Telling the Story of Dockfield…

This Saturday, 1st April, at Saltaire Brewery – between 4pm and 8pm – we are proud to be co-hosting a special event for residents of the Dockfield area. It’s a chance to meet, chat, eat, sample the beer, and find out more about what’s going on in the area. There’ll be some acoustic music from Eddie Lawler, and a quick plug for This Island’s Mine — the short play we’ve made from our research into the area’s distinctive history and identity… Here’s the flyer!

Dockfield play flyer (1)As the flyer says, this is a piece that’s been especially made to take into people’s homes (although we’re also planning a few shows in the ‘Brewery Tap’ at Saltaire Brewery – details tbc). We wanted to make something that doesn’t have the formality of a ‘proper play’, and that feels relaxed and fun for everyone (kids as well as adults). We figured you’re most likely to feel relaxed at home — hence the idea of bringing it to you. It’s available on a range of dates in April, and it’s completely free of charge! Just call Lyze on 07713 357706 if you’d like to book us in for a visit.

The play features two actors (Steve Bottoms and Kat Martin) whose characters are fictionalised versions of some of the local residents we’ve met and interviewed. The title, This Island’s Mine, is inspired by one person who told us that – as a kid – he always thought of Dockfield as an island (because it’s bordered by the canal, the River Aire, and Bradford Beck). Perhaps you’ve never seen it that way – but in a way that’s the point… We’re hoping the play will spark reactions and further conversation… Maybe you’ll want to share a few memories or stories of your own in response? (or not – up to you!)

This is all part of an ongoing research project into some of the waterside communities in the Shipley area. We’re using various events, performances and conversations to share our findings with members of the community, to create a kind of ‘feedback loop’. Hopefully we all learn something that way, and have some fun doing it.

We’re really interested in your thoughts about Dockfield, and how life here could be further improved. Do join in the conversation!

 

 

Dockfield – going through Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes…

On Saturday 1st April, from 4pm-8pm, the Multi-Story Water project will be co-hosting a special event for residents of the Dockfield area at Saltaire Brewery – in conjunction with the Brewery and with Shipley’s Kirkgate Centre. It’s an opportunity for people in the neighbourhood to get together for a drink and a bite to eat — to celebrate Dockfield’s distinctive heritage and community — and to share some thoughts about what’s happening in the area now… Do come and join us!

IMG_2377Dockfield is in a state of transition today — just as it always has been. Residents and businesses come and go… buildings go up and come down. Right now, there’s a new residential building going up right at the junction of Dock Lane and Dockfield Road…

IMG_2378In this picture above, taken a couple of weeks ago, you can see the distinctive outline of the Amber Wharf flats — just across the canal from this construction site –about to be obscured by the rising walls of the new building. Of course, the previous building on this site was single-storeyed, but not this one…

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Not so long ago, the flats were still clearly visible across the site… And just last summer, the area was completely clear… just awaiting new development….

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The sense of ongoing change that, in many ways, defines Dockfield is perhaps summed up in the picture below… Here, on the other side of the Dock Lane junction, looking east, you can see a lump of old wood on top of a post… leftover from who knows what? … which currently serves as a makeshift sign for Saltaire Angling Association — warning away unlicensed fishermen…

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The sign makes a claim to private rights, but it’s clear from our interviews with local residents that the canal always used to be seen as a community asset. People fished in it, swam in it, you name it… One interviewee memorably referred to it as “the Leeds-Liverpool Lido”…

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The canal itself has been in a state of transition recently. Just last year, the Dock Lane swing bridge got a complete makeover… This followed on from the re-paving of the towpath the previous year – although the new surface only extends as far as the swing bridge (as you can see in the last but one picture, cyclists are then advised to switch over to the road from the rough track beside the canal).

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Here’s the lovely new, railinged platform area for the swing bridge operating panel. This has gone all high-tech and automated now, replacing the crank handle system that had been there for decades… It used to require 18 full turns, I’ve been told, to open or close the swing bridge… And if you didn’t do enough turns when closing it, then the bridge wouldn’t be lowered properly back into place, and there’d be a horrible banging noise any time a car drove across it… This would keep some nearby residents awake at night, so hopefully the new system is an improvement!

A continuing issue for residents, though, is the far more unsightly state of things directly across the swing bridge, where a big row of containers — effectively just skips full of weight to prevent them being moved — hugs the edge of Dock Lane…

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I’ve been told that the containers were put here some time ago to prevent travellers from moving onto the land just east of Dock Lane here, next to the canal… That land is still earmarked for new residential development, and the owners don’t want squatters.

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But I gather there are various complications for the site owners here — including a lack of existing service infrastructure (eg water and sewage pipes), as well as issues around financing etc. Whatever the reason, the site has remained empty since the last pre-fab industrial building was removed from it… leaving just an exposed concrete floor through which nature somehow finds its way…

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I must admit that the persistence of nature in this long-industrialised area is one of the things that appeals to me about Dockfield. There’s this rather lovely row of self-seeded birch trees, for example, which has grown up at the edge of what remains of the Bradford Canal (at its junction, here in Dockfield, with the Leeds-Liverpool…).

IMG_1406And then of course there are the local swans, much loved by the residents here, who have adopted the area and seem to be in no hurry to leave. For the last couple of years, they have nested right here, along the snicket alongside Junction Mill, that links from the towpath through to Dockfield Road…

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This picture is from last year… when the swans returned to nest in the same spot despite having been plagued by some unscrupulous egg-thieves the year before (or so I heard). I wonder if they’ll nest here again this year…? In the shadow of Junction Mill and the local razor-wire…

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Dockfield is a special place. An “island”, one resident told me, sandwiched between the river, the canal, Bradford Beck to the west, and – to the east – a road dead-ending in fields. It’s maybe not a place people come to visit, but it’s got a special history that we’ve been exploring through both interviews with residents and archival research. In April, we’ll be presenting the findings of this research in the form of a specially-written play, This Island’s Mine. We’re hoping to perform it (free of charge) in residents’ living rooms and kitchens, as a conversation starter… Just call us if you’d like to book us in! (Steve is on 07504 417323)

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Spared by Storm Doris

This was the slightly scary-looking state of Saltaire weir, three nights ago on Thursday 23rd February, after the country had been battered by Storm Doris…

16865113_10211387956322079_5698127446383449307_nOnly this morning, Ireland was hit by the next alphabetically-named storm coming off the Atlantic this winter — Storm Ewan. (Previously we’ve had Angus, Barbara and Conor. Sounds more like a sitcom than extreme weather, but whatever…) Thankfully, there’s been nothing like last winter’s “E” storm — Eva — which brought the chaos of the Boxing Day floods. But as these images show, the Aire was again perilously close to breaking its banks on Thursday…

16649155_10211387956882093_8829426053666866144_nThese pictures were taken by Higher Coach Road resident Syra Lax, who posted them on the HCR Residents’ Group facebook page (from where I have pinched them, with her kind permission). That page is becoming a really valuable source of local news, debate and eyewitness observation. Since it is intended for “Higher Coach Road Residents Group and Friends”, I recommend getting yourself added as a friend, even if you don’t live on the estate.

