Saturday, 4 December 2010

Dear Apple. No I dont

So I have been given some money to spend on *me*. And i thought I'd get something I otherwise wouldnt  - so i bought an ipad. Only the basic one -16GB +  wifi.I'll see how I ge ton with it. If I use it a lot , I can upgrade.

I have to sync it with itunes


Some problems with that .


It needs a Mac or windows


So I start up my windows XP VM that I use when I absolutely have to. So I have to install all 78 MB of  itunes (that I'm not going to use). I've managed so far, I'm not going to change just because you force me to sign up. In fact , I'm going to go out of my way NOT to use it. And  it asks me all those stupid questions.


and idiot,  its not a username  that you want, its an email address




If this is Apples' legendary usability then you know where you can put it. So that's an afternoon of faffing around that I  wont get back.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

landlords to fund Operation Oak ?

well, perhaps not just et.
A while ago I went to a Home Office Consultation meeting on the Licensing Act and the need to do something about the disruption and chaos caused by the night-time economy. For us this means Osborne Road.

HMG have published the results of the Rebalancing the Licensing Act Consultation. The summary is available as a couple of downloads from the relevant page on the Home Office website. The Independent has also picked up on this. 

The things that I think are relevant to Jesmond , but IANAL.

late night levy. A power for licensing authorities to introduce a charge for premises that have a late alcohol licence. Whether or not to implement the levy will be left entirely at the discretion of the licensing authority that will make the decision based on the situation in their local area. In the areas that it is introduced the levy will be collected annually and the revenue will be split between authorities and the police.

Consideration of the local community. Applicants will have to show that they have given consideration to  the effects on the local community

Greater consideration of Police Representations

Removal of the 'vicinity' test for relevant representations. Up to now you have had to be in the vicinity of the licensed premises to have what you say taken into consideration ( so residents in streets affected by drunken through-traffic weren't  relevant to a license application) 

Cumulative Impact Policies will be easier to set up . in the past, statistical information has been required. The proposals are that that will no longer be necessary.

Reducing the burden of proof.  Licensing authorities when making licensing decisions by requiring that they make decisions which are ‘appropriate’ rather than necessary for the promotion of the licensing
objectives. This will give licensing authorities greater power to tackle irresponsible premises.

Changing closing times.  Licensing authorities can set a fixed closing time , to stop night-time noise and disturbance , or introduce staggered closing times, to prevent too many people exiting bars all at the same time .

this will all be in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

farewell, Evo

I inherited one of these a while ago. Spec isnt brilliant . but I hate to waste stuff. So i thought id see what the  designed-for-low-spec ditributions. I think ive been through all those I could find . The main use has been to read the newspapers in the morning, as SWMBO has subscribed to the online version - apparently Im allowed to use her login to access  the paper, but if I comment on anything it will be in her name - and has  done away with the paper copy of The Times (of London). personally I browser the Grauniad  and The Indy

  • x-ubuntu
  • lubuntu
  • masonux
    • (no longer developed)
  • dsl
  • puppy ( well, macpup)

the poorest performing was xubuntu, then lubuntu. DSL was fine, but didnt have the drivers for the wireless connection  . So the one I stuck with , that worked best ( ie quickest) was ...........


But the laptop wont boot . I suspect its too old to do anything about , so very reluctantly , farewell, Evo .

But all is not lost - Ive got another old laptop to try !

Monday, 29 November 2010

Schapps' bag carrier

Due to the efforts of MPs from beleagured towns and cities, there was a debate about the changes introduced by Schapps. This is the Hansard report

Nicky Morgan (Loughborough) (Con):

The part of Loughborough to which I am referring has lost its primary school, church and post office due to lack of permanent residents. There is a rather ghostly atmosphere during university holidays, and as students are, by their very nature, transient, there is less of the sense of community and social interaction than is normally found in a stable and balanced community. There are also higher levels of crime. If a burglar breaks into a student house, he is likely to find several laptops, TVs and so on, which is bad news for the neighbours."
A quote from Loughborough residents
"We fail to understand why you are overlooking the responses of 92% of more than 900 respondents to last year's country wide HMO consultation, all of whom saw a change in the Use Classes Order as the preferred way forward for avoiding concentrations of HMOs. Participants did not make a blanket proposal to stop landlords converting family homes into HMOs. We envisaged a change in the Use Classes Order which councils could opt out of in situations where it was expedient to increase such accommodation. We breathed a sigh of relief that Charnwood Borough Council were at last being given the tools with which to control concentrations of HMOs and which could be tied into the existing Student Housing SPD.
Dr Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab)

We then come to the October changes. Frankly-I shall not mince my words-they were an act of legislative vandalism. For example, in Lenton, we have seen many of the local shops disappear, to be replaced by takeaways. Local residents have seen their local primary school shut down for lack of children. During term time, they experience daily problems with parking and, unfortunately, on occasion, with noise, litter and increased crime. Outside term time, they sometimes feel that they live in a ghost town.

Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) (Lab):

The universities, Nottingham city council and local voluntary and church groups are working hard to restore a sense of community, but they need the support of the Government too. The ability to control the development of HMOs gave local people real hope-the opportunity to maintain balanced and sustainable communities, rather than have their neighbourhoods left to the market.

The minister didnt bother to turn up - he left the underwhelming response to his bag-carrier, Andrew Stunnel

Saturday, 27 November 2010

praying against the brick wall

statutory instruments have been prayed against in the Early Day Motions so had to be debated here

Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) thinks Article 4 Directions (A4D) are OK. Yes Julian, housing and student needs in Cambridge are not representative of the rest of the country. Most students are in College-provided accommodation so the demands on the private rented sector are different. The industries around Cambridge and the particular circumstances of the University lead to intermittent demand for family housing that doesn't exists elsewhere in the country. Elsewhere there are student ghettos that remain as such year after year.

Grant Schapps in his response comes up with some sophistry about developers not knowing if they could invest,as a reason for undoing the change. Its difficult for me to understand , he also says its difficult for him to understand. Of course its difficult to understand , you clown, because the decision you are trying to defend is illogical, irrational and goes against the prolonged consultation that went on over 2 years. The Councils are rushing to implement Article 4 Directions because that's the only option you have left them , not that they think its a good idea. The other reason for the change gets a brief mention. With the changes to Housing Benefit, the Government need to ensure as far as they cant hat there is a supply of HMOs for people to move into after they have left their current accommodation. So stopping the Councils doing anything about it for 12 months lets developers provide the supply of housing.

Grant Schapps reminds me of a young Tony Blair - oozing insincerity and opportunism every time he says something.

Friday, 12 November 2010


So the request for a Judicial Review was refused.  Here are the reasons for refusal.  The figure of hate in this is of course Grant Schapps. As HMO lobby pointed out, disempowering Local Councils does no fit with the 'Big Society' guff that came out of David Cameron. HMO lobby put it nicely in their press release

National HMO Lobby

News Release, 7 September 2010
The 'Big Society' is a Big Con

The coalition government is always to keen to promote 'the big society' - except when it contradicts their libertarian ideology and enthusiasm for the unrestrained market! The last government acted to protect local communities from exploitation by the Buy-to-Let industry, supporting the Big Society. But now, in a dictatorial exercise of Big Government, announced today, the Housing Minister has re-opened these communities to further exploitation.

For decades, local communities in a wide range of situations have suffered from exploitation by irresponsible landlords, responding to a range of markets, and buying up family homes, to turn them into lucrative shared houses. Pack in the tenants, rake in the rents! They've done it in market towns (with migrant workers), they've done it in seaside towns (with benefit claimants), they've done it in university towns (with students). As transient tenants moved in, they forced out stable families - undermining any sort of society, big or small.

Organisations like the National HMO Lobby campaigned for years for action. Last summer, a huge consultation supported new legislation. At last, after a decade of damage, the last government changed the legislation on houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), so that local councils had some control at last over what was happening to their housing stock. Specifically, they amended the Use Classes Order, to do so.

But within forty days of the General Election, the new coalition government announced it was going to overturn these measures - even though their alternative was rejected by 99% of the respondents in the consultation in 2009. The Minister initiated a consultation by invitation. Even then, the Core Cities, the professionals (Planning Officers, RTPI), the Coastal Communities Alliance, MPs (All-Party Group), the Councillors Campaign for Balanced Communities - not to mention representatives of local communities up and down the country - opposed the new proposals.

All agree they are undemocratic and unworkable. But Big Government has bulldozed ahead, and dashed the aspirations of all those trying to preserve their communities. The Minister has introduced measures which revoke the amendments to the Use Classes Order

It's pretty clear what the 'Con' in 'Conservative' means.

Contact Dr Richard Tyler, C-ordinator, National HMO Lobby, 0113-275 5369

The Lobby's website is at

And its response to the Minister's 'consultation is at

With help from Detective Google I found an article from The Guardian. There have been links in the past between the Tories and vested interest. To quote from the article

Grant Shapps, the party's housing spokesman, disclosed to the commissioner that he had taken tens of thousands of pounds from five different companies associated with his portfolio.

They were two online mortgage brokers, Charcol and Edeus Creators; Douglas & Gordon, a west London estate agent; the Sapcote Group, a commercial property developer; and Goldsmith Williams, a firm of solicitors that specialises in conveyancing and remortgaging.

So instead of Local elected Representatives having their say in trying to maintain 'balanced communities', Councils are effectively powerless to stop further parasitic exploitation of some areas in University towns and cities by Landlords and Developers. There is a waiting period of 12 months before the replacement to the changes in planning, Article 4 Directions. in some circumstances Local Councils may end up paying compensation. "The effect of an Article 4 Direction is to remove permitted development rights, thereby necessitating a planning application to be made. Article 4 Directions are not issued without careful consideration, because the Council may be required to pay compensation in circumstances where you cannot obtain planning permission for development which otherwise would be treated as permitted development" (Planning Applications, at

Local residents are disappointed that the Government has disregarded the needs of their communities. I cant see that Grants' previous financial supporters being too unhappy about this turn of events.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

An unusual sight

I cant remember this before  - 'To Let' signs still up after term has started.   Either

  • landlords are  taking advantage, leaving the signs up and having some free publicity
  • there are still vacant properties to let when all the students are back and hav somewhere to live.
I suspect (on no objective grounds whatsoever)  that its the latter.
The combined effects of Universities  being penalised for over-booking, the current poor employment  prospects for students and new developments at the top end of the student housing market means total numbers of students may be falling. Is this good or bad for Jesmond ?
The  wealthier students may go into the new build around the City. For the rest, if there is over-provision, then rents may fall. Some students will prefer to live more centrally saving on travel costs and time so empty rental properties may occur more peripherally in Newcastle and occupancy rates in Jesmond may remain higher than elsewhere.
If students have  less disposable income then the night-life of Osborne Road may take a hit and there will be less disturbance for residents. If the students living in Jesmond are poorer and don't have their own cars then parking may  become easier for residents.

Will an influx of poorer students be good or bad ? No idea, but at least parking will be easier.    

Saturday, 30 October 2010

CM and the Blueline taxi

I went on the Critical Mass ride yesterday. just a group of friends with a common interest who go for ride.We started at about 5.45 from Haymarket and went to Monument where we met up with a few others and then about 50 went down to Central Station. Coming back from Central Station,going up Clayton St West there was an incident.50 bikes takes up a fair bit of road space so we were spread across both lanes, and joined the traffic queue I was towards the middle  of the pack.  There was  car horn going intermittently - I assumed an impatient driver. There was a bit of a commotion. There had been a collision between a taxi and one of the bikes, related here,  with some pictures of the damage. We all stopped, turned around and went to see what had happened. I saw the driver , in the car, not getting out until the police arrived.   So eventually they arrived and started taking statements. Several people came up , volunteering names and addresses as witnesses.
Hopefully we will get to hear the outcome.

So what does CM achieve (other than making taxi drivers irate) ?

  • As a regular commuting cyclist, it is undoubtedly safer going through the city centre on a bike, as part of a large crowd. My daiy commute is  to the Coast and I'd love to have a CM ride along the Coast Road. Much better than the hotch-potch mixture of back roads and cycle paths in varying states of repair.
  • Its good humoured - and the pedestrians seem to like the spectacle.
  • It will remind people that a bike is a good way of getting around.
is annoying taxi drivers a  good or bad  side-effect ?  As the average rush-hour speed or traffic through town centres is something awful, a bunch of cyclists wont make much difference

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Go Milton Keynes, Go

Councils and residents in University towns and cities were relieved and delighted when the last Government introduced changes to planning regulations that meant a change from a family house to HMO would need planning approval. This is in no short measure due to the tireless efforts of richard Tyler and the HMO lobby. At last Councils could exercise some control over housing in the urban ghettos of student areas. The new Government thought otherwise and revoked the legislation after a brief invited consultation.

