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Fire service criticised by watchdog

Nisha Joshi

BBC broadcast journalist

Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service has been criticised in a report by the Fire Service Watchdog.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services said the service required improvement over the next 12 months - particularly in its work in understanding the risk of fire and other emergencies, and responding to them.

It also called for improvements in training.

In response, the service said it had worked hard to address the issues highlighted and that the report did point out that it was good at responding to national risks.

Neighbouring Tyne and Wear Fire Service was rated as good overall.

Northumberland fire engine
Northumberland County Council

Drivers make successful pothole damage claims

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Ben O'Connell

Motorists whose cars were damaged by potholes were successful in about 60% of claims against Northumberland County Council, figures show,

In 2018-19, drivers made 253 claims, of which 150 were successful, according to Freedom of Information (FOI) Act figures.

Motorists can only claim if the authority responsible for the road has been negligent and councils have a statutory defence that they cannot be held liable for a defect they are not aware of

In the 2017-18 financial year, there were a larger number of claims - 407 - but 40% (167) were successful.

The total cost to the taxpayer of the successful claims, including legal fees, was £45,966.07 in 2018-19, up from £41,889.10 the previous year.

pothole patching
BBC

In April, we reported that Northumberland filled in more potholes last year than any other council in the country.

FOI requests showed that the local authority repaired 69,506 potholes in 2018, 14,633 more than the next best performing council, Lincolnshire.

A Northumberland County Council spokesman said there was a big spike in damage to roads as a result of the bad winter of 2017-18 culminating in the Beast from the East.

“The greater number of defects may have led to more claims than usual being received and more being successful," he said.

“We continue to take the quality of road surfaces and repair of potholes very seriously – and invest considerable time and resources in making ongoing improvements to our road network.”

Body found following flat fire

A person has died in a fire at a first-floor flat in Northumberland.

Three crews from Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service attended the blaze on Milburn Road, in Ashington, at 23:40 yesterday.

The fire had spread throughout the first floor and roof before the body was found.

The cause of the blaze is not yet known and an investigation is ongoing.

Decision delayed on Northumberland hilltop artwork

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Ben O'Connell

A decision about plans for a £1m public artwork almost three times the height of the Angel of the North has been delayed.

Lord Devonport wants to place the 56m (184ft) Elizabeth Landmark on the summit of Cold Law, near Kirkwhelpington in Northumberland.

It was recommended for approval at Northumberland County Council's strategic planning committee meeting yesterday.

After almost two hours of debate, a motion to approve the proposal was voted down by eight votes to six, before a motion to defer the decision so that members could go on a site visit was passed by 12 to two.

This caused confusion among those in attendance, who thought that the monument had been turned down.

However, as is always the case with planning decisions, a separate motion to refuse, with valid planning reasons, would have been required to reject the application.

Planning officers felt that the "wider public benefits of a major new landmark public art feature" and the tourism opportunities outweighed any negatives, but not all locals shared this view, with objections from 29 residents plus Corsenside Parish Council.

Artist's impression of Elizabeh Landmark
BBC

Hilltop monument proposal decision due

A decision about plans for a sculpture nearly three times the height of The Angel of The North will be made later.

Lord Devonport wants to erect the 183ft (56m) tall steel structure on his estate on the summit of Cold Law near Kirkwhelpington, Northumberland.

He said the £1m Elizabeth Landmark would commemorate the Queen and the Commonwealth and believes it will boost tourism in the area.

The structure has been designed by Simon Hitchens and features a large steel spire pointing at an angle towards the sun.

Today Northumberland County Council will decide whether to grant permission.

"Ascendant"
Simon Hitchens

'Unusual' hilltop monument proposal set to get go-ahead

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Ben O'Connell

An "unusual proposal" to build a new monument, almost three times the height of the Angel of the North, is expected to get the go-ahead next week.

Earlier this year, plans were lodged for the construction of a publicly-accessible landmark, commissioned to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II and the Commonwealth, on the summit of Cold Law, near Kirkwhelpington.

Known as the Elizabeth Landmark, the idea for the £1million, 56-metre structure was put forward by philanthropist and retired architect, Lord Devonport, or Terence Kearley.

The planning officer's report of councillors said: "This is an unusual proposal which does not lend itself easily to a conventional site-based evaluation of impact.

"The wider public benefits of a major new landmark public art feature need to be seen in light of the strategic importance attached to place-based tourism in Northumberland."

Ascendant by Simon Hitchens
BBC

It has been recommended for approval when it goes before Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee on 4 June.

First region declares: Labour and Brexit Party win in North East

Another bid launched to give former hotel new lease of life

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Ben O'Connell

A third bid to redevelop a former hotel in a north Northumberland village into flats has been submitted.

