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Council aids small businesses

More than £36m has been paid out by Northumberland County Council to help local businesses through the coronavirus pandemic.

The money is aimed at supporting small companies, and ones in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, and so far more than 3,200 of them have benefited.

Another tranche of payments is due in the next few says, the council said.

It has also urged businesses which meet the eligibility criteria, and have not contacted them yet, to register their details online.

Northumberland County Council HQ

Councillor Peter Jackson, leader of the council, said: “As a council we are doing everything that we can to support businesses - providing advice and guidance, and finding out what the key issues are for the business community in the county, so that these can be addressed.”

Bird sanctuary 'facing struggle to survive'

Mark French

A birds of prey sanctuary is facing an uncertain future because it does not qualify for government grants amid the coronavirus crisis.

Falconry Days, in Hexham, Northumberland, has cancelled all this summer's falconry displays amid the lockdown, and Mark French and his wife Mandy have had to let one part-time member of staff go.

They are also concerned about finding the money to feed more than 90 birds if the shutdown continues for the months ahead.

"We don't have a rateable value on any part of the premises so can't qualify for any of the grants," said Mr French.

"We've got enough food to feed the birds for three months. After that we'll need to reorder, but basically we've got no income at all.

"We do need support. It's not our fault our business has closed. We need to survive."

Protective equipment stolen from ambulance

BBC Radio Tees

Person protective equipment (PPE) was stolen from an ambulance on a call out in Middlesbrough on Monday, police have said.

The theft occurred as the ambulance crew attended emergency calls in Middlesbrough’s Newport area.

The items reported stolen were provided to the ambulance crew to keep them safe as they provide life-saving treatment to patients, a Cleveland Police spokeswoman said.


Ch Supt Thom McLoughlin said: “The theft of equipment from frontline ambulance staff is despicable. Our emergency service colleagues continue to assist those in most need and it is disgraceful they were targeted in this way."

The North East Ambulance Service said it was one of four thefts of such equipment across the region in the past week.

Firefighters plea to put bins out at last minute

Householders urged to help stop arsonists targeting bins

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Paramedics' protective equipment stolen

Protective equipment for paramedics has been stolen from ambulances four times in the past week, the North East Ambulance Service has said.

A spokeswoman said the items were stolen while crews were treating patients in Newcastle and Middlesbrough.

The equipment is used by healthcare workers to protect themselves from infection from coronavirus and it also keeps them from infecting other vulnerable patients.

Head of risk at North East Ambulance Service, Alan Gallagher, said: “To hear about such selfish acts of theft is incredibly disappointing and we will not tolerate it. The impacts of such acts could severely impede our combined efforts to keep people safe. Those responsible should consider the wider impact that their actions could have on the community and their own emergency care, should they ever need it.

“As a result, all vehicles will now carry minimal stocks.

“All of our vehicles are fitted with CCTV and anyone attempting to board one whilst the crew are treating patients is likely to be caught on camera and the footage provided as evidence to the police.”

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Ambulance service gives thanks for support

The North East Ambulance Service has given thanks to those supporting it during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Routine patient transport service suspended during virus crisis

Routine ambulance transport has been cancelled to help ease demand during the coronavirus crisis.

The North East Ambulance Service said the decision would allow it to support hospitals to discharge more patients well enough to return home and free-up the maximum possible inpatient and critical care capacity in the region.

A limited transport service will continue for patients needing dialysis; chemotherapy, radiotherapy and other cancer treatment; and when required for non-urgent assessment as directed by a clinician.


Barry Dews, Strategic Head of Operations at NEAS, said: “This is not a decision taken lightly and we know some patients will be worried about whether they should still attend their hospital appointment.

“We regularly carry out around 2,800 patient journeys a day and we have already seen this drop to 1,500 patient journeys a day as hospitals start cancelling appointments and some patients are either self-isolating or following government advice to socially distance themselves.

“We are working very closely with hospitals and our NHS commissioners to ensure that all patients are notified of this change and given advice on what they should do next.”

Patients who have any concerns their transport should ring NEAS patient transport on 0300 111 0247.

For those patients showing symptoms of COVID-19, vehicles will only transport one patient at a time.

Crews in direct contact will also be wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), although the designated driver will not be required to wear PPE whilst driving.

