There were letters in Monday’s paper from Tony Crooks, Maurice, Felicity and Dominic King, and Christine Golton. Tony was pointing out that there’s statistical evidence that suggests that the survey forms were delivered to just a fraction of the houses that should have received them. The Kings in their letter expose how difficult it would be to enforce designated barbeque areas, and the likelihood that barbeques would continue all over the park. Christine Golton expressed scepticism about the council’s claim that it would be difficult to enforce the byelaw banning barbeques, asking why the byelaws exist in the first place, and pointing out they’re enforced in other parks. Then on Wednesday, there were letters from Hilary Benn and Colin Smith. Mr Benn was calling for everyone to make their voice heard before it’s too late. And Colin Smith set out a list of reasons why barbeques in parks are a bad idea. Finally in today’s paper, there was an article by columnist Oliver Cross about the NGT proposal and the tendency these days to view trees as nothing more than replaceable carbon sequestration units. This article is from Oliver’s regular Friday night column, which today mostly deals with Oliver’s thoughts about his recent visit to Dagmar Wood to view a Theatre of the Dales production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Earlier today, Martin Staniforth led a deputation of local residents to a meeting of the full council to ask for the proposal to establish barbeque areas on Woodhouse Moor to be scrapped, and for the flawed consultation exercise to be abandoned. In addition to Martin, who is the chair of North Hyde Park Neighbourhood Association, the deputation included statistician Professor John Kent, and representatives of South Headingley Community Association, Marlborough Residents’ Association and Friends of Woodhouse Moor. Here’s is the speech that Martin gave to the council :
“Lord Mayor, Councillors, my name is Martin Staniforth and my colleagues are Sue Buckle, Richard Hellawell, Tony Green and Professor John Kent. I welcome the opportunity to speak to you today to oppose the Council’s unpopular, expensive and damaging plan to concrete over part of Woodhouse Moor, though I am sad that it is still necessary to do so. I am speaking on behalf of all the community groups in the Hyde Park and Woodhouse area. More importantly I am speaking on behalf of the hundreds of local people who have objected to this scheme at meetings and in writing, and the thousands who have been denied a voice because of the Council’s failure to deliver consultation packs to them.
Lord Mayor, I want to concentrate on three issues. First, the proposal itself. This would involve sinking 40 large concrete blocks into an open, grassy area of the Moor to allow for up to 80 barbecues to be lit at any one time. Local people have strongly opposed this plan both because of the impact it would have and because it is another sign of the Council’s lack of concern for Woodhouse Moor. What used to be an open space for all to enjoy is becoming an area where, on sunny weekends, many people feel uncomfortable and unsafe because of the drunkenness, vandalism and anti-social behaviour which goes on there, apparently unchecked. Local people don’t want to see money wasted on concrete blocks. They want it spent on improving the Moor, undoing the damage that has been done in recent years, and making it a welcoming, attractive and safe area for all.
Second, consultation. The Council claims to have sent 10,000 questionnaires to local households seeking their views on the proposal. However it’s very clear, from public meetings and other surveys, that many people who should have received questionnaires didn’t do so. But instead of investigating the complaints, Council officers have relied on assurances from the delivery company that they delivered to all households in the area, with one or two exceptions. Well, to quote Mandy Rice-Davies, they would say that, wouldn’t they! Officers also seem to believe that because some people in a street responded, everyone in that street must have received a questionnaire. However, as I’m sure you know, people delivering house-to-house often take short cuts and miss out houses or whole streets to get the job done quickly. Finally, apparently replies were received from only 155 of the 551 streets which should have received questionnaires.
Statisticians say it is highly improbable that replies would be concentrated in such a small number of streets if the forms had been properly delivered. My colleague Professor John Kent, Professor of Mathematics at Leeds University, would be pleased to answer any questions you may have about the statistical analysis of Parks and Countryside’s figures.
And now we have the truly bizarre situation that the Council’s Scrutiny Board has said the consultation was carried out properly while at the same time it has been extended to the end of July so that people who didn’t receive questionnaires can send in their comments by e-mail! Frankly this isn’t a consultation, it’s a shambles, a fiasco, and the investigation nothing more than a whitewash. It should be abandoned now and there should be an independent investigation into what went wrong.
Third, the role of local residents’ associations. We were excluded from the group which drew up this proposal. I use the word “excluded” deliberately because a Council officer told me that while associations had been invited to the first meeting “subsequent meetings of this forum evolved into a partnership of agency representatives and council officers providing a cohesive and constructive working group that are committed to and actively resolving the various issues on Woodhouse Moor”. Apparently local residents have nothing to contribute to resolving issues facing the Moor, despite our very real commitment to its long-term health. This is not the first time that proposals have been put forward for changes to the Moor without involving local people, and not the first time they have been strongly opposed by them. The exclusion of local residents from groups considering plans for the Moor is unacceptable, results in bad decision-making, and must be ended.