The Ryecroft Hotel in Wooler already benefits from planning permission for the buildings to be converted into housing, but another application has now been lodged.

Efforts to bring the site, on the corner of Ryecroft Way and the A697, back into use have taken place over a number of years with the long, drawn-out planning saga starting back in 2013.

The former Ryecroft Hotel in Wooler
Google

The latest application proposes the conversion of the original building into nine two-bedroom apartments, while there would be an added storey to the west and north flanks.

A planning statement suggests the bid "will not have a detrimental effect on the aesthetics of the building or on the wider neighbourhood".

Northumberland woman's killer is dying from cancer

BBC Newcastle

Australia’s most infamous serial killer has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Among his victims were two British backpackers. One of them - Caroline Clarke - was from Slaley in Northumberland.

The 22-year-old was killed in 1992, one of seven people killed by Ivan Milat, who was jailed for life in 1996.

It's reported in Australia that the 74-year-old has been diagnosed with oesophageal cancer which has spread to his stomach and that he's unlikely to return to solitary confinement.

Ivan Milat, laughing as he leaves the Supreme Court after representing himself in his appeal against conviction in July 1996 of the murders of seven backpackers, 4 November 1997
Getty Images

Ivan Milat was photographed laughing as he left the Supreme Court in 1997, after representing himself in his appeal against his conviction.

Holiday park could be built in old Longframlington quarry

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Plans to create a holiday park at a disused quarry on a Northumberland farm are recommended to get the go-ahead, despite parish-council concerns.

Planning application showing proposed location of new holiday park
One Associates Ltd

The outline application is for 35 units of accommodation, a mix of luxury chalets, static caravans and camping pods, at Framhill Farm, to the north-west of Longframlington.

The site is proposed to be accessed from a new junction off the A697.

The application is recommended for approval at next Tuesday’s meeting of the North Northumberland Local Area Council.

However, Longframlington Parish Council has raises concerns about the additional visitors it will bring to the area.

The traffic on the A697 has already increased by some 10,000 vehicles year on year which already causes many issues throughout the village and creates major parking issues at the village centre. The A697 is dangerous enough it does not need this extra volume."

Parish councillorLongframlington Parish Council

Milfield development plans for former school resubmitted

A bid to build 30 new homes on a former north Northumberland school site is back before councillors next week.

A resubmitted application for the former county first school site in Milfield, north of Wooler on the A697, is again recommended for approval when it goes before the North Northumberland Local Area Council for a decision next Tuesday.

The school has not been in use since 2009 and the "closed and overgrown" site, off Wheatriggs, is to be sold to the applicant, Gleeson Homes, by the county council.

The British Masters returns to the North East

The British Masters golf tournament will return to Close House in Northumberland next year.

The tournament will be hosted by former world number one Lee Westwood from 30 July 30 to 2 August 2020.

The prestigious competition was held at Close House in 2017 when it was won by Paul Dunne.

Lee Westwood
Getty Images

Results reflect national picture, as big two lose out

Laura Kuenssberg

BBC political editor

It's not over - it's far, far from over.

Many hundreds of seats are yet to declare. Many individual political stories yet to be told. So be very aware - the final shape of wins and losses for the government and the main opposition is unclear.

But at this stage of the morning, there is one message to both of the main parties at Westminster from this enormous set of elections - it's not us, it's both of you.

Polling station in country
PA

Local elections are about different issues in our villages, towns and cities. But at count after count, Tory and Labour candidates have been paying the price for Westminster's failure so far to settle the Brexit question. Council leaders from both parties saying openly that voters can't trust them any more because of how they have dealt with the issue - whether that is a sentiment among Leave voters in Sunderland who don't trust that we'll ever leave, or Remain voters in Bath who are furious that we likely will.

Or more simply maybe, now we are nearly three years on from the referendum itself, this is a verdict on the competence of Westminster's biggest parties, on the mess of handling Brexit.

The beneficiaries? A Lib Dem recovery of sorts, a marked pick-up for the Greens, and independent councillors gobbling up seats in different pockets of the country. By traditional measures at this early stage, Labour is far from making the strides of a party marching towards Number 10. The Tories have so far escaped the worst. But their divisions over Brexit have cost them both - and neither of them have an obvious way out.

But as I say, many more results are yet to come in, and you can keep up with them here throughout the day.

World War One soldier will finally be laid to rest

BBC Look North

North East and Cumbria

The long-lost remains of a World War One soldier from the North East will finally be buried in France today.

The bones of the Northumberland Fusilier, along with another soldier, were discovered near the village of La Boisselle in 2015 - almost a century after the Battle of the Somme.

Despite DNA tests, it hasn't been possible to identify either soldier but both will be buried with full military honours in the nearby Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery this afternoon.

