LOWICK.LIVE.LETTER

FIRST SCHOOL SEEKS NEW HEAD TEACHER

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Lowick First School is advertising for a full time Head Teacher. The School has had an executive Head for the past few months and the Governors have now decided that the best way forward for the school is to seek for a permanent full-time appointment.

The school is also looking to improve its links with Holy Island First School.

SCHOOL PROVISION IN OUR DISTRICT: WHAT’S YOUR VIEW?

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The news that our First School is seeking a new full-time head is surely welcome. It suggests that the governors have confidence in the school, and want to ensure that it can go forward, with the confidence of local people, and more important, local parents, behind it.

However, good news is not the entire story of state school provision where we live. All schools in the North Northumberland area have been unsettled by the unilateral decision to convert to a two tier system by the Alnwick partnership, and the recent construction of an entirely new High School. This has led to the likely closure of Belford Middle School, which has lost a significant number of its students to the Duchess School.

Lowick First School, which is on the edge of this upheaval, naturally feels the shockwaves – as children leaving for middle school have sometimes chosen Belford as their first choice.

As the dominoes continue to topple round the district, Northumberland County Council remains distant and silent about its role in helping schools sort out the mess – not that it can probably do much. And Central Government, which gave schools the freedom to do what they like, regardless of local provision, has washed its hands of the whole business, though it is entirely responsible.

In Belford, discussions now centre on whether the first and middle schools can become a primary school – negotiations complicated by the fact that Belford Middle is a Church School, while the First School is owned by the County.

If you have a view, then now is the time to express it – where it counts – with our County Councillor, and our MP. Give us your views, and we will pass them on.

DOWN MEMORY LANE COFFEE MORNING

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There will be a “Down Memory Lane” coffee morning in Lowick Village Hall on Wednesday 18th Oct, from 10am – 12pm. Organised by Lowick Heritage Group the idea is to get people along to share more stories about the village as they remember it, using old photos.

It is hoped there will be more than one coffee morning in the future, and that people will get the chance to bring their own photos and objects from the past. Refreshments will be free, and the Morning is open to anyone.

BOWSDEN DISCUSSION GROUP RETURNS

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We are pleased to report that the Bowsden Discussion Group [BDG] is returning, and will have its first meeting will be at The Black Bull Lowick, on Wednesday 18th October at 7.30. Traditionally aimed at farmers, the membership has spread over the years to include anyone who has business in, or to be in, the country. Asked whether women members are invited, Graeme Reavely, who is the Secretary, said that none had ever been turned away!

The first guest speaker will be former local County Councillor, Dougie Watkin, who farms locally and is well liked and respected. He will be sharing his memories of life, sheep and politics, with characteristic wit and wisdom.

There will be a buffet after the main business, when informal discussion can take place over the amuse bouche! The cost for each session will be £5, and annual membership covering all 6 sessions is £20.

The new BDG has been revived following the demise of the Black Bull, Bowsden, and the narrow escape of the Black Bull Lowick. Its purpose is mainly rural and agricultural, but topics include any of the lives and backgrounds of the guest speakers. Members have heard from Bishops, Weather Forecasters and Naval Captains, as well as Vets, Farmers, and Businessmen.

Future speakers have already been booked, and they will include Ann Marie Trevelyan, our MP, Karl Crane, owner of the Black Bull and James Thompson, Director of Agriculture for Beeswax Dyson Farms.

The Common and Your Council Tax

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A Message from the Parish Council

You will be pleased to hear that the owners of Lowick Hall Farm, 1 and 2 Lowick Common and the Parish Council have now concluded the lengthy process that has engaged all parties for over 3 years. The applicants for ownership of land in front of their properties  have achieved their aims. The Farm is happy that its right of access to its field have been guaranteed

The cottages now own the land in front of them, and the Farm has secured a further right of access to its field, for agricultural purposes.

All parties will have their own view of the process, and the costs involved in getting to this point. Some see it as an essential exercise in establishing appropriate legal title to land and access to property. Others regard the lengthy negotiations as unnecessary and leaving all parties no better off than they were – with the 3 sets of lawyers involved immeasurably richer as a result. There are shades of opinion between both positions, as you might expect.

We are publishing details of the final [as far as we know] costs that have been born by the community as a result of the case. These have resulted in a slight increase to the Council Tax payable by residents, because the Parish has been compelled to defend the Common and the legal position of the Council, and to accommodate the demands of the other parties to the case for adverse possession and enhanced rights of access. This has also entailed surveying, legal and registration fees in order to register the Common with the Land Registry, and in so doing, establish a boundary with adjoining property, and where new and exiting easements would lie.

The Agreement

The Agreement agreed and endorsed by the Land Registry Tribunal is broadly as stated below

  • Land at the front of 1 & 2 Lowick Common is now owned by and registered to the owners of the properties.
  • Rights of access over the existing track by all parties, and by the owners of Burn House, are acknowledged by the Council and the Tribunal, and are recorded in the records of the case, and in pre-existing deeds of access.
  • A further metre wide strip at the western edge of the Common has been established, and registered, as an agriculture right of way, in perpetuity.  The owners of Lowick Hall Farm may gravel this surface to match the existing, if they wish to.

