Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Great Northumberland- there’s so much going on!

There is never any shortage of fantastic events in and around Northumberland, and now there is a place where you can find out about everything that is going on in our local area. The Great Northumberland website was set up by Northumberland County Council last year, and now event organisers can promote their event for free on the website. All you have to do is visit the website below and fill out a form giving all the information about your event.

Whether you are promoting an event or just want to find out what is going on near you, the Great Northumberland website is a great place to go to keep up to date with local events. The calendar for the next month alone is full of events to suit all interests, so make sure to have a look so you don’t miss out!


Sunday, 28 April 2019

The Hexham Book Festival gets underway

The next chapter of the Hexham Book Festival got underway this weekend, but with more than a week still to go of literary events now is the perfect time to look at this year's programme to find the events for you! Writers including Michael Rosen, Kate Humble, Prue Leith and Benjamin Zephaniah are still to speak at events as part of the Festival, along with many, many more writers from a huge range of genres.

Tickets for the events can be booked from the Queen's Hall Box Office by calling 01434 652477 or online at www.queenshall.co.ukThere is still time to book your tickets so make sure not to miss out!


Friday, 26 April 2019

Get your child vaccinated!

Yesterday I read the story of baby Alba, who was became seriously ill with measles last year just weeks before she was due to be vaccinated. The BBC report highlighted what the NHS has described as a ‘growing public health time bomb’- the increasing number of people who are rejecting vaccines. UNICEF says that more than half a million children in the UK missed out on the MMR vaccine between 2010 and 2017, and there has been a 300% increase on measles cases worldwide compared to last year. Thankfully Alba is now over the worst of her illlness, but these frightening statistics really do highlight the importance of getting your child vaccinated as soon as they are able to receive the MMR vaccine- babies usually receive their first dose around their first birthday and the second at three to four years old. Measles is an extremely infectious illness that can lead to serious health consequences, including lung and brain infections. The vaccine really is so important- please find out more about how you can protect your child below:



Thursday, 25 April 2019

Show your support for Northumberland Day

Northumberland Day celebrates the very best of our brilliant county, and the event’s organisers are asking for your support. This year’s Northumberland Day takes place on 26th May, and businesses have the opportunity to sponsor the day, which includes Langley Castle and Northumberland County Show as its sponsors. Meanwhile you can get involved and show your pride for Northumberland by flying the county flag and decorating your windows, homes and gardens with the red and yellow colours of Northumberland. 

Northumberland Day provides a wonderful boost to the economy and tourism in our local communities. If you or your business have plans to hold a Northumberland Day event, get in touch with the organisers and get your event details on the website, which can be visited here:

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

The return of the Hexham Spring Festival

This weekend (Saturday 27th April, 9am-4.30pm) the 2019 Hexham Spring Festival is taking place in the Hexham Abbey Grounds. With market stalls selling food, arts, crafts and gifts, as well as live music from local choirs and bands at the Victorian bandstand, the Festival will be a wonderful day out for all the family. This year there will also be the chance to try out bushcraft skills, Go Karting or even an alpaca trek! The Festival is highlighting the campaign to 'Back British Farming' and there will be visiting farm animals and hands-on farming activities as well- a very important cause in our rural constituency.

The Hexham Spring Festival is always a fantastic event in the town- find out more here:


Sunday, 21 April 2019

An Easter weekend in the countryside

We have been incredibly lucky to have been able to enjoy such glorious weather over this Easter bank holiday weekend. Over the last two weeks Northumberland National Park Authority and National Parks UK have been marking Discover National Parks Fortnight, a celebration of our landscapes to encourage people to get outside. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act which paved the way for the establishment of National Parks, and with the stunning Northumberland National Park right on our doorsteps, what better time to make the most of the beautiful weather and get outside in our wonderful countryside.

Spending time in the outdoors has so many beneficial effects to our health and wellbeing. As the summer months approach, why not consider making the most of the incredible National Park we have in the Hexham constituency and spend some time exploring our beautiful countryside- I promise you won't regret it!

Saturday, 20 April 2019

It's official- Allendale is one of the best places to live in the UK

It's official! Allendale has been named as one of the best places to live in the country by The Sunday Times Best Places to Live guide. The village was praised for its local clubs and festivals, pubs and beautiful countryside to be chosen as one of 101 locations across the UK to make up the list.

We all know that there aren't many better places to live than Northumberland, and it is fantastic to see one of our amazing local villages recognised on a national level.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Essity's outstanding apprentices

Essity's Prudhoe Mill is one of our largest local employers and has a brilliant apprenticeship scheme. It is great to hear that they will be doubling their apprentice intake to twenty, with ten young engineers being given permanent positions after achieving outstanding results in their final exams. I am a great admirer of Essity's work with apprentices and am delighted that the hard work of both the company and their apprentices is paying off. Congratulations to all!


Tuesday, 16 April 2019

The countdown to the Northumberland County Show

It's that time of year again! The Northumberland County Show is just around the corner- Monday 27th May at Bywell Hall will see a jam-packed day of stands, events and exhibitors in what is always a fantastic celebration of Northumberland. This year's programme of events looks to be better than ever, with something to entertain everyone in the family. I always enjoy my visits to the County Show and have no doubt that this year's will be another great day.

