As we walked around town the other day it barely seemed possible to move without stumbling across teams of merry council staff driving hither, thither and yon with lorries loaded with plants.
As we suspected, it’s Boston in Bloom time again – which means that for a short time the town looks bright and cheerful … in the way it should look for as much of the year as possible.
The obsession with the Royal Horticultural Society’s Britain in Bloom contest began two years ago, when – incredibly, we thought – the borough won silver in the large towns category of the East Midlands region.
So-called “research” by the RHS claims that entering their competition generates significant economic, social and environmental benefits – which include attracting more shoppers and tourists and inward investment, “reputational benefits” (we could use a shedload of those,) reduced anti-social behaviour and crime, and improved health and wellbeing.
But as far as the council is concerned there’s also the chance of a badge, to tell the world how marvellous you are.
After missing out last year by a single point, efforts will again focus on the usual suspects – Boston town centre (featuring new timber planters … you know, the dreary, colourless, oversized window boxes made from left-over decking which are normally used as traffic cones) the Geoff Moulder Leisure Complex grounds and Boston West Academy ecocentre – just to look good for a two-and-a-half hour tour by Britain in Bloom judges.
Last year included touching up the shabby town centre “furniture” – as the charmless benches are described – and to steam off some chewing gum with the expensive but seldom used gadget bought especially for the purpose ... which we hope might happen again this year.
We were told then that in “the future” it was hoped to broaden the scope of “Bloom activity” to cover other neglected areas such as the Bus Station/Railway Station/West Street and John Adams Way/Haven Bridge area, and main entry points to the town including more bulb planting on roadsides and improvements to tree planting along Horncastle Road, as well as enhancement of prominent roundabouts to improve their visual appearance, particularly to visitors (never mind the locals!)
More of that jam tomorrow stuff, obviously
Whilst in general, we wouldn’t take issue with the concept of Britain in Bloom, the problem is that Boston Borough Council seems only to be in it for the kudos.
We shudder to think how much time and money is being poured into something just to impress the judges of a competition.
Where once the council tried to make the place look attractive and presentable as part of its responsibility to taxpayers, the case now seems to be that the people who live here are treated with the usual indifference unless the powers that be in Worst Street think that there’s a medal in the offing.
The voters deserve better than this.
It’s also worth looking at our photos of what previous winners of their local Bloom awards have come up with and see how poorly Boston’s cluster of jumbo window boxes compare.
As we’ve said, the “planters” are really glorified bollards first, and flower containers second.
And look at the alternative Boston in Bloom pictures – weeds surrounding benches and posts and buildings allowed to become unsightly. – doubtless because the judges won’t be visiting that part of town.
Not for the first time, our attempts look cheap and half-hearted.
Our earlier mention of the Moulder Leisure Money Pit reminds us of the news that Boston Borough Council plans to hurl £40,000 at 142 more solar panels to go on the roof of the gym – that’s on top of the £140,000 that it bust a gut to spend a couple of years ago.
According to the council, the stunt will produce a feed in tariff income of more than £3,000 a year and, with most of the power produced by the panels being used in the building, produce around £5,000 a year in income and fuel savings.
Contradictorily the council’s published spending figures show little if any change in the centre’s electricity bill, and if someone could explain that, we would be deeply grateful.
Over the 20-year lifespan of the system it is estimated it will generate almost £106,000 in income and savings and save around 16 tons of CO2 emissions a year – a figure that is highly dependent on power prices, the rate of inflation and other economic factors, and so may turn out to be not as great as predicted.
How marvellous, though, that our cash strapped council managed to cobble together such a hefty sum to trumpet its green credentials.
There must be an award in the offing, somewhere.
This “lifespan” references are interesting as well, given the predictions for the centre. The council’s own 2011 annual valuation report, says the Creations gym roof is reckoned to be good until 2037 but that the pool roof will require replacement in 2024
Chances are that the whole thing will have been knocked down long before then, as we doubt that – even given the council’s hysterical rate of spending on the Moulder Money Mountain in recent years – it will decline inexorably over time, with mounting public dissatisfaction.
It’s barely five minutes since we commented on the indifference shown by Boston council leader Pete Bedford towards readers of the monthly magazine Simply Boston.
Anxious to fill their pages, they invite people like this to contribute, believing that we all hang on their every word as they are people of such importance.
In the case of Chairman Pete, however, the words of “Peter’s Notes” are seldom new – in fact he regularly fobs Simply Boston off with some dried-out, wizened old rabbit that he’s served up before.
The latest let them eat cake recipe is in the June issue of the magazine, which largely comprises a cut and paste job from a couple of pieces his scriptwriters produced for the Boston Standard back on 30th April – when he gave us the benefit of his wisdom on such things as footfall, internet shopping and the like – rather than knowing all there is to know about flood defences and barriers.
Interestingly, he was on about the Boston Barrier only a few days ago when – after all these years – the scheme took an important step forward – at a government "gateway review."
