Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Communication Breakdown

Vandalised Information Board at Thorpe Meadows
Information Board at Thorpe Meadows

UPDATE: On Tuesday 6th October 2016, following a 7th attack on Nene Park, I appeared on the Paul Stainton Show on BBC Radio Cambs to talk about the things I mention in this blog post.

I woke this morning to the news that several of the information boards at Thorpe Meadows, a beautiful area close to our ward that I visited only recently, have been vandalised with extremely offensive graffiti.

I've written about Peterborough's graffiti on this blog a couple of times already. Firstly, I spoke of the graffiti that had appeared on a wall in Orton Northgate and compared this to the 'Vote Leave' graffiti that appeared in Stanground just before the EU Referendum. More recently, I wrote about the graffiti that has appeared opposite St Mary's Church in Orton Waterville.

However, I don't need to write about graffiti for residents to know about it. A group of people have been defacing Orton for months now. Elsewhere in the city, graffiti has moved on from 'tagging' to being racially offensive and deliberate in its intention to destroy public enjoyment of our natural spaces.

Vandalised Information Board at Thorpe Meadows
Information Board at Thorpe Meadows

So What's Going On?

Well, the tagging at St Mary's Church is communication. It may be deeply anti-social, but it is neither mindless nor thoughtless. Because graffiti takes effort. The person doing the spraying needs to have paint to spray, a certain amount of 'skill' with a spray can and the ability to be organised enough to make their mark without detection. This is the opposite of mindless. It is, however, done without seeing the bigger picture. It is done without an appreciation of the stress and misery that graffiti can cause to people living in a community. It is inconsiderate. It is an act that is 'separate' to the community. But it is still a form of communication. To dismiss it as vandalism is to over-simplify it and if we over-simplify and ignore it how are we ever to fully address it?

Tagging opposite St Mary's in Orton Waterville

I also wrote recently about how Peterborough City Council had taken a decision without consulting the local community to paint the 'blue bridge' green. I love green, but I can well understand why some residents felt that the council had 'vandalised' a landmark without even asking them how they felt. To some, that paint job felt like a 'mindless' act.

Common Thread

I see a common thread running through all three of these instances: communication. Or, more specifically, communication breakdown.

So what of this horrible mess that has appeared overnight at Thorpe Meadows? Is this communication too? And if it is, how do we respond to it? Do we put CCTV everywhere? Or do we try to find out why this was done? These are the questions that divide communities.

One might say 'give the graffiti artists a place to do their tagging and they will stop doing it elsewhere'. There may be some truth in this, however, the mess at Thorpe Meadows is not the same as the mess in Orton Waterville. The vandalism at Thorpe Meadows is deliberate in its intention to cause offence. It is still communication but it is not communication between graffiti artists. It is communication to the rest of us. It is saying something about human misery. It feels hateful and violent and provocative. It is painful screams, not simply 'I was here, please notice me'.

Graffiti and vandalism are as old as humanity itself. The generations that preceded ours did not succeed in stamping it out and nor will we. But I wonder, when our most precious and beautiful areas are attacked and destroyed, whether communication has broken down completely, or whether we're just not listening to one another intently enough.

Listen Harder

As a local politician, my role is to listen and to communicate. But I'm well aware that not everyone in our community is a skilled communicator. I wasn't exactly brilliant at school, but I had a good English teacher who nurtured and pushed me. Not everyone has the ability to express how they feel in language, through speech or through writing. Effective communication, where the person expressing the idea does so in the way they intended and is fully understood by the audience they wished to reason with is really complicated stuff. This is why so many residents approach people like me to help them write letters, fill out forms and talk to people in authority on their behalf. It is difficult, it takes real skill, and the more any of us can do to help other people to express themselves and be heard is a very good thing. I know many community volunteers who do exactly this. They are our angels.

