Sunday, September 24, 2023

Crich Lane Volunteers Set To Walk Away

Transition Belper’s team of volunteers who have carried out a much-lauded transformation of the Crich Lane Festival Gardens are on the brink of walking away from the project.

The steps they took to collect and store water for the gardens during this long, hot summer have been condemned by officers of Amber Valley Borough Council who bluntly told the group that “no water shall be stored on site.”

Team Leader, Richard Bett, has been delivering up to 50 litres of water per day to use on flower beds and newly grassed areas to encourage seeds (provided by AVBC) to germinate and grow.

In an innovative approach a temporary canvas was used to make a shallow ‘pool’ that collected around 1,000 litres of water during recent thunder storms. This was to be transferred to water butts on site thus, for a while at least, removing the need to transport water to the gardens. However, at a site visit by council officers on Thursday the team were told to use all the water there and then –  thus negating the environmentally friendly water harvesting.

At a group meeting this morning (Sunday 5th August) the team were unanimous in their condemnation of the Council’s heavy-handed approach and complete lack of any practical positive suggestions to resolve the problem. They agreed to put forward a number of suggestions to the Council to attempt to work out a suitable compromise. Whatever happens, if the council cannot agree a solution within a week the team are set to resign and leave Transition Belper with the choice of attempting to find a new set of volunteers or abandoning the project.

The Council also condemned the willow bee-hive saying its “come to the end of its life, brittle, heavily leaning and contains many protruding twigs inside.”  Whilst this could have been relocated to someone’s garden Council workers have removed it and taken it away. It is thought to Loscoe Tip. They did suggest a living willow structure would be looked upon favourably.

Whilst the bee-hive was over a year-old newer willow sculptures created at Belper Goes Green were also ordered to be removed pending an agreement on the method of affixing the spheres to tree branches. In their view “the ratchet straps are inappropriate for hanging items and could cause strangulation” despite it taking a 6-foot-tall person on stepladders to reach the straps.

Once a hanging method is agreed the spheres can be rehung. It was also requested that the willow arch – made at Belper Goes Green along with the spheres – be located in a position that makes it impossible for children to run through thus removing the risk of a scratched face or arm.

They also criticised and condemned the fixing of the badger head to the topiary bush despite Richard Bett having over 20 incident-free years’ experience of installing such artworks. Although they mentioned some “sharp edges/burs that need removing from the outer and inner edges of the badger’s head” there was no mention of the dilapidated railings at the entrance with sharp edges aplenty that they are responsible for.

It is always the case that volunteers on projects such as this need to feel they have a constructive and positive relationship with the powers that be. This is certain to break down when those powers are proscriptive and seen as ‘over the top’ and lacking any motivation to provide solutions. A ‘can’t do’ attitude can be destructive whilst a ‘can do’ culture is positive and inspiring.

Want to get attitudes changed? Write to your councillor – Ben Bellamy or Joe Booth, email Amber Valley Council and make yourself heard on social media.

David George

David George

Former Editor of Derby's CAMRA Magazine Community Affiliations: Belper Goes Green Founder, Transition Belper

19 thoughts on “Crich Lane Volunteers Set To Walk Away

  • Viv annable

    Just about right for amber valley council anything the public can enjoy they take away or let it go to ruins.
    The only thing they are interested in is house building….. but then again they get their council tax from that

  • Do they want it to go back to a dog toilet unkept and unused it has never looked better health and safety gone mad again

  • Cllr Bellamy

    Thanks David,

    I attended with Richards son, to try and mitigate the situation. Im on it.

    Cllr Bellamy

  • Kim Kerry

    So sorry to read about these issues. Very AVBC heavy handedness. If Emma willow scructures can be located I will house them for Transition.

  • It’s sad to hear this … As myself have took up the idea of a revamping my children’s school grounds during the holidays …I have received willow cuttings and I’m going on a coarse to learn how to look after and train … It sad to see that this has been rejected by the council where it hasn’t cost them anything … If the willow structures need a new home .. I’m sure we could take them in our woodland school and be proud to show them off they look amazing

  • Emma Parkins

    I am Emma Parkins the creator of the willow structures and I am upset and appalled by these comments and actions taken by the council. They should be embracing the creativity that the community bring to the town. The “volunteers” who work at Crich lane do a great job and its all free!

    Pieces like the Willow hive, badger and other structures add interest to a place. They were made by the community for all to enjoy and may I add that all the pieces were done for free. Sculptures such as this would normally cost quite a lot of money if the council had to purchase them, so they should be grateful. Yes the pieces bio-degrade over time but they are also great natural habitats for the wildlife so add another dimension to the garden. Also as for the sticks pointing out, the structure is no different from the trees around, they have branches sticking out too, it just takes some common sense!

    If they want a living willow structure then they can fund it. Also the living ones come with issues too. They would need heavy watering in weather like this and maintaining every year. Both of which the council don’t seem to look favourably on.

  • Judy Richter

    Really ? Why doesn’t the Council go and do something CONSTRUCTIVE with their time – like make some of THEIR wide open spaces loom a little bit more palatable ! I don’t pay my Council Tax for ‘jobs worths’ who can’t use common sense or apply positivity.

  • Janet Liggins

    It’s very difficult to find words to express how angry my husband and I feel about the Councils’ idiotic response to all the hard work and time put into this garden
    To pick fault with a green approach to storing water is unbelievable, this from a Council that takes months to repair leaks, potholes and all manor of problems within their jurisdiction!!
    I witnessed a council gardener watering the memorial gardens in King Street at midday today, Monday 6th August, in soaring heat and sun, apart from burning the leaves on the plants, what part of using water wisely does this come under?

