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I attended the recent INWAC Meeting on 2nd April, 09 and came away extremely disappointed by the way in which the meeting was conducted. There were a number of points that showed the behaviour of some INWAC Councillors to be unseemly.

1. The Chairman of the meeting, Councillor Monaghan, was curt to several members of the public when he forcibly prevented proper debate concerning BBQs on Woodhouse Moor in the Open Forum. If these meetings are intended to involve the public in the consultation process, then this one failed. Large numbers of the public attended the opening but walked out feeling disenfranchised because they were prevented from speaking.

2. At the last INWAC meeting, held in February, a considerable amount of time was given over to the Open Forum to discuss 4 different local matters; 3 of which had little or no impact on the majority of Inner North West residents. Yet at this meeting a time block was put on BBQ’s, an issue which has relevance to and an impact on far more people than for example, the BMX track!

3. Councillor Atha made clear and well argued points against the proposal to authorise BBQs and was shouted down in the brouhaha style used in parliamentary politics at Westminster. Points of order were flying about as political scores were being settled by Councillors and the public were left totally unclear about why Councillor Atha’s proposal was ousted.

4. Councillor Ewens stated that a public consultation exercise was in process about BBQs so debate at this meeting was unnecessary. The fact is that most local, permanent residents have been excluded from the ballot about BBQs due to the undemocratic methods used to illicit opinion. That point was clearly made by Martin Staniforth (Chair of NHPNA) and accepted b y Councillor Matthews.

5. Permanent residents, who will be paying for the designated BBQ pitches and for the clear-up operations from the BBQs /bonfires that will inevitably be lit elsewhere, have not been consulted effectively. Yet the transient population of students, none of whom pay Council Tax and many of whom are not on the electoral roll in Leeds, have been enabled to voice their views freely. Consequently the results of the ballot are likely to be skewed.

6. In terms of the balance of arguments, although Councillor Matthews was the only member to actually voice his support for authorising BBQs on the Moor, one was left thinking that he was backed by the other Lib-Dem Councillors. He seemed to be saying that it was easier to take the line of least resistance to the hooligans who wantonly despoil Woodhouse Moor with their bonfires by providing them a designated area. The Council seems to be able to enforce a BBQ ban in other Leeds parks to counter the potential of environmental damage caused by fire. Why is this park different and why should it not be offered the same protection against damage as those in more affluent areas such as Roundhay?

7. Finally, the acoustics in the Jubilee Room were poor and it was difficult to hear what was being said by many of the Councillors and officers. This could have been rectified had a public address system been used or more simply, each individual should stand up and turn to address the public in a clear voice.

Overall I was not left with a very favourable impression of the way in which some INWAC Councillors use their elected power to represent those of us who are permanent residents in the city, who pay their Council Tax and who exercise their vote because they are on the electoral register.

Marian Smith, 19th April 09

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Null and Void


We were advised that 10,000 questionnaires would be delivered to households within 800m of Woodhouse Moor. I live within that perimeter, it is now 15/04/09, and I am still waiting, as are most of my neighbours. I know of precisely 1 who has received it. Something is up. Options follow:

  1. Council Officers lied (which I do not wish to think.)
  2. There has been a massive administrative bungle (wholly believable.)
  3. The private company retained to do the delivery has dumped most of the stuff and run off chuckling with the money (also wholly believable, and it wants looking into.)

In any case, this presumably renders the Consultation null and void.

(photo courtesy of net_efekt)

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Gerrymandered – That’s John Illingworth’s view

John Illingworth“It is interesting to compare and contrast the current council “consultation” on Woodhouse Moor with a previous council “consultation” in Kirkstall in 2006 on the future of the Kirkstall Mills. Both operations apparently had the same purpose, which was to solicit public support for something that the council’s officers had already decided to do. Neither exercise followed the clearly defined rules for a local planning consultation, which to my mind is the obvious model to adopt. The barbecue “consultation” uses different techniques (to the Kirkstall consultation) to achieve a similar gerrymandered result. Once again there is no effective check on the ballot papers and some of the information circulated by the council is misleading or wrong. In contrast to Kirkstall, which had a very tight closing date, the barbecue version seems an indeterminate exercise. Cynics might consider that the distribution has been delayed to avoid the university vacations and increase the likelihood of the desired outcome. An undemocratic choice of question has been used to prematurely close down the debate.

“It is good to see the flame of democracy burning bright ! Leeds City Council should give lessons to Robert Mugabe or Kim Jong-il. I cannot see the justification for perverse consultation techniques, when there is a perfectly good model available which has stood the test of time. A traditional planning consultation under the “Compact for Leeds” would last for 12 weeks, and would be open to anybody who submitted a written response which included their name and address. There would be no artificial boundaries and the consultation would be open to anybody with sufficient motivation to write. All the responses would come from named individuals and be available for others to read. This is less about drumming up votes and more about reasoned discussion and public debate”.

