On the eve of the Council’s Executive Board meeting tomorrow, the Yorkshire Evening Post has spoken out fiercely on the Woodhouse Moor concrete barbecue zone.
Leeds City Council, it says in its editorial, “has taken fence-sitting to amazing new levels: it has made it an Olympic sport”.
The paper is unequivocal: “Our message to the council is this: it’s a crackpot idea.”
Even if the senior councillors are listening, even if the decision has not already been taken, the principle of meaningful democratic engagement is too important to be undermined; and Woodhouse Moor will not be abandoned.
Next week, on the 26th August, the Council’s Executive Board will meet at the Civic Hall; and one of the items our senior councillors will be considering is the Woodhouse Moor barbecue issue.
The report sets out three options: enforce the bylaws; put in a concrete barbecue area as originally suggested; or trial a barbecue area using “cellular grass paving”. At a cost of £22,400.
Cellular grass paving, to you and me, is the matting they put on car parks so that clumps of dishevelled, petrol-soaked grass can poke through the weaving black plastic to give the impression, the illusion, of open green space.
In other words, it’s exactly the same policy, with a material just as unsightly as concrete. The trial will be from the 1st of April “until the end of the barbecue season”, whenever that may be.
April fool! The one thing to be said for it is that the trial will be run throughout the local elections.
Over a year ago, Council and Leeds University staff held a series of closed-door meetings to discuss anti-social behaviour on Woodhouse Moor. Councillors Jamie Matthews and Penny Ewens were at those meetings; but although reps from the Students’ Union were present, no other community groups were represented.
It was then that the scheme for a barbecue area was conceived. In December, the Leeds University Community Rep., who knew that there was to be a series of consultation meetings three months before anybody else, was drawing up letters for students to sign and give to the Council. All other sections of the community, from neighbourhood associations to the Mosque, were in the dark.
Then in March 2009, posters went up on the Moor. A large colour photo showed people basking in the Elysian sunshine. “Do you want to barbecue on Woohouse Moor (Hyde Park)?” the poster asked, without explaining that answering “Yes” to that question would approve sinking forty huge concrete blocks into the oldest public park in Leeds.
This was the first that anybody except the Students’ Union, Council Officers, and University employees had heard of the plan. Two drop-in sessions were scheduled: one of them was in the Leeds University Students’ Union.
The form made available at these drop-ins was starkly simple. Again, the question was put, “Do you want a designated barbecue area on Woodhouse Moor Park?” You could answer “Yes” or “No”. Ongoing debate was terminated. You didn’t have to put your name and address on the forms – so people could fill in as many as they liked. The consultation had no deadline.
And 10,000 of these forms were, apparently, mailed out to all houses within an 800m perimeter of the Moor. Vast swathes of the catchment area didn’t receive one.
But fear not! The Council yesterday produced a report on the conduct of this dubious farrago. It insists that asking people to vote “Yes” or “No” to a proposal is not a referendum; it’s purpose was rather to “illicit the range and balance of views on this issue” and “gauge…the respective arguments”. They gauged the range of people’s views by asking them: yes or no?
And the delivery company contracted to deliver the forms, Distribution Business Services, are glowingly exonerated. Twenty households made a formal complaint that they had not received a form. In all but one case, DBS was able to confirm delivery. Though How they were able to confirm this, the report does not explain.
One form, alas, couldn’t be delivered due to obstructed access to the property; but this was subsequently rectified. Furthermore, says the report, DBS have ISO9001:2001 accreditation!
The people of Hyde Park and Woodhouse can breathe a sigh of relief. Everybody has received a form. The seventy people at a public meeting who claimed they hadn’t got one were obviously lying.
On the 29 April the Yorkshire Evening Post lead with a scathing editorial on Council proposals to sink concrete blocks onto Woodhouse Moor to accommodate barbecues. Part of the editorial is quoted below, with the kind permission of the editor.
“It is scarcely credible that Leeds City Council has reacted to the spread of illegal barbecues on Woodhouse Moor with plans to sink dozens of concrete slabs into the turf to allow them to continue. The area would consist of 40 slabs, each measuring 60cm by 90cm on which portable barbecues could be used. The idea has left residents and community groups wondering who poses the biggest threat to the moor: those who start barbecues there or council chiefs who would tackle the problem in such a ridiculous way.
“Council bosses would do well to remember that Woodhouse Moor belongs to the City of Leeds and its people – not to those who come to study here for half of the year. And while students are very welcome, contributing as they do to the life and and economy of the city, Woodhouse Moor is not an extension of the university campus.
The YEP’s view is that the council would be far better employed making efforts to ensure that those coming to study in Leeds learn to understand exactly where the campus ends and the rest of the city begins. Click here to read the full article.
In the early 1800s a family called Atkinson had a farm on the site of what is now Wrangthorn Church, whose fields stretched down as far as Woodhouse Ridge.
Atkinson and a few friends hired a hansome, and took a trip down to London. After the three-day journey back from the great capital, and over a bowl of punch, talking over their trip, Atkinson re-named the edge of Woodhouse Moor at Wrangthorn “Hyde Park Corner” in honour of their visit.
The name stuck; the area became known as Hyde Park. This was attested to in letters to the Leeds Intelligencer, from a man who knew Atkinson in his day. Woodhouse Moor is in Hyde Park.