Firefighters plea to help catch arsonists

Fire chiefs are reassuring the public their calls will be treated with the strictest confidence.

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Council staff deployment to support bin collection

North Tyneside Council said it has redeployed staff to ensure frontline and essential services can keep running during the coronavirus pandemic.

Among the first are those from environmental services, who have volunteered to be retrained as refuse collectors, to protect against potential shortages caused by collection crew self-isolating at home.

Newcastle, Durham, Northumberland and Sunderland councils have all said refuse services are continuing to run as normal.

Gateshead Council said it was also collecting as normal, and reminded residents to wash their hands before putting anything in bins for outside collection.

All councils asked people to keep checking the websites for updates.

row of bins

Emergency services issue parking plea

Northumberland Fire and Rescue service has asked people to be considerate when it comes to parking.

It says that with more people working from home there are more cars parked up in streets and housing estates.

Residents are urged to ensure they have left enough room for emergency services vehicles to get through.

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Northumbrian Water closes parks and reservoirs to public

Northumbrian Water has closed its waterside parks and reservoirs to the public in light of the situation regarding Covid-19, with immediate effect.

The closures include Landal Kielder Waterside.

All associated public toilets and car parks are also closed.

"The closure is currently expected to last until April 27, but this will be under constant review and may be extended," it said.

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In support of the Government's efforts to defeat Covid-19, it is with an extremely heavy heart that we have made the decision to close our leisure sites and reservoirs to the public with immediate effect."

David HallNorthumbrian Water

Alnwick Garden to close

Alnwick Garden has taken the decision to close from 16:00 following the latest guidance from the Government around social distancing.

It says the focus is "to ensure the participants of our community programmes continue to receive support while The Garden is closed. We are looking at ways to remain in regular contact and adjusting our approach where necessary. We are also exploring ways of taking The Garden to the community such as our Live Blossom Watch facility on the website".

Here is the link to see the Live Blossom Watch

Alnwick Garden treehouse
Getty Images

We hope during this time that you all stay safe and healthy and remember that as a community we are here to offer help to those who need it most. Look after yourselves, your neighbours and loved ones and we look forward to welcoming you back once this is all behind us.”

Mark BrassellDirector

Don't flush kitchen roll warning amid shortages

Northumbrian Water is warning of "devastating blockages" if customers flush toilet roll alternatives down the loo.

As toilet rolls continue to disappear quickly from supermarket shelves due to the coronavirus crisis, the company is warning people not to flush alternatives such as wipes, kitchen roll and newspapers.

Wrongly flushed items, such as wet wipes, are one of the biggest causes of blockages as they usually clog up inside householders' plumbing and sewer pipes.

Consequences can range from causing people's homes to be flooded with toilet waste, to the environment being polluted.

We understand some people affected by the limited toilet roll availability may have no choice but to use alternative products, but we really need our customers help by making one small change - and that's to put wipes and any alternatives in the bin."

Simon CyhankoNorthumbrian Water
toilet rolls
Getty Images

Northumbrian Water's Bin the Wipe campaign is encouraging customers not to use their toilets as a bin, after finding around 64% of the 15,600 blockages cleared in 2019 were caused by wet wipes.

You can read more here

Sunshine and daffodils

Needing a break from coronavirus news?

Here's a lovely photo of the harbour taken by Nelson Allen taken at Seaton Sluice

Daffodils at Seaton Sluice
Nelson Allen

Berwick's Old Bridge to be refurbished

Work will start this summer on Berwick's Old Bridge, waterproofing and repairing the masonry parapets.

It's part of a range of improvement schemes to roads, bridges and paths in the area with the £800,000 for the project coming from the Local Transport Plan.

The Grade I listed bridge was built between 1611 and 1634 by James Burrell out of red sandstone.

Cllrs Glen Sanderson, Catherine Seymour, Georgina Hill and Gregah Roughead in front of Berwick's Old Bridge.
Northumberland County Council

Sculpture trail plan for Amble

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Ben O'Connell

A project to develop a national bird sculpture trail on a coastal path in Northumberland is "making progress".

Amble Board Walk, aligned with the new England Coast Path, would feature up to 22 sculptures at key locations along the coastline from Hauxley Nature Reserve, around Amble and along the river to Warkworth.

