On Friday the 1st May, Councillor Bernard Atha issued the following statement :
“The Moor is under sustained attack now. Every day sees further damage.
I am opposed totally to the proposals for the barbecue slabs. They would not be allowed in Roundhay or Horsforth or Guiseley. Why Woodhouse?
I have asked that this proposal be submitted for planning application. I have not yet had a response after more than a week.
I have asked that big notices be put up saying barbecues are a breach of the bye laws and offenders will be prosecuted.
I have asked that local funds available to the Councillors are used to pay for extra police supervision and enforcement.
I have pointed out that the Lib Dems could stop this scheme now. Labour has 42 votes in the Council and the nine Lib Dems have nine in Inner North West Leeds making sure that any proposal to stop the scheme and save the Moor could be carried.
I have objected to the views expressed by the local Lib Dem Councillor James Matthews that as we cannot police the park we had better control it by this plan.
I object to the other Lib Dems who say they await the result of the consultation which, as many have written in to say, is a fraud as so many local residents have not received the consultation document which in itself was designed to produce the answer required.
I object to the statement made by the Lib Dems who say that the scheme is Cllr John Procter’s idea. He is a Tory. The idea has not come from John Procter I am sure, and in any case the Lib Dems and the Conservatives have formed a coalition and the Lib Dems are the biggest Party in that coalition.
We must defeat this stupid and damaging proposal and collectively make sure the Moor is protected and supervised properly.
The Lib Dem coalition has mounted a series of attacks on the Moor : making part of it a car park, turning over a large area to accommodate University pitches, a drinking den for easier supervision of the alcoholics displaced from elsewhere and hacking away a substantial strip of it to form a bus lane to ease traffic on what is the widest stretch of road on this extremely busy route out of Leeds. These have all been schemes produced by the coalition in which the Lib Dems are the largest Party.”
(published courtesy of Bernard Atha)
Heated debate over barbecue proposals
Leeds’s Woodhouse Moor is in danger of destruction from both Council policy and barbecue parties, a public meeting was told. Richard Hellawell, who lives in the Kendals, said by-laws banning barbecues on the moor had to be enforced.
Speaking at Woodhouse Community Centre Mr Hellawell said: “Woodhouse Moor is a beautiful open space, it is a wonderful lung. “It is in danger of being destroyed by those who have barbecues, or by the councillors who will put concrete monstrosities on there. The existing by-laws ban barbecues, the police do not enforce them so it is up to the Council to do it.”
This story is reproduced with kind permission of the Editor.
One of my neighbours rang me this morning to tell me she’s concerned that the council’s scheme to sink 60cm x 90cm x 60cm concrete blocks 60cm into the ground will interfere with the Moor’s drainage system, installed in Victorian times. She told me that there are springs beneath the Moor. These springs used to cause the Moor to be really marshy. Streams would form from the water that gathered on the Moor and these streams would run across what is now Hyde Park Road and Moorland Road and down the hillsides. The streets known as the Rillbanks at the bottom of Woodsley Road got their name from the fact that “rill” is another word for stream. Sometime after the Town Council bought the Moor in 1857, they drained it. This probably means that they installed beneath the surface, a system of perforated clay drainage pipes. The lady who rang me told me that in the Autumn, if you go onto the Moor and listen carefully, you can hear water running beneath the grass. This must be the sound the water makes as it passes through the drainage pipes. If Leeds City Council goes ahead with its scheme to sink 40 concrete blocks 60cm into the ground, the chances are that they’ll destroy this Victorian drainage system. This would very likely turn the Moor back into a marsh. And then wouldn’t that be a good excuse for the council to send in bulldozers and workmen to level and drain the Moor so that the part not used for barbeque areas, could be turned into playing fields or whatever else the council wants.
(photo courtesy of mahalie)
Once again the council’s scheme for barbeque areas has been in the news with two letters about it published in the Yorkshire Evening Post. The first letter was published on Wednesday and was from local resident Kathleen Mason who gives several very good reasons why the scheme is a bad idea, and the consultation exercise, undemocratic. At the end of her letter, Kathleen says she doesn’t want the smell nor the sight of this activity, nor any more money spending on the proposed scheme. I know just what Kathleen means. When I cut across the Moor on my way home this evening, I had to walk through barbeque smoke for the entire length of the path that runs alongside the bowling greens towards the Wellington statue. It was horrible.
The second letter was published on Thursday and was from pensioner Elizabeth Leigh. Elizabeth’s heart goes out to the gardener John Egan and his colleagues, who every morning after it’s been warm and sunny, have to begin their day by spending hours cleaning up the mess. Elizabeth asks why the council doesn’t employ park wardens to enforce the existing byelaws, instead of spending thousands on the current consultation exercise.
Published along with this entry are some interesting photos I took recently of the signs banning BBQ’s on Clapham Common. Lambeth Council don’t seem to have any problem with the duty of care and maintaining of public order in their parks.
The question then is why is it so difficult for our Council and Councillors to see the obvious ? The most obvious answer to that is that they are no longer really in charge of major decisions in NW Leeds. This function has been taken over by the Universities and they have long had greedy eyes on the Moor.