I have no idea why the person who has vandalised Thorpe Meadows did what they did because communication has broken down. There is no message, only questions and despair. But the message I will CHOOSE to take from this is to listen harder in our community, especially to those people who find communication difficult and frustrating. It may make absolutely no difference to those who would cause this kind of harm to us, but it might make those of us who reckon ourselves to be effective communicators and who put ourselves forward to serve in our communities a bit more aware of residents' needs to be heard.

Audio transcript:
Paul Stainton: Also with us is Julie Howell. She’s from the Peterborough Green Party and recently wrote a blog about Peterborough’s graffiti problem. Julie, Good morning.
Julie Howell: Hi, good morning, Paul.
PS: Should we get the big stick out for these people?
JH: Well, I think we need to differentiate between two different things that are going on here. There is graffiti across Peterborough. Some areas of Peterborough have got a real problem with graffiti and by that I mean tagging which is really a conversation between people. It may not be a conversation that we like, we may find it anti-social, it’s a conversation none-the-less and I think there are a lot of questions there about why people are doing that rather than having conversations face-to-face somewhere else, are we providing enough facilities? But let me tell you, this stuff at Ferry Meadows, this is not graffiti and I’d like us to stop calling it that. It’s a hate crime. It’s very clearly a hate crime. It’s racist. It’s not a conversation at all. It’s not a conversation that any of us are party to that we can understand. Covering over signs is stopping conversation. And writing racist words, and I don’t know who the racism is aimed at because the press has, quite rightly, not shared that.
PS: We don’t want to give that any oxygen, that’s the thing.
JH: No, absolutely not. But to me, first of all I want to find, mmm, okay, graffiti, it’s a conversation, but seeing that this is, what, the seventh time that this has happened at Nene Park, which as Brian was saying is absolutely vast, and that nature of it.
PS: Have you seen it, by the way? Because you live quite close don’t you, you live in the Ortons, don’t you?
JH: I do live quite close. I haven’t been there since this graffiti started up. Quite frankly I don’t care to see it. It’s offensive to me. I’m seeing the pictures and I don’t like it. And when I go to Ferry Meadows and Thorpe Meadows by the rowing lake where I’ve been quite recently I go there to relax, not to be confronted with things that make me feel stressed. I’m sure a lot of people feel the same way. But I’d really also like to challenge this thing about ‘mindless’. This hate crime that’s going on in Nene Park, it is not mindless. Think about it. Nights when this has been happening are freezing cold, absolutely freezing cold, a bit like it is today. And whoever is doing this is going equipped. They’re going with spray cans to do it. They’re going with torches because it’s pitch black.
PS: With intent
JH: With intent, exactly. This isn’t mindless. It’s deliberate, it’s planned, it takes careful planning to do that sort of thing, so we have to stop dismissing it.
PS: Yes, so there’s a couple of things going on here is what you’re saying. We’ve got people across Peterborough tagging, having that conversation, which we could have sympathy with or not have sympathy with and then we got this individual or individuals who’s intent on committing a hate crime for whatever reason in Nene Park.
JH: Well, it’s interesting that Brian says he thinks it’s one person. That’s not what the police are saying. The police have said to the media that they think it’s a group of people, which is interesting again because you can imagine that it’s one person who’s got some sort of gripe though I can’t imagine how you link racist graffiti with Ferry Meadows I don’t really see that.
PS: Do the police have to pull their finger out?
JH: Yes, they do on this. They do on this. This is about hate. Other sorts of graffiti I’d say it’s a council matter and the council has policies for dealing with this. I looked up this morning, actually. Peterborough City Council spent over £35,000 clearing up graffiti.
PS: Money they haven’t got.
JH: Well considering they don’t clear up any old graffiti, they only clear it up if it’s offensive, this shows you how big the problem is that we have across Peterborough.
PS: What do we need to do? Do we need to educate people? They’re blighting our lives. They’re making a mess over here. Do we need to get tough with taggers? Notwithstanding what you’re saying about the differential between that and this crime. What would get the message across?
JH: When it comes to Ferry Meadows it’s crime, get the police the police on it. When it comes to tagging generally, and there’s a load that’s popped up in beautiful Orton Waterville right outside the church which really annoys me because that does bring it to another level when it’s outside a churchyard. When it’s that I think we need to ask ourselves as a community why aren’t we providing more things for our young people to do. It may not be young people of course, that may just be a stereotype. In central Peterborough we have graffiti walls and they’re actually quite beautiful and people tend not to deface other people’s really lovely looking graffiti.
PS: So let’s get more of them out and about shall we.
JH: It’s something to think about, isn’t it?
PS: Julie, thank you for that. Julie Howell from the Peterborough Green Party, recently wrote a blog about Peterborough’s graffiti problem. There you go, we can stop some of the tagging by having graffiti walls but as she quite rightly says this is different. This is hate. This is racist graffiti that people are putting on there. People with intent.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Plans for Plegan Place

