Recent letter in the Sentinel

A letter in the Sentinel attacking the LibDems is riddled with falsehood, especially regarding the party and people of faith and the party’s latest conference motions about Israel and Palestine. So here are some truths.

LibDems welcome people of faith and do not exclude those who disagree with any party policy for religious reasons.

On Israel and Palestine, the September party conference re-iterated its support for the state of Israel and condemned human rights violations by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in particular, as well as by Israel. Its call for labelling of goods so people can choose not to buy from the occupied territories is not simply against the Israelis who have gone to live there; it is because they are harming the rights and livelihoods of Palestinians. The permanent occupation of the West Bank by the Israelis, like its previous take over by Jordan, is illegal and its methods are brutal.

Nigel Jones

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Comments on the Local Plan Consultation Document taking place in the Autumn

First of all I cannot pay justice to 2 lengthy reports without boring you to death! I will make some general comments but I strongly advise you all to look at the full reports on line, entitled ‘Local Plan Issues and Strategic Options’ and ‘Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Report’. Both can be downloaded from here.

These two reports form the framework for years to come around housing supply, types of housing required, and employment requirements. Development with character but balanced with growth and conservation. Together with protecting the green belt, enabling growth of our university, maintaining open space and supporting our rural villages.

Potentially there is sufficient employment land to sustain proposed growth, the issue is it in the right location and the right type and quality of land? We have built new offices, warehouses etc but at a cost of existing space being lost where some would say houses could be built. Do we have enough industry in Newcastle or do we in order to increase prosperity and job creation need more? Do we need more houses to support a higher population and more diverse labour market? What option for growth is the most appropriate to use? Over to you to officially respond to the consultation process!

What are we doing to protect the green belt?

National policy  does give great importance to protecting green belt land in order to prevent over spill into rural areas, but the dilemma is, have we enough brown field sites within the Borough to develop to meet our needs. Most would say no but it is up to you the public to identify sites which could be built on to protect the green belt. We as Liberal Democrats want to protect our green spaces, rightly so, but do we want growth as well? The Council are wanting to exhaust non green belt sites first and are now starting to look at decontamination of land in order to use it. A call for sites process is now in operation. Planners are wanting us to give an opinion on what sites can be made available for developing and what sites we the public want saving in the green belt. My advice is we do need to be objective if we are naming a site not to be developed, and there are some, we need to also look at alternative suggestions. Infrastructure around the sites is a consideration, schools, retail, health centres, transport options and exploring the optimum possibilities around walking and cycling etc. Off balance between larger sites being a bigger blot on the landscape; and concentrating development in one place. The greenbelt does encompass a significant proportion of the Borough’s land. I quote Audley as an example, it is entirely in a  Greenbelt area. To release its land from the Greenbelt may well mean potential heritage problems and does it meet the preserving of rural area character? Does Audley have the transport mechanism and supporting services around the area to sustain development? Should development in the rural area be spread equally across the rural centres. If not how should growth be distributed in the rural area? Likewise should the Keele University growth corridor be included in our plan with the rationale behind our thoughts.

For you to decide!

Gypsy and Travellers are part of our community, do we as a Borough have sufficient sites for them? Do we have suggestions for potential sites which are deliverable if we deem we do not have sufficient sites already?

Affordable housing. What is our expectation? Do we meet government targets, should the local plan set an alternative target and how would we justify that.  How do we address the needs of the growing elderly population in Newcastle and the needs of the disabled?

What are our thoughts on development boundaries? Where do we draw the line between development and preserving the countryside? Where do village envelopes start and finish? Should boundaries be reviewed and should this be part of the Local plan?

Retail and Town Centre Regeneration. How do we address the continuing competition between face to face shopping and on line shopping? What are the alternative uses for premises which are no longer needed for retail? What do we want to see on our high streets, where does out of town shopping fit in?

Where do our recreational faculties fit in across the Borough, and what do we want? How are we going to put heart back into areas like Chesterton, Kidsgrove, Knutton? What are our suggestions to be included in the plan?

How do we address pollution, water and environmental air quality issues, as a result of any proposed development or even existing ones? As part of the local plan what do we want included?

Do we want a local policy on heritage, what should it contain? Do we include conservation areas, listed buildings, archaeology? How do we address issues with sites at risk? Do we consider the setting of historic buildings and the wider historic landscape? What measurers are most appropriate to sustain, enhance and avoid harm to the significance of heritage assets?

How do address flood risk measurements in this document? What policies do you want to see to mitigate against residual risk, improved emergency planning and flood awareness?

What recommendations need to be addressed with regard to our adopted Open space strategy and green infrastructure strategy? How do we want to manage our land? What do we want to see as part of open space provision in new developments?

Transport Network. What do we want to see included with regard to electric charging points? Is a policy required to contain the best approach to effectively promoting sustainable transport? Should anticipated parking standards be included, should the role of key routes and motorway networks within the borough be made explicit?

Finally, what would you like to see in a plan on renewable energy, for example should large developments be expected to provide a certain proportion of its energy via renewable or low carbon technology? What other carbon reducing measures do we want as a party?

Enough here to think about! As I said earlier please look at the entire document to get a better idea and please do respond to the consultation in the Autumn.

Marion Reddish.

Liberal Democrat Councillor in Newcastle.

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Will this Conservative government lead us into a fairer society?

Talk of levelling up and supporting our schools is talking the talk and far from walking the walk.

