Thursday, 18 August 2016

Local Counsellor Allowances - Suggestions for the Dutch Quarter, Colchester, Essex

I recently found out that our Ward Counsellors have an allowance of £2K (per year I believe), to spend on whatever they choose in their designated wards. One would hope it would be spent on improvements to their particular ward that would in some way benefit the residents. There are 3 Counsellors in the Ward I live in which makes a potential of £6K sloshing around in their bum bags. (I don't know if this is the same with all Counsellors in all Councils but its definitely worth looking into if you care about the area that you live in).

I have the odd communication with 1 of our Counsellors so emailed him to ask him what he intended to spend his cash on. He has committed some of his allowance on a Defibrillator for the Park (great idea) but for the rest, he was undecided. So, I thought I would take a wander around and see if I could come up with any suggestions.

The Dutch Quarter, where I live, is a really old part of Colchester. I have been told, that two of the main roads in the area that lead onto the High Street (West Stockwell Street and East Stockwell Street) are 2 of the earliest roads in Colchester. The Dutch Quarter certainly has some very old buildings and much of it is built on top of a Roman Amphitheatre. 

You can see some pictures of it on this post when I was moaning about lampposts...:

If you dug down deep enough under the Dutch Quarter I'm sure you'd find some very juicy treasure. We have found several bits of old glass in the garden which I believe to be Roman and the previous owner found a glass vase which he kindly left for us (along with a basement full of shit, old wardrobes, a hole behind the wardrobe, an immovable piano and the entire coat of fur from his dog. Its a good job he moved to Australia thats all I can say). 

Glass from the garden.

However, you wouldn't be allowed to just dig down willy nilly, as the Dutch Quarter is a Conservation Area. Or is it? I was under the impression that it was but from my experience of living here it does not seem remotely protected by the Council. Since I have been here:

* Solar Panels have been approved on roofs.
* Traditional black lampposts have ben removed and replaced with modern ones
* New houses have been built, in no way sympathetic in size or style to the surrounding area/buildings.
* Painting has been allowed on an old Church in a garish colour and the job has only been half done.
* Building work has taken place with no planning persmission and again inappropriate to the surroundings.

So you see, its a bit hard to know, what the 'Conservation Area' status means round here. I think perhaps I believe it means more than it actually does. I would expect the Local Conservation officer to do a regular walk about to check nothing untoward is occurring and at the very least have an approved colour palette for exterior paintwork. But I don't think either of things happen/exist.

Anyway, I digress. Yesterday I had a quick mooch around and came up with a small list of improvements that may or may not be acknowledged. I didn't want to suggest anything too grand as there would be no chance of them happening, but a few small, hopefully reasonably priced, ideas might get taken on board and would go a long way in improving things not just for residents but also Visitors to Colchester.

* This overgrown patch is on St Helens Lane. I don't know who it belongs to but its totally neglected. However, its quite a big area and could be cleared as a Community Garden Space for Wildflowers and we could get some 'Seedbombs' There quite a lot of flats in the area and those residents / children may enjoy the chance to get involved with some gardening.

* Or the space could be used for growing vegetables 'for all' and we could tap into the 'Incredible Edible Network. Check them out here:

* Repaint all the lamp posts and bollards, most are peeling as you can see here.
*Also, remove all the out of date Planning Application Notices. 
CBC love sticking them up and almost NEVER take them down. Sloppy.

*Remove the Modern Lamp posts and reinstate the Traditional Style ones. 
This thing looks like something from 'Mars Attacks' and sticks out like a sore thumb.

* Repair this damaged chain on Shortcut Road.

* Maybe repair these damaged slabs on Stockwell.

* Fill a few potholes. West Stockwell Street got resurfaced but none of the surrounding streets did and are in very bad states.

* Have a good old fashioned Noticeboard somewhere central i.e. by the Church on St Helens Lane for all Local things going on. I am still amazed about the lack of PR for most things in the Town and the amount of things we seem to miss. I would be happy to keep an eye on this, update flyers/leaflets, hold the key etc. It might add to the sense of Community but would certainly help disseminate information about local events.

* There is very little information around about the history of the Dutch Quarter if you walk around. So we could get some Information signs like the new ones outside the Castle to put at Historic places in the area i.e. St Helens Church / St Martins Church / Signs to let people know the history of the Dutch Quarter / The house where 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star' was written.

* And finally, probably my biggest bugbear of all. I don't know if this is in the Ward or not but basically, someone needs to paint this bridge. The Council have spent a lot of money trying to highlight the walk from the Station to the Town yet completely missed painting this bridge, which by the looks of it, is pretty important! Important enough for a sign in the pavement but not important enough to preserve, protect and enhance with some paint. Bonkers.

So there you have it. Nothing ground breaking, nothing that a quick walk around the area wouldn't seem obvious to most people I'm sure. Hopefully, none of these ideas are too expensive and as I have said, I am happy to help where I can, so Counsellors, it's over to you.

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