Saturday, 31 December 2016

Beeston vertical maps get their own links

I have added the two vertical maps of Beston which I have as good as completed insomuch as they will need to be regularly updated to keep pace with changes as and when they occur. Over the next few months I am sure the maps will not be updated as regularly as I would like them to be, but my last post explains why this is likely to happen. I hope you find the maps of interest. 

You will find links to them at the top of the column to the right. Just click on them to open.

Below is a section from the Beeston (vertical) Heritage map.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Home-made maps, writing and a garden – 2017 looks good

2017 will be a big year for me. One of the biggest ever in fact. I'm seventy-two years old and counting. Open heart surgery promised by my surgeon for 'January' and my life depends on it, so that makes January pretty big in the order of things!

It's also odd finding out that you were born with a congenital heart condition and have managed to survive so long. Others with the same condition have been less lucky, whilst others live longer than me without knowing. In the order of things I am one lucky bunny!

Me aged 2 getting in the habit.

Had I not cut the grass in April 2015 at our new home in Beeston for the first time, I would not have found out that I had a condition known as fibrosis of the lungs (I did a post about finding out on 20 May 2015). My first visit to the City Hospital led to the doctor I saw asking me 'How long have you had a heart condition?' to which I replied 'What condition?' 

This set off a whole load of parallel tests and scans, which resulted in a visit to the Cardiology Unit at the City Hospital in August 2015 to be told that, at some point, I would need open heart surgery, but at first they would monitor me for six months, as I had no symptoms. I was walking as normal, pulling a loaded shopping trolley up Wollaton Road a couple of times a week. All this at the same time as my lungs were being monitored. My lungs were assessed as having '90% normal normalcy' and that has remained the case after another summer of tests and scans. 

My wonderful thoracic doctor decided I was OK for heart surgery and this led to another visit to Cardiology and another summer of scans (including 45 minutes in the large MRI scanner at the QMC during which I fell asleep twice) and procedures, during which they discovered that my aortic heart valve has two cusps instead of three (a condition I share with 1–2% of people), which has resulted in me being diagnosed with 'severe aortic stenosis'. It has now reached the point where I can no longer pull my shopping trolley when full and whilst I can still walk some distance on the flat, I can no longer manage hills without becoming breathless. I did think this was a symptom of my lung fibrosis, but the hospital told me it was my heart.

For some months now I have described myself as 'a half-day person', pacing how much I do. I tire easily and sleep a lot more, but on the plus side not a week passes by without lunch with friends, four of whom go back to my Wembley days, where I grew up, whilst others came into my life in the 1970s and 80s, then there's family and grown-up grandchildren. Lunch on Thursday (yesterday) with one of them, talking politics and history. Life doesn't get much better. I am surrounded by love and is yet another reason to consider myself one lucky bunny.

Topping it all is Susan, who came out of nowhere in 1975 to take my heart and life by storm. We took off like a rocket and were planning our future together within a couple of days.

The last eighteen months have made me think about life, and I have decided that my post-op world will be occupied by my maps, writing, gardening, delivering for the Labour Party, and friends. Family are a given  

I tell you all this because this blog will become a different beast from 1 January 2017. It will be home to my Beeston maps and related bus maps, plus a link to my writing. I really have enjoyed the blog, but life is moving on.

Happy with the me I am.

Robert Howard.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

YourBus to ditch Y36 in February

Last month I posted a blog asking how long it would be before the Y36 was withdrawn by Yourbus?

Yesterday I got my answer from the Nottinghamshire County Council webpage which publishes a monthly list of forthcoming changes to bus servives in the county. YourBus are withdrawing the Y36 as from 12 February 2017 and introducing a 'revised route' for their Y5 service from the same date. I suspect the change will be through Beeston. As yet there are no details of how the route will be 'revised'.

There can be no doubt that the arrival of the Y36 in 2010 made both Nottingham City Transport and Trent-Barton improve their services, especially in the case of the former (remember the often overcrowded single-deckers which we used to have on the 36?). We will have to wait a few weeks to find out how the going of the Y36 will effect the Y5 and, in time the 36 and Indigo services through Beeston.

