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New leader announced for Newcastle's Lib Dems

Daniel Holland

Local Democracy Reporter

Newcastle’s Liberal Democrats have elected a new leader to spearhead the city’s political opposition.

Nick Cott has taken the reins of the party, which had control of Newcastle City Council from 2004 to 2011.

The Fawdon and West Gosforth councillor steps up from his former position as deputy to Anita Lower, who announced in March she would be standing aside after seven years as opposition leader.

Councillor Cott, 45 and a history lecturer for the Open University, said he wanted to offer a “clear alternative” to Newcastle’s Labour administration.

His first priority, he said, would be helping the city recover from the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic. He added the Lib Dems would be challenging the council’s leadership on tackling inequalities in the city, its climate change ambitions and the air pollution crisis.

The political makeup of the council is currently Labour 50, Lib Dems 20, three independents, one Newcastle Independents representative and four vacancies.

Councillor Nick Cott

Beamish finances investigated by police

BBC Look North

North East and Cumbria

A police investigation is being carried out into financial concerns at one of the region's biggest tourist attractions.

The concerns were first raised by the board at Beamish Museum, near Stanley, last year.

In a statement Beamish says the police probe will not impact on the day-to-day running of the museum, which is hoping to reopen as soon as appropriate following government guidance.

Last year, the board at Beamish contacted both the charity commission and the police.

They said they reported ‘’a serious incident", now known to be financial concerns that had been discovered at the charity.

Tram in 1900's Town at Beamish

Birth registrations reopen in Newcastle

Parents will be able to register the birth of their babies in Newcastle by appointment-only from next Monday.

Staff have been marking out areas in the Civic Centre with 2m spacing to make sure everyone keeps to social distancing rules.

The service, which was suspended due to the lockdown, had been a drop-in service but the COVID-19 threat has forced it now to become by appointment only.

The office is working through the backlog by registering babies by the date they were born.

We understand that parents will be keen to register their babies, but we ask them to be patient as we work through the backlog, firstly by phone and then the online appointment service when it is ready."

Cllr John Paul Stephenson

Missing Horden man's death treated as suspicious

Police say they believe a body found in woodland last week is that of missing man Gordon Marriott.

The body was discovered close to the cricket pavilion in Peterlee Dene, in Peterlee, by two members of the public last Friday afternoon.

Police are currently treating the death as suspicious and officers remain at the scene.

DNA testing is being carried out to confirm the identity of the body, but officers believe it to be that of 51-year-old Mr Marriott, who went missing from his Horden home in January this year.

They've described him as living "chaotic lifestyle".

Nobody deserves to die in such sad circumstances, so I would appeal for anyone who knows something that may help our investigation to come forward."

Det Ch Supt Adrian GreenDurham Constabulary

Motrocyclist dies following A182 collision

Police have appealed for information after a motorcyclist died following a collision in County Durham..

The 37-year-old man suffered serious injuries on the A182 near South Hetton on Monday afternoon, and was airlifted to hospital, but has now died.

A 74-year-old man, who was driving a Nissan Note, the other vehicle which was involved, along with his 72-year-old passenger suffered minor injuries.

Anyone who witnessed the collision, which happened at the junction with East Durham Garden Centre at about 14:30, or saw the vehicles being driven a short time before, is asked to contact Durham Police.

Six held in crackdown on drugs in Northumberland

Six people have been arrested and drugs with a street value of £6,500 seized in an operation by Northumbria Police.

The crackdown saw three warrants executed at addresses in Ashington and Hexham.

A 36-year-old Hexham man was arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply on 29 May when officers searched an address on Chareway and found more than £5,500 in cash, a large quantity of cannabis valued at £5,000 and £500 worth of diazepam.

Officers in Ashington searched two addresses on Queen Street during dawn raids on 27 May and found 2.5kg of amphetamine and over £1,000 in cash.

Four men, aged 24, 29, 32 and 64, and a 53-year-old woman, were arrested on suspicion of drug offences. Three have been released while investigations continue and two men, 29 and 32, were released with no further action.

