Hyde Park Road is not a rat run as claimed by Highways. It is a through road and wide enough for two way traffic when not obstructed by double parked cars. According to Highways, the problem of double parking has led to cars meeting head on and having to reverse. Highways propose to deal with this problem not by using double yellow lines, but by closing a small section of the road to southbound traffic. Whilst this might solve the problem of cars meeting head on, it will cause several other far more serious problems.
By making it difficult for shoppers to access Woodsley Road, the one way system will encourage many to do their shopping elsewhere. Recently £65,000 was spent on improvements to Woodsley Road in order to attract more shoppers. £40,000 was voted by INWAC in February 2008, with the remainder coming from ward councillors and Groundwork. Street lighting has been replaced, the road has been resurfaced and new paving, benches and planting have been installed. Residents-only parking permits and limited-time parking have been introduced to combat the problem of commuters leaving cars there. And this Christmas, for the first time ever, the road was illuminated by festive lights to brighten it up and attract more shoppers. Councillor Chastney is quoted as saying “We are very happy to be supporting this regeneration work. The concerns of the local residents have been listened to, so I’m sure this road will become the vibrant, modern and accessible shopping area they need.” All this money and hard work will have been wasted if the residents of Hyde Park, North Hyde Park and Headingley Hill are denied easy access to the shops on Woodsley Road, which is precisely what this scheme would do.
The drivers of delivery vehicles and others seeking access to the shops on Woodsley Road will be forced to drive along the narrow residential streets adjacent to Hyde Park Road, many of them double parked by commuters. This will create a nightmare situation for the residents of these streets with increased noise and pollution, and an increased risk to the pedestrians and motorists using these streets.
Those who currently double park on the stretch of Hyde Park Road to the south of the proposed one way section will very likely choose to double park on the stretch to the north, including the stretch adjacent to Woodhouse Moor, exacerbating the already bad problem of double parking on this part of the road. This proposal will effectively turn this part of the road into a car park for commuters, passable only by single lane traffic.
We therefore ask that you write, both as a group and individually, to the Chief Highways Officer, Gary Bartlett, and also to the member with responsibility for Highways, Councillor Richard Lewis, asking them to drop this scheme, and to replace it with a scheme to restrict parking to one side of the road only by the use of double yellow lines and enforcement.
Highways are claiming that their proposal will address speeding on Hyde Park Road when clearly making the road one way will do the opposite. In addition, they are claiming to have consulted the community, when our presence here this evening shows that there has been a clear failure of consultation. We therefore ask that you refer this proposal for Scrutiny so that all its failings can be examined and the appropriate lessons learnt.
Councillors were very supportive and agreed to write asking for the scheme to be scrapped and to ask for Scrutiny. But at the suggestion of Councillor Akhtar, they decided to delay taking any action until after a meeting had taken place the following Monday between Councillor Harper and Councillor Lewis (a meeting that was subsequently cancelled).
Last night’s INWAC meeting was held at Hawksworth Wood Primary School, and it was just like being back at school for the many residents who had made the effort to attend. Newly elected chair Councillor Ben Chastney had clearly done his homework before the meeting and come up with a rule that allows him to prevent people asking questions. When people wanted to ask senior Parks and Countryside officer Phil Staniforth questions related to Woodhouse Moor, Councillor Chastney announced that questions could only be put if they were tabled in advance ! And so Mr Staniforth was spared having to answer any awkward questions. And councillors were spared the embarrassment that might have resulted.
And then Councillor Hamilton said he’d heard about the recent Hyde Park and Woodhouse Forum, and how unpleasant it had been. Councillor Hamilton said that councillors treat residents with respect, and that residents should reciprocate by showing respect to councillors.
I’ve deliberately refrained from mentioning what occurred at that Forum to spare Councillor Ewens any embarrassment. But now that the issue has been raised at INWAC, and since residents had no opportunity to reply, the record needs to be set straight.
Councillor Ewens drew up the agenda for the last Hyde Park and Woodhouse Forum without asking residents beforehand what they’d like to see on it. This is something Councillor Ewens always does, but on this occasion, residents voted for a different agenda, and as a result, Councillor Ewens offered to resign as chair. That was it. There was no unpleasantness.
And in relation to Councillor Ewens, the record also needs to be set straight regarding what Councillor Hamilton said about councillors treating residents with respect. It was not respect that Councillor Ewens was showing when she excluded residents from the multi-agency meetings that took place a year ago and which came up with the barbeque proposal – it was contempt.
The council wants you to believe that it had no option but to change the byelaws to make it possible to have designated barbeque areas in parks, claiming that there had been changes to the government’s model byelaws, and that amendments were needed to the city’s byelaws to make them conform to the now supposedly amended model byelaws. The truth is that there had been no change to the government’s model byelaws. The latest edition of the model byelaws was published in December 2005. The council introduced byelaws based on those model byelaws in August 2006. There was no need to amend those byelaws in September 2008 as claimed by the council, as there had been no change to the model byelaws. The fact that the council is lying about why it changed the byelaws means that the real reason must be very embarrassing. And what could be more embarrassing than to change the entire city’s byelaws, just so it can get out of its duty to enforce the byelaw banning barbeques on Woodhouse Moor ?
The fact to remember in all this is that the byelaws were changed following Councillor Martin Hamilton’s statement at INWAC on the 3rd July 2008 that he now favoured the idea of barbeque areas on Woodhouse Moor.
