Stoke-on-Trent A Five Green Flag City

Stoke-on-Trent City Council is celebrating after being given five Green Flag awards for 2011. Three cemeteries have retained their Green Flag status, as well as news award for Park Hall Country Park & Queens Park Longton

Park Hall Country Park, which contains the city’s only National Nature Reserve, has picked up a Green Flag Award for the first time. It has achieved recognition for the standard of maintenance of the country park’s many wildlife habitats, the provision of leisure and recreational facilities and the active involvement of the local community in management of the site.

Our environmental staff that work at Park Hall take great pride in their work, and it’s fitting that they are recognised for what they have achieved. The Green Flag Award is a hallmark in quality and we are proud to have achieved that status for the park.

The Green Flag at Parkhall will be raised on Tuesday at 10:00am by park volunteers.

Carmountside Cemetery and Crematorium, Burslem Cemetery and Fenton Cemetery have all been awarded the prestigious honour for their floral displays, horticulture and green spaces. Carmountside has been awarded a Green Flag for the 4th year, while Fenton and Burslem have been given the award for the 3rd year.

To receive the award for the third and fourth years running is great credit to the staff at the three cemeteries.

Carmountside, Fenton and Burslem all provide calm surrounds for people to reflect, and that is in no small part due to the work done in maintaining the grounds.

The Lord Mayor, Councillor Terry Follows will raise the Green Flag at Carmountside Cemetery on Tuesday and will celebrate all the flags being awarded to the three cemeteries.

All three of these cemeteries and Park Hall Country Park maintain a high standard when it comes to their appearance and the cleanliness.

The Green Flags also reward the diligence of our staff who work hard throughout the year to make sure that the cemeteries and the park provide a comforting and colourful appearance to everyone who visits them

The Green Flag awards are something that we should all be proud of.

Longton Park was also awarded a green flag award.

Launched in 1996 the Green Flag Award scheme is the benchmark national standard for parks and green spaces in the UK. The first awards were given in 1997 and, many years later, it continues to provide the benchmark against which our parks and green spaces are measured. It is also seen as a way of encouraging others to achieve high environmental standards, setting a benchmark of excellence in recreational green areas.

updated 26 July

Traveller Gypsies Vandalise Park Hall Beauty Spot

Park Hall is one of the city’s areas of outstanding natural beauty. The rolling hills to one side of Park Hall Road, the lake and open green space to the other side.

The residents of the area, old and young, respect the area totally.

Park Hall hills draw visitors from far and wide. The area offers moments of tranquillity and an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Dog walkers enjoy the hills, the lake and green space alike and always clean up the mess their canine friends produce.

To me Park Hall is the jewel in the south of the city’s crown.

However in the past week the area came under attack [I consciously use the word attack] from a group of gypsy travellers who absolutely vandalised the area.

About 30 vans arrived on Saturday 2nd July. They bumped their caravans over a curb and decided to set up camp on the green space next to Park Hall lake.

As is customary the travellers showed no respect to the area, the land, or the residents.

They left exactly one week later leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.

Rubbish was strewn all over the green space. Garden rubbish, rubble, tarmac, clothing general household rubbish, used nappies was discarded without a care.

I visited the area yesterday [Sunday 10th] and took the pictures below on my phone. The damage the caravans had done to the land will take time to repair.

The poor council workers who will undoubtedly be left to clean up after these vandals will also have to deal with an amount of human excrement left as a present by these gypsy travellers.

So, they were there for a week, how come it took so long to get rid of them? Who is to blame? How much will the cleanup operation cost?

The ward councillor Matt Fry was onto the problem almost immediately. In turn Rob Flello, MP for Stoke-on-Trent South was alerted, who in turn put pressure on the council officers and the police.

The hold up, and it happens in every case where gypsy travellers invade an area, is solely down to the time it takes to get the necessary paperwork to and through the courts. The courts give the police permission to evict the travellers on a certain date usually within two weeks of the arrival of the caravans.

Matt Fry, Rob Flello, the police and in particular the officers of the council, cannot be faulted in this case. They worked as a team for the good of the residents and the community to rid the area of this blight on the landscape.

Rob Flello was in constant communication with the police on the matter and as a result of an appeal by the senior officer in charge to the leader of the travellers, the area was eventually evacuated on Saturday 9th.

Cllr Matt Fry along with Rob Flello MP are now in discussions with the relevant officers of the council to ensure there is a thorough cleanup operation and measures taken to prevent any return including a fence or bollards.

I don’t want to turn this into a race issue, to me this is about respect, or to be more accurate, the lack thereof.

People say that gypsies get a rough deal, I just don’t buy that.

Anyone who watched the recent TV series “ËœMy Big Fat Gypsy Wedding’ would have observed that there is arrogance within the travelling community.

They demand respect but the travellers rarely show respect for people or the land they so often mistreat and vandalise.

The programme showed that the caravans in which they live are kept spotlessly clean. The permanent gypsy sites sited around the country are also well kept and the land tended.

But their good housekeeping is limited to their own vans and sites. They do not care a jot about taxpaying communities who are trying their best for the areas in which we live.