Parking for the County Show is free, but do make sure to buy your tickets either on the day or online in advance to beat the queues. To buy your tickets or to find out more about the programme for this year's event visit here- http://www.northcountyshow.co.uk/index.php 

Monday, 15 April 2019

My opposition to open cast coal mining at Dewley Hill

L-R: Jos Forester-Melville, Eileen Killen, and my constituent Helen Crowe at Dewley Hill 

I cannot support plans for a new open cast coal mine on our green belt land at Dewley Hill between Ponteland and Heddon. Details of my engagement with the local community and my letter to Newcastle City Council are set out below.

In the many years I have done this job as a candidate, and then as the MP, there have been 2 previous applications for local open cast mines in the Hexham Constituency. I was very involved in opposing both the application at Halton Lea Gate in the west, and Whitonstall more recently.

At Halton Lea Gate, myself and Councillor Ian Hutchinson have been working with the local community since 2008:
You can read my old blog post on this here and the article in relation to the second application in The Journal here

The open cast proposal at Whittonstall went to a public meeting at Snods Edge Village Hall before being rejected by the Northumberland County Council: You can read my blog post on this here and the subsequent article in The Journal here

For an overview of open cast mining locally, my wider views on this, and the need for companies to engage locally, and the planning process generally on open cast (find out more by clicking here). 

The Dewley Hill site really matters. It is on the greenbelt border between Newcastle and Northumberland. This is green belt that we have fought long and hard to protect over many years: whether that is the titanic struggle against Lugano at Birney Hill next to Dewley Hill, or at Clickenim Farm.

I recently met with members of the Defend Dewley Hill Action Group to discuss their planning, environmental and infrastructure concerns. They are rightly concerned that this is the wrong approach when we are doing so much as a country to tackle Climate Change. You can watch my video with local campaigner Helen Crowe below:

The site - adjacent to the B6323, and the A69 - and literally down the hill from the Birney Hill site, is currently green belt / green field land. The National Planning Policy Framework, the legislation which controls planning permits, says that only in very special circumstances can green belt be built on, or opencast coal extraction accepted.

If the opencast coal mine was to go ahead, it would be up to 67 meters deep, covering 50 hectares. It would lead to up to three years of coal mining, and see more than 100 lorries in and out of the site each day between 7am and 10pm to extract 800,000 tonnes of coal. Such an application has consequences on the local community.

The UK leads the world in tackling Climate Change, and the days of coal are numbered. Rather than new opencast mining of fossil fuels on the greenbelt, we need a cleaner, greener future increasingly powered by renewable energy.

It should also be noted that two previous planning applications at the site were rejected; one in 1994, and another in 1999.

I have written to Cllr Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council, to voice my concerns and ask the Council to block this proposal. You can read a copy of my letter below:

As a country the UK has cut emissions by 40% since 1990, and we remain firmly on track to meet the target set by the Climate Change Act of 2008, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. Ultimately, however, the goal remains net zero carbon emissions.

In the Spring Statement last month, the government announced a series of measures to help tackle Climate Change. Most notably, a plan to stop fossil-fuel heating systems such as gas boilers being built in new houses from 2025. This is part of plans to cut the use of fossil fuels, with plans for the UK's remaining coal fired power stations to be shut by 2025.

If you want to find out more on what the government is doing to combat and address climate change and how the UK is leading the way, and more details of my approach go here:

For my part, I do not want to see a new opencast mine casting a shadow on our local communities and taking away the green belt between urban Newcastle and the Northumberland border at Ponteland. This would be bad planning policy, bad for our local environment, and the wrong approach to Climate Change.

If you object, as I do, have your say by April 20th (That's this Friday!) by clicking here. 

I accept some constituents are in favour. If they are in favour and want to have their say, then they should also make their views known. Newcastle City Council will consider the application in due course.   

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Hexham Book Festival- get your tickets now!

The Hexham Book Festival is back for another year, and 2019 looks set to be the best yet. The Festival is taking place from 26th April-5th May, and with an incredibly impressive lineup including Luke Jennings, Prue Leith, Kate Humble and Benjamin Zephaniah, it promises to be a brilliant week for literary fans of all genres.

Tickets for the events can be booked from the Queen's Hall Box Office by calling 01434 652477 or online at www.queenshall.co.uk. I really would encourage you to look at the programme below and get your tickets for the events that interest you!


Thursday, 11 April 2019

Free school transport proving popular with local students

I am delighted to hear that nearly 900 students in Northumberland have been using the free post-16 transport since the start of the school year, following Northumberland County Council's decision to remove £600 a year charges introduced by the former Labour administration. This is a significant increase on those using school bus services provided by the county council in the last academic year. Under the policy Northumberland residents are provided with free transport to travel to a full-time course at their nearest provider.

It is absolutely right that local students should receive free transport and I am so pleased that Northumberland County Council's decision to scrap the charges has had such a positive effect.