Lord Mayor, Woodhouse Moor is an historic park, dear to those who live near it and use it regularly. It is an asset that we hold in trust for future generations, and we should leave it in better condition than we find it. If the current proposal goes ahead, our legacy will be 40 concrete blocks and a degraded open space. We therefore call for the current plans for a barbecue area to be dropped, for the flawed consultation process to be abandoned and for local residents to be fully involved in any group developing plans for the Moor in future.”
PRESENTED AT THE HYDE PARK AND WOODHOUSE FORUM 17 JUNE 2009
WOODHOUSE MOOR – SUSPENSION OF THE PARK BYELAWS
I was notified a couple of weeks ago by Councillor Richard Brett that there was a ‘no-fines’ policy being operated regarding the implementation of the Park Byelaws. This appears to have been the case for at least a year.
Enforcement by fine IS the Byelaw (£500 maximum) and so the conclusion must be that the byelaws have been suspended and for some considerable time. This has led to the current dreadful mess and mismanagement of the Moor.
Unfortunately Councillor Brett does not care to say how and why and by whom the Park Byelaws were suspended. When did the meeting take place where this decision was made ? and who agreed to the suspension ?
This is most extraordinary. The LCC is neglecting their duty of care by not enforcing the Byelaws. The Park Byelaws must always be there to provide basic protection for the Moor. This is regardless of any Park Consultations or other policies.
Therefore Councillor Ewens, the Hyde Park and Woodhouse Forum urges that an ENQUIRY by the Inner North West Area Committee is immediately undertaken regarding the circumstances surrounding the unlawful suspension of the Park Byelaws on Woodhouse Moor. We would expect a result at the next INWAC meeting which I believe is next month.
In association with
Friends of Woodhouse Moor
North Hyde Park Neighbourhood Association
South Headingley Community Association
Just months after he was awarded an MBE, Woodhouse Moor’s gardener, John Egan has had further cause to celebrate. Forty years ago last week, on the 24th May 1969, he and his wife Susan were married. Earlier this evening, I was talking to John. He told me how he came to Leeds in 1961 from Castlerea in County Rosscommon. When he first arrived here, he lived in the gatehouse of the Faversham Hotel on Mount Preston. In early 1963, he moved from there to Roundhay. Then he spent some time in Harehills before moving on to Meanwood, which is where he was living when he met Susan. They moved to their present home, the gardener’s lodge, in 1974. John and Susan have two daughters and four grandchildren.
I would like to stress that I am writing this guest post in an individual capacity and my views in no way necessarily represent those of any organisation I am a member of; they are purely individual views.
The debate over the council’s proposals to build a designated barbecue area on Woodhouse Moor has been contentious to say the least. On the one side local residents have raised concerns about the damage the construction of this area will do to the Moor and on the other side you have the council and people like myself who have argued that the proposals are the best practicable way to manage barbecues on the Moor and, of course, the people who want to use the Moor to have barbecues on. It is worth saying that the debate has exposed a tension at the heart of our community between permanent residents who feel ignored and temporary residents, ie, students who live here in a fair concentration. It is my view that establishing harmony between the two groups is one of the key challenges facing this community.
Turning to the proposals in detail; it has often been pointed out to me that there are by-laws in place which prohibit barbecues on the Moor and that preventing them is simply a matter of enforcing the existing by-laws. Councillor Martin Hamilton, speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post on May 20th, raises a valid point when he questions whether creating a situation where the police will have to be involved is the most productive use of their time. One of the concerns has to be that so much time and effort would be spent enforcing the barbecue ban that serious anti-social behaviour would slip under the radar.
Also, since there has been a serious increase in demand for barbecues on the Moor there has to be questions asked over where the people who would have had barbecues on the Moor would then go. Shifting the problem around the place is not a solution and we do have to address the fact that some people clearly do want this; so, a question I do have to put to opponents is how would you address this? Concerns about the environmental impact of disposable barbecues are points well made but it is my view that a properly designated area could and should go hand-in-hand with providing raw materials and guidance for people to actually construct a rudimentary (but still effective) eco-friendly barbecue which can be effectively done with a few bricks; a grill you can find in any kitchen and the right charcoal. Here perhaps the proposals need to show greater imagination than just whacking concrete slabs down.
