Tuesday, 8 February 2011
The old York Road Library
Despite the wildly exaggerated claims in the latest Lib Dem leaflet it was in fact the COVEN campaign which kick started the drive to save the Old York Road Library and got the landlord to reluctantly undertake the necessary work to protect the fabric of this Grade II listed building with an energetic and vociferous campaign led entirely by and driven by local residents.
Attempts to get answers about the Old York Road Library and its future through the Richmond Hill Forum (chaired by the Lib Dems) since 2008 had failed miserably and emails from that time to Cllr Hollingsworth on this subject show that the whole matter was hopelessly stalled and going nowhere at that point so COVEN, a local pressure group made up of concerned residents, themselves went on the offensive; we wrote letters and sent emails to the relevant people; interested the Victorian Society; English Heritage; The Civic Trust; the Inner East Area Committee and our local MP in the case. We lobbied hard through this Blog, You Tube, local press, Guardian Leeds and East Leeds FM and even met with the head of Rushbond, a property developer with an interest in the area, trying to bring about a satisfactory solution and stop the building from rotting away.
Eventually the sustained pressure paid off and a meeting was arranged with Cllr Graham Hyde (Lab), Cllr Richard Brett (Lib Dem), Phil Ward, Team Leader Conservation at the Sustainable Development Unit and council officer Richard Fenton at which COVEN put forward such a convincing case for saving the building from further damage that Cllrs Hyde and Brett agreed to take the case to Cllr Richard Lewis (Lab) who managed to secure the necessary funding to undertake the work needed if the landlord refused to do it, and this was the key to getting the work done!
If any one person can justifiably claim the credit for this success it would be Sam Hirst of COVEN who has campaigned tirelessly for several years to preserve this building and chronicled its sad decline in pictures and video but, in truth, I think that Sam would be the first to say that saving the Old York Road Library was a community effort, no one person and certainly no one party can claim the credit.
What this area really needs now is more community engagement and less party political points scoring. We know there is an election coming but it would be a solid achievement for the residents of Richmond Hill if, just for once, the councillors put the residents' best interests ahead of party political advantage. We need our councillors to work together for the good of our area and to leave the rest of the party political nonsense behind. Perhaps celebrate the fact that a bunch of committed local activists, with help from councillors of all parties and council officials, local and national organisations, our local MP, and with the help of local media all worked together to save one of the few remaining iconic buildings left in Richmond Hill, pat each other on the back if necessary but learn the lesson that if this area is going to succeed the politicians are going to have to put their constituents needs ahead of their party's - so no claiming credit for this achievement from one political party - this was a perfect example of a community led joint effort delivering the right outcome which may not go down well at party headquarters but is going down well where it really matters - here with the residents!