Thursday, 4 July 2013

Removal of pottery from Mill Dam Park, Ulverston

Late last Friday, Chris and I was staggered to receive an email from Rowley of SLDC to tell us that they were going to remove all the pottery that had been in the park immediately.

Here is the pottery in question:

As I attempt to right this I am extremely distressed and find it hard to write anything.

I believe I am dealing with bullies of the worst kind. I can deal with bullies in the flesh and know how to respond but faceless bureaucrats are another thing totally.

What is very comforting is that the people from SLDC who removed the pottery on Monday morning were obviously also deeply distressed and allowed me to film their reaction. They were the new officer for Community Spaces Deborah Wright and her boss Jim Maguire who personally insisted on removing the pottery so that no damage was done in the process. They insisted that they had been instructed that the pottery had to come down and they had no choice than to do as they were told.

Their deep distress brings all three of us together convincesme that we will work extremely well together once the bullies that precipitated this event have reviewed their actions.

It would appear that the officers were not consulted but were just given orders as subordinates.

One could conclude that the instruction of such a drastic nature must have been authorised by the person at the very top of SLDC - from the chief executive Lawrence Conway. It would seem that he was mindless of the deep distress to users of the park , parents and children,who are livid at the behavior of SLDC, he was mindless of the members of the community that have put so much work over the last three years and he was mindless of the distress caused to his officers who had to carry out his orders. (As Shakespeare says-"There is something rotten in the state of Denmark"). Parents were shocked to hear that the issue was Health and Safety due to the hazard generated by the pottery made by their children and themselves. Their furious reaction has been that SLDC have repeatedly ignored their requests to have the height of the Seesaw reduced following serious injury to their children falling off and now SLDC picks on this trivial issue which everyone without question finds to be impossible to understand : that the pottery is dangerous to children.

Here on this page was a video of the officers explaining their feelings at being made to remove the pottery, the original with images of the Deborah Wright and Jim Maguire has been removed at the request of Jim Maguire for privacy reasons. Instead an alternative version with the sound track only has been used. Now Jim Maguire is stating that he wants even the sound track version removed. In reponceI feel it is extreemly important that the the public get the correct impression of how distressed the two officers were at being made to take the pottery down. My alternative is to replace even the sound version with a verbatim written statement. As I am confused as to how far to give way to these requests, I am going to remove even this version until I have taken time to consider my position carefully. So here goes :


On hearing that the issue was Health and Safety due to the hazard generated by the pottery made by their children and themselves. Their furious reaction has been that SLDC have repeatedly ignored their requests to have the height of the Seesaw reduced following serious injury to their children falling off and now SLDC picks on this trivial issue which everyone without question finds to be impossible: that the pottery is dangerous to children.

Here is the directive that we received last Friday sent 28 June 2013 17:44:19 GMT+01:00

Dear Mr Dellow
 Please find attached a letter regarding Mill Dam play area in Ulverston - the contents of which I hope are self explanatory.
 Yours sincerely

Simon Rowley
Assistant Director Neighbourhood Services

This was our response on Monday at 10 am:

We are shattered by the heavy handed approach to this issue. The proverbial sledge hammer to crack . . . . . Sadly you have come across to some as bullies.

We have complied with your previous requests and have kept SLDC informed ahead of time to all our actions through a series of some 50 emails sent my me over period of four years up to the present time, some of them concerning repairs we have done with Peter Clarke's help to benches that had waited for you to repair for two years with no sign of you sign of you doing them. The general public have a very low opinion of your involvement in the park and quite the opposite of ours.

Your letter below states that there have been complaints from the public and at least two councillors - you use the plural.

Could you tell us what exactly were the nature of the complaints and who were the councillors that complained and how did these complaints arise.

Did both councillors complain to you or did you approach the councillors for their views?

We are as ever keen to resolve as issue with the public, the vast majority of which support us.

Lastly and very important which pottery are you complaining about?

Your statement would appear to apply to it all.

When you take the pottery down please pack them safely as they are seen as precious to those that made them.

Sadly your behaviour has been seen as very heavy handed by members of the public who use the park,  some of whom work for the press and they are incredulous at what you appear to be saying.

Would it not have been possible to deal directly with me and our group so that we could compromise?

Geoff Dellow
 * * * *
Since Monday the Evening Mail has identified the councillor (single) to be Helen Irving who is both town and District councillor for this area  and the public to be Cllr Irving's parents.
 * * * *
Our last email contact with SLDC was with Peter Clarke on June 5th 2013 as follows:

    From:     Peter Clarke
    Subject:     RE: Work in Mill Dam Park
    Date:     5 June 2013 10:56:37 GMT+01:00
    To:     Geoff Dellow
    Cc:     Tony Naylor

I am afraid that the ground under the seesaw will not be raised until perhaps August or September due to other ongoing works and holidays but it will happen

Peter Clarke
Recreation Engineer
South Lakeland dc
07977 283904

-----Original Message-----
From: Geoff Dellow []
Sent: 05 June 2013 09:48
To: Clarke, Peter
Subject: Work in Mill Dam Park

Hi Peter,

What glorious weather we are having.

