School Closures, gritting, snow and your neighbours

Many of our schools have had to close today due to the worst ending weather conditions.

The Council’s gritting teams have been working round the clock for the past few days – all credit to them for keeping our main roads passable. Hopefully the current snow wont grind things to a halt, but please do be careful if you have to drive and only drive today if absolutely essential.

With snow forecast to continue today and much already on the ground many elderly people are stranded in their homes so please check on your neighbours.


Cold weather and winter info

With cold weather here again, below are some links which are useful. If you still have issues you can’t get fixed or find info on by all means contact one of us. Please do check on elderly and vulnerable neighbours in the coming days to see if they need any help.

Homelessness issues:

Cold weather advice and help:

info on weather conditions and gritting etc


Today for the first time since Durham’s new unitary authority was set up and perhaps the first time in Durham County Council’s 100 year history, Labour councillors backed an amendment to their budget.

This was put forward by me with the support of our Lib Dem group so I’m rather happy today. I proposed using extra funding the government gives for bringing empty homes back into use to employ extra staff to tackle the problem – a no brainier really – but in Durham, to get a motion passed at any time is nigh on impossible – at Budget setting its unheard of!

We will now have something like double the hours invested into tackling this issue. Although I will be checking and double checking that this actually happens.

At present there are over 6900 long term empty properties in County Durham. These leave areas run-down, causing problems for other homeowners and residents and are a waste of resources.

In my area alone there are many of these properties, including many in Framwellgate Moor. Whilst we have managed to get some back into use, many remain unaddressed.

Finally we will have the staff in place to deal with this.

97 councillors voted in favour of my motion, 4 voted against, including John Turnbull (Labour for Brandon, Langley Moor and Meadowfield) bizarre given how many empty properties there are in his area.

Three councillors abstained including Marion Wilson who covers Deerness (Bearpark, Esh Winning, Ushaw Moor, NEw Brancepeth). Another area with numerous empty properties.


Major flytipping, litter, rubbish, overflowing bins issues reported in a Framwellgate Moor

I have today during a drive and walk around reported dozens of issues around Framwellgate Moor front street and the Terraces.

Numerous overflowing bins, many of them recycling bins which are not due emptying until March 1st.

Numerous flytipping incidents including black bags, fridge and freezers, sofas and other rubbish.

A lot of wind blown litter.

I have raised concerns with the Head of Setvice and Clean and green managers about the clear failure of clean up in the area caused by removal of or lack of proper litter picking and street bin emptying on Friday afternoon now there is no weekend service.

Senior officers will be out on site this week to assess what needs doing.

Please help improve the area by: Reporting overflowing bins including wheelie bins, reporting any bin anywhere with no lid and letting us know of any flytipping or rubbish incidents anywhere across Framwellgate Moor, Pity Me, Newton Hall and Brasside.

I also arranged for the area behind Front St Pity Me to be litter picked and reported several more flytipping incidents there. We need to keep on top of this and need residents help to do it so please do report all issues.

Tackling anti social behaviour

We are currently working with the police to deal with some antisocial behaviour issues in Framwellgate Moor.

If anyone spots anything across our area which they feel is inappropriate such as flytipping, excessive noise, littering, dog fouling, overflowing bins, properties with a lot of rubbish lying around etc please do let us know or contact the police on their 101 number if it’s something more serious such as a drug related issue or crime.

Cleaning up Fram Front St

We had to intervene this week after the are wasn’t cleaned up on Monday morning. Our usual excellent clean and green officer was away and the cover didn’t clean up.

Thankfully we have some good management and by Tuesday afternoon the whole street had been cleaned up.

We will be monitoring it each day to see that standards don’t drop as we can never return to the bad old days before we became councillors for the area when upto 10 bags of litter were picked up in one day.

Council agrees my motion to work to phase out single use plastics

By 104 votes to 0.

We today started on the road to cutting single use plastics in County Durham. All councillors supported my motion which will see the council looking at its own use of such plastics and the use of them by businesses and residents to see how we can cut the use of a wide range of items or change the way in which we use them.

Councillors will now start work to find out what we can do short medium and long term to address the problems single use plastics are causing.

Our oceans have 50,000 pieces of plastic floating on them per square mile. They are contaminating our food supply, killing sealife and wildlife and causing untold damage to our natural environment.

I am really pleased that every councillor present from every council political group supported the plans.

Sky News has a really good video showing the impact of plastics on our oceans which is worth looking at (see below). I will be working with fellow councillors to find quick fixes to the problem and to consider how to deal with the more complicated issues.

Aykley Heads and new HQ for council and history museum/archives

The proposals put forward by the Council last week with regards to moving the Council headquarters into the City Centre have a lot of merit as does the regeneration of Aykley Heads after the Council have left. The proposals for using Mount Oswald house for the archives and history centre are a great Idea.

Where I do have a problem with the plans is in ensuring that the infrastructure is in place at the same time as opening up these various new sites. The current layout for Aykley Heads doesn’t appear to have a “ring” road, meaning that traffic will block up Aykley Heads roundabout, with the potential for serious traffic issues including problems for the accident and emergency.

It is essential if the Council is going to redevelop Aykley Heads that a link road runs through the business park proposed coming out at an improved county hall roundabout so that all the traffic doesn’t end up congested at Aykley Heads roundabout. We have raised this with the Director for regeneration today.

The moving of the headquarters to the Sands in Durham City may seem a little odd, but the council owns this land (saves money over buying a site) and the passport office and Atos building down there have not caused significant traffic issues. So long as the current park and rides are improved and additional park and rides are added, a smaller hq, with fewer staff and modern working practices should be able to manage on the Sands car park without too many problems. Having hundreds of extra staff in the City Centre will also boost footfall to shops.

However the building must not become a vanity project and there must be proper oversight of the costs. It does concern me that tens of millions of pounds will be spent and that the County Hall site will cost so much to demolish that there will be little or no return to taxpayers. The worry is that as with all large infrastructure projects, we end up with a bigger bill than is necessary.

More details here: