With our community activist hats on, we’ve learnt from bitter experience that local authorities can be pretty bloody obstructive. There’s only so far you can go along with playing by the rules and trying to work with them before you think, ‘sod this for a lark, we’re doing what WE think is right for OUR community!’ In other words, rules and conventions have to be broken to actually get stuff done.
This is why we found this particular story from Bristol heart warming and inspiring: Man starts to create new youth facilities without permission 30.6.22. The story in a nutshell is this… Nick Haskins, a former chair of the Filwood Residents Association who is a retired landscape gardener has got fed up with a plot of land supposedly scheduled for housing development being allowed to lie derelict for twenty years. Nick and a few others have taken it upon themselves to start clearing the plot of fly tipping and fashion a football pitch and BMX track on it.
Filwood is on the untrendy south side of Bristol in an area that’s neglected by Bristol City Council. It has more than it’s fair share of problems, a lack of facilities for the local youth being one of them. With the summer holidays coming, keeping the local kids occupied with a football pitch and BMX track is a far better option than letting them roam the street. It’s all very well for Bristol City Council to want housing on the plot but if the facilities for the community aren’t there, it’s building up more problems for the future.
Nick is not backing down and is willing to be arrested for what he’s doing. That’s how strongly he and other residents feel about doing what they see is needed to get vital facilities for the local youth in place. They have our full solidarity.
We’ve got a tale of inspiring community action from our end up in Laindon. In a housing estate up near the A127, one of our Basildon and Southend Housing Action comrades has organised local residents to create a community garden: Actually maintaining a community garden:) 27.4.22. This is part of what we wrote about this project: There’s a recognition that the garden plays a role in building community cohesion in the block it’s situated next to. It’s a place where when the weather is decent, people can simply meet and chat. It’s a source of fresh vegetables in an area that if you don’t have access to a vehicle, could be considered a food desert. There are also ornamental plants there just to add a bit of cheer and colour. By doing a bit of gardening, residents are getting close to nature, getting out in the fresh air and getting some light exercise as well.
As with what Nick is doing in Filwood in defiance of Bristol City Council, the community garden in Laindon did not get permission from Basildon Council. In fact, there have been a few occasions where council officers have threatened to clear the garden away. Needless to say, once the aforementioned officers realised the amount of flak they would get if they attempted any form of clearance, they swiftly retracted their threats to the garden.
The lesson from all of this is that if we see a need in our communities that has to be met, we don’t have to ask for permission from the local authority. We can just get on and do it ourselves. Each time we do this, we bring a little bit more power down to our neighbourhoods and away from those who presume to rule over us.