However Milton Keynes Council took the lead and have started the steps leading to s Judicial review. More infomation about all this is on the Royal Town Planning Institute website . More information on or shortly after 8 October, the date by when the Government has to respond.

And I'll even include a link to Tourism in Milton Keynes!

Saturday, 18 September 2010

closing (? and opening) Supermarkets

I've had a conversation with someone from John Lewis about the dearth of stores in the NorthEast. The first was Durham, but they closed it after a couple of years. Apparently its the only store they have opened and then had to close.  The Northern Echo report on the closure is still available as is a blog report  from a trade journal. An unusual failure in a usually successful store .  These reports blame the location - had they been elsewhere in the City Centre they would have been OK 
They managed to sell baked beans , and not much else. Apparently that's all that students buy from an upmarket supermarket.

Its relevant because of the  site that was Osborne Garage.
This is what we have at the moment (a screenshot of the Google Streetview because it will change)

And there is an approved Planning Application to convert it into a store. When it was applied for (Apr-Aug 2009) the rumour has been either a Waitrose or a Sainsbury.

Some competition for Tescos down the road.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Pandering to vested interests

There has been a bit of email traffic recently concerning the Governments'  decision to repeal the legislation that required planning permission for converting a house to a HMO (House in Multiple Occupancy). Here is the Government Press release  .
Some interested parties have issued press releases or written to the papers. 

National HMO Lobby
News Release, 7 September 2010
The 'Big Society' is a Big Con
The coalition government is always to keen to promote 'the big society' - except when it contradicts their libertarian ideology and enthusiasm for the unrestrained market!  The last government acted to protect local communities from exploitation by the Buy-to-Let industry, supporting the Big Society.  But now, in a dictatorial exercise of Big Government, announced today, the Housing Minister has re-opened these communities to further exploitation.
For decades, local communities in a wide range of situations have suffered from exploitation by irresponsible landlords, responding to a range of markets, and buying up family homes, to turn them into lucrative shared houses.  Pack in the tenants, rake in the rents!  They've done it in market towns (with migrant workers), they've done it in seaside towns (with benefit claimants), they've done it in university towns (with students).  As transient tenants moved in, they forced out stable families - undermining any sort of society, big or small.
Organisations like the National HMO Lobby campaigned for years for action.  Last summer, a huge consultation supported new legislation.  At last, after a decade of damage, the last government changed the legislation on houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), so that local councils had some control at last over what was happening to their housing stock.  Specifically, they amended the Use Classes Order, to do so.
But within forty days of the General Election, the new coalition government announced it was going to overturn these measures - even though their alternative was rejected by 99% of the respondents in the consultation in 2009.  The Minister initiated a consultation by invitation.  Even then, the Core Cities, the professionals (Planning Officers, RTPI), the Coastal Communities Alliance, MPs (All-Party Group), the Councillors Campaign for Balanced Communities - not to mention representatives of local communities up and down the country - opposed the new proposals.
All agree they are undemocratic and unworkable.  But Big Government has bulldozed ahead, and dashed the aspirations of all those trying to preserve their communities.  The Minister has introduced measures which revoke the amendments to the Use Classes Order.
It's pretty clear what the 'Con' in 'Conservative' means.
Contact Dr Richard Tyler, C-ordinator, National HMO Lobby, 0113-275 5369
The Lobby's website is at and its response to the Minister's 'consultation.

and from the National Organisation of Residents Associations

Dear Sir

On the 7th September Grant Shapps, the Housing Minister, dealt a severe blow to the aspirations of David Cameron’s grand concept of The Big Society. He introduced planning legislation governing the change of a family dwelling to a house of multiple occupancy.(HMO).

For the past ten years resident groups and local planning authorities have fought a long and hard campaign to stem the uncontrolled growth of concentrations of HMOs in university towns and cities lacking adequate student accommodation, in coastal towns housing families on benefit and in market towns housing migrant workers.  Large areas of residential property have been blighted by this change destroying communities and making life miserable for the few residents still remaining in them.

In 2009 the last government finally launched a consultation paper on the problem.  92% of respondents supported a new planning category use of HMOs making it necessary to apply for planning consent to change the use of family homes to HMOs, whilst the option of setting up Article 4 Directions to control HMOs in specified areas, a complex and time-consuming exercise currently used to control the external appearance of valued properties, was supported by only 1% of respondents.  As a result of this overwhelming support for planning consent, on April 6 2010 legislation was implemented to the great relief of large numbers of residents.

