2012 in The Meadows and Banner Town; to be reviewed.
Lots of good things happened; “we have grown, we have grown”.
Meadows in Bloom, a new community hall, crime down, a torch relay, a gold medallist, a new school extension, investment in homes, flood protection, outdoor exercise equipment, vibrant meetings, book launches and art exhibitions, sculpture and events, events, events.
Loads in the city centre of course, including light nights and games city, and a new creative zone. A re-discovery of the city’s rebellious past – Banner Town – as part of the preparations for a new attraction to Nottingham by the castle.
But we know that times are tough and there’s not enough jobs and not enough money in people’s pockets. Waiting lists are rising and the growth of certain kinds of admissions in A&E causes concern.
A lot has happened in 2012, thanks to a lot of people and thanks to previous commitments to better public provision.
So a quick re-cap of progress and other events from 2012.
Meadows in Bloom
The most visible sign of confidence in the community, the flower displays in the streets were tremendous and the improvement was recognised with a “Silver with Gilt” regional award and an invitation to compete in the national competition next year.
Arkwright Meadows Community Gardens
Some great events including the official opening of the new hall. The renewed lottery grant allows them sustain their work for a few more years.
Victoria Embankment and the Meadows Recreation Ground
£35 million of flood protection for the northern bank through Greater Nottingham was officially opened in September.
Investment in the Memorial Gardens has started.
OMTRA installed a bench in memory of the late Cllr. Ian MacLennan.
Outdoor exercise equipment paid for by the NHS has been installed alongside Felton Road and the playground near the river.
Consultation continued on developing a masterplan to attract lottery investment.
Olympic Torch Rally and other events
People came from some miles to see the torch carried through the Embankment, The Meadows and the city centre.
Torvill and Dean carrying the torch into the Old Market Square pleased many.
The square also hosted a number of cultural Olympics events.
One of the gold-medal canoeists lives in the Meadows too, but let us acknowledge his wish to credit his home town.
There were bigger cycling events and the Robin Hood half-marathon, in which my Susan ran for the first time ever and completed.
Queens Walk and the Rec
But it’s not all happy, even if the trees at the Rec in Autumn this year were spectacular, and shown to advantage on a special tour.
Cos the tram required the removal of over 50 mature lime trees. And the pollarding expected next year will make those that remain look brutal.
Some consolation in the significant concession to not re-route some of the utilities and thus save 29 of the trees that were at risk, following a strong plea from community activists.
Of those cut down already, the wood has been kept locally for arts projects, and although the first request to the Lottery has not been successful, a different bid for external investment is in progress. Some wood has been used to create a stepping play feature and some to create new sculptures.
Community Groups and public meetings
Community activists played a key role in saving the trees and the strength of community groups in The Meadows help make things happen.
Meadows Partnership Trust are running social enterprises to make up for losses in grant and have started running the Embankment Social Club in earnest.
OMTRA highlighted over 60 empty properties in the neighbourhood and held a big public meeting in August. Lilian Greenwood MP attended, along with organising 8 other meetings in the common rooms of sheltered housing during the summer Parliamentary recess.
Councillors started roving surgeries and hosted 2 public meetings on the budget and a Leader’s event. The ‘Your Choice, Your Voice’ / ‘Dragons’ Den’ evening was vibrant and well attended.
416 matters have been logged for chasing (drawing from conversations, comments at meetings, phone calls, letters, e-mails, Facebook and public comment) since October 20th, 2011. The high rate being a feature of picking up requests for information rather than failures in service.
Seeking to keep people informed prompted the creation of this photo-based web site in October.
End of month reports are still published on a six year old largely written blog, e.g. December.
Positive news here, but again qualified by news of cuts and challenges to front-line staffing.
New rotas mean uniformed presence is patrolling later as a matter of course.
A shooting at Bridgeway Court in September was a surprise and out of kilter with the progress being made in The Meadows.
Anti-social behaviour again picked up in the Autumn.
Tipping too requires constant surveillance, despite progress made on 2 particular hot-spots and weeks of action and other initiatives on the private alleyways in the Old Meadows.
A Nottingham Post article drew on a press release suggesting a third of the city’s tipping took place in Bridge ward. An error, we’re entirely in line with the rest of the city.
A recent dump of construction waste is the worst we’ve had and is being investigated.
As ever, instances of dog mess is being tackled, but there are also complaints about mess from cats and geese.
Permits were introduced for streets off Burge Close and Blackstone Walk.
But nuisance parking from commuters is growing elsewhere, and indeed can be predicted when the tram arrives. A survey is currently taking place for Houseman Gardens, Manifold Gardens and Kirkby Gardens.
