LLSB Open Letter to Norwich City Council on proposed skate ban

As Norwich City Council propose a blanket ban on skateboarding in the City Centre, Long Live Southbank write an open letter in support of the Norwich Skate Scene who are opposing the ban.Dean Khalil frontside flip in Norwich. Image by Lee Kirby

Dean Khalil frontside flip in Norwich. Image by Lee Kirby

 

Is your Councillor really representing YOU?

 

LLSB PRESS RELEASE 23RD NOVEMBER: Press Release – Norwich skate ban 23rd Nov 2014

 

 

Councillors who have responded and oppose the ban:

Ben Price / Deborah Gihawi / Lesley Graham / Lucy Galvin / Lucy Howard / Paul Neale / Sandra Bögelein

 

Councillors who have responded and support the ban

Brenda Arthur (Leader of the Council)

Councillors who have accidently responded and support the ban

Mike Sands

Councillors who have responded but been unclear on their position

James ‘Bert’ Bremmer

Councillors who support the ban and have not responded

Keith Driver (portfolio holder)

 

Councillors who have not responded

Alan Waters / Amy Stammers / Andrew Boswell / Ash Haynes / Caroline Ackroyd / Charmain Woollard / Chris Herries / David Bradford / Denise Carlo / Gail Harris / James Wright / Jo Henderson / Judith Brociek-Coulton / Judith Lubbock (Lord Mayor) / Kevin Barker / Marion Maxwell / Matthew Packer / Mike Sands / Mike Stonard / Neil Blunt / Patrick Manning / Paul Kendrick / Ralph Gayton / Roger Ryan / Sally Button / Simeon Jackson / Stephen Little / Sue Sands / Tim Jones

 

 

Norwich City Council Skate Ban – Initial Proposal 25th June 2014

Read here: REP11CabinetSkateboardByelawFINAL

 

Norwich City Council Skate Ban – Revised Proposal 24th November 2014

Read here: Byelaw to manage skateboarding in the city

 

The correspondence…

7th November 2014 – Open Letter NCC1 sent from LLSB to:

Leader of the Council: Brenda Arthur – b.arthur@cllr.norwich.gov.uk / Lord Mayor of Norwich: Judith Lubbock – j.lubbock@cllr.norwich.gov.uk / All Norwich City Council Councillors / MP for Norwich North: Chloe Smith – contact@chloesmith.org.uk / MP for Norwich South: Simon Wright – office@simonwright.org.uk

read here: LLSB Norwich Council 1 all

 

13th November 2014 – Letter NCC2 from LLSB to:

All Norwich City Council Councillors

Read here: LLSB Norwich Council 2

 

18th November 2014 – Reply from Leader of the Council, Cllr Brenda Arthur:

Read here: Dear Louise

18th November 2014 – Letter NCC3 from Drug Store/Norwich Skate Community to:

Cllr Brenda Arthur / all Norwich City Council Councillors, Norwich MPs

Read here: LLSB Norwich Council – NCC3

 

18th November 2014 – Joint letter NCC4 from Drug Store/LLSB to:

Cllr Keith Driver (portfolio holder), Leader of the Council, Brenda Arthur / all Norwich City Council Councillors / Norwich MPs:

Read here: LLSB Norwich Council – NCC4

 

21st November 2014 – Joint letter NCC5 from Drug Store/LLSB to:

Cllr Keith Driver (portfolio holder), Leader of the Council, Brenda Arthur / all Norwich City Council Councillors

Read here: LLSB Norwich Council – NCC5

24th November 2014 – Joint letter NCC6 from Drug Store/LLSB to:

Cllr Keith Driver (portfolio holder)

Read here: LLSB Norwich Council – NCC6

 

Yep….. no replies from the Councillor responsible for the ban – Cllr Keith Driver. That’s how much he cares about people’s views.

