AUG 01] SPON END FORUM NEWS
Local Residents Support Subway Murals
residents have reacted angrily to the negative coverage given by
some local media to the new murals in Spon End subway.
response to a less than favourable article in a local newspaper
Colin Walker, chair of the Spon End Forum, has written an open
letter which is reproduced below.
NOTE - this letter has been slightly edited for the sake of
brevity - all the views expressed are the personal views of
was quite disappointed to see the superb murals in the Spon
Street Subway presented in such a negative way in the Coventry
Evening Telegraph tonight. The Spon End Forum and its
constituent residents and other member groups have been planning
this, and many other things for a long time.
there was nothing sudden about the appearance of the murals.
This plan has been discussed between the Forum members and City
Development for about three years and was the result of a series
of meeting and consultations which took place over that time.
claim that a worse place could not be found minimises the long
and onerous behind-the-scenes efforts needed to complete this
project. The whole purpose of the murals is to relieve the bleak
concrete reality of this horrid hole in the ground and make it
both more pleasant and safer for those of us who use it every
day. We are delighted to learn that the quality of the artwork
is considered to be superb.
SPON END SUBWAY
BEFORE THE MURALS
mugging and alleged rape in the subway are issues that the
Forum, the Area Co-ordination Safety Officer, City Development
and the local police officers have been addressing for several
years. Our negotiations resulted in the installation of three
cameras, although at least one is of virtually no use. The
lighting at the city end was dramatically improved recently and
we have been lobbying continuously for improvement to the lights
through the tunnel.
our fears and protestations the actual number of violent attacks
in that subway is quite small.
main problem in Spon Street and the subway undoubtedly surrounds
leaving-time at the Sky Dome. There is some violence but the
main problem is the vast amount of filthy take-away food, urine,
vomit and litter that the visitors to that complex and other
venues in the city centre leave in Spon Street and the subway
a result of intense lobbying by the Spon Street Traders
Association and Spon End Forum, the cleaning routines have been
dramatically improved. If you walk through the subway early on
Friday, Saturday and Sunday you will be ankle deep in the
previous night's filth. But by 10am the street and subway will
be pristine. This is the result of the efforts of the City
Centre Company and their cleaning contractors and our thanks are
is, however, one problem - they stop their cleaning half way up
the slope on the Upper Spon Street side of the subway. The
demarcation line is quite clear and often obnoxious. The litter
bin at the side of Compass Court is overflowing six days of the
week. As chair of the Environmental Committee for Area
Co-ordination North West, I have tried to get this problem
resolved, but there are simply no funds to pay for cleaning more
than one day a week. Our street must remain filthy six days a
week because of the litter dropped by visitors to our area.
do not blame the Council but the ordinary people of Coventry who
throw their litter in the street without regard for their
neighbours or themselves. Take-away food should have a tax of
100% imposed to pay for cleaning. Litter laws should be enforced
and litter louts should face very stiff penalties in jail. We
have come to regard litter as trivial when, in fact, it is a
very serious menace. Graffiti is, perhaps surprisingly, not a
serious problem is this subway.
purpose of the murals is to improve visually the subway to
reduce the perception of danger and is part of a series of
measures including the installation of cameras and lighting
improvements in the subway as well as in Spon Street.
have completed a small planting scheme in Upper Spon Street
which was only partially successful. We are currently working on
a plan to improve the lighting scheme in Upper Spon Street and
intend that to be implemented quite quickly and intend to follow
through right up to Spon End.
are working on plans for a History Trail in the area and are
setting out, together with several other bodies, plans for an
environmentally friendly reclamation of the River Sherbourne
from the Ring Road through the Spon End Estate, the Sherbourne
Valley Allotments and Lakeview Park to the Coundon Wedge and
beyond. A footpath and cycle path along the river are longer
Spon End Building Preservation Trust is in the middle of
restoring one of Coventry's oldest original buildings at Black
Swan Terrace in Upper Spon Street with a view to providing
business development facilities in the severely deprived, often
overlooked, and totally underfunded area.
are working on returning the Victorian Moat Building, Coventry's
first board school, to use in the community as a combined
commercial and community centre. We have already achieved the
implementation of commercial use in the old school Doe Bank
Building by attracting the Coventry and Warwickshire
Co-operative Development Agency to use the building.