Plegan Place
Plegan Place

UPDATE 23 July 2017: Since I wrote this blog post, Orton Waterville Parish Council has been considering a request from a group of residents for improvements to the play equipment at Plegan Place as they feel that the range of play equipment there at present is uninspiring. At time of writing, the Parish Council is considering this request and has agreed to set aside some budget for potential improvements to the play equipment. However, no work will be started without further consultation with residents, both in favour and not in favour, particularly in respect of those residents who live near Plegan Place, who make use of it now and who are concerned about how the Parish Council spends the money it receives from the council tax 'precept'. If you have any concerns or wish to share your views, please contact the Parish Council clerk via the Orton Waterville Parish Council website.

Chances are you've never heard of Plegan Place, but you know it. It's the area of common land registered to Orton Waterville Parish Council between The Gannocks and Wyman Way in Orton Waterville.

The land, previously a 'public gravel pit' according to public records, is subject to bye laws that mean its use is protected and restricted. For example, while there are public allotments at Plegan Place, fencing around the allotments is prohibited (so if you've ever wondered why those allotments are not fenced off, now you know).

Plegan Place has quite a history. It was the parcel of land numbered '72' on the Enclosure Award Map of 1809 for the parish of Cherry Orton (now known as Orton Waterville parish) and was awarded to 'the surveyors of the highways of the parish' at that time. The herbage for the plot was awarded to the Surveyors so that they 'could let this out at a reasonable rent and use this income on the repair of roads'.

The parish council presently maintains the burial ground at Plegan Place, and also owns the play equipment which is maintained by Peterborough City Council. If you thought things like burial grounds and playgrounds 'just were' you may be surprised at the complexity of who owns what and why and who looks after it!.

Plegan Place
Aerial view of Plegan Place

Much of the rest of Plegan Place is given over to grass. However, discussion are happening at Parish Council level to make more of this lovely area that is so popular with local dog walkers, for example by turning some of the land into a meadow of wild flowers for everyone to enjoy.

Earlier this year, the parish council was approached by residents who feel that the play equipment would benefit from some improvements. With their help, this idea is being considered, and now a working group of the parish council is considering ideas to both improve the play facilities and enhance the natural beauty of Plegan Place.

Ideas for the development of Plegan Place are still at a very early stage and residents' input will be welcome. If you'd like to be involved, drop me a line.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Have Some Respect

Every few weeks I spend Thursday mornings on a litter pick in Orton Waterville with a group of volunteers (you are welcome to join us, the more the merrier). While I wait for the rest of the group to arrive I take the opportunity have a look around the village. We have a few projects on the go that I like to check up on, I often bump into people I know (and today was no exception) and sometimes I come across things that I'd really rather not.

Someone, or maybe a couple of people, with not much talent and even less respect has sprayed graffiti on the side of the parade of shops that faces St Mary's churchyard.

Graffiti at Waterville
It's Waterville, not water-vile.
Knock it on the head.