The BBQ’s are just one of a number of ‘attacks’ on the Moor as Councillor Bernard Atha describes it. There is the Multi Use Games Pitch part of a dodgy transfer deal over the old Grammar School site, and the new University Car Park which is suddenly so very necessary. Although one might find it difficult to ascribe direct motives to the recent road widening issue you can be sure it wouldn’t be a proposal if the Universities disagreed with it.
At an INWAC meeting last Summer, after I complained about the anti-social behaviour being allowed to take place on the Moor, Councillor Matthews (Lib Dem, Headingley) claimed that the reports of anti-social behaviour were exaggerated and that if some people had their way they’d stop everyone having fun. I took a stroll across the Moor this morning and was greeted by the site of a bed settee in the middle of the most attractive part of the park. Councillor Matthews would probably regard this as a harmless prank and just people having fun. When our councillors take this attitude to anti-social behaviour, is it any wonder that the police refuse to take these matters seriously and act against the perpetrators. Also this morning, there was litter strewn everywhere and burnt grass from barbeques – all the result of people just “having fun”. And in the photo below, taken yesterday afternoon, you can see two bikers “having fun”.
The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy.
The people do not want virtue, but are dupes of pretended patriots.
– Elbridge Gerry
Local councillor John Illingworth has compared the current consultation on a barbeque area on Woodhouse Moor with similar exercises undertaken to produce a “gerrymandered” result.
Elbridge Gerry (1744 – 1814) was a signatory to the Declaration of Independence, as well as to the first constitution of the United States of America.
During the years of America’s first constitution, he argued passionately for a stronger government with the power to levy taxes, raise a standing army, enforce law and order, and subdue Native American Indians, whose rebelliousness was devaluing the price of land in the not-yet-quite won Wild West.
So ardent was his support for a new constitution and a powerful single government (as well as for a central bank of the United States) that in 1813 he became America’s fifth vice president. His president, James Madison, was the primary architect of the new constitution.
As governor of Massachusetts, Gerry was infamous for re-drawing electoral boundaries to keep him in office and preserve the power of his party. A caricaturist at the Boston Sentinel, looking at a map of the carefully re-drawn districts, saw in its outskirts the shape of a salamander, sketched it accordingly, and showed it to the editor.
“Better say gerrymander,” was the editor’s reply; and the name stuck.
Gerry was also the first vice president not to run for the presidency; not due to any lack of ambition on his part, but because he died before he got the chance in 1814.
Certainly gerrymandering was not new in the first days of the American Republic; and the spirit of Elbridge Gerry is alive and well in Hyde Park and Woodhouse.
[ Part of this article is taken from the Millennium Edition of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. ]
It was reported in yesterday’s Yorkshire Evening Post that absence due to sickness costs Leeds City Council £26 million every year. Councillor Jon Bale was quoted as saying, “Supportive management is needed to ensure workers turn up regularly and are supported in whatever problems they face.” Presumably this would mean Councillor John Procter and senior managers at Parks and Countryside listening to their ground staff’s views on barbeques. They are after all the people who have to gather up the toxic ash, broken glass and other litter that’s deposited during the barbeque season.
Also in yesterday’s paper was a letter from local resident Tony Paley-Smith. Tony was responding to a letter from Greg Miller praising councillors for including short term residents in the barbeque consultation. Mr Miller is the deputy head of Leeds University’s community relations department and lives miles away from Woodhouse Moor.
There was also an editorial comment on the consultation process.
One of the council officers who attended the drop-ins told me that the survey forms were delivered by a private company on the 26th and the 27th March. He said they’d decided to use the services of this private company rather than the Royal Mail because their quote was half that of the Royal Mail. It can’t have occurred to them that a company that quotes half what the Royal Mail is quoting might be delivering only half the service. That does now seem a reasonable explanation for why the majority of the local residents I’m acquainted with, haven’t received a form.
What do we know about this company? Their website claims, “All of our staff are fully employed mature, professional distributors – they are highly reliable, dedicated to customer service & will NOT let you down”. Really? Then where are the missing survey forms?
What I’d like to know is what checks does Leeds City Council carry out to determine whether private companies like this are actually delivering the goods. And what checks do they make into claims such as the one made by this company that they only employ “fully employed, mature, professional distributors” before they actually enter into a contract with the company.
An undetermined number of the 10,000 survey forms that were to have been delivered to every household within 800 metres of the park’s perimeter have instead disappeared into a black hole. The council used a private delivery firm to deliver the forms rather than Royal Mail on the ground that this was cheaper. But the Royal Mail has a reputation for reliability and to not use them for this important survey may turn out to have been a false economy if the survey has to be abandoned on the ground that not all local residents have received their survey forms as promised.
Local resident Chris Webb pointed out recently that 10,000 is more than the total number of households in Hyde Park and Woodhouse (the actual number in 2001 was 9705). Given this, how is it possible that Chris and so many other people haven’t received a form ? Chris had a letter published in yesterday’s Yorkshire Evening Post on this issue, and so did North Hyde Park Neighbourhood Association chair Martin Staniforth. Martin pointed out in his letter that it’s high time the council started to engage with the local community.
The above image of a black hole is published courtesy of thebadastronomer.