Saturday, 30 June 2012

Neglect and change a way of life in Lenton?

During the week I walked home from Dunkirk Post Office along Abbey Street and Gregory Street.  I was saddened by the neglect I saw and frustrated by the way change happens in Lenton, despite the best efforts of some local residents to ensure it is both meaningful and sensible.  I think the following pics and links to previous blogs will show you what I mean.
It is just over four years since I blogged about Dunkirk Fire Station and a developer's 'consultation' I attended (see 1 June 2008 blog).  In September 2008 I persuaded the Dunkirk and Lenton Branch Labour Party to organise a public meeting about what was happening the area. The developer clearly wanted to build student accommodation on the site, but the crash came and only now is the Fire Station being demolished, after years of delay and a court case in which the owners sued Nottingham City Council. Another Nottingham blogger, 'Nottingham City LOLs', wrote about it all in 2011 under the heading 'Fire station fuck-ups'.  I have no idea what is going to happen with the site now. It could be that the owner is simply clearing it so it is easier to sell once the property market picks up.

Lenton is littered with derelict land and old service stations waiting development. Abbey Street alone has one service station which has been a 'by hand' car wash for years, a empty housing plot with planning permission for three houses which must be close to expiring (I must check out the dates) and, of course, the boarded up houses and shops duee to be demolished to make way for the new Tram line to Beeston and Chilwell.

In 2007, I and others tried to get the line of Tram altered to protect this historic building, but without success (see my post, 'Dunkirk and the Tram: who hoodwinked who?').  The building is currently being stripped prior to demolition. Wearing my Notts Local History Association hat I did bring together the old owners, Lenton Local History Society and the Notts Building Preservation Trust to carry out a detailed on-site survey with the support of the new Tram consortium and their contractors. A report will be published in the September 2012 issue of The Nottinghamshire Historian (for which I compile the news), suffice to say that some interesting finds were made in relation to Lenton Priory, the medieval Cluniac religious house which stood here (the gate house is thought to have been at the road junction in the above picture showing the boarded up shop on the corner of Abbey Street and Gregory Street).

It is a change we will have to live with, but I am in no doubt that it could have been better managed and that there were alternative solutions. The truth is that Nottingham City Council cocked it up, as they do all too often. Local people have been ignored time and again and could actually manage Dunkirk and Lenton much better than the City Council.

 If anything epitomises Nottingham City Council, it is the little Priory Park in Old Lenton, across the way from the boarded corner shop in the previous picture. The last time I devoted any time to it was in 2008, when I posted some half-dozen Priory 
 blogs in a personal campaign to shame the City Council into doing something about this small open space on land which would have once been part of Lenton Priory.  I love this mini copse of silver birch which greets park visitors as they come in through the Gregory Street gate.

Now, less than four years later this is how it looks.  Every bench is broken or overgrown. Decay like this is the result of deliberate neglect. No one from Parks Department has visited or inspected this park for ages. How else can you explain what the picture shows. If someone has carried out an inspection, what did their report say?  Did it recommend any action(s)?  Any official 'ward walks' by our ward councillors have clearly not included Priory Park.

The need to save money on cutting grass can be turned to advantage. For example, had this part of Priory Park been planted up with meadow grass how different it would be looking now. My imagination sees a sea of waving colour, like a tide as it ebbs and flows across a stony shore or a sandy beach. Perhaps the Parks Department can be persuaded to do something for next year. It wouldn't cost a lot to do.

Another view of the same area. The broken benches I have already referred to are against the far wall. Like this it doesn't look too bad, but how much better it would look covered in wild meadow flowers.

And this is one of the overgrown seats on the Abbey Street side of Priory Park. Again, this could so easily, with a little garden maintenance, be turned to advantage and made a feature. Unfortunately, I know the Parks Department solution only too well — they will send in a 'hit squad' with motorised saws and strimmers who will hack down everything in sight and turn Priory Park into an area more like 'ground zero' than a lovely little oasis.

I suspect the City Council Parks Department already has its eyes on some 'Tram' money, or yet another pocket of Lottery or public money, with which they can give Priory Park yet another makeover.  Not for the first time, I suspect they will end up being rewarded for their neglect and, somehow, they will emerge from all this as great managers, who deserve to be congratulated!

