A lady rang Newton News asking if we could help by contacting Darlington Borough Council or Arriva to consider their problem. There is no bus to Newton Aycliffe shopping centre and taxis can cost £14 return which is a big expense for those living on a pension. The elderly in Heighington and those that live alone and have no transport feel really isolated.
We spoke to Darlington Borough Councillor Gerald Lee who wrote the following response:
“In the first instance, I am disappointed the lady did not call me first. However, it is regrettable that Darlington Borough Council withdrew its subsidy to maintain the bus link between Heighington and Newton Aycliffe as Newton Aycliffe not only provides a good supermarket but our main doctors surgery is in Bewick Crescent so that anyone who needs special treatment might find it difficult to get to the main surgery without their own transport.
I was involved in negotiations with DBC and the Scarlet Band Bus Company after it was decided by the bus operator to service School Aycliffe only cutting out Heighington as a final destination. These negotiations resulted in Scarlet Band introducing a new bus service that took passengers from the village into Newton Aycliffe. Unfortunately due to few passengers, Durham County Council refusing to subsidise the buses running past their county boundary into Heighington and the refusal from Darlington to put any money into the bus service it stopped running leaving some people, particularly the elderly without any means of getting into Newton Aycliffe.
As Ward Councillor, I was conscious of this problem and my solution was to learn to drive a 16 seater bus and take those people who do not have a car into Darlington to shop at a supermarket once a month. I have been doing this for over 7 years. People who are interested in coming along are requested to give me their contact details.
I am also delighted that as one would expect from a community like Heighington, further support is available from our local St Michael’s Church. They too have recognised the problem and their very admirable solution is for a group of volunteers to transport anyone from the Parish to where they want to go within a ten mile radius of Heighington. Contact is Chris Ensor and his telephone number is 07956 064580 or 710362.
So whilst the national bus have no plan to run into the village I am delighted and proud that Heighington people come up with their own solution. St Michael’s Church have set up a Community Lift Scheme which consists of a number of volunteer drivers who will take passengers to a hospital doctor etc within a ten mile radius of Heighington. Contact Chris Enzor 710362 or 07956 064580 and if all fails, me on 314622
And whist we all understand the reasons why people particularly the elderly need to shop in a supermarket, can I urge everyone living in the parish to also shop our local Spar shop who not only stock a large range of products available at all hours of the day but they do so with courtesy and a smile and if we want to keep this shop open we must support it.
Cllr Gerald Lee