Millennium Wood path formally opened by Mayor of Derby

Early rain cleared to leave a bright day for the opening of the new path through Millennium Wood, near Heatherton, on Friday 15th March.  As its name suggests, the park has been there for nearly 20 years, providing a valuable green space for people in the south west of Derby.

The new path, funded by contributions from the Heatherton developers, has opened up the park to people living in the Oaklands Avenue area to the south. The route has been built wide enough for walkers, cyclists and even horse riders and is being used by pupils at nearby Derby Moor School and commuters, for example to Rolls-Royce.

Cllr Mike Carr cutting the ribbon to officially open the new path.

Cllr Mike Carr cutting the ribbon to officially open the new path.

Cllr Mike Carr, the  Mayor of Derby, gave a short speech before ceremonially cutting a green ribbon.  He said “I’m absolutely delighted to be here with you today. For many years it has been an aspiration for the City Council to be able to develop this route linking the green network of Littleover Parks with the estate on which Oaklands Avenue is located.

“The Section 106 funding has also being utilised to lay, and in time rejuvenate, an ancient hedge, [and] to create a wildlife pond here in Millennium Wood Park.

“I would like to thank Friends of Littleover Parks, the Derby Parks Volunteers and Council Staff who have worked to bring these projects to successful completion.”

Cllr Ruth Skelton, who represents the area which includes the park said “At long last we’ve got here.  It’s been around 15 years in the making from concept to reality.  Feedback from local people has been very positive.”

Littleover resident, Danielle Lind, is a campaigner in the local area, she said “My thanks go to all the local residents and community groups who’ve worked together to make this happen.  This will open up the park to further improvements in the future.”

Councillor Alan Grimadell, the Cabinet Member for Leisure, Culture and Tourism, said “I’m extremely impressed by what has been achieved by everyone concerned, especially Friends of Littleover Parks.”

Nigel Staunton (left) with the Mayoress and Mayor of Derby.

Nigel Staunton (left) with the Mayoress and Mayor of Derby.

Chair of Friends of Littleover Parks, Nigel Staunton, worked hard with the Parks team and in the local community to achieve not just the path, but other new features for the park.  He is delighted at the opportunities the new path provides for local people and said “The new bridleway is opening up the park to new users, including the four horse riders from a local stables whom I met last week.”

Trevor Taylor of Derbyshire Wildlife Trust said “The new path creates new habitat as a woodland ride suitable for wildflowers and butterflies.  With the ponds and hedge-laying it should mean a welcome increase in biodiversity.”

Mr and Mrs Dolman also live in Littleover, they said “We walk along here quite often and it’s wonderful to be able to walk through the park and make it a circular walk.  We’re delighted with the whole scheme.”

And it is not just about the park itself, Howard Williams who works at Rolls-Royce said “I used Blagreaves Lane to cycle to work for years but the new path takes a few minutes off my journey.  I hope that Sustrans make it their official route as it’s also safer and nicer for cycling.

However due to the strong winds, the path was nearly blocked for the opening event.  David Winslow, one of the Parks team said “We were doing final checks on Wednesday and found a great branch across the new path.  We just had time to clear it before rushing off to the match!”

Posted in Community, Environment, Events, Social & Community | Leave a comment

Saving the 35 bus

The 35 bus carries mostly older people to do their shopping, to visit friends, the doctors or the hospital and similar trips – during the middle of the day.  But back in July this was due to end.

On the bus!

On the bus!

Since June we’ve been fighting the keep the service running – and to publicise it.  This was basically the problem.  It’s a decent service, but it’s not been marketed and therefore shrunk to a middle-of-the-day service only.  And when the bus company, Notts and Derby, saw how little it was taking, they decided to cut it.

Local people were up in arms.  I was phoned by a regular user, and we started exploring how the bus could be saved.  Around £60 per day extra was needed.  But who would pay and who would hold the money?

The cash strapped council made it clear their answer was ‘no’ to subsidising it.  But local people were keen to keep it, and many were willing to pay, either because they wanted to use it, or simply because they understand the value of buses.  Taxis would cost far more.

A sample of publicity materials.

A sample of publicity materials.

This bus goes past Tesco, Iceland, the Co-op, Aldi and into town.  People use it to reach at least five doctors’ surgeries, a dentists’ and the Royal Derby Hospital – the major hospital for miles around.  It’s the only link between two suburbs, Littleover and Mickleover and nearly links to a third, Heatherton.  What it needs is marketing.

And marketing we did.  We produced paper timetables, put posters up on bus shelters, added timetables to timetable cases, and published a cut-out-and-keep timetable in Focus door-to-door newsletters.  We took timetables round those destinations, and handed them out to interested people when door-knocking for donations.

The all important first £1000, raised in under a day.

The all important first £1000, raised in under a day.

Meanwhile we persuaded the Council to hold the funds to pay for the service, raising over £1000 in under 24 hours to save it initially.  Since then a further £1000 has come from the local community, but more is needed.

The numbers of passengers started to rise, but when it’s too hand-to-mouth, people don’t have the confidence that the bus will still be running to stand outside and wait for it.  We need to have more security.

Meanwhile Derby is one of the city’s which must improve its air quality – and buses should be part of that solution.  Two thirds of people we survey regularly agree that the Council should do more to encourage people to leave their cars at home.