Drugs seized in Queen Street, Ashington
Northumbria Police
Drugs seized in Chareway, Hexham
Northumbria Police

Anyone else found to be involved in this line of criminality will soon find us and a full search team politely knocking on their door too.”

Sgt Peter McallNorthumbria Police

More warehouse space taken on by charity distributing food

FareShare North East, the region’s biggest food charity, says it's doubled the amount of food it distributes each week since lockdown measures came into place.

The charity delivers in-date surplus food from the food industry to front-line charities.

It says its warehouse team is delivering enough food to create almost 55,000 meals a week, and has had to find additional warehouse space as demand for its services increases.

Warehouse worker and pallet of boxes
FareShare North East

Your Homes Newcastle, which has been a partner for six years, has doubled the amount of storage space it provides for the duration of the crisis.

We’re doing everything we can to continue to get food on to people’s plates, whether that’s delivering fresh food to homeless hostels or providing community projects with the packets and tins they need to get vital food supplies on to the doorsteps of families who are self-isolating."

Jake HanmoreFareShare North East manager

Newcastle Labour leader slams 'irresponsible' government

Daniel Holland

Local Democracy Reporter

The government has been “deeply irresponsible” by easing the coronavirus lockdown without having a fully functional test and trace system in place, Newcastle City Council’s Labour leader says.

Nick Forbes says he fears that a second wave of Covid-19 infections is now “inevitable”.

“We are not going to have a fully-operational track and trace system until the end of June, but the lockdown is being eased now - that is a very scary prospect," he said.

The Department of Health and Social Care has been contacted for a comment.

NIck Forbes

A relaxation of restrictions on Monday means up to six people can now meet outdoors while staying 2m apart and more schools and businesses will reopen in the coming weeks.

But the test and trace programme to identify and control new coronavirus outbreaks will not be fully operational until the end of this month.

Mr Forbes said that Newcastle was one of 11 locations chosen to share best practice with the government on how test and trace would work but the council had not received its share of a £300m fund to develop local outbreak control plans.

Trail of destruction at Newcastle nature reserve

Daniel Holland

Local Democracy Reporter

‘Disgusting’ vandals have been slammed for leaving a trail of destruction at a Newcastle nature reserve.

Firefighters have repeatedly been called out to the Havannah Nature Reserve in Hazelrigg after trees were chopped down to start fires.

The Friends of Havannah group complained that the wildlife haven had been “overused and abused” during the coronavirus lockdown.

They added: “Entire trees have been cut down, whilst others have been hacked into, to build dens and start fires. “Beer bottles, crisp and biscuit packets, tin cans, barbecues, cutlery and condoms have all been left littering the reserve, as well as human faeces".

The group said that firefighters had to be called out five times in the space of just 48 hours earlier this week to put out blazes at the nature reserve, which is on the site of the old Hazelrigg Colliery and is home to a rare population of red squirrels.

Firefighters at  the Havannah Nature Reserve in Newcastle

Deliberate fires scar our local environment and can have devastating consequences – serious injury or even a loss of life."

Ian WarneTyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service

University of Sunderland: 'We are open for business in the autumn'

The vice-chancellor and chief executive of the University of Sunderland Sir David Bell has defended new students paying the same fees as their predecessors during the pandemic, despite not being able to have face-to-face teaching.

He says the student experience will be different in the early months if current guidelines remain in place, but there is still a number of students who want to come and undertake their studies in Sunderland.

University campuses have been closed since the coronavirus lockdown, with teaching switching online, and their representative body, Universities UK has been setting out how they might bring students back for the autumn term.

Sir David Bell, vice- chancellor University of Sunderland
University of Sunderland

I think it's true to say you can have a rich and engaging student experience and academic experience coming to university although we're going to be operating under slightly different circumstances to those that have gone by."

Sir David BellVice-chancellor University of Sunderland

We believe that face to face engagement is central to learning and teaching but we're going to be balancing that up with the use of online activity as well."

Work to revamp 'social distancing ' street to start at end of June

Local Democracy Reporting Service

A revamp of Newcastle’s historic Grey Street will not start until the end of June.

