Sunday, 29 June 2008
Last week I put together a CD of Lenton images for some consultants who are about to commence work with Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum on a future vision and development strategy for our ward. The exercise made me realise that since taking up picture taking in earnest at the beginning of 2007 I have not taken any photographs of the ward's streets and neighbourhoods in a systematic way. All the pictures I have taken have been in relation to a particular topic.
So I have decided to work my way around the ward taking pictures of the streets. I will get some exercise at the same time which will be a good thing. The above rear view of Holy Trinity Church is the first picture in my new series. To me it looks 'Victorian and northern'. A feeling brought about by the grime and dirt which, over the last 166 years, has taken away the natural light colouring of the stone. If cleaned I am in no doubt that Holy Trinity would look absolutely fantastic. Back in the early-1980s when I was a county councillor I suggested to the church they should apply for a grant from a 'clean-up' fund I was involved with, but they seemed to like it as it was and didn't take up my offer.
These pictures above and below are of the east side of Lenton Boulevard between Hart Street and Osmaston Street. The one above is of the shops on the corner of Hart Street and the last building on the right is the first building on the left of the picture below, which shows the Lenton Liberal Club on the corner of Osmaston Street. It was formally opened in January 1862 by Cecil Foljambe, the then Liberal MP for North Nottinghamshire. Today the Club has no links with the Liberal Party.
This short stretch of road is typical of the Lenton Boulevard neighbourhood, an area which, with not much commitment and a relatively small amount of money, could be returned to its Victorian glory. I would love to have the time to campaign for a Heritage Lottery Fund Townscape project to restore the Boulevard to and, as a final touch, I would find the money to enable the Crich National Tramway Museum to open a branch in Lenton and run a historic tram service* from The Forest via Hyson Green, Gregory Boulevard, Radford Boulevard, Lenton Boulevard and Castle Boulevard to the Brewhouse Yard Museum and Nottingham Railway Station. This would not only give visitors a sense of what it was like to live in late-Victorian England, but would help to re-generate Lenton and Radford in ways presently unimagined! *I would build a tram depot at the back of the old Raleigh offices.
Songbirds in cities are damaging their health, exposing themselves to predators and weakening their gene pool by trying to be heard above the din of urban life.
Monday, 23 June 2008
Little did I realise that minutes later I would be sharing my interpretation of what Aspire really was with Nottingham University's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Colin Campbell, after I had stepped outside the reception area where they were serving tea and coffee to the media. I had gone outside to get a picture looking in only to find that I had been followed by a gentleman with a Scottish accent, who asked me what I thought of it, then saying 'I think it's stunning, don't you?', to which I replied 'It reminds me of one of those seaside lattice ice-cream cones… I can just imagine it full of ice-cream'. I then introduced myself and asked him who he was, little realising that I had been in conversation with the top man!
After a couple of speeches, the media folk present were asked to put on safety helmets and go outside so they they could see the final section of the Aspire column put in place. I'm not sure why we were given hard hats to wear as the action was a fair distance away and had Aspire come crashing down on you, having a hat on would have not stopped you from being smashed to pulp!
I took a few pictures of Aspire's top section being lifted into place. To summarise, Aspire, including its 10m concrete base, stands 60m high, which makes it taller than Nelson's Column (52m), the Statue of Liberty (46m) and Angel of the North (20m). Including its foundations, it weighs 854 tonnes. The name 'Aspire' was chosen after a competition among University staff and students and it is meant to reflect 'apiration, inspiration and ambition' on the part of Nottingham University and the City of Nottingham.
Aspire's top section was slowly lifted into place…
…whilst the media looked on and gathered on the side of a boulevard of water and Japonica trees, which will run across the campus and a diverted Triumph Road from east to west (or is it west to east?). For my part I was more taken with the water feature than Aspire, which I had thought, for some reason, was going to be located at one end of the landscaped boulevard and act as a huge sun dial, casting a long shadow over the water at a particular time of the day. Sad to say, this is not case, but there was an unexpected bonus in what stands at the east end of this new watery boulevard — the Lenton Flats. In my mind they stand for 'aspiration, inspiration and ambition' as well and are a tribute to Nottingham City Council and countless other councils, who all wanted to see ordinary working class people given decent homes to live in, so that they could live better lives and their children could live in surrounding conducive to learning and, yes, ambition and aspirations. Forty years on their future hangs in the balance, but seeing them along a boulevard of water I just hope that whatever happens to them and the land, it continues to make a statement on behalf of ordinary people as bold as Aspire endeavours to do for the University and learning.