Find out more about the free post-16 transport service here: https://www.northumberland.gov.uk/Education/Schools/School-transport-1/Transport.aspx?nccredirect=1

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Intergenerational success!

I wanted to share with you a wonderful story featured in this week's Hexham Courant. Year 4 children at the Sele First School in Hexham have been receiving training in dementia as part of the Intergenerational Project launched by the Chrysalis dementia support group in Hexham. The project is based on the idea that young children and older people can be beneficial to each other, and the pupils have been working together with local members of the project to carry out gardening at Hexham's Adapt Enterprise Hub, planting everything from flowers to herbs. The supplies were kindly provided by Tom Martin at Wylam Nurseries.

This sounds like a brilliant project and everyone involved seems to have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Well done to everyone at the Sele and the Intergenerational Project- it is always great to hear about local people coming together to achieve such positive outcomes!

You can read more about the project here- https://www.hexham-courant.co.uk/news/17558598.tyne-valley-planting-project-unites-community/

Monday, 8 April 2019

An Easter quest at Chester's Roman Fort

The Easter holidays are here, and Chester's Roman Fort has a special quest to keep you and your family busy! English Heritage is inviting visitors to search for dragon eggs at the historic Roman fort- there is a certificate, sticker and chocolate treat for successful adventurers! You can join in the quest until 28th April and can find out more here-



Sunday, 7 April 2019

Dementia Friendly Hexham

Last year saw the official launch of Dementia Friendly Hexham, which aims to help local businesses to better meet the needs of customers with dementia. The town is one of several across the Hexham constituency that is leading the way on ensuring that our local communities are accessible and inclusive for people living with dementia.

On Thursday 11th April a Dementia Friends information session is being held at Hexham Community Centre from 4pm-5pm. The session is free and provides information about key messages about dementia and what it is like to live with dementia.

To book a place email communitycentreclare@gmail.com or visit https://www.dementiafriends.org.uk/WEBSessionDetails?id=a050J00000YlRI6QAN&user_type=#.XKogUy-ZOYU

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Come and visit Northumberland!

We all know what an amazing place Northumberland is. Last year, our county was crowned the Best UK Holiday County/Destination of the Year at the British Travel Awards. And tourism is extremely important to our local economy too, contributing £665 million annually.

Earlier this week I met with Tourism Minister Michael Ellis as part of English Tourism Week alongside representatives of VisitEngland to hear about the fantastic benefits that tourism brings to our economy both locally and across the country.

Across Northumberland, there are so many amazing places to visit, from the world famous Hadrian's Wall, to our beautiful beaches like Bamburgh, and the stunning Northumberland National Park.  

I recently visited Vindolanda, one of Europe's most important Roman archaeological sites on Hadrian's Wall which features the remains of nine forts dating from the third century. Watch my video below to find out more:

Friday, 5 April 2019

The People's Projects- have your say!

95 inspiring community projects in 19 regions across the UK have been shortlisted to win a share of £3 million in National Lottery Funding as part of this year's The People's Projects- a partnership between the National Lottery Community Fund and ITV. The People's Projects aim to give the public a say in where National Lottery money should go in their local area. Voting is now open until 15th April and you can have your say by voting for projects in our local region by visiting here- www.thepeoplesprojects.org.uk

This is your unique chance to decide which local community projects will win a share of the funding!

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

A night to remember in Newbrough

Town Halls are at the centre of so many of our local communities, and next week Newbrough is holding an event with the aim of giving their Town Hall a much needed funding boost. On Friday 12th April (7pm) Newbrough Town Hall will be hosting musician Sam Shields and his band for an evening of live music and food. Tickets cost £5 and can be bought on the door or from Fourstones Garage. It would be great if you could go along and show your support!

For more information call 01434 647315 or email newbrough2018@gmail.com 

Monday, 1 April 2019

An income tax cut, fuel duty freeze, and an increase in the National Living Wage

Today, changes have come into force that will put more money in your pocket, help you keep more of the money you earn, and help our small businesses to grow. 

The National Living Wage - a policy I have championed for many years - has increased to £8.21 an hour. That's a 35% increase since 2010, and means that someone working full time will have seen their income increase by almost £3,000 since the Living Wage was introduced in 2016. 

Changes to the National Living Wage since 2010

The Personal Allowance - the amount of money you can earn before paying any tax - has been increased to £12,500. This means typical taxpayer will take home an additional £130 every year. 

Changes to the Personal Tax Allowance since 20101

Business rates for small retailers will be cut by one third, part of more than £13 billion of rates relief since 2016. This is in addition to the £675 million for local high streets to improve transport links, re-develop empty shops as homes and offices, and restore and re-use historic buildings.

Fuel duty will remain frozen for the ninth year running, saving the average driver £1,000 since 2010.

Rugby’s most prestigious trophies come to Hexham

It’s a big year for rugby in the North East, with the Heineken Champions Cup and European Rugby Challenge Cup finals both set to be held in Newcastle this year. And tomorrow, pupils at St Joseph’s Middle School and Queen Elizabeth High School in Hexham are being given the chance to see the two trophies for themselves. The trophies will visit the two schools as part of a three-week tour organised by Go North East. What an exciting experience!