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A Bridge Over Troubled Waters?

panoramaLike many people, I’ve spent a lot of time this week trying to make sense of the chaotic whirlwind that has been President Donald Trump’s first week in office. Events in Washington don’t normally have much to do with the waterways and communities of Shipley (this blog’s usual subject matter), but there was something about the Women’s March held last Saturday in Shipley town centre — in protest at Trump’s inauguration — that resonated deeply for me. Let me try to explain why.

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The march in Shipley was, of course, one of many held all around the world. But unlike most of the other places where this happened, Shipley is not a major city. It’s not London or Manchester or Glasgow or even Leeds. It’s a small, former mill town, and the decision of some of its citizens to march was curious enough to attract journalistic comment as far away as India. The specific, local incentive for the action was a kind of subsidiary protest against the local Conservative MP, Philip Davies, who has stated that he would have voted for Donald Trump “in a heartbeat”. But it’s not just his liking for Trump that has antagonised Shipley’s self-proclaimed “Feminist Zealots” (their name is an ironic dig at Davies’s derogatory terminology); it’s their sense that he seems similarly reluctant to treat women as equals. Davies may not have been recorded boasting about grabbing small felines, but his membership of Parliament’s Equalities and Diversity Committee is — as even he would likely admit — about as natural a fit as asking Nigel Farage to join the European Commission.

women and placardsI will nail my colours to the mast and say that I whole-heartedly support the Feminist Zealots of Shipley — from whose previously ‘secret’ Facebook feed I have nicked these pictures of the march (with apologies to the photographers). But I also think it’s important to say that Philip Davies is not a man simply to be rubbished and ridiculed (despite the best efforts of, say, comedian Russell Howard). Whatever one thinks of his politics, it’s hard to deny that he is also a hard-working constituency MP who is quite remarkably responsive to the needs of constituents, regardless of who they vote for, or indeed what sex they are. I’ve lost track of the number of stories I’ve heard from local people of how he has helped them out with pressing problems to do with housing, local services, etc. Davies has earned the gratitude and respect of many, which is no doubt a big part of the reason he gets re-elected. So it was great to see that even the protest against him was voiced in a creative, generous spirit, rather than in the kind of divisive, aggressive language that Donald Trump himself has become known for:

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This slogan — “Bridges Not Walls” — recurred on a number of placards on the march, and exemplified the spirit of wanting to build and heal, rather than divide and antagonise. It’s also a gift to your local water-blogger, because of course Shipley has no shortage of bridges. Off the top of my head, I count seven road and footbridges across the canal between Dockfield and Hirst Wood (not including the lock gates, which you can also walk across), and a further four across the River Aire. (Of course the canal even takes a bridge of its own over Bradford Beck at one point, just to underline my point…) In short, in the Shipley area, we’re pretty good at finding our way over sometimes troubled waters. So maybe there are even bridges to be built between Philip Davies and his opponents? Before that begins to sound tritely optimistic, let’s take a closer look at one particular bridge…

IMG_2374This is Victoria Street in the foreground, ramping up to the left of the picture as it starts to bridge the Leeds-Liverpool Canal in central Shipley. (The distinctive chimney of Salts Mill is in the distance, to the west.) One the right of the image, standing to one side of the canal, is the headquarters of In Communities, Bradford’s social housing authority. (I’ll come back to them in a minute.) On the left of the picture — and directly across the canal — is the distinctive red-brick structure of the former Leeds-Liverpool Canal Company warehouse. This pairing of buildings, old and new, facing each other across the water, sums up quite a lot about the state of modern Shipley. Let’s look first at the warehouse…

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If you were looking to find local examples of what President Trump was speaking about in his ominous inauguration speech — those “rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation” — well, this would be as good a place as any to start. Sure, it’s a warehouse, not a factory, but this rather beautiful edifice (which my friend Eddie Lawler has playfully earmarked as the HQ for his imaginary “University of Saltaire”) has been left to go to rack and ruin in recent decades. It’s one of many sadly neglected canalside structures, which has never been retrieved and repurposed for any “post-industrial” service industry. But the question is, what would a Trump (what would a Davies?) propose to do to remedy the situation?

The answer promoted by most mainstream politicians, of either hue, in the UK and US over the last 30 years has been to trust the market. Private enterprise, we are told, will deliver improvements to all our lives… Well, perhaps it will in some places, but the canal company building is still there, crumbling, and last month it was raided by police officers charged with shutting down an unregulated private enterprise…

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As reported by the Telegraph and Argus , this was not the first time that the building has been squatted for the purpose of growing industrial quantities of cannabis…

Shipley Ashley Lane cannabis farm.jpg.galleryThe spirit of free enterprise has always been about serving yourself first, even if that involves stretching the law. It’s useful for some things, but it’s not going to save the crumbling infrastructure of Yorkshire’s former mill towns, let alone the American “rustbelt” states that swung victory for Trump. And the new President, who knows a thing or two about free enterprise, knows there’s no business incentive for rebuilding in depressed areas. (Where’s the profit in that?) So instead, he is promising the biggest federal infrastructure programme since FDR’s New Deal in the 1930s. Donald the Builder wants to make more than his signature golden towers. His plans will, he promises, put thousands of ordinary Americans back in work, and it’s these promises that got him the votes he needed in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania to win the election.