    I am so incensed, I am unable to comment any further ….. only to say, a council that is unable to embrace volunteers who are trying to improve BELPER is not one I wish to support. They are completely out of step with today’s world and it’s problems, or, unless of course it’s their ideas, their workers and they are being paid to do it.

  • Rachael Cresswell

    I think it’s absolutely disgusting how the council have done this, these people were volunteers & put alot of work & time into making the Crich lane garden a lovely place my mum is a childminder & loved taking the children to this little Park they really enjoyed it x

  • Do we need to do away with the river and the trees in belper? Someone might drown … or get poked by a twig! What a ridiculous response to an incredible, creative project. People have been so generous with their time to make something special to share. If they’very taken the bee hive to the tip they’d better pay Emma for her time & materials because it wasn’t there’s to take! This makes me so angry.

  • Chris Copeland

    David: Time to ramp up the publicity on this ridiculous situation. BBC TV East Midlands might love it as well as Radio Derby. Sometimes these then get picked up by other stations further afield. Time to shame the council!

  • Jennie L

    I cast my mind back to the first time a group of us went to look at the Festival Gardens with a view to taking it on as a Transition Project and the excitement of all the possible ways the Gardens could be developed to make it an inviting, safe, usable and low-impact place to visit in Belper. The working group has had a great vision of how the Gardens can be made more welcoming, whilst being sympathetic to the existing structure and planting schemes whilst working along-side AVBC. And what a beautiful place it has become! Before it was strewn with litter (a health hazard) and dog-mess (a huge health hazard) and it was unkempt, an eyesore of a garden. I am very disappointed therefore that AVBC has taken these negative and sudden steps against the work that is being done to make our town a better place to live and play, without discussing any possible solutions with the working group beforehand, and thus causing mistrust and a bad taste.
    Perhaps they could be more appreciative of all the efforts they are taking to be low-impact on the site, perhaps they could realise that any twig, branch, hole, slope, body of water or anything outside ones own home could cause injury and not to use this as an excuse for the removal of things from the garden and the shaming of the wonderful and dedicated volunteers who are looking after Crich Lane Festival Gardens so wonderfully.

  • Linda Charker

    This is an extremely sad state of affairs. Only recently I praised one of the volunteers on such dedication, saying how much the work of all the volunteers is appreciated by so many. Our grandchildren will certainly be upset by the recent removals. Surely common sense can prevail.

  • Thank you to the volunteers who have transformed the gardens. Such spaces make a real difference to peoples’ wellbeing, especially with natural artworks to interact with. It’s very disappointing the council hasn’t been able see the value in that. Really hope a solution can be found.

  • John Whitworth

    I’m spechless! It’s quite clear that the person(s) involved in these decisions were never allowed to run free in the fields and woods when they were children. Scratches, grazed knees, bumps and be were just part of the adventures and important life experiences.
    Volunteers willing to give their time, skills and dedication to provide such amenities should be cherished and given every cooperation. There work adds Value to limited public resources available to such as AVBC.

  • mick cooke

    typical Amber valley , no brains just cant think and see what a good job the volunteers are doing ,
    sad people , with no idea what the community want
    some little chap in a job who thinks he knows whats best
    i had a walk round the gardens , nothing wrong it looks great , let the volunteers carry on
    good luck to them

  • Bob Steel

    One despairs…what with this and Sheffield’s useless Labour Council’s war on trees, it’s apparent that politicians (and sadly many officers) don’t understand the environment at all. God help us for the stupidlty and short-sightedness

  • Joanna Kirk

    That picture looks more like a sheep than a badger! It looks a bit like its got a cotton feeding pouch. I assume from the above comments that it’s metal. its a great piece of public art if you ask me.

  • John Porter

    This is disturbing. This was a “Safety Inspection” and as such should be an agreed procedure in the contract between AVBC and the volunteer group. A way forward might be to ask for a “Safety Audit” undertaken by a suitably qualified AVBC employee (perhaps their safety officer). From this you will gain a written report which details safety action points that need to be addressed. If there is no official contract or audit procedure then AVBC should be open for this to be developed.

    For organisations such as AVBC the bottom line is always their liability if someone is injured so they go the belt and braces route of eliminating all potential hazards. They have no direct control over the actions of volunteers so come down hard on anything that could prove to be a problem and potentially laid at their door ………… however unlikely it is that a problem might occur.

    I am saddened that the woven structures have been removed and that the method used to save rainfall was deemed to be hazardous. I can imagine the blow this is to the volunteers and why they are considering withdrawing their support for this space …….. this beautiful space. The Festival Gardens remind us of a time when a battered and bruised country looked to the future with hope and anticipation. Millions traveled to London for the 1951 festival, itself a centenary anniversary of that held in 1851. That Belper keeps that memory alive by maintaining our own Festival Gardens is wonderful. I am personally very thankful that Belper folk give up their free time for this project. I enjoy strolling over to the gardens as it always reminds me of my now long gone parents and how they kept the Festival of Britain guide book in a sideboard draw ……….. a treasured memory for them and now me.

    Is there a way forward? Hopefully there is. I am sure that your councillors will fight our corner (I notice Ben Bellamy’s response). My gut instinct is that a carefully negotiated contract with AVBC that spells out the responsibilities and liabilities of both parties should underpin volunteer involvement (please forgive my presumption if such a document already exists). Where AVBC perceives there to be risk then the volunteers could devise ways of countering that risk and thus complying with the strictures of a safety audit. For instance, one issue could be to develop a method of retaining rain water that would satisfy AVBC and could, perhaps, be a pleasing and innovative installation. I have no suggestion in regards to woven structures because to my mind removing them is way over the top.

    I am sure that the volunteers and Transition Belper in general have thought about all that I’ve written so I hope that my thoughts are not received with annoyance as I am trying to be helpful and encouraging.

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