Forum has successfully re-instituted the Spon End Wakes festival
which has been instrumental in bringing a large number of people
in the various communities together in a common aim. A lot of
good work has been done, many bridges built and the Spon End
Estate Residents Association has formed the basis for future
care of the Estate.
are pleased to see the commercial redevelopment of the YWCA by
Benfield Construction as student accommodation which will be
are helping the residents of the Spon End Estate to bring
pressure to bear upon their social landlord, Whitefriars, to
make dramatic improvements in the management of that estate. Our
close contacts at all levels of the West Midlands Police are
slowly bearing fruit in reducing some of the worst problems of
the area. West Midlands Police have opened a local office in
George Poole House on the estate which is ably managed by Sgt
Hannan and PC Hanlon and they have already made their presence
Playcentre on the estate is being thoroughly refurbished and
will be open soon and managed by Community Education to provide
various badly needed facilities on the estate. The Elim
Pentecostal Church in the Butts has opened the superb Oasis
coffee shop in Upper Spon Street aimed at providing much needed
social facilities for the large number of older people in the
area. A new Doctors surgery has opened in Spon End and we hope
that will help us provide some of the essential local health
services which are otherwise totally absent from the area.
Forum, in conjunction with City Development Directorate, has
designated much of the area as an Area of Local Distinctive
Character and are working towards having the area designated as
a Conservation Area to stop some of the worst excesses of damage
caused to the venerable housing stock by unsympathetic and
reckless housing alterations. The restoration of Nauls Mill Park
to its original standard is just one more project which we are
most of the 20th century, as for the previous 600 years, Spon
Street was a thriving community which spun off satellite
communities such as Chapelfields and Earlsdon. The area was
built upon dyeing and, later, watchmaking.
early bicycle and car industries grew in the area and Spon End
was for 80 years a focus for one of the most powerful industrial
areas in the country. Coventry, and much of Spon End, was a very
rich city as, indeed, it had been in mediaeval times.
1980 all the industry has disappeared, the factories have closed
and the workers have retired or left the area. At least 20,000
highly paid jobs within ten minutes walk have gone. Mostly those
without jobs now remain.
outskirts of Coventry have seen a new and reasonably successful
industrial development of a completely different type but it has
not touched Spon End. Where once we had an estate full of well
paid factory workers, we now have a 80% unemployment rate with
its attendant problems of dereliction, litter, decay, apathy,
fear, crime, alcohol abuse, bad behaviour, intimidation, drugs
Ring Road which serves Coventry motorists so well is, to those
of us who cross it on foot, a City Wall which cut off Spon End
in 1967 from its natural place as part of the city centre. The
area has been dying ever since.
Spon End Forum and its numerous constituent bodies form what is
now probably the most powerful unified non-aligned political
body in Coventry. We have negotiated many matters with the
council and other authorities, formed clubs, associations and
companies to help achieve our aims and we are only just getting
into our stride.
are many more good things still to happen in Spon End, Lower
Coundon, Albany Area and Chapelfields. We have negotiated many
things with the Council and fought them tooth-and-nail on issues
like the proposed traffic increases through Spon End, but we
remain committed to improving the quality of life in the Spon
End area and preventing the decay of an inner city suburb into
squalor and degradation.
have made a superb start and already have many achievements but
we will need the full commitment of the Council and its
officers, Area Co-ordination, the Government of the West
Midlands, central government, funding agencies and the people of
Coventry and the local media to help us solve the acute problems
area has a history, and remaining historical sites, almost
without equal in this country and is well worth fighting for.
have had much support over the last few years for our concerns
and projects but on-the-ground results are few. The murals are
one of the better ones and it is nice to see they are described
the gentleman who featured in the original negative article,
with whom I have spoken at length, has assured me that at least
one amateur video of the murals has already reached New York.
long before we achieve our aim of attracting visitors to the
subway and Spon End and relieving the awful bleakness of that
concrete hole in the ground which is our main access to the city
C Eng M I Mech E
Chair, Spon End Forum
End Forum members include Spon End Redbrick, Spon End Estate
Residents Association, Rivermead Residents Association, Old Spon
Community Association, Chapelfields Area Residents and Traders
Association, Spon End Building Preservation Trust, Friends of
the Moat Building, Sherbourne Valley Allotments Association,
Grapevine, Spon Gate School, St.Johns Church and other schools,
churches and businesses in the Spon End area.