January – December 2018
This year has seen our group having to actively campaign against a decision by the Council to include Northcliffe as a potential site for a new crematorium. The community really came out in support against the proposal, with Val Harris orchestrating a successful campaign to defeat it. We had our usual activities earlier in the year, but plans for a community engagement event in October to try and attract more active volunteers had to be postponed. The momentum of the campaign, and the new folk it has attracted, could well be an opportunity for 2019. After all, we may have won this campaign, but what about the future? Where is our voice in the current running of the park? What will happen as central government funding for Councils continues to decrease, and further decisions about where to spend and save money have to be made? This incident has demonstrated that the community has a dangerously low level of input into decisions about land held in trust that affects them as beneficiaries. In my view as Chair, this should be our focus for 2019 and beyond – to build more meaningful and constructive relationships with Council officers and decision-makers, and be consulted with and involved at a much earlier stage. Collectively, we have a lot of skills and knowledge, and that should be drawn upon by the Council more than it is now.
At the AGM in January 2018, Julia Pearson stepped down from her role as Conservation Officer, a position she had held for almost 10 years. During that time Julia has spearheaded our efforts to reduce Himalayan Balsam, and increase the biodiversity of the woodlands through good management, amongst many other things. Julia did continue to be a general committee member, so her involvement is continuing, but her work as outgoing Conservation Officer was recognised with a vote of thanks at the AGM.
We would like to extend the customary thanks to all the people who help us with our activities – our members, volunteers, event leaders, committee members and the general public who support our events and activities. We also thank the groups we collaborated with and whose facilities and services we used this year, such as Bradford Model Engineering Society (BMES), Northcliffe Environmental Enterprises Team (NEET), Northcliffe Allotments Society (NAS), Shipley Club, St. Paul’s Church, Bradford Environmental Education Service (BEES), Kirkgate Centre and RSPB Bradford and Airedale Local Group. Thanks are also due to Morrisons Enterprise 5 store for their generous support of our Santa Special, and also to Q20 Events, who lent us props for Santa’s grotto. And a final thank you to Bradford Council for their continued support, particularly the Parks & Landscape Service and the Trees & Woodland Team. We’ve also seen great support from two Council Officers, Mick Priestley and Antonio Smith, as we worked through the detail of the crematorium proposals.
Northcliffe Says No Campaign
In the summer we heard the news that Northcliffe had been put on a list of possible crematoria sites for North Bradford, to replace the Nab Wood one that is polluting the valley and attracting fines, and cannot be replaced because there isn’t enough land.
A member of FON quickly got an on-line petition going objecting to the use of Northcliffe for this purpose, and the Dogs of Northcliffe set up their lines of bones around the proposed site and got good local publicity. A meeting for anyone who wanted to help with the campaign was soon organised at the bowling club and 100 people crammed in.
A campaign group was formed, people offered their help with leafletting, petitioning, organising events, and raising funds. A meeting was sought with the key council officials who explained what was happening, why now, what process they were engaged in and we talked about why people were so angry and against the proposal.
Some people started to look at Charity Commission rulings in similar situations while others organised a rally in the park in September. Between us we managed to leaflet 4000 houses around the park. The rally was attended by several hundred people who marched behind the Peace Artists band, from the main gates to the possible site of the crematorium. They linked arms around the outline to show how much land would be taken and how it would split the park in two. The rally got good press coverage and raised the awareness of local people to what was going on.
The petition had attracted a couple of thousand signatures and was presented to the full council meeting in October by many people wearing Northcliffe Says No tee shirts. Steve as chair of FON addressed the full council and our local green councillors, Martin and Kevin, had put forward a motion to the council that Northcliffe should be taken off the list, the Labour leadership put an amendment which all the Labour councillors voted, which left Northcliffe on the list of possible sites for the crematorium while consultants undertook a feasibility study.
Meanwhile we had produced an ecological summary paper about Northcliffe and another about how Northcliffe supports people’s health and well-being, and these will be presented to the feasibility consultants as soon as we can get to them. The first report from the consultants, based on desk research and a walk over, will be presented to the Council Executive on the 8th January. It would be nice to see Northcliffe eliminated at this stage, but we cannot be sure of that. We have continued to collect more petition signatures and these will be sent to the executive for their meeting.
