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Raid gang linked to thefts worth £100,000

Police are hunting a gang of travelling thieves suspected of stealing £100,000 worth of goods in burglaries across the North East.

Seven raids have taken place over the last month in Ashington, Gosforth and Birtley.

The gang has forced its way into houses while people have been out and made off with valuables and cash.

It is believed the group responsible travelled into the region to commit the offences before leaving.

Empty homes council tax charges set to soar

Local Democracy Reporting Service

The owners of empty houses in Northumberland will find council tax costs going through the roof.

County councillors have backed a hike in the empty homes premium in addition to standard council tax charges.

Currently, owners of long-term empty homes pay a 50% premium on top of their full council tax bill.

From April 2020, the premium will be 100% for properties left empty for between two and five years and 200% for those longer than five years. An additional 300% premium for homes left empty for more than 10 years will come into force from April 2021.

The current average band D charge across Northumberland is £1,915.43. A 100% rise would increase this to £3,830.86.

A 300% premium would result in an overall bill of £7,661.72.

Pictures champion county's profile

Northumberland residents have been invited to pick the best of the county's pictures as part of a campaign championing the area's profile.

Discover our Land is asking the public cast their vote in its autumn photo competition, following the success of an inaugural competition earlier this year.

The judging panel has whittled down more than 200 entries to a shortlist of just four under-16s and 14 adult ones.

Councillor Cath Homer, cabinet member for culture, arts, leisure and tourism, said: "Discover our Land is all about telling the stories of our county, and what better way to do that than through the lens of those who know it best, our people.”

Winner of the Spring photo competition
Alan Forrest

An image of bleak but beautiful Bamburgh gained Alan Forrest first place in the spring photo competition

Discover our Land is all about telling the stories of our county, and what better way to do that than through the lens of those who know it best, our people.”

Councillor Cath HomerCabinet member for culture, arts, leisure and tourism at Northumberland County Council

A1 northbound slip roads reopened

The A1 northbound entry slip road at the A1290, Downhill Lane junction is now open after flooding was cleared.

The A1 northbound exit to A197, Clifton, Morpeth has also been cleared and reopened.

Blocked sewers prompt 'wipes' flush warning

BBC Look North

North East and Cumbria

Damage caused by blocked sewers is being highlighted by a utility company, as it urges people to be careful about what they flush down the toilet.

Northumbrian Water says it has cleared almost 10,000 blockages across its sewer network so far this year.

One of the main causes is wet wipes and plastic, which can also end up in rivers or the sea, leading to pollution.

Richard Warneford, from Northumbrian Water, said: "Despite wet wipes being promoted as ‘flushable' they rarely are, as they may leave your toilet bowl when flushed but can clog up householders' plumbing and can also cause blockages in our network of sewer pipes.

"Blockages can have devastating consequences to people's homes being flooded and the environment being polluted, which is so saddening to see."


New playpark will make 'massive difference'

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Ben O'Connell

A new play park will make a "massive difference" to children in a Northumberland town, councillors have been told.

West Bedlington Town Council has been given the green light to build the facility on land known as 20 Acre Field, off Church Lane.

A meeting of the Cramlington, Bedlington and Seaton Valley Local Area Council was told it would provide a small football pitch along with a number of items of play equipment of varying height, all enclosed by a 1.2-metre, round-top metal fence.

The plan was in response to a number of requests from families in the Millfield estate, as the two other play areas in the parish were on the west side of town.

Councillor Mark Swinburn said it was "essential to provide these facilities", but "a shame" it fell to local councils rather than being provided by housing developers.

Site of play area

Fire crew rescues ditch-stranded horse

Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service pulled of an "amazing rescue", after a horse fell down a ditch.

Its rider used the What3Words app to give an exact location, and if you've not heard about it before, here's an explanation.

View more on twitter

North East areas added to 'at risk register'

Mark Denten

BBC Look North

Two Northumberland sites have been placed on Historic England's "at risk" register, which is out today.

Conservation areas in Hexham and Blyth are among the 247 new sites considered to be at risk by the organisation. You can see the Heritage at Risk map here.

Meanwhile, 310 sites - including St Andrew's Church in Sunderland - have been removed from the register as they are regarded as saved.

Northumbria Healthcare Trust rated outstanding

Anna Snowdon

BBC Local Live

The services provided by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust have been rated as outstanding for a second time by the Care Quality Commission

Inspectors assessed urgent and emergency services, medical care and maternity at Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, medical care at North Tyneside General Hospital and maternity at both Alnwick Infirmary and Berwick Infirmary.

The trust also maintained its previous ratings of outstanding for being effective, caring and responsive and good for being safe.

In the emergency department, there had been no patients who had waited longer than 12 hours without being admitted. The department also met the national four-hour target for eight months between March 2018 to February 2019.

We found many of our previous concerns had been addressed well and the trust was working hard to advance its services overall. Our findings have been made clear to the trust and where we have found concerns we will follow these up through our ongoing engagement with them. We will continue to monitor the trust and return to reinspect when appropriate.”

