Contributed by Dr Angela Drakakis-Smith
Last year a very old stone bridge parapet was demolished along the A525 in the Thistleberry neighbourhood. Residents were shocked when it was replaced by a metal crash barrier. It seems, from the minimum amount of information given, that Persimmon had drawn up the plans, the Newcastle Borough Council and the Staffordshire County Council had approved them and the County Council had demolished the wall. It later transpired, however, that according to the approved plans, much of the wall should have been retained and any replacement should have been of matching stone.
This did not happen. Unfortunately the original stone was put on pallets, bubble wrapped and promptly disappeared. No enforcement action appears to have been taken in response to this error.
After a spirited campaign of protests (with placards) outside the council offices and at the Persimmon housing site, and after the submission of a petition bearing 260 names, a meeting was held with the relevant parties including the Residents’ Association to try to get to the bottom of what had happened. At this meeting we were informed that Persimmon had regarded the wall to be ‘not worthy of retention’; and the County Council seemingly agreed. Had any research been done it would have discovered that it was not just a wall but an old bridge parapet built when the road was made a turnpike road circa 1700s. So much for retaining the cultural and historical infrastructures of neighbourhoods when developments of this type occur – stated policies of all three agencies involved!
Residents were promised that the metal barrier would be replaced by a wall to match its twin (still standing). That was over a year ago and we are still no nearer to getting the wall rebuilt. Each parts says that they are waiting for the other to act, which seems like a great excuse for not doing anything in particular. Needles to say, after such a long time residents’ patience is wearing a little thin, despite having written to all concerned and receiving few replies and no action.
Residents in Thistleberry are fast becoming cynical. Having exhausted all local avenues and got nowhere the only place left to go is the Local Authority Ombudsman. The Residents’ association says that it does not wish to be in a relationship of conflict with its local authorities, but the latter appear to have led the way to this route.
A neighbourhood has been vandalised, the wishes of the residents have been ignored and something important has been lost. And we have paid people to do this!