Posted by Julie Howell on Thursday, 17 November 2016

I do talk to people who have a greater understanding of street art than I do and I know that tagging is all about being seen and on the level where tagging is perhaps the only means some people feel they have to be seen or heard in their community I can just about muster a begrudging tolerance (littering and speeding hurt our environment and our people more directly). But these particular tags are seen by people visiting the the graves of their loved ones or paying their respects to the fallen at the war memorial. It's easy to call all graffiti a senseless and selfish act without trying to understand the motivation behind it... but come on. Outside the churchyard in a conservation village - really?

Graffiti is a deliberate act. It isn't carelessness. It isn't caused by people who can't be bothered to clean up after themselves. Graffiti is created by people who have made some effort to equip themselves with spray paint and then find locations to use it. Thought and effort go into graffiti and in a way this makes it even more offensive.

Whether it's graffiti, litter, fly tipping, dog mess or speeding, there is a horrible blight on almost every area of Peterborough at the moment that is hurting our community as much as our environment. Many of us go out everyday in all weathers to remove litter, report fly tipping and graffiti, etc. (and that's in addition to all the work Peterborough City Council's teams of street cleaners do). If we didn't do all this voluntary cleaning, I shudder to think how bad things would be. In our aspiring 'Environmental City' some people, for whatever their reasons, are letting us down.

Broken litter stick
I picked litter so vigorously this morning
I broke the stick

Video transcript: Hello, I’ve come out to Orton Waterville this morning to check out something that was raised by residents recently. Just let me show you where I am. If I turn the camera around you can see I’m at the beautiful St Mary’s Church in Waterville. But if we just spin around and look at the side of the shop directly opposite, as you can see somebody else has had other ideas about how to keep this place looking lovely and they’re quite different ideas to all of the residents’ and indeed everybody else really. Look at the state of it. We’ve got a real problem with graffiti at the moment right across the ward but this is just beyond disrespectful isn’t it really? We tend to think about Waterville village as being a place that’s spared this as people have respect for the church and also it’s a conservation village but apparently not so that’s really disappointing. We’re seeing what we can do to get that graffiti removed as soon as possible and to do something about it happening ever again.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

New England, Same Old Problem

Green Party litter pick group
Peterborough Green Party Litter Pick Team

New England is much like any other part of Peterborough. It's leafy, it's home to a thriving community, and the people who live there are lovely.

And just like in many other areas across our fair city, a minority of people are intent on spoiling it by dropping litter and fly tipping.

This morning I joined a small yet eager group of Peterborough Green Party members and residents on a clean up of the streets around Eaglesthorpe at the request of local resident Jess. I'm not for one moment saying Eaglesthorpe is any worse than any other Peterborough street when it comes to litter and fly tipping. I am saying it's just as bad, and when Jess asked for our help in giving it a tidy up we were very happy to get involved.

14 bags of litter
All this from one very average Peterborough street

Group of litter pickers
We were lucky with the weather today,
but any weather is good for picking litter!

It isn't my goal to become an expert in littering, but when you've done a few litter picks you get to know who's doing it and why. The causes are complicated. It has nothing at all to do with the presence of bins (there are two in Eaglesthorpe), but a lot to do with how people regard their own community. It only takes one or two habitual litterers or fly tippers to bring an area down, and we have found that wherever you have fly tipping you very quickly have more fly tipping. This is why it's so important that you contact Peterborough City Council as soon as you seen any fly tipped waste in your street.

How do you do that? It's easy, you just call this number...

01733 747474

You can also report fly tipping using the My Peterborough app.

The council promises to remove fly tipped waste within two working days.

If you're not sure what I mean by 'fly tipping' this photograph, taken where Eaglesthorpe meets St Paul's Road, will illustrate.

Fly tipped bed
Human beings did this.
I have no words.

UPDATE: Within 24 hours of us reporting it, Peterborough City Council removed the fly-tipped bed. Thank you Peterborough CC!

There are no words really, are there? Someone living in our community thinks it's fair enough to dump their unwanted divan bed under some trees on a residential street.

Our streets are not a rubbish tip and the people in our communities are not rubbish. This kind of behaviour, inflicted on some human beings onto other human beings causes misery. It is brought about either by sheer laziness or by unscrupulous traders who charge local people to take away their rubbish then dump it on our streets. How is this ever okay? It isn't. Not ever.