Sarah DronsfieldHead of Hospital Inspection
Northumberland man saved by pet dog after collapse
Ilah the labradoodle comes to the rescue after her owner collapses during the night.

Woman and children rescued after being cut off by tide

BBC Newcastle

A woman and three small children were rescued after being cut off on a sand bank by the tide, according to Seahouses RNLI.

The family were at Budle Bay, Northumberland, at 13:00 on Saturday when they were caught out by the tide which came in quickly.

Lifeboat operations manager Ian Clayton said: "We urge the public to be aware of the speed tides can come in, cutting off the unwary. On this occasion we had a good outcome, but it could've been different."

Meanwhile, the coastguard at Holy Island was called out when a car was cut off by the tide on the causeway yesterday afternoon.

Northumberland zoo in bid to save rare wildcats
A Northumberland zoo is taking part in a scheme to breed rare Scottish Wildcats in captivity.

Ambulance crews sent to South Bank incident

The North East Ambulance Service said it had sent six resources including a specialist hazard team to the former SSI plant in South Bank.

Fire crews are also on the scene.

An ambulance spokeswoman said there were no details about any casualties.

We will bring you more details when we have them.

Man completes Newcastle to Kielder River Tyne swim challenge
Fenwick Mark Ridley was granted special permission to complete his challenge at Kielder Water.

Have your say on the A69 upgrade

BBC Look North

North East and Cumbria

People interested in finding out more about a major upgrade of the A69 will be able to see the plans at an information session in Northumberland today.

Work is due to start on the multimillion-pound project at Bridge End roundabout in October.

Temporary changes to the road layout will be put in place while the new section is created under the roundabout.

Anyone wanting to ask questions about the scheme can chat to Highways England at Hexham Community Centre between 12:00 and 17:00.

Northumberland school exclusions fall

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Ben O'Connell

The number of school exclusions in Northumberland has dropped from a spike last year as work continues to tackle the issue.

Last November, we reported that pupils were permanently kicked out of schools in the county at an average rate of one a day during the first half-term of that academic year.

Over the previous three years, permanent exclusions had increased by 203% and fixed-term exclusions by 209%, but the trend has reversed since then.

The issue was discussed again at Tuesday’s meeting of the county council’s cabinet where members agreed to proceed with a tender exercise to create a framework to support the provision of alternative education for permanently excluded children.

Exclusions have been of concern to the family and children's services committee for some time and a task and finish group has been looking at the issue, while the council has also spoken to headteachers in an effort to share good practice.

Since this has been taking place, the number of permanent exclusions in Northumberland has reduced by 28% and the number of fixed-term exclusions by 26%.

Berwick leisure centre given go-ahead by planners

Berwick's new leisure centre is a step closer after planning permission was granted by Northumberland County Council.

The £20m facility, which is being funded by the local authority, will replace the Swan Centre in Tweedmouth. It will be run by Active Northumberland, the charitable trust that manages leisure services across the county.

Work is due to start in November with phase one, which includes a new swimming pool and fitness suite, set to open in April 2021. The full building is expected to be open in summer 2022.

Artist's impression of the new leisure centre at Berwick
Northumberland County Council

Inpatient beds to return to Northumbria hospital

Mark Denten

BBC Look North

Inpatient beds are to return to Rothbury Community Hospital after nearly three years.

Local health managers initially said the beds were underused, and they were closed in September 2016. But the decision was referred to the-then Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and an independent reconfiguration panel.

Today at an extraordinary meeting of the Northumberland CCG governing body it was announced inpatient beds will return to Rothbury Hospital under a flexible system where the number of beds will depend on clinical need.

Managers say it’s never been tried before in the NHS.

Cyclist killed in crash with farming machinery

Anna Snowdon

BBC Local Live

A cyclist was killed in a crash with a combine harvester shortly before 13:00 yesterday.

The 77-year-old cyclist had been travelling through the village of Ogle, Northumberland, when he was involved in a collision with the machine.

Emergency services attended the scene but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

It is devastating for the family of the cyclist and we have specially-trained family liaison officers supporting them. We are particularly keen to speak to anyone who was driving near Ogle at the time of the collision to review any dashcam footage they may have.”

Sgt Ray LoweryNorthumbria Police’s Motor Patrols Department

Five people, including children, injured in tractor crash

Two adults and three children were seriously injured when a car collided with a tractor and a hay bale trailer in Northumberland.

The crash happened on the A1 southbound carriageway at Shilbottle, near Alnwick, on Monday.

Five occupants of the car, aged 64, 57, eight, nine and two, were taken to hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

A stretch of the road was closed for about six hours, causing long traffic tailbacks.

Northumbria Police has appealed for witnesses to the collision at about 14:50 BST.

Traffic tailbacks on A1

Man charged over A69 fatal collision

A 31-year-old man has been charged after a woman died and another was seriously injured in a two-car crash on the A69 near Haydon Bridge on Tuesday.

Viorel Grancea, of Darnley Street, Glasgow, has been charged with death by dangerous driving, causing serious injury by dangerous driving and causing death while unlicenced, disqualified or uninsured.