As for the leaning wall above, I am amazed it is still standing. The gods have been kind to the Parks Department. A few good kicks from the churchyard side and down it would fall. Back in 2008, there was talk of replacing the wall with metal railings, so that you could see through into the churchyard. Ideally, you would create one large space and promote it as part of what I would call the 'Lenton Priory Heritage Precinct'.

Priory Park deserves better and with the coming of the Tram and the long proposed 'MediPark' development between Leengate, Abbey Street and the River Leen, I can see it becoming a welcome lunch-time retreat for workers and visitors alike.

For now though it is little more than a very visible reminder of how neglect has become a way of life in Lenton and that change, when it does come, is all too often given a gloss and a spin that, somehow, allows those responsible to promote themselves to best advantage. 

Friday, 29 June 2012

Olympic torch comes and goes along the Derby Road

For a few minutes this morning Lenton played host to the Olympic torch, as it came from Nottingham Castle via Castle Boulevard and Lenton Boulevard before turning onto Derby Road and going past Lenton Recreation Ground and the end of my road — which is where I decided to wait. I decided that the best I could do was simply to take a few pics and try and tell a little 'Olympic torch' story about how I saw 'the moment' for, in truth, it was not much more than that. My camera dates and times all my pics, so I have used this information to show the time I took my pics this morning.

8.24am. As I stepped out of Devonshire Promenade and onto the Derby Road there were these two police motorcyclists in the middle of the road. The traffic was stopped at 7.30pm.

8.25am. I walked up to the corner of Gloucester Avenue and took this pic of the small crowd beginning to gather outside the Derby Road Health Centre. The police motorcyclist was from Leicestershire.

8.28am. Harry, Lenton's road sweeper, lives in Lenton and is based in Lenton Recreation Ground. He is well known among local residents and much respected. He told me that he had been at the Derby Road end of Gloucester Avenue since 6.30am and was blocking off the road with his barrow because there were not enough road cones.  

8.29am. Compare this pic with one I posted of the same scene on Monday just gone, when I was having a rant about rubbish. The front garden now looks like a small country meadow. What a difference an Olympic torch can make — can we have one in Lenton every day please?

8.30am. A few of the permanent residents on the north side of the Derby Road had got out their easy chairs to get a good view of the torch. When the torch actually went by it was such a scrum that I suspect their view was rather restricted.

8.30am.  No sooner had I taken the pic of the ladies in their easy chairs when this small bus came around the corner, followed by blaring speakers on the blue Samsung truck behind.

8.31am. Then came another corporate sponsor with more loud music handing out bottles of their tooth rotting soft drink. This is the side of the Olympic I hate. This kind of thing makes a mockery of the claim that the Olympics is about ordinary people. Perhaps, in truth, people see through this crude and nasty commercialism.

8.32am.  Next came a bank, whose young stooges appeared to be acting as cheerleaders on wheels, then the yellow coach behind briefly stopped and …

8.33am …off got a lonely torch bearer and from nowhere a small crowd began to gather around him.

8.35am.  Unfortunately I do not know his name, but during the few minutes he was standing here (the traffic lights behind are at the Derby Road junction with Lenton Boulevard) he posed for numerous photographs like this and the pleasure people got from holding the torch and having the pic taken was palpable and, without doubt, the best part of the few minutes the torch was in Lenton and a few yards from my home.

8.44am. As you can see from the time, the waiting torch bearer was waiting for a full twelve minutes, but after what seemed an age, the now familiar converted horse-box carrying the mobile TV camera crew came into view and with it, a large crowd too.

8.45am.  At this point trying to take a pic of the actual handover, as the torch passed from one  carrier to the next, was not easy as people with cameras (like me) pushed forward. Somehow I held my camera up high with one hand and pointed it in the general direction of the handover. I am amazed that you cannot see all the bodies surrounding me at this moment.

8.46am.   Then he was off…

8.46am.  …and before the minute was out he was gone, and that was the end of it and this was my last pic. I did look around to see if I could perhaps catch the young women in the wheelchair, but she had already gone, no doubt whisked away by Olympic minders so that the immediate focus would remain on the man with the torch.

