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Silverdale and Parksite are steeped in coalmining history and are currently the focus of Newcastle’s biggest regeneration project, the redevelopment of Silverdale colliery.
In the Thatcher era, following the 1984 miners’ strike, the area bore the brunt of policy towards the industry. National Coal Board housing at Parksite was sold off, at rock bottom prices, often to offshore landlords, who let homes deteriorate.
The water-filled Void at the colliery, intended to take pit spoil, was also sold and the subject of a huge planning battle to stop it becoming a huge waste tip.
The colliery itself was privatised and, the last of Staffordshire’s working pits, closed in 1998, after the new owners decided against further investment underground. They were, however, prepared to surface drill virgin seams to extract methane, spoiling the local countryside in a scheme which Paul was instrumental in resisting as the MP.
The very first meeting Paul convened on his election in June, 2001 was of the main partners in the colliery’s regeneration. He has been continuously involved since, ensuring leisure facilities accompany new housing, providing for decent access across the old mineral rail line and bringing then Chancellor Gordon Brown to visit in 2005.
Silverdale’s further landmark is St Luke’s Church, opened in 1847, and now a fresh challenge is to resist more clay quarrying, from Knutton up to the church grounds.
Knutton (Knut’s town) is one of Newcastle’s oldest villages, mentioned in the Domesday Book, which has seen a variety of recent government investment.
It is the site of Newcastle’s attractive and much-valued Sure Start Centre, at the bottom of Black Bank, alongside which a Village Farm is now taking shape, helped by grants from the National Lottery and a committed team of enthusiasts.
Traditional terraced housing, originally built for ironworkers, has recently had all the original features restored in a careful scheme carried out by Renew, charged with housing market renewal, and architects instrumental in setting up Urban Vision.
The local Knutton St Mary’s school, which merged two local primaries, is a shining example of investment in local education for our youngest children – and the new £60 million, further education college on Knutton Lane for older students and adults.
Cross Heath is an area of mixed housing, straddling the A34 immediately northwards from the town centre. The Lower Milehouse area to the east is the site of a brand new health centre, accommodating the three local GPs’ practices and wider facilities, which Paul and ward councillors urged our local NHS to commence.
In addition, modern ‘extra-care’, mixed ownership apartments, Mill Rise, for the elderly have also been built next door in a partnership with Aspire Housing, to which Newcastle’s council housing was transferred with cross-party agreement in 2000.
There remains a huge demand for social housing in Newcastle, however, and the biggest challenge in Lower Milehouse is to ‘kick start’ building, where houses have been demolished by Renew and private builders have dropped their interest. Paul has brought the key agencies together to try and resolve this, including halting any further demolition, as the current situation is unacceptable for residents living in the area.