And how's this for a lovely Autumnal scene? At the other end of Eaglesthorpe, someone has decided that the best way to get rid of their unwanted bathroom sink is to smash to bits and leave it in a bush.

Broken sink in a bush

Out of Sight, Out of Mind?

I struggle to get into the mindset of fly tippers. I can only assume that they close their eyes to the harm they cause in communities. As communities, what should our response be? Is it our responsibility to contact the council? I would argue that yes, it is. It's my belief that when we all start to play our part in making our local area better we begin to have an effect on the causes of fly tipping and litter and on the people who are doing most of the fly tipping and littering. When we all take pride in our little patch, especially if it's a stretch of street and not just our own gardens, we create the best kind of infectious virus that can spread right around communities very quickly: it's called pride in where we live.

Bags of litter
Inaugural use of our new Green litter bag hoops.

A Community Problem with a Community Solution

There are many reasons why Peterborough Green Party undertakes monthly litter picks. Obviously, we want to play our part in removing rubbish from our streets, particularly the stuff that has been there a long time and is slowly suffocating the ground beneath. However, there's also a deeper reason. We believe that when members of the public see us picking up litter that we did not create they begin to understand that littering and fly tipping are a community problem with a community solution.

Posted by Julie Howell on Sunday, 13 November 2016

We will often engage residents in conversation when we're out litter-picking, and welcome being stopped to talk about what we're doing. It's very common for passing motorists to slow down and wind down a window to thank us for caring about where they live, especially when we don't live there ourselves. This gets the problem talked about and energises residents to believe that picking up litter, especially litter that you didn't drop, is a good thing. We rely far too much on our city council to keep out streets clear of litter. Isn't it better for the council to focus on the stuff that's difficult or hazardous for residents to deal with (fly tipping) and for us all to do a bit, regardless of who made the mess and why? Perhaps this is a controversial view, but should it be? Yes, everyone should pick up after themselves. But they don't, do they?

Video transcript: I’m in Eaglesthorpe today which is in New England which is a different part of the city. We’re doing a litter pick here. Unfortunately, there’s a good example of fly tipping here. I’ll just show you. A bed has been fly tipped. It’s just at the end of the road hear where Eaglesthorpe meets St Paul’s Road. It’s opposite a very nice residential care home. There’s a complete bed set. Obviously we’ll be asking the council to take it away. There’s the bag of litter that I’ve picked up from a street that has two litter bins in close proximity which is hugely frustrating. I lot of the litter that we’ve picked up is typical Peterborough litter: a lot of cigarette packets, a lot of beer cans, fast food wrappers, children’s toys. As you can see this fly tipping also means I can’t pick up the rubbish that’s underneath because it’s trapped under there which is really frustrating. We’re doing this litter pick today at the request of a resident. We always welcome residents’ suggestions. We do our litter picks once a month in all different parts of Peterborough. We usually do them for an hour and a half, from 10:30am to midday on a Sunday morning. We’ve been very lucky with the weather today but even if it’s raining we still do it. If anyone’s got any suggestions for anywhere else we can do please let us know. Right, I’m going to get on with it.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Take a Fresh Look at Ponds

When I say the word 'pond', what do you think of?

I bet the first image that comes to mind is the typical garden pond, free from mud and unwanted species, home to koi (if you're lucky!) or maybe a few goldfish. The pond in your imagination - which is probably much the same as the pond in your own garden - may attract frogs and frog spawn but as far as other species of aquatic creature goes there's not much else going on.

Or maybe your thoughts turned to a pond in your local park, the type that attracts duck and swans, the kind your dog likes to swim in when the weather is warm.

These are what we might call domestic or municipal ponds. They exist to look nice and to support only a very limited number of species (ones that look nice!). They are clean almost to the point of being sterile and while they may be lovely to look at underneath the surface there isn't a whole lot going on. These are not 'real' ponds.

