Thursday, 11 March 2010

Darnall Community Meeting

Notes of the community meeting held at 7pm on Wednesday 20th January 2010

Living Waters, Main Road

The meeting was chaired by Councillor Mazer Iqbal.

Councillors Mary Lea and Harry Harpham were also in attendance. 43 Officers and members of the public were present for all or part of the meeting.

POST OFFICE

Mark Barker spoke about his job working for the council to enhance the Post Office network in Sheffield. The Post Office closed in August. Post Office Limited, which runs the network, has been investigating different locations for a new post office and has been asked to help with the setup costs. Since the Post Office closed the remuneration for sub-postmasters has dropped. There will need to be a 12 week consultation process before the post office can reopen somewhere new.

In answer to questions, Mr Barker said that:

· The post office cannot reopen where it is now for legal reasons.

· The Station Road Council offices are not suitable.

· The Council does not know why the post office closed.

· The Council does not have a massive influence on Post Office Ltd.

Members of the meeting noted that:

· There has been a massive reduction in trade in all the local shops.

· Manor Top Post Office has closed as well.

· Handsworth and Attercliffe Post Offices are not convenient for the residents of Darnall.

Councillor Iqbal said that the Council has a 500,000 Post Office Fighting Fund for reversing post office closures. Darnall Forum was being considered as one option for keeping the Post Office alive in Darnall because Darnall Forum is a not-for-profit organisation and might be able to operate with lower profit margins. The Chair, Sylvia Hamilton, said the Forum would hope to make a profit from the Post Office and reinvest in things like training for the community and the Darnall Carnival. Mike Roberts from The Darnall Traders’ organisation said he would support the Forum running the post office. Sylvia Hamilton said that if the post office were to be relocated to Darnall Forum the date that was being discussed was June, partly because of the consultation period that the law requires. However, there are other hurdles to cross. Mark Barker said the consultation period might be able to be reduced. He said that not a day goes by when he does not remind the Post Office about Darnall.

Clive Betts, the councillors and the CEO of the Council are among those who have written to the managing director of Post Office Ltd. Members of the meeting were encouraged to write to Post Office Ltd.

DARNALL CENTRE REDEVELOPMENT

Debbie Merrill, the lead planning officer for the area, said that progress has really slowed down over the last year because the developer is still looking for a food store to work with them. They firmly intend to bring forward a new scheme and have already sent the planning department some very sketchy proposals.

Members of the meeting asked:

How can a developer be allowed to buy so many properties that they effectively control the future of an area and get the power to close shop units?

Councillor Iqbal pointed out that owners have the right to sell to a developer but the developers have been asked to avoid blighting the area as much as the can. The recession has created undoubted difficulties for the developer. In the final resort, the councillors do have powers to compel the developers to make environmental improvements.

Questions were asked about what the Forum is doing to put pressure on the developers. Neil Bishop said the Forum had helped residents to comment on the original proposals and had also raised the issue on tonight’s agenda. Concern for the health of the shopping centre was one of the main reasons why the Forum is considering running the post office in Darnall.

Debbie Merrill felt the council’s City Development Team might be able to pressure the developers to find suitable tenants for their empty properties or improve neglected shopfronts, but the planners are not in a position to do this and they share the frustration of traders and residents about the continuing blight of the centre.

A resident commented that it will be difficult to sell new houses in Darnall if the district centre is not redeveloped.

Councillor Lea pointed out that councillors had worked hard to try to keep Morrison’s open in Darnall and are working hard to address the situation but there are no quick and easy solutions available.

A resident asked whether it is true that Forward Investments are getting a concession off their rates while the properties they own are vacant? Councillor Harpham said the councillors would find this out and report to the next meeting.

MATHER ROAD PAVILION / NURSERY DEVELOPMENT

Alan Williams talked about the redevelopment of the Mather Road upper and lower pavilions. They had been badly vandalised but are being refurbished. The Football Foundation and the City Council are funding the refurbishment of the lower pavilion with the Children’s Centre. A youth project has addressed the vandalism. A friends group has been established, meeting in the upper pavilion. Community Services and the Police are working closely with the friends. Darnall Nursery is providing 16 OFSTED registered places for 3-5s from this year. A drama group and a youth club also meet. There is an after school club. It is planned to start the refurbishment of the lower pavilion in July. Alan acknowledged that problems with vandalism are on going but he isn’t giving up. A handful of young people are a problem but new football facilities and a new sign are planned very soon.

In answer to questions he agreed to get some of the piles of vegetation moved which were left by the people who cleared the site. Some old benches are being replaced by solid steel benches set into concrete. There is a problem with wheelie bins being set on fire, but councillor Iqbal pointed out that the police treat these issues in Mather Community Park as a priority. When young people get involved in the regeneration of parks they help to prevent damage from happening.

Councillors asked if it could be minuted that everyone involved in the Mather Road Project is doing an excellent job.

DARNALL PARKS & GREEN SPACES

Sarah Pilkington updated the meeting about the other parks and green spaces.

It is proposed that High Hazels House be redeveloped for use by the the community and the golf club – with a cafĂ©, offices and meeting rooms. Heritage Lottery fund may contribute.

70 Acre Hill is a natural landscape. Highland Cattle keep the grass down.

There are water rails, sparrow hawks and newts.

Phillimore Park/Darnall Community Park will be refurbished next month after a delay caused by the weather. There will be new play facilities for young people and children. There is an art project which is employing an artist to create youth shelters, seats, land mounds and vehicle barriers with the help of young people and a women’s ESOL group.

Kettlebridge Action Group has a Green Pennant – a quality mark for small neighbourhood parks.

Darnall Neighbourhood Park is the latest neighbourhood park and the committee members are bidding for funds. On 15th February and 9th March at 2pm there will be two opportunities to meet the designer for the Park’s master plan.

There was concern among residents about the difficulties of feeding the calves on 70 Acre Hill during the snow but Sarah observed that they have survived.

Sarah was thanked for her work and the friends of the parks were thanked for their support.

Members of the meeting said how pleased they were about Darnall in Bloom. Neil Bishop explained it is paid for by the councillors and managed by Darnall Forum, who are hoping to arrange a spring planting. Residents said it would be nice if the railings could be painted too.

NEW HEALTH CENTRE

The health centre plans have been approved. The PCT are looking for residents to serve on the management committee for the health centre. Councillor Iqbal said it was wonderful to see the health centre now being developed.

Members of the meeting asked how far will it benefit all the residents of Darnall? Patients of one of the surgeries can look forward to being relocated in the former Wellington Public House!

The Practice concerned has bought the Wellington and successfully appeaedl against the decision to refuse planning permission, but the PCT also has to assess their application and no one was present from the PCT to comment on progress.

Cllr Iqbal explained that some health services will be available to all residents of Darnall in the new health centre. The councillors will ask the PCT to send a representative to the next meeting. The local health improvement specialist practitioner did not attend tonight because of ill health.

FINDINGS OF THE HEALTH IMPACT ASSESSMENT

Only 11 people from Darnall attended the health impact meeting. Residents asked why it was held on a Thursday afternoon. The PCT will be asked to comment.

A resident asked why male patients have to explain their health issues to female receptionists before they can get an appointment.

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