By John Baron
Armley residents braved the January cold to attend the first Armley Forum meeting of 2023.
The meeting, which is run by the council and held at Armley Community Hub, discussed a wide range of topics from crime and housing, to charging for parking at local parks and new community facilities from Armley Action Team.
Here’s a round-up of that was discussed:
1. New charity shop and community facilities
A new charity shop will officially open early next month offering clothing for youngsters aged 0 to 18 – and it’ll be partly ‘staffed’ by young people undertaking work experience on Saturdays.
Armley Action Team’s interim manager, Fran Graham, said the community project was setting up in empty units off Gelder Road and also planned to open a food pantry and an office with hot-desking facilities.
“With the charity shop we’re trying to do something which is in response to what local people have asked for,” said Fran. “It’s a nice big space and we’re trying not to duplicate what’s on offer on Armley Town Street.”
The shop is called Bundles and will open on Saturday, 4 February. There will be cake and music! WLD will preview the opening in more detail next week.
2. Parks charges ‘unlikely to happen’
Controversial plans for parking at community parks – including Armley Park and Gotts Park – are ‘unlikely to happen’, the meeting heard. The issue, which could see cash-strapped Leeds City Council introduce 40p an hour parking charges at around 30 parks across Leeds, could be implemented in Armley Park and Gotts Park.
Forum members said they had concerns about the charges, after they were raised at the meeting by Cllr Lou Cunningham (Green, Armley), who is also opposed to the charges. But it sounds like the plans could be dropped at community parks, but go ahead at major city parks such as Golden Acre and Roundhay following a city-wide outcry.
Forum chair Cllr Jim McKenna (Lab, Armley) said he thought the plans were ‘very unlikely to happen’ and that limited parking at some venues meant ‘sufficient revenue would not be achieved’.
An official announcement is yet to be made by Leeds City Council.
3. ‘Trojan’ bus deployed
A Trojan bus has been deployed in the Armley area, following incidents of buses being attacked by stone and rock-throwing youths.
A member of the community policing team told the meeting that the bus had led to some youths being spoken to. Other organisations, including the corn cil’s youth service, have also been trying to tackle the problem, which seems to have eased recently. But police have warned that the Trojan bus could be used again in future.
Police also appealed for people to make sure they locked their windows and doors following a number of ‘sneak-in’ burglaries in the area between 5 December 2022 at 17 January 2023. There has also been 31 incidents of shoplifting and and a further eight incidents of robbery, with five arrests.
One forum member called for police to be on Town Street more often. Armley housing manager Paul Hodges called on council tenants to report any incidents of anti-social behaviour.
4. Cost of living help
The meeting heard of two initiatives which could help council tenants during the cost of living crisis. Armley housing manager Paul Hodges said British Gas had given the council £100,000 to support vulnerable tenants struggling to pay their fuel bills. Struggling tenants meeting the qualifying criteria were entitled to up to three vouchers per year and had to be on pre-payment metres.
“A lot of people are already in fuel debt,” said Mr Hodges. “But these vouchers are for people who are on zero and above to help stop them getting into debt.”
The government has also given the council £300,000 to help tenants struggling with debt. The scheme is yet to be officially unveiled.
5. Diary date
The next meeting is on Tuesday 21 March, 7pm at Armley Hub, Stocks Hill.