In a sense not knowing their names captures the spirit of the occasion. They and all the other torch bearers are representative of countless other good folk who make life in our neighbourhoods a lot better with acts of quiet, unsung, kindness and sharing. — that is the good message from today's all few minutes of the Olympic torch in Lenton.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Lenton from the air in the 1920s

I have taken these three historic aerial photographs from a new online website called Britain from Above — a four year project aimed at conserving 95,000 of the oldest and most valuable photographs in the Aerofilms collection,  dating from 1919 to 1953. Once conserved, the photographs were scanned into digital format and  placed on this website for the public to see. The website launched recently with the first 10,000 images and is asking viewers to add additional information about the place shown in the photographs, as they currently have little information about the details in the images.
There are over 160 images of Nottingham and I have selected three which relate to Lenton in some way. The website will keep you occupied for hours!

This 1928 pic shows the Penn Avenue flats in Old Lenton. They were built in 1926 by Jesse Boot for his own employees and local residents whose homes were demolished to make way for Abbey Bridge road (which cuts across the bottom right-hand corner of the. The curving road behind is Church Street. Enlarged you can clearly see the Lenton war memorial and Albert Ball VC Memorial Homes. Then in the centre above the flats is Holy Trinity Church, Lenton's parish church. To the left of the church is Lenton Recreation Ground, much more open than it is today. An aerial photograph taken today would look very different!  

I have added a version of the above text to the online photograph, together with a pic of the flats I took in 2008.

A picture from 1928 of what was then the newly built University College, Nottingham. Again, what you notice is just how open the landscape is.

And this is Lenton Abbey from the south-west. Enlarge the map online and you can see Wollaton Hall in the top right-hand corner of the picture.

I have already been looking at other places I know. A great new, must see, website!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Lenton rubbish hit brings little comfort

Well, contacting Radio Nottingham brought Verity and her radio car to New Lenton, albeit at 7 o'clock this morning and she was a star. We positioned ourselves on the corner of Henry Road and Gloucester Avenue, which gave us a view of Devonshire Promenade and Lenton Boulevard as well, including the offices of the East Midlands Property Owners (EMPO — the landlords' association).

The City Council claimed that they were making a special effort in students areas and on Monday (yesterday) they came into New Lenton and cleared away some of the rubbish. The trouble is that they need to do this every day, but they think they're good at their job because they manage it just once.

The two pics below show 71 Lenton Boulevard before and after Nottingham City Council had paid the area a visit. The rubbish on the pavement went, but all the bags in the area between the wall and the front bay has not been touched. Now I know what the City Council will say, because I have heard the same old excuse countless times before: 'We can't touch it because it's on private property'.  The trouble is that the scavengers don't make the same fine distinction and I bet come Friday the City Council will have cleared it anyway because it will look bad on TV as the Olympic torch goes by, so why didn't they do it yesterday?

I asked on Radio Nottingham this morning why can't landlords be on hand when the students leave to ensure that all the bags of rubbish and other boxes they put out are taken away before the scavengers have an opportunity to tear open bags as they search for food and other items, such as clothing, bedding and household items like toasters and kitchen utensils, especially since EMPO claims to work 'in partnership' with the City Council to ensure the rubbish doesn't pile up on streets in Lenton and other areas.

EMPO's spokesman actually agreed with me, adding that he knew the area I was talking about and it was just like I said it was. He then went onto say that, personally, he did take away student rubbish when they left his properties, but he couldn't speak for other landlords. This prompted the Radio Nottingham interviewer to ask 'Why not? You're on this programme representing landlords'.

Yesterday afternoon my wife Susan took some pics on her travels, including this one of 271 Derby Road, by the Lenton Boulevard bus stop. Maybe this will get special attention because of the Olympic torch. We shall see. God forbid that City Council officers should do anything without being pushed — after all they they did arrange for special rubbish trucks to tour Lenton last Saturday and, for that, the few older folk and families still stupid enough to live in Lenton should be grateful!

Yesterday also saw M-S Estates send a van to 1 Devonshire Promenade to clear away all the broken bags and rubbish which has been lying around for the past ten days. How much easier (and cheaper) it would have been had this been done on the day the students actually left. In fairness to M-S Estates they do respond when asked to do things, but we shouldn't have to ask in the first place.

