Free healthy snacks for Children using County Council Swimming Pools or libraries this summer

During the school holidays free healthy snacks will be available to all children visiting any Durham County council swimming pool, library or community library every day they are open.

Snacks on offer include bananas, satsumas, apples, popcorn and raisins etc. The snacks will help to ensure that children have access to something quick and healthy to eat during holidays rather than chocolate and sugary snacks.

Details of local swimming pools and libraries can be found at:

The thin end of a very ugly wedge – an insidious threat to NHS services

Today I got a letter from my doctor’s surgery explaining why they were stopping a prescription I receive in response to recent NHS guidelines. You can find these guidelines here .

The guidance is for those medical conditions which the powers that be say will cure themselves, or you can easily treat yourself for.

My surgery was certainly quick of the mark! It’s just a month since the guidance was issued, and to date I’ve heard no local discussion of it.

Don’t get me wrong. I and many others can afford to pay for our own hay-fever treatment, and often do, and for some other treatments, but there are plenty of people for whom the list price of £21.27 per month at Boots for what I used to have prescribed would be a hefty chunk out out of their benefits, and they are less likely than I am to be able to take advantage of internet prices which can more than halve that amount.

I’ve referred this to the Chair of the Health Scrutiny Committee of the County Council because I want to know what protections the clinical commissioning groups are putting in place for the most vulnerable in our society. I’ve specifically asked:

  • Will they make available cheap generic products for people so they can avoid the inflated prices charged for heavily advertised branded medicines?
  • Will they continue to prescribe for people on benefits? The guidance only says they should not “routinely prescribe” for the specified conditions.

Watch this space to see whether this gets to committee, and if it does, how those who are in charge of health care say they will protect those least able to pay for self-medication.


Grants available for ending of WW1 celebration events

The Derwent Valley Partnership has set up a small grants fund to enable local groups to organise an event to celebrate the ending of the First World War.

The fund will be available to local constituted community groups and organisations which meet the following criteria:

– Event(s)/activities must represent a clear and distinct celebration of the WWI Centenary

– Events /activities must be deliverable within one year of the date of the offer of funding

– Funding requests of up to £1,000 (minimum £250)

– Event(s)/activity must take place within the Derwent Valley Partnership area*

– Event(s)/activity must be open to the community as a whole

The closing date for applications is 12.00noon on Tuesday 10th July 2018. For further details or an application form please contact one of the team by emailing or calling 03000 260725

Derwent Valley Partnership is one of 14 Area Action Partnerships set up across the county by Durham County Council to engage with residents within their local area.

*DVP covers the following town and villages: Consett, Burnopfield, Lintzford, Hamsterley, Hamsterley Mill, Hat and Feather, Low Westwood, Lintz Green, Hobson, Ebchester, High Westwood, Pickering Nook, Medomsley, Dipton, Medomsley Cross Roads, Medomsley Edge, Shotley Bridge, Consett, Bradley Cottages, Leadgate, Bridgehill, Villa Real, Blackhill, Crookhall, Iveston, Delves Lane, The Grove, Templetown, Moorside

Puzzled at Planning

At a Planning Committee Meeting today I discovered that one government body had disposed of a piece of government property to another government body, for a value “not available” on the Land Registry website, with the simple intention of getting that land planning permission in order to sell or transfer it on to another developer.

At that same Planning Committee, despite my strenuous appeals that the Committee should not allow that very piece of land to be overdeveloped at a density of housing nearly double the average for similar land across County Durham, I watched one councillor propose the planning application “with regret” and another councillor second it “with regret”. It was passed.

And why the regret? It appeared that both the proposer and seconder of the application felt that 20 dwellings on the former Magistrates Court on Ashdale Road, Consett, were too many for the size of the plot, but felt that they had no alternative but to support the application.

I reach that conclusion because the same councillors had just voted against a proposal to defer a decision and seek a re-negotiation of the number of dwellings.

For the record 1: The average density of housing on previously developed land across England (including the densely populated areas in and around London) is 37 dwellings per hectare. The average in County Durham is 21.

The proposal for Consett Magistrates Court is 39 dwellings per hectare. That’s nearly twice the county average.

For the Record 2: I have put in a Freedom of Information Request to “Homes England”, the current owners of the land, to find out how much they “paid” for it.

I think it’s in the public interest to know what the magistrates court was worth before it had planning permission, and how much it becomes worth with planning permission.

It’s not over yet: Today’s meeting contained a number of assurances that this was only an “in principle” decision, called “reserved matters”. The developer, whoever that may turn out to be, will have to convince the planners and committee of their detailed proposals.

If their proposal is for twenty homes they’ll have some difficulty in convincing me.

Planning Permission recommended for 20 houses/dwellings on site of Magistrates’ Court

Councillors are to be asked to approve the use of the former magistrate’s court on Ashdale Road as a site for 20 new homes.

According to the report to the Area Planning Committee (North) notification letters were sent out to 3 local homes in the vicinity and two commercial addresses – Consett Leisure Centre and Consett Academy, producing a nil response in terms of objections.

Councillors Alex Watson and Owen Temple have both submitted responses to the application expressing concerns about traffic in an area which is extremely busy around school opening and closing times, with Councillor Owen Temple also expressing concerns about the density of the housing proposed, which is quite different from the density of the nearest homes to the proposed development – three houses and one bungalow at the top of Ashdale Road.

If the planning permission is granted the developer will be required to pay £49,032 towards the provision of additional teaching accommodation at Consett Academy and up to £41,140 for the provision of open space and play space for use only in the Consett North electoral division.

All the papers relating to this application can be viewed at 

The officer’s report and recommendations to the committee can be read at

Owen would appreciate comments and views from local people if he is to accurately express their views to the planning committee, a committee on which he is not included and cannot vote, but at which he is entitled to speak.

The Meeting takes place at 1.00 p.m. on Thursday March 29th at County Hall.



Help St Mary’s School Blackhill win the “Ultimate School Trip”

As one of just five schools in the North East listed for this prize, St Mary’s could be successful if they can just garner enough votes from the good people of Consett and its neighbourhoods.

Just log on to and vote for St Mary’s, and then get all your friends, relatives, acquaintances, to do the same so that a whole class of local children can enjoy a free trip to Katmandu Park in Majorca.

The vote only runs till Friday. There’s only one vote per person, but of course that means one for your sister, your brother, your Mum, your Dad, your cousin …………………