The question is, who is going to pay for all this? Because much as we’ve all got tired of mainstream politicians who seem only to represent vested interests (hence the Trump rallying cry to “drain the swamp!”), we’ve also got used to not having to pay too much in taxes. Hence Trump’s determination to make Mexicans, not Americans, pay for his most controversial infrastructure project — the mooted wall on America’s southern border (which, of course, the “Bridges Not Walls” slogan refers to). Well, good luck with that, Donald. So far the Mexicans don’t seem too impressed by your negotiation tactics.

But enough about America. Let’s get back to Shipley. Where the appeal of Philip Davies to local voters is perhaps not dissimilar to the appeal of Donald Trump. His slogan is “Your Interests, Not Self Interest”. And as I mentioned, Mr. Davies does seem to do a fair job of helping people out with their immediate difficulties, by banging heads together where he can. And yet… in this era of small-ish government and low-ish taxes, there’s little prospect of the local infrastructure being rebuilt any time soon.

For me, this realisation has become particularly apparent this last month thanks to some striking bits of local history. Paul Barrett at Kirkgate Centre recently circulated this link to Operation Progress — a 1957 documentary film, on the British Film Institute’s web player, which shows the demolition of some of Shipley’s insanitary old back-to-back houses, and the building of the spanking new council housing estates along Coach Road. You get an amazing sense, watching this film, of just how exciting and progressive it seemed at the time to build these solid new homes in green spaces on the Baildon side of the river — transplanting people from the dark, crowded streets so many had been living in before. This was “operation progress”, and it was masterminded not by private enterprise or indeed by central government, but by Shipley Urban District Council. They had a masterplan, and they carried it out, and in many ways we’re still living with the landscape they created in the 1950s. Partly because there’s been no comparable attempt at regeneration since…

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I’ve also been actively researching the history of Shipley’s Dockfield area this month (see also my last blog), and one of the striking things I’ve discovered is that here, too, it was Shipley Urban District Council that made all the difference. Not in the 1950s, but half a century earlier, when SUDC had a masterplan called the “Shipley Improvement Act of 1901”.

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Up til then, Dockfield had basically been the wild west (or rather east) — an area dominated by a few largely unregulated textile mills, with the only road access going under the railway via Dock Lane. The lane was in a shocking state of disrepair because the mill owners didn’t want the responsibility or cost of maintaining it. But then SUDC built Dockfield Road as a modern road link from the main Otley Road. And alongside Dockfield Road, SUDC built the row of terraced housing that still stand there. And at right angles to Dockfield Road, they also built the homes along Dockfield Terrace. Council houses all. And they made them solidly, from stone, with then-state-of-the-art plumbing and heating systems.

And at the same time they built a water treatment works in Dockfield, as the outfall to a brand new sewage main running west to east, the length of Shipley. Because decent sanitation is a basic health requirement. But left to its own devices, free enterprise was never going to provide it.

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All of which brings me back to In Communities. Remember them? Opposite the weed warehouse? It oversees what’s left of Shipley’s council housing stock. Of course, ever since Mrs. Thatcher introduced the right to buy in the 1980s, most council housing in the area — whether along Coach Road (c.1957) or in Dockfield (c.1908) has been sold into private ownership. There’s not much stock left, because there’s been no new drive for social house-building. Because — we’re always told — we can’t afford it. And to judge from the Comments on the InCommunities facebook page (where the average ‘star grading’ out of 5 is 2.2), the condition of much of the remaining stock is poor, and too little care is being taken about the welfare of those people having to live in them. In fact, I even made a film about this recently. But that’s another story.

My point is, if you look around Shipley, it’s easy to see why people here might — given the opportunity — vote for Donald Trump. Whether “in a heartbeat”, or just in the forlorn hope that it might change something. But my point is also that what we really need is properly resourced, properly led local government, with a new vision for the town’s future.

Is it too much to hope that we might build a bridge, on this basis, between Philip Davies and his detractors?

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This is Dockfield’s Junction Bridge. Built in 1774 to allow horses to cross from the towpath of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal to the connecting towpath of the Bradford Canal. This is the junction – and the bridge – at the heart of Bradford’s early industrial expansion. Behind the bridge, Junction House — also built in 1774 — continues to fall into chronic disrepair…

 

Dockfield and Lower Holme: A story in maps

This time last year, I was trying to keep this blog updated with the crisis that was the Boxing Day flood of 2015. Thankfully, things have been a lot quieter this Christmas, so I’ve been able to devote a bit of ‘down time’ to some more historical water stories. Specifically, I’ve been puzzling over old maps, trying to figure out the history of how homes and industry developed in the Dockfield area of Shipley (and the Lower Holme area of Baildon, just across the river footbridge). It’s more fun than a jigsaw puzzle…

1837 Shipley Kirkstall turnpike plan

Dockfied is an area defined by water on all sides — the River Aire to the north, the Leeds-Liverpool Canal parallel to the south, and Bradford Beck to the west (flowing north to meet the Aire). But as you can see from this 1837 map, above, it was not even dreamed of at that point in time. Shipley was then a small town whose centre was slightly further west than it is now, clustered around the road leading off the original Canal Bridge (now Victoria Street Bridge), before the Otley Road bridge and Foxes Corner junction even existed. East of the Beck (or “Brook”, as this map has it), was simply farmers’ fields. By 1852, though — the date of this next map — there are sure signs of industrialisation…

Dockfield 1852 detail of larger Shipley mapNot far to the west, Salts Mill was nearing completion and about to open — in 1853. But here, in addition to Baildon Mill (the old water mill on the Aire, also visible in our earlier map), we can now see Junction Mill — in the spot where it still stands, directly to the east of Bradford Beck, and facing Junction Bridge — the original canal bridge that allowed horses to cross from the towpath of the Leeds-Liverpool to the towpath of the Bradford Canal (hence “junction”). Also in what’s to become known as Dockfield, there on the southern bank of the Aire, is another, as-yet unnamed “Worsted Mill“.

Neither of these two new mills would have had water wheels (or their attendant weirs). This was now the age of steam engines. But still, you need water to make steam. Junction Mill appears to have been getting its supply from the river via the “Junction Aqueduct” (Salts Mill had a similar pipeline set-up), but the smaller worsted mill had clearly opted to site itself right next to the river. This meant that it didn’t face onto the canal, as Junction Mill did, so to get access to this vital transport and haulage route, a road of sorts has been constructed between the mill and a small “Dock” on the southern edge of the canal. And a swing bridge (or “Turn Bridge”) has been installed to provide access across the canal itself. Notice that, at this stage, Dock Lane does not appear to extend any further: it is literally just a lane linking the riverside mill to the canal dock.