 

Sign the petition here

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-the-norwich-skateboard-ban

 

Our 1st Letter:

Councillor Brenda Arthur – leader of Norwich City Council, all Councillors, Lord Mayor of Norwich, MP Norwich North, MP Norwich South

Norwich City Council

City Hall, St. Peter’s Street

Norwich NR2 1NH

 

7th November 2014

 

Dear Ms Arthur,

 

Norwich has a vibrant and healthy skateboarding scene spanning many years. It is greatly disappointing to hear that Norwich City Council is considering a ban of this important artistic and cultural expression under section 235 of the Local Government Act 1972, in a bid to prohibit skateboarding in the City Centre.

 

Our understanding is that though the ban stems from concerns over aspects of the war memorial, the by-law would cover an extensive part of the city centre including the memorial gardens, Hay Hill, Gaol Hill, The Forum, Castle Meadow, London Street, Exchange Street, St Andrews Street and the gardens at Norwich Castle.

 

Long Live Southbank feels there is a much more inclusive way of dealing with the matter rather than criminalising Norwich’s young people and visitors to the city. We are writing to express our strong support for the skateboarders of the city in their campaign against a proposed further extensive and heavy-handed crackdown on street skateboarding.

 

It is our experience that custodians of public spaces, and spaces used regularly by people, can severely misjudge public mood, views and opinion. We also experienced the avoidable financial and social cost that results from the failure to provide adequate public consultation. The solution is to work together with communities.

 

Our understanding is that there has been very little public consultation on the intended ban and very little engagement with the local skateboarding community. This results in a decision that affects the public but which has no input or direction from the public and, as representatives of the electorate, there is a responsibility for the council to ensure decisions are based on quantifiable data covering a broad a spectrum of sources and origins. A petition opposing the ban already features over 2,800 signatures.

We are advised by local skateboarders that the claims made by council members, and given to the press, have been untrue and have resulted in the vilification of young people who enjoy skateboarding. It was also noted that the online consultation was far from being properly democratic and limited public debate and censored people who support a relaxing of the ban from democratically voicing their opinion. Such methodology is in tune with the outdated nature of the ban itself.

 

We as a community and representatives of the community, should be working together on how we share our cities and make them accessible to all, and not on creating further barriers that makes them exclusive and inaccessible.Norwich has an opportunity to show it is continuing on its path to being a modern, progressive, people-friendly and welcoming city, and lead on its ability to understand inclusivity and culture, and create an example to others on how cities work with diverse communities and their needs.

 

Skateboarding supports more than just the physical act, it supports other creative practices such as filmmakers, photographers, visual designers and provides opportunities for other transferable skills and values. It promotes physical and social well-being and a much-needed alternative to gadgetry as it encourages young people to get outdoors, get physical, and explore their cities and local areas. Add to that that skateboarding is one of the fastest-growing physical activities in the world, particularly with girls and young women, and there is enough reason to suggest local authorities encourage these physical expressions as opposed to discourage and, as in this instance, criminalise them.

 

The Long Live Southbank campaign showed just how out of touch decision makers can be and how public mood can be misjudged. An unprecedented 150,000 people signed in support of keeping the Southbank skate spot. Our campaign table helped us engage directly with tens of thousands of people of all ages, all backgrounds and life experiences and from all over the world. Our public consultation provided an opportunity to translate the love, passion and creativity all skateboarders feel for their art into words that those in governance and establishment positions can understand.

 

Skateboarding was born in the streets and therefore is best suited to this context. When you are skating a purpose built skatepark, you are shunted out of the way of society and left only amongst fellow park users. This is uninspiring and limiting. Many councils who commission skateparks do not consider that skaters of advanced ability will share a space with families taking young children with scooters, this results in the times they can practice being severely restricted. The physical structures in skateparks only have limited ways of being skated, many of the obstacles will be very similar to those in other towns. There is little unique about most skateparks and, by fencing young people off, you lose many of the positive benefits that young people could gain from participating in an outdoors artform. Not everything has to be reduced to design and control and in addition, many skateparks, such as Eaton Park, are built outside of city centres making them inaccessible to many that cannot afford the time or cost to travel to them. This further alienates people and send a strong message of marginalisation.