Apparently, projects as costly as the barrier scheme must leap these review hurdles in stages in order to continue to proceed, and this first such review called by the Treasury saw it supported, with a recommendation that it proceed as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Out course, there are still many possible obstacles to come, but we found Chairman Pete’s comments a little surprising, nonetheless.
“It has been a concern, heightened by the flood of December 5th that nothing should happen to delay the scheme. The last thing anyone wants are (sic) objections leading to a public inquiry.
"It has already been placed on record that the barrier would have prevented all the flooding in Boston town on December 5th, so we don't want to see any unnecessary repeat of that."
Something that he failed to mention, but which might have made a difference was the fact that the flood warning for last year's tidal surge came 24 hours later in Lincolnshire than the rest of the east coast – and that one of Boston Borough Council’s first pronouncement as the waters rose was to tell people not to bother them if they needed any sandbags.
A number of people have expressed concerns about the proposed location of the barrier – among them experts in their field … unlike Councillor Bedford.
If these concerns have merit, then they should be heard – not dismissed on the whim of an amateur who merely dislikes it when people start rocking the boat.
Who knows, we might even end up with a better barrier scheme than the one currently creeping its way through the system.
Mind you, at least Councillor Bedford is singing from the same hymn book that he first opened back in 2011. Then, when Councillor Carol Taylor left the Conservative group and went independent to flee the restrictive and anal Tory leadership, he told a local radio interviewer “It’s just the fact that you can’t have maverick voices.”
Meanwhile, Councillor Bedford’s recent comments in the wake of the UKIP victories in the European election have provoked a stern comment from T Coope, of Freiston, who writes: “The promise of prosperity, improving economy, tackling unemployment etc., has more or less blown back in our faces in the way of post-election, finger pointing by council leader Peter Bedford on the issue of immigration.
“This issue should have been taken seriously and tackled a long time ago. With relaxed border control by No 10 and recent benefit changes the outcome is inevitable.
“Food banks, soup kitchens, communal unrest, more recently increasing homeless and the on-going rubbish and drink problems.
“I recall as far back as the 50’s and early 60’s when it was mostly land workers and fishermen who had to register every day they never worked. In those days it was known as casual labour, and to my knowledge I don't recall any of these people being forced out on to the streets.
“According to Elizabeth Hopkins (Chief Executive at Centrepoint Outreach) the idea that one day they have got a home and the next day they haven't is just adding another bag of knots to the town’s problems.
“This issue should be taken up with agencies, gang masters, landlords or whoever.
“Just take the average three bedroom house at approximately £600 per month … to one tenant that is a lot of money. It is if there are two, but if five or more occupants are in the house and pay only £50 per week each, they have got a roof over their head relatively cheaply plus £1,000 minimum rent going into that dwelling, hence the reason for multiple occupancy.
“I think the only person that Boston people can look up to these days is Herbert Ingram and the Peregrine falcons.”
Talking of flooding – although the signs might suggest the contrary, this picture was actually taken in Boston, shortly after a recent heavy bout of rainfall.
Yet again it shows how difficult contractors seem to find the task of laying surfaces in a way that will allow water to rapidly drain away when the weather is wet.
The new footbridge joins other town soggy spots including the Pescod shopping centre, the newly resurfaced Cattle Market car park. The Botolph Street car park and parts of Strait Bargate.
It never seems so bad as it does in Boston – so why is that?
But floods may be the least of our worries once the Quadrant scheme is up and running, we are told.
After our report last week, we received an e-mail from Sue Bell, who represents the
Wyberton Quadrant Action Group, which says: “On working our way through the huge amount of papers relating to this planning application, I would like to point out that there are several problems that show it up as a bad idea.
“One huge problem is that they are only planning on putting a temporary sewerage system in on the stadium site.
“Frampton has not got enough capacity to cope with more than 400-plus homes now, and already Kirton, who use the same place, has planning passed for 120 new homes. Methinks this could be a costly situation for someone if not now, then in the future, especially if the community stadium is handed over to ‘us’ (ratepayers) to run?
“All the proposed (five) restaurants use a lot of water, the loos at the Stadium, watering the pitch etc.
“I’m not 100% sure, but I believe the 500 proposed houses will need eventually to be plumbed into Frampton too!
“This could cause a lot of local flooding with sewerage?
“What about general water pressure in the whole area – can that cope?
“I do hope someone has their clever cap on before it's too late!”
Yet again, these are important and relevant points.
But when we are saddled with a council whose leader proclaims “the last thing anyone wants are objections leading to a public inquiry” there seems to be little by way of hope.
A couple of reminders, though …
The village referendum on the project will be held between 4pm and 9pm next Thursday 19th in the parish hall, on London Road in Wyberton to vote.
You must be registered as a resident of Wyberton and attend in person.
The question will be a straightforward one: “Do you want what is known as Quadrant One to be built?"
And the specially convened meeting of Boston Borough Council’s Planning Committee to consider the Quadrant application will be on Tuesday 5th August at the Haven High School starting at 6-30pm.
Last week’s reference to Boston Daily Drivel, incorporating Pie Munchers’ Monthly, raised a few eyebrows among readers.
