A CAMPAIGN to save a cherished Northumberland bus service from being axed has won support from a rural regeneration organisation.
The Wooler-based Glendale Gateway Trust says the Glen Valley Tours 710 Saturday route – which takes passengers from Kelso to Newcastle and the Metrocentre – provides a vital link to specialist services that are unavailable in local towns.
The trust has written to Northumberland County Council urging it not to scrap the financial support it gives to the service, which is seen by many as an important transport link between the north of the county and the Tyneside conurbation.
Anger erupted when it was revealed just before Christmas that the county council was to withdraw the subsidy it provides for the service from Easter.
The authority cited the cost and the availability of other services, but the decision sparked protests in the villages of Milfield, Kirknewton, and Cornhill, where the 710 is said to be a lifeline to residents wanting to shop or visit relatives.
The parish council at Milfield – which has no other bus service to Newcastle – collected a 140-name petition and sent it to the county council.
Last week it was revealed that the council has done a partial U-turn and put the decision on hold, pending further discussions with locals who would be affected by the loss of the service.
The Glendale Gateway Trust was set up in 1996 to support the local community and has attracted inward investment to help regenerate the Wooler area, including buying up derelict buildings and giving them a new lease of life.
Director Tom Johnston said the community served by the 710 bus is one of the most remote in the county, and has one of the most elderly populations, with 30% of people of pensionable age compared to a national average of 19%. In a letter to the council he said: “The reality is that the 710 bus provides a vital link to specialist services that are unavailable in the nearer market towns of Alnwick and Berwick, such as specialist healthcare provision, locksmiths and clothing stores.
“The service also provides a vital weekend link for our younger people of school age to access learning and social facilities unavailable in rural north Northumberland.
“We gratefully request that the county council reconsider the decision to withdraw support for the service.”
Last week the council said it will postpone and review its decision to remove the subsidy so that it can meet people who have opposed the loss of the service.
The authority contributes £138 per week, which amounts to £7,200 a year.
Tony Finch, chairman of Milfield parish council, welcomed the move as “good news but not a victory”. He said: “We have got a chance to put our thing forward, whereas before we had nothing. We just have to wait and see now.”