I went to bed on Saturday night feeling pretty low and I feel a little better this morning, having made my point without disturbing my two ward councillors, who must groan every time they are contacted by folk like me about rubbish. It is less than 48 hours since I took my first pics, posted them to this blog and contacted Radio Nottingham. The best I am going to claim is 'a result of sorts'. I suspect that I will be contacting my councillors in the coming days and apologising for disturbing them about uncollected rubbish. This is how its been for the best part of twenty years and I cannot see the situation be any better next year or the year after.

As for the landlords, they smile all the way to bank, subsidised by the very same Coalition* Government that wants to withdraw Housing Benefit from the under-25s. Nothing though about making student housing pay Council Tax. If only purpose-built student accommodation was exempt, I suspect that many houses  presently occupied by students would revert back to family housing. (* I never distinguish between Tories and Liberals as they are the same people in different clothing).

We must be mad to stay, but I keep hoping that, against all my expectations, things will improve!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Lenton rubbish pictorial

I took these Lenton rubbish pics this weekend and used them as the basis for a 'news' story I have sent to the Nottingham Post, Radio Nottingham and East Midlands Today (see after pics). I took a good few more, but I think these are enough to prove the veracity of what I have said.

This is how it has looked outside 1 Devonshire Promenade since last weekend when the students left. They had bagged everything up, but within hours scavengers had torn many of the bags open. Susan saw one carrying off a discarded duvet on the back of his bike. It is all too easy to blame students when the real culprits are the landlords / agents who are not on hand to supervise what students leaving a property do with their rubbish, the scavengers and, not least, Nottingham City Council who choose to ignore a problem they have helped to create by their indifference and disdain for Lenton's permanent residents.

On Wednesday, the binmen came and just passed by. One would assume that they are expected to report scenes like this when they get back to their depot or, in this day and age by making a simple radio call to their control centre. The point is nothing was done.

MS Estates' maintenance van has been at the house for several days during the past week clearing up and cleaning inside the house. Their sole workman has tidied up the rubbish at least twice and I spoke to him about the rubbish as well. I assume the students paid deposits and given the mess they left behind, they are unlikely to get them back.

It is the same every year.

This is what it looks like out 24 Gloucester Avenue. The binmen don't come until Wednesday and they are likely to leave this lot untouched, so this will get worse over the next few days.

The rubbish along Henry Road will get worse by the day and despite reporting, I am sure Nottingham City Council will do nothing about it until we get our ward councillors involved. It has been the same story for years, as the two pics below from 2005 and 2009 show. We have proposed solutions and got every house to support and have met with our councillors as well, but all to no avail.  What do we have to do to get attention?

My neighbour's solution is that we should take bags of rubbish to the Vice-chancellor's office and scatter their contents all over his office. I'd like to do the same at The Council House. Perhaps we will,  We would welcome the publicity and a court appearance would help in this respect. And what could they do to us?  We already active in the community, so a community service order would be OK with us. As for an orange 'Pay-back' jacket, I would wear it with pride and blog about the experience. There is always the risk of a fine, but we are pensioners on a low income, so to take money off us would show who side the courts are really on — the landlords, University and City Council.  No, unless they read this blog, I think we'll probably get a 12 month conditional discharge.

I don't want any of this, but I have reached the point where I am fed up chasing my ward councillors. In truth, I suspect that they as frustrated as we are when it comes to their ability to do anything lasting.

And last, in this small selection of pics, comes Lenton Boulevard. It's the same old houses again every year and nothing ever changes, but with the Olympic torch due to pass by here on Friday morning, I bet the City Council will have this lot away by Thursday and will be doing special street inspection to make sure that the visiting media and Olympic entourage do not how Lenton is normally treated by city council officers.

My press release, by the way, reads:

'Over the past week Lenton streets, like other students areas in Nottingham, have become littered with piles of rubbish, much of it left behind by binmen who do not take away broken bags or boxes left beside wheelie bins. Landlords then add to these piles of rubbish as they begin to clear out the houses and simply throw their own rubbish on top.

Lenton resident Robert Howard says 'Every year it's the same. Permanent residents like my wife and I have to contact our councillors before the City Council does anything'. Student properties do no pay any council tax, yet the council spends a great deal of public money clearing up their rubbish and helping landlords clear out the empty houses so that they can be ready for the new students in September. 'And whilst all this is going on, we have to live with all the mess and rubbish' says Robert.