Plans were unveiled in May for a major reconfiguration of the city centre street to give pedestrians and cyclists extra space for social distancing.

But while new cycle lanes and one-way pavements have been introduced on busy routes around the Royal Victoria Infirmary, it will still be several weeks before similar changes are made to the street once voted the best in the UK.

Cyclists have praised the measures on Queen Victoria Road as “fantastic” and urged Newcastle City Council to push ahead urgently with other projects across the city, The Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

Northumberland Street is next on the council’s to do list, with a one-way walking route and new queuing areas planned around the busy shopping area as more non-essential stores begin to reopen from June 15.

Work is expected to start later this week with the removal of street furniture.

However, Grey Street has been deemed a lower priority because it is more heavily occupied by bars and restaurants, which will still remain closed for some time.

Newcastle revamp artist impression
Newcastle Council

Witnesses sought for car and motorbike collision

A motorbike rider is in hospital with life-threatening injuries after a crash near Easington yesterday afternoon.

The 37-year-old rider's bike was in collision with a car at about 14:30 at the East Durham Garden Centre on the A182.

Scene of the crash

The car driver, a 74-year-old man, and his passenger, a 72-year-old woman, suffered minor injuries.

Durham Police would like to speak to anyone who witnessed the collision, or saw the vehicles being driven beforehand. They would also like to hear from anyone who may have dashcam footage of the collision or the lead up to it.

Police advice to avoid coronavirus Test and Trace scammers

As the government's system to trace people who might have come into contact with someone who has coronavirus gets under way, police are advising how to spot fraudsters who might use it to scam personal details.

Northumbria Police says if it's really NHS Test and Trace calling you it will be from their single number 0300 0135 000 - athough there are reports con artists can make their call seem like it comes from that number.

The only website anyone should ask you to visit is this one.

Contact tracers will never ask you to do any of the things listed in the following image, the force says.

List of advice from Northumbria Police
Northumbria Police
DeAndre Yedlin

Newcastle and United States defender DeAndre Yedlin says his grandfather is "glad" he does not live in the US as he would fear for his grandson's life "as a young black man".

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Could we have a micro local lockdown?

Daniel Holland

Local Democracy Reporter

Local lockdowns to suppress outbreaks of coronavirus in Newcastle are likely to be targeted at specific communities rather than the entire city, according to a public health chief.

The nationwide lockdown was eased yesterday to allow up to six people to meet outside while social distancing and for primary schools to reopen for some pupils.

The government has said local lockdowns could be used to combat any resulting spike in coronavirus infections.

Director of public health for Newcastle City Council Prof Eugene Milne said restrictions would probably be targeted at particular locations reporting a cluster of Covid-19 cases, potentially affecting a neighbourhood or even a single business or building.

City residents should be trusted to have a “sensible discussion” about complying with localised measures rather than having them enforced through the law, he said.

“It may be that there needs to be powers beyond that but I would not be rushing towards those,” he said.

Prof Eugene Milne, director of public health for Newcastle City Council
Newcastle City Council

Cyclist badly hurt in crash near Penrith

Cumbria Police are appealing for witnesses to a collision between a car and a bicycle near Penrith yesterday that left the cyclist with serious injuries.

It happened at about 08:00 on the A686 between Kemplay Bank Roundabout and Penrith Rugby Club.

The cyclist, a 51-year-old woman from Penrith, was taken to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.

George Kruis and Maro Itoje

Chris Jones

BBC rugby union correspondent

A ground-breaking overhaul of the Premiership Rugby salary cap is unanimously approved by England's top-flight clubs.

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Life-saving smoke hood used in North East rescue

A smoke hood has been used for the first time to rescue a person from a fume-filled building on Tyneside.

It was used by Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service at a block of flats in the Teams area last Friday.

It's the first time a smoke hood has been used by the service.

TWFRS says that the provision of the hoods was one of the key recommendations within the Grenfell Tower inquiry report.

The hoods give 15 minutes of protection from a smoke-filled atmosphere by providing clean air.