They are classed as an ethnic minority and I have no issue with that whatsoever.

What I do care about is that our City Council are left to foot the bill for cleaning up the mess that these people leave behind them.

I was told over the weekend that the cleanup will cost the city council in the region of £5000 plus the cost of ensuring that gypsy travellers cannot access the land in the future.

In an era when we are losing facilities, services and leisure amenities through cuts it is an outrage that these people are allowed to carry on inflicting mess and disruption to areas of our city.

The penalties for the vandalism that gypsy travellers inflict on our communities and areas of natural beauty need to be a whole lot tougher. If they were locked up until they were forced to pay for the cleanup following one of their uninvited stays, they may think twice about how they treat the land in the future.

As my old dad used to say “Ëœrespect is earned not demanded’.

Two Village Green Public Enquiries

On Tuesday 1st February 2011, the Registration of Town and Village Greens Panel of Stoke-on-Trent City Council met, for the first time since July 2007, to consider two village green applications, one at Hulme Road, Park Hall and the other at Anchor Road, Adderley Green.

An application for village green status had been submitted in both cases following council plans to site the Discovery Academy there. Not only did the communities not want a school sited in these locations, they also realized that open green space they had perhaps taken for granted for ongoing community use could be built upon and they wanted to protect it. Margaret Lowe for the Community Schools Action Group applied for Village Green Status for the Park Hall land and Ian Jenkin for the Adderley Green Residents Association applied for Village Green status for the Adderley Green land.

Both applicants attended to observe proceedings at the meeting, although they could not attend the first hour during which panel members were being briefed. Paul Hackney, the legal officer, recommended public enquiries on the basis that the council was the land owner and the decision maker and there were other legal complexities. All panel members supported the recommendation and confirmed with Margaret Lowe and Ian Jenkin that they did too. Ian asked about the financial implications, since an application for Penkhull had been withdrawn for fear of cost liability. However the committee stated that costs would be borne by the council and would be £10,000 for both applications, not each as reported in the Sentinel.

Margaret told the Sentinel afterwards that if a member of the public had objected to village green status the objection would have been thrown out and a decision made there and then, saving costs. But as the council had objected this was their way of being ‘open and transparent’, but also trying to get the public on their side by stating the use of public money.

Ian told the Sentinel that as the council are owners of the land, objectors to the application and have to make a decision on it, there was only really one decision they could have made. However he was pleased about this.

Paul Hackney and the panel chair Joy Garner will appoint an independent inspector. We could hear more about this in May. Following the public enquiry the inspector will make a recommendation to the council that they may be expected to adopt, although they do not have to. If village green status is obtained there would be total removal of any possible development, securing the open space for the community.

Stoke’s Sexy ‘Calender Girls’ Pose To Help Our Heroes

A group of sexy Stoke-on-Trent ‘Calender Girls’ made the best of their assets to raise funds for the Help for Heroes charity.

The Real Stoke Girls 2011 calendar was launched at the end of Septembers and has already raised in the region of £2750 for the forces charity.

The calender was shot in various locations across the 6 Towns of Stoke-on-Trent including Park Hall, the Etruria Industrial Museum and Kingsland Primary School.

The 65 ‘girls’ who took part ranged from 16 – 80 in age

The calender was promoted and organised by Julie Hancock from Milton:

”I am Julie and in June 2010 I had a dream to try and do something to help our troops.

I have a friend, Fiona, who has 3 sons in the Army and recently lost her husband, only 46, to cancer. At his funeral, Colin had requested everyone donated to “Help for Heroes” instead of giving flowers, this raised thousands of pounds……..What a fantastic idea !!!!

So, I wanted to do my bit too . I asked around and through Facebook if anyone would be interested in doing a local calendar, with a sexy military theme?

Within 48 hours I was inundated with kind offers of photographers, fancy dress, vehicles, props, locations and “models”.. 65 of them, 95% of whom I had never met!

Now …we are talking REAL women – REAL curves, REAL lumps n bumps.
From 16 to 80 years old, some with scars from operations, some who have never even undressed in front of their husbands!
REAL stories. REAL problems – but nothing would stop them from “doing their bit” for the troops.

After six weekends of photo shoots in locations such as the picturesque Park Hall Pine woodlands, Etruria Industrial Museum, The Sentinel Photo Studio & Kingsland primary school, in Bucknall”.

”The cast of the Calender Girls, who recently starred in the show at the Regent Theatre, thought our Calender was great. The all signed a copy for us which was a fantastic gesture”.

The calender can be purchased from the website below and would be great to fill many of the stockings on display in the beautiful images that celebrate the female form. It is priced at just £10.

BSF, WHAT’S THAT ALL ABOUT? – TOM REYNOLDS TELLS US!

tomreynoldslabourpartylogoIt’s been a while, but it’s worth waiting for!  Longton North Councillor, Labours Tom Reynolds gives us his views on the BSF project………

First things first I have to apologise for the large gap in between my contributions to Pits ‘n’ Pots. My last article was on the old website, and a hell of a lot as happened for both PnP and the city as a whole since then!

