Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The Boris Valley Green Walk

Ford Madox Brown's idyllic study of 1854

Here we go, then ... another major cock up in Broken Barnet, brought to you by the same councillor responsible for the parking disaster, the plan to hire out your local park, and now the plot to remove as many pelican crossings as he can get away with.

Yes, it's that man again: Councillor Brian Coleman, Cabinet member for the Environment, this time in league with Mayor Boris Johnson.

Remember the fuss about Boris' pre election handout of £400,000 to 'improve' the Dollis Valley Green Walk? What would you hope for, as a result of such generous investment? A restoration and enhancement of the walk, with an emphasis on protecting the ecological sensitivity of the area, perhaps? No: this is Broken Barnet, remember. Think again.

Ford Madox Brown's friend and colleague William Morris famously urged us to possess only things that were either beautiful, or useful.

On this basis alone, Mrs Angry is not entirely confident that Councillor Brian Coleman would meet with the approval of William Morris.

And, oh dear - look at this ugly, useless creation -ugly, useless, and a complete waste of money. (Not you, Dennis).

(Also pictured is Dennis Pepper, Chair of the Friends of Windsor Open Space, who is of course both useful and, well: very charming.)

So much of the walk has been left with the surface unrepaired: a danger for elderly or disabled walkers, and small children

Last year, you may recall, we learnt that the grant given by the Mayor to Barnet Council for the Dollis Valley walk was to be given with new strings attached: the imposition of a cycle route on parts of the walk, despite there having been no consultation for any such proposal.

The Friends of Windsor Open Space were particularly unhappy about this plan, having been used in the original campaign to secure the funding, and being completely unaware of any suggestion that the narrow, meandering pathway was to be used for cycling. The cycling proposal, in fact, was introduced after the lure of extra funding was put before Councillor Coleman. The view of the Friends of the open space, however, is that this route is simply unsuitable for the needs of both groups of users, and will inevitably lead to conflict.

As is now evident, the whole programme of work has been so badly organised and implemented that the result, in some parts, has made the area look even worse than before. Boris' hand out has been squandered by Coleman on a botched project, with pointless new entrances - such as the one pictured above - installed on a seemingly random basis, along a pathway still badly in need of resurfacing, while other sections which were adequate enough have been renewed.

Last week Mayor Lisa Rutter came to an official opening of a part of the walk which has been renovated, and where a new playground has been installed: a suitable venue for a photo opportunity to mark what was described as 'the successful completion of the Dollis Valley Greenwalk Project'. Of course in truth the funding has now been spent, but the project is neither successful nor complete.

Yesterday morning, Mrs Angry accompanied Mr Pepper for a lovely walk along the brookside path, to see at first hand the mess which has been left by the council's mishandling of the 'improvement' scheme.

Much of the walk in this part is such a beautiful, tranquil place, moving through the last few pockets of rural Finchley, the shallow brook fringed by ancient oaks, and willow, some now just showing the early bright yellow green of spring shoots; here and there, buds of blackthorn are breaking out into creamy white blossom. The silence was punctuated only by the many varieties of birds flitting about - including an energetic woodpecker busy at the top of a tree ... and then the racket of even louder drilling when we came across a bridge by Rocklands Pool, which was having new concreted in railings installed, for no reason that was apparent, even to the workmen who were carrying out the job. Why?

Windsor Open Space now boasts a half finished children's playground, with the section for babies and toddlers cunningly designed to be at the bottom of a sloping area, in order to trip them up as much as possible, and teach them a cruel lesson for later life: a nursery for a whole new generation of Tory councillors, perhaps.

All around the previous grassy areas are great muddy patches, and dumped timber: not dumped for ecological reasons, to create habitats for stag beetles or other insect life - just abandoned by the council.

The entrance shown above is a real curiosity. It is very visible from the road, if you are driving past. Of course you cannot stop anywhere near, park, and join the walk. It does also say, or would if you did inspect the walk more carefully, hello: look - your council has spent lots of money on this wonderful new fur coat, but forgotten to wear any knickers. (Sorry - Mr Pepper made a more appropriate analogy about a Persian donkey smuggler, but I've forgotten how it went ...)