A new radical number plate reading solution is envisaged for the shopping centre’s car parks and a report on the next step forward is expected in February.
Meanwhile, more out-of-centres big supermarkets (one soon near Wilford Lane) make business difficult for such local shopping centres, along with local people having less money in their pockets.
Plans for a big re-shaping of the shopping centre were lost when the ConDems stopped the £200m regeneration in 2010.
The lighting needs improvement and this is being looked at as part of the street lighting PFI programme.
Elsewhere, the streets are brighter, using new columns and modern lights that draw less energy but spread the light emitted more evenly. Installation started in the Spring, with the Old Meadows keeping a special style of lights that really adds to the character of the neighbourhood.
A congestion charge was introduced in April, making Nottingham only the second city to do a major scheme. Funds from the Workplace Parking Levy is paying for the city’s contribution to the renewal of the railway station, the construction of the tram and some local bus services.
A new car park serving the railway station was opened, but use and access to the station for passengers and vehicles got off to a confusing start once the renewal of the station started in November.
The tram will transform perceptions of the Meadows, but during the construction, residents are suffering some inconvenience. A significant part of Arkwright Street was lost for the new viaduct.
Keeping bus stops open during the works was harder work than expected.
For buses, support with bus fares for those who’ve lost Education Maintenance Allowance and a trial for a shorter journey bus fare. Nottingham City Transport again won awards for its excellence, but was challenged by the loss of the tram operation and by competition from other bus companies who don’t pay the wages and pensions to drivers that NCT do.
A new cycle hire scheme has been introduced.
Frontbencher Maria Eagle MP came to Loxley House in October to hear and see progress herself.
Housing renewal and regeneration
The Decent Homes Programme for council housing in the Meadows got into full stride.
Along Wilford Crescent West, “Crosswall” council housing was refurbished with better front and back walls, and “Crosswall” flats are being decommissioned (residents saying how cold the properties were), to make way for mixed ownership green houses that are currently being planned. A programme is in place for the demolition of “Q-blocks” (stacked maisonettes) and what replaces them is currently being designed and consulted upon.
Schools, education and reading
The three local primary schools are doing well and remain popular.
They were all in the top ten of city schools taking part in the Summer Reading Challenge organised through libraries.
The children’s centre is well regarded but a new Ofsted regime poses new challenges.
The library’s after-school provision remains popular and the library hosted the launch of a new novel in September.
The number of young children is growing and the most pressing Meadows problem is the provision of places for children in the reception year.
Welbeck School was expanded by a half in November with a splendid high-roofed and bright facility for the youngest children.
More is needed and the first consultation on doubling Riverside school has broadly found support; and a decision to formally consult on such a proposal is hoped for in January.
Meanwhile an announcement for a free school serving secondary children caused confusion, without having to offer commitments to a quality building.
Even if not new, the activities of the Meadows youth club on Wilford Crescent East has to be praised, frequently entertaining 50 teenagers each evening.
In the city centre, a highly equipped centre, NGY, was opened.
Jobs, training and money to live on
The most deep-seated and general problem.
The One Stop Shop continues to be highly regarded for the work it does, but it must be daunting with the challenges they face, including 22 people chasing every job. Frontbencher Sadiq Khan MP came to hear their concerns in October.
Local people continue to be challenged by employers recruiting people for below the national minimum wage.
The Meadows Advice Group continues to help people with financial problems, at a rate that matches last year. At the AGM, the Board welcomed 5 new members and discussed the 70th anniversary of the Beveridge Report.
The concern is for next year. Universal Credit is scheduled for next Autumn but there’s already talk of delays and problems cos of the presumptions of the availability of weekly data to make such a system work.
Requirements, from next April, for receivers of Council Tax Benefit to pay something (around £2) each week, and recipients of Housing Benefit with an empty bedroom to pay £12 each week will surprise (despite efforts to inform people including a letter to all claimants and a street stall at the Bridgeway Centre) and distress people in need.
Meanwhile, over 12 food banks have been started in Nottingham, and as a BBC documentary showed, people are going hungry. Meanwhile, the highest earners received a cut in their income tax.
City Centre living
Generally supporting conversion of unused property to student accommodation, partly to see property used, partly to relieve pressure on family housing elsewhere.
Rough sleeping is growing and have had to chase one or two instances of hard drug litter. Also one very bad instance of graffiti. One particular complaint about a bar condoning bad behaviour. Some loading issues with mini-supermarkets.
City Centre Shopping
The owners of Victoria Centre have now purchased the Broadmarsh Shopping Centre. There is now a debate on the future for the centre.