Just before the election the Conservatives indicated that this legislation would be repealed at the request of the Landlords Association.  The plan was to replace it with the Article 4 Directions scheme, rejected by nearly all planning authorities as unworkable.  A new consultation paper was issued and again those involved rejected this solution, but to no avail.

David Cameron’s wish to empower local communities so that they decided what was best for them is a laudable concept.  His 2009 Hugo Young lecture proposed removing power from central government and giving it to local government, and for local communities to engage more effectively with local government.  He labelled the community as The Big Society and we looked forward to its coming. This move by the Housing Minister totally undermines this grand idea, by taking a central government decision against the wishes of the community.

As far as this issue of HMOs is concerned, The Big Society is dead.

Ive not  got such grand aspirations - heres my letter to the Newcastle Journal, trying to garner support for the Judicial Review proposed by Milton Keynes .
Residents groups in Newcastle, and elsewhere in the country are dismayed at the Coalition government’s decision to repeal the changes to Use Class Order legislation that gave local councils some control over what happened to housing stock in their area.

For many years local residents have suffered as the Universities have taken in more and more students with scant consideration of where they would live. Landlords bought up houses to convert into HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupancy) and residential areas and communities increasingly suffer from the economic and social disruption caused by excess numbers of students and irresponsible landlords.

Consultations conducted by the previous Government revealed widespread support for giving local councils the powers to address the imbalances that have turned some streets in Newcastle into Student ghettos during term-time and urban deserts through the summer.

By removing from local councils the new power to limit HMOs in existing areas with an excess, it is clear that the Government is going against its own ideas of the ‘Big Society’ that empowers local communities.

Milton Keynes Council is considering applying for Judicial Review of the Housing Ministers’ recent decision. Hopefully Newcastle Council will enthusiastically support Councilors in the south as they try to redress the current unacceptable imbalance.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

CM in Ncl

I went on my first Critical Mass ride on friday . It was intermittently raining so not ideal. If you count a tandem as 1 , there were 24 on the ride.  This time  it went down John Dobson Street, Market Street, Pilgrim Street, ended up going round the front  of Central Station adn then came back past the Gate, back along Market Street , JD street and back to Haymarket. 2 1/2  miles, about 45 minutes,

This is the link to the the Newcastle bit of the CM wiki

Waiting at the lights at Market Street


So someone came along on Wednesday afternoon/evening and removed the tomato, sweet potato and melon plant.  I wonder if  they know what to do with them ?

We will need a different approach to greening the back lane

Friday, 20 August 2010

Monday, 16 August 2010

Student housing update - but for all ?

There has been an article in the Guardian  about private equity going into building student accommodation. There  are new student accommodation blocks going up in various parts of Newcastle. It seems to me that this sort of build is being touted as way of rejuvenating some of the more deprived and run-down areas of the City. Liberty Living have built a block in Elswick.

In the past ive been to meetings where this has been discussed  by the local Council.  The developments seem to be a mixture of University- built ( and presumably managed)  Halls and privately built and owned. I've seen a mailshot, not sent to me , I may add,  from one of the Companies putting money into this is Brandeaux . They quote a return of approximately 7%  on a minimum investment of £100,000, so there  would seem to be good money in this. The accommodation is targeted at the more expensive end of the market.  A quick internet search found  that for 2 of the new blocks in Newcastle Northumbria University and Newcastle College are in partnership with the private developers.  So the Universities and Colleges can say they are doing something about the numbers of students that they just dump on the local communities. Its not going to help the larger numbers of students looking for reasonably priced accommodation  that is an acceptable standard, so wont do anything for equitable , affordable access to higher education.

These developments have been encouraged  by the Council. Undoubtedly it is getting money into some of the more under-developed areas of Newcastle.  The Council says it will increase student choice. The landlords have been  against  the developments. What will it do for the student accommodation that blights some areas of Jesmond ( and Heaton and Gosforth) ?
Jesmond has traditionally been one of the   more expensive areas for student lets due to the size of the houses and convenience for the University, so this is potentially competition. Those that can afford it - many from overseas - may take up the new accommodation. Some of the students currently renting in Jesmond may go .
 Student numbers are unlikely to increase over the next few years, and may fall. So what will happen to properties in Jesmond ? 
Some landlords may sell off some of their portfolio. Rents may fall due to the competition. Money spent by landlords on maintenance may fall (but they spend as little as they can now, so I don't think that will happen) If rents fall students who previously could only afford Heaton may move into Jesmond . One landlord has suggested to me that we are better off 'with the devils we know' , rather than a different bunch of  students. I think he's wrong.  the new students wont have cars , so parking will be easier, and they may not have as much disposable income to go partying in Osborne Road.