(published by kind permission of John Illingworth)

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INWAC stifles debate on barbeque areas

Three MonkeysLocal 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.

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The Council Has Concrete Plans for the Moor

Save Our MoorLocal residents came to Wrangthorn Church Hall this afternoon to protest against Leeds City Council’s plan to establish barbeque areas on the Moor. The plan involves sinking forty concrete slabs to a depth of 60cm on the most attractive part of the Moor in the hope that barbeque-ers will use the slabs to barbeque on instead of burning the grass. Council officers have costed the scheme at £20,000. On a hot day there can be 5,000 people on the Moor and hundreds of barbeques. Officers were unable to suggest where the excess over forty should conduct their barbeques. Leeds City Council seem to have forgotten that they distributed concrete slabs in this very area three years ago but barbeque-ers used the slabs to provide a stable base for wine glasses and bottles instead of for barbeques!  They said the closing date for getting forms back to them by is the 23rd April. Many residents pointed out that their own streets had had no survey forms delivered. One of the council officers said if people haven’t had a form, they should email him and he’ll send them one.  The question was then put to him “What about the people who should had a form but don’t know they should have had a form?” He seemed unable to provide a response to that question.

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dsc02893bIt was great that so many of you came out to the bowls pavilion on Thursday afternoon to express an opinion on the council’s barbeque proposal. It was wild and windy but that didn’t put you off.  Even Lib Dem Councillor Penny Ewens was there for part of the time. Councillor Ewens you should know, is a champion of a supposed right to barbeque on Woodhouse Moor. It’s great to know that in a ward where the bins regularly don’t get emptied, where rats roam freely feeding on discarded takeaways, and where illegal and dangerous parking is tolerated, that Councillor Ewens is prepared to use our council tax and council resources in her mission to establish barbeque areas on Woodhouse Moor.

dsc02879bEven Sparky the dog came along to have his say about barbeques. Sparky doesn’t like barbeques because when people leave them lying around, his owner won’t allow him on the park. Caring dog owners avoid the park when it’s covered with discarded disposable barbeque grilles as they can cause serious injury. One of Sparky’s doggy friends had to have stitches in his lip when he tried to eat the meat that had been left on one of the razor sharp barbeque grilles. Sparky lives on the other side of the road from the park. It’s a real shame that he and other dogs can’t use their local park because of Leeds City Council’s craven attitude towards the people who are making such a mess of the place. One thing I’m willing to bet, Sparky won’t be voting for Councillor Ewens when she stands for re-election.  And neither will his owner.

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A Rainbow over Little Woodhouse

There was a beautiful rainbow over Little Woodhouse this morning. I wonder if it means there’ll be no more student tower blocks built here (a senior Leeds City Council planning officer has described these edifices as the architectural equivalent of McDonalds). If so, the timing is perfect, since an application was recently submitted (application 08/06992/OT) for another one. It’s to be 7 storeys high and situated on Westfield Road. Leeds City Council has an obligation to establish balanced communities, and yet in recent years has given approval for the construction of several such tower blocks in and on the borders of Little Woodhouse.Little Woodhouse The most recent to be given approval was Chris Ure’s application to build on the former RSPCA site. When the planning committee met to decide the application, a Conservative councillor from Rawdon said “If we must have students, we might as well have them all in one place” ! It’s worrying that the future of our area is being decided by such a prejudiced outsider.

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Friday’s Barbeque Consultation at the Students’ Union Building

dsc02038a-downOur councillors are proposing two very large barbeque areas. These will be covered with concrete slabs in the hope that people will rest their barbeques on them. It wasn’t made clear what will happen if people don’t use the slabs or if they barbeque outside the designated areas. They don’t know yet how much all of this will cost if it’s implemented.

10,000 survey forms are to be issued to all households within 800 metres of the park’s perimeter.  Included with the survey forms will be prepaid return envelopes. The councillors who’ve made the arrangements for the consultation process are Councillor Penny Ewens (Lib Dem, Hyde Park and Woodhouse), and Councillor Jamie Matthews (Lib Dem, Headingley).  At the meeting, there was a display illustrating what’s being proposed, and two Parks and Countryside officers were present to answer questions. Also present was a Students’ Union representative who explained why he believes people should be allowed to barbeque in the park.
While the consultation was going on, a bonfire was blazing on the Moor. Even though fires are currently illegal on the Moor, the people who instigated this one were able to enjoy their blaze with impunity. Given that no action is ever taken against such people, one wonders what the current consultation exercise is all about. Do they think that by making barbeques legal, the problem will go away ? If so, it reveals that for our councillors, the problem is not barbeques – it’s local residents complaining about them, and our council’s failure to uphold the law in our local park. To see photos of the bonfire and its aftermath, and read about it, please go to Woodhouse Moor Online.

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“Hyde Park” or Woodhouse Moor?

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.

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Meet Chris Dickinson, INWAC’s Maine Man

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.Chris Dickinson

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.

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