When we first came here, the Green was tantalisingly close, but locked away behind security fences. It was one of the reasons that we chose our house off plan, before we ever saw it. How lovely, we thought, if our son could just go and play opposite the house with friends.
So when the security fences came down and we were able to take a football out to play, we appreciated it even more. We used the space to get to know new neighbours as they moved in and often took the football out for a kick around with our own and other children. We knew that there were plans for play equipment and asked to be involved in what went in. Nothing materialised, so I asked repeatedly what was going to happen about the play equipment and if we could be consulted as a community about what went in where. We were thinking tree houses, wooden trim trail, stepping posts, swings. We were very naive as far as local authorities go. We didn't even know then that the councils were all scrambling over themselves in running away from taking care of our streets, play areas, transport links and footpaths.
The fences went up again and we lost our football space. We didn't meet up in the same way. Tension and divisions grew up between the streets with no chance to talk about things. Diggers moved in and with a sickening feeling I realised that we were going to lose this precious open space that we had enjoyed in carefree times. I pleaded with the council to stop and listen. Developers and council couldn't agree except to stick with the architect's sterile idea of a play space, with a huge wooden pallisade putting a permanent end to our ideas. Bright yellow metal gates that easily trap fingers and are completely pointless as gates because of the foot wide gaps where the fence wasn't completed, a high single swing that takes up the space where three or four could go and a roundabout replaced our kick-about pitch.
Around the same time, two of the organisations we know well started looking into Asset Based Community Development, with the stark hypocrisy that is now being replicated by Bromford, one of our social housing providers. I believe that there are good people in even the darkest organisations and have met some, but time and again, if it comes down to a straightforward stand-off between community and bureaucracy, it's always the red tape that wins.
These are the strategies that are helping to nail the lid on this community's coffin.
1. Tell lies. Lie about what you want to do and about those you claim to help. Tell lies about what you have done and what you haven't. Tell more lies to cover the lies until you believe the original ones yourself. Work with other people who sometimes lie to you and get them to lie for you because you all want to cover up a lie. After all, if you have a pay cheque or kudos or both at the end of the day, that's what matters isn't it?
2. Set up a whole office full of PR gurus to spin about what you do to a few individuals and then loudly proclaim their disabilities (and those of their children), their social deficits, their absolute cringing need of you for their survival on your website, thus rendering them social outcasts. Would you employ someone who'd been featured as a 'helped' person on a Bromford website or let your children go round for tea at their house when Bromford have just said publicly that their child is dangerous and police had to be called to protect its own parent? I wonder if the child gave their permission for that story or if anyone thought about the consequences of publishing it that reach into adulthood.
3. Try to wear down any opposition or protest by doing nothing. For months if not years. Is this in the hope that those opposing or protesting will die while they are waiting? I know of one person who is on the transplant register and who is still waiting for justice. Many times since moving here, I've thought about death as being the only ticket out of here. The thing is, we can't just move. We put everything we had into buying our home here. We invested in our new community as much, or more, as in our house and we are trapped here for better or worse. There is nowhere to go. However I'm not dead yet and I hope that this community has the strength and the will to knock back the nails as fast as they are hammered in over our heads.