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  1. When Phil Crulley went into a coughing fit, he had no idea how it would change his life for the worse. After slipping a disc in his back the 53-year-old was left in excruciating pain, became bedbound, while for months his family became his full-time carers. His daily pain meant he couldn’t stand up, walk, work, drive or lead an active life, and Phil dreaded every day. But now, after corrective back surgery, he has completed a 50 mile walk along the Northumbrian Coastline and 80 miles along Hadrian’s Wall and has started to enjoy life again. “A simple cough during a bout of bronchitis was the bolt out of the blue that caused my prolapsed disc and saw my world come to a shuddering halt,” said Phil, of Cramlington, Northumberland. “But now I’m back to normal and I love getting up every morning.” Phil’s back problems started decades ago and after spending thousands of pounds of chiropractors, physiotherapists and acupuncture, he eventually had surgery for a prolapsed disc in 2002.
  2. Companies from around Tyneside and Northumberland will be battling it out after being named on the shortlist for the first heat of the North East Business Awards. Businesses from around the region will compete in 12 categories in the Northumberland and Tyneside taking place at the Grand Hotel at Gosforth Park on February 28. The event is the first of three heats, with later events taking place in Durham, Sunderland and South Tyneside; and on Teesside, before the winners from each heat then compete in the overall regional final at Hardwick Hall, near Sedgefield, on May 16. The coveted company of the year prize will be contested by Gateshead IT firm Aspire Technology Solutions, Blyth robotics company Tharsus Group, and Transmission Dynamics, an Internet of Things company based in Cramlington. Other companies up for awards include Egger, Fentimans, Newcastle United and Coleman James. The North East Business Awards are staged by The Journal and The Gazette in association with North East England Chamber of Commerce and a host of sponsors.
  3. A charity which transformed a bus into a mobile children's 'classroom' will see its creation enjoy the national spotlight on TV this weekend. The Success4All charity raised £55,000, kitted out a double decker bus and completed its ambitious project within just four months - just in time to earn a place on Channel 4's George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces programme this coming Sunday. Its initial idea - to create what's said to the UK’s first ever mobile learning bus - captured the attention of Sunderland-born architect George Clarke whose popular show celebrates projects which convert small spaces into big achievements. After the education charity sent Clarke children’s drawings of their vision - a bus packed with equipment to promote a child's development - it soon received a call from Channel 4 expressing interest in the conversion for an upcoming episode of the show. But a tight filming schedule meant that the charity - cash-strapped at the time - had just one month to raise the funds to get the project under way. But goodwill tends to breed goodwill and it was another local good cause, engineering charity Reece Foundation, that stepped in to save the day, with an initial £30,000 donation enabling the Success4All team to buy a London double-decker bus in time for the first day of filming with Clarke, whose architect projects included designs for housing last year at Smith’s Dock in North Shields.
  4. Plans to convert a former social club in south-east Northumberland into an apartment block have been submitted to the county council. The application, by Blue Heron Property Developments Ltd, relates to the former East Hartford and District Social Club, on Scott Lane, to the north of Cramlington. The building currently features a pub and one self-contained flat, with the aim being to reduce this to two bedrooms and create a further seven two-bedroom apartments. Four of the new flats would be at ground level, with the other three on the first floor, one of which would be a maisonette with its second bedroom created in the roof space of the existing building at second-floor level. The scheme requires work to the outside of the building in terms of creating new windows, as well as improvements to give it 'a residential appearance', but there would be no extensions or additional buildings. The outside space is to be developed to provide parking and service areas to serve the new flats, including a covered and secure store for eight bicycles and bin storage.