This is a real pond.

Julie by a natural pond
It may not look like much to the human eye but it is fragile
and essential habitat to a vast array of invertebrates.

At first glance this may look like puddle rather than a pond. It's not terribly appealing to the eye. However, as I learned today when I attended the inaugural meeting of the Peterborough Nature Partnership at Thorpe Meadows, this is actually the type of ponds that we need more of.

Would you believe that since the Nene Park Trust (working in partnership with a range of agencies including Buglife and Froglife) created five of these nature ponds late last year they have attracted 51 species of invertebrates between them? That's not 51 individual invertebrates, but 51 distinct species. There is a world of nature that needs specific habitats to thrive and when we help to create their ideal homes just look at how quickly many different species manage to succeed.

I'm not going to share the exact location of these new ponds as it's important that they are slightly off the beaten track and not subjected to what usually happens when humans show up - dogs and litter. I don't need to tell you what litter does to wildlife, but you may be surprised to learn that when a dog enters a pond he can seriously disrupt the fragile habitats of other creatures. I'll certainly be more mindful about permitting my dog to play in nature ponds after learning this today.

Members of Peterborough Nature Partnership walk across Thorpe Meadows
Get your wellies on!
Members of the Peterborough Nature Partnership

You probably associate the garden and municipal ponds that you are more used to with fish. But fish can be a big problem in nature ponds because they eat everything! Another problem that affects many nature ponds is caused by people dumping excess frog spawn from their garden ponds into them. This is a particular problem as it can lead to the transference of crassula, an invasive non-native plant that will quickly overwhelm natural ponds.

The best way to help nature ponds and their inhabitants to thrive is to stay away from them and to appreciate their existence from a distance. This is why the Nene Park Trust will be putting in place 'interpretation boards' to let you know what is in the ponds and how it came to be there, while gently discouraging any activity that might interfere with nature's delicate balance.

Posted by Julie Howell on Friday, 11 November 2016

If this post has whetted your appetite for nature ponds, you'll be really excited to know that I'm currently involved in a project to improve and maintain existing ponds in Orton Waterville. They used to be mill ponds. The windmill that stood in Waterville village is long gone, but the ponds remain, neglected, overgrown and inaccessible. Look out for more posts in coming months as I keep you up-to-date with how the Waterville ponds project is going. If we can attract 51 species of invertebrates to our ponds, how wonderful that would be, but it will take a real community effort to keep the ponds free of rubbish, dogs, humans and others disruptive influences!

Transcript of video: This beautiful area that I’m in today is called Thorpe Meadows and I’m by the rowing lake. The weather’s incredible. I’m actually here for a meeting, a meeting of the Peterborough Nature Partnership which is lots of organisations that have a vested interest, which of course we all do, in the biodiversity of Peterborough, protecting the biodiversity of Peterborough, making sure there are many different species of animals and invertebrates as well as people of course, here to enjoy the wonderful landscape both now and in generations to come. And the weather has been absolutely incredible so I’m feeling particularly lucky today. 

Monday, 7 November 2016

Which Way Out? Car Park Danger in Napier Place

Tesco Express in Orton Wistow
The popular Tesco Express at Napier Place in Orton Wistow
Several residents of Orton Wistow have been in touch with me to express their concerns about road safety at Napier Place.

They are specifically concerned that while the shopping centre car park has two entrances/exits neither is marked as such and this is leading to confusion. I have been told by residents that they have witnessed several near misses as drivers have attempted to leave the car park through the same exit that another driver is using as an entrance.

Napier Place car park
Is this the entrance or the exit?
No one is sure.

Those residents who have lived in the area for more that a few years will remember that what is now the Tesco Express was once a pub. Since the change of use, traffic to the car park at all times of day has increased. While there may not have been a need for a marked entrance and exit when the pub was in Napier place, with a school, residential home and now a popular Tesco Express in the vicinity it is very obvious that the entrance and exit need to be clearly marked to keep everyone safe, drivers and pedestrians alike.