The same article points out that Woodhouse Moor has been used for “everything from hare-coursing and horse racing to a stage for political rallies and public demonstrations”. So, this isn’t exactly a new controversy but a re-casting of the tensions that exist over Woodhouse Moor itself and doubtless other green spaces across the country. Bill McKinnon speaking in the piece flags up the recent residents meeting which was attended by “over 100 residents, people who consider the Moor part of their home”. However, the Moor is not, properly speaking part of anybodies home; it is a public space which we all share, it is too their credit that people feel this strongly about something that is an important part of this community but nonetheless the facts remain as above.
Mr McKinnion is right when he says that if a designated area was created there would still be a question of enforcement but quite simply I would say restriction is always easier to enforce than prohibition. He is also right to raise the issue of ensuring the underground drainage is not damaged and let my emphasise that I am not here to defend the consultation not reaching everybody or any other problems that have been had. Looping-the-loop somewhat to the point I started off by making this does point to the need for new mechanisms to establish working relations between the residents who live around the Moor and the people who visit the Moor and want to enjoy it in a responsible way.
At the moment where the different interested groups come together tends to be the Area Committee; however, it is my view that this organisation has too broad a remit to deal effectively with this very specific issue which needs to see the local residents; people who work to preserve the Moor, and yes, representatives of the student community working together along with our local elected representatives. Therefore, I think the Area Committee should devolve this issue down to a sub-committee which reports to it and addresses issues like this directly.
It’s customary when writing to a newspaper, to supply an address. Many editors will refuse to publish your letter if you don’t. It’s about establishing your credentials as a real person, rather like the purpose of the electoral register. So it was highly significant that in his recent letter to the YEP, Darrell Goodliffe signed off as “Local Resident” rather than supplying an address (Readers’ Letters 7.5.09). Clearly for Mr Goodliffe, establishing in readers’ minds that here was a local resident who actually supports the barbeque proposal, was far more important than minor details like where he actually lives.
What’s not customary when writing to a newspaper is to state your political allegiance, unless of course you’re an active party member writing about an issue your party is deeply involved with. Under those circumstances, to deny your readers the benefit of that knowledge, might seem to some like a deception. I can understand though why someone would be tempted to do it. By stating your political allegiance, you run the risk that people might say “Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he”. Which is precisely what people have been saying since learning that Darrel Goodliffe is a Lib Dem activist.
(photo courtesy of Thomas Hawk)
Martin Staniforth has had a letter published in today’s Yorkshire Evening Post criticising the slanted nature of the barbeque consultation. In it he makes clear that it’s been targeted at students and designed to elicit a “yes” to the question “Do you want to barbeque on Woodhouse Moor?”. He calls for further drop-ins that are accessible to local people. Martin is a local resident and chair of North Hyde Park Neighbourhood Association, our longest established community association. You can read his letter by clicking on the words above highlighted in green. Thanks Martin for speaking out on our behalf.
Woodhouse Moor was packed with people yesterday afternoon enjoying the glorious sunshine. Unfortunately, many of them never bothered to take their litter home with them, which is why the park looked such a mess this morning.
Leeds employs people known as “Civil Enforcement Officers” to ensure that the city is kept neat and tidy. They have the power to issue on the spot £75 fixed penalty notices to anyone dropping litter. A friend of mine was fined a couple of years ago by one of these people for dropping a cigarette butt in the city centre. And there’s the problem. These enforcement officers don’t appear to operate in Hyde Park and Woodhouse ward. If they do, I’ve never seen one. Why is it that the rules that apply to other parts of the city don’t apply here ?
There were five barbeques burning yesterday afternoon, and this morning I took this photo showing the damage caused by one of them.
I find it amazing that these dangerous contraptions are freely available in supermarkets and corner shops. There’s no age limit restricting their sale. Last year I heard at work that someone’s child had stood on one. She lost all sensation in the sole of her foot because of nerve damage.
I suppose I should be writing to the Times, for today I spotted my first barbeque of 2009 on Woodhouse Moor (see photo below). There were five actually. And that’s the problem. For unlike nightingales, barbeques are a very common species in these parts, and they’re likely to become even more so, if Leeds City Council is able to persuade students to vote for barbeque areas on Woodhouse Moor.
Also on the Moor this afternoon, was a large police van with about five or six policemen and women inside. My companion went up to one of the policemen, and asked him to tell the barbeque-ers to desist. But he refused, repeating over and over again, “It’s what students do.” It left me wondering what the police van was doing on the Moor. It also left me wondering why I pay council tax. Can anyone suggest a reason why that police van was on the Moor ?