Wednesday, November 03, 2010

All aboard the 'Wallingfen Way' open top bus tour

On Sunday people from Gilberdyke, Newport and North Cave took part in a consultation event with a difference – a continuous open top bus tour between the three villages, dropping off at a presentation held at Newport Village Hall as part of the Wallingfen Way project.

(Pictured with Sheffield University Student Kate Jackson and North Cave Parish Council Chairman Steve Skipsey at the beginning of the bus tour)

The Wallingfen way project is a visionary initiative, set up by the three village Parish Councils aiming to remove a ‘scar on the landscape’ (the B1230) and replace it with a distinct rural community corridor, known as ‘The Wallingfen Way’. The project aims to reinforce the distinctive character and identity of three Howdenshire villages, Gilberdyke, Newport and North Cave, to reclaim the road for the local community.

The project began when Newport and Gilberdyke Parish Councils came together because of a mutual dissatisfaction with the main road through the two villages. The road was bisecting the villages and became a ‘bully’ that prevented growth of the communities and their identity. North Cave joined the working group shortly afterwards with a different set of problems. The narrowness of the road caused many traffic problems, which need resolving, and it was hoped that the introduction of North Cave would have a positive effect on the project as a whole and add weight to the argument for the rural community corridor. An Urban Analysis team was brought on board, led by Dr Lindsay Smales, and, following extensive community consultation and analysis, a design brief was drawn up.

Leeds Metropolitan students were also involved to uncover the real problem areas along the road and pose suggestions for solutions.

Initial funding was won from LEADER, a program financed by the European Agriculture Fund for Rural Development and DEFRA. The program is being overseen by Yorkshire Forward as part of the Rural Development Program for England.

As part of a six- week live project, students of the University of Sheffield joined the design team in October this year.

Following discussions, it became clear that the problems the villages were facing did not just end with the B1230. Gilberdyke and Newport were suffering with a lack of visible community identity and the road was exacerbating this problem. The students conducted further community consultations to uncover the true identity of the villages. ‘Roadworks?’ events were held in the three villages over the course of a week. Workshops were also run at Newport Village School to understand the younger community’s aspirations.

The consultations highlighted not only the lack of awareness about the project itself, but also the frustration of the community, waiting for long-term improvements. The students have developed short- term and long- term visions for not only the B1230 but also the surrounding public spaces that could be developed. They looked at short-term ideas that could be instigated by the community itself and would allow tangible improvements over the next few years, at little cost. It was hoped that by populating empty spaces along the road the village identity would become more apparent to drivers and this would encourage them to travel with more care.

The ideas and findings were presented on the continuous open top bus tour. Special bus stops were placed in each of the villages, which gave the community a chance to see the students’ ideas and catch a ride down to the accompanying exhibition in Newport Recreation Hall on the vintage open top bus.

The event was well received by the 40 + passengers who attended. We received positive feedback regarding the exhibition and the bus event itself - people used that opportunity to discuss their ideas, give us direct feedback on our proposals and voice their opinion regarding the future of the Wallingfen Way and its villages. There was some concern amongst certain residents that this would not necessarily lead to any developments due to a lack of funding – but they appeared to be reassured when the different time frames for various parts of the project were explained, ranging from the next 12 months to the next 20 years.

Hopefully this event raised awareness for the project, and that it is moving forward, and gave the community another chance to give feedback on the project as a whole. I hope that the work will spark enthusiasm, publicity and support for the project and leave a legacy of ideas for the local communities to take hold of and adapt as they see fit.

For more information on the Wallingfen Way project please click here

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