I believe urban public transport services should be frequent and operate every day of the year. Rural services should run at least hourly. If you want people to use public transport it has to reliable, frequent, modern, cheap and if you make a profit doing this, then you should regard it as a bonus.

I will be sorry to see the end of the Y36 because YourBus has made a big contribution to the fact that we enjoy good bus services in Lenton, Beeston and Chilwell.  

Friday, 23 December 2016

South Broxtowe Borough boundaries compared

The first map below is from the 1898 Ordnance Survey one inch map which includes Beeston. When the new Broxtowe Borough Council wards (used for the first time in the 2015 Borough election) and new Nottinghamshire county council wards were created (which will be used for the first time in the May 2017 county council election), I was interested in seeing how they coalesced with historic boundaries, so I used the 1898 OS map as a base map on which I highlighted in blue the parish boundaries which existed at the time.

I then compared the historic boundaries with those for the new borough and county council wards. Comparing the 1898 parish boundaries with the current borough and county council ward boundaries.

The five parishes of Toton/Attenborough, Chilwell, Beeston, Bramcote and Stapleford make up the area which coalesced into the Beeston & Stapleford Urban District Council in 1935 before being subsumed into Broxtowe Borough Council when it was created in 1973 and taking over in 1974.

The current southern ward boundaries of Broxtowe Borough Council respect the historic parish northern boundaries and that of the old urban district council...

...whilst the current Nottinghamshire County Council ward boundary changes put Stapleford and part of Bramcote in with Trowell in what I call the Broxtowe 'Middle-lands'. In other words, the historic connection has been lost.

Do historic boundaries matter? It's a topic which can provoke heated discussions and conclusions which defy logic. Beeston has historic links with Lenton, which is now part of the city of Nottingham. Long Eaton clearly gravitates towards Nottingham, but is in Derbyshire and I am sure the majority of its residents want to stay part of Derbyshire.

The Guardian today reports on a court's decision that Chesterfield Borough Council failed in its duty to consult local residents and businesses when it decided in March this year to apply for membership of the South Yorkshire regional consortium led by Sheffield City Council (see Guardian link here). The court's decision raises an interesting point insomuch as ward boundaries are imposed on local communities by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England only after a consultation.

One of my favourite historical documents relates to work of government commissioners at the time of Local Government (Boundaries) Act 1887, which was the precursor of local government as we know it today. A whole section is devoted to how 'border' towns came to be placed in a particular county. 

The big difference between 1887 and now is the electoral obsession with electoral voting equality; all parliamentary constituencies and wards in a council area have to have voter-councillor ratios within a few percentage points, even this means cutting historic communities in two or, even, three.

I am a great believer in our elected representatives representing communities first and numbers second. I accept that in the absence of any counter-balancing mechanism this could give smaller communities power over larger communities. The way around this problem is the added member system, whereby the votes cast for each party are totalled for the whole country/council and highest losing candidates given seats until their party reaches its quota and electoral balance achieved. All this may seem a long way from where this post started, but the southern end of Broxtowe does seem to have an 'apartness' from the rest of Borough and, at some point, it is an issue which need to be addressed.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

The Meadow Lane railway foot crossing and the role of history in keeping it open.

This is one campaign I will be sitting out* apart from my submission to Network Rail, which will include the maps below. They come with text and speak for themselves. I am optimistic that this is one railway foot crossing which can be saved.

I also fall into the camp which opposes the closing off of waterways and railways by high security fencing. You cannot protect individuals from themselves or their own stupidity — which is what you are trying to do when you fence off railways and waterways. Logic says that every open unfenced road poses a far greater risk to lives, yet no one suggests we spend millions on security fencing and inconveniencing pedestrians and cyclists. All these arguments are well known and have been rehearsed a thousand times.

