Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Richmond Hill: this is where we live: Richmond Court

These photographs were taken last Friday in Richmond Court, the former Richmond Hill Hostel that closed a while ago.

As it often the case when services desert an area, the buildings fell into desrepair and attracted a great deal of vandalism and antisocial behaviour.

The place is dangerous, full of broken glass and building materials. We also found office equipment, that could have been re-used by the community but was left to rot with the rest of the building instead.

A sad picture of a place that used to provide a lifeline for people in need.

We also found a pile of documents at the back.

And one has to hope that there aren't any confidential documents left there..

In an area like ours, this is now common sight: when services like the hostel, the neighbouring day centre and old people's home leave the area due to the infamous "cuts" we are also left with increasingly shrinking public space and with the new owners "sitting on" their new properties until the opportunity arises for development- if ever, in the present climate.

So the whole area suffers: Walter Crescent has now got only one fully functioning building since the Housing Office reduced its opening hours. The area looks and feels like a ghost town. And this is where the only Children's Centre in the area is located.

So, what can WE do? Can we propose alternative uses for former council buidings? Can we, as a community reclaim our streets, reclaim our guinnels, reclaim our buildings?

Can we get the council to look for alternative uses before rushing to sell to first available developer? Can we make sure that the council will buy back properties that stay into permanent disrepair and are not redeveloped?

Monday, 13 February 2012

Burmantofts and Richmond Hill Neighbourhood Survey 2012

“Do you like where you live? What would you change to make it better?”

“This survey is being undertaken on behalf of all the agencies that work in the area and the Council’s Inner East Area Committee”, and the sad thing is that they couldn’t find in all these “agencies” one single person who could compile a decent questionnaire!!

In fact, the “questionnaire” is SO WRONG that it’s hard to tell how to make it better..perhaps starting all over again?

First and foremost, it only provides if any, a very small space to add comments and answers to open questions. This is either a huge oversight, or a deliberate and shameful attempt to discourage residents from actually giving their own opinion. But, as I have to remind myself often, we shouldn’t look for conspiracies, if blatant inadequacy might be the answer..

It also often only gives two choices YES/NO with no other possibility such as “Maybe” “unsure”” prefer not to say” etc.

So, let’s forget about the one thing that has improved in the area (Q2) and the one thing (Q2) that hasn’t, and proceed to environmental improvements (Q3).

What is the purpose of this question? Do you think ANYONE actually likes graffiti, litter, vandalism and dog mess? NO. No one likes the above, and yet they are not removed.

As for environmental improvements we would like to see, well, what about cleaning the streets AFTER the bin collections instead of one day BEFORE? (That would have made a fine LCC survey question..)

What about flagstone pavements taken out for maintenance works being returned instead of taken away for good? (I would also like to know where did LCC take them, but I can’t really ask, due to short space for Q5: Let us know of any other you would like to see..I would like to see the flagstones back.)

Or what about better security of boarded up former Council buildings that fall prey to theft and antisocial behaviour on a daily basis in Richmond Hill.

Oh.., let’s go to the next session “Employment, Training, Schools”.

This is a funny one, because there is no mention of employment opportunities, training or schools that one would expect to find under such heading.

Instead there are one and a half pages (out of 6 in total, so much for “neighbourhood” survey) of badly thought of, intrusive personal questions about YOU the respondent.

What is LCC aim to get out of those? These questions have already been answered in some detail at the last census and they will soon be available. How is LCC going to deal with this personal information it gets? Who will be responsible for it?

Plus, if the purpose of them is to ascertain the level of employment, then again, a lot is missing: we know from research that the biggest cause of poverty in our neighbourhoods is not “unemployment” but “underemployment”, ie part time, badly paid shift work. And yet “part time” employment is not even mentioned!!!!

Things to Do and Place to Go

Again, there is no place to write what sort of activities we want etc.(Q15 Q19 Q20). Open ended questions need more space.

