Sunday, March 16, 2008

Celebration at the allotments

The Lord and Lady Mayoress paid a visit to Thornbridge Avenue Allotments on Saturday - as did respresentatives of the Air Ambulance.

The Lord Mayor Cllr Randall Brew was there to open a new community room. The ambulance staff were there to receive a cheque from some of the energetic fund-raising at this busy allotments site.

The first picture shows Ray Hassall with the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress. The second shows the Lord Mayor making a presentation to the Ambulance, watched by allotments member Lyn Claxton.

There is plenty to celebrate at this centre. The allotments site has been extended towards Hassop Road and new plots added. And in addition to the community room, there's a new greenhouse. What is the greenhouse being used for? Volunteers are growing nursery plants in it and selling them on with proceeds being donated to the Air Ambulance.

Over the years this allotments site has raised thousands for the ambulance and for the Edward's Trust centre by the Children's Hospital from Christmas and summer fairs. We salute them!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Gates and gates

This is a reopened right of way on Calshot Road with security gates reinstalled.

It's a situation that has been dragging on since 2003 when somebody fenced off the right of way, top and bottom, with a view to claiming possession of the land.

You can see the remains of the fence, removed by the order of a judge in court last week.

The closure affected about 100 households in Calshot and Cramlington Roads, removing one of the accesses to the rear drives. Local residents took action, backed by the Booths Farm Neighbourhood Forum and the local councillors.

The forum is now planning to arrange for locks and keys on all the gates on this block and get it properly secured again. And as I write a tidy-up is getting under way to clear the drive and get it reopened.

This is great news and a sign of our commitment to ensuring that
a) residents can use the rear drives to get vehicles off the road
b) that these open areas are properly secured.

In the last year the ward has channeled some £21,000 into gating and fencing schemes in this ward and prior to that we'd been grant-funding resident initiatives up to 40 per cent since 2003, helping to kickstart many schemes.

Mostly it's great when residents can get together to organise one of these schemes. Sometimes it means there's a band of people willing to work together for the neighbourhood and, indeed, it was one such group which prompted the founding of the Forum...back in 2002. Many of its officers have devoted considerable energy and resources to the Calshot Road situation and deserve the gratitude of the whole community. We will now be encouraging the community to back the forum, alongside the Booths Farm neighbourhood watch - to ensure we continue to have a robust community.

But sometimes things go awry....

And the National Trust must be quaking following comments by the local MP in the Evening Mail yesterday. Mr Mahmood appears not to understand the difference between a public footpath and a public highway - even though it is the present government, which, to its credit, has done quite a lot to extend the footpath network over the countryside.

So the MP states that a public footpath has to be paved and lit. No it doesn't. Imagine lighting the coastpath network that the National Trust maintains! It's not practical and would defeat the object of many footpaths.

He's got involved on one side, five years late, in another situation that erupted in 2003 when some residents wanted to gate across a well established footpath linking Ipswich Crescent/Hatton Gardens to Beeches Road. At the time this led to crowded and noisy ward committee meetings and the ward councillors, regretfully, had to withdraw the grant we had proposed making to this gating scheme. It was a shame the organisers did not agree to look for compromise solutions to allow those residents continued use of the footpath - and at the time we indicated we would put more grant in if necessary.

As a result an application was made for it to be formally declared a public footpath. It doesn't necessarily mean the removal of the would still be possible to restrict vehicle access but in an openable side gate. As Jon stated in the paper, had they compromised originally it would have been possible to have a sidegate locked at night - or even with keys issued to other local residents. Now if it becomes declared a footpath, any side gate would have to remain open.

It's an unfortunate situation and since then we've tightened up on the guidelines for grants and applications. What happens to these patches of land is largely a private matter unless, in this case, there may be a public footpath involved. But we can influence people using grants and we can help share experience of what works and what doesn't. So several subsequent schemes have put in side gates to deal with this kind of problem.