Taken together, the appearance of these two mills gives a clear indication of what the appeal of this area was to industrialists: you needed both the river for a ready water supply and the canal for transportation, and in the Shipley area you had both, running in parallel. Of course, rail is another transport option, and already in this 1852 picture above you can already see the clear line of what was then the Midland Railway, running roughly parallel to the canal, just to the south. But stations were fewer and further between on a railway, so the canal still had a clear appeal for its readier freight access (just as road haulage is, today, much more convenient than rail for most businesses).

Now let’s spool forward another 40 years, to the first modern Ordnance Survey map, printed in 1893:

Dockfield OS 1893 (first edition)Notice, first, the appearance of the words Dock Field on this map. The area has found its name — a name that presumably refers simply to the fact that there is a dock right there in the middle of a field… But the words actually appear next to the first row of houses in the area, which have no doubt been built to house the worsted mill’s growing workforce. These houses, now known as Dockfield Place, are still in use today. 

Notice, though, how the riverside worsted mill has now been dwarfed by the erection of the Lower Holme mill, directly across the river. This Baildon site, bought up by Titus Salt in 1850 (apparently before he decided where to site Saltaire), was sold on to C.F. Taylor in 1862, and it was Taylor who then built the large mill building next to the river (again, water supply…). He must also have been responsible for building the bridge across the river, in order to connect to Dock Lane and, thus, the canal dock. Although the present, 1960s bridge structure is just a footbridge, it must originally have been wide enough for wagons — which also explains why the road running down to it has always been full road-width (at least until the arrival of the controversial “landscaping” — aka a long row of dumped earth — that was left along the edge of the Wickes overspill car park when the site was redeveloped in 2014… still a sore point with residents!).

I can’t easily show you the Lower Holme cottages north of the mill, because in a quirk of OS mapping, there’s a key grid line that runs through here that always carves the mill and cottages onto two separate pages of the maps. So we’ll come back to the Baildon side of things at the end of this post… Sticking for now with Dock Lane, notice how — in the 1893 map above — the lane now continues alongside the railway and then underneath it by the canal junction. It then runs alongside the Bradford Canal (long since filled in, of course) to connect with the Leeds Road, just as it still does today. Finally in the 1893 map above, note also the massive expansion of railway sidings to the south of the mainline.

The next map is from 1908, just fifteen years later…

Dockfield OS 1908 revisionAt first glance you might think this looks much the same as in 1893. But notice the developments to the east of Dock Lane, between river and canal. A small row of houses has now appeared along the towpath to the east of the swing bridge — houses which still stand today on Dockfield Road (though the road did not yet exist when they were built). These houses and the other new buildings to the north have apparently been built to service the new Sewage Works that Shipley Urban District Council has recently been building. The long, rectangular in the top right of the image above will soon be more clearly delineated as sewage settling tanks. So… the outlines of the Dockfields “island” (as some residents call it) are now clearly defined: river, beck, and canal to the north, west and south, and wastewater treatment to the east…

The sewage works’ arrival was the result of developments in local government and sanitation around the end of the 19th Century. The SUDC was created from the old Shipley Local Board, and one of its main reasons for being was to bring proper drainage and sewerage to Shipley — by eliminating the old middens and cesspits, and providing new homes with proper plumbing. A new sewage main running west to east along the Aire valley through the whole of Shipley parish now emptied into these wastewater treatment works at what was then the easternmost edge of the town. Indeed, technically (as 19th C. maps make clear), the area east of Bradford Beck was in the parish of Idle, not Shipley, so in effect Shipley was dumping its waste on the threshold of its neighbour.

But Shipley Urban District Council was not done yet… Look at this next OS map, from 1922 (? ish).Dockfield OS 1922 probably

The new sewage works are more clearly labelled now. The worsted mill on the riverbank has now finally acquired the name of Dock Mill. But most strikingly, we now have the spanking new Dockfield Road, leading all the way up from Otley Road, at Baildon Bridge. The road has been built by the SUDC to provide better access to the sewage works and thus take the pressure off Dock Lane (which was no longer fit for purpose, with the mounting volume of traffic, and with that low bridge under the railway). Along Dockfield Road and the adjoining Dockfield Terrace (which links to the older homes nearer the mill) we now have two rows of early council housing — homes literally built by Shipley Council, with the very latest spec in plumbing and drainage… This was an early statement about the unsuitability of the old back-to-back homes in the Windhill area — visible in the bottom of the 1893 map above, and eventually demolished by SUDC in the years after World War II.

If we fast forward again to 1934, the full scale of Dockfield’s industrial development has now become apparent…

Dockfield OS 1934 (1)West of Dockfield Terrace, the Hammond Sauce works has now set up shop, and there’s also a weaving shed and small engineering works alongside the sauce. Dockfield Mills has now been built on the canal bank next to Junction Mills (also still standing today). Dock Mill itself has further expanded, and there are more buildings around the canal dock (presumably warehousing, to cope with the increased capacity now needed). This is Dockfield at its industrial height.

Now then… All of these map images are close-up photographs I’ve taken from the large maps on display to the public in Bradford Central Library’s Local Studies section. (There’s no indication there of any copyright issues with the maps, so hopefully I’m not breaking any laws here.) But for some reason the library’s big maps don’t go past 1934. After that we move to a different scale of OS mapping, but we also make a huge leap to 2003…

Dockfield OS 2003What’s perhaps most noticeable here, apart from the altered graphics, is just how little has changed since the 1930s. In the map above, Dock Mills is still there, and the various “Works” to the west of Dockfield Terrace. But Junction Mills has been renamed “Regent House” and Dockfield Mills is “Staveley House”. These name changes are indicative of a change in use from industrial space to office space, in this “post-industrial period” after Mrs. Thatcher murdered the country’s manufacturing base in the 1980s…

Notice, too, that at some point since the 1930s, the old canal dock has been filled in (the canal’s “super slow way” no longer being a viable freight transport option in this high speed era). More “works” have been built over the docks area, although — in 2003 — these are just about to be demolished. One of these buildings, Amber Works, will very shortly give its name to Amber Wharf, the new-build apartment complex built along the southern bank of the canal. (The first flats at Amber Wharf were sold in 2007 — right before the bottom fell out of the property market…) Dock Mills, too, will shortly disappear, to be replaced by the new-build riverside flats whose street address is still Dock Mill.