Local residents are expecting Lenton Boulevard to get special attention over the next few days as the council makes ready for the Olympic torch run on Friday and will be watching to see what happens to all the rubbish on the surrounding streets. Robert and the few neighbours he has despair at what has become an annual problem in Lenton for the past twenty years, so they have been out with their cameras photographing rubbish and now have a large archive dating back over many years showing rubbish in the same places year after year.

Attached dated pictures show Henry Road in 2005, 2009 and 2012, where local residents have proposed several solutions, all rejected by Nottingham City Council! If this year is like previous years then we can safely assume that the pile of rubbish is just going to get bigger and bigger before the council does anything.  (I have pics in original file size if needed)'.

Now all I can do is sit back and see what happens.

Rufford by bus: a lovely day out

Nottingham's buses and my pensioner travel pass improve the quality of my life no end. Yesterday our travel passes took Susan and me to Rufford Abbey Country Park for the day. We left Lenton at 10.45am and arrived at Rufford just after mid-day, with a change of bus at the Victoria Centre in the city centre.

As you can see in this pic of the Victoria Clock Tower it was a lovely morning. For those who don't know the city, the Victoria Centre opened in 1972 on the site of the old Victoria railway station. It was a handsome mainline station and inspired a series of afternoon radio plays on Radio 4 a few years ago.

At the bus station, we caught 'The Sherwood Arrow', which runs between Worksop in North Nottinghamshire and Nottingham via the Mansfield Road as it heads north out of the city along a long country road before reaching the small villages of Farnsfield and Bilsthorpe and then Rufford, after which it heads towards Edwinstow and Ollerton, where it links with another bus going onto Worksop.

Britain and Ireland are probably the only places in the world where double-deck buses can be found travelling along narrow country lanes as my pic, taken between Farnsfield and Bilsthorpe, shows. The bus was quite full at times with buggies and mums trying to manage other young children as well. The drivers have my admiration in every sense. It's one thing to drive along these lanes on a lovely summer's day, but at close to midnight in the middle of winter, well, that must call for great skill.

The Sherwood Arrow bus dropped us off right outside the gates to Rufford Abbey, long closed now, but a reminder to just how grand the estate used to be. Back in my county councillor days I was closely involved in the creation of Rufford Abbey Country Park and persuaded my colleagues to create a sculpture park, albeit small at first, but given money to spend for a few years the officers and I soon built up a decent collection.

Over the road and in through the modern entrance made for cars (they don't expect visitors to arrive on foot or by bus as there is no footpath, so you have to cope with the cars, many who come past you at speed)…

…but it was only for five minutes or so, then we left the cars behind and passed through the old courtyard gates and into what is normally an empty quadrangle, but yesterday (Saturday) was home to some of the many stalls at the ceramics fair we had come to see.

We had an excellent early lunch for just £14, so that we could explore the ceramics fair at our leisure, but before we did we went on a short walk around the formal gardens and visited the old Orangery, which was originally built in the 18th century as a swimming bath.

In the gardens we found this new (and pleasing) contemporary brick seating area which was designed to celebrate the centenary of Girl Guide movement in Nottinghamshire in 2010.

And before we knew it, it was coming up the 4 o'clock and time to go and catch The Sherwood Arrow home. There are fewer finer sights in my mind than that of a double-decker bus going about its business in the English countryside, taking people to work and shoppers to town, enabling mums to get about with babies and young children in a way which was as good as impossible as little as thirty years ago. Before that buses had steps (and the older ones open rear platforms) and little space for pushchairs in the days before they became 'buggies'.  It is a pity that so few people now use buses outside the city and the fact that many services still run is because local authorities like Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire County Council support them with public money.

It was a lovely day out with the journey from Rufford to Lenton via the city centre taking no more than 70 minutes. If we had gone by car it would have cost £5 to park and at least as much for fuel.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Buses mag looks at Nottingham City Transport

The latest issue of Buses magazine (July 2012) has a very upbeat and positive four page article about NCT which is well worth reading. It is on sale in W H Smith's and at Nottingham Railway Station and costs £4.10.