Last year, it was announced the project, delivered by Amble Development Trust, on behalf of Amble Coastal Community Team, would receive £400,000 from the Coastal Communities Fund.

Northumberland County Council has now agreed to include the £240,000 project in its capital programme for this year, and also a separate revenue budget of £156,000.

This means that the sculptures, which are currently being commissioned through a design competition process, will be put in place during the summer.

Councillors were told the trail which will "will celebrate the natural assets of the local area" will support more than 60 businesses and create 30 full-time-equivalent employment opportunities by "extending the tourism season".


The regeneration of Amble and the surrounding area has been nothing short of astounding in recent years and this can only add to that.”

Peter Jackson,leader of Northumberland County Council

Call off big events, disease expert says

BBC Newcastle

A disease expert from Northumberland has warned the government must do more if it is to prevent a spike in the number of coronavirus cases in Britain.

Emma Hodcroft, an epidemiologist at the University of Basel in Switzerland, told us she is calling for big sporting and entertainment events to be called off.

"I do think we can take these first simple steps to ban large events where people touch lots of handrails and where people have to take public transport to get there.

"All of that cuts a lot of transmission [of the virus] before we have to start thinking about harder decisions on smaller events and gatherings."

Yesterday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said suspending major public events was still under consideration, but it would be a measure primarily to protect public services rather than delay the spread.

Spectators at a sports ground
Getty Images

Blaze rips through seaside pub

BBC Newcastle

A Tynemouth man who filmed a huge blaze at a seaside pub says the heat was intense.

Two people escaped safely from the fire at the Schooner Inn at Seahouses, before fire crews arrived in the early hours.

David Steven who caught the fire on camera from the cottage he was staying in, a few doors away told BBC Newcastle's Rebecca O'Neill what happened

David Steven from Tynemouth woke in the early hours to find the Schooner pub on fire.

Holidaymaker captures pub fire in Seahouses

A man on holiday in Northumberland was woken in the early hours to discover a neighbouring pub on fire.

David Steven from Tynemouth who was staying in a cottage in Seahouses, a few doors away from the public public house filmed the blaze.

Firefighters from Seahouses, Alnwick. Berwick and Tyne and Wear were called to the Schooner Inn on North Street in the early hours.

A fuel tank containing oil was involved, and it took several hours to bring the blaze under control.

Two people escaped safely before the fire service arrived, but the building was badly damaged.

A joint investigation into the cause of the fire is being carried out by Northumberland Fire and Rescue and Northumbria Police.

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Football parents banned from shouting

BBC Newcastle

Parents watching their children play football in Northumberland this weekend have been banned from shouting.

The Northumberland FA said a survey of players found 60% of six to nine year olds "didn't feel safe playing football" because of shouting and swearing from the sidelines.

Andrew Rose-Cook from the organisation said it was a minority of parents who "go too far" and parents can still applaud good play.

How much for the doggy in the window?

Emma Gray trains sheepdogs full time and has about 20 on her farm
Emma Gray trains sheepdogs full time and has about 20 on her farm

Finally, a border collie from Northumberland has become the world's most expensive sheepdog after being sold to an American ranch owner for £18,900.

Two-and-a-half year-old Megan was sold by shepherdess Emma Gray - who has represented England at the World Sheepdog Trials - at an auction in North Yorkshire on Friday.

"I had to ring the auction and just make sure it wasn't a hoax and that I wasn't dreaming," she said.

The average price for a working dog is about £2,000.

Megan will go from herding sheep in the north-east of England to rounding up Wagyu cattle in Oklahoma.

Police crackdown on county lines drug crimes continues

Thirty-one people have now been arrested in a crackdown on county lines drug crimes.

Operation Sentinel and has seen a number of dawn raids carried out across Northumberland, Scotland and Merseyside in the past four weeks.

It's recovered a number of drug seizures including 1kg of cocaine with an estimated street value of more than £40,000.

Close up of packet of seized drugs
Northumbria Police

We will not bring this operation to a close until we are satisfied that we have done all we can to ensure this particular county line is stamped out and stays that way."

Jonathan BensleyDet Ch Insp, Northumbria Police

County lines is where criminal networks expand their operations from urban areas to more rural locations and smaller towns.

Police say it often involves the exploitation of vulnerable people, including children and those with mental health or addiction problems.