 

Conversely, when you are skating in the street, you are able to interact with your surroundings in a far freer and more natural way. You learn about your city, move through it. Through skateboarding you open your eyes to all of the architecture and the possible ways of skating it. It is a fantastic, mind-broadening way to look at a city.

 

Sadly there is still an element of those in decision-making positions who will unjustifiably vilify skateboarding and discriminate against skateboarders. At Southbank we have fostered a highly positive relationship between the public and skaters. People gain from watching people skate and the way skaters reinterpret architecture. Street skateboarding can and should be used as a way of uniting people in an area, rather than dividing them and encouraging and breeding an attitude of resentment.

 

We do recognise that there are areas where skateboarding is inappropriate, such as Memorial Gardens and the War Memorial itself, we believe that the bulk of the skate scene is already in agreement about this, and local skaters are making efforts to educate those who don’t understand the implications of skating in these spots. It would be wholly unfair to generalise and project the acts of individuals on to an entire community, and to punish the majority of skaters who wish to explore and get to know their city in an exciting and forward looking way, due to the actions of a minority.

 

We strongly advise you to enter into a conversation with the local skateboarding community about how to move forward positively. Running consultations which dismiss a huge bulk of opinion as invalid will not help move towards a positive solution, or do anything to help the disillusionment with the political system that many young (and older) people feel. If the discussion is to be positive, both sides must go into it open-mindedly. If you took the time to enter discussions with the local skateboarders, you would find highly open minded and progressive thinking. We urge you to review your plans and enter into a positive dialogue with them.

 

If Norwich is to be at the forefront of progressive and inclusive cities and be part of how communities evolve in the way they engage and interact, and not be regressive and exclusive, then it must not waste this opportunity. All too often we hear about the marginalisation of young people and the messaging that young people are somehow disinterested and disengaged and lethargic and inactive. Long Live Southbank showed that this image couldn’t be further from the truth. The Norwich skate scene are showing that they are equally as passionate about their city, their surroundings, their culture, and their expression. We encourage Norwich City Council to recognise and support this and be part of the solution, and not the problem.

 

Yours sincerely,

Long Live Southbank

 

Proposed exclusion area:

 

skateboardingmaps

Initial proposed area and updated proposed area – Norwich Skaters and LLSB oppose ANY by-law and criminalisation of skateboarding regardless of area

 

Pro skater and LLSB Member Chewy Cannon added these words of support

My name’s Chewy (Lewis) Cannon, born and raised in Norfolk, Great Yarmouth. I’ve been skateboarding for 18 years and the last 8 have been professionally. As part of the LLSB campaign and as part of the public I can only see sense in leaving a growing organic sport alone so it can add to the substance of a growing city!!

Community cities and towns are built on embracing new and expressive art forms and it would be a shame to deny such a growing sport and art such as skateboarding. If we start to say no to public space being used by the public then we have a real problem in the works and this need to be addressed ASAP, and skateboarding is not a crime, so maybe the city council need to rethink and let people remain creative within their city.

Having the space for myself when I was young gave me the opportunity to fulfil a dream that would have seemed impossible without free public space to use and be free within. So I feel like we should fight for the right to let others have the same path if they wish and not be denied freedom of choice.

Spex wallride in Norwich. Image by Lee Kirby

Leis ‘Spex’ Ross wallride in Norwich. Image by Lee Kirby

 

Our 2nd letter to all Norwich City Councillors on 13th November 2014:

Dear Norwich City Councillors,

 

Further to our open letter to the Leader of the Council, we wanted to extend our letter on the proposed ban on skateboarding to all Norwich City Councillors.

 

The letter is attached and you can view it and updates and responses here at our website;

http://www.llsb.com/llsb-open-letter-to-norwich-city-councils-proposed-skate-ban/

 

We also encourage you to read our Cultural and Heritage Assessment Report which highlights just how important and influential British Street Skateboarding is on an international scale;

http://www.llsb.com/report/

 

We noted Cllr Keith Driver’s comment that ‘London did not allow skateboarders to skate down Whitehall or on the Cenotaph’ in response to our letter and we would like to provide a reply to give context and perspective.

