First, news of disappointment for energy minister Greg Barker, whose pooch, Otto, lost out in last week's Westminster Dog of the Year competition.

DCLG: travellers protested over Dale Farm. Ian Bottle pic
DCLG: travellers protested over Dale Farm. Ian Bottle pic

Otto faced competition from 22 other hounds in his bid to be crowned the king of MPs' family pets. The competition was won by Star, a cairn terrier owned by the Conservative MP for Dover and Deal, Charlie Elphicke.

But despite missing out on the coveted title, it wasn't all bad news for Otto. Barker took to micro-blogging website Twitter after the competition to reveal: "Otto has now found himself a girlfriend called Sausage."

Nearby, around 120 travellers and protesters attempted to storm the Department for Communities and Local Government's Eland House HQ earlier this month.

The mass action was staged a year after the eviction of travellers living illegally at Dale Farm, Essex, in an attempt to "evict" communities secretary Eric Pickles, according to direct action group Traveller Solidarity Network.

About a dozen people scaled scaffolding, while activists held six-foot-high caravan cutouts in front of the building.

Oscar Farrell, who resisted the eviction at Dale Farm a year ago, said: "What is happening at Dale Farm isn't just a local dispute - it is part of Eric Pickles' attack on traveller communities."

Finally to the Netherlands, where it has emerged that towns are considering a proposal to heat cycle lanes to encourage greater use of bicycles in the winter.

According to a BBC report, the scheme plans to use geothermal energy to prevent ice from forming and has been costed at up to £52,000 per mile.

It says that the town of Zutphen and the province of Utrecht are considering the scheme.

Arien de Jong, a spokeswoman for the Dutch Cyclists' Union, said: "If cycle lanes are frozen over for four weeks, that results in about 7,000 more accidents involving cyclists."

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