Two small patches of tarmac, a piece of hard pebbled stuff which is already cracked and full of sunken holes, a sign post, and a couple of wooden bollards (oak- one hopes from sustainable sources) which are presumably part of the signage installed for £7,000 or so by the council's non contracted gardening company. Plus a spot of seeded bare soil, and a few bits of left over timber shoved on one side. Hideous and serving no purpose - and leading to a part of the walk which is largely unresurfaced.

As we walked along the path, it is clear that one particular long section, which runs parallel to Claremont Park, is in appalling condition. The photograph does not really illustrate the extent of the damaged surface, with churned up tarmac, loose gravel, tree roots and so on. As we were examining the path, by chance, a regular user of the path, Mrs B, came along, and stopped to talk to us. Mrs B is blind, and was accompanied by her lovely guide dog, using her stick to inch her away along the walk. Such a venture is an incredibly courageous outing for any person with sight impairment to undertake, particularly as in this part the side of the brook drops sharply down, and stumbling on the path could have serious consequences.

Was any Equalities Impact Assessment undertaken before devising the programme of improvements for the Valley walk? If so, clearly the need to prioritise the needs and accessibility of disabled users was not reflected in the actions undertaken. Mrs B pointed out the lack of any guidance for sight impaired users, such as the 'bubble' surface which would alert her to the end of a path, or change of level.

The path is extremely difficult anyone with mobility problems or using a wheelchair to negotiate, and for parents with buggies too. The question has to be asked again: why was a perfectly satisfactory part of the walk resurfaced, and not the section with the dangerously broken surface?

As we talked to Mrs B about the difficulties of negotiating the footpath, she brought up another subject: had we heard, she asked, a rumour that Councillor Coleman was now trying to remove as many pelican crossings from the roads as possible, in order to 'improve traffic flow'? Surely that could not be true? Erm, well, yes, we said, unfortunately it is. But, said Mrs B, absolutely aghast, she completely depended on such crossings - how could anyone think of removing them?

How indeed.

The issues of the dangerous footpath and the removal of safe crossing points are all part of an even more traumatic journey - the road to perdition that is being followed by the residents of our borough, as a result of the lunatic policies of our Councillor and Assembly member Brian Coleman.

You will recall that his attempt to replace all temporary traffic lights was described in a recent report as 'irrational'. The parking fiasco, the park hire scheme - all of these idiotic proposals are the product of his gimlet eyed determination to master control of the environment of Broken Barnet: roads, pavements, parks, open spaces, closed in spaces, the earth, the moon, the sun, and every atom of everything that moves.

The administration of the Mayor's award presents a suitable metaphor for everything that is wrong with not just Coleman but the current Tory council and its One Barnet madness - hopelessly incapable of managing the most straightforward project, unable to prioritise the distribution of resources according to need, and seeking, with laughable ineptitude, to gain favourable publicity from the resulting disaster.

Coleman's fellow Tory councillors are looking on at his increasingly bizarre policy decisions with a rising sense of panic, and are now actively plotting his downfall, and when, as we fondly hope and pray, he loses his place on the London Assembly, they intend to pull his Cabinet portfolio from his sweaty little hands. But will any part of this borough still be intact by then?


Mr Mustard said...

Was it our friends RM Countryside who were concreting in the railings Mrs Angry or another firm without a contract?

I notice the nice wooden bollards to stop cars getting in but they won't stop motorbikes (no I wouldn't take mine through there honest)

Mrs Angry said...

Good afternoon, Mr Mustard. Being a dedicated citizen journalist, I did enquire, with some difficulty sue to the noise, which company was doing the work, but they were merely sub contractors - well,one cannot be sure about the contract bit, of course. They were perplexed as to why they were doing what seemed to be an unneccessary job.

baarnett said...

I want to hear about the Persian donkey smuggler.

Mind you, all the Persian donkeys I've known have had no need to smuggle anything.

Mrs Angry said...

do you have a particular interest in donkeys, baarnett? Don't like them very much. I had a traumatic experience with a herd of biscuit eating donkeys in Ireland when I was small. Got a picture somewhere.

the story:

Is it Nasrhuddin, something like that? Come to think of it I might have muddled it up with something else. Too much fresh air and not enough sleep, bit lightheaded.

baarnett said...

Of course in Galway, one needs to take into account the Unlawful Accommodation of Donkeys Act 1837.

Mrs Angry said...

hmm. Have you been to Galway, baarnett? Lovely place, but not much to do, and full of lonely bachelor farmers.

It was Co Kerry, near Dingle, anyway.