Trent Barton had its own three page feature in Buses back in March 2010, which was equally as positive about Nottingham's other great bus operator and sub-titled the article, 'The black arts of branding'. Not everything is perfect, but it is the 99% good which makes the 1% 'bad' seem bigger than it is.

I have used buses all my life and have a particular love for the old London Transport double-deck 'RT' type. Thousands were built in the late-1940s and early-1950s before it made way for the iconic 'RM' Routemaster. I rode around London on all these buses as a kid and am old enough to have travelled on London trams and trolleybuses. The latter took me to and from work for a year before they disappeared. At the time, although only 18, I thought it a big mistake.  When Nottingham opted for the tram I argued with Labour Party colleagues for trolleybuses instead because they would have been cheaper and for the same money the city could have got a network four times as big, but it was not to be. The marketing men and the focus groups showed that trams were, in the words of a senior councillor, 'more sexy' and appealing to men who came to Nottingham in cars.

To say this should not be taken as criticism of what eventually happened. The tram has been a great success and is very much in Nottingham's municipal tradition of being good at managing public transport. There are things I don't like and there have been a few scandals along the way and I won't ever forgive the planners, Nottingham University and the councillors who decided to take half the back gardens on Greenfield Street in Dunkirk instead of following the proposed original line of the Beeston tram extension along East Drive between the Djanolgy Art Centre and Highfield Park. A planning condition was overturned without any public consultation and remains a potent reminder of just how much some so called Labour councillors are in thrall to big business and the universities in our city and treat the city's residents with disdain.

I persuaded Alan Simpson to speak on behalf of Greenfield Street residents at the planning enquiry into the route of the tram and I think of them every time I go along University Boulevard or visit Lakeside, which I do every week, but the tram itself is not responsible for how I feel — which is why I support the Beeston and Clifton extensions.

The City Council needs more powers if it is to manage public transport in Nottingham as well as it could. Ideally, there needs to be a conurbation transport 'supremo'. If the Coalition think we can elect a Nottinghamshire police chief, then why not let us elect someone to run public transport in the county?

Today I watched a NCT '36' and Your Bus 'Y36' following exactly the same route pull away from outside the Victoria Centre on Milton Street together. It happens regularly and is called 'competition'. It doesn't seem that way when you then have to wait 12 minutes for the next bus down the Derby Road to Lenton and, yes, you've guessed it, two arrived and left together. This time a NCT '35' and a 'Y36'.  Logic says that we need to manage bus routes in Nottingham just like they do in London by awarding 3–5 year 'contracts' to one bus company for a specific route and if they don't deliver the service they can be fined or even lose the contract. Ideally, of course, we should have just one bus 'mutual' for the city, owned by staff, passengers and local authorities in partnership. I am sure the voters would support this approach given the opportunity and I would happily buy 5% bonds to help finance such a mutual bus company.

Nottingham has much to be proud of when it comes to public transport and I don't doubt the commitment of most Labour councillors to ensuring NCT remains in council ownership. Long may it continue to be so.

Finally, I plan to write in the near future about how trolleybuses may re-appear on our streets, albeit more high-tech and that this is something we should push for in Nottingham on the busy 'Go2' routes.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Greater Nottingham page added

To the right you will see that I have added a 'Greater Nottingham' page which I will use to post information about the conurbation.

The only good thing about the Nottingham mayoral referendum was that it sparked a debate about the future of local government in the 'greater' Nottingham conurbation and it will be a pity if this discussion become just a distant memory and nothing comes from it.  For my part, I am biding my time.

I want to refer a submission I made to the House of Commons Community and Local Government Committee about the role of councillors in the local community, but this will have to wait until it is published by the Committee. I also want to see the latest Census data for 2011 and what the Parliamentary Boundary Commissioners propose for the Greater Nottingham area.

At the end of the day, an official examination of how the conurbation is governed  (a 'Principal area boundary review'  – its technical name) can only be triggered by all the councils involved, so I think it unlikely that the Local Government Boundary Commission for England will be visiting Nottingham for a good while yet — which is why we need some kind of independent local governance commission to collect the evidence and then publish a report about possible options for the future. I am convinced the evidence for change is overwhelming and only blocked by local politicians fearful of losing power.