West End Arcade has gone most of the year without a connecting escalator / stairwell and some lobbying has been required; works should be finished soon.
Castle Lottery bid
The bid is themed on “Robin Hood and the Rebellions” and seeks to broaden the appeal to the visitor and tourist, who have plenty of shopping and food and drink to enjoy, but the Castle and the Robin Hood statue needs a bit more help.
St.Nicholas’ on Maid Marian Way has been renewed.
Nottingham’s rebellious history
So rebellious, the city was once the only garrisoned to be controlled and was known as “Banner Town”.
Roger Tanner took people on a walk of the meeting places of the Chartists, Luddites, Democrats and Paine-ites, and my nephew and I made a (simple) video to celebrate the 170th anniversary of “the Battle of Mapperley Hills” (available on YouTube).
Nottingham City Council finances
Cuts in national support for local services continued to be hardest in the cities of the Midlands and the North.
Service is being sustained by workers who are not getting pay increases, cutting backroom services and some cuts to provision. £3/4m was released by a new roster pattern for bin collections.
Community development and neighbourhood services are feeling the pressure despite coming together to deliver weeks of action and big attendances at public meetings.
Cuts also drove the decision to seek a new operator of the Portland Leisure Centre and Notts County in the Community have just been announced as the preferred bidder.
Government has not been great this year and “omnishambles” has now been written into the English dictionary, exemplified by G4’s failure to provide security for the Olympics. The March budget had to be revised in a number of ways.
The Prime Minister and Chancellor was accused of being “two posh boys who did not know the price of milk”. Real concern on their attitude to people on benefits.
Claims of one million new jobs in the private sector ignore a transfer of 100,000 from the public sector and 80,000 people who are working for nothing. Nor are the cuts in public service tackling the deficits – the target for a balanced budget has gone back 3 years after 2.5 years of gov’t. We had a double-dip recession.
Claims to be the greenest gov’t were undermined by a number of withdrawals of support for green projects and funds, that hit Meadows Ozone Energy Services MOzES and EnviroEnergy (a plan to expand District Heating in the Meadows was dropped).
After the outrage of phone-tapping of a dead woman, the Gov’t felt unable to implement the main findings of the subsequent public inquiry, despite a promise on legislation made to relatives, legislation which works in other countries such as Ireland.
Thankfully, Barack Obama won a second term as US President.
And at CERN, physicists confirmed a decades old theory of the nature of matter with the observation of the Higgs Boson. Now we just have to explain the missing two-thirds of the universe’s matter and energy.
Referendums and Elections
A referendum to have Nottingham run by one person – an executive mayor – was defeated here, as it was in 8 other cities. Only Labour party members seriously campaigned on this matter, although Alan Simpson, former MP, cracked that Nottingham needed an executive mayor like a dog needed flippers.
A new post of Police and Crime Commissioner was created in November. Only the Labour party seriously campaigned on this matter in Nottingham and Paddy Tipping, once a resident of the Meadows, was elected.
A whole series of by-election victories for Labour a fortnight later, including in Rotherham where there were all kinds of tricky issues, perhaps marks a sea-change in public opinion.
Other Labour movement events
Attending my trade union’s conference in Cardiff.
An inspiring speech by Dennis Skinner MP at a social in Sneinton.
Glenis Willmott MEP’s European conference on youth unemployment, with plenty of testimony to the exploitation of young people working in the city centre.
Much was made of Britain’s record-breaking achievements in the most modern era of the modern Olympics.
Whilst it showed what could be done by public investment in excellence, it also overlooked the ethos of the modern games, developed from the Much Wenlock Olympics – to encourage participation and improve public health.
Jamaica had a good games, something felt strongly at the ceremony to celebrate at the 50th anniversary of Jamaican independence at The Council House, when the first black female Sheriff of Nottingham did the ‘bolt’.
As it happens, it was a good year for my club, Shrewsbury Town, unbeaten at home for a whole season and promoted to the third tier.
It meant they played Notts County at Meadow Lane – “my Shrewsbury, my ward” I penned for the N Post – but they published the article in the opinion section rather than the sport. Highlight – a goal from a sixty yard run by Grandison.
“And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make”
So to end on a high. The Olympics’ presentation of British history and culture.
The closing ceremony’s “always look on the bright side of life”, including Indian dancers.
The opening ceremony’s celebration of the industrial revolution and of the National Health Service.
And the emotional “Abide with me”, commemorating those killed the day after the award of the games to London.
Leading to Paul McCartney’s –
“And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make”