 

London is a vast city with huge possibilities for street skateboarding which is why it is a mecca for skateboarders from across the world. Purely based on size and number of structures, Norwich and London are not comparable as landscapes and opportunities.

 

So as not to be misunderstood, though we recognise the reality that no structure is infinite and is subject to many forms of wear and tear and erosion, we do not condone the deliberate misuse of structures and objects such as the war memorial. A collaborative solution is possible and we shouldn’t reduce the issue to an unrealistic comparative.

 

In addition, we are presently in multiple channels of dialogue regarding the future of skateboarding, cities, public spaces, young people, art and culture, and how they work together, which will further highlight the regressive and archaic method being suggested by Norwich City Council in terms of how these things work together in an ever evolving world. We welcome Norwich to become part of those conversations alongside London, Bristol, Barcelona and countries such as Denmark who show a real ability to be open and inclusive and lead by example.

 

Though the public space we successfully campaigned for is in London, our 150,000 members are from all across the UK and beyond. We operate as a local, national and global community which is why this matter is important to us. We are your residents as well as your neighbours and visitors.

 

Skateboarding is a global scene and network and you should not be under the impression that this is London telling Norwich what to do – it is a progressive, diverse and inclusive way of thinking that has become a vessel and platform for the public to be able to express views and opinions to decision makers.

 

We have shown what positive outcomes can be achieved when people engage in dialogue and conversations. Something you would think would be first on the agenda, but is sadly lacking in decision making – which is why we instigated a return to prioritising discussion and hope people will take from the positive results from our example.

 

It is worth noting that not only are over 3,000 people actively engaged by signing the petition to oppose a ban, the mere fact that this issue has already had significant publicity is already a deterrent to anyone who may have considered the war memorial. Authorities and governance should be looking at understanding and encouraging physical activities such as skateboarding and BMX riding – led by the people who do them. Generalising and stereotyping will not provide a sustainable long-term solution, it will serve to create further division and problems.

 

The solution is not to put criminalisation ahead of conversation and we truly hope Norwich will set an example by taking the lead in working together with its communities and cultures to find a symbiotic outcome that everyone can benefit from.

LLSB

 

Ollie Smith - Frontside 180

Ollie Smith frontside 180 in Norwich. Image by Lee Kirby

 

Our 3rd  letter to all Norwich City Councillors on 18th November 2014:

Councillor Brenda Arthur, all Councillors, MP Norwich South, MP Norwich North

City Hall, St. Peter’s Street

Norwich NR2 1NH

 

Ref: NCC3

18th November 2014

 

 

Dear Cllr Arthur,

 

I have just read your letter and it has reinforced my opinion on this matter.

 

1. NOBODY wants the memorial to be skated or damaged. We are in full agreement with this, as we have clearly stated from the beginning. However, the ban area cover a larger area and this is where we take issue.

 

2. Skateparks are not an alternative to street skateboarding for many people. Skateparks provide an alternative venue but are not a replacement as was agreed during the consultation process for Eaton park. All those who spent 7 or 8 years going to those meetings were aware that street skating would still occur.

 

3. Myself and Lewis Ross both offered to help with the re-design of the memorial garden in order to skate-proof it. We were literally laughed at! I’m aware there are lots of rules around what can be done with a listed monument but to make no attempt to take us up on this offer says a lot about the way the council view young people.

 

4. You mention there being skateboard facilities in many areas but, with the exception of the concrete park at Eaton, these are all terrible and mostly dilapidated. None of these other parks were built by real skatepark designers or with any input from local skateboarders and as such are unused and in most cases unusable. A perfect example is the Heathgate Park, an ideal area completely wasted due to poor facilities. Also, as I have said many times, parks are not the answer

 

5. The Eaton skatepark is good but often overrun by children with all manner of toys (scooters, trikes, radio controlled cars, mountain bikes etc etc) which is not what it was built for. Some of these children are very young and accompanied by protective parents who become aggressive towards skateboarders who they see as “in the way”.