A smoke hood practice demonstration
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service

Beauty spot visitors force road closure

The sunny weather led to an influx of visitors to a Teesdale beauty spot over the weekend.

On Sautrday police had to close the B6277 Bowlees to Ettersgill Beck road, due to 200 cars at the location.

Traffic was turned back, and people already there were asked to return to their cars.

On Sunday, there were still large amounts of visitors to the High Force and Low Force area that one lane of the road was coned off, in a bid to prevent congestion.

A Durham Police spokesman said: "We understand people want to enjoy the sunshine but we would encourage you to be sensible and think twice about visiting this area."

Bowlees Road

Driver was doing 82mph in 30 limit in Newcastle

Nearly 1,000 speeding motorists have been caught in the first week of a national crackdown by Northumbria Police.

More mobile speed camera vans and targeted traffic patrols were used in a national speeding operation led by the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC).

One vehicle was caught driving at 82 mph on Barrack Road in Newcastle - nearly three times the 30mph limit.

Elsewhere a vehicle was caught speeding at 75mph on King George Road in South Shields (30mph) and 96mph on the A690 at Houghton Cut on Wearside (50mph).

Ch Insp Sam Rennison said that easing lockdown restrictions meant more traffic .

“In recent weeks we have seen an increase in the average speed of motorists due to the quieter roads but that can’t continue," she said.

“We know the majority of people are responsible drivers but lives are being put at risk by those who continue to flout the speed limits.

“It is our officers who have to deliver the tragic news to families who have lost a loved one in an accident caused by a speeding driver.

“These limits are in place to save lives and so we will continue with our enforcement activity during the NPCC operation and beyond.”

Police car and officer
Northumbria Police

Police probe after man's body discovered

Police are appealing for information after a body was found in Castle Eden Dene, near Peterlee on Friday lunchtime.

Two members of the public discovered the man’s body at the rear of Pasmore’s Pavilion, Durham Police said.

An investigation is ongoing and a post-mortem exam is due to be carried out later today.


Walk-in test centre 'experimental'

Daniel Holland

Local Democracy Reporter

A new walk-in coronavirus testing centre in Newcastle is "experimental" and may not be replicated across the city, a local health official has said.

The facility in Byker, which opened on Friday, is run by the Department of Health, has a one-way system layout and staff wearing PPE.

Prof Eugene Milne, Newcastle City Council’s director of public health, said: “The idea is to test out whether it can make a difference, because of the legitimate arguments people have made that the IKEA site was only available to people who could drive and that excluded a lot of people."

Byker walk-in testing centre

He added he was “not aware of any plans” to replicate the walk-in testing centre elsewhere in Newcastle and did not expect a large number of people to use it.

"The point about people needing to leave home to use it may limit its value", he said.

"If people are feeling unwell they probably aren’t going to want to walk anywhere, so the postal option is the more likely one in that situation."

Four arrested as illegal pills seized

For people have been arrested in connection with what police have described as the "large scale importation of various Class C drugs from India".

It follows raids on three properties in Sunderland after a number of packages containing a total of 16,000 pills were intercepted by the UK Border Force.

A further haul of 4,000 was recovered, and while officers were in attendance at one of the addresses, on Pinewood Road, another package of 2,000 was delivered.

The seizures included a large quantity of Alprazolam – better known by its brand name Xanax – and Zopiclone, a sleeping pill used to help with conditions such as anxiety.

A 30-year-old woman and three men, aged 41, 42, and 58 were all arrested on suspicion of conspiring to import a Class C drug and later released while investigations continue.

Seized drugs
Northumbria Police

It’s despicable that criminals will try and turn a profit from the illegal supply of medicines without a single thought given to the health and wellbeing of those who buy them.”

Det Sgt Hayley Douglassfrom the North East Regional Special Operations Unit

Two arrested as suspicious car stopped

Two people have been arrested after police stopped a car near Sunderland which officers believed to have been involved with a number of thefts.

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Metro driver says trains are 'eerily quiet'

Craig Pearson

A driver on the Tyne and Wear Metro has described working during lockdown as "very strange", and paid tribute to key workers who have to rely on public transport.