We have repaired the picnic table that was damaged and put it back in the park.

We plan an activity day this Sunday when we will put the pottery back on the fence and plant new bedding plants in. The sweet peas are doing well.

What is the status of raising the ground level under the Seesaw ?


Relevant history.

A small group of volunteers started to work in Mill Dam Park four years ago . We have paid for everything out of our own pockets :bulbs, plants except were donated, benches, wood for two benches that we made, all repairs except for wood supplied immediately by Peter Clarke by SLDC for a bench with no seat - after a wait of two years of inaction made to Tony Naylor officer in charge of parks.

After an exchange of 25 emails with Tony Naylor would rarely did what he promised we turned to communicating with Peter Clarke who by contrast was extremely helpful.

The above event appears to have been precipitated by a meeting in the park on Tuesday 18th June afternoon with Cllr Colin Pickthall who persuaded Cllr Irving to attend as our District Councillor regarding a consultation with local residents regarding the choice of equipment to be bought for the park with £8,100 which the builders Persimmons will (?) be paying in the future.

Then followed a meeting of the BUGs represented by Dellow, Atkinson and Kelly with the officers from SLDC Wright and Maguire in the park together with Southward of Playdale on Wednesday 28th June at 2pm, when the officers were full of admiration of the work done by the BUGs in the park and the pottery was greatly admired. Note the Health and Safety of the park was discussed - the log stumps in the ground , the height of the Seesaw, the opening of the gates outwards onto the street. The installed pottery was of no concern whatsoever.

PS. Should you wish to ask for an explanation of the above actions, the email address of the SLDC chief executive is Lawrence Conway -  ie  L.Conway at

I'm sure that he would appreciate hearing of your concerns.

Please read the subsequent entries on this blog which are important.


Gladys said...

There is only one word to describe the Council's action in this matter — DISGRACEFUL
Whoever is responsible should be ashamed of themselves. Especially when a dangerous piece of equipment can be left but precious and delightful pottery is removed! Come voting time, this action will not be forgotten.

Anonymous said...

The equipment is not dangerous if used appropriately, like most things in life. It is age specific and clearly states this fact for anyone to read. If parents with children under the stated recommended legal age of use choose to utilise it, it's their responsibility. The accident was regrettable and not something you would wish on anybody of any age, but why vilify the operators of the park for not wrapping the equipment in cotton wool? Life does require you at some point to take personal responsibility for your actions, not blaming all and sundry in society if something goes wrong - especially if there are clear instructions, stating proper use and by whom. What if you were using an electric carving knife with clearly labelled operating age instructions, then gave it to a minor who then injured themselves. Who would you blame? The manufacturer? The shop for selling it to you, especially if they saw your child with you on purchase? The teachers for not teaching appropriate life skills? No. Yourself. You would take total personal responsibility. Have the parents themselves taken up the issue with the local council? Do they blame them? Have they asked, demanded, that their cause by taken up by others? Do they blame the decision makers who shut Ulverston Hosptial A&E for prolonging the agony of their child by having to travel all the way to Barrow? Maybe we should be blaming those who created the park in the first place? It was an accident. They happen. Raising the footpads may well disenfranchise those for whom the installation of the equipment was originally intended. There is limited choice of equipment to begin with, especially for older siblings. The point here is, we all need to take care when using the equipment and be aware of what and for whom it is actually intended. Then take ownership of a responsible personal decision.

Geoff Dellow said...

The Seesaw is the only piece of equipment designed for an older age group. The rest of the equipment is for the 3- 6 bracket. These are the children who in practice use the park. The younger children in this bracket cannot get their feet on the ground to steady themselves which leads to accidents - some of them serious - broken collar bone. You will see from the published coorespondence that Peter Clarke, the Parks Engineer, has recognised the need to raise the ground level to remedy this problem. However he regularly has to delay doing this so that we have had to wait almost two years for this to happen. Even now we are only promised the raised ground level in August and with SLSDCs track record even this could again be delayed. Do we have to have another serious accident before the remedy is in place. Yes parents are ultimately responsible and in my view should prevent their children from using it. However SLDC supplied the equipment in a park for younger children, In my view they should be expected to provide equipment at the same level of difficulty and be designed for a concistant age level. Young children are drawn to use all the equipment in the park , 3 an 4 year olds should not have to be told by their parents " No Johnie you can't use that, it's too dangerous.. And dangerous it has certainly been found to be, yet SLDC have still done nothing, only promissed. By contrast: Hey Presto - a complaint that perpectly safe pottery inside the park is 'dangerous'results in instant action and all the attractive pottery is removed by distraught officers being made to gollow orders against their own judgement. The two situations Seesaw on the one side and pottery on the other get completely different responses and a really dangerous situation continues. Surely SLDC response is insane - coming from a disfunctional local authority. Lawrence Conway,the chief executive, to my mind, needs to step in and ensure consistency if the public is to be satisfied.

Geoff Dellow said...

This post has had the most ever reading by different people - 150. The previous record was 115 and that was about the Market Street cobbles.