So overall I think we will be better off.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Doing something about alcohol

The Government has announced it wants to do something about the problems caused by excessive alcohol consumption. They have announced a consultation and a document with a very long title -Rebalancing the Licensing Act - a consultation on empowering individuals, families and local communities to shape and determine local licensing
There have been a number of meetings around the country, and I went to the one in Newcastle. there were about 50 people there, randomly sitting in groups of 8 at tables. Each table was given three questions relating to the consultation to answer.
There were several of the police there, but , other than names, it was difficult to identify who was who and what they were representing.

It went on for 2 1/2 hours and was more constructive than I thought, Whether it achieves anything is another matter.

Some observations

  • The on -licence trade was very well represented

  • There were quite a few public health sorts of people there

Some personal conclusions

  • For the on-trade representatives the off-licences and supermarkets selling alcohol at less than cost are a problem, and they want something done about that

  • The on-trade are against tightening up the rules under which they operate - for instance the sanctions against selling to under-age customers

  • Minimum unit pricing would seem to have quite a lot of support

Monday, 9 August 2010

Cycling through treacle

I went to the Newcastle Council Cycling Forum. I thought attendance was good - about a dozen cyclists and the council people. There were the regulars from Sustrans and CTC and a smattering of interested others - hopefully urban cyclists .

The good news - we have a new cycling officer. She's going to get a bike and go on a cycling training course.

There is a budget to fix some things and a list of 'quick fixes' - some problems that should be easy to fix - drop kerbs that don't drop, missing signage , confusing road markings and some remedial work. At the last meeting a request was made for the council to be informed of any more. - so there are now 2 lists . It appears that some of the issues are duplicated.

There is a cycle route planner - the transport direct site, recommended by Cycling England ( an offshoot of Department for Transport, i think. I've just tried it , putting in my route to work. Can't say I'm impressed. I asked for the quickest route, not the safest, so it took me along the length of the dual carriageway and it would take 33 minutes. No it doesn't, it takes me 28 minutes and i only do a little bit of the Coast Road. And there is no where on the transport direct website where you can tell them they got it wrong.

There was also some discussion about the use of Advance Stop lines and green boxes to let bikes get to the front of the queue , and obvious to cars. The green boxes are often ignore byu cars . So why isn't it enforced ? Well its not that easy . There was an article in the Guardian that explains that enforcement is not straightforward . Its probably worth the Council tarting up some of the boxes around the place , as its still a useful resource for cyclists.

2hr 20 mins of meeting. Concrete Achievements ? hmmmmmm. but never mind , lots of action points, and several dead trees .

As an aside , I've come across Copenhagen Cycle Chic and some of the derivatives. Strange , there isn't a Newcastle Cycle Chic . I wonder why not ?

Monday, 2 August 2010

Critical Mass

Katya Leyendeker has got the bit between her teeth as far as cycling in Newcastle is concerned. She organised a petition to the Council about encouraging cycling.

There are Critical Mass rides in other parts of the UK and CM has its wiki . Apparently about 25 cyclists took part in the ride. 25 is certainly enough to have some 'safety in numbers'. There are pictures and a video of the Newcastle rides. there has beena legal case , i think in London. Organised protest need police permission. Is a CM ride 'organised' . I didn't think it was. It goes wherever the people at the front think it should, so it doesn't really have an organiser.

I might go on the next one if I'm in Newcastle and free

Monday, 26 July 2010

Greening the back lane

Here is our attempt at greening the back lane . We shall see how long they last.



and the whole lot. A tomato plant, a sweet potato, a melon

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Operation Oak

The report is here for download.

In summary

The Council and the Universities all put up money to fund extra police patrols between 2200 and 0400 friday,saturday and sunday nights.

to quote from the report
" In the period reported on , 12 offenders have been arrested or reported for Public Order offences, 97 ASB suspects have been stop checked or PACE 1 searched, over 110 items of intelligence have been submitted and over 140 incidents of ASB or noise have been attended by Officers.

