

Facebook: North Heaton Lib Dems

Surgery: 1st Sat of month, 10.30, HH Library