Notice that, at some point between 1934 and 2003, the OS maps also seem to have moved their grid slightly, so that the page cut-off now happens south of the river, rather than north of it… Below is the connecting page, from 2003, with Dockfield now linking clearly across to Lower Holme, via the modern footbridge structure…

Dockfield OS 2003 + Lower Holme

The Lower Holme mill has yet to be demolished (that would take another 5 or 6 years). And notice, on this map, that there are still “County Works” east of Dock Lane on the Shipley side of the river. Shipley’s sewage works were long gone by 2003, the wastewater treatment having been moved down to Esholt back in the 1950s (the land to the east that had once been an array of settling tanks and filter beds was redeveloped for more manufacturing, such as the Metal Box engineering plant that’s still there today). That said, there’s still a sewage pumping station next to the river, pushing the stuff on towards Esholt, and there are still electricity substations on this site, as on the map above. What’s changed now, of course, is that the County Works site has been sold off to the local success story that is Saltaire Brewery. Personally I’m a big fan of the Saltaire Blonde and their other beers, but next time you have a pint of theirs, it’s worth reflecting on the fact that it was brewed in a building that was once (according to the maps above) the “Refuse Destructor” for Shipley’s wastewater.

On that note, let’s cross the river again and jump back to the earlier maps for Lower Holme, across that OS boundary line…  Here’s the 1893 OS map for the area immediately north of the river, around the junction of Otley Road and Baildon Road:

Lower Holme cottages 1891The “inn” at the junction (aka the Junction pub) stands on the corner just as it does today. And south of Otley Road you can already see the distinctive twin lines of the Lower Holme mill cottages, also still standing. However, the area immediately west of these homes (where KFC is today!) appears to be green space at this point (note the little tree drawings!). The houses are separate from the mill itself, even though they’ve been built to house C.F. Taylor’s workforce. The mill is set back from the road because, as was noted earlier, it’s the water supply from the river that Taylor needs most. That and the canal access, across the river bridge.

Lower Holme cottages 1913

Jump forward to the 1913 revision (above), and the Lower Holme mill works are starting to encroach on the land west of the houses. There’s also been more development on the site to the east (also originally part of Taylor’s operation). And along the main road, notice the apperance of “Urinal” and “Trough” — all part of the public sanitation drive being pursued by Baildon Urban District Council at this time, in parallel with Shipley’s.

Lower Holme cottages 1934By the time of the 1934 revision, above, the houses are pretty much surrounded… Industry at its height! The mill buildings, of course, have all now been demolished — within the living memory of some of those still living on Lower Holme.

So all in all, this area is a story of industrial rise and fall… industries dependent on water supplies, water transport, and (arguably most important to the area’s modern development) water treatment. But if the manufacturing has largely gone, or transmuted into service-sector industries like brewing and (down Dockfield Road at Funopolis) recreation, it’s important to remember that the homes built to house the area’s workers are all still standing. None of these have been demolished, because they’re good homes… the solidly domestic legacy of a bygone industrial era.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Christmas: a view from the air

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Tomorrow, Sunday 18th December 2016, we’re holding a Christmas party at Baildon Woodbottom Working Men’s Club for the Higher Coach Road Residents Group — and other invited members of the local community. We held a similar event around this time last year, shortly before the club was devastated by flooding on Boxing Day. That’s the club’s buildings, there, on the lower right of the photo above. The ‘proper’ river is to its right, and the lake that was Woodbottom cricket pitch is to the left. This was 27th December 2015, as the flood water was starting to recede.

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Here’s a closer view of the club and adjacent caravan park… And below, another view as the aerial drone camera turns clockwise to show the rest of the club and the upstream area.

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Below, moving further upstream but looking back — a higher and wider shot of the whole area. Here, the main course of the river is much clearer, just off to right of centre. The club is in the middle towards the back of the shot, and in the foreground, Baildon Rec and the local Sea Cadets hall.

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Then, below… just a little further upstream still, and turning clockwise again to look west, we have the four houses of Aire Close — right next to the river — and the Victoria Mills complex on the opposite “bank”. In the distance, to the west, is Saltaire. Notice the visible watermark on the buildings in this shot, since the water is already well down on where it had been the previous day:

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0009.JPGI’m very grateful to Brian Tuxford, of Northway Vehicle Sales (on Baildon Bridge) for sharing these images with me and allowing me to put them up on the blog. I featured Brian a few weeks ago, in this blog post, but it’s taken me a while to get these images up (because the CD he gave me had got corrupted somehow, and I had to get technical support to recover the photo files). Anyway, it seems appropriate to share them at Christmas — one year on.

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Above, we see the view from just downstream of Baildon Bridge, looking west. The cricket pitch etc are to the back of the shot now, and in the foreground we see the retail area east of the bridge, off Otley Road… United Carpets, and in the bottom right, the garden centre section of B&M. The river channel proper is to the left. The collection  of white vans in the middle of the shot is part of the Northway Vehicles fleet — the part that hadn’t been swept away by the flood — and you can see here just why Northway’s compound was in exactly the worst place as far as the flood was concerned… right in harm’s way as the water diverted across the cricket pitch tries to find its way back into the main channel. Below we see the same scene in reverse (i.e. the other side of United Carpets is now to the left; the river is to the right), and here you can get a very clear sense of the trajectory that would have been taken by the 37 vehicles swept downstream off the Northway lot…

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The shot below gives some sense of how bright and sunny it was, on the day after the storm. Again we’re looking west, with the club to the left and the Rec in the centre of the shot. In the lower foreground is Otley Road, coming away from Baildon Bridge…

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If you compare the shot above with the shot below — which seems to have been taken later in the day, when the water level had further receded — you can see how more of the road is now visible. And how the worst flooded part of it is actually around the junction with Green Lane… The bridge itself, to the left, and everso slightly raised to cross the river, is by this point comparatively dry. Which may be why the vehicle trying to ford through the flood water had thought it safe to ignore the road closure signs at the other side…

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Particularly clear from this photo above is the way that the main river channel goes through a noticeable curve or bend as it comes under the bridge. Hardly surprising, then, that in high water — and with the channel under the bridge itself partially blocked by debris — the river diverts itself straight across this area, in a sort of “short cut.”

