New Pity Me Housing completed – Hurrah!!

The eight new affordable to rent houses in PIty Me were completed today and new tenants will start moving in tomorrow.

This is a fantastic achievement for us as local Lib Dem councillors, and for County Durham Housing Group. After eight long years of challenging the Council for new homes and them refusing we managed to get the new housing group to agree to use brownfield/garage site for family homes.

The houses are all being let to local people after we secured a local lettings policy. It’s really great that people from the area will be able to still live near family and friends in homes that are affordable to rent. Having been in the houses today I am delighted by the quality of them and hope all those who were lucky enough to secure one really enjoy living in their new homes.

Success – Lib Dem pressure secures extra £700,000 for highways repairs

A couple of weeks ago I submitted a motion for full council calling on Cabinet to invest more funding to repair roads, in particular because of the additional damage caused by  this winters poor weather but also because of years of under funding. We also called on government to put in more funding.

The Council, suddenly has found – just a few minutes before my motion was due to be debated, an additional £700,000 – great news – Lib Dem pressure pays off.

However we still feel far more is needed. Not least because we have a massive backlog of rod and path repairs of around £200 million!

We will continue to pile on the pressure which has over the years resulted in significant extra investment.

Funds and projects update

As your County Councillors we have some funding each year for small groups in our area. If you know of any groups needing some help please get in touch with one of us.

Grants from £50 upwards can be considered. In the last year your three County Councillors have helped to support the following groups:

Summer festival for Durham Pathways

Fire and rescue service annual youth camp

Lumiere project with local schools

Durham Agency against crime environmental project

Durham City Remembrance parade

Womens institute community party

All Saints /Newton Hall Christmas tree

In addition we have helped to bring additional funding into the area and used Neighbourhood budgets to help support the cost of introducing the 20mph zones around schools so that all schools in our area are part of the scheme we secured.

We have also funded a large project to improve  Finchale Avenue in Brasside. The County Council hasn’t provided any funding for verge gardening projects for many years and the parking area is just a muddy mess.

A few years ago we did the first 50m. Now a further 150m is being fixed. Work has been delayed after we discovered NWL planned to dig up and replace the mains through the village, but should start in a few months time, significantly improving the look of the village.

A further project to provide a new parking area on Newton Drive is starting in the next few weeks. This has taken over a year to sort out, but we have managed to get the job done for thousands of pounds less than the original quotes by working with County Durham Housing Group.

We are currently looking at what works can be done around the area from our new budgets for 2018-19.






St Aidan’s Church Carpark

The Church is currently raising money to get the parking area improved for the Church and Parish Hall at St Aidan’s. We are working with them to get the best solution. In the meantime I managed to get the County Council to drop off a few wagon loads of wood chips to cover the mud which has been causing all the problems. Should make it easier for people to park.

Survey works for possible Northern Relief Road

More and more residents are contacting us about the work going on around Brasside. This is work on behalf of the Council to help draw up plans for a possible Noerthewrn Relief Road. Below is a pic from a local resident and a response from Strategic Highways at DCC explaining what is going on.


Further to your recent phone call I am pleased to confirm the following in relation to the Northern Relief Road.

As you may be aware the consultation on the previous Durham Plan suggested that the construction of the Western Relief Road was sought early in the plan period with the Northern route sometime late. It was for this reason that design work was progressed to a higher level of detail on the western route whilst the northern was more in outline.

Whilst not confirming any changes to the next plan it would be sensible and opportune to have the northern route designed to the same level of detail. It is for this reason that we are currently completing a more detailed topographical survey and will be soon undertaking ground investigation works with boreholes and trial pits. The current work will allow a greater level of detailed design and certainty in any future consultation.

It is also the case that any funding opportunities that may arise nationally in the short to medium term would expect a level of detail which will be delivered by the ongoing commissions and without which we would be unlikely to be able to proceed.

Framwellgate Moor Clinic set to shut

The clinic on Framwellgate Moor Front street is to close (not to be confused with Dunelm Medical Centre).

I have found out this just in the last few days, after the announcement over a year ago that it was under threat, which at the time was also uncovered by us, not through any official announcement.

Again we have found out by accident. The lease is not to be renewed and services will be shift out to other areas over the next three months.

This quite clearly goes against the NHS ethos of having services as close to patients as possible. It will also leave an empty property on the Front Street.

It also appears that there may not have been an attempt to renegotiate the lease on the property, so there is no chance that we will ever know if a better deal could have been obtained. Indeed we also do not know how much the repair clauses in the lease will hit the NHS to return the property to the state at the start of the lease.

All this suggests that there has not been full due diligence in considering whether or not  this is indeed a financially sound decision to make, to say nothing of the impact on service users.

I do wonder what attempts were made to look at adding services to the Clinic to help make it more sustainable. I am deeply concerned as to what is likely to come next with local health services as many are being tendered out and are likely to end up in the private sector with the many risks associated with such action.

Whilst what is going on cannot entirely be laid at the door of the government as this is local decision making  I am certain that the impact of under investment by the current government in the NHS and social care services will have contributed to the decisions being made.

I am waiting for a response from the NHS but expect we will see a response in the press from them before anything emailed back to me.


Pity Me Fire this evening

The fire in PIty Me this evening was in a skip on the building site for the new social housing at Woodbine Road, plenty of flames but thankfully, a quick call by residents to 999 and a fast response from the fire brigade got this under control quickly. It nearly spread to another skip and could have ended up setting fire to one of the new houses.

I have spoken with one of the senior officers at County Durham Housing Group who has called out this evening to view the site and will be visiting again in the morning – excellent response.

I’m also in discussion over a number of other site issues.

State of our country lanes – update

I chased up today on the litter situation on our country lanes, in particular Potterhouse Lane (past the tip), Rotary Way, along the back roads and down to Cocken.

They are in a really bad way. Some work will be done soon but some will have to be delayed as Cocken will apparently require a road closure for safety reasons.

I will keep chasing this. Sick and tired of takeaway rubbish on these roads.

App to check if older or vulnerable people are OK at home

From DCC:

A new service has been launched to offer a little extra peace of mind to the relatives of older and vulnerable people in County Durham.

3rings is a mobile phone and PC app which lets people know when their relative is using an electrical appliance such as a kettle, television or washing machine.

The idea is to reassure people that their relative is up and well.

The app is being offered by Durham County Council through its Care Connect service.

Linda Ogilvie, Care Connect manager, said: “he app is a really simple, affordable way of offering people that little extra reassurance if their relative is older or vulnerable.

It will send live updates to your phone or PC to let you know when your relative is settling down to watch the TV, putting the kettle on for a cuppa or heating something in the microwave.

So if your dad usually uses the kettle between 7am and 9am, the app will send an alert letting you know whether or not this has happened, meaning you can rest assured that your loved one is up, active and well.

Residents get incorrect Council Tax bills

Residents around Durham City are getting electronic council tax bills which are incorrect.

On Newton Hall and other parts of the City residents have received electronic bills and are being charged for the City of Durham Town Council precept by mistake.

We immediately raised this with officers and are hopeful that paper bills have not been sent out too.

Update: 4782 paper bills were printed and scrapped at a cost of £240. Thankfully they were not posted out. Over 1100 people got incorrect electronic bills. Needless to say we are asking that the proper checks are put in so it doesn’t happen again.