Fire crews assist flood-stranded car couple

Crews from the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service supported colleagues in Northumberland in the rescue of a couple stranded in floods near Ovington.

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Coronavirus: My wife must stay in Wuhan, says Northumberland man


A Northumberland man and his daughter have been offered a flight to the UK from Wuhan, the centre of the coronavirus outbreak, but his Chinese wife has been told she must stay behind.

The UK government is arranging to evacuate Britons from Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province.

Jeff Siddle, said he had to decide whether to leave with his nine-year-old daughter or keep his family together.

"My wife is distraught," he said.

"The Chinese authorities are not allowing any Chinese residents to leave."

It comes as British Airways has suspended all direct flights to and from mainland China because of the virus outbreak, which has caused more than 100 deaths.

Jeff Siddle and his family

Water firm reporting increase in 'wet wipe blockages'

Jill Archbold

BBC Look North

Northumbrian Water is dealing with an increasing number of sewage blockages caused by people using wet wipes and other products unsuitable for putting down the toilet.

The wipes, for removing make-up and for use in bathrooms, are the biggest culprits, along with cotton buds and sanitary products.

The company said many wipes contain plastic and do not break down in water like toilet paper.

In some cases it said flooding had been caused by inappropriate disposal of wipes.

Waste wipes

Hadrian's Wall 'covered' Roman fort gifted to the nation

A North East family has donated an unusual gift to the nation - a Roman Fort.

Carrawburgh Fort is between Chesters and Housesteads in Northumberland.

It housed a garrison of 500 troops who protected part of Hadrian's Wall from enemies in the north.

It has been gifted to Historic England by the Du Cane family who have cared for it since 1950.

Most of the site has grassed over but is open to the public and will be managed by English Heritage.

Carrawburgh Fort
Justin Minns

Heavy snow reported in Northumberland

There are reports of cars getting stuck in heavy snow on the A68 in north Northumberland.

It's affecting traffic at Carter Bar, which is the point where you cross the border into Scotland.

There were reports of a jack-knifed lorry blocking the road but sensors suggest traffic is now moving.

Cinema plan for former petrol station site

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Ben O'Connell

Work could start on the "Ashington hole" site this spring, after plans for a new cinema, restaurants and shops were given the go-ahead.

The seven-screen cinema and restuarant will be located on the site south of the Asda petrol station, between the supermarket and Ashington Leisure Centre.

Northumberland County Council's planning committee also approved a retail and restaurant development on a second plot nearby.

A further phase, featuring 20,000 sq ft of new retail space and parking, is anticipated to be submitted in the next few months.

Artist's impression of new cinema

Known as Portland Park, critics in the town have dubbed the site the Ashington hole, as it has sat undeveloped since the incoming Conservative administration decided to cancel the relocation of the county council’s HQ from Morpeth in 2017.

Water supplies affected by power cut

The power cut in Durham we told you about a little earlier is now affecting the water supply:

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Northumberland images among year's most popular

Images of Alnwick and Bamburgh in Northumberland feature among BBC England's most popular of the year.

Each day throughout the year we feature an interesting photograph shared with us from across England.

We've brought together a special best of 2019 slideshow, showing our most popular images from across the year, based on social media engagement.

Sharing our most popular images from across the year, based on social media engagement.

Appeal to find owner of neglected Blyth dog

A council has appealed for information after a "severely neglected" dog was was found in Blyth.

The lurcher was said to be close to death when she found and in an emaciated condition.

The female dog, believed to be aged about three years old, was discovered by Northumberland County Council in a field in Cowpen following a call from the public.

She is now being cared for in a foster home through Berwick Animal Rescue Kennels and has been named Tiggy.

Tiggy the dog
Northumberland County Council

Northumberland County Council said she is now on a special diet and "receiving some tender loving care".

A council animal welfare officer added: "This dog was in a really horrific state. Someone, somewhere knows who she belongs to, or has seen her about.

"She was completely skin and bone and less than half the weight she should have been.

"She had no fur either and has never been microchipped and seems to have just been dumped out on the streets.

They added: "This is a shocking and inexcusable case of neglect and we are very keen to get to the bottom of how she came to be in such an emaciated condition and bring the person(s) responsible to account."

If you have any information about Tiggy you can call the council's animal welfare team on 0345 600 6400 or by email to