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Contributed by Jim Worgan

Thursday 18th December 2008 was a momentous day for the Borough when the mayor, Councillor John Cope officially opened the Guildhall as a Customer Service Centre. It has been restored to its former glory with many original features preserved. This iconic building was brought in to use on 19th December 2008 and hopefully will breath new life into the town centre. I urge as many people as possible to go and see it and great credit must be given to the Borough Council for taking it back from Regent Inns which the society had been pressing them to do for some time. We look forward to the future restoration of both Lancaster Buildings and the old  St Giles and St Georges School for which there are exciting plans  scheduled in the next four years.
I reported briefly in the last newsletter on the five committees on which I represent the society. I also represent the society on both the Local Strategic Partnership and the Newcastle Community Forum. The LSP brings together professionals, councillors and officers from NUL Borough Council, the emergency services and the voluntary sector, amongst others. It covers such diverse subjects such as NUL and SOT core spatial strategy, children and young persons plan, learning to deliver, comprehensive area assessment, neighbourhood partnership, locality events, sustainable communities, community engagement, alcohol harm reduction strategy, anti social behaviour and crime amongst others.
Newcastle Communities Forum is an opportunity for residents’ associations, community organisations etc from NUL and Kidsgrove to get together to look at various issues and to share ideas. It is organised by the community’s forum steering group (part of NUL LSP) and gives an opportunity and insight into how to obtain more information about “what’s happening” and how it affects communities across the Borough.
The Sentinel continues to consult the Society on many aspects, particularly planning applications and during the past few weeks we have been quoted in respect of proposals for a Lidl supermarket and five story hotel on the former Georgia Pacific site, the design of the proposed new Sainsbury’s supermarket on the site of Newcastle under Lyme College, the restoration of the guildhall, anti social behaviour relating to the showing of live Stoke City football matches and the possible relocation of Newcastle Police Station. This could not only impact on the current situation in Merrial Street but also the recently vacated premises in Water Street which could be demolished and replaced by a brand new police station. The Society will continue to monitor the situation particularly as both buildings are in conservation areas. Such coverage helps keep the society in the “public eye” which I believe is important.
 Finally I wish you all a happy and peaceful new year.

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