I popped down to have a quick look and the problem quickly became obvious to me.

Posted by Julie Howell on Monday, 7 November 2016

We hope Peterborough City Council will work with the land owner to address this problem. For want of a couple of road signs the area could be made a lot safer.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Firework Fiesta Freeloaders

Every year, The Rotary Club of Peterborough, The Rotary Club of Peterborough Minster and The Round Table Club of Peterborough organise a fantastic charity firework display at the Showground that attracts tens of thousands of spectators from Peterborough and beyond. We're very proud of the event, which is one of the top ten fireworks events in the entire country and the biggest in East Anglia.

It is one of the jewels in Peterborough's crown.

Unfortunately, for residents of Ortons Northgate and Southgate, the event also attracts people who don't want to pay to watch the fireworks and who park up on roads around our estates to watch the display for free. 

I can well understand that people struggle to pay for things these days. What I can't understand and will never understand is why people who don't pay also think it's okay to leave their litter on our residential streets.

The morning after the Fireworks Fiesta I went out with my litter picker and refuse sack and was horrified by the amount of rubbish that people have left outside residents' homes, from beer bottles and cans, to fast food wrappers. While this type of litter is, sadly, to be expected wherever people gather (though I don't know why), I couldn't believe my eyes when I came across more than 30 discarded spent sparklers on the grass verge and in the bushes at the Showground perimeter fence.

Do people seriously think this is okay? What do they think happens to discarded metal?

Posted by Julie Howell on Sunday, 6 November 2016

I have to admit it, I'm a Firework Fiesta Freeloader. I live opposite the Showground, and I'm either there on fireworks night as a volunteer Showmaker or sitting at home just metres away enjoying the display away from the crowds. But I don't throw my empty Diet Coke cans out of my window into my neighbours' garden - because why would I do that??!!

A view of the fireworks
Fireworks Fiesta as seen from my back bedroom

This afternoon, I cleared a very full bag of litter from Orton Northgate (in the driving rain, but we Greens don't mind that!). Our streets are looking nice again, but this situation cannot continue. This is why I am speaking to the Rotary Club to get an arrangement for Orton Northgate similar to the one in Orton Southgate, where road closures and a system involving vehicle passes prevents access by anyone in a car who doesn't live here from using our streets for their party. This system has been in place in Orton Southgate for a couple of years now and seems to work well.

Spent fireworks on a grass verge
What goes up must come down.
But how many of us appreciate the litter that spent fireworks create?

The Showground does a brilliant job of clearing up litter and Peterborough City Council spends hundreds of thousands of pounds a year keeping Peterborough tidy. But we can all play our part in keeping our residential streets clear of the menace of litter. Please, enjoy the fireworks, but take your litter home with you.

With my litter picker and bag of rubbish
We don't mind a bit of rain in the Green Party.
We do mind rubbish, though. Take it home with you!

Video transcript: It’s raining quite heavily so I hope it doesn’t ruin my phone. This is the morning after the Firework Fiesta in Peterborough at the Showground which is behind me there. We have a bit of a problem here. Tens of thousands of people come, it’s a charity event, they make a lot of money, it’s fantastic, but we do get people that come onto the estates that have been built around the Showground to watch the fireworks for free. No one’s going to have a huge problem with that were it not for the fact that the people who come leave massive amounts of litter behind. I’m just going around picking it up. Next year we’re going to work with the Rotary Club as they do in Orton Southgate and get road closures at Orton Northgate so only residents get access. But it’s a real shame that people who come here find it necessary to drop beer cans mostly, firework litter obviously comes over, but here where am I right now, just let me turn the camera around, sparklers all over the ground. Sparklers. Why would you think it’s okay to drop sparklers on the ground - this is where people stand and watch the fireworks through there – on what is a residential street? I don’t come to your street and drop my litter! So it would be great if you would take your litter home with you. I know it’s slightly more difficult with sparklers because they’re hot but you can wait until they cool down and then take them with you. Or plan for it. If you plan to take sparklers you can plan to take them away. So, no more of this next year I hope but it’s not our job as residents to pick up after people who don’t live here and who come here just to enjoy something that’s for charity for free so it’s disappointing.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

That Was The Week That Was!