Meanwhile the Humans of Northcliffe campaign continues to collect stories about the importance of Northcliffe to people who use it. Members of the campaign group are ploughing through lots of documents about planning permissions, others are looking in fine detail at the governance documents affecting the park, while lawyers are preparing our complaint to the Charity Commissioners if Northcliffe is left on the list. The meadow area was surveyed in the summer and we now have enough different flowers and grasses to qualify for a Local Wildlife Site and that was confirmed in the middle of December. This designation gives us more power to oppose any planning application. The campaign group have organised some actions over Christmas on the possible site and are working on a publicity campaign for the New Year.
Since the compilation of this report, the Executive of Bradford Council have voted to exclude Northcliffe from the list of potential sites, following an initial feasibility study run by an independent consultancy. This is great news, and although not strictly in the reporting year for this annual report, is nevertheless worth including and celebrating. Thanks to everyone who supported us, in particular to Val Harris for running the campaign group, and Tony Woods for the huge amount of research that informed much of the campaign.
This year we have run more conservation session that at any time in the past. The mid-week group met every month apart from November when the weather was too poor to work; so over the year 18 x 2 hour sessions took place with between 4 and 8 people attending. Six other sessions were held, some on another mid-week day and others in evenings or at weekends – the evening and weekend sessions attracted between 6 - 15 people.
The mid-week group continued to repair paths with the chippings supplied by the council; plant trees; clear up the debris from various storms and make habitat piles; thin some trees and coppice others; keep the silt traps on the dyke cleared; build leaky dams; and maintain the bird feeding area in good repair.
One weekend group worked to clear the vegetation from the damp areas within Old Spring Wood to enable these areas to remain as damp areas and not dry out, one mid-week session also worked in Old Spring Wood to repair the damage when a large tree was taken down and left, and to generally tidy up the area.
All the groups that met over the summer spent time pulling up the balsam in Northcliffe Woods and this year we made a serious inroad into the plants, let’s hope there are fewer next year! We found that they had travelled to the top allotments and we worked with the allotment society to try and remove them from the communal plot.
Joint work with the Allotment Society continued on the project site between the two sets of allotments where we have worked on a wildlife area, continued to create tree nursery beds and panted a hazel hedge and a sloe hedge. The Forest of Bradford continued to supply trees as we needed them, and they planted a thorn hedge along the top allotment site to help improve security on the site as well as creating different habitats for birds.
Overall our work to increase biodiversity is paying off, and the regular bird watchers report that there are more interesting birds nesting in Northcliffe. When the bird boxes were cleared out this year well over 2/3rd of them were found to have been used for nesting – 2 out of the 3 tree creeper boxes had been used which was really good news.
We hosted a couple of visits from groups from outside Shipley, one from Low Wood, a Yorkshire Wildlife Reserve near Keighley, and a Birding Group from Ilkley.
We have been working to the original management plan agreed with the council when we set up the mid-week group, and following a recent walking meeting with the relevant council officer we will be updating the plan over the winter. This will include planting in some parts of the park – on the edge of the existing groups of trees, and creating more scrubby edges to support birds. We will be looking to plant more berry bearing and colourful small trees and shrubs. We have been successful with a bid to the Woodland Trust and will be receiving over 400 trees to plant the High Bank Lane end of the park, probably in March (look out for the adverts and come and join us). We also plan to plant some bluebells in this area to try and establish a new area of bluebells and wood anemones. We will also be looking to plant some more trees along the main tarmac path to replace those that have been taken out because they died back and became unsafe.
The Big Garden Bird Watch organised between the RSPB, FON and the Allotment Society, took place on a miserable day In January, let hope the one due in the coming January has better weather!
This year we said good bye to some people who have moved away and welcome some others to the group. We are always looking for new volunteers to help with any of our conservation activities, so do get I touch if you would like to know more. If you know of any groups who would like to put in a session working in Northcliffe then please let us know and we may be able to arrange something.
In the first part of the year Tony Woods started to redraft his full and final report on the Heritage project. An initial start was made on a 12 page summary document and plans were made for a final exhibition panel and a public meeting later in the year. Then for many reasons both political and personal the Heritage project had a fairly quiet last part of the year. The council’s decision to think about building a crematorium on Northcliffe took a lot of energy from key people in the heritage project as the Northcliffe Says No campaign took over the summer and autumn and is on-going.
We have mapped out one potential self-guided walk along the dyke and through the woods with various deviations up the S shaped track towards the golf course. This work is now being picked back up again and we hope to have a draft prepared over the winter.
Guy Barford has delivered a talk on the findings of the heritage project to about 35 members of the Active Citizens group who meet at St Peters Church.