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Finally, then, back to the club. And the vapour trails in the sky, reflecting in the standing water on the cricket pitch. And one, stranded blue car, which is not going anywhere fast.

Merry Christmas, one and all.

 

Flood Response @ Armley Mills

It was a pleasure and a privilege this last Thursday evening, December 8th, to have the opportunity to perform Too Much of Water, my one-man show about the Shipley flood last Christmas, at Leeds Industrial Museum — aka Armley Mills. The occasion was the opening of a special exhibition titled Flood Response. A single room in the basement of the museum is jam-packed with varied, colourful, striking exhibits documenting the impact of the Boxing Day flood in (mostly) Leeds. As the title implies, the exhibition looks at how communities in Leeds, especially in Kirkstall and Armley (the mill itself was directly hit by flooding), responded to the flood, often by showing a surprisingly festive spirit of resilience and co-operation, and thereby turning a crisis into a form of community-building. In the same spirit, the exhibition itself is labelled a “community exhibition”, and as such is composed largely of material donated by members of the public, rather than being professionally produced or commissioned.

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The curator of this rather remarkable display is Chris Sharp, pictured here on the right — his first big project for Leeds City Museums. He’s done a tremendous job (I really do recommend you visit). The exhibition was officially opened by Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, pictured below during her speech, during which she spoke with real passion about the city’s response to the flood crisis..

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To Councillor Blake’s right here is Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, deputy leader of the council and (more to the point in this context) the ward representative for Kirkstall. As such, she was directly involved in the community response to the flooding along Kirkstall Road, and she really does seem to be one of those (rather too rare) politicians who inspires the confidence and affection of her local community. The exhibition opening itself was attended by quite a diverse crowd of invitees, enough to pack out the exhibition space, but here too the spirit of inclusion was apparent. This wasn’t just the predictable collection of luvvies and bigwigs you might expect to see at an exhibition opening, but a cross-section of people from the local community who had got involved in the flood response effort, in one way or another. (And here’s a few of them…)

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I’m very pleased to say that Multi-Story Water’s own contribution to telling the story of the Leeds flood response is on display as part of the exhibit (which will run for six months). Our promenade performance After the Flood — devised for Leeds Waterfront Festival in June — is on display in a new film version. We completed editing just in time for the exhibition opening. And OK, yes, some kind of technical glitch meant that the film file wasn’t playing on the digital screen designated for it on Thursday (i.e. the one to the left of this chap’s head, in the picture on the left), so it had to be temporarily installed on  an alternative screen at ground level. This hiccup should be resolved soon, though. And in the meantime you can also view the film online… Just look for After the Flood under the “Films” tab on the menu bar above… 

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This is actor Kat Martin — who you can just about see on the screen in the exhibition shot above — performing ‘live’ in After the Flood, as “Poppy”, a young woman whose family’s business on Kirkstall Road was badly affected by the flood. (The doll’s house represents the business, and the small figures are Poppy’s parents…) I’m really rather proud of this piece, made in collaboration with Simon Brewis’s Common Chorus Theatre, but on Thursday night, attendees at the opening were too busy milling and chatting to concentrate long on a video screen… Instead, after the speeches were over, they were invited upstairs to the museum’s cafe space for my live storytelling performance, Too Much of Water (both it and the ATF film were requested by Chris Sharp for the exhibition and opening – thanks for the opportunity, Chris).

Anyway, here I am, as pictured/tweeted by Geoff Roberts…

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When I originally performed this piece in Roberts Park, for Saltaire Festival, it was mid-September and the Christmas tree and jumper seemed amusingly quirky. Since then, I have performed it around the country (Exeter, London, Cambridge, Manchester, Leeds), and I’m aware that by now — in December — I’m in danger of looking like I’m just trying too hard to be seasonal. Be that as it may, the performance was very well received by attendees at the opening, several of whom made a point of introducing themselves afterwards and thanking me personally (which was very nice – thankyou!).

What people find moving, I think, is the piece’s focus on some of the smaller, more human details of how people were affected by the flooding (the script draws from interviews with a number of people in the Shipley area, who are represented by the small wooden figures). I was especially flattered by the suggestion of one senior flood risk officer, who saw the piece on Thursday, that anybody who works with people affected by, or at risk of flooding (be it for the Environment Agency, local council, or whatever) ought to see this piece, because it will help them reflect on what it’s really like to be in those circumstances. High praise indeed.

On the other hand, I heard on Friday — from another friend who couldn’t attend the opening — that a couple of his colleagues at the Environment Agency, who had been at Armley Mills to represent on Thursday, had felt slightly uncomfortable watching the piece. They wondered if I was attacking the EA’s warning efforts in Shipley around the time of the flood. I’d just like to say, publicly, that I’m really sorry if they felt that way, because this was never my intention. Yes, certain details are documented in the show, as seen from the point of view of my interviewees, that might perhaps be seen as not reflecting all that well on the EA, but I was very careful in writing the piece not to make any comment either way — simply to represent the facts as best I could establish them, and let spectators draw their own conclusions. And I do make the point in the show that the Agency too, in its own way, was inundated on Boxing Day — struggling to keep up with the pace of events as the crisis unfolded in multiple towns, in multiple catchments, simultaneously. They, too, are only human.

With that in mind, I’ll close here by pasting in Scene 5 of our After the Flood film — “the Agency Man”. Hopefully this provides some sense of just how tricky the EA’s job is, in terms of Flood Response – often having to be all things to all people. In my (finite) experience, they usually do a great job, in often very difficult circumstances.

Celebrating Dockfields…

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The Dockfields area is at the cross-roads of Shipley’s history …

It’s here that docks, factories and homes sprang up around the junction of the Leeds-Liverpool and Bradford canals

here that an ancient right of way across the River Aire (now Dock Lane footbridge) has long provided access between Shipley and Baildon…

and here that people have lived, worked and played, with industry all around, for generations…

The Multi-Story Water arts project, working with Shipley’s Kirkgate Centre, is planning a festive celebration of Dockfields – of its communities, its history, and its future – for 2017.

