The first part of our look back at the big news stories of the past year in north Northumberland. Part two, from July to December, will be in next week’s Gazette.
The heartbroken parents of 11-year-old Bailey Brown spoke of their devastation after their son passed away unexpectedly at his Longhoughton home. They said the youngster, known affectionately as Bop Bop, would be remembered for his infectious smile and happy personality.
Last-gasp talks were launched to salvage £2million plans to open a JD Wetherspoon in Alnwick, after the pub giant pulled out. The company made the shock decision after becoming ‘frustrated and disappointed’ with the way its application was being handled by Northumberland County Council.
And there was more bad news for future development when Tesco revealed that it would no longer be building a supermarket in Amble, due to financial pressures. It was one of 49 across the country to be chopped by the retail giant.
One pub was toasting its own success. The Coach Inn at Lesbury was named the Northumberland Gazette Best Bar of 2014, as voted by our readers.
An Amble woman, thought to be Britain’s 64th oldest person, celebrated her 108th birthday. Connie Mossman planned to mark the milestone with a quiet family get-together.
A Northumberland Gazette campaign to stop nuisance robocalls played a key role in a change in the law to punish firms for cold-calling. The Stop Nuisance Robocalls campaign, launched after a torrent of late-night automated calls left residents across Northumberland angry, upset and confused, had been praised by the Information Commissioner who said it would help towards imposing tighter regulations on companies which continually flout the law.
The result of the vote to choose the beneficiary of the 2015 Jam Jar Army appeal was announced. Voting was incredibly tight but the winner was the Amble Shannon Appeal, a campaign to raise £200,000 by July next year to bring a much-needed and modern Shannon-class lifeboat to Amble to replace the current Mersey-class boat.
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne dropped into St Aidan’s Winery and Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island during a trip to the North East to unveil his economic plans for the region – adding an extra £6billion to the North East economy by 2030, creating 50,000 new jobs and delivering £4.5billion of investment in transport, which includes the dualling of the A1 in Northumberland.
North Northumberland also played host to a brief visit by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who offered his support to the campaign to dual the A1.
An official turf-cutting ceremony took place for the new Duchess’s Community High School at Greensfield, Alnwick. The multimillion-pound development, due to open its doors to students in September 2016, is a major milestone in the development of education in the town, after years of a site split between Howling Lane and Bailiffgate.
A sea-change in how a number of key buildings in Alnwick will be used in the future was unveiled, as part of a new blueprint for the county’s main towns.
The Northumberland Hall is to be transformed into a wedding venue and discussions were ongoing over the possibility of the Playhouse becoming a community hub.
Lib Dem MP Sir Alan Beith thanked Northumberland voters for giving him the chance to represent the Berwick-upon-Tweed constituency for longer than any previous MP in his farewell speech to the House of Commons. He served the constituency since November 1973, winning 11 elections, before announcing his decision to stand down at the General Election.
A doting Amble mother, whose 12-year-old son has fought a decade-long cancer battle, was campaigning for cannabis oil to be legalised to treat the deadly disease. Sarah Nicholson, whose son Brandon Ballance was diagnosed with an inoperable brain-stem tumour when he was just two, made the impassioned call for the class-B drug to be allowed in the UK for medicinal purposes.
The Northumberland Gazette’s Chip Shop of the Year title went to Neptune Fish Restaurant in Seahouses. We asked readers to nominate their top chippies and then, from a shortlist of five, vote for their favourite. Neptune proved to be batter than the rest.
The Conservative battle bus rolled into Alnwick a month before the General Election, bringing with it the Prime Minister and a great deal of national media attention.
David Cameron made the trip to back Tory candidate Anne-Marie Trevelyan’s bid to take the Berwick seat. He visited Turnbull’s butchers, Carlo’s fish and chip shop and the Gazette office, as well as talking to residents on the street.
North Northumberland went crazy at the announcement that Sir Tom Jones was to perform in Alnwick in the summer. An early-bird batch of reduced rate tickets specially for Gazette readers were snapped up in no time. Unfortunately, power problems meant the Pastures concert ended abruptly, leaving a lot of disappointed and angry fans. (See August)
Touching tributes were paid to inspirational Aidan Jacowiak Smith, who sadly passed away after being critically ill in hospital for a month. His distraught parents Karl and Vikki said losing their son felt ‘like our hearts have been ripped out’.
Aidan was dubbed the world’s rarest boy. He had the complex genetic disorder Cloves Syndrome, suffering huge swelling to his face and body. He also endured regular seizures.
The plucky youngster touched the hearts of all who met him and all who followed his courageous story. And last year the community came together to transform the family’s Alnwick home to make it suitable for Aidan.
Conservative Anne-Marie Trevelyan won the Berwick seat in the General Election by almost 5,000 votes. The constituency went blue for the first time in more than four decades following the retirement of Lib Dem Sir Alan Beith. She said she had four key priorities: A1 dualling, an Enterprise Zone for north Northumberland; rural funding and decent broadband.
A police chief warned that north Northumberland is not an easy target for criminals, after two crooks were jailed after a major rural crime spree. Superintendent Mick Patterson said their jailing for more than 16 years sent a clear message to other criminals that the county does not offer easy pickings for thieves.
Christine Graham, the executive headteacher of James Calvert Spence College in Amble, left her role after more than four years in charge. Meanwhile, consultation began over proposals for a hard federation which would mean JCSC would work with Acklington C of E First School under a new single governing body.
Two popular Alnwick businesses closed suddenly. The Lunch Box, in the Market Place, shut unexpectedly after concerns about structural damage to the building. Twelve part-time staff lost their jobs.
It came hot on the heels of the shock closure of The Art House on Bondgate Within, which led to the loss of 15 full and part-time positions.
A community rallied round 21-year-old barmaid Becky Cole, who was diagnosed with cancer just as her pub decided to support a charity which helps young people with the disease.
Staff and customers at The Village Inn, Longframlington, announced a series of fund-raising events and challenges to raise money for CLIC Sargent, which is supporting Becky through treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The Northumbria Emergency Specialist Hospital in Cramlington opened its doors the first time and it was hailed a resounding success. It is the first purpose-built, dedicated emergency-care hospital in England, with emergency-case consultants on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week with consultants in a broad range of conditions also available every day to speed up specialist care for patients.
Alnwick’s Lucy Bronze grabbed all the headlines after she fired home a stunning 25-yard strike to secure a 2-1 win for England over Norway in Canada – the Lionesses’ first win in the knockout stages of a World Cup. The England team eventually finished in third place in the tournament.