  5. New car parking charges have been brought in at hospitals across Northumberland and North Tyneside - with Cramlington seeing the biggest rise. From Friday, parking at Northumbria Healthcare hospitals, including North Tyneside, Hexham and Wansbeck General as well as Alnwick and Berwick Infirmary, will cost: The new charges will result in a steep increase in cost for people who attend Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, in Cramlington, where the previous charge was a £1 flat rate for the day. Drivers will now have to pay the new rates as outlined in the table above. The old charges at the other Northumbria Healthcare hospitals were: Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust says these changes have been made following repeated reports that some car parks – especially at the Cramlington hospital – are being misused by the public as a cheap 'long stay' alternative when they go on holiday or shopping. Les Morgan, interim director of estates and facilities at Northumbria Healthcare, said: "We know that attending hospital can be a stressful time so we need to make parking as straightforward and easy to use as possible, which is why we have introduced consistent pricing across our sites.
  6. The North East is outperforming the rest of the country in caring for new mothers, a new survey suggests. The national maternity survey for England - which asked more than 17,600 women about their experiences of pregnancy and birth - found a drop in the standard of care offered to new mothers on NHS wards nationally. The poll, from the Care Quality Commission (CQC), showed a mixed picture overall, with many women saying positive things about their care during pregnancy and the actual birth, but a decline in the proportion of women who felt supported after labour and who got help with things such as breastfeeding. But while no trust received the highest rating of much better than expected’, three of the nine trusts categorised as 'better than expected' were in the North East. City Hospitals Sunderland, Northumbria Healthcare, and Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS trusts were all given the second highest rating in 2018. Gateshead and County Durham and Darlington trusts scored 'about the same' as other trusts overall.
  7. A man has been taken to hospital after two cars crashed on the A1. Police were called at around 9.10am on Wednesday morning to a report of collision on the A1 northbound between Gosforth and Seaton Burn roundabout. A silver BMW 330E and a white Mercedes had collided and two lanes had to be closed while the vehicles were recovered. The driver of the BMW was taken to hospital with what are believed to be minor injuries. A spokeswoman for the North East Ambulance Service said: "We were called at 9.12am to reports of a road traffic collision on the A1 between Gosforth and Seaton Burn. "We dispatched a double crewed ambulance and transported one patient to Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Cramlington."
  8. Mere mention the words soft play will ramp up the excitement levels in most young ones and the North East certainly has plenty choice when it comes to places which are perfect for burning off all that energy. Ok, so they may not be every parents' choice but a trip out to a soft play area is guaranteed to please the little tykes. With more than 25 such facilities in and around the region, there really is a wide enough range of facilities - from climbing walls and ball pools to slides and go-kart tracks - to please everyone and no matter how old the children are, they will be able to join in the fun. And who knows but parents may get a chance to relax and catch up with a friend over coffee while the young ones enjoy the entertainment. Here's our guide, with more to come, of some of the top soft play centres in and around Newcastle. Benfield Business Park, Walkergate
  9. Six areas of Northumberland which have seen large numbers of new homes approved recently have been highlighted as requiring an expansion of GP and other healthcare facilities. Northumberland County Council planning officers made a presentation to last Thursday's (January 17) meeting of the health and wellbeing board about the healthcare implications of the final draft of the Local Plan, as they did at the July meeting in relation to the first draft. There are a number of policies in the document which deal with or touch on health and wellbeing elements, including one to limit the number of hot-food takeaways, but one of the main concerns remains around healthcare infrastructure. The development framework is supported by an almost 200-page Infrastructure Delivery Plan, which aims to ensure new housing is supported by the necessary services. It refers to a number of areas which 'have already seen multiple, large-scale planning applications for housing in recent years' and which 'will require increased capacity in primary-care infrastructure'. These are: Amble/Broomhill; Ashington/Newbiggin; Bedlington/Guidepost; Cramlington; Morpeth/Pegswood; Alnwick.
  10. The heartbroken pals of doting dad Damian Dixon say he spent his life helping others. Now after a tragedy at sea claimed the 24-year-old's life, his friends are rallying together to make sure he gets the send-off he deserves. A wave swept the angler out to sea last Sunday. Despite the brave rescue efforts of two pals and the RNLI, he died in Cramlington Hospital later that day. As his grieving family appeal for more lifebelts on the Northumberland coastline, friends have now launched a JustGiving page to help them pay for his funeral. "He was happy with his lot in life - he never moaned," said Michelle Nicholson, a 35-year-old friend who set the page up.
