Thursday, 31 March 2016

A Home of Our Own

In 1835 the city boundary dribbled a little south-east of Marlborough Road to take in some new developments in London Road.  Because the arrival of the Midland Railway had prompted more houses in New Town the boundary was moved further east to Albion Road in 1879.  Then in 1913 a  revised boundary was set at Winches (Oaklands), "well beyond" the, then, housing development at Castle Road.  There have been further extensions since.

"Development opportunity"
Families who would picnic at Laurel Bank (the present Crown district); watch from a gate as cows grazed where Fleetville Junior School is situated today; or make splashes with the ducks on ponds at Marshalswick and Newgates farms, gradually found their views and activities moved further out of town.  There was at the time, of course, nothing that could be done about it; there were fewer controls over development.  Farms were sold as uneconomic and house-building took over.  Families grew up and started families of their own; renting, or eventually purchasing homes of their own.  Families also arrived in pursuit of welcome employment at the many firms which had settled here and contributed to the city's economic wealth.

The former Cherry Grange site,
Camp Road
So, as children, we made many new friends, from our neighbourhoods and the schools we attended.  We used the great outdoors beyond our doorstep – and the building sites we grew up with – for our personal enjoyment.

I remember when our road was facing the edge.  Our front windows had an open view towards Hatfield; there was nothing in between.  It didn't last that long; eventually someone else had the benefit of living on the edge; and later still, yet another generation.  I suppose we just accepted that we did not own the edge; it was not ours by right, no more that the fields beyond where we picked wild flowers, or bagged potatoes, or walked with the family on Sunday afternoons, or ...

The former Newgates Farm
Friends' families sometimes moved on, to other districts of the city, to nearby towns where there were better jobs, or places seemingly on the other side of the world: Leeds, for example!  New families moved in and there were usually new friends.

Occasionally, such regeneration still occurs, such as at Highfield; or on a much smaller scale at the Radio estate.  But today the growth is more likely to come from pulling down large houses on expansive plots, and constructing several "units" in their place.  Cherry Grange, in Camp Road, is a good example.  Or former industrial sites in Sutton and Hedley roads.

Such piecemeal growth does not, on its own, do much to help all those who need a home here, to own or rent; at least not at a price they can afford.  Shortages always put up prices.  It is true of houses as it is, at times, of petrol or carrots.

Field on the Sandpit Lane side of Oaklands, Oaklands College

Is there a solution?  In May there will be an inquiry into a proposal to construct houses on a field at Oaklands; 348 of them.  That would help.  So too would similar proposals for even more homes at Coopers Green and Ellenbrook.  Several other locations have also been identified.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if those who want or need a home here, were able to settle at a price they could afford?  So, will it be possible?  The odds do not at times look good, but we will know where the barriers lie during the eight days starting on May 10th.  Lots of people will have their fingers crossed. but not all for the same reason.

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