But the most ridiculous thing is Q16 and Q17. If I were a shopkeeper/businessman in the area I would be talking to my solicitor right now! We are invited to say which shops we use and the only two choices we’ve got are Post Office and Mini Market.

What about the laundrette? Cafes? The local Charity shop? The local Chip Shop? I am hurt on their behalf for that omission..Has the person who compiled the questionnaire NEVER been in the area?

Questions 21 22 23 are out of this world. Obviously part of some “inspirational” “happiness agenda” but again.. please!! “More leisure activities?” NO. More leisure services, libraries, day centres for the elderly. Oh, wait a minute! We had those, and you closed them down!

Plus none of these things makes people happy. Their absence on the other hand definitely contributes to their unhappiness.

And the fun doesn’t stop here:

Q30 “How would you like to be involved in this?” Only has two options and they are both a hoot!

1. Community ideas day
2. A postal voting card

There is no other option, or space to actually answer the question using your own words (God forbid..)

But NO!! NONE OF THE ABOVE! What about getting together with your neighbours at a community forum? Talking to your councillors in their surgeries? Have access to more public space, more clear information and more open debate?

No more tokenist gimmicks!


Now the serious stuff. Tick your first 3 priorities, among environment, crime and community confidence, health and wellbeing (well, that makes sense since people in our area die younger and get more cancers apparently, based on data discussed at the last Inner East meeting), school attendance (this is the first time schools are actually mentioned in the questionnaire- it shows how much LCC values education, or how much they think WE value it), jobs/training or other.

How about dealing with the effects of a large transient population, due to unregulated flat conversions and equally unregulated emergency accommodation contracts?

How about filling the gaps form Council Services deserting the area ( library, day centre, old people’s home, hostel, sport’s centre, job shop?).

How about dealing with aggressive new developments blocking public rights of way, purchasing listed buildings and letting them rot, getting away with not paying s.106 money and creating gated communities within ours, further deepening the fragmentation and decay in places where there is very little left?

I will not comment on particular questions any further, it’s a futile task.

But I can’t help thinking of the irony of the whole “Health and Wellbeing” section, especially since the Council has agreed to build a huge incinerator next to our houses.

We don’t needd “activities” in our area! We need infrastructure. We need honest democratic debate. We need a decent living environment.

I would also like to know how much this questionnaire cost and who is responsible for it.

Because, this is a bad product.

And, I, as a council tax payer, would like my money back!

Monday, 6 February 2012

The Hampton Hotel

Although I haven’t lived in East Leeds long enough to remember the many pubs there used to be, I do remember the Hampton Hotel closing down. It is situated on Long Close Lane by the Community Centre.
Its owner Mr Naseem Aslam of Care Property Services wishes to convert it into 3 cluster flats with 13 bedrooms!!!!!
Since 2008 when Mr Aslam applied for change of use and conversion to 7 one bed flats and 2 bedsits which was approved by officer delegated approval, he has done nothing to the property but allowed it to go into serious dereliction and decline.
In 2009 he applied and was refused permission to demolish and replace it with a 3 storey new build with 11 flats.
Now in 2012 he wishes to convert it in to 3 cluster flats with 13 bedrooms and only THREE CAR PARKING SPACES.
We can only assume that this is due to the changes in housing benefit rules which state that under 35s must lodge in rooms rather than have houses or flats of their own.
COVEN know a great deal about Mr Aslam, in 2008 he “managed” a property in the East Parks, that was an unregulated conversion to flats and was used by Leeds City Council for homelessness provision,  on COVENs discovery of the conditions inside all tenants were removed. 
Although we appreciate that single people need accommodation we urge residents to strongly oppose this proposed development by logging objections on the planning portal quoting the reference number below as we believe this will set a precedent for single housing provision when in reality to allow our area to thrive we need families and children that supply long term stability to an area.
11/05114/FU   Change of use of former public house to 3 cluster flats with 13 bedrooms | Former Hampton Hotel Long Close Lane Richmond Hill Leeds LS9 8NP

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