  11. Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust hospitals are fighting a flu outbreak but say the fight against norovirus is going well. Visitor restrictions were imposed at nine hospitals , including at Cramlington , North Shields and Blyth , on December 18. The preemptive move came in the wake of a major norovirus outbreak last winter which saw the vomiting bug sweep through wards after a visitor brought shellfish - which is known to carry the virus - into a hospital. While the hospitals haven't seen a re-run of last year's chaotic scene, two wards have had to be fully closed over flu fears. Ward 5 at Wansbeck hospital and ward 15 at North Tyneside have been closed and patients and visitors have been warned the outbreak is likely to get worse. Members of the public with any flu like symptoms are being asked to stay away from hospitals to safeguard patients.
  12. There's nothing like splashing around at a water park or leisure pool to get the young ones smiling and there are plenty attractions around the North East that have all the facilities you need under one roof. And those living and around Newcastle are within easy reach of them all. From Northumberland to County Durham there are a number of swimming baths and leisure venues geared up to provide an ideal family day out, with extra treats in store such as slides and rides. For those looking for undercover fun in coming months while the cold weather discourages them from venturing into the great outdoors, here are some ideas of where to splash around and enjoy some energetic activity. Situated on The Links in Whitley Bay, North Tyneside, families can always combine a trip here with a visit to the adjacent beach. Besides the usual swimming pool attractions, there are three 'high octane slides' in the main pool area here all ages can compete against each other to see who had descend in the fastest time.
  13. Five parks in Northumberland are to be upgraded thanks to an investment of £287,000. Northumberland County Council's cabinet approved to spend £204,000, with the remaining £83,000 funded by contributions from the likes of town and parish councils. As part of its medium-term financial plan, the local authority has already set aside capital funding of £150,000 per year from 2018-19 to 2020-21 to invest in parks and green spaces. So far, money has been spent at Jennings Field in Bedlington , Astley Park in Seaton Delaval, and Eastwood Park in Prudhoe. Following the sign-off on Tuesday, Blyth's Ridley Park and Mermaid play area, Alexandra Park in Cramlington , Gallagher Park in Bedlington, and Rothbury's Riverside play area are all set to benefit. At Ridley Park, £45,000 will be spent in total with £25,000 being used to refurbish the hugely-popular water play area.
  14. It's always exciting to see your home town on the telly. But unfortunately, when places you know and love are staring in a popular crime drama, they may not always be looking their best. That's what Vera-loving Cramlington residents discovered when they tuned in to the first episode of the new series, on ITV on Sunday night. While they enjoyed the drama, many noted it wasn't exactly an advert for the Northumberland town. Several scenes were filmed in the streets of Cramlington, though in keeping with Vera's general habit of re-naming places in the North East, the town went by a different name. On Twitter, Cramlington-based photographer Karen Hudspith said: "Here was I getting excited about seeing my hometown on Vera. "It's just made it look like a s***hole. Cramlington thankfully is nothing like Crowley.
  15. If you haven't eaten enough cheese over the festive period to last you a lifetime, there's a new flavour calling out to be tried. But forget about high brow combinations like Brie and cranberry and port and Stilton as one has just hit shelves that should have a lot more mainstream appeal as it combines cheese with a night out must have..chip shop curry sauce! And whether the thought of that concoction has you salivating at the mouth in anticipation or gagging in disgust, you won't have to break the bank to give it a go as it's only sale at Home Bargains right now for only £1. Made by Windyridge, the self-confessed makers of 'innovative' British cheese, the Chip Shop Curry Cheese has already had a huge reaction on Facebook page Extreme Couponing & Bargains UK. As well as a lot of "omg" replies, someone quickly declared "I need this in my life," while someone who's cleasrly already tried it, posted "it's lush!" Among all the positive reactions were quite a few GIFs of people being sick and a few vom emojis, but if you fancy deciding for yourself there are Home Bargains in and around Newcastle in the likes of Gateshead , Jarrow, Wallsend, Blaydon and Cramlington.