 

6. I also feel I should point out that the consultation process for skateparks is in itself a flawed one. For instance we were not given any other viable option for a location so Eaton was the only “choice”, secondly we were only given 4 options to choose from (because only 3 legitimate contractors submitted plans) and of those 4 options, 3 were completely wrong and did not fulfil the brief at all. The end result is what you see at Eaton today – a good park, but not one that was designed or built by the community it is there for. A far cheaper and more satisfying solution to providing facilities would be to simply give an area over to the community and let the design and build their own park. I can provide many example of the success of these areas in other places if you would like to see them? If this approach was taken at the multiple sites of bad skateparks around Norwich then we’d really have something great, and at a small fraction of the cost of the existing facilities

 

Yours sincerely,

  

Sam Avery

Drug Store

Our 4th letter to all Norwich City Councillors on 18th November 2014:

Councillor Keith Driver – Neighbourhoods and Community Safety portfolio holder, Leader of the Council, all Councilors, MP Norwich South, MP Norwich North

City Hall, St. Peter’s Street

Norwich NR2 1NH

 

Ref: NCC4

18th November 2014

 

 

Dear Cllr Driver, Cllr Arthur and all Norwich City Councillors,

 

In relation to the proposed ban on skateboarding and other social activities under section 235 of the Local Government Act 1972, and in light of the letter from Cllr Brenda Arthur received today, there are a number of factors that cause us great concern about this matter, and we have set them out in this letter. This is in addition to the response sent in the letter reference NCC3 sent earlier today.

 

1. Denial of Honest Democratic Representation and Process

It is our understanding that the Norwich City Council Labour group is intending to stick together in order to push this proposal through by ‘majority vote’ despite individual opinions, and despite public opinion being clearly opposed to the ban.

The seeming ‘political party before public opinion’ behaviour that appears to be being exorcised is deeply worrying.

Is this your idea of democracy – a handful of individuals forcing their view on the majority who DO NOT support their view? Do you recognise the irony in your alleged intention to protect the war memorial dedicated to those who fought for our freedom by creating a by-law that removes freedom?

 

2. Inadequate, Flawed and Misleading Consultation Process

The portfolio holder, and supporters of the ban, have not provided a clear and accessible consultation process and failed in engaging relevant stakeholders and the public in a matter that will ultimately affect them in a legal capacity. This failing has led to the local skateboarding community providing information and consultation themselves resulting in a significant opposition from the public to the proposed ban.

No contact has been made with the Norwich skate scene by the councillors supporting the ban, despite claims to the contrary made by them.

General public consultation has been severely lacking resulting in the public been misinformed and without a clear understanding of the issues involved.

Independent polls show the public do not support a ban.

The portfolio holder has not sought to understand skateboarding culture – the fastest growing activity among young people.

 

3. Misleading and Distorting Information

The councillors supporting the ban have used the war memorial and war veterans as emotional collateral for their campaign to gather public support without providing fact-based supportive evidence for claims against skateboarders.

This is evident in the panel discussion held by Mustard TV, aired on Thurs 6th November, at which no councillor made themselves available to attend.

Leader of the Council, Brenda Arthur stated in the June report that she had ‘seen people on the corner of City Hall actually been nearly knocked over by skateboarders’.

The claims made by supporters of the ban have been misleading and are unsupported there is no evidence of the claims in the public domain.

Claims that damage to the war memorial have been made by skateboarders are unsubstantiated and no qualified independent survey and analysis has been provided by Norwich City Council.

 

4. Dismissal of Public Opinion and Opposition

The Norwich City Council website states ‘Norwich City Council welcomes petitions and recognises they are one way that people can let us know their concerns.’

Yet you appear to be actively ignoring your own remit and worse still, ignoring the concerns of people you say you wish to ‘recognise’.

The petition opposing the ban on skating in Norwich has gathered well in excess of 5,000 signatures in little over 2 weeks. The maximum number of signatures for petitions on the Norwich City Council website is 73 gathered over 2 months.