Grave stones in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery at La Boisselle
BBC

Woman's Blue Peter Badge restored after 40 years

Charlie Charlton

BBC Newcastle presenter

A Northumberland woman has received a replacement for her Blue Peter Badge after she lost in the 1970s.

Pauline Thompson from Amble got the award in 1961, when she was 10.

The badge was in recognition for her creativity - she'd designed a pink raincoat and a hat for her doll Julie.

It acted as an inspiration for her to win other awards as she got older.

But the badge got lost when her brother wore it on his jacket on a night out 40 years ago.

Pauline thought it would just remain a memory from childhood until a family conversation sparked her interest.

Pauline Thompson
Pauline Thompson

The grandmother-of-five decided to get her hands on another one from the BBC in order to prove to her children and grandchildren that you can have dreams and achieve things.

Pauline didn't expect the BBC to answer, but they sent her a cloth version of the Blue Peter badge which filled her with the same delight as all those years before.

Unfortunately, her doll hasn't fared so well.

Pauline said: "I think Julie the doll's been retired in a plastic bag or in a cupboard in a box somewhere.

"Somebody drew biro all over her face and her hands and feet.

"Nobody would admit doing it, of course

"The raincoat had disappeared a long time ago as well."

The Blue Peter Badge
BBC

Council under pressure to keep using Show Racism the Red Card charity

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Nearly 4,000 people have signed a petition asking that Northumberland County Council reverses its decision to end its contract with 'Show Racism the Red Card.

The North East-based anti-racism charity was receiving £16,800 to provide workshops in schools.

A public rally supported by unions Unison and Unite is set to take place outside County Hall in Morpeth next Wednesday.

Northumberland Council Council has re-emphasised that it is appalled by the campaign that has been mounted against the authority's completely legitimate decision.

We are clear that any form of prejudice or discrimination is unacceptable and we want to use our resources to ensure a broad range of support is available equally to all 165 of our schools – and not just the relatively small number reached previously by this work."

Northumberland County CouncilSpokesperson

Local elections: What are they all about?

The local elections are taking place on 2 May.

We'll get to choose who decides on things like where houses get built, who runs the buses and which pubs get late licences.

But last year only one in three people went to the polls. So what is the vote all about?

Reporter Jennifer Meierhans explains

Local elections: What are they all about?

Congratulations, it's... an egg

Damian O'Neil

BBC Look North

Mr and Mrs YA, a breeding pair of ospreys, have produced their first egg since returning to their nest in Kielder, Northumberland.

The birds have been on super-secret Nest 1A for two weeks. They produced the egg on Sunday.

Northumberland Wildlife Trust says it's delighted with the news and adds it's good timing as Osprey Watch launches at Kielder this weekend - running every Saturday, Sunday and Monday behind the Boat Inn.

Ospreys Mr and Mrs YA in their nest
Northumberland Wildlife Trust

Parents find out about primary school places

Families in England will find out today whether their children have got into their preferred primary schools.

Last year about one in 10 families missed out on their first choice, but 98% got one of their top-three places.

There are big regional variations each year - with authorities such as the East Riding of Yorkshire, Northumberland and Rutland having more than 97% of families getting their first preferences.

But the lowest success rates tend to be in London, with only 68% of families in Kensington and Chelsea and 77% in Camden getting their first choice last year.

Children in classroom with their hands up
Thinkstock

Plans lodged to renovate Haydon Bridge High School

Plans have been lodged to renovate a Northumberland school which was saved from closure last year.

In May 2018, Northumberland County Council agreed to step in to rescue Haydon Bridge High School, which is in special measures, following the withdrawal of Bright Tribe Trust as academy sponsor.

The decision came as part of the overhaul of education in the west of the county and the local authority pledged a £1.54m rescue package as well as taking on the school’s £600,000 debts.

The council also earmarked £3.1m to invest in buildings and facilities at the high school and a planning application for these works has now been submitted.

As well as renovation and upgrades inside, it seeks permission for a redesign of the front of the school with a new entrance canopy, a revised car park and entrance layout with extra spaces, and two new sports pitches.

A statement by Gradon Architecture, which was commissioned by the county council for this scheme, says: "The renovation seeks to provide an improvement and overhaul of the existing school buildings to create a more attractive study and working environment through internal amendments and new external site and landscaping to boost the pupil attendance numbers in the catchment area, which incidentally is the largest in England."

The proposals include converting the existing design and technology block into a new vocational centre to the rear with an out-of-hours entrance arrangement, so that it can be used for adult education classes during the evenings.

Haydon Bridge High School
BBC

Looking lovely in Coanwood, Northumberland

Check out this BBC Weather Watcher's photograph of Coanwood, Northumberland.

You can get involved by visiting the BBC Weather Watchers website.

Coanwood, Northumberland
shazzab