  16. Plans for up to 501 homes on the outskirts of Cramlington were thrown out by councillors who were keen to protect 'prestige' employment land. The proposals by Homes England, for land at West Hartford Business Park, to the north-west of Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service's HQ, were unanimously rejected at Tuesday's meeting of the county council's strategic planning committee. The bid was a hybrid submission seeking full planning permission for a wildlife mitigation area covering 26 hectares on the northern part of the site and outline permission for up to 501 dwellings, a primary-care facility and associated open space on the southern 25-hectare section of the site. But planners had recommended refusal as allowing it to be used for housing "would result in the loss of a high-quality employment site". Setting out the reasons, planning officer Geoff Horsman explained that this site represents more than half the employment land available in Cramlington and 10% of the county's total. At 32 hectares, it is also the largest single site available in Northumberland, which makes it valuable if there were a large-scale investor needing a large area for development.
  17. Our annual search for the region’s best firms is almost complete and entries for the North East Business Awards close at the end of this week. Companies are urged to get their entries in by 3pm on Friday, January 11 to beat the fast-approaching deadline. It’s completely free to enter and companies can put themselves forward for up to three categories. The awards recognise the depth of talent across a wide range of sectors and are run by The Journal and its sister paper on Teesside, The Gazette, with support from the North East England Chamber of Commerce. There are awards for pivotal sectors include manufacturing, digital technology, services and creative, while awards also exist for the fastest-growing companies, the best exporters and those showing the greatest innovation. Popular categories include the small business award and the newcomer of the year.
  18. Construction company Merit Holdings is celebrating an “outstanding” year in which profits more than doubled on soaring turnover. The Cramlington firm, which employs around 117 people, has built up a reputation for working on complex, high-tech contracts across a range of sectors including healthcare, pharmaceutical, energy, manufacturing, retail, commercial and nuclear. The specialist engineering and constuction firm – the winning Company of the Year at last year’s North East Business Awards – has now posted accounts for the year ended March 31 2018 citing huge growth on the back of major contract wins. Contracts include a highly specialised contract to construct three laboratory units for the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) on its research vessel, the RRS Sir David Attenborough, the ship the public voted to be called Boaty McBoatface. Other high profile contracts have been carried out at the likes of the Royal Albert Hall, Harrods, Westfield Shopping Centre and Diamond Light Source, the synchrotron construction project at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory at Harwell. Turnover jumped by 49% to £47.4m, delivering pre-tax of £2.94m – more than double the previous year’s £1.11m.
  19. Plans for up to 501 homes on the outskirts of Cramlington are recommended for refusal next week as the development would eat up valuable employment land. The proposals by the Homes and Communities Agency to build on land near West Hartford Business Park will go before Northumberland County Council's strategic planning committee on Tuesday. This application is a hybrid submission seeking full planning permission for a wildlife mitigation area covering 26 hectares on the northern part of the site and outline permission for up to 501 dwellings, a primary-care facility and associated open space on the southern 25-hectare section of the site. Off-site highway works have been put forward to improve the site's connections to Cramlington town centre for pedestrians and cyclists, toucan crossings over the A192 and a three-metre-wide, segregated footway/cycleway along the eastern edge of the A1171, which would connect with an existing route into town. The applicant has also agreed to enter into a section 106 legal agreement to provide 15% affordable housing,contributions towards education, healthcare and coastal mitigation, bus-service provision, strategic road network upgrades and a plan to secure long-term management of the ecological/wildlife area. However, councillors are being asked to reject the bid as planners consider that the scheme "would result in the loss of a high-quality employment site, would significantly diminish the range of employment land available both locally and county-wide for employment development and undermine regional and local strategies for economic development and regeneration which seek to promote employment development on the application site and within the locality of which it is a part".
