“Trouble with Armley Town Street is that nobody gives a toss.”
Give or take, that was the general consensus when I chatted to a few shoppers braving the blustery winds and rain-sodden clouds yesterday, writes John Baron.
In many respects their responses – while depressing – weren’t surprising. It’s something I’ve come across in Armley quite a bit – a tangible sense of resignation that things aren’t going to change.
Armley Town Street’s had more than its fair share of headlines a lot recently. It’s had some major Heritage Lottery investment over the past couple of years (and we’re all holding our breath Mike’s Carpets will finally get renovated, but the project’s still on a knife edge).
And last week Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves – alongside Armley’s councillors – announced in the YEP that they were launching the Armley Town Street Revival Plan in a bid to make “Armley the best town centre in the city.”
The aims of Ms Reeves and the local councillors are certainly noble. The YEP reports a consultation exercise will be carried out to find out what local residents, businesses and community groups want to see happen to improve the town. And a meeting will be arranged with English Heritage to discuss projects that could attract more investment into the area.
All well and good. Anything which looks at improving Armley is of course very welcome.
But the reaction is some quarters has been a little bit more sceptical. Over on The Culture Vultures blog, editor Phil Kirby has written a thought-provoking post simply called ‘Which way for Armley?‘. I urge you to read it if you haven’t already.
Kirby writes about “the culture of citizenship”, of people ‘becoming more civically minded’, and of people who want ‘to increase the number of people peacefully getting other people to behave like better citizens’.
The crux of his post? It isn’t about being ‘the best’ it’s about civic pride. About genuine empowerment. Change starts with Joe Bloggs on the street.
Perhaps the seeds are already being sown? This week we covered the fab work of the volunteers who run the Armley Common Right Trust who put on a free hanging basket workshop to improve their community. We also featured a video on the work of Armley’s Real Junk Food Project – ‘You can’t change the world unless you change your home town first’.
It’s about getting up off your backside and doing things yourself.
Armley resident Emma Bearman this week addressed the ‘best street’ issue and wrote:
“… I’m prepared to take part in conversations but less convinced by this typical form of polarising ‘consultation’.”
Apparently an event has been organised to start discussing all Armley’s ‘good stuff’, where people can come and chat aabout Armley’s future, get inspired and start creating a map of all the great people, venues, activities, shops and stuff which makes Armley good! More details on the June 11 event here.
Elsewhere in West Leeds we’ve featured the get up and go of local people – setting up a parkrun in Bramley, plans for a community clean-up in Farnley, feeling Farsley’s positive vibes, the Pudsey Park steamroller campaign, setting world records at fab Farsley Festival, community growing in Kirkstall etc etc.
We’ve featured people influencing the powers that be by campaigning for road improvements in Pudsey, scrutinising road changes in Swinnow, residents calling time on an eyesore social club building in Farnley, and getting involved with local forums.
Oh, and a reminder you can help us tell the stories of West Leeds at our launch event later this month.
There is SO MUCH already going on!
One area demanding consideration is something called Neighbourhood Planning. The Localism Bill 2012 enabled communities to draw up a ‘Neighbourhood Plan’ for their area and is intended to give communities more of a say in the development of their local area (within certain limits and parameters).
These plans will be used to decide the future of the places where you live and work giving opportunities to:
- choose where you want new homes, shops and offices to be built
- have your say on what new buildings should look like
- grant planning permission for the new buildings you want to see go ahead.
There are already plans in Hyde Park, Kirkstall, Headingley, Far Headingley at different stages. You can read about Bramley’s plan here. Apparently you need a Neighbourhood Forum of 21 representative people do it.
Perhaps that’s something to consider for Armley? Some interest was expressed on Twitter last night, although the status of any plan for Armley seems to be unclear:
— Stuart Long (@StuartLong01) June 1, 2015
This isn’t meant to be a post dismissing valid efforts of local politicians.
Indeed, many of the projects we’ve listed in this article also get financial support from the local authority and would struggle to exist without that support. It’s certainly not about revolution, it’s (as Cllr Lowe suggests) about everyone coming together.
I hope the Armley Town Street Revival Plan does make the area ‘the best’ (whatever that means) – and any focus to bring investment into the area is, of course, welcome.
The answer’s not to shrug shoulders and ‘not give a toss’ as some of the people I spoke to yesterday on Town Street were talking about. It’s about getting involved. For instance, we reported how Armley Fun Day wasn’t going ahead this year due to lack of volunteers – but could you help out in some way?
Perhaps the answer lies with you?