Alnwick Civic Society

Archive for August 2013

Picture puzzle: What do the purple areas represent?

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Written by Peter

August 28, 2013 at 4:30 pm

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Any questions?

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The next “Any Questions?” panel discussion will be on Oct 15th.

It’s not to early to start thinking about the topics for discussion this year. As a prompt, there is a list below of the issues that the panel discussed last year, along with a brief summary of the response. All are invited to submit suggested topics for this year to the chair.

Questions discussed in 2012:

  • How to engage younger generations in the work of the Civic Society (raise profile across all generations, ask young people what they think, work with relevant organisations, and help young people demonstrate civic responsibility)
  • How to stop retail spend leaking outside the town (initiatives which capitalise on the distinctive character of Alnwick are welcomed, but we should not exaggerate the extent of the problem)
  • The future of the Corn Exchange (any long-term solution is likely to be contentious, but we still need to find one)
  • Parking (the current situation is unsustainable, but can a better alternative be found while feelings are running so high?)
  • Whether the town had become over-reliant on the castle and gardens (we welcome the visitors they attract, but should also seek alternative ways to bring visitors into Alnwick)
  • What buildings the panel would like to blow up in Alnwick (mainly the bus station)

Written by Peter

August 24, 2013 at 8:41 pm

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Public Spaces Protection Orders

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The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill is currently making its way through parliament, and recently passed committee stage.

Among other things, it will introduce a “Public Spaces Protection Order”, to prevent specified things being done in specified public places. The idea is to introduce a simplified alternative which replaces Dog Control Orders (use of leads, control of fouling), Gating Orders (restricting public access), and Designated Public Place Orders (restricting consumption of alcohol in public places).

Once the bill is passed by parliament, a local authority will be able to make a Public Spaces Protection Order if it is satisfied that activities carried on in a place have a detrimental effect on quality of life.

Before making a Public Spaces Protection Order the local authority will need to consult the police, and whatever representatives of the community it thinks appropriate. The order can last for up to three years, and can then be extended repeatedly, for periods of up to three years. Breaching an order will be a criminal offence, subject to an on-the-spot fine of £100, (more in certain cases), and a fine on conviction of up to £1,000.

On face value it all sounds good stuff: improving quality of life, simplifying bureaucracy, but various groups have raised some worrying concerns. The main ones are:

  • These orders are too open-ended: as well as replacing existing powers that cover alcohol control zones, dog control, and local bylaws, they would allow councils, for example, to ban spitting, smoking or begging in public places, or ban rough sleeping.
  • There are fewer checks and balances than with current regulations: no requirement for public consultation, less central government scrutiny
  • New crimes would be introduced, normally be punished with on-the-spot fines, sometimes issued by private security guards working on commission
  • There is a risk of discrimination: orders could be directed at particular groups of people, such as the homeless, or young people, rather than being general rules which apply to everyone. They could be used to suppress peaceful protest.

These are not straightforward issues. We will be watching the specialists debate with interest. But above all, we can’t help feeling that having to resort to punitive measures is a symptom of a deeper problem. We hope that a strong community, and more constructive interventions will mean that approaches such as Public Space Protection Orders are rarely (if ever) necessary to maintain the quality of our life.

To quote the indefatigable F. R. Wilson, in his “Practical Guide for Inspectors of Nuisances” (1881):

Good-humour, good words, forbearance, explicitness of explanation and clearness of instruction, will be found most serviceable.

Written by Peter

August 10, 2013 at 9:46 am

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Apprenticeships

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Normally more than 200 people in Northumberland complete an apprenticeship related to construction, planning or the built environment each year. That’s around 1.2% of all such apprenticeships in England. Not bad, considering that Northumberland represents just 0.6% of the population of England. Last year, however, the number in Northumberland dropped from 200 to just 40.

Apprenticeships

According to the latest figures, the number completing an apprenticeship in the same fields across England dropped from 16,100 during 2011/12 to 5,400 in during 2012/13 (a fall of 66%). The decline in Northumberland was even more dramatic. A fall from 200 to 40 equates to a fall of 80%.

The number starting an apprenticeship in Construction, Planning or the Built Environment in Northumberland has also fallen, but not by the same proportion (from 280 to 100). So it looks as though the drop in those qualifying is partly due to fewer apprentices starting, but more about the number who start their apprenticeship but do not go on to complete it.

What this means for individual apprentices is hard to say. At county level Northumberland has lost its edge. It now contributes about 0.8% of all England’s apprenticeships in Construction, Planning and the Built environment. This is roughly in line with the overall number doing apprenticeships , and more than a fair share measured by population size.

In brief, this drop in numbers looks even more worrying at a local level than it is at a national level.

Written by Peter

August 6, 2013 at 7:53 pm

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Climate

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The Climate—in regard to temperature, is subject to great variation; upon the mountains, snow will often continue for several months, (and may frequently be seen there of a considerable depth) when there is none in the lower districts. The weather is very inconstant, but mostly runs in extremes. In the Spring months, the cold, piercing, easterly winds are most prevalent; and our longest droughts are always accompanied by them: in some places they have acquired the name of sea-pines, from the slow progress vegetation makes whenever they continue for a few weeks. Rain is of little use while they prevail, from the great cold which always attends them.

The mild western and southern breezes rarely take place before June; they are certain harbingers of rain and vigorous vegetation, and are the most prevailing winds through the Summer and Autumn: In the latter season, they often blow with tempestuous fury, dash out the corn, and disappoint the just hopes of the industrious farmer.

Our greatest falls of snow, or rain, are from the south, or south-east; and whenever we have a very high west wind, it is a certain sign that a great quantity of rain is falling to the westward, in Cumberland and Roxburghshire.

From “General view of the agriculture of the county of Northumberland: with observations on the means of its improvement; drawn up for the consideration of the Board of Agriculture and Internal Improvement”, (1797) which is available here

Written by Peter

August 6, 2013 at 6:42 pm

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August 1st (1809)

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A violent thunder storm, accompanied with rain and hail, took place at Alnwick; the electric fluid entered the house of Major Castles, and shivered a bed-stead to pieces, tore the wall in several places, and completely demolished the bell wires; a servant maid was in the bedroom, but escaped unhurt; it left such a sulphureous smell in the house that they could scarcely breathe in it for some time.

Written by Peter

August 1, 2013 at 7:30 am

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