I promised in my last blog to focus my next contribution on education, and I’m sticking to that. I’m sure that some people will disagree with me vehemently over some of the points that I’m going to raise, but that is the very nature of education, it’s probably the most emotive topic in Local Government. Rightly so, there is nothing more important than getting education right and giving our children a decent foundation for a successful life. I would be more worried if emotions didn’t run high on education.

You cannot look at the topic of education in Stoke-on-Trent without addressing the controversial issue at the centre of political debate in the City ““ Building Schools for the Future. Ultimately £240 million investment in new and improved secondary school buildings cannot be bad news for our city’s young people. Of course we all know that it is not just a building that makes a school, but if we’re talking about a decaying structure that is not fit for purpose versus a well equipped state of the art educational establishment, it does not take a genius to figure out that the new school has a pretty obvious head start in achieving excellence over the crumbling old school which faces stumbling blocks.

When we look back critically it is easy to identify things in the BSF programme, under several different administrations, that should have been done differently. For me, the sheer timescale has to be the biggest regret.  In the time it has taken Stoke to get this far with its BSF proposals, Bristol which was also in Wave One of the scheme has planned, consulted, built and is now teaching in its first round of new schools.  I think it is also fair to say that the consultation could have been more robust. Although every parent could give feedback at the meetings held at each school, we must accept that people, rightly or wrongly have felt that there was not a genuine dialogue.

However, ultimately the decision has now been made locally, approved nationally, and things are moving forward. Given past shortcomings on BSF further stalling is not an option, we have to get the schools built and open.

I want to briefly tackle two of the most controversial specific elements of the BSF programme.  Firstly, governance arrangements of the new schools and academies have been particularly controversial, with the founding of “ËœStoke against academies’. For me, by far and away the most important factor is the quality of the education provided to the end users ““ the students of the new establishments. Recent figures have show that Academies have improved twice as fast as other schools ““ the GCSE figures from the academies that have two years data show that the proportion of pupils gaining five A*-Cs has increased by 4.9%. The top performing academies, and I want Stoke’s new academies to be in this quartile in the future, have all roughly doubled their proportions of students achieving top grades in one year.

The second element I want to look at is the closure of Trentham High. I am genuinely sympathetic towards those campaigning for Trentham to remain open because they fervently believe that the current school is the optimum learning environment for the young people of that community. However it cannot be ignored that until two years ago Trentham underperformed, not a characteristic of the optimum educational establishment! All credit must be given to the senior management and teaching staff at the school for turning things around in difficult circumstances.

I can also appreciate Trentham parent’s anxieties about the route to the proposed new academy; I have similar concerns with the proposed academy that will serve the community I represent ““ Park Hall. The task now for me is to ensure that, as the proposals are finalised, Park Hall Academy is the best possible school it could be, and the routes to school from all parts of my community receive the necessary alterations to make it the safest possible school it could be. There is a similar job of work to be done to ensure the academy serving Blurton and Trentham is the safest and best it could possibly be.

Like or dislike the details of the programme, over the past two years Building Schools for the Future has moved forward and we are closer to realising the excellent new schools that have been far too long in the pipeline. It’s therefore extremely disappointing to read, here on PnP, that if the BNP took control of the authority they would not go ahead with the BSF programme ““ they would turn down £240 million worth of investment in our city’s school for the sake of jumping on a political bandwagon. I think this shows that party’s true colours, willing to play politics with the future of the city’s schools for a few electoral points.  The City Independents are not much better, their actions over the last few months show that they would procrastinate even more putting the investment on the line.

Despite the temptation to concentrate on BSF alone, we have to look beyond it to ensure a better educational future for the city. In terms of secondary education, one of the principle challenges of the next few years will be retaining the best of our teaching staff and attracting the best teaching talent to take new posts in the city. We need to do this by aggressively headhunting and making Stoke the place to be for leading educationalists.

Further, evidence suggests that having as strong ethos within a school benefits its performance. The authority needs to work in partnership with senior management teams in all the new schools to instil strong and decent educational ethos’s which help them to perform and raise the educational aspirations of their students.

Educational aspiration is something that cannot be developed in schools alone. We need to invest in a widened youth service that supports the work done in schools subtly and celebrates educational achievement. I have seen first hand the benefits that youth work has had in the Longton North and it was plain to see the positive effect for young people at South Eastern Neighbourhood Youth Achievement Awards at the end of the year which I was fortunate to attend.

Finally, what better way to raise educational aspiration than through widening participation to tertiary education? The new University Quarter, which is well in train, will provide the largest education led regeneration project in the country with truly world class Higher and Further Education facilities. Combined with the newly expanded Keele University young people will have two excellent Universities on their doorstep, and first class facilities for vocational training.

I’m sure there will be far from universal agreement with many of the points raised, but look forward to hearing people’s thoughts. I hope to follow on from this blog by a future article on Community Safety & Youth Work.

Tom Reynolds
Councillor for the Longton North

The views in the above post are Tom’s and Tom’s alone. Pitsnpots thanks Tom for his continued contributions to our site.

Over to you…………………………………..