 

5.  Misrepresentation and Negative Propaganda and Attitude

It has been noted that certain councillors seem to find this matter humorous and are dealing with the skate community in a condescending manner and ridiculing and patronising us. This causes us great concern. Is decision making on behalf of the citizens and visitors of Norwich a laughing matter to them?

 

 

Requests:

Given the many claims set out in We request the portfolio holder for the ban, Councillor Keith Driver, and the Leader of the Council, Councillor Brenda Arthur, provide the following by no later than 1pm Friday the 21st November 2014:

 

  • All documents regarding complaints made to Norwich City Council since 2009 pertaining to skateboards, BMX, rollerblades, scooters whether in written or electronic communications.

 

  • All minutes of council meetings relating to the proposed ban on skateboards.
  • All surveys, studies, tests and analysis on the war memorial relating to refurbishment, repair, and relating skateboarders or similar activity.
  • All documents on public consultation relating to the proposed ban.

 

Given the reply received today from Cllr Arthur which sets out some the items detailed in this letter, and given the high profile of this matter and national attention it is galvanising, and given the decision meeting scheduled for 25th November, we will assume these items will be easily accessible and we won’t be made to make a Freedom of Information (FOI) request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

 

Proposed solution:

In the meantime we propose a simple solution which save time and public money; The cancelling and discontinuing of the proposed by-law to ban skateboarders and other similar social physical activities from Norwich City Centre, to be replaced by the implementation of a fine of £100 for anyone seen skating the war memorial. We seriously doubt that anyone has skated the war memorial but this fine will be a sufficient deterrent to anyone who would ever contemplate it.

 

We look forward to your response and the hope a mutual resolution can be achieved that does not require the draconian measures of bringing in by-laws and legal restrictions to the citizens of Norwich, and in particular, young people who Norwich City Council should be seeking to engage, welcome and inspire instead of ostracise, exclude and marginalise.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Sam Avery                   Paul Richards

Drug Store                   On behalf of Long Live Southbank

 

From: “Cllr Sands, Mike” m.sands@cllr.norwich.gov.uk
Date: 19 November 2014 at 14:09
Subject: RE: Open Letter from Long Live Southbank in regard to proposed skateboarding ban in Norwich

Hello Brenda,

Read the letter… what tosh!  As advised no response.  However many many, months ago when this all blew up and people were getting aerated about it and emails were sent to councillors from shall we say ‘interested’ parties, I did reply to one… may have even been this person though equally may not… What I did offer was to sit down over a coffee at Café Marzano (I offered to pay) and have them outline their concerns… no promises or anything on my part.  I did suggest that the real motivation was the ‘desire to be seen’ skateboarding in the city and to have potential spectators either amongst the skateboarding community and that there were possibly other options that didn’t involve public buildings or public spaces that could be damaged or involve potential collisions with the public (pointing out that I’d had a very near collision outside city hall and I had witnessed a young mum with a pusher narrowly escape a similar unguided aerial skateboard collision) and that if they were ‘so’ keen perhaps contacting City Hall and opening up a conversation and dialogue was the way to go….

…Never got a response. Not a squeak.

 

Mike

 

Read our post on Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/LongLiveSouthbank/posts/594584147337239

Watch local veteran and skaters discuss the ban (surprise, surprise no one from the council supporting the ban was ‘available’)

http://www.mustardtv.co.uk/episode/this-week-7/

 
Comments

Dear Norwich City Council

Although I am a 49-year-old non-skater, I agree with every word of this letter. As someone who loves Norwich for its eclectic, non-conformist, vibrant culture, I think this move of yours is both sad and wrong. It will deprive the city of some of its colour and make it more like the other dull clone towns that we all deplore (and tourists ignore). Please reverse this decision and send a message to the young that they are welcome in our society. Keep Norwich special – keep it different.

Kind regards

Huw Sayer
@HuwSayer

Ann salmon

i totally agree with this letter I come from Kingston upon Hull and we have lots of skateboarders using our city , they are curious and polite I have never seen any drunk or on drugs . Please let these young people skate in your streets they have been doing it for years and apart from wearing huddies are relatively smartly dressed

Comments are closed.