  20. Just a few days remain for companies to get their entries in for the North East Business Awards. Dozens of firms have already submitted entries for what are the biggest and best celebration of the region’s business community. Run by The Journal in association with the North East England Chamber of Commerce, the awards take place with three heats – Northumberland and Tyneside; Durham, Sunderland and South Tyneside; and Teesside – with winners from each heat then competing in a grand final in May. Entries for the Northumberland and Tyneside heat close on Monday, though firms that have registered their intention to enter the competition will be allowed the rest of the week to complete entries. Companies in the other two areas have until January 11 to submit their entries. As well as the overall company of the year prize, there are a number of other categories, including best small business and awards for growth, exporting, manufacturing and innovation.
  21. Have you got big love for a Big Mac or are perhaps crazy for chicken nuggets? Well you might already be eyeing up a McDonald’s as you brace yourself for one hell of a hangover to start off 2019. With tens of thousands of people expecting to indulge in some New Year festivties , it’s a safe bet there will be plenty of sore heads and munchie cravings come Tuesday morning Domino’s Pizza have revealed they are expecting New Year’s Day to be their busiest of the festive period, but if it’s fries, burger and a shake that tick your hangover boxes you’ll more than likely be heading for the golden arches. And if you live in Newcastle and the surrounding area we’ve got all the information you need as to when you can get your Maccy D’s fix... Newcastle Grainger Street New Year’s Eve - 24 hour
  22. You'd think that big Christmas shop would last for weeks but it's amazing how quickly supplies run low and we are having to top up on food and drink for New Year. For New Year’s Eve, many families tend to hit the shops to buy party food and fizz for the evening's celebrations or even just some household essentials such as milk and bread. Even though big stores tend to be closed for just one day - if any - over New Year, it's nice to know we won't run out of anything - just in case any unexpected (and greedy) guests come to call. So, for those planning to stock up the food and drink cupboards as they plan to welcome in 2019 with families and friends, here's our handy guide to New Year opening times at shopping centres and supermarkets. The following have announced their festive opening hours and they do vary - with just some opening on New Year's Day itself - so here's what you need to know to avoid being caught out. But, remember, when it comes to the major stores it is also worth double-checking before you make the trip as there can be local differences.
  23. A Cramlington man will deny rape, a court heard. Christopher Swift Hunter appeared in court charged with three counts of rape. South Tyneside Magistrates' Court heard the alleged sex assaults occurred in 2008. At a brief hearing, the suited 37-year-old confirmed only his name, age and address. Magistrates then passed his case to Newcastle Crown Court. However, Hunter's solicitor confirmed he plans on pleading not guilty when the case is next heard on January 14.
  24. Did you wake up on January 1 full of good intentions - to lose weight, learn a language, get a new job? If it was the latter, the New Year is an ideal time to kick-start your career or revitalise your job search. The good news is, a global biotech company - which has a site in Cramlington - is recruiting for a large number of positions in 2019 and may have the perfect role for you. Thermo Fisher Scientific is the world leader in serving science, with revenues of more than $20 billion and approximately 70,000 employees globally. The biotech company's Cramlington site - which has revenues of more than $100 million - is growing in double figures every year and is expanding by moving production from the US to the UK. There are over 180 staff employed at the Cramlington site, which supplies over 2,000 different products to over 250 customers across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).
  25. 2018 has been a great year for many North East businesses - but here are the 10 companies we have picked as having had the best 12 months. The Northumberland construction and engineering firm was named North East Company of the Year after seeing off tough competition in the finals of the region’s Business Awards. The Cramlington firm saw off Boldon-based financial advisory group Fairstone and Teesside vegetarian food producer Quorn to win the title after big increases in turnover over the last three years and high profile contracts at London’s Royal Albert Hall and for the British Antarctic Survey. The Gateshead firm - which gives staff all of December off if targets are hit - was ranked top company in the UK for work-life balance. The accolade from jobs website Glassdoor came in a year that the company announced plans for its first office in Singapore and revealed revenues were hitting £28m. The latest venture from the team behind Wylam Brewery, the box park of restaurants and bars underneath the Tyne Bridge was a huge hit in the long, hot summer, opening to coincide with the Great Exhibition of the North being in Newcastle and Gateshead.
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