Standing in Valentines Mansion last week admiring the marvellous job done by all those responsible for the restoration I reflected on the 40 years since my own mother worked there in the Housing Department. Years of closure and neglect by Redbridge Council and a misguided plan to sell it off for a Whitbread “Pub in the Park” galvanised efforts over 15 years by dynamic hard working community activists and led to serious bids for lottery funding to improve the Park and get the Mansion back into real community use. I declare an interest as a Vice President of Valentines Park Conservationists who together with the Friends of the Mansion and the trustees took the lead and eventually were successful.
Today another area facing serious long term neglect by the Council and where there is desperate need of community facilities is Seven Kings. Despite a 2,500 signature petition from local residents the current Conservative Council leadership has shown no interest in restoring a library closed by their predecessors sixteen years ago.
Similar Council incompetence means Seven Kings no longer has a swimming pool . There is only one overcrowded facility in Fullwell Cross to serve the whole Borough.
Last week I visited the exhibition about the new government funded Academy to be built on the edge of the Cricklefields site. I welcome this large mixed comprehensive school which will serve the local community and be open to children of all faiths and abilities. Many Ilford children are currently forced by lack of places to travel several miles every day to schools in the north of the borough. But much more has to be done to redress the north – south divide in Redbridge. Perhaps it is time to break up Redbridge and go back to the time before 1964 when Ilford had its own Council and decisions about Ilford were taken by councillors from Ilford.
posted 26 February 2009