Devolution vote – time running out to cast your votes

The Council consultation on proposed devolution of powers to the North East ends at 5pm on Monday.

Further information is available at www.durham.gov.uk/consultation

I have decided to support the proposal for devolution. The offer may not amount to much at the moment but I do strongly believe that as a region we should have more say over how we are run.

My biggest worry is that most of the  councils in the region are run by the Labour Party, and not all of them that well. However if they start to make a mess of this, people will see it and have more reason to kick them out!

I don’t think having a mayor is a good idea – just another over paid politician with admin costs. At present I imagine it will not make a massive difference to things but as other powers are devolved, there is the potential for economic boosts.

Street lighting column crashes to earth – Please check yours!

A rotten streetlighting column crashed to earth across two driveways in Framwellgate Moor earlier this week.

streelight down holmlands

The column on Holmlands Crescent came down in the middle of the day and it could have been a disaster if someone had been stood there at the time, or driving off their driveway or if it had fallen into the road. Thankfully no one was hurt and residents were quick to report it and the council promptly removed it.

I have been asking the council to improve the state of the footpath at this location for many years, including again in July and September last year as reported on this blog. Whilst the column failed because it was completely rusted, the pavement is in such a poor state that it may have contributed to water sitting and rotting the column, and the lack of any firm pavement to hold it up can’t have helped.

I took a look on google maps, and there is rust visible around the base of the column on pics in 2009, 2014 and 2015.

Needless to say I have put a list of questions to council officers at the highest level today including about maintenance schedules, the state of this particular path and who is supposed to have been checking columns . (Which I will report back on ).

Years ago both before and after budget cuts started Lib Dem councillors complained about cuts to street lighting painting, maintenance and testing budgets by our Labour-run council.

Can I urge all residents to take a look at the street lighting column outside their house and if there is corrosion around the base to report it and let us know so we can make sure it is checked out.

Help us tackle flytipping – Do you recognise this kitchen?

The council has to deal with a lot of flytipping incidents. It costs a fortune and is completely unacceptable. Some time in December all this was dumped down near Finchale Abbey Village on Cocken Lane, when the road was closed off. Thankfully the road is back fully open. Unfortunately the flytipping is still there.

Residents reported this but it fell into the Council’s black hole. Thankfully after I was asked yesterday to report it again, our neighbourhood wardens team has sprung into action and is arranging for a full clean up, in what is a difficult location to clear. Our wardens service does an excellent job, so if there is anything like this anywhere please let me know so I can arrange a clean up and hopefully we can catch the culprits.

If you recognise this kitchen or think you might know who dumped it please let the Council know.

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Reporting wind blown rubbish

Following requests from residents we have asked for various sites to be cleaned up including Kira Drive and Rylands Way. I am also speaking with Sainsburys about items blowing off their petrol station forecourt and repeating calls for action on Porterhouse Lane. We have also asked for Framwellgate School Durham to the action to tidy up their boundary fencing where a lot of litter has blown. If there is an area with a build up of litter please let us know so we can arrange either a community or a council litter pick

Brasside finally has a path out of the village

For some time I have pushed to get a short stretch of path installed on the way to Brasside. Council officers repeatedly said it wasn’t necessary or couldn’t be funded, however I felt that forcing residents to push prams/ walk across across mud was unacceptable. Someone in a wheelchair would ended up covered in muck. After numerous attempts to get this improvement I am pleased to say that the pressure has finally paid off and the footpath has now been linked up. Before and after below.

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Another day of shame for Labour

Labour councillors today refused to scrap plans to cut teaching assistant pay by up to £5000.

And refused to allow a consultation on plans to close the DLI Museum. A link to the Echo story:

http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/14214963.DLI_Museum_set_to_close_as_last_ditch_attempt_to_save_it_fails/

The refusal by Labour councillors on both these issues marks a new low at County Hall.