Jane Robinson took the display boards to the international Celebrating Our Woodland Heritage Conference which was held Friday 16 to Sunday 18 November 2018 at the University of Bradford. The boards were looked at by many people, and one questioner after one of the presentations even mentioned them by name and praised them. Funding has been obtained to complete the final board and hopefully that will happen before too long.
The continued lack of an events officer continues to limit the activities we are able to put on. Melanie Bruzzese has continued to ensure our major events take place (Rae Gala and Easter event).
The regular Big Garden Birdwatch took place in January, with the support of members from the Bradford and Airedale RSPB Group. The weather was atrocious, and only a handful of people turned up. We are hoping a change of day and better weather will improve attendance in 2019. The Easter Bunny picnic unfortunately had to be cancelled, as weather once again thwarted the careful preparations we had made.
The Rae Gala took place on its traditional slot of the first weekend in July, with another bumper turnout. We renewed our partnership with Q20 Events as part of the Shipley Street Arts festival, with their elephants roaming around the Gala as they had in Shipley town centre the previous day. Thanks as ever to all our stallholders and performers, and John Dembickjy from the Council’s Parks & Landscape Service, standing in for Sean Gardner who has been part of the furniture at previous Galas – a super substitute, thanks John! Many thanks also to BMES, volunteers from FoN and people who made donations of cakes and money on the day – without you, the event would not be the success that it is.
The fifth annual Santa Special, in conjunction with BMES, rounded off the year. We decided to reduce numbers slightly this year to make logistics easier, and the event a more pleasant esperience for the volunteers who work so hard to put it on. This meant that following the priority booking period for FoN and BMES members, no public sales were required. Thanks to all the volunteers from FoN and BMES who helped in the run-up and on the day, particularly Melanie, Ken and John (Santa). We’d also like to thank Morrisons Idle Enterprise 5 for their generous help with gifts, and Q20 Events for the loan of props for Santa’s Grotto.
A massive thank you to all our event leaders and generous members, who have donated their time, baking, produce and prizes over the year. You all do a fantastic job. Thank you also to the Parks & Landscape Service for giving us the continued use of the tennis pavilion for storage of our equipment, we are really grateful, in particular to John Dembickjy who is a great support.
We continue to have a vacancy for a Promotions officer. Thanks to Val, Joan and Keith, who have kept the noticeboards up to date with FoN events. Thanks also to Guy Barford for representing FoN with the Active Citizens Group meeting at St Peter’s Church.
Social media continues to be our strongest promotional channel. Twitter now has 1036 followers, and our Facebook page has 552 likes. Our hashtag #NorthcliffeSaysNo reached over 10,000 people during the most active phase of the campaign.
There is still a vacancy for a promotions officer, so please do get in touch if you can help.
We produced one newsletter this year, and then decided to move to a more regular and concise bulletin, with an annual yearbook that would contain the annual report plus other articles. We would like to thank Phil Morrison who continues to provide his expert services free of charge; the members who regularly deliver it locally; and Shipley Print for their excellent service. Many members receive the newsletter by e-mail only, and this saves us money and delivery time. However a printed copy can always be useful, and passed on to prospective new members. Do e-mail Joan if you would like a printed copy again.
Our current Editor, Liz Hansen, is still looking for a successor, although this will no longer be a regular requirement like the newsletter. If you are the creative type, or enjoy writing, or just have an interest (or know someone who does), then please get in touch.
We had 214 members as at the end of December 2018. We have had 51 new members, boosted by the #NorthcliffeSaysNo campaign, and overall have increased by 30 from 184 last year.
Sadly, one of our longest standing members, Brenda Shields, passed away in December. On behalf of all our members, we would like to offer our sincere condolences to Brenda’s family and friends.
We have continued to hold planning meetings at the Shipley Club, and we thank them for their continuing support. We are holding our AGM at the Kirkgate Centre, to maintain our links with and support another important community facility.
Finances continue to be well managed and healthy as evidenced by our Annual Accounts. We intend to agree a budget at the AGM.
Report prepared by Steve Bruzzese on behalf of the Committee:
Steve Bruzzese (Chair), Guy Barford (Deputy Chair), Sheila Parkin (Secretary), Joan Newman (Treasurer and Membership), Val Harris (Conservation and Heritage job-share), Keith Scott (Website), Liz Hansen (Newsletter), Tony Woods (Heritage job-share), Julia Pearson, Joan Stevens (General Committee Members).
With contributions from Joan Newman, Liz Hansen, Val Harris, Melanie Bruzzese and Steve Bruzzese.