At the last INWAC meeting on the 2nd April, the chair, Councillor Monaghan (Lib Dem, Headingley) promised to arrange a meeting between councillors and representatives of the three local community groups. The meeting was supposed to have taken place at 2pm this afternoon at Wrangthorn Church Hall. Unfortunately it never took place. Two days ago, Councillor Monaghan cancelled it on the grounds that it had been arranged to discuss the result of the consultation, and that since those results had been delayed, there was no point holding the meeting. But the purpose of the meeting had never been to discuss the results of a flawed consultation. The meeting was to discuss the concerns of local residents and had been offered solely as a result of the protests made by local residents at the last INWAC meeting.
The community associations who’d been invited made clear to Councillor Monagahn that they did not accept the reason he’d given for cancelling the meeting, and said that they would be attending as originally planned, and expected to see him and his colleagues at Wrangthorn. But when they got to Wrangthorn, the hall was locked. The councillors and council officers they’d been hoping to meet, never turned up.
Instead of deciding unilaterally to cancel the meeting, how much more democratic it would have been had Councillor Monaghan explained his point of view, and asked if the community groups still wished to proceed with the meeting. If residents’ views on such a relatively minor issue as a meeting don’t matter to our councillors, it helps to explain why they’re hell-bent on proceeding to the bitter end with a consultation exercise in which only 25% of us have received survey forms.
There was an article in today’s Yorkshire Evening Post about INWAC agreeing to give £20,000 to a £1million project to add hanging baskets and pocket parks to Woodhouse. The article doesn’t make clear if the £1million has definitely been allocated, or if it’s just an amount that’s aspired to. If it has been allocated, the money is probably section 106 money. Section 106 money is the legal bribe paid to the council by developers when it grants them planning permission to do things like knocking down Perseverance Mills so a student tower block could be built on the site, allowing building on school playing fields in the area, allowing a student development on Shay Street, and giving Leeds University planning permission to build on the former Grammar School Protected Playing Pitch. The article also states that Councillor Kabeer Hussain (Lib Dem, Hyde Park and Woodhouse) has agreed to give £10,000 from money that councillors are allowed to allocate towards projects in their ward.
Do our councillors not realise that hanging baskets do not make up for the loss of playing fields and historic buildings ? And do they really expect us to believe that the same people who were so enthusiastic about the proposal to build a pay and display car park three years ago on Woodhouse Moor, have suddenly turned over a new, green leaf ?
According to Greek myth, the goddess Athena was born fully grown. In modern times we’re much too sophisticated to believe that such a thing could have happened. But apparently we’d be wrong. For our councillors are now telling us that the proposal to build designated barbeque areas on Woodhouse Moor just appeared, and had nothing whatsoever to do with them. Just how likely is this ? For a clue, let’s go back to July 2008 and examine the timetable of events :
At an INWAC meeting on the 3rd July 2008 Councillor Hamilton and Councillor Matthews both spoke in favour of barbeques, with Councillor Hamilton saying that he had changed his mind about barbeques and now favoured barbeque areas on the Moor.
On the 2nd September 2008, the council’s Executive Board gave its approval to a proposed change in the wording of the city’s parks byelaws. Whereas previously the byelaws had said it was an offence to light a fire anywhere outside a “designated camping area”, they were now to say it would be an offence to light a fire anywhere outside a “designated barbeque area”.
On the 17th December 2008, central government gave its approval to Leeds’ proposed change to the wording of the byelaws.
Then in early March 2009, laminated A3 colour posters appeared on a large number of trees on Woodhouse Moor asking “Do you want to barbeque on Woodhouse Moor?” and advertising drop-in sessions to be held at the Student Union Building and the Bowls Pavilion.
So, how likely is it that our councillors had nothing to do with this proposal ? You don’t need the wisdom of Athena to come up with the answer.
Local residents left last night’s INWAC meeting outraged at the way debate on the barbeque proposal was stifled. People had gone to the meeting to hear councillors respond to the community’s assertion that barbeque areas are a bad idea. But only three members of the community were allowed to speak. One of those prevented from speaking was Sue Buckle, chair of South Headingley Community Association. Several of her members live very close to the Moor and are badly affected by barbeque smoke drifting into their homes. By not allowing Sue to speak on their behalf, her members were effectively denied a hearing. When Councillor Atha proposed a motion that the consultation be abandoned and that the existing ban on barbeques be enforced, the Lib Dem councillors vetoed his motion.
Our councillors remind me of the proverb of the Three Monkeys. They won’t hear anyone speak against barbeques areas, they refuse to see the negative aspects of barbeque areas, and they try to avoid expressing an opinion on barbeque areas.
The above photograph of the Three Monkeys is published courtesy of Antrix.
I met Chris Dickinson at this afternoon’s consultation event that was held at Wrangthorn Church. Chris is our new local Area Management Officer in charge of the team which provides support to the twelve local councillors who together form INWAC (Inner North West Area Committee). Chris is a native of Maine, who has managed to retain his charming accent, despite having lived in the UK for quite a number of years. He’s very keen to work with residents and councillors to make this a better place for everyone, and with all of his American energy and enthusiasm, I really believe he could succeed.
This afternoon’s event was well attended and there were plenty of people there from council departments and the police to answer questions. There was also a very interesting and attractive display of the Little Woodhouse Neighbourhood Design Statement. This will eventually be published by the council as a Supplementary Planning Guide which then ought to be used to inform planning officers and councillors when deciding whether to approve planning applications.