South Terrace – Utter Council Failure

Ok, so after years of trying to get the council to deal with the problems on South Terrace, i have had enough.

Student properties have been built (doubling the population on the street) with no proper planning permission yet they have been occupied for years. The container in the photo has been there donkeys years in full view of neighbouring properties, which the council despite repeated requests has failed to get shifted – there should actually be a turning point and a bin storage area was requested.

The road surface has not been fully upgraded despite it being a planning condition and it is now dangerous near the entrance to Front Street.

The result of this inappropriate over-development and failure to act by the planning department is the worst kind of deteriorating conditions for the residents living here.

If I were to check back I expect I would find 100+ times when I have had to contact officers from one department or another over problems on this street.

Issues on this street have even been raised as high as the chief exec and leader. An internal audit report was even carried out at my request over elements of the problems. Yet still the problems persist.

Every few months there are overflowing bins or fly-tipping or some other problem and still the entrance road deteriorates.

Here are some photos from today. This is what happens when Durham’s planning department does not get to grips with a situation. It causes further continued problems.

Other council departments have to pick up the pieces at cost to the taxpayer and local residents to have to live in appalling conditions. It is an unacceptable failure by Durham County Council. at the highest level.

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State of Potterhouse Lane littering reported

I have reported the state of Potterhouse Lane from the roundabout past the Tip and beyond. The whole area is a complete littered mess and has been for weeks. Some of this is blown litter from the Tip but most is takeaway rubbish.

It is time the Council took this area seriously and installed some anti-litter signs and did some enforcement. I have asked before for a sign and it was removed as quickly as it went up.

Every few months I seem to have to ask for this area to be litter picked. I have asked Directors to take action when the evenings become light enough. Nearly all of the litter is car thrown.

Community Orchard Planted – Lib Dem councillors get hands on in snow and rain

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Mamie, Amanda and I have helped to plant a new orchard between Newton Hall and Framwellgate Moor. This first local community orchard has fifty fruit trees will provide a wonderful display of blossom in the spring. It will also benefit wildlife throughout the year and provide fruit for local residents to pick in the autumn.

We came up with the idea after securing a big discount on the fruit trees from the local Pity Me Nurseries on the A167. Local residents including allotment holders helped us plant the orchard on a cold, rainy Friday last week.

It was freezing out there but the digging, carrying, wheel-barrowing and hammering soon warmed us up. The new orchard looks great and I am certain it will be a great community asset long into the future.

Pic of some of the residents who helped:

orchard-closeup-groupThe Council agreed to allow the land to be used for the orchard and provided stakes and straps to keep the new trees secure. The £300 funding for the 50 tree orchard came from left over local funding. The Council also provided waste chippings to spread around the trees to protect them and remove the need for weeding.

Comment from Amanda Hopgood: “A big thank you to all those residents who helped with the planting, especially the allotment holders who also provided spades and wheelbarrows. To get all that work done in just a couple of hours was fantastic.”

We are looking at other areas where orchards and trees could also be planted and would like to see more action across County Durham to promote home grown fruit and veg as well as more tree planting to help cut flood risk.

Comment from Mamie Simmons: “We want to promote locally grown food and recommend everyone tries to grow something in their garden, patio or home. It’s good for the environment and helps to promote healthy eating too.”

We also helped provide fruit trees at some of the local schools in the area and after securing the plants from the Woodland Trust we recently planted 400 hedgerow trees with the help of local school children.

A step closer to cutting the flood risk in Brasside

We are a step closer to getting a major improvement for residents on Beech Close in Brasside. The Ministry of Justice has now agreed to council proposals to procure the works which involve lining the drain running through the estate. They only agreed after we agreed to commit funding to the project towards the area they don’t own and the Council offered to manage the project. This has been a very long battle with years of lack of action from various sources, but its great to be able to say that our perseverance as local Lib Dem councillors is finally set to pay off.

Forms are being worked on and I hope we will see the work carried out by the summer.