Council Contact

Although the newsletter was distributed over a month ago now, until recently progress has been slow. For the first couple of weeks we wanted to guage the reaction of local people to the newsletter. The response was very encouraging.

This website was set up a couple of days before the newsletter was put out. On the day that it was, this site jumped from 0 hits to 45 hits. It may not sound much but when you consider that the newsletter was only distributed on Hillmoor Street, Clarence Street and Chesterfield Road North. And only to a total of 116 occupied houses, it is a lot of attention. That is potentially almost half of the households of the area showing enough interest to read the newsletter, and come to this site.

But not everyone owns a computer. And of those people, one lady was so moved by the newsletter she felt the need to find my house, and shake my hand. And I must say, if that were the only reaction I had got from the newsletter it would still have been worth it. I have also tried to speak to as many people as I can, and I must say the reaction has been wholly positive.

A few people also chose to email me directly. I must say that these people were more inclined to question and challenge than most other people. Although there is broad agreement in the area that there are problems, many people are cynical that anything can be done. This position is not without merit. In the experiences of most people, dealing with the problems of anti-social behaviour or social housing is left to authorities, who deal with consequences, but not the cause. The “solutions” they present are often not solutions at all, but merely ways to punish people they see as guilty of causing the problem, or simply moving and separating people, sometimes in a bid to get “better people”.

So is it any wonder that people believe that nothing can be done to improve their circumstances, when experience proves them right? I can’t blame anyone for thinking that way.

But what I can say is that there is more than one way to skin a cat. Just because other solutions don’t solve the problems, doesn’t mean the problems can’t be addressed. They just need to be addressed in the right way.

Everyone knows that in comparison to the communities of the past, our present society is made up of very broken communities. But why? Because people have much less invested in their communities. They spend less time at home, and by extension less time making social connections around their homes, and more time far away at work. But when people spend time at home, they get to know neighbours, they make friends, and spend more money locally. Overtime, people become very invested in making sure that the place where they spend all of their time is a nice place to be. Anti-social behaviour and crime diminish as people support each other more, and people become less inclined to alienate all the people in the community they know and depend on.

With all this in mind we wanted to start something in Pleasley Hill. Not just a group, but a network of people that support each other. Official groups are just one aspect of it. Yes we need a group to address the council regarding housing, yet we also need activities to bring people together. Not just for kids, but a broad enough range of activities to appeal to all.

However, there were a few important guides that we realised we had to follow. For any of this to be successful it had to be community based. We can’t rely on redevelopments or council employees to fix our problems. No one has as much interest in our futures as us. And if we stop waiting for someone else to fix our problems and do it ourselves, we will have more success. We have all seen in this recession what is important to the establishment of this country. And it’s not us.

Everything has to be inclusive. All are welcome, no matter what previous disagreements there have been between people. No one should feel unwelcome, it is for everyone. We should also address all the major and minor issues. Housing and unemployment to name but two problems that seem far too big to tackle, are in fact addressable with simple community based solutions.

Everyone I talk to agrees with what I have said so far. (if you don’t please let me know). And upon agreement want to know what solutions I have in mind. And it is here I fall down. Not because I don’t have the answers, but because I do. And because some of them are hard work, some of them might be considered a little radical, and some could be legally questionable. However, in all cases there are examples of other people doing the same things in the past with success. And rather than get into a long winded, inaccessible, political debate on the internet about these solutions, I would much rather present them to the people at a meeting, and let people discuss them properly.

It is for all these reasons that we felt little need to contact the council about our ideas, and in many ways reject them. However they do have a part to play in our lives, and must be communicated with.

My initial contact with the council was simply to obtain use of Hillmoor Street Community Centre to begin running workshops, and holding meetings. The intention behind this was to a.) provide activities and bring people together which would cause b.) a stronger sense of community. But in trying to get the use of this centre, I have opened the floodgates a little, before we are truly ready for it. I now have two meetings arranged with council employees. The first is next Monday, with the Community Development Officer from NCC. This meeting is mainly to discuss the workshops, and obtain use of the Community Centre. But they also want to talk about what else we want to do in the area, and offer funding it would seem.

I also now have a meeting with the Housing Liaison Officer from MDC the next day! I was contacted after she read the newsletter (not sure how she got it, but it was inevitable), and said she would like to talk to me. She is interested in talking to community groups about housing.

So I am now working very hard to get these workshops up and running, and get a public meeting together. We have opportunities here that it would be a shame to miss. As the meeting approaches we will put out a draft agenda, that anyone can contribute to. But I think one thing that should certainly be discussed is the formation of a group to deal with housing. Once that is done we can discuss between us what we want to see happen in the area, and talk to the council in unison. As the redevelopment approaches the need for this grows, if we are to have any hope of the redevelopment truly helping all of us, and not just the few who end up lucky.

We also have a chance to provide a lot of activities for people, and I know people have ideas of their own. So while we are open to suggestions, we also welcome any help. Unless you as a member of this community choose to get involved, we won’t be able to provide you with the things you want. The more people, the more resources and the more options we have, the more power we have over what affects us.

I will of course keep people posted on what happens with the meetings. In the meantime, please contribute if you have anything to say, would like more of a part now, or disagree entirely!


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