Wednesday, 23 April 2008

A park against a wall

Greenholme School playing field, Johnson Road, Lenton, view.

Open space between Lenton Business Centre and Sandpiper Way.

The field behind Lenton Business Centre. No ball games are allowed!

Back in the 1970s when I was a young Birmingham city councillor, a respected planning officer I knew described signs like this as 'municipal fascism'.

Last month I took my camera across the Derby Road into that part of Lenton which is in Radford and Park ward (until the new city council wards came into existence in 2003 Radford was in 'Lenton ward' and most of Lenton was in 'Park ward'). Historically, much of Lenton extends as far as the Ilkeston Road. Until Lenton became part of Nottingham in 1877 it included much of The Forest and Hyson Green areas and Bestwood. These were 'detached' parts of the parish and have long lost their links with Lenton, but the same is not true for the area immediately to the north of the Derby Road. Many old-time local residents still regard themselves as 'Lentonians' and gravitate towards Lenton Parish Church, The Lenton Centre and the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum.

On reflection I am surprised that it has taken me so long to include a picture of Greenholme School Playing Field, which they bought from Nottinghamshire County Council in 1994 just days before Nottingham became a unitary authority again (in 1974 it lost its county borough status and became part of the county). Local people campaigned to stop the sale, but the Labour controlled county council went ahead with the sale anyway. It should have been returned to Nottingham along with the Sandfield School site (which was). It is a visible reminder of the fact that open space needs protection from all politicians. If the playing field had remained with the city council it could have been put to good use as an additional. much needed, playing area.

Perhaps the fact that land a few yards away at the end of Johnson Road and behind the old Raleigh Cycles Head Office, which became the Lenton Business Centre, was being turned into open space allowed them to believe that it was OK to sell the old Sandfields School Playing Field. As open space the site can best be described as 'sterile' in appearance. There is a poor quality playing area at one end, some neglected ground cover in the middle and a large grass area with signs on the wall at the back of the Lenton Business Centre saying 'No ball games allowed' at the Johnson Road end, which is separated from the open space by a 'Berlin' brick wall.

If this open space was in the Forum's area there would be a campaign to get it improved and lots of trees planted to soften up that ugly wall and, hopefully, the 'no ball games' signs removed. It is amazing what people will put up with. Years of indifference and neglect result in residents accepting what they see and experience as the norm. What concerns residents have are often overwhelmed by a cynicism leading to apathy.

Tomorrow evening I am attending the first meeting of a new Nottingham city-wide 'Open Spaces Forum', so it will be interesting see if other community activists share my concerns about the kind of open space I have been discussing in this blog.

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