Community consensus?

The Multi-Story Water project, in partnership with Kirkgate Centre, has recently been working actively in three different communities in the Shipley area… These are:

(1) the flats at Crosley Woods (actually Bingley – right next to the canal just past Dowley Gap locks);

(2) the Dockfields area (Dockfield Road, Dockfield Terrace, and the flats on Dock Lane);

(3) the Higher Coach Road estate (between Roberts Park and Hirst weir).

We plan to keep blogging about all this, while also of course seeking to respect the privacy of the residents and their discussions with us. Obviously we have to be a bit careful about what is said on a public forum like this one.

It’s fair to say, though, that our most recent meeting with Higher Coach Road residents — last Saturday morning (May 16th) at Bradford Rowing Club — was a very positive one, and that those attending now seem to have arrived at a good degree of consensus about what they’d like to achieve together. So it’s worth trying to briefly summarise what was agreed on, in order to share the plan more widely. Here goes:

1. Footpath project.  There seems to be universal agreement that the riverside footpath, running alongside the estate between Roberts Park and the rowing club, should become a proper footpath rather than just a track or “desire line” in the grass. This would have multiple benefits – including providing a safer, all-weather walking route; ensuring safer access (stepped and/or ramped) to the raised footbridge area near Bowland Avenue (currently quite treacherous to get up to from the grass); and finally, filling in a “missing link” in terms of local waterside paths — so as to create better connectivity for everyone around Shipley/Saltaire/Baildon. In this document, Stewart Gledhill, of Troutbeck Avenue, presents his own views on the potential of such a plan… he imagines a hardcore path like the one that runs past the rowing club, and that could potentially be built as a community project… Stewart’s suggestions have been greeted warmly by other residents attending our meetings. Everyone seems to agree that a project like this is one that might generate engagement and support not only from other residents on the estate, but from other people in the local area generally. Of course, the tricky part will be to get enough momentum going behind this that lots of people will want to invest their time and energy in actually making this happen…

2. Wildflower meadow. The flood plain area next to the estate has traditionally been just plain old grass, and gets very boggy in wet weather. Last year this grass was left to grow into a bit of a meadow because of council cuts to the lawnmowing staff, and this has inspired some residents to argue for a more permanent, planned wildflower meadow – to make the area more attractive. This is a bit more controversial than the path idea (e.g. concerns about dog fouling in long grass?), but there was general support at the meeting for the idea of creating a small, temporary “wildflower meadow” area this summer just to get a sense of what this might be like — and spark further conversation in the community. We have been promised poppy plugs by the council’s parks people, and as a group we’re hoping to plant these shortly to see what happens…

3. General care and maintenance. The main problems with the public areas on the estate at present are to do with a certain lack of care and respect in some quarters — littering, flytipping by the river, etc. But if the whole place looks a bit more cared for and planned out (see 1 and 2 above!) then maybe this will inspire a bit more respect from all concerned? (Just as Roberts Park has been much better treated by all, since it was refurbished under the Heritage Lottery Grant.)

4. Bins, signage, etc. If the footpath is made more ‘official’, this might also create the context for better provision of bins (for litter, dog muck etc.) along the way. And what about some signs to point the way or provide some information about the estate — make it part of the ‘heritage narrative’ in the area? (There is lots to justify this… e.g. see this previous blog post.) There has even been a suggestion for putting in simple exercise equipment at intervals along the footpath, just as you find in some parks. Obviously all this would require discussion with the council, and in “austerity Bradford” it might be tricky… but if we can get some real momentum behind the campaign, some of this might be achievable?

5. One way system? Finally, moving away from the river and grass up to the road, there is much consensus that Glenwood Avenue and its linked roads get too clogged up with traffic and parked cars pointing in different directions. The remarkable Stewart Gledhill has again suggested a simple but perhaps workable solution — by proposing that you could have two one-way loops. You would enter the estate at Gorse Avenue, and then turn either right or left along Glenwood Avenue, before exiting back onto Coach Road at one end of the estate or the other. This would ensure traffic flow and parked cars were always pointing in a single direction, and so hopefully reduce congestion. Again, there seems to be general support for this idea, and it wouldn’t need to cost a lot in terms of signage etc. We are hoping to raise it with Paula Truman, the new ward officer for Bradford Council, but in the meantime we need to keep talking to other residents to see if there would be any objections to the idea that we haven’t thought of.

There’s quite a list of ideas here, and the important thing to underline here is that they are just ideas at this stage. This means that:

(a) Nothing has been finally decided on … so there is lots of opportunity for other people to make their views heard …

(b) None of this can or will happen unless we can generate enough support and interest from other residents to really get the ball rolling. All that Kirkgate Centre and Multi-Story Water can do is try to facilitate the development of that community conversation…

One way we’re hoping to get more involvement is by organising some events this summer that will create the opportunity for some fun and some discussion… So keep an eye out!




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