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. 

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