Aspire's top section is finally put into place and the workmen make ready to join the sections together…
…and as I left to make my way home down Triumph Road I geo my first proper glimpse of Aspire complete and wondered what its nickname will be? I had already heard it being described as 'a wastepaper basket' and 'a torch' and, later, on the TV news as, yes, an 'ice-cream cone'. I am sure that when the students return from the summer vacation they will come up with much more imaginative names. Nicknames can be a sign of derision or affection and I am sure that in Aspire's case it will be the latter. As much as I would like to join Sir Colin in believing that it 'is stunning', I am afraid it is no Nelson's Column, Statue of Liberty or Angel of the North. I suspect that, at best, it will become a curiosity attracting the attention of passers-by, whilst earning a place in local affections. Time will be the judge.
When I got home I went into the park and, there, peeking just above the trees along the Derby Road side of Lenton Recreation Ground, was Aspire. It can be seen from the park. It has made its mark on the Lenton landscape I love the most and I am happy to see it there. I wish Aspire well and I will visit it again, but I await the completion of the watery boulevard with its Japonica trees even more!
The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy told Israel today to share sovereignty over Jerusalem with the Palestinians and to stop building settlements in the occupied territories.
Monday, 16 June 2008
This occupied the first hour of Lilian's visit to Lenton, then I took her off on a short tour of New Lenton, beginning with the park, which was full of bowling ladies about to play a county match between Nottinghamshire and Cumberland. Lilian was soon deep in conversation with Dave, our groundsperson, and some of the ladies. I then took Lilian down to the office of the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum, where she heard first hand about what the Forum does, before I moved her onto The Lenton Centre where we managed to get a peek at the swimming pool. Then it was off to The Lenton Flats and back to my house, where her quick tour of New Lenton ended (a visit to Old Lenton and Dunkirk will have to wait until another day). We did a lot in just under 2½ hours.
Being an MP is no easy task. It calls for a lot of sacrifices in terms of family and privacy. As an MP you become public property, ready to stop and talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime. Lilian will be a worthy successor to Alan, as she is driven by ideals and passion in a time when all too many MPs and their would-be replacements are motivated by little other than status and self-interest. Lilian will win Nottingham South by looking beyond the Labour Party and trade unions and building strong community ties in the same way as Alan has done. From what I saw of Lilian today I am sure she can create her own constituency of ready voters and supporters. For my part, I will do everything I can to help her in my part of Nottingham South, so, Lilian, it's go go go until the last vote goes into the ballot box at the next general election. You can do it, you will do it, OK, no argument!
Some wealthy Britons are exploiting a tax loophole that allows them to retire abroad with their UK pension savings and live tax-free. Within a few years the loophole could cost the exchequer hundreds of millions of pounds as increasing numbers of retirees with large pension pots escape paying UK tax rates on their pension income.
Thursday, 12 June 2008
'This Sunday is the anniversary of Magna Carta, a document that guarantees the fundamental element of British freedom, habeas corpus. The right not to be imprisoned by the state without charge or reason. But yesterday this house allowed the state to lock up potentially innocent citizens for up to six weeks without charge'. Part of David Davis's resignation speech today when he resigned as an MP in protest against the government's continuing assault on individual rights.
Sunday, 8 June 2008
The re-occurring word throughout today's blog has been 'happy'. It's a word which sums up the day. Thanks to the Forum and all the other folk, who by taking part, helped all those who came along to have a lovely day.
Next year it would be nice if it could, perhaps, be called the 'Dunkirk and Lenton Festival and Homecoming Day', with a view to encouraging ex-Dunkirk and Lenton residents from far and wide to come along. With sufficient notice and publicity, many might be persuaded to dig out old photographs and memorabilia of their days in our community so that they can share them with Lenton Local History Society. An annual 'Homecoming Day' is a North American event I would like to see copied in England.
Three soldiers have been killed in a suicide attack in southern Afghanistan, taking the number of British military personnel killed in the country since 2001 to 100.
Saturday, 7 June 2008
So, when you walk around Lenton, keep your eyes open and you might just find some of the money which is left lying around! As for me, I've found the odd coin, but never a note. Perhaps I should get up early in the morning and start looking in those secret places — and that's the only clue I'm giving you as to where you can, literally, pick up money in Lenton.