Many people in Heatherton would be happy to use a middle-of-the-day service to Mickleover and the Hospital.  So it’d be good to amend the route to include them – if only the bus were to be running for long enough to make it worthwhile.

An encouraging letter arrived just this morning!

An encouraging letter arrived just this morning!

So we need more money.  If you could help, then you can pay into the fund being held by the Council using www.derby.gov.uk/pay-it and search for 35 – to find the right account.  Add your details and we’ll try to keep in touch (though getting this info out of the Council is interesting due to GDPR!).

At a public meeting on Thursday 6th September, it was agreed to set up a support group for the bus for the long term.  And a generous donor is putting forward up to £1000 to match other donations over the next 10 days.

So anything you give till the 16th September will be doubled (up to that £1000 target).  Many thanks!

BBC's The One Show filmed on the bus!

BBC’s The One Show filmed on the bus!

 

 

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Could social housing be as personal as private ownership?

The private sector provides lots of choice. Could the social housing sector do so too?

The private sector provides lots of choice. Could the social housing sector do so too?

Could chains in social housing – Council or Housing Association homes – help more tenants to have the home they’d like?

People who’ve bought or sold houses know about ‘chains’.  Estate agents will advertise ‘no chain’ against a property they are marketing as an advantage.  And if you want that ‘no chain’ property then that’s great – but the odds are that you would prefer another.

As a house buyer, one chooses a property within one’s budget in the area you want with the characteristics you fancy.  You put in your offer.  If it is accepted you wait patiently until the chain moves.  You may have to find a buyer, the seller may have to find a property they want, but in the end a whole chain of people have their housing wishes satisfied at once.

In social housing, most moves are of the ‘no chain’ variety.  You have to be very lucky to be near the top of the waiting list and get a home that is something like what you want.  You may have to compromise size or location, but as a tenant you are somehow expected to be grateful for anything you can get – especially when housing is in short supply.

Most areas also allow people to ‘swap’ homes.  But rarely is this more than a direct one to one exchange.

I think we should be able to do better.  Imagine the following, all living in social housing.

  • Michael has recently retired and lives in a one-bed ground floor flat with his dog but would now love to have a garden.
  • Audrey is still living in the three bed property her family grew up in, but the stairs are difficult to manage and the garden is too large.
  • Paula is also in three bed property with her two teenagers.  She wants to support her elderly mum who has just had a stroke, but lives on the other side of town.
  • Gary and Julie now have three children in their small two bed terrace and the arguments are starting…
  • Paula and Marc are expecting their number one, but are still living with Paula’s mum and dad in their two bed bungalow.

Following current practice you might be able to suggest some exchanges.  Perhaps Audrey could swap with Gary and Julie, at least Audrey’s garden problem might be reduced.   Or maybe Michael’s flat would suit Audrey – though Audrey’s house would be rather big for Michael and his dog.

It is really not very satisfactory.

So what happens if we make it into a chain, like the private sector does?

  • Paula and Marc can move to Gary and Julie’s small terrace
  • Gary and Julie can have Paula’s family three bed house
  • Paula can move to Audrey’s house on the other side of town near her mum
  • Audrey can have Michael’s flat and
  • As soon as a small house or flat with a garden becomes available for Michael, the whole chain moves and everyone can be a bit happier!

This works in the private sector.  And I want it to work in the social housing sector too.

There’d need to be safeguards – like tenants would need to be up-to-date with their rent and property be in reasonable condition.

Wouldn’t it be great if this wasn’t just a system in Derby, but across the country?  It could then open up employment opportunities for people currently fearful to apply for a job beyond commuting distance from their current rented home.

Now all we need is the IT, the safeguards and a willingness to give real choice and flexibility to people in the social housing sector, and hopefully improve social mobility too!

Who will help to make this happen?

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I’m just back from Radio Derby

Today’s question: Would it make any difference to walkers in the New Forest whether cyclists all had bells on their bicycles?

This feels like a storm in a teacup to me but it is the reason why I was asked to go in to Radio Derby this morning: A debate in Parliament about walkers in the New Forest concerned about ‘rogue’ cyclists rushing silently past them.  Earlier in the programme there had been an excellent discussion with Tony Roelich of Derby Cycling Group, highlighting the importance of courtesy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The bell on my Brompton bicycle. I find a cheery ‘Good morning!’ or ‘Cyclist approaching’ is kinder to alert others.

Putting a bell on a bicycle sadly doesn’t mean it will be used correctly, especially by ‘rogues’ (whoever they might be!).  And would enforcement of bells on bicycles be a good use of public resources?  What about bells on mobility scooters, or runners, or horses?  And what about people who are deaf, or engrossed in conversation, or deep in their own thoughts, or listening to music.

Tony got it right.  The key message is really that all users of public spaces should be aware of, and courteous towards, each other.

The radio debate went on to try to identify the worse people on our roads.  Lots of different categories were mentioned later in the programme.  Cycling home, I realised that my pet hate is people who shout abuse at other road users.  If something needs saying, say it politely, your message is more likely to be respected.  It’s courtesy, again.

Meanwhile, it’s been good to hear people phoning in to say that a polite call from an approaching cyclist is more use, and than a tingingly bell.    Let’s hope that our MPs see sense!

 

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