As my table on the voting at the 2011 local elections show, Labour has little to fear from an enlarged city area, but fortunes can change and at some point in the future the Conservatives may well become the dominant force in the conurbation. My own ideas for the future place greater emphasis on the role of councillors in their own wards and creating a kind of 'two tiers in one' arrangement to counter what might otherwise be reasonable local objections.

I have posted two maps to the page: one showing existing town and parish councils; the other places with 15 minute or better public transport links with Nottingham city centre.

I have updated the information I have posted about council tax charges in the Greater Nottingham conurbation and have included links to tables showing parish / town council tax charges as well for Broxtowe and Gedling. Ruddington is the only area in the table with a parish council. The level of council tax across the conurbation for Property band 'A' ranges from £1053 (Gedling basic rate) to £1097 (Ruddington including parish council tax charge) — a very small margin of difference by any measure.

I hope the page is of interest.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

A soggy week in the park

Yesterday (Saturday) was Lenton's annual festival in Lenton Recreation Ground  and came at the end of a week of almost continuous rain!  Susan, Judith and I did tea and cake for £1 in the park pavilion and made enough at the end of the day to enable us to give £30 to the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum and West End Bowls and Social Club.  Fiona and Kirsty at the Forum worked hard to make it all happen and deserve our thanks.

I took this pic about 3pm when it did brighten up a little, but by this time a good many stallholders were already packing up. In the circumstances, they did well to stay as long as they did. The festival has now been running since the late-1990s and used to be in September, but got to moved to June so that local students could attend 'by default' insomuch as on good days they fill our little park. It's also become a way in which local residents have been able to 'reclaim' Lenton Recreation Ground for one day at least. Next Friday is the end of the current academic year and most of the students will be off home.

When Susan, Judith and I arrived at the park pavilion and started getting it ready to sell our tea and cake for £1 a serving, it was raining and it stayed that way nearly all the time we were open between 1 and 4pm.  We thought it would be bad for business, but I put the heating on and the pavilion became the one place where folk could be warm and dry.

On the right you can see two 'painted' faces. This is always popular at Lenton Festivals and has long queues throughout the day and, despite the weather, this year was no exception. By the time I had locked up the pavilion and was walking home it was 4.30pm and they were still painting faces in the rain.

Lenton resident Chantelle got my 'Award of the Day' for tenacity and stoicism because she was there at the end. I'm absolutely sure had it been a lovely day and the students were in the park they would have been buying her cupcakes by the dozen. She has set up a Facebook page to help her promote her new business, which she has called 'Cakes by Design'. 

Chantelle came into the pavilion to buy a hot drink and I felt so bad that we were selling cakes as well that I promised that if we did it again we would work with her as she deserves local support and encouragement.  Making lots of cakes usually includes the odd 'disaster' or two and so it was for Susan and me, so much so that Susan made me promise 'and hope to die' if I suggested such a thing again!  Chantelle may well be my 'get out' clause. I wish her every success.

Me, Lenton's Labour Party city councillor Sarah Piper and Tony Holland from The Bowls Shop, Radford, had our pic taken by Susan, which I have sent to the Nottingham Post along with a short press release in the hope they will use it. You can read more on the West End Bowlers blog.

Last Monday I played with West End Bowlers in a match against Vernon Park Ladies (who play in Old Basford) and, yes, it was raining when we started and got heavier as  the match went on, so much so that the game was eventually called off, but not before I took this pic of Anna from Vernon Park Ladies in her waterproofs. I think she looks a picture and thought I would like some bowls rain gear the same, but Tony Holland from The Bowls Shop in Radford told me it was discontinued some time ago, as it was designed for when ladies played in skirts, but since most now play in slacks there was no longer a market for them.

On Wednesday, I went round to open up the park pavilion for some bowlers (in the rain of course) and by the time I walked back this small marquee had gone up. The idea was that they would entertain and feed other park users but the rain was keeping the main users, students, indoors, except for these stalwarts from the University of Nottingham Christian Union — who were the organisers of the event.

On one level I love seeing Lenton Recreation Ground used in this way, just as I like to see the occasional wedding party from the Sikh gurdwara or the parish church in the park, but I would not like to see the park used for faith group (or political) rallies. I am not suggesting that this crossed such a line, but one has to be alert to these possibilities.