The network recently received a second government bail out to keep it running while passenger numbers are low due to coronavirus.

Craig Pearson, who has been driving trains for seven years, said the past few weeks had been "challenging but also rewarding because I feel like I am playing my part in helping the country at a time of crisis".

The 37-year-old, from Gateshead, said: "There are many NHS staff and other essential workers relying on the Metro... we get a lot of supermarket workers still travelling too."

However, with people being told only to travel when it is essential, he described it as "eerily quiet".

He said: "For us it’s a case of the same routine of being in the cab by ourselves, but the level of quiet we see at 04:00 and 05:00 when we start taking the first trains out on the system is like that right across the day.

"It’s a strange thing for us to see.”

Coronavirus: Clap for carers projected on to Angel of the North
Artist Ian Berry created the images to thank key workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Cummings row 'undermines' public lockdown adherence


The public's adherence to lockdown has been "undermined" by the row over the Prime Minister's chief aide, according to a police and crime commissioner.

Kim McGuinness, Northumbria's Labour PCC, told BBC's Newsnight she was concerned the public's attitude towards the lockdown had changed in the wake of the row over Dominic Cummings, who drove from London to Durham to self-isolate and made a trip to Barnard Castle to see if he was fit enough to return to the capital.

Kim McGuinness

Ms McGuinness, a former Newcastle city councillor, said goodwill was important in maintaining lockdown measures and public confidence would need to be restored if the government's new contact tracing strategy is to be effective.

She said: "We're already anecdotally hearing from MPs, from the media, from police officers that people are using Dominic Cummings as an excuse when they're approached about why they're breaking lockdown rules.

"I think people do feel that Dominic Cummings' action undermines everything that they've all put themselves through, the things that they've missed, the people that they've missed and all of that."

Ms McGuinness, who replaced Dame Vera Baird in the role last year, said the police would step in when there were clear breaches of the rules, including house parties, but added she thought advice such as social distancing was "complex" and not always "enforceable".

'Olypmic swimming pool-sized' cannabis farm uncovered

A cannabis farm spanning an area described as roughly the size of an Olympic swimming pool has been uncovered in North Shields.

Officers discovered the 1,1000 plants - which experts say have a street value in the region of between £630,000 and £900,000 - inside a former indoor market on the Fish Quay.

A 27-year-old man discovered inside the Bell Street premises, and believed to be living there, was arrested and later charged with being concerned in the production of cannabis.

Supt Craig Metcalfe, of Northumbria Police, said: “This was a significant farm and I’ve no doubt it would have been very lucrative to those running it."

Cannabis farm
Northumbria Police

Newcastle social distancing makeover begins

Daniel Holland

Local Democracy Reporter

A makeover of Newcastle city centre to make it easier for people to social distance is beginning in the area around the Royal Victoria Infirmary.

On-street parking spaces will be removed on Queen Victoria Road and new one-way pavements, cycle lanes, and temporary crossings will be introduced there and on St Thomas’ Street. The parking bays will be suspended from today and works will be taking place on tomorrow and Friday.

Cars parked on Queen Victoria Road outside RVI

Officials say they are also planning to install markings around city centre businesses that have now reopened to show walkways, queuing areas and two-metre distancing guidelines.

Council documents state that stores on Northumberland Street will be given “defined property entry points” to enable safe access to shops and pedestrian movement up and down the street.

Marshals are also set to be patrolling the city centre to make sure people are obeying the new systems. Pedestrian crossings in the city centre will be altered from this Thursday so that traffic is stopped more regularly, thereby reducing queues as people wait to cross the road.

Plans to reopen Eldon Square and Metrocentre outlined

Intu, the company which runs two of the North East's major shopping centres, has been outlining its plans to reopen for business.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced all non-essential retailers will be able to reopen in England from 15 June, as part of plans to further ease the lockdown.

At Gateshead's Metrocentre and Newcastle's Eldon Square there'll be measures including one way systems, floor stickers and limited parking, all designed to keep staff and customers safe.

Staff working there will be given personal protective equipment to keep them safe.