Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Turf wars

I was putting the Carbonbaby into her car seat when I noticed a yellow ‘post-it’ note on my windscreen. In neat writing it chastised me for taking up two parking spaces on the village square, and suggested I park in the Royal Hotel car park instead. I looked around, wondering if it was a joke and I was on candid camera? But no, the note was serious, and signed by a neighbour. I walked around my car, parked outside my house, wondering if I’d made some terrible error of judgment. In fact I had to concede my neighbour was correct; I had taken up two spaces. I probably do it all the time as my parking is rubbish.

I found myself thinking about this note over the following week. My neighbour was right. I shouldn’t be taking up too spaces on the Square. I shouldn’t be taking up any. Why has such a focal point and natural meeting place in the village become a car park, and when did this happen? For the first time I started to notice who was parking outside our house, and how jammed it had become at night. I began to see just how full the Royal Hotel and memorial hall car parks are by the end of the day. And it worried me. The modern obsession with having a car, or two cars (and sometimes three and four cars) for each family has created a big problem for a village like Burton in Kendal that wasn’t built for any cars at all. Our reliance on the motor means we don’t want to walk far to get to them. And we regard parking as a right, not a luxury.
I wondered what would happen if the new owners banned parking in the Royal Hotel Car Park? Would people be forced to part with one of their cars altogether if they could no longer put it anywhere at night? Then I got to thinking ‘What if the square went back to its former glory and became a village square again?’ A centre point of the village; with children playing and people stopping to have a chat and waiting for the bus without being surrounded by stationary metal boxes.

I told Carbonlite my concerns and together we brainstormed how we could make our village square a greener place. “I’ve got it!” he said, “Let’s make it a greener place. Literally. Guerilla gardening.” He gave me an article in The Guardian, about eco minded people making urban places more attractive by planting grass and seed by stealth. “We wait till they’ve all driven off and we lay turf. Then it becomes a real village green.” I laughed it off. It was such a blue skies idea.

Then I mulled it over. What if we weren’t the only people in the village who would like to see the square become a greener place? What if all the green fingered in Burton were potential guerrilla gardeners. So what’s the price of turf these days? A quick search of the net told me I could turf the whole square for £500. “I’ll pay for it myself,” said Carbonlite.

So what do you think, villagers of Burton in Kendal? Would you like your village square to become a square again? Or how about it becoming a green? Surely a turf war between Burton residents in the future is a higher price to pay. After all, how long before our cars start to outnumber our homes and drives and we start to fight amongst ourselves for available street space? It’s your village. What do you want…a green clean environment or a giant car park?
Answers on a ‘post-it,’ but not on my windscreen please. Alternatively drop us an e mail at burtonecoteam@btinternet.com or write to the Burton News. Let’s get this debate going. With your help, I’m looking forward to sunbathing on the village green next summer.

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