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A Humbling Experience

A Humbling ExperienceIf ever a reminder were needed about why the Fylde, and Lytham St Annes in particular, is such a wonderful place to live, we could do no better than recount the events of last week.  With singular clarity, they provide ample illumination.

The thing that makes this area so different, and so special, is the nature of the people who live here.

When we moved to this area from Preston around 30 years ago, we were amazed how far behind the times it was.

It had old fashioned values, old fashioned public services, practical commonsense councillors and old fashioned manners and civility.

These had all-but vanished from where we lived.

Here, you could pull up outside a newsagents in the town centre to pick up a paper on your way to work with no yellow lines to bother about.

That was unheard of where we came from.

Here, cars still stop automatically at zebra crossings - and locals walking across always give the driver a smile or an acknowledgement of thanks that is missing in towns elsewhere. Out-of-towners approach our crossings and stare in amazement as cars slow and stop to let them get onto the crossing safely. Above all others, this manifestation of civility and politeness marks our town from almost anywhere else.

Moving here was like stepping back in time to a golden age, and we immediately fell in love with the area.

Sadly, some of that has changed in the last 30 years, there are now yellow lines in the town centre that discourage stopping en-route to work, and much of the practical common sense in the Council has gone -  replaced with policy and dogma.

Some of the public services are no more - or are performed to a less good standard. Gone are the park rangers, and the games attendants, gone is the tourist information centre and so on.

But what have not changed are the old fashioned values of the people who live here.

And last week, we had a humbling - and for us, a very emotional - reminder of that fact.

Our last-but-one article 'Call For Help' highlighted the plight of the residents of Melton Grove whose peaceful lives are being shattered by a Council that cares little about the values we have outlined above - otherwise they would not be behaving like Judas Iscariot and selling their trust for a developer's thirty pieces of silver.

We said the Resident's Association were now fighting on their own.

They had only the law to turn to and, like to doors of the Ritz hotel, whilst the law is open to everyone, affording it is the difficult part.

We said we were going to make a little donation to help them, and we invited any of our other readers who might share our view to do the same.

We published on Sunday 15th May.

By teatime on Monday two separate readers who are known to us rang our front doorbell. Both brought envelopes. The first had 200 in notes. The second brought a cheque for 200. Each asked us to pass on the money to the Melton Grove Resident's Association.

We were honoured to do so.

We're not going to name them here, but they know who they are. They are solid, generous, caring, upright folk with a clear understanding of when it is right to help those in need. They are simply good people.

The following morning the generosity continued. There was an email from another reader in Ansdell who donated. We also had an email from a reader in Lytham saying they expect to donate 500 in the near future. Last night, we heard from another St Annes reader who intends to contribute.

As we publish today, the good people of Lytham St Annes have already met half the cost of the barrister that MGRA has now instructed.

The invitation to help had not been carried in any other media, it is the small band of counterbalance readers who had been alerted to the need, and have contributed.

And how.

Whether it was 5 or 500, the people of this area are standing up and being counted.

It makes us proud to live in such a community.

We think this display of public opinion and support for residents at Melton Grove stands in stark contrast to the actions of an uncaring, selfish, money-grubbing council that wants to sell off their homes to a developer.

And in that regard, we say this.

There is yet time for the new Council to put right the dreadful wrong the last one was doing to the residents of Melton Grove.

If Fylde Council is now so managerially incompetent, and so driven by political dogma, that they will throw common-sense and common humanity out of the window in favour of 'getting rid of council run houses' (because, as Cllr Fiddler said - that was Conservative Party policy), then they could halt the sale to a developer and open discussions on letting the Resident's Association take over the running of the estate as a properly constituted Housing Association.

The residents have significant expertise and support available already and - as we have seen from the generosity of local people - they will have a greater wealth of supporters and advisors if they ask for help again.

It is self-evident from the donations made in the last week that local people believe in the provision of housing for the worthy in need.

We also believe they expect that service to be provided at Melton Grove, and that it is the Council's duty to ensure it continues -*as it was originally intended*  to be provided for those who might need it in the future.

Changing the Articles of the Association; clearing the waiting list at a stroke by changing the tenancy criteria for new tenants; and the removal of other restrictions that the Directors approved (on the advice of Fylde's Officers) so as to make the sale to a developer easier to effect - might turn out be lawful (although there are aspects of the disposal process which need to be tested), but it is morally indefensible, and the people of Lytham St Annes know this only too well.

If the Council are not prepared to operate what was left in their trust, they should stand aside with grace and let it be run by someone who is prepared to administer Melton Grove on the same terms that it was established to operate - namely to provide homes for the worthy and good people of Lytham St Annes who find themselves in difficult circumstances.

They should not attempt to sell it to a developer who in all probability will change the character of the area - if only by redevelopment of parts of the site.

We hope the new Council will listen to public opinion and act accordingly. There is still time for them to do so.

And we both salute, and thank, the people of this area for their generosity that - literally - brought tears to our eyes this week.

Dated:   26 May 2011


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