In his recent letter to the Yorkshire Evening Post (Readers’ Letters 15.5.09), Darrell Goodliffe claims that the existing byelaws restrict the “legitimate freedom” of people without gardens to have barbeques on Woodhouse Moor. For this reason, he supports the council’s proposal to allow barbeques on the Moor. Mr Goodliffe says that the damage caused by barbeques will be limited by restricting them to designated areas. But to those who point out that drifting smoke would interfere with other park users’ right to breathe unpolluted air, he has no answer. Instead, he suggests that if drifting smoke is a problem, then the opponents of the barbeque proposal should also be calling for barbeques in private gardens to be banned. In effect, he’s saying that having to breathe barbeque smoke in a park is no different to having to breathe it in your garden. But to compare barbeques in public parks with barbeques in private gardens is not comparing like with like. If the smoke from my neighbour’s barbeque is causing a nuisance, I can ask him to put it out. If he ignores my request, I have the remedy at law of taking out an injunction to prevent him having barbeques in the future. But if barbeques are legalised on Woodhouse Moor, if I asked someone having a barbeque there to extinguish it, they would be within their rights to tell me to go to one of the other Leeds parks where barbeques are still banned. And for the same reason, I would have no remedy at law.
Recently, on the Yorkshire Evening Post website, a lady from Ottawa commented that she lives close by to what used to be a lovely park. Then her local authority legalised barbeques. As a result, the only people who now visit the park, are those who go there to have a barbeque. The residents of Hyde Park, Woodhouse and Headingley are fighting this proposal so that everyone can continue to enjoy Woodhouse Moor, not just a selfish minority.
The above photograph was taken on the 12th May 2009 and shows the smoke pollution from just one barbeque. Multiply this by 40 to get an idea of the level of pollution that Leeds City Council considers acceptable on a park which when it was purchased in 1857 was known as “the lungs of Leeds”.
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)
There were lots of letters in this week’s Yorkshire Evening Post on the subject of the barbeque proposal. The first was published on Tuesday and was from Phil Graham asking why he should pay council tax when the council won’t uphold the byelaws. Of course it’s a rhetorical question because Phil knows very well that if he didn’t pay council tax, they’d come and lock him up. If the people who have illegal barbeques knew that the same fate awaited them, there wouldn’t be a barbeque problem. The second letter appeared on Wednesday and was from Councillor Martin Hamilton who says that if the police had to deal with anti-social behaviour on the Moor, they wouldn’t be able to deal with more serious crime elsewhere. Councillor Hamilton, a former chair of INWAC, fails to mention that INWAC can make council funds available to the police to pay for additional policing. He also fails to mention that the assignment of park wardens to the park would improve park security without affecting policing elsewhere in the area and that last July, a deputation of local residents asked the council for two park wardens to be assigned to Woodhouse Moor, and were refused. The next letter also appeared on Wednesday and was from L E Slack who feels that the barbeques are inappropriate in parks, and that the consultation process is unethical. On Thursday, there were letters from Darrell Goodliffe and Tony Green. Mr Goodliffe says that opponents of the barbeque proposal “suffer from a basic refusal to deal with reality” and wear “blinkers”. Tony Green in his letter reports on the recent public meeting and the resounding “No” it gave to the barbeque proposal. On Friday, Cherril Cliff who lives in Armley, but works in Woodhouse, voiced her opposition to the proposal. Also in Friday’s paper was a letter from Howard and Christine Eaglestone asking how likely it is that people will keep to the proposed barbeque areas. Then in today’ paper, in a relatively short letter, former Headingley councillor David Morton makes a number of highly relevant points about the proposal itself, the consultation, the ASB that’s allowed on the park, and the neglect.
(photo courtesy of Francesca Tronchin)
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. ]