Those who regularly look at Boston Borough Council’s apology for a newsletter may have been struck as we were by the way that it homes in on some things to the point of obsession.
It used to be MG cars – with endless reports of the local enthusiasts’ club – and more recently it has been pies.
On no fewer than five occasions in 12 months, the bulletin has featured stories about Pinchin’s farm shop at Algarkirk.
Quite why this has anything to do with the council is anyone’s guess – the nearest that we can find is that the joint proprietor Henny Pinchin is an Algarkirk parish councillor – but it is clear that someone in Worst Street has taken a fancy to the company.
Currently – if you’ll forgive the pun – the newsletter is belabouring us to sign up for the Lincolnshire Energy Switch Scheme by dangling the prospect of saving a couple of hundred quid on power bills beneath our noses.
The scheme is a collaboration of district and the county council which supposedly gets a cheaper deal by bulk buying power.
What, if anything, is in it for the councils isn’t clear, but critics of such schemes say that the savings are often not as good as is claimed unless it is some years since people switched providers.
If you live in the area that the police refer to as Boston town east, be afraid, be very afraid.
Leaflets pushed through the doors tell residents that their local neighbourhood policing team has identified the area as a “crime hotspot” and are advising homeowners to take extra precautions to protect their property.
However, given that 67 of the 177 crimes reported last month comprise anti-social behaviour and a further 21 are violence and sexual offences followed by the likes of drug offences, possession of weapons, shoplifting and public order, we somehow don’t think that the advice in the leaflet to lock your doors and sheds is really a lot of use.
Whilst the police are very free with their advice on what we ought to be doing, there is nothing at all about their contributions to stem this tide of criminal iniquity.
We’ve talked before of the complete indifference shown by our local police after first-hand experience of a break-in, where the offence was logged as undetected ten days afterward without anyone even looking at what had happened.
Not that long ago, Boston Police were boasting that the division had one of the highest levels of detection in the whole force.
And just how high is this impressive figure … 90% …75% … 50% …?
The figure that our local nick was so proud of was a meagre 39.2% - and that’s supposed to be good.
They should be ashamed.
Not for the first time we have to say that if our police were more visible, they might have a better chance at preventing crime – if nothing else by acting as a deterrent.
The first new batch of “bobbies on the beat” – the neighbourhood teams – rapidly vanished into cars, as did the second tranche, the PCSOs – who also flash past the people they are meant to be helping behind the wheel of specially marked vehicles.
The most recent big idea from Lincolnshire Police is to ask the punters to report their friends and relatives for drink-driving by texting their vehicle details to Lincolnshire Police. This information about habitual drink-drivers will then be used for intelligence gathering.
And also spare the police the effort of … er … policing.
It’s not often that words fail us, but this is one such occasion.
And what use is “intelligence gathering” if nothing is done about it.?
Way back in February, a reader signing herself Disgruntled member of the public wrote to report that “Five weeks ago I first complained to Boston police, my local councillor Mrs Wright, and traffic wardens about a van that parks in Thorold Street or Red Lion Street, all day every day, every week.
“I have seen the wardens walk past this van without even writing down the registration number.
“I have spoken to all the above on this matter and they all dismiss responsibility to do anything about this blatant disrespect for the law.”
Our reader has written again after reading a report in the Daily Mail which says that a council in the south of England has admitted telling its traffic wardens ‘not to bother’ ticketing foreign cars because it is a waste of resources as it is impossible for them to enforce penalty charges against the owners of such cars.
Our reader laments: “It appears that the council have followed the actions of other councils and are authorising parking attendants to ignore foreign plated vehicles because it`s too much bother trying to collect the parking fine.”
The signature this time: “Still disgruntled.”
It seems almost as if the teams that mend our roads are trying to recapture the bad old days from all those years ago when Boston was a mass of them as efforts were made to ease the town’s traffic congestion.
When Lincolnshire County Council announced road works to improve John Adams Way, Main Ridge East, Vauxhall Road, Freiston Road, and Eastwood Road, a spokesman said the six-week £275,000 project, which runs until, 4th July would be carried out in phases to try to minimise disruption as much as possible.
As far as that is concerned, we can declare the plan a failure at the halfway stage.
Road surfaces have been stripped away then left for days with nothing being done and little evidence that the work is being phased as promised..
Unnecessary traffic lights keep springing up to add to the delays, and the coning off of John Adams Way to stop traffic turning into Main Ridge begins as far away as Spilsby Road.
It is almost as if someone at Lincoln Head Office thinks that the motorists of Boston need a bit of hardship to add to all our other troubles.
None of this is helped by the resident morons who think that it is a grand joke to overturn the diversion signs so that anyone unfamiliar with the route is inconvenienced still further.
We are old enough to recall the time when – if roads needed resurfacing or repair – a huge gang of workers would descend on the area at the crack of dawn and crack on throughout the day or days required to finish the task.
Now, it seems that such works proceed at a snail’s pace and the current road works seem designed to maximise disruption and inconvenience rather than the reverse.
That’s it for this week.
There’s no blog next week – but we will be back on Friday 27th June, and look forward to hearing from you between now and then.
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