In this edition of eFocus: proposals to empty bins only once every three weeks, house building plans for Dunston Hill expected soon, Fugar/Washingwell history project, grass cutting to be slashed and a new bridge for pedestrians over the A1. Please feel free to forward eFocus on to those who will find the information useful.
Lib Dem Councillors fight Labour plans for 3-week bin collection
Councillors Peter Maughan, John McClurey and Sonya Hawkins are leading the battle to keep fortnightly bin collections. Labour run Gateshead Council are looking at switching to collections once every three weeks.
Labour councillors in Gateshead are considering plans to switch bin collections from once a fortnight to once every 3 weeks. The plans form part of the consultation on the council budget which is due to be set in February.
Gateshead needs to find £25 million of cuts in spending during 2015/16 but Lib Dems fear that Labour’s plans could end up costing taxpayers even more.
“Labour’s plans are short-sighted as they could result in more fly-tipping,” said Lib Dem Councillor John McClurey. “That will leave Gateshead council taxpayers with a bigger clean-up bill.
“The figures for fly-tipping in Gateshead are already showing an alarming rise. In 2011/12, there were 2954 incidents dealt with by the council. In 2014/15, there were 9089.
“Labour’s plans could make an already bad situation worse, wiping out any savings and seeing our green areas full of litter and rubbish.
“Labour are not proposing to offer help with alternative ways to dispose of waste. This could mean that in the summer in particular, wheelie bins could be overflowing with rotting kitchen waste."
Cllr Sonya Hawkins said, "If Labour change to bin collections once every three weeks, people will recycle less if their blue bins fill up. Residents have made great strides forward to recycle more but Labour's plans could put that into reverse. Their plans are bad for the environment.
“We are therefore calling on Gateshead Council to reject the proposal to switch general waste collection to once every three weeks.”
Dunston Hill housing plans expected in weeks
The Lib Dems have been fighting Labour plans to build on greenbelt on Whickham Highway since they were first proposed. Labour however have been determined to force their plans through.Left to right Cllr John McClurey, Dave Fawcett, Cllr Peter Maughan, Cllr Peter Craig, Cllr Jonathan Wallace.
The decision by Gateshead Council's all-Labour cabinet in January to sell the Central Nursery on Whickham Highway has set the ball rolling for a rapid decision to build executive homes on the site.
Local Liberal Democrats have been fighting a long campaign to stop Labour from turning the area to the south of Whickham Highway from greenbelt to building land. Labour used their big majority on Gateshead Council (55 out of 66 seats) to force through their plans.
But even before the sale of the site has gone through, house-builder Persimmon have plans in place for up-market homes on the Central Nursery. The company already owns the 2 neighbouring sites which have also been removed from the greenbelt for house-building.
Lib Dem Councillor Peter Maughan said, "I have consistently opposed the use of this site for housing. The roads are already congested and there are no plans for extra school places or health services.
"Recent heavy rain has highlighted the dangers of flooding. Rainwater at the top of a hill has to go somewhere and we are concerned that Dunston could end up with flood problems.
"I'm also rather surprised at the speed with which a private company is putting forward plans for a site that is still on the market. It will be some time yet before the Council has officially finished marketing the land yet Persimmon are already planning an event to unveil their plans for Whickham Highway.
"Labour have stopped at nothing to put their housing plans into action. Their policy of using the land on Whickham Highway for expensive housing is very much about raising money for the Council to spend. It will do little to address housing shortages for ordinary people who can't afford massive deposits and gigantic mortgages."
Your memories of Fugar and Washingwell
An ancient ford across the Black Burn in Washingwell Woods. The area is packed with historic remains which is being explored by local history societies.
Sunniside and District Local History Society have been awarded £10,000 to research the history of the Fugar/Washingwell/Watergate.
The area is rich in history but it remains largely hidden. There is the site of a Roman fort, a medieval manor house, a Tudor culvert, early coal mining, historic waggonways, evidence of quarrying and, of course, the route of the Tanfield railway which runs past the site into the Team Valley.
Despite over 2000 years of history, the project will focus on the period from the mid 13th century to 1950 when the medieval Fugar House was demolished
Other groups taking part in the project include Swalwell and Gateshead History Societies, Tanfield Railway and Washingwell Community Primary School. It will be completed in October 2016 when a DVD about the history of the area will be published, an information board erected on the site and a website set up to publish the findings of the project.
Historian and Deputy Chairman of Sunniside History Society, Cllr, Jonathan Wallace, said, "This is a very exciting project and we want anyone interested to take part.
"We are especially keen to speak to anyone who has memories of the area in previous decades, especially of Fugar House. So far we have not been able to find any photos of the house. If anyone has some and are happy to let the project use them, please get in touch."
Grass to grow long as Labour plans to stop cutting
Grass left uncut in 2012 in Whickham after Labour agreed to take money away from grass cutting services to be used elsewhere. Following huge complaints, Labour restored the grass cutting service. Now they are planning to slash it yet again.
Labour plans to slash grass cutting throughout Gateshead could lead to overgrown housing estates and no-go areas on kids’ play areas, Liberal Democrats have warned.
Labour propose cuts of 90% to the budget to maintain grassed areas and to sweep up litter throughout Gateshead. But many fear that there will be a repeat of the situation in 2012 when large areas of grass grew out of control. Following this, Labour had to perform an embarrassing u-turn and re-introduced grass cutting.
“We want Gateshead to be an attractive place in which to live,” said Cllr Sonya Hawkins. “That means keeping the place presentable. Labour’s plans could lead to attractive areas falling into disrepair, litter on our streets and children’s play areas being unusable in the summer as they become overgrown.
“We need to ensure our communities continue to be attractive places in which to live but Lib Dems are worried that Labour’s proposals will have the opposite effect. People may start to move away from Gateshead. That will put our area into a spiral of decline.
“Communities such as Whickham will be among the worst hit by these plans. It seems Labour are happy to take council tax from our local communities but not maintain a decent local environment.”
A1 pedestrian bridge to be installed at Lobley Hill
As part of the £70 million programme of improvements to the A1, a new footbridge is to be installed between the Lobley Hill and A184 Gateshead Quays (Askew Road) junctions. It is designed to be used by both pedestrians and cyclists.
The bridge replaces one that was removed last summer (see photo above). The work will take place on Friday 12th February and it will mean another closure of the A1, from 8pm until 9am on Saturday 13th.
Meanwhile, upgrade to the A1 should be completed by the end of June, according to the Highways Agency.
The improvements, which local Lib Dems had campaigned for over many years, were agreed by Lib Dems when we were part of the Coalition Government. They will see the road expanded to 3 lanes from the junction with the southern end of the Team Valley Trading Estate to the Metrocentre.
There will also be a separate lane in each direction between Lobley Hill and the Askew Road junction to carry local traffic.
“The A1 improvements are welcome and it is good news that the end of the roadworks is in sight,” said Cllr Chris Ord.
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