As I`ve mentioned before, with an election coming up, pundits and politicians will have even less interest in regional matters and grassroots commuinity-based activities than usual. Here`s a guide to goings-on in Yorkshire recently - not a comprehensive guide but a few things I learnt about on a recent visit to The Dales/ Bradford area.
1) The Oxenhope Conservation Intiative is an environmental grouping with links to other groups in the area, notably Bradford Environmental Action Trust / Forests of Bradford and Bradford Ornithological Group. Fairly traditional conservation groups but none the worse for that. http://www.oci-web.org/ , http://www.beat.org.uk/ , http://bradbirds.blogspot.com/ .
2) At Glusburn near Skipton, a long-running dispute is ongoing concerning proposed developments by Muir Group Housing.
An initial application was rejected by the local authority, this was followed by an appeal to the Secretary of State by the developers.
After a Public Inquiry, the Inspector also rejected the application, but the developers then went to Court and had her decision set aside. The developers once again appealed against the initial decision and a second public inquiry has now taken place.
Some resentment is felt by the local community over the developer`s persistence -"This application has already been thrown out ; it has been through the democratic process and has failed on every level" one local man told the Craven Herald and Pioneer. In fairness, it should be said that the Courts do not intervene in such matters lightly.
Accounts in the local media can be rather confusing, I suspect because local journalists are not always up to speed on the planning process. The Herald has printed a useful guide to arguments put forward by both sides (Lesley Tate - `Glusburn Housing Inquiry Hears From Both Sides` - C H and P March 27 2010 at http://cravenherald.co.uk ), though the paper with the clearest grasp of the inquiries and appeals situation seems to be www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk (unsigned article - `Glusburn Housing Estate Inquiry to be Held` - 23 February 2010) .
3) Long Preston Residents Association aka LoPRA can be found at http://www.lopra.org.uk/ . A community-based group, they concern themselves with local issues such as traffic, housing and defence of the Green Belt. Although they include lobbying at either local or national level as being among the activities they may take part in, their emphasis is on working with bodies such as the local Parish Council and the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Their site has links to YDNP and CPRE - no surprises there - and also to The Empty Homes Agency (http://www.emptyhomes.com/), a new one on me, but sounds interesting.
4) IRATE is an Ilkely based group opposed to Tesco`s plans for the area (it stands for Ilkley Residents Against Tesco Expansion). Details from http://ilkleyirate.org/ and/or http://www.tescopoly.org/ .
5) Greenhill Action Group (http://www.greenhill-action-group.co.uk/) are a long-standing group opposed to proposals to build on the northern side of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal near Bingley, an area they describe as "the only green lung for residents in the Bingley/Crossflats area".
6) Skipton Properties have come under fire for demolishing a 200 year old mill as part of their Grove Mills development. Councillor Chris Greaves commented "What they`ve done is legally OK..but morally and ethically it`s a different matter" He went on to accept that the council could have been more vigilant ; "Maybe we were naive, but we put our trust in the developer. We did our best to approve a scheme which would keep the mill". He indicated that lessons had been learnt "In future...we are going to have to be more prescriptive in the wording of planning proposals".
7) Footpath erosion in the Yorks Dales Nat Park means that now the YDNP is looking to man-made surfaces to provide a solution. It will be interesting to see how this news will be received by walkers - I would imagine there will be raised voices on both sides of the argument !
8) The Friends of the Three Peaks is a group for individuals and organisations wishing to preserve and enhance the Three Peaks area of the YDNP. They can be found at www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/friendsofthethreepeaks.htm .
9) Hebden Bridge is being much-touted as a place to visit for holiday-makers in the area. It has impeccable green credentials with a `no plastic bags` and `welcome to walkers` policy and much emphasis on fair trade, vegetarian food, organic produce etc. The local authority takes great pride in the number of small, independently run shops, with the big chains having little or no presence. When I visited recently, it was much-frequented by smart young things sitting outside cafes sipping cappucinos (I made the last bit up, I didn`t notice what they were drinking !).
Behind the scenes, the area has a higher-than-normal suicide rate and a big problem with hard drug abuse. These have been the subject of a documentary, Shed Your Tears and Walk Away
and a community group/facebook thingy We`re Not Walking Away. The reasons for these problems are not simple - it may be a combination of different factors - but certainly they need looking into. It is worth pointing out that Hebden Bridge has an industrial past, but the new businesses that have taken root in the area are by no means as labour-intensive as the ones they replaced. One wonders how many other smart, fashionable areas have similar hidden problems.
10) I like to end on a positive note, so with the problems at Hebden Bridge in mind, it`s worth noting the positive work planned for what seems to be a new project, Project X Calderdale, aimed at promoting social inclusiveness and community cohesion among youngsters and their parents and/or carers in Upper Calder Valley. Their site is not yet 100% up and running, but visit them at http://www.projectxcalderdale.co.uk/.
Oxenhope Outreach (local newsletter featuring OCI and others)
As stated above, I don`t claim this is anything like a comprehensive guide but hopefully, that gives a picture - a snapshot even - of a range of activities going on in the area. All this and I never even mentioned the burrowing monks of Barnoldswick !