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posted 4 Aug 2012, 10:46 by Westover Labour
It's been a frustrating few weeks for the hard working Community campaigners who have cleaned up Westover's 'Brownes pond'  as first the unusual heavy rain brought about a massive overgrowth everywhere which 'Clean Surroundings' have been unable to keep up with, and then the  outburst of warm weather  brought out the sunseekers in their droves looking for places to party. The result, an unwelcome increase in litter.

The Friends of Brownes Pond, recently awarded Westover ward grant support for their community work and being heralded as a model for Community involvement in the Environment in advance of the Meads project, have been feeling the strain and called for their councillors to help address the issues.

"volume of litter has doubled"

Campaigner Neil Smallwood  described the problem " The volume of litter  has doubled . There's drunken people shouting and yelling , people urinating in the trees , empty Alcohol cans & bottles just thrown everywhere and I am  sick to death of telling people not to throw rocks at the ducks. The worry is that the people that use the pond the most are the ones that really dont  care about what it looks like ."

Fellow volunteer Lynda Duthie added " Today, four different people who know of my association with the pond stopped me to mention the increase in litter, the overgrowth of nettles, the inadequate bins and lack of a dog mess bin and even the pathway past Morrisons.  It is such a shame that SDC chose not to do anything about developing a litter strategy.  Worse than that, it gave out the message that SDC doesn't see litter or the maintenance of the environment as having any real importance. "

Ward councillors Brian Smedley and Kathy Pearce immediatly called a site meeting and asked Clean Surroundings to address the issues. James Presdee said his workers had been hard stretched  due to the abundance of overgrowth all around the district as a result of the good weather but agreed that it was important to support the imitiative of the Brownes Pond campaigners who it was agreed had to some extent been the victim of the their own success.

Clean Surroundings agreed to increase the number and size of bins in the area and to prioritise the cutting back of  the undergrowth. 

Councillors also raised the issue of anti social behaviour with the Police who designated a PCSO to work with the group on the problems.

Cllr Brian Smedley said "The danger of high profile Big Society style projects is that they can provide the Local Authority with an excuse to in fact cut back their support. It was a shame that the Council didn't give this group the backing they asked for when we took the item to Corporate Scrutiny a couple of months back. Now we have to make sure that they maintain service levels here and continue to support these people-especially if they intend to praise them up as role models at the same time."

"Goodwill needs nurturing"

Lynda Duthie, summed up " If there is something for the local authority to take away from this, it may be a reminder that goodwill needs nurturing  - and not by hollow words of thanks but by solid, tangible back-up, especially at the early stages. "

Terry Pope said the project was indeed at a crucial stage as they "weren't far off gaining control of the licencing of the pond and it's surrounds and were beginning to attract  the responsible fishermen that would respect and look after the place". He understood how  frustrating  it could be  when "people don't appear to appreciate the hard work of volunteers" but urged people " to continue to have faith in the project during this difficult period".

Inspector Roger Tolley said "  Issues of antisocial behaviour wherever they occur are considered by us to be a priority matter, however, there are more deep routed causes to the problems that manifest themselves . Any solution to this type of problem will be resolved through groups of partners and or the community in seeking solutions together.  I would encourage you to continue to garner support and be assured that  the Constabulary is absolutely committed to being part of that team approach.  We will continue to attend the location and monitor and deal with any antisocial behaviour that is occurring and is reported as it is clearly also in our interests to reduce the numbers of calls to this location."