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Letters to the Press – ‘Shedgate’

In Letters to the Press, we highlight the work done by local activists in contacting local media and helping to shape discussion in our city.

Leicester City Council has been at cross purposes with both itself and its declaration of a climate emergency in its reaction to a small bike shed built in a front garden in Leicester. The story has made the press and has highlighted our Council’s apparent lack of cross-departmental interaction and seeming lack of planning and guidance for green infrastructure.  

The following letter, sent to the Leicester Mercury by the Leicester Green Party, discusses the issues further. 

The original story: https://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/news/leicester-news/leicester-mayor-peter-soulsby-says-5403561  

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The Pujara family’s stressful, time consuming and expensive experience is a perfect example of the problems which can be created by the disconnect between departments at the council. 

Leicester Green Party has been working hard to try and get the council to review this specific case, although our power as a party in opposition is limited. We have also highlighted to LCC the wider problem, that whilst we are being encouraged to use our bikes to travel, there is a massive shortage of safe and convenient storage across Leicester in residential areas, at schools, workplaces, surgeries and in the city centre.  
 
We’ve also been trying for several years now to persuade the Mayor and his team to work across departments. We need decisions which impact on public health, congestion, air pollution, transport and planning to be linked up, but are they listening? Again and again, we see the same silo working. For example, at this very time, one department is apparently busy creating additional car parking spaces at St Matthew’s estate, whilst at the same time another is trying to reduce the illegal levels of air pollution there. 

In the ‘shedgate’ case, the Mayor says officials were “wrong” to follow current rules. Really?! Planners were following rules as set out by the council, so if those rules are not fit for purpose, who is responsible but the Mayor and his team?

They know there is a need for planning guidance for safe cycle storage but have not issued it. Comprehensive, enforceable guidance would protect the character of residential areas, allow many more families to construct safe storage for cycling, and free up hard pressed planning officers and planning committees to get on with other work, instead of having to threaten families with legal action. 

LCC don’t even need to draft guidance themselves but could amend similar guidance available across the UK. For example, in February we wrote to Adam Clarke to make the council aware the Scottish Government had already consulted on and issued new guidance on this very issue, Permitted Development Rights consultation analysis published – Scottish Housing News . The guidance sets out to promote cycling and healthy travel saying: 

Active Travel 

  • allow cycle storage sheds in the front gardens of houses 
  • allow cycle storage sheds in private garden areas of flats 
  • extend the size of storage sheds allowed in conservation areas 
  • allow communal cycle stores to the rear of blocks of flats, in the grounds of commercial, business and industrial buildings and on the street. 

The Mayor and his team have consistently been warned that such a situation of conflicting priorities happens all of the time in Leicester and will happen again, and it is THEIR job, as our political leaders, to be proactive and pre-empt such problems. With a monopoly on power in Leicester though, will they ever change? 

Have you sent any letters to the press on Green issues, or do you have an issue you’d like the Leicester Green Party to know about? If so, please get in contact.

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