Wednesday, 22 October 2014
Twenty years serving Bingley Rural - a pleasure and I've done all right I hope
I've been the councillor for Bingley Rural for approaching twenty years. Come next year's elections it will be twenty years. And in that time I've helped, mostly in small ways, loads of people in the villages (at first four but, since 2004, five) with their issues. A lot of the time I get stuff sorted, grease the cogs of local government and allow people to get back to living their lives. Sometimes I fail, the problem isn't - or can't be - solved and this is as frustrating for me as it it for the people who've asked for my help.
When I look back, I remember the things that didn't work out - whether it's getting a beer garden approved for The George or trying to help a resident get permission for a hay store so she could better care for her motley collection of retired horses. And the bigger stuff like the planning permission at Crack Lane in Wilsden - a load of houses on a site that floods all the time and can only be accessed via the narrowest and steepest of rural roads. A planning consent rammed through by a Council seemingly obsessed with delivering on some sort of fictional housing need - macho planning at its worst.
Then I think about the things that aren't so straightforward - the traffic calming schemes that everyone wants until they're in place when everyone hates them. We really have to find a better way - the schemes going in today simply don't fit the bill. As one resident explained - he doesn't drive through Harden because his wife's bad back is exacerbated by the sleeping policemen in the village. Yet council officers are ever more defensive when challenged - pointing to "national guidance" and "good practice" to justify jarring, rattling physical speed controls. I'm minded not to support any more of these until this problem is sorted - the current schemes simply aren't right.
I was once asked - quite late in the evening when I was less than sober and in The Fleece in Cullingworth - "what have you done for me?" I stumbled over my answer but wish, in a classic piece of l'esprit d'escalier, that I'd responded with "what have you asked me to do for you?" But in the spirit of a genuine response here's a few of the big things I've help happen in Bingley Rural.
Parkside School - back in 1999 when Labour was doing its best to utterly ruin Bradford's education there was a schools reorganisation that abolished the middle school system the City had had since the 1960s. Had we not campaigned for a secondary school at Parkside, children from Cullingworth and Denholme would have been bused into Bradford or Keighley for school.
Manywells tip - the tip getting its permission was before I first joined the council but the efforts we've put in to stop the tip polluting the village and surrounding countryside have paid off. In time what was a smelly, fly-infested and bird-ridden rubbish dump will become a grassed and wooded hill above the village.
Buck Park Quarry - most of the credit goes to Denholme Residents Action Group (DRAG) but I've helped them through the long struggle to stop landfill at Buck Park. From the first application when, sat behind Cllr Harrison, I was muttering (as loud as possible) "refuse it David, refuse it" - it was turned down, the council didn't turn up at the public enquiry and the developer's failure to comply with conditions finally killed the idea of dumping putrid and toxic waste in Denholme
Cornerstones, Cottingley - I forget how many millions the development was but that probably doesn't matter. Again someone else, Cllr Baroness Eaton, had a bigger role but we bashed enough council heads together to get a fantastic community facility, a new church and a new medical centre for the village. I was talking to Irene, the chair or trustees recently and she reminisced about walking with Prince Charles (a long story) through the estate talking about what was needed. And we have what was need now.
Cullingworth Primary School - I was a governor at Cullingworth Primary during the incredibly protracted negotiations to get the land for the new primary in the village. I remember meeting with Philip Robinson, the Council Chief Executive at the time and him describing the land transaction as the most complicated and fraught he'd handled in 30 years as a council officer.
St Ives Country Park - Great place, isn't it? Well the refurbishment, the adventure playground, the new trails - these were a priority when I was Executive Member with the culture and regeneration portfolio. We now have a fantastic free facility for local people and visitors alike
Cullingworth Village Hall - just a month ago the planning committee agree to set aside £410,000 of s106 funding for a new village hall for Cullingworth. Again most of the credit is down to the Village Hall Renewal Committee but I helped - it is my pet scheme after all.
This is what Councillors do. It's not about debating the great issues of the day in the Council chambers or playing endless games of petty politics or in-party backstabbing. It's not the grand stuff but the every day things that bother ordinary people.
I think I've done all right. Perhaps my friends and neighbours in Bingley Rural will keep me on for another four years next May?