Jonathan Gullis, Conservative MP for Stoke North, has written about the good work being done by a local charity, the Hubb Foundation, providing food and activities for children in school holidays.  He presents this as if he and the government are supporting people.  He says nothing about why these children need this help, because this government is not interested in structural changes that will redistribute wealth. Recently in Newcastle under Lyme, the Alice Charity was reported being sad about the growth in demand for their work to help families. The Trussell Trust reported 74% rise in food parcels in the year before the pandemic took hold and keeps saying they want  “a UK without the need for food banks”. On behalf of Church Action on Poverty, a group of 4 academics spent three years researching “Life on the Breadline” and concluded this year that charities “should not simply fill the gap but encourage policy to develop structural reforms”. An all-party charity called ‘Feeding Britain’ has called for “systemic change to eliminate hunger in the UK”.

With cuts to Universal Credit, increases in fuel costs, increases in other prices (due to Brexit and Covid), and inadequate government support for affordable rented accommodation, this government’s policies are making matters worse.

Conservative MPs all voted against a motion to provide for children in school holidays; they correctly say “it is the role of the school to educate, not to be the welfare state”, yet are not in favour of proper welfare.  In spite of Boris’ words, this government has still to provide properly for better youth services, just one of many factors causing lack of achievement in school by some of our children. One report (as well as 2 others) in 2019 by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research said that factors outside the school account for nearly 90% of the lack of achievement of pupils. So when are we going to get the systemic change to prevent children from living in poverty and under-achieving  in our schools ?

Nigel Jones (August 2021)

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Comments from your Liberal Democrat Councillor in Newcastle

Thank you to all who voted for a Liberal Democrat Team in the County elections. Unfortunately however, we have a heavily dominated Tory County Council elected  here in Staffordshire. It is never  healthy decision making when one party has a huge majority. It is very tempting for them to ignore debate from other groups, and rarely do they amend good proposals by other parties.

Local Plan for Newcastle 2021-24.

The Council have decided to submit a Borough wide plan for Newcastle, led by the Conservatives. This is a major piece of work and includes sites we want to build on for housing or industry and how we address the transport mechanism associated with development and our vision for developing business opportunities. £ 550,000 will be needed extra to ‘go it alone’ rather than with Stoke. Another minus sign is we obviously will not have the opportunity to use brownfield sites in Stoke so more land to build will have to come from within the Borough. The plus side is that we will be steering what we want for this Borough and progress with a joint plan with Stoke was painfully slow. Many are divided about what should have happened, I personally see the benefits to steering our own borough, but it does come at a cost. In 2018 the Liberal Democrats locally put forward our own comments, little happened to them but they can be viewed on the web. If you want to see more please visit the planning policy pages on the web under current development plan page. A public consultation takes place in Sept. The plan needs to be accepted by government  by 2024.

Good News

We are delighted that at last a long time investment by the government is coming our way. Not before time, Liberal Democrats have long fought for improvements to town centre. £23.6M has been awarded to Newcastle, £16.9M to Kidsgrove and a further £11M for Newcastle Future High Street fund. Some of the projects which will benefit from this money include Kidsgrove Sports Centre renovation which is now well underway and they hope to open by June 2022. Kidsgrove station is to have its long awaited lift, a hugh milestone if you are carrying suitcases and/ or children, or if you are  physically disabled.

Other projects in Newcastle include efficient LED lighting for 40 stalls on THE STONES market , Lib Dems are very supportive of plans to redesign the market.

A unit in the Lancaster building has been refurbished to house a new community/employment  skills hub. I look forward to this opening soon.

The old civic offices will be demolished from early August, taking 44 weeks to complete. Plans are in place to restart the development of the whole of the Ryecroft site and Merrial Street, with links to the Ironmarket and High Street. Traders in Ashley way are being consulted to see where they will be relocated to. A new car park is envisaged in Merrial street and the Midway car park will be demolished. The days of department stores in the centre of Newcastle are long gone but I am excited to see the centre of town being revamped and coming alive again. Please look out for the Artisan market which is growing in size and very popular It is good to see Zanibars site being built on again, this is an important gateway site to town, similarly we wait with eager anticipation to see how Aspire housing develop the Ashfields site.

We are asking major questions about the Councils plan to deal with Climate change and Pollution. Liberal Democrats have lead the agenda on Climate change notionally and locally. The Tory Government appear to be slow to act and there is little progress being made locally. We need to understand more about where the emissions are coming from and make radical changes, in order to reduce to zero emissions. When will we get a better transport links and buses and cars being run by electricity?

4489 trees need attention within the Borough and 80 woodland sites need maintaining properly and trees pruned. This is in addition to trees which are in the ownership of County Highways. Money is not there to do this work and so Parish Councils and individuals are being asked to contribute to the cost! Government cuts to local authorities are now showing their effect visibly as well as affecting the quality of life. We as Liberal Democrats want to maintain our trees, environmental issues are high on our priority list, however we think it is wrong that individuals are being asked to pay for work which should be done by councils and have said so.

Walleys Quarry: The Environment Agency say conditions are improving and they have increased their monitoring of the site. Walleys Quarry Ltd say they are working within the guidelines. We say it is not enough because the stink remains just as annoying. Local LDs join in the protest campaign and we will continue to work hard on this important issue; we see little progress on reducing the smell and conditions are still unacceptable. Play your part by reporting the smell – tel  0800 807060 or e-mail ics@environment-agency.gov.uk 

Covid-19: The vaccination programme has gone well, however we need to continue to be vigilant. WARD LEVEL DATA is updated weekly on https://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/statistical-workareas/covid-19-vaccination/, have a look at it. If you find yourself having to self isolate and are struggling please contact staffordshirecares@staffordshire.gov.uk tel 03001118050 for help or ring the council on 717717. Liberal Democrat Hilary Jones is also willing to help, email her on HilaryAJONES@outlook .com, tel 632895

Marion Reddish (tel 613265).

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