Nor is there nothing new in them. Back in the early-1970s when I was Birmingham city councillor there was a proposal to erect a security fence between canals and towpaths to reduce the number of people falling into the city's canals. This proposal was defeated, but a proposal to close off the city's rivers was successful despite opposition from a few councillors like myself. The River Tame was the northern boundary of the ward (Shard End) I represented and where I lived (Hodge Hill). Within weeks of the fence beingo erected I found teenagers with a acetylene torch removing a section of the metal fence so they could get to the river. In the summer kids were in the habit of fishing with nets for tiddlers or rods to catch small fish. Some built rafts and floated down the Tame. It was a river you could, except after bad rainstorms, stand up in. I did the same kind of thing as a kid in the 1950s. It was fun and I was well aware of the danger (in recent years I have walked parts of the River Erewash in the river itself).

Anyway, rant over, back to my map with thanks to Click on the maps to enlarge.

*I am having open heart surgery sometime in January and plan to devote my post-op time to making a full recovery.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Beeston Pond now on town heritage map

Thanks to web posts by Matt Turpin (Beestonia) and Anna Soubry (MP) I have picked up on Network Rail's proposed closure of the Meadow Lane foot crossing across the railway line between the Beeston and Attenborough railway stations.

Matt writes about the proposal with passion and I know enough from experience that arbitrary decisions can be defeated, and this proposal is clearly one of those.

One of my favourite Beeston walks takes me on a great loop around Beeston from my home off Wollaton Road and, as hard as this may be to believe, a month ago I had not worked out how to pull Attenborough Nature reserve into my vertical Beeston Heritage Map. Matt's post to his blog has prompted me to re-visit the problem and I have solved it by sacrificing the cover of the Civic Society's Blue Plaque Guidebook.

As I say I will return to this topic in the next few days. In the meantime, you can now find the Meadow Lane railway line foot-crossing on my map (in the top left-hand corner). As always, click on the map to enlarge:

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Municipal Dreams must hear podcast about council housing

I am, at heart, a municipal socialist. I believe that local government is responsible, both historically and in terms of provision, for almost everything we like about public service. Centralising post-war governments since 1945 have been progressively weakening local government at every opportunity and council housing is a prime example of this fact.

A view of the now demolished Lenton flats from Church Square, which I knew well during the 35 years we lived in Lenton. In 2006, I received a £5,000 grant fro The Guardian, which I doubled to £10,000 with the help of local charities and Nottingham City Council. It is one the most enjoyable things I have ever done. I persuaded The Guardian to let me give the money away without paperwork in amounts up £500 to people living in Lenton Flats or involved in some way. Some of the projects started during the year I ran the project were still going when we left Lenton at the end of 2014. The five high-rise blocks were popular until the day the last one came down, because of their location. Nottingham City Council has replaced them with new council housing, including a scheme for flat residents who did not want to leave Lenton. It is a development the City Council can be proud of and is a great example of why council housing has a future. 

Council housing is a topic I have referred to on several occasions in the two years I have been doing this blog. Here is a link to a post about the history of Nottingham council housing.

The local historian in me ranks local authority housing above the NHS when it comes to the contribution it has made to public health and wellbeing, nor does the Labour Party 'own' these issues. Like it or not, it is a heritage it has to share with Liberals and progressive Conservatives. Once upon time the municipal ownership of transport and utilities was a shared vision, as was the provision of healthcare and housing for those who could not afford to buy their own home.

One of my favourite blogs is Municipal Dreams by the social historian John Boughton. His latest post links to a 50 minute interview he had on the Londonist radio station. For anyone interested in council/public housing this is really a 'must listen to' podcast. Whilst the focus is on council housing in London, John talks about council housing in a way which makes what he says relevant to listeners wherever they live in England.

If you would like to learn more about the history of council housing, you can buy the Historical Association booklet Local Authority Housing: Origins and development by Colin Pooley from Amazon. Before Susan and me retired in 2006 we published Local History Magazine and got hold of HA copies of the book when they decided to stop selling it. We've been selling the occasional copy on online ever since for £2.50 plus £2.80 p&p. It is a useful starting point for anyone who wants to learn more about council housing and its history.