About three or four years ago, when our town council meetings were held in the old courthouse next to the police station and I was deputy mayor, a large delegation of residents from the Sandringham Park area came to a council meeting en mass to complain about the terrible anti-social behaviour they had been suffering from in the area.
We often get one or two residents attending to raise matters of concern but on this occasion 50 or 60 came together to express their frustration at how long this had been going on and how frustrated they were that nothing had been done.
It was left to me to try to find a solution.
I met with a number of residents in their homes to try to better understand the problems.
And then I called together a number of agencies including the police, youth service, east north east homes, the town council, the city council’s area management team and a number of others to come up with an action plan.
A number of the local residents were keen to help with finding a solution and I helped them set up a residents association; Friends of Sandringham Park.
They began a whole series of activities from cleaning up the park to engaging with the young people who were either involved in the anti-social behaviour or perceived to be.
They now have an annual fun day with highlight being a football match between some of the young people and the police, many of you who are familiar with my ample frame and limited athletic ability will be surprised to learn that I’ve played for the police team in each of the last two years and will be doing so again this year.
A dedicated group of volunteers led by chairman, Kazia Knight who has recently become a town councillor, have done a huge amount of work in the last few years to completely transform the situation at the park.
While there are still occasional reports to the police of crime and anti-social behaviour they are now very rare and no higher than anywhere else in the town.
The turnaround was complete last year when the park achieved Green Flag status, something only a handful of green spaces in the city such as Roundhay Park have obtained.
Last week, I attended the park twice. Once to plant an oak sapling from the Royal Sandringham Estate, one of a number the park has been awarded.
I also attended the annual inspection by the Green Flag inspector along with former Mayor, Coun Cindy Bentley, local police, Tom Bird of Renton and Parr who are now working in partnership with the Friends group and a number of the residents.
It’s not for me to pre-judge the outcome but it seemed to go really well, the park was looking beautiful and clean and the inspector seemed very impressed.
I really hope they retain the hard fought green flag status, under Kazia’s leadership; the group have brought the community together and completely turned around a very negative situation into a vibrant and thriving community asset.
Sandringham Park is a huge success story, not because of me, but because of the hard work and dedication of a group of local volunteers and the commitment of a variety of public and private organisations committed to working together and supporting the volunteers.
I want to see if the same approach can be applied to tackling our on-going litter and dog fouling problems.
This week, I’m holding a litter summit in which I’ve called together every agency that has anything to do with the issue or that may be able to help, this includes, environmental services, dog wardens, the police and even CCTV operatives as well as a number of others.
My hope is that we can come up with an action plan that will help to discourage people from littering in the first place and catch and prosecute those that do. I’ll do my best to keep you up to date with how we get on.
Also this week, I chaired the latest meeting of our Neighbourhood Planning group.
While this is in its early stages, I feel it is progressing well and is another example of another fantastic group of volunteers coming together to try and shape the future of our town.
Next Thursday evening, May 30 at 7.30pm is the annual town meeting to be held in the town hall.
I will present the annual review on behalf of the town council and I and my colleagues will then answer resident’s questions and concerns.
It’s a key meeting in the year as we feedback our successes and failings of the past year while the contributions of residents help us to shape our agenda for the year ahead.
I hope many of you can make it, it would be great to see you and hear your views, good or bad.