It is important to remember that no part of the Common has passed out of Parish ownership. The PC did not contest the area in front of the cottages that it believed had been used exclusively by the residents for over 100 years. The PC has now ensured that as part of the process the title to the Common is now properly registered, and the boundary established.

The Costs

The Costs to the parties have been considerable. However, satisfaction may be taken by the Cottages which now have secured additional value in the land in front of them. The Farm has secured additional right of access to wider farm machinery to its field.

The Parish is pleased that this has been the outcome for the first respondents. As second respondents, however, it has been forced to raise a considerable sum to defend the public’s rights in circumstances that it was unable to avoid. Apart from securing the boundary to the Common with the Land Registry, which it accepts were costs it was responsible for, it has received no other benefit, and its other costs have not been adequately defrayed by the court process.

As public money was involved, here are the costs as far as the Parish Council were concerned.

EXPENDITURE
WELLERS LAW GROUP £12,442.80
ANDREW YOUNG SURVEYOR £1,020.00
TOTAL COSTS £13,462.80
INCOME
LOWICK HALL FARM COST OF EASEMENT £2,500.00
LOWICK HALL FARM CONTRIBUTION TO PARISH COSTS £1,500.00
1 LOWICK COMMON CONTRIBUTION TO PARISH COSTS £1,500.00
2 LOWICK COMMON CONTRIBUTION TO PARISH COSTS £1,500.00
TOTAL INCOME £7,000.00
NET EXPENDITURE BY PARISH COUNCIL £6,462.80

Was This Avoidable?

It is hard to say how this could have been avoided, given the absolute determination to secure a legal judgement over the claims to ownership and access. Had the boundary of the Common been registered at a much earlier juncture, then it is possible that this might have been avoided. Though the process of litigation would probably have started at this point, just the same.

Future Actions to Be Taken By the Council

The voters of Lowick may decide that sharper eyes should be employed by Councillors in future. For itself, the Parish Council is now resolved to survey all unclaimed and unregistered land within the village to ensure that the Public’s rights are secured, and that these area are properly registered by the Parish, for the Public good. This process will begin forthwith, with identification of land that is used communally, or can be seen to have been used in this way within recent memory.

Heritage Weekend in the Village Hall

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Lowick Heritage Group is holding a Heritage Weekend on Saturday 30th September and Sunday 1st October. This Special Event will explore 4000 Years of Lowick History. There will be a display of photographs, historic maps, local archaeological finds and an update of the Dryburn Limeworks Conservation project, each day from 10am until 4pm. There will be free refreshments, and a chance to sit and talk about the memories the many images are sure to provoke.

One key theme is the launch of a “Domesday Book” project on THE BUILDINGS OF LOWICK.

The Lowick Heritage Group has teamed up with The Neighbourhood Plan researchers to create a database of the buildings of Lowick, recording the changes in use and in the families who owned and occupied them. This will be a long-term project and your help would be appreciated.

John Huddart from the Parish Council adds: “We are interested in materials and styles of building, and changes made over the years to sites and the structures on them. This will help create a neighbourhood plan that acknowledges local heritage sites and qualities, when considering new developments.

Julie Gibbs from the LHG has been researching Lowick’s past for many years. She continues: “On the day, we hope that you will enjoy looking at the images, many from the Robert Sinton collection. We hope also that you would like to contribute your own knowledge about Lowick. What can you remember about the properties? Any detail, however small, may be significant. If you wish to jot down any memories, paper will be available. “

Finds made by the Archaeology group will also be on display. These numerous and varied artefacts some dating back at least 4000 years, a few as many as 8000 years, should help us determine not only the earliest evidence of people living in this area but add more to our quest of answering the question ‘Where was Lowick?

Citizens’ Advice Bureau Changes

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Lowick Live is publishing the details of the new arrangements for helping people with problems introduced by the Citizens’ Advice Bureau after 2nd October 2017. We are also printing contact details. You will find the leaflet produced by the CAB on the INFORMATION page – just click the link.

The leaflet provides details of the new opening times for face-to- face services across the county. These services can be accessed through a mixture of drop-in sessions and pre-booked appointments. Contact details for other services are provided below.

Northumberland Adviceline.

Telephone: 03444 111 444.
Opening hours – 9am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday.

Clients needing advice will be given a short assessment interview so that the CAB can discuss their options and decide how best to help. This could include:

  Simple information provided at the assessment interview.
  An appointment with our generalist advice service.
  An appointment with a specialist adviser.
  Signposting or referral to another appropriate agency.

Specialist Debt Advice

Debt Helpline: 01670 339960
Opening hours: Monday to Friday 9.00am to 4.30pm.
Text service: Text ‘debt’ to 81400 to receive a call back within 2 working days.

The CAB has introduced a new debt helpline which can be accessed using the above details. Clients who need help with their debts can contact the CAB on the above telephone number or go along to their nearest drop-in session.

Text Service

This is in addition to a recently introduced text ‘debt’ service. Clients who text ‘debt’ to 81400 will receive a call back within 2 working days to discuss their debt problems.