DIARY DATES Most importantly, three dates for your diaries:
1. There’s a significant event on campus on thursday 10 may , 1pm – 2pm, Eliot lecture theatre 2. Professor Keith Mander, head of the Estates Department at the University of Kent and one of the co-architects of the proposal to ‘develop’ Chaucer Fields, will be putting forward his case for it. (The other person behind the idea, Denise Everitt, head of Finance, is not expected to attend). Other contributors will put forward the opposing view: that ‘Chaucer Fields’ should be retained as unspoilt green space with great value to the University and the host community alike. These speakers will include Professor of philosophy Richard Norman and Professor of environmental social science Chris Rootes.
The debate, organised by the University and Colleges Union, the largest staff trade union at the University, is a follow up to earlier findings on staff sentiment about the proposal. It has been convened following the electronic poll reported in an earlier blog, which revealed the overwhelming majority of staff respondents supported a motion in favour of protecting the fields and continuing to respect them as they are now for a range of amenity, social environmental, and heritage reasons. The debate aims to explore the issue further with both ‘sides’ (to use UCU terminology) putting forward their case. The intention seems to be that the UCU members will vote again in the light of what the discussion reveals.
Please do try to attend this meeting, whether you are a UCU member, non-UCU staff, a student or a local resident (not employed by, or studying at, the University). UCU have said it is to be open to all.
For your convenience, the original UCU motion endorsed by the electronic poll earlier this year, and a recent statement to by Professor Mander prompted by the poll result (but which has now been cleared for wider dissemination) can be downloaded here:
Please read both carefully. Professor Mander is evidently suggesting that all alternatives across the University’s 500+ acre land holdings would necessarily elicit the same massive scale of community opposition to that which has emerged in relation to Chaucer Fields. My opinion is that this view is mistaken. Multi-site development elsewhere (involving dispersal across more than one site and not concentrating harms in a mega-site), probably involving well judged demolition of poor quality under-utilised or neglected two storey buildings, and the utilisation of brown field, low/no public amenity land would be actively welcomed. Avoidance of town-campus green buffer violation and inappropriately close proximity to high residential population concentrations (whether to the north, south, east or west) is also clearly considered important, and would similarly, in my view, be supported by the local community. This is because people reasonably believe open space matters (not least for the reasons set out in the UCU motion), and the problem of open space scarcity is one which cannot just be ignored. It is worth emphasising that most if not all of these priorities are indeed already reflected in democratically mandated local policies (District Plan, Open Space Strategy etc) and have been amplified at national level recently in the new national planning framework. So my belief is that development compatible with these priorities on other sites would – despite Professor Mander’s assertions – not be rejected by the community.
Professor Mander is also asserting that all other options must be ruled out for more ‘technical’ reasons, suggesting that they are somehow infeasible. The basis for this claim is still completely unclear. Accordingly UCU asked Professor Mander to start by sharing the ‘extensive studies’ which apparently substantiate the very strong claims being made here about infeasibility. The reason for asking for this transparency is that ‘full disclosure’ is seen by UCU as in principle a good thing. I agree with the principle, as I believe it is in line with basic democratic norms. These must be activated when matters are of great importance for the quality of life of thousands of people are at stake. I would add that its also efficient to share information in these types of situation: intelligent decision making is likely to happen only when relevant evidence is widely scrutinised and reflected upon. I think it is important to avoid poor decisions when the consequences will be born by future generations, shaping the character of one of England’s most important and well-loved cities forever. However, Professor Mander at the time of writing has indicated to UCU that he is “less happy” to share this material. I will let this situation speak for itself, but note that it is out of line with the approach increasingly being taken by other parts of the University, where there now seems to me to be a increasing willingness to share important information with the community. We can only hope that a change of heart from Professor Mander will be in evidence ahead of the meeting.
2. Apologies if – whether inspired by ‘concrete lung’ or a longer term fan – you have been thwarted in trying to get a ticket for Brendan Power and Tim Edey’s gig at Westgate Hall at 7pm on saturday 12 may. You may have tried to use the link I provided on the last blog to get a ticket and found it didn’t work! Please try again by simply pasting this address into your browser: http://timedeyandbrendanpower.eventbrite.co.uk/. If this doesn’t work, please email me (address below)! I hear tickets are now selling fast, so don’t delay….!
3. Weather permitting, we think its now time to have another open invite picnic at “picnic playstool” at the southern end of Dover Down Field. We’ve pencilled in this coming sunday 13 may, 12 midday until 3pm: All will be welcome: local residents, staff, and students (this timing allows us to be inclusive, since term time will have started). And in the spirit of similar gatherings in the past, any one prepared to bring along a musical instrument, or play equipment for children is especially welcome. (But its most important to simply bring the children in their own right – there’s plenty of tree climbing, exploring and open air fun to be had without any need for props!). This isn’t a formal event, but do drop me an email (see address at bottom of this blog) if you want to let me know if you”ll be around for this. In case we get some momentum on numbers, it could make sense to put people in touch with one another re music and play in advance to make the most of it.
Thanks for the positive feedback on the last blog. It seems that the discussion of Heritage is striking a chord, and the draft map and glossary are seen as helpful and interesting. Now that we’ve got at least some provisional names for a few of the much-loved features of Chaucer Fields (they all remain subject to revision, if people think this is needed) perhaps we can start to use them. The vocabulary could, for example, be used to help signpost many of the excellent photos increasingly coming through on the Save Chaucer Fields Facebook site. I’ve noticed the popular and iconic views combining Dover Down Field with cityscapes are increasingly now being supplemented with images of “Roper’s Twitchell” and “Beverley Boughs”, building up a stockpile of images from across the seasons.
Let me throw in a couple of my own decidedly amateur efforts. First, above, a common-or-garden Robin captured at the top of “Roper’s Twitchell”, aptly on the edge of “Ruddock’s Rood”. Other birds recently seen beginning to nest in close proximity to this spot include Dunnocks, Wrens, Jays, Blackbirds, Chaffinches, Blue Tits and Great Tits.
Second, a less familiar perspective perhaps, unless you happen to be into tree climbing! These are images with the bottom of Bushy Acres in the foreground and “Roper’s Twitchell” in the centre, and looking towards “Beverley Boughs” at the top. These were taken from an old native oak tree in “Jay’s corner”, but as you can see at different times of the year.
For anyone who is still not sure that we are now actually heading for summer (with the violent swings in temperature), the coming to life of the hedge should provide some reassurance! We’ll soon be seeing the foliage of the oaks at “Beverley boughs” emerge too, and birches and chestnuts elsewhere on the fields, are moving in this direction…
I’ll be attempting to use the new Heritage Map in other ways too in the weeks ahead. I’ll suggest that particular places on the Heritage Map can and should be directly linked to the furtherance of Canterbury City Council’s current policies in relation to landscape, open space and conservation. And I’ll also be demonstrating how specific features of the existing landscape would tragically be replaced by blocks, other buildings, roads, car parks and sundry concrete if ‘development’ of the site were allowed to proceed. Watch this space!
Chaucer Fielder, Chaucer Fields Picnic Society
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