Follow up enquiries and action in relation to student ASB has again been a partnership
approach. Northumbria Police working with Public Health and Environmental Protection
(PHEPS’s) and Safe Newcastle have issued 234 first warning letters, 40 second warning
letters and 26 acceptable behaviour agreements (ABA’s). This information has been passed to both Universities who have instigated their own graded response on all ASB offenders.
Arrested and reported ASB offenders have been issued with formal cautions, fixed penalty notices, or warning letters."

So where is the money best spent, funding students to go round engaging with their peers, or funding the police who do something ?

Friday, 23 July 2010

Engaging students in jesmond part 1

Living Together, Working Together is a document that has been published by Universities UK and the National Union of Students. it lists from around the country examples where there has been some rapprochement between 'Town and Gown' .
Northumbria University gets a mention. (p 11).

Northumbria University Community Strategy 2009–2012

The community strategy, which is still in its early stages, aims to provide a framework which will raise awareness of the positive impact of students on the wider community; identify opportunities to improve this positive impact; and raise students’ own awareness of their
role in the wider community. Links with stakeholders include Newcastle City Council membership
services, civic councillors, environmental health, the Newcastle Private Rented Accreditation Scheme and local residents’ associations. The project has led to the launch of a Newcastle City Council-sponsored student ‘Community Rep’ scheme and secured funding for a community liaison officer post via the local policing team. Shared projects between the students’ union, university and other groups have increased, and communication between the City Council, the university, and other strategic partnerships has improved.

Hmmm. I dont think that is what the residents would say of the scheme. Ive been through the Minutes of the Ward meetings and will summarise the relevant bits

It first came to Ward meeting in May. This is the grant application. here's the relevant bit of the minutes in South Jesmond where it was discussed

(a) Northumbria Student Union - £485.00
Submitted: Report by Rachael Brannan, Vice President Welfare and Equality,
Northumbria Students Union (copy attached to Official Minutes).

The report was presented by Rachael Brannan. Rachael explained that the Students Union were seeking funding to enable them to deliver a ‘Community Rep’ scheme. The Union and the University had recognised the need for a wider strategy linking the student population with residents who lived in the Jesmond, Heaton and Ouseburn area. The scheme was to allow for student representation in local wards and Residents Associations. The 4 community reps would listen to concerns from residents regarding student activity and feed those concerns back to the Students Union and the University. Likewise, the community reps would be in a position to inform community groups, members and associations of the good work carried out by the student population and present the views of students in the various wards.

During discussion the following points/questions were raised:
• The natural mistrust from residents – due mainly to the problems caused by some of the student population.
• The Chair commented that communication and information had to be shared, creating a proactive environment rather than reactive as was mostly the case.
• One resident referred to the various meetings about students which had been held over the last four years. The students had been invited to attend but had never accepted. Whilst not able to defend the actions of all students Rachael did explain that some students found the meetings quite intimidating as they were not fairly accepted by all residents.
• The Chair reminded those present about the past and current problems caused by some of the student population but this application provided a way forward.
• There were some objections raised with regards to the application. Some residents felt that the application itself was not entirely in keeping with the use of public funds but the Ward coordinator assured members that the application was suitable for public funding.

In summing up the chair made reference to some of the comments made by the residents Associations and acknowledged the problems and concerns caused by some students. He called upon the residents associations to accept the need for change and find a way by which they could work with students.

Whilst the Chair agreed with the principle of the application he felt that there was still a need to address the problems raised by the residents associations. He suggested that members refuse the application but then continue discussions with the students union to find a scheme which was acceptable to everyone.

RESOLVED: That the application as it currently stood be refused and a modified application be submitted.