Three British divers who were swept away with two other Europeans during a dive off Indonesia have been found safe after managing to swim to a remote beach on an island 25 miles away. The 36-hour ordeal saw them carried to the neighbouring island by strong currents while they waited for their dive boat to return.
Wednesday, 4 June 2008
As I get close to the bowling greens I notice that the one which has been suffering from bare patches and Dave and Simon have been nursing for some time now looks much better than it has in months. I suspect that all the recent heavy rain has helped the green in question to recover. I honestly did not think the green could be saved without some re-turfing, but Dave, Simon and the rain have worked a miracle.
Even on days like today the bowlers turn up and make ready for an afternoon of banter and simple pleasure, whilst a little further on Dave has just arrived with a trolleyful of bedding plants. He is happy in his work and smiles even before he begins work on the border. In the words of that song that BBC-TV used to use, today was a 'Perfect Day' in the park. They don't get much better than this.
Barack Obama has made history by beating Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination and becoming the first African-American with a viable chance of winning the White House.
Monday, 2 June 2008
DISCOVERING LENTON HEALTHY HERITAGE WALK
2pm, this Thursday 5 June 2008.
Start from the Crocus Café, Church Square.
This FREE walk is 2 miles long and lasts for 75–90 minutes and led by Robert Howard, an accredited walk leader and Lenton resident.
The walk includes 57 points of historic interest.
Contact: Robert, tel: 0115 9700369.
8–9 pm, Tuesday 10 June 2008,
The Lenton Centre, Willoughby Street.
Speaker: Steve Bradwell,
Nottingham City Council conservation and planning consultant.
Followed by a discussion about the future protection of the historic environment in and around Lenton.
IF LENTON MATTERS TO YOU
THEN PLEASE COME ALONG
Contact: Robert Howard, tel: 0115 9700369
Sunday, 1 June 2008
Downloaded from Google Maps
On Wednesday I went down to the Dunkirk and Old Lenton Community Centre to see plans and a display by a developer who wants to build on the site of the existing Dunkirk Fire Station, which will close at the end of 2008, or thereabouts, when a new fire station opens in Beeston. My main concern was the future of Dunkirk school playing field, which is located between the fire station and the Beeston Canal.
With luck, you should be able to see the fire station and the playing field in the aerial view I have downloaded from Google Maps and pasted at the top of this blog. In the bottom left-hand corner, to the south of the roundabout, the community centre and to its right a large building, which is the Dunkirk Primary and Junior School.
The good news is that the playing field is not part of the proposed development, although such are the proposed arrangements for future access (just a 3m corridor of land with a right of way for whoever owns the playing field) that the only people who will be able to develop the playing field will be the owners of the 500–550 units (bedrooms) of student accommodation proposed for the site. In other words Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service, who owned the Dunkirk Fire Station site, and Nottingham City Council, who owned some adjacent land included in the sale, have made it very difficult for the school to realise the true value of the playing field should they ever want to sell it.
The display on Wednesday mentioned '500–550' student bedspaces on the site of Dunkirk Fire Station. Add on the additional land bought from Nottingham City Council (for £1.8m) and the number goes up to 750 student bedspaces, but there was no mention of this fact.
The developer is also planning to provide about 25 parking spaces based on 1 for every 20 bedspaces and that this is in line with what the city planners want.
The Nottingham Local Plan (dated November 2005) has a section on 'Student Housing' which, if adhered to, should stop the proposed development going ahead. However the agents, who marketed the site, described it as suitable for 'approximately 600 bedrooms (of) student/keyworker accommodation'. They would only have done this with the agreement of Nottingham City Council — which suggests the council has already decided to ignore its own Local Plan.
The fact that the site of Dunkirk Fire Station is to be redeveloped comes as no surprise. It would have been nice if the city council had spoken to local people before giving the new owners, Gladman Estates, the confidence to prepare plans for yet more student accommodation. Had local people had a say, I suspect that keyworker housing would have been preferred.
Let's hope the council gets some section 106 money from the developers and lets local residents decide on how it can be spent improving local facilities.
This is just the latest in a line of council decisions which treat the residents of Dunkirk and Lenton with disdain.
I have written a longer analysis containing the evidence which supports what I say in this blog. I have sent it to the Forum and to our city councillors.
Jamaica's Usain Bolt won his fifth 100 metres race in a world record breaking 9.72 seconds at the Reebok Grand Prix Meet in New York last night.