This includes Amber Wharf, across the canal, and Lower Holme, across the river, as well as Dockfield Road, Dockfield Terrace, etc…

But what kind of event should this be?

We’d love to collect your ideas, and your memories of the area…

… and we’d love your involvement in making something happen!

To get the conversation going, we’re making a short play about the area, for performance in your very own living room! (it’s just two actors…)

If you’d like the play to visit you (in Jan or Feb), just let us know!

Please conact Lyze for more info on 07713 357706

Or: lyze@kirkgatecentre.org.uk

Canal Child

The recent celebrations for the bicentenary of the opening of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal were marked by all sorts of activities up and down the canal’s 126 mile length. Pasted in below is a charming document of one of these initiatives — a musical collaboration between “the bard of Saltaire” Eddie Lawler (also a good friend of, and collaborator with, the Multi-Water Story project) and the children of Saltaire Primary School. The film speaks for itself really, so I need say no more… Enjoy!

The Trouble with Baildon Bridge (views from downstream…)

So this blog is in two parts. The first is a close-up, the second takes a wider angle, but hopefully it connects up. Bear with me as I tell the story, because it has a few twists and turns…  And to begin with, there’s also a

Prologue

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This is Councillor Judith Blake, the current leader of Leeds City Council. This week she said something very interesting indeed, from a Shipley point of view. Councillor Blake was speaking at a special networking event about future flood planning and resilience in the Aire valley, hosted this week at Open Source Arts – an unassuming enterprise unit on Kirkstall Road in Leeds. Open Source was itself flooded at Christmas, but thanks to the tireless efforts of leaseholder Phil Marken, it also became a focal point for the community relief effort and, later, volunteer river clean-up activities. It was thus a rather symbolic (as well as practical) venue for the networking meeting – which was attended by (among others) the key flood risk and drainage officers for both Leeds and Bradford. The goal is greater future co-operation along the Aire Valley catchment… But more of that in a minute. First let me jump us back to Bradford and introduce somebody else…

Part One: Northway

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This is Brian Tuxford. He runs Northway Vehicle Sales Ltd., the van hire place on Otley Road, right next to Shipley’s Baildon Bridge. I met Brian the other week, following an introduction via our mutual friend Stewart Gledhill, and he toured me round the Northway compound and gave me the lowdown on just how badly impacted the company was by last December’s flooding. Northway lost no less than 37 vehicles to the flood water – cars and vans – one of them swept as far downstream as Denso Marston’s nature reserve, at Charlestown. Even those vehicles that Brian and his colleagues managed to save in time — by parking them around the corner up Dockfield Road — were stripped of exterior fittings that night by light-fingered visitors, who took advantage of the absence of the usual CCTV cover. Insult to injury.

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The bottom yard at Northway Vehicle Sales, just downhill from Otley Road

There was also the small matter of Northway’s workshop/garage (pictured above) having a massive hole driven straight through it by the force of the flood water — the end panels blown off. The whole thing has had to be taken down, repaired and re-erected.

Boxing Day flood was a bit of a “perfect storm” from Brian’s point of view. Normally, 80 to 90 percent of Northway’s fleet is out on hire at any given time, but over the Christmas period they’re called back to home base. So they were sitting right in harm’s way. On a normal working day, moreover, Brian would be at work at 7am, and would have been in exactly the right place to see the danger to his fleet and take swift action… Instead, he was staying over for Christmas in Huddersfield and only realised what was happening, by around 9am when the water hit, from the CCTV link on his phone. (In her talk, Councillor Blake spoke of how lucky Leeds was that the flood came at Christmas — with the city centre workforce not present, not travelling in or out… But Brian’s story is the opposite.)

The dark line across the lower part of the roofing here, well above head height, is the high watermark from the Boxing Day flood...

The dark line across the lower part of the roofing of Northway’s workshop, well above head height, is the high watermark from the Boxing Day flood…

In the aftermath of the flood, Brian had to lay off Northway’s mechanic, who had no work because there were almost no vehicles left to service. And of course Brian couldn’t pay him, either, because there was no income from hires. It took six months for a new fleet of vehicles to be delivered (after the insurance claims, and the long lead time for ordering new high-end vehicles). In the mean-time, the loss of operating revenue pushed the company to the limit — Brian and his partner nearly had to close up. And they know they’re taking a big risk reopening, because if another flood happens, there’s nothing to stop the whole scenario repeating itself…

Media coverage of flood victims typically tends to focus on people whose homes have been hit. This is understandable, given that we can all identify with the horror of having our personal sanctuaries being swamped by filthy water. We hear a lot less about the impact of flooding on small businesses like Brian’s, and the assumption can often be, well, business is business, right? They’ll claim on the insurance and get on with it. It’s not as bad as having your home invaded. And yet, as Brian grimly observes, his entire livelihood is tied up with this business. Fifteen years of hard slog, building it up from scratch on this site by the river. And much as he might want to move the business, since the flood, he can’t readily relocate to another site. The Baildon Bridge location is key, both because of the region-specific terms of his franchise agreement, and because many of his core customers need Northway exactly where it is (Saltaire Brewery, for example, just up Dockfield Road). And yet, Brian acknowledges, if they get hit by another flood, that’ll be it. Game over.

This year, post-flood, Northway’s insurance premiums have literally doubled. That too is putting the future of the business in serious jeopardy.

Now, you might be wondering what all this has to do with the Leeds flood planning meeting I mentioned in my “prologue”. Well, Brian’s business is specifically threatened by the way that flood water hits his riverside location. As he observes, on Boxing Day the river channel itself never threatened the van hire site. The water that was coming under Baildon Bridge flowed right on past. No, the water that hit Northway was water that had re-routed itself around the bridge…. In high water conditions, the low-lying bridge structure becomes something of a dam, and the river instead heads right out across Woodbottom cricket pitch as far as Green Lane, and then surges across the industrial/retail area east of the bridge, on its way back to the main channel. This happened not just last December but also in 2000 and in 1947. And Northway is right smack bang in the path of the water. The space between the buildings, Brian notes, became like a kind of surging plughole…

All of this raises the question… could floodwater, in future, somehow be persuaded to stay in its channel? If something could be done to re-engineer the bridge, maybe, so it’s less of an obstruction…? And if some walls could be constructed upstream to protect the Woodbottom area…? Might the river just surge right on by instead of going all over everywhere? Possibly. In which case, Brian’s livelihood would be safe. Or at least, safer.

But… there are some issues here. One is, obviously, the cost of such a defence scheme. Given the relatively small number of homes and businesses that are directly in harm’s way in this area, it’s unlikely that a “cost-benefit analysis” by government would find the spend worthwhile. (And who are any of us to argue with that, if we don’t want our taxes to go up to pay for equally worthy flood schemes on this sort of scale all over the country…?) But the other key point here, which I hadn’t fully appreciated until the Leeds meeting this week, is that – strictly from a Leeds point of view – it would be just fine if Bradford has quite poor flood defences. If water ends up sitting around on the Baildon flood plain for days, during a flood incident, well that’s just fine from a Leeds point of view. Leeds doesn’t really need high water flowing straight on through Bradford, staying in the Aire’s main channel, because then — well — it all ends up in Leeds…

Part 2: Scheming for Alleviation 

This was all brought home to me as I stood chatting, during the lunch break, to Andy Judson – who is the project director for BAM Nuttall Ltd on the current, £46m Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme (FAS). The FAS has involved building a bunch of new flood walls in Leeds city centre over the last year or so, and BAM are now in the process of constructing high-tech collapsible weirs at Crown Point and Knostrop. Mr. Judson is a very approachable, very interesting man, who is – understandably – hoping that BAM Nuttall will get another big slice of contract work on “FAS2”, the mooted second stage of the Leeds scheme for which the government offered around £60m in the wake of the Boxing Day devastation. This scheme is intended to do something to better defend Aire valley areas of Leeds like Kirkstall, which was badly hit at Christmas, but for which nothing was provided in FAS1 (which is very much focused on the city centre).

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Mr. Judson and I found ourselves standing in front of this big poster about Bradford’s current flood risk planning. In the top right hand corner (see below) there’s an aerial shot of the flooding around Baildon Bridge at Christmas…. which is how we came to end up talking about it. Andy pointed out what I’ve just said about how flooding in this area, and many others upstream of Leeds, might be viewed “from a Leeds point of view”…

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Now, Mr. Judson’s job is to undertake the contracting work that is handed to him by major clients such as Leeds City Council and the Environment Agency. On a day to day basis, it’s not his responsibility to worry about Bradford. But this is why the networking event this week was so important. Because to give them their credit, LCC and the EA have decided to try to approach FAS2 differently to FAS1. The initial scheme has been dominated by the technical and engineering interests: a scheme was devised and proposed (by the engineering company Arup), funded (via the council, the EA, and central government), contracted out (to BAM and others) – but all in such a way that very few non-technical folk had anything much to say about it. A problem is identified (flood risk in Leeds city centre), a practical solution is proposed (build new walls, devise new weirs), and the construction juggernaut rolls into gear…

Yet the very fact of FAS2 being given a wider brief — to think “beyond” the city centre — has prompted some important reflections on exactly what the problem is that needs to be fixed by the new scheme. How far upstream – or indeed downstream – do we want to try to flood-defend? Putting the problem really crudely… Phil Marken’s Open Source Arts space on Kirkstall Road perhaps deserves better protection, but so too does Brian Tuxford’s van hire place — which is threatened by the exact same river. Viewed on a river catchment basis, the arbitrary distinctions between what is Leeds and what is Bradford are largely irrelevant – because the River Aire has no respect for political boundaries. In planning for FAS2, then, a “catchment-wide approach” is being adopted — and this includes an innovative attempt to involve as many relevant partners as possible, in order to better answer the flood defence questions (or even to establish what the questions are that need answering).

Andy Judson (BAM), Una McMahon (Environment Agency), Tony Poole (Bradford Council), and an unidentified fourth person, hard at work in a discussion group at Open Source Arts

Andy Judson (BAM), Una McMahon (Environment Agency), Tony Poole (Bradford Council), and an unidentified fourth person, hard at work in a discussion group at Open Source Arts

The workshop at Open Source Arts thus included representatives not only from the EA, the LCC, Arup, BAM, etc., but also senior planners from Bradford Council, and indeed counterparts from as far upstream as Craven (the district that includes Skipton and Malham). But the workshop also included community activists like Phil Marken and Vicki Gilbert (until lately of Yorkshire Voluntary Flood Support Group), as well as representatives from voluntary watchdogs like Aire Rivers Trust, social enterprises like Canal Connections, and even university researchers like me. Don’t ask me how the full list of invitees was arrived at – no doubt some significant people were inadvertently left out, as is the way with these things. But the point is that there was a genuine effort here to get people out of their regular boxes and comfort zones — and talking to other people with other perspectives and approaches to the flood problem. Andy Judson and I started speculating, for example, about how a natural flood storage scheme somewhere upstream of both Leeds and Bradford might provide the relief that both cities need… Exactly where or how that might happen is of course anybody’s guess (we were just talking…) but the point is that – just by having all these people in the same room – the debate had already moved well beyond the boundaries of Leeds itself. We can reasonably hope that there is going to be some serious partnership thinking going on in the coming months, which might – just might – benefit Brian Tuxford as well as Phil Marken. And, of course, many others like them.

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The loft level at Open Source Arts — including aerial harness and “Resilience” working group…

And this brings me back to Councillor Blake. Because at the heart of her opening pep talk to those assembled at Open Source (alongside her own personal, heartfelt reflections on the devastation of the city last Christmas) was the suggestion that community involvement has to be fundamental to the development of FAS2 and any associated initiatives. That was her word. Fundamental. This was a gauntlet, of sorts, thrown down for those present. Because flood risk managers, civil engineers and building contractors are not necessarily the kind of people best equipped or most inclined to engage with or listen to communities. But Councillor Blake was saying it unambiguously: other people need to be consulted. That’s the people of Leeds, yes, but also the people of Bradford, of Skipton, you name it… That’s the only way we’re going to arrive at the best possible solution for the greatest number.

And maybe, in the process, we’ll end up not just with more concrete walls, but better, safer, happier, greener places to live in…?

“You may say I’m a dreamer… But I’m not the only one.”

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