and in North Jesmond

(b) Northumbria Student Union - £485.00 - student rep scheme

(NB. Councillor Breakey declared an interest as an employee of Northumbria University and took no part in the decision).
A representative was in attendance to speak to the application. A full discussion ensued on the application, during which a number of points were made as follows:-
§ The representative of the organisation advised that an amendment to the amount requested needed to be made in that an application for assistance was being made to five wards, and a fifth of the overall cost of £1,940 (being 45% of the total cost) was being requested, i.e. £388.
§ It was noted that Ward Councillors had received a letter from local residents raising issues concerning the application.
§ A resident having pointed out that approval of such a grant could set a precedent for other universities to make similar applications, the resident also pointed out that persons with community interest in mind attended meetings of the Ward Committee without having to be paid and why, therefore, should students be paid to attend? It was noted that there had been many attempts in the past to involve students in the Ward Committee process. In response, the Students Union Representative advised that the Students Union had a restricted and limited budget, but student representation was valued and a positive and long lasting impact was being sought. It was also pointed out that such a scheme had also worked in other areas such as Liverpool and Leeds.
§ Another resident felt that the application should be considered in a welcoming manner and saw no objection here.
§ A member welcomed the attendance of both residents and students at meetings of the Ward Committee, but queried why this should not be a voluntary activity rather than a paid activity. He was also against the notion of funding a students’ newsletter. Another resident referred the meeting to the third aim in the application; one that he was inclined to support (i.e. “To raise awareness amongst students of their role in the local community”).
§ During discussion, a resident stressed the work of the Quality Life Partnership.
§ The issues raised in a letter from Jesmond Residents Association on this application was reported which included reservations that despite active attempts to involve the student community at North and South Jesmond Ward Committees, this had not resulted in attendance. There were concerns at aspects of expenditure contained within the application including uniforms,
clothing, training and expenses. It was also felt that the proposals did not guarantee any permanence of attendance, that the mission statement included within the application was imprecise and unclear, and that funding should be for permanent residents of the area.
§ Another resident felt that there had been a desire and enthusiasm for involvement of students in the past and suggested that perhaps the application could be agreed for a year on a trial basis. Alternatively, a member suggested that perhaps the application could be submitted to a future meeting after student representatives had attended other residents’ groups in the area and
(at another member’s suggestion) received assistance from residents’ association representatives in submitting a further application. The Secretary of Jesmond Residents’ Association Committee stressed the willingness of his organisation to meet and discuss issues with student representatives and welcomed dialogue with students as part of the community.
§ The student representative present at the meeting stressed that her organisation had received a Best Practice Award.

In conclusion, it was:-
RESOLVED – That the application not be agreed.
(NB. In reaching their decision, the Ward Committee wished to place on record their appreciation to Rachael Brannan (Vice President, Welfare and Equality, Northumbria Students Union) for making the application and attending the meeting).

There were further discussions about this between Councillors and residents and in the end. £395 was approved in July 2009 . the local councillors were seemingly keen to give the students a chance ( Similar amounts came from other Wards.)

I've looked at the Minutes of further meetings, there is no record of Northumbria Student reps attending any S Jesmond Ward meeting after June 2009.

I dont know what the Council and residents have received for their money .Hopefully we will get a report from them before any grant is renewed.

The other way of engagement between students and the community is Operation Oak (more presently)

Monday, 19 July 2010

Calming the back lane

i think back lanes are wonderful places. When your kids are young, they want somewhere to ride a bike, somewhere to meet friends and somewhere to kick a football. Our back lane satisfied all 3 objectives. On a summers' evening or weekend you could your children could join the melee. We would have unknown visitors periodically and I'm sure my kids wandered into other peoples yards as well. There are problems however. They are not really maintained and cars use them as a ratrun. In fact , one near me ( Osborne Avenue/Holly Avenue ) has road humps to slow the traffic . I'll work out how to put a link to Google streetview , but in the interim, here's a screenshot.


I recall in the past that a few years ago the Council put some money was put into 'greening' some back lanes in Heaton

Here's another streetview screenshot of one that was greened .

Some Fern Avenue residents have been discussing 'sleeping policemen'. Our back lane is used as a ratrun for vans, lorries and taxis , as well as residents , who don't want to turn round at the top of the lane. The problem is that its a straight road and we worry about children coming out of back yards into traffic that cannot stop in time. The council have costed road humps for the other back lane (Fern Avenue/Queens Road) at £11000. There is no chance of the Council having the funds to pay for this - I wonder if there are people who would fund it ?

Wednesday, 14 July 2010


Its that time of the year - and the students are all leaving. So the back lanes become filled with rubbish as landlords clear out their properties.

And hedges become a problem. Studentification is a recognised problem in areas with high student numbers. Some of the problems are due to the numbers of young people who are temporary residents in an area , with social and economic interests that are different to the local residents, However , some of the problems are due to the behaviour of landlords , who put the minimum effort into maintaining the properties.
Hedges are a problem.