Local Politics

News from Councillors Lucy Bywater & Ben Foley (Green Party councillors for Castle ward)

Spring 2020

A longer than usual (but still compressed!) summary of what we were doing in Castle ward in since February. (Next month we’ll return to a regular monthly summary). We wish all residents well during this challenging time and are here to help. PLEASE STAY SAFE.

Repair Cafe

Lucy visited the quarterly Bedpop Repair Café, at the Tavistock Community Centre, an excellent initiative by volunteers which originally grew out of an article Lucy wrote in The Clanger a couple of years ago. Held quarterly it’s a pop-up hub where locals can bring everything from electrical items to clothes to bikes for skilled volunteers to repair (for a voluntary donation). This diverts repairable stuff from landfill, strengthens community, helps people learn repair skills and saves them money too – in that they can avoid forking out for new. Lucy and Ben were pleased to contribute some ward funds (going halves with Harpur councillors) towards the necessary annual insurance and publicity. 

Electoral review

February saw the launch of the Boundary Commission’s review of ward boundaries in Bedford Borough. Please do let them know whether you feel the current boundaries for Castle Ward work well, or whether you feel ‘cut off’ or left out. Please let them know which local centres you use, whether particular roads feel like a border/barrier, and whether others feel like unifying features. The 4th May deadline has been extended for now. See consultation.lgbce.org.uk and www.lgbce.org.uk

School strike

Ben attended the school strike for the climate on 14th February, letting the young people who felt driven to such drastic action know that some councillors in Bedford share their frustration at how little action is being taken by central and local government to combat Climate Breakdown.

Fusion leisure facilities (council swimming pools, etc)

Ben took up an opportunity that was generated by Lucy asking a question in a council committee meeting. Ben held a meeting with Fusion managers and several council officers where issues with accessibility for disabled people (of all sorts) were discussed. A lot of items were covered, and there was an agreement for action to improve accessibility. If you have issues with this or any other council service that are not getting resolved by your own requests, please do contact Lucy and Ben.

Drug dealing

One drug-dealing hotspot flared up earlier this Spring, so we have been putting a lot of time into talking to and writing to people in the worst affected area, including a dedicated newsletter, and communicating with the Police and the council’s community safety team. Residents in the area have been doing a good job of reporting about the problem, and their reports are resulting in police action with a warrant issued.

Neighbourhood Watch Quarterly

Lucy attended the Neighbourhood Watch meeting at Police HQ in Kempston. The main theme was drugs, with a really useful talk from Kimberly Lamb of the new Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit (VERU).

The Gordon Arms

You’ll know that the Gordon closed for remodelling before the lockdown. Current crisis aside, it will be opened at a future date as a ‘Pizza, Pots and Pints Wells pub with a large pizza counter, a bigger food offering and some changes to the outdoor areas. Lucy and Ben met with Wells & Co to discuss the outside as we just had some queries about possible increased noise for immediate neighbours which we wanted to get clarification on and to minimise the chances of. We are pleased that the Shed’s future is not in question and will remain as a local venue and community space, just slightly smaller than its current size. Like most locals, we want the pub to thrive in what is a difficult climate with pubs closing all around the country. And sadly that’s without the problems presented by the pandemic

Social distancing

Lucy and Ben have, over recent weeks, been distributing posters about the Council’s Coronavirus Community Hub so that those NOT on social media are more likely to know about it. Ben also got translations of and Lucy put up non-English signs about the lockdown and social distancing to try to keep everyone safe. After noticing problems and anxiety about spacing while crossing bridges, we asked the Council for laminated signs which seem to be helping, with the majority of people now ‘giving way’. 

Bins update!

Refuse collectors are working extra hard but taking longer due to social distancing. We hope to have information very soon about a possible date for re-opening of Barkers Lane tidy tip, gradually to start with in order to prevent overcrowding and tailback of cars by entrances.

Fortnightly orange bin collections continue as usual but rolls of orange sacks are not now available for pick up from the usual points, in order to keep staff safe. However clear sacks (NOT black ones) with your dry recyclables are fine and will be collected. 

We’re pleased that green bin collections resume from the 27th April but will be every four weeks for now, and you’ll need to check your correct day as it may not be the day you’re expecting.

(Now might be a good time to home compost if you don’t already. Here’s some advice from a local gardener:https://www.jayneanthonygardendesign.co.uk/news/article/managing-green-waste/ )

And Castle Road gets its name back…

Not the first time road signs have been stolen along Castle Road… but Ben made sure Castle got its name back with a new sign.

Supporting local businesses still open during Corona, a by no means exhaustive list, but useful. https://www.bedfordindependent.co.uk/buy-local-or-bye-local-lets-get-behind-bedford-businesses/?fbclid=IwAR0g9olnIRXaGDXYhNZJYtK4s6VNIWaSdcVaISzRSsWWQ-luRekjI_UiX0o

Unfortunate cancellations/postponements

Alongside the many serious problems thrown up by the pandemic, we’re also sorry that this Spring’s River Care event and other residents’ litter pick that we normally join have had to be cancelled. Sadly the wildflower seed sowing in Russell Park which we’d planned for next week, to be funded by ward funds and with hands-on help from volunteers, has also had to be postponed until next year.

Council COVID-19 help and information:

The Council’s Community Hub for Coronavirus is available for those in need. And is working with Bedford Kindness volunteers too. Email covid19help@bedford.gov.uk or call the 24-hour hotline: 01234 718101 And you can stay up to date with reliable information and help at www.bedford.gov.uk/covid19

Keeping Castle ward in good shape:

Because, for obvious reasons, we are not travelling around the ward nearly as much as we normally would be, we may not see some problems that we’d normally report straight away. Can you help by reporting to the Council online if you see issues when you are out?

Flytipping (dumped rubbish): https://www.bedford.gov.uk/…/ke…/dumped-rubbish-fly-tipping/

Graffiti: https://www.bedford.gov.uk/environmental-issues/keeping-bedford-borough-clean/graffiti-and-fly-posting/

Dog muck: https://www.bedford.gov.uk/…/animal-car…/dog-and-dog-issues/

Drain Problem: https://www.bedford.gov.uk/parking-roads-and-trav…/…/drains/

Overflowing street bin: https://www.bedford.gov.uk/…/keeping-be…/littering-and-bins/

Road sign or bollard problem: https://www.bedford.gov.uk/…/street-furniture-mai…/lighting/

Other issues: https://www.bedford.gov.uk/…/…/pay-report-request/report-it/

How can we help you? We normally hold monthly councillor advice surgeries for Castle ward residents on the first Saturday of each month 11am-1pm, alternating between the Eagle Bookshop, St Peter Street and the Woolpack Hub on the corner of Commercial Road and River Street, BUT obviously these in-person meetings are on hold at the moment. Please contact us directly with any issues on lucy.bywater@bedford.gov.uk  & ben.foley@bedford.gov.uk  

Castle Ward includes most of the town centre and adjoining areas – it stretches from the railway to York Street (inclusive) and from Bromham Road/Goldington Road south to Rope Walk and St John’s roundabout