Peterborough Green Party members with Jonathan Bartley
Peterborough Green Party members with Green Party leader Jonathan Bartley (centre)
on a visit to Orton Goldhay to talk to residents about the problem of fly tipping there.

Well, that was a busy week!

Orton News

By now you should have received my latest newsletter, the Autumn 2016 edition of Orton News. Already, many of you have called me or sent me an email to tell me how things are in your part of our community and to ask for my help and support with matters of concern. I am always happy to hear from you. I'm very friendly as are the rest of my wonderful team.

Orton News contains different news depending on which area of Orton Waterville ward you live in. Many of you call me just to say thank you for Orton News. It's my pleasure. I am wholly reliant on a team of amazing volunteers that I call 'The Green Leafleteers' to deliver it to you. They are all Peterborough Green Party members or supporters who donate their time to deliver the Orton News to your door (that's nearly 4000 doors in Waterville ward!).

I've never met anyone like The Green Leafleteers. They never complain, I never hear a peep out of them until the job is done, they go out in all weathers and they genuinely love bringing you my newsletter and meeting many of you on their rounds. Thank you to everyone who gives them a kind word. They do what they do for no pay. They are simply motivated by the same things that motivate me: a love of Orton and a desire to make things better for all residents.

Green Leafleteer Steve with her bicycle
Steve is one of our most prolific Green Leafleteers. She delivers to around 800 homes in
Orton Goldhay, usually getting the job done in just two sessions!

Supper in the House of Lords

Supper in the House of Lords
In the company of 15 awesome Green women.

It takes a lot to persuade me to leave Peterborough these days, but on Monday I received an invitation that I could not resist. I was invited to join 15 other Green Party leaders and councillors for supper in the House of Lords, hosted by the Green Party's member of the House of Lords, Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb. It was a 'who's who' of Green Party leadership, including Sian Berry (London Assembly member), Natalie Bennett (former Green Party leader), Caroline Lucas (Green Party leader and MP for Brighton Pavilion), Amelia Womack (Green Party deputy leader) and Molly Scott Cato (Green Party MEP).

I was there to fly the flag for Peterborough and to learn from the experiences of these amazing women. But I had to take an early train back home, because another special visitor would be coming to Peterborough the following morning...

Fly tipping in Orton Goldhay

On Tuesday, it was an early start for me as I was due to make a 7:20am appearance on the BBC Radio Cambridge Breakfast Show to talk about fly tipping in Orton Goldhay, which has grown out of control recently and is causing misery for many residents. This issue is so important that I will write a further and more detailed blog post about it shortly.

At 11am, the other co-leader of the Green Party, Jonathan Bartley, arrived at Peterborough station. Jonathan came to Peterborough to help your local Green Party to highlight the problem of fly tipping in our ward and in Goldhay in particular. Jonathan gave a live interview over the phone to the Paul Stainton Show on BBC Radio Cambs and I then whisked him over to Beckingham in Goldhay to talk to residents who have been affected by the fly tipping epidemic there.

Julie on a resident's doorstep with Jonathan Bartley
Me with Green Party leader Jonathan Bartley discussing the problem
of fly tipping in Orton Goldhay with a local resident.

What a week!

Leaflets, media appearances, trips to Westminster and meetings with Green Party leaders made for a full and invigorating week. And I fit a meeting of Orton Longueville Parish Council in there too! This is what life can be like when you are involved in local politics. It is a blend of speaking to and working with residents to uncover and highlight their concerns and bringing what you find to the attention of the media and the people with the power to make a difference.

We warmly welcome new members to Peterborough Green Party. If you like what we do and would like to be involved with a party that is very positive about supporting local communities and committed to taking action in conjunction with residents to make things happen, get in touch!