Sunday, 19 August 2007

A parks issue comes around again

On Wednesday there was a meeting of the Lenton Recreation Ground Consultative Group which is managed by our local community forum and attended by parks staff from Nottingham City Council and representatives from Nottingham University as well as local park users, including individuals like me. We would have gone for a walk around the park with Dave, but it didn't stop raining, so we stayed in the park pavilion and discussed a number of matters, ranging from park benches and native spring bulbs to the bowling greens and neighbouring parks.

Until a couple of years ago, there were just a few local bowls clubs using the greens, but with the closure of the greens at the nearby Radford Park and the lack of parking at Highfields Park, other bowling clubs have been relocating to Lenton. In itself this is not problem, so long as the Lenton greens can take the increased level of usage. In the last few weeks or so bear patches have appeared on the greens and when you consider how much rain we have had in recent months, the problem is clearly nothing to do with too much dry weather. To a layman like me, this seems like a matter which needs attention sooner rather than later.

So I raised the issue of bowling green usage in Lenton and across the city over the last five years as the City Council should have statistics for bowling green usage for every financial year (1 April–31 March) up until the end of March 2007. The statistics should show us what is happening. We know Radford Park's bowling greens have gone and that Highfields greens are poorly used because there is no nearby parking — which is why Lenton has become so popular.

Not that Lenton has parking in the park, except on special occasions when parking is allowed on the grass. Some of the newly arrived bowling clubs have been after car parking in the park because they aren't too happy with the on-street parking on Church Street, which runs along the park's southern boundary. There is also some parking spaces in the little 'pocket park' immediately across from the park's southern entrance. Many of the bowls players now playing for clubs based in our park do not live locally — which is why they want additional parking.

All this was well and truly discussed two years ago when they first arrived. Some of us made the point (and still do) that Lenton Recreation Ground is a community park first and foremost. The nearby Highfields and Wollaton parks are city parks and the ones which should have the facilities to cope with more park visitors and users. In the end it was agreed that grids which the grass can grow through would be laid so that occasional parking by visiting bowls clubs and at other events, like community days, could take place.

So far the grids haven't been put in place and, with more bowls matches, there is a danger that parking in the park will increase. When the question was asked the staff present claimed to know nothing about the grass grids and that a former staff member had passed on no information. The meeting tut tutted and asked for the matter to be investigated and a report submitted to the next park meeting in November.

Since the meeting a birdy has tweeted in my ear that the bowls club making the most noise about the need for parking in the park also complained that the Parks Pavilion floor was a health and safety hazard and needed replacing. I have been told it was explained to them that if the pavilion was upgraded there wouldn't be any money for the grass grids and parking and they chose to spend the money on the pavilion. Now, all this may have been related to the Parks Consultative Group at a meeting I missed or in minutes I didn't read properly.

If this story is true then I will be be quite pleased, as I wasn't keen on the grass grids in the first place. If the story I have been told is true, then the bowlers made a choice and they have to live with it, as there are new priorities for any extra money the city council may have to spend on parks and they are elsewhere.

There are other issues I want to discuss, like Radford Park, the state of the pocket park, those city council staff who think Lenton is quite well off and in the same league as nearby Wollaton and why some sad folk only see our park in money terms and somehow think that because they spend money using the bowling green it makes them more important than those who just use the park. If people like this have their way we'll end up with turn-stiles instead of gates. These people deserve more than a riposte, they need to be challenged, so I will come back to each of them in turn over the next month or so.

Right now, I have had enough, given that preparing for the Parklife Day on Tuesday took a fair part of last week and will take all of Tuesday. If you see me in the park under The Lenton Centre tent with our display and in the company of children having their faces painted, then come and say 'hello'.

After all that, relax for a moment or two looking at flower beds and park bushes.

To help increase milk yields, cows in Northern Ireland are being given mattresses which look like 'closely knitted army blankets filled with rubber crumbs made from old car tyres'.

Via the Forum, I have received the following comment on this blog from
Stefan Kruczkowski, the former Parks Development Officer at Nottingham City Council, who worked closely with the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum and local residents to help turn the park around with the active support of our two city councillors, Zahoor Mir and David Trimble. Stefan and I have spoken about what I have written and he accepts that I wrote what was said. Stefan is understandably annoyed by the impression given, hence his detailed response which I am more than happy to include with my blog. Stefan served us well during the years he was with us and made a big difference to what happened at Lenton Recreation Ground after years of neglect and indifference by the city council.

Stefan writes in his letter to the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum:

I hope that at the next meeting you can, as Forum Coordinator, read and minute my response to what I understood took place in the last meeting of the Consultation Group. I have copied Eddie Curry, Head of Parks and Cllrs. Trimble and Mir into this response.

“I was Parks Development Officer at Nottingham City, responsible for Lenton Recreation Ground for three years. In that time, I worked hard with others, such as Grounds Staff, Ward Councillors, the Consultation Group and the Forum to secure the investment that has made it possible to make the improvements in the facilities and overall standard of the park.

In that time, I became very attached to the park and as a result often log into Robert Howard’s informative ‘blog spot’. However, I was surprised to read the following note relating to the last meeting. I feel that I need to clarify my view on this as I believe what took place in the meeting may discredit my reputation. The blog reads:

“So far the grids haven't been put in place and, with more bowls matches, there is a danger that parking in the park will increase. When the question was asked the staff present claimed to know nothing about the grass grids and that a former staff member had passed on no information. The meeting tut tutted and asked for the matter to be investigated and a report submitted to the next park meeting in November.”

Included within this were notes about the issue of parking at the Rec’. The blog spot suggests that the officer present claimed that a former staff member (me) had not passed on information. This is incorrect. On leaving Nottingham City, I prepared a detailed ‘hand over’ for management outlining the status of various projects. I prepared the ‘hand over’ and discussed its content directly with management to ensure that outstanding projects could be ‘picked up’.

I trust this sets the record straight and assures members of the group that on leaving Nottingham I did not simply ‘walk away’ from my work, but ensured that all necessary information was disseminated to management and officers within Parks and Open Spaces at the City Council. However I am sure that members of the group will be able to make their own informed opinion on this matter.

Finally, I would wish to congratulate the Grounds staff, Ward Councillors, the Consultation Group and the Forum on its third Green Flag – it is a testament to your dedication and passion in keeping the park to a high standard.”

Stefan Kruczkowski

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