Plus ca change...You know, I've not been through Risinghurst much since I left the city council in 2002. But returning there today to do some street surveys about the state of roads and paths and street furniture and the like I was quite taken aback that absolutely nothing has been done there in those four years.
Now I realise that not much was done while I was on the council either, but at least we got the two councils to take the issues seriously enough to produce a proper survey and some ideas of what might happen if the money was ever forthcoming. I presume this is still sitting in someone's drawer, or even been lost or destroyed. You have to keep the pressure up to keep such ideas at the forefront of peoples' minds.
It's a really difficult one. Money is not forthcoming. People pay their council tax and it rises every year. They don't see any local improvements for their money. It's depressing. But it's not all the council's fault. Clearly the Risinghurst estate was not built for multi-car households. The roads are too narrow to park on street. The drive ways and garages, if they still exist, are too narrow for modern cars and who wants to be "held hostage" by their neighbour's car blocking a shared drive anyway?
I spoke to two or three households who fear that their homes are being damaged because some of the roads the bus service uses are now so badly holed where service trenches cross the road that the buses bounce as they go over them and send shocks through their foundations.
This is just not on. The county council officers say that damage to the houses if it happens is not their problem. This is not a responsible answer. Someone needs to own the issue and get something done. It might mean eventually loosing the grass verges. I suspect that the pavements are not of legal width and quality nowadays anyway under disability legislation.
Indeed I wonder if disability legislation could be used to make the county do something about it. I remember a young chap in Downside Road somewhere who had been injured and was wheelchair bound and we eventually got something done for him to enable him at least to get out of his own home.
It's a "mature" estate. there isn't a lot of scope for new development to be fleeced to help pay for environmental improvements. But that's what we pay our taxes for isn't it - things that cannot be provided any other way. I shall contact all those who responded to our survey to find out if they have any constructive ideas. Maybe see if we can resurrect that report from 2001 and think creatively about ways to finance improvements.
Hopefully now that the area has a Lib Dem county councillor as well, Roz Smith, with whom I can work to raise the issues at the county council and not just the city council, we might find some ways around the inertia that pervades that institution. I wouldn't hold your breath though - this is something that I fought my election campaign on in 1998. It hasn't improved since!