Tuesday, 28 September 2010
Boundaries, pubs and Battersea - thoughts on defining place
A few years ago, I instituted an initiative aimed at ensuring that every community in Bradford undertook some form of local planning – this could take the form of neighbourhood action planning, parish plans or elements within wider masterplans or spatial strategies. In part, at least, I can lay claim to attempting to develop the idea of community involvement in service planning – dare I say it, the “Big Society”.
However, this introduction isn’t a precursor to an essay of self-justification but rather an opportunity to discuss again the issue of places and how we define them. Most important, the matter of boundaries. Partly, this is prompted by Battersea Councillor, James Cousins’ irritation (verging on anger) with ASDA for suggesting that his local store is – horror of horrors – in Clapham. James gives very good account of his case and (I suspect) has a rather better grasp of where Battersea becomes Clapham than does ASDA.
However, there are some interesting anomalies of place that can add to this confusion and not just the perfect example of nominal coterminosity – Penge and Anerley. And since we’re talking local knowledge here, I have concentrated on examples from my ward – the incomparable Bingley Rural. And several of the examples will feature pubs!
The Dog & Gun – as everyone knows – is in Oxenhope. Except that, until very recently, it wasn’t it was in Denholme and had always been in Denholme (we should note that the pub car park was in the Parish of Oxenhope whereas the pub itself was in the Town of Denholme). Today – following some jiggery-pokery with te boundary commission – the pub is in Oxenhope.
The Guide is at Hainworth, Keighley of course – that’s the community it serves (along with the clutches of stray bikers who wash up in its car park). Well no – The Guide’s in Cullingworth and always has been!
The Malt Shovel at Harden completes this trio of pubs. It’s not in Harden but in Wilsden (although the thoughful folk from Wilsden Parish Council have put the obligatory sandstone “Welcome to Wilsden” marker beyond the pub). Harden doesn’t start until you’ve cross the Harden Beck.
There are plenty of other examples – the White Horse at Well Heads isn’t in Thornton but in Denholme and the New Coley Garden Centre (see it’s not all pubs!) is in Cullingworth not Denholme. As you can see it isn’t at all clear – boundaries are (as I’ve said before) fuzzy, subject to change and without doubt open to dispute. And, as I’m sure you’ve all guessed, unpopular places get smaller while popular places get larger (it’s OK James I’m not suggesting this is the case with Battersea and Clapham).
In a discussion about Chapeltown in Leeds this trend was noticed – places like Potternewton and Chapel Allerton grow in size as places previously in Chapeltown are ‘liberated’ from that place’s bad image. Just as snootier residents of SE20 started calling it Anerley rather than Penge, the up-and-coming trendies moving into Chapeltown are renaming it Potternewton or Chapel Allerton. Unless, of course, we’re talking about reports of crime! In these cases any shooting within two miles takes place in Chapeltown!
All this really makes the point that places aren't static – boundaries can and do change. And, in the end it’s people rather than institutions that decide where the boundary lies. In Bradford – for the exercise described at the start – we mapped the location of people on the council’s neighbourhoods database who claimed to live in a given place (Wibsey, Queensbury, West Bowling, Heaton, etc) and drew boundaries based on these definitions. And yes there were some overlaps but most